Roster Rundown: UNICS Kazan

Sep 22, 2020 by Print
Roster Rundown: UNICS Kazan


The temptation is to say that everything is new at UNICS, however, head coach Dimitris Priftis is back for his fourth season along with four players who have been with him all or most of that time. Still, they are the eight new faces on the team's 13-man roster, many of whom will take on sizeable responsibility for a club with consistently high ambitions. Combo guard Nate Wolters leads the list of newcomers, which also includes European first-timer Isaiah Canaan, veteran John Holland, and forwards Okaro White, Jordan Morgan, Georgy Zhbanov and John Brown. Another forward, Pavel Antipov, returns after two seasons away for his third stint at UNICS.


Wolters returns five years after having averaged 15.6 points, 5.3 assists and 4.2 rebounds in his only previous EuroCup experience. He since spent three seasons in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague honing his leadership skills, which will make him a key element in his new team's hunt for EuroCup glory. Wolters' ability to play both guard spots will let him team up speedster Isaiah Canaan, who arrives from the NBA by way of China with a reputation for putting up points in a hurry. Pavel Sergeev has the experience to back up the point, just as veterans Holland and Evgeny Kolesnikov have on the wings. That's also where UNICS also boasts the services of Jamar Smith, who has been the go-to shooter for several teams throughout his seven-season EuroCup career.


UNICS will depend in the frontcourt on several players who will either make their EuroCup debuts or rejoin the league after single seasons several years ago. All offer more speed than size, with Okaro White measuring the tallest among them at 2.06 meters. He last played the EuroCup in 2015-16 with averages of 11 points and 6.4 rebounds, and has since played 43 games over three seasons with NBA teams. Jordan Morgan is another newcomer with a year's EuroCup experience, back in 2014-15, when he put up 9.1 points and 6.7 rebounds. Six years later, he'll have a big role with UNICS. Another quick rebounder, John Brown, whose career has been centered in Italy, will make his EuroCup debut this season, which is almost the case with small forward Georgy Zhbanov, who played three EuroCup games without scoring for Nizhny Novgorod back in 2016-17. All will have 2.14-meter center Artem Klimenko, to provide some size behind them, while also returning is small forward Dimitrii Uzinskii for his second season with the club.


Jamar Smith is not only a former EuroCup champion, with Unicaja Malaga in 2016-17, but the player with far and away the most points scored (1,007) and three-pointers made (197) in the competition over the last six seasons. if there is anyone at UNICS who can say he's been there and done that in the EuroCup, it's Smith, making his experience will be crucial for a team with so many newcomers to the competition. As his shooting will be, too. Smith needs just 18 three-pointers more to become the players with the most shots made from the arc in EuroCup history. And if anything, his 2.3 triples on average over 82 career games at a rate of 44.0% would be a good reason for him to shoot even more. Keeping Smith from shooting the lights out from the perimeter will force opposing defenses to open up, giving Wolters and Canaan room to drive and dish to the agile big men the team has added. And if UNICS can go as deep as usual in the competition, Smith can be counted on to hit the big shots when needed.


UNICS has the look of a team that will be able to play with several speeds and a couple of styles, whether to match what opponents throw at them or to mix up what those opponents must react to. Expect Canaan to be the go-to scorer in fastbreak and transition offense situations, while Wolters leads what should be an aggressive half-court attack. On or both will be needed also to augment the shooting threat posed by Smith. If the new bevy of speed-oriented big men can cover well and rebound, the whole team should be able to turn defense into offense, which would propel UNICS again to the heights this club is accustomed to.