After reaching the 7DAYS EuroCup Quarterfinals last season, Unicaja Malaga decided to keep virtually the same team for the coming season. During the summer it just signed one new player, Tim Abromaitis from Zenit St Petersburg. Six players from last season left, but in the last weeks of the previous campaign and over the summer the club re-signed key names Alberto Diaz, Carlos Suarez and Coach Luis Casimiro. And some of the players who came to Malaga for the Spanish League end-of-season tournament, but did not play in the 7DAYS EuroCup last season such as Gal Mekel and Axel Bouteille will continue with the team, so they will be new faces in Europe with the green jersey. Expect to see a continuation of the trend that led the team on a promising run last season.
The Unicaja attack begins in the hands of veteran guard Gal Mekel, who had an important role in the latter part of last season and now will be with the team from the start. He will be surrounded by two key players these last years: Jaime Fernandez and Alberto Diaz, who combined for 15 points per game last season. Dario Brizuela arrived in Malaga midway through last season and was soon a key piece in the puzzle with 12.3 points across seven games. Completing the guard rotation will be Francis Alonso, who was on loan the past few seasons and will look for his chance to earn a spot in the first team. Small forward Adam Waczynski also extended his contract recently and will keep contributing his points next to Dragan Milosavljevic, who in his third season in Malaga will try to be a mainstay in Coach Casimiro's starting five.
Newcomer Abromaitis will lead the charge in the frontcourt for Unicaja. He brings experience and averaged 7.5 points in 27 EuroLeague games last season. Captain Carlos Suarez will remain a key piece in the team after extending his contract this summer until at least 2022. Axel Bouteille, who joined the team last February, has plenty of EuroCup experience with a total of 36 games with Chalon and Limoges of his native France. Deon Thompson will remain a prime reference in the paint after posting 10.7 points and 3.8 boards as a starter last season. By his side, Volodymyr Gerun is a reliable back-up; he had 8.1 points and 3.2 boards in his EuroCup debut season. Completing the roster, Ruben Guerrero will look to keep adding minutes to build self-confidence and earn the trust of Coach Casimiro.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Guard Dario Brizuela enters the 2020-21 season at the prime of his career ready to make an impact on the league from the get-go. Last season, Brizuela came to Unicaja in late February from Estudiantes Madrid. When the season was stopped, he had only managed to play seven games, but his numbers were promising: 12.3 points and 2.3 assists in over 22 minutes on the floor. He even netted 23 points in the last Top 16 game against Joventut Badalona. It was clear that Coach Casimiro trusted him from the start and his role should stay the same this season. His first experience outside of Estudiantes, the team where he made his debut as a youngster in 2011, started on the right foot. If this new season continues that way, expect Brizuela to become a major protagonist in the EuroCup.
Coming into the new season, Unicaja's two main traits are experience and stability. The team is essentially the same that finished the season in the spring and the youngest player in the squad, Bouteille, is just 24 years old and has plenty of EuroCup experience already. This combination of factors says that Unicaja should be a team in tip-top condition from the start and in Group B, the 2017 EuroCup champs should have no major problems to advance to the Top 16. However, over-confidence is never a good friend in the EuroCup, so Coach Casimiro will have to take it game by game in order to secure the first goal of a team that surely is thinking about the finish line as its main objective.