Club profile: Unicaja Malaga

Jul 01, 2014 by Print
Mindaugas Kuzminskas - Unicaja Malaga - EB13
Unicaja MalagaUnicaja Malaga comes off an impressive season in which it reached all of its goals and was competitive in all fronts. Led by head coach Joan Plaza, Nik Caner-Medley, Vlado Stimac and Zoran Dragic, Unicaja struggled to reach the Top 16, but a buzzer-beating, running prayer by Jayson Granger lifted the team to the next round. Unicaja won five of its first nine Top 16 games, but four consecutive losses prevented it from reaching the playoffs. The club returned to the Copa del Rey Final Eight, played in Malaga, but suffered an early loss against CAI Zaragoza. Unicaja also reached the Spanish League semifinals for the first time since 2010, where it lost in four games against Euroleague runner-up Real Madrid despite taking two of the games to overtime. Founded in 1977 as Club Baloncesto Caja de Ronda, it wasn't until 1992 – when it merged with cross-town rival Maristas – that it started to challenge for bigger goals. Everything clicked in 1995 when Unicaja came within a shot of winning its first Spanish League title. Mike Ansley missed that shot in Game 4 of the finals and the club would have to wait until 2001 before it could celebrate its first crown. Unicaja, led by Coach Bozidar Maljkovic and star scorer Veljko Mrsic, was finally rewarded by winning the Korac Cup over Hemofarm Vrsac in the two-game final. Unicaja followed that by reaching the Spanish League finals in 2002 and the Euroleague Top 16 for the first time in 2003, which proved to be the cornerstone of a bright future. In 2005, Unicaja lifted the Spanish Copa del Rey trophy for its first domestic title behind superstar forward Jorge Garbajosa. And things got even better the next season. Unicaja won the Spanish League championship with Garbajosa and home-grown talents Berni Rodriguez and Carlos Cabezas among those leading the way for Coach Sergio Scariolo. A year later, Unicaja marked its greatest continental success to date by reaching the 2007 Euroleague Final Four in Athens, led by Daniel Santiago, Carlos Jimenez, Cabezas and Rodriguez. Even though CSKA stood in its way to success in the semifinal, Unicaja confirmed its status among the European elite. Unicaja advanced to the Copa del Rey title game in 2009 before losing in overtime against Tau Ceramica. Even though the team has not challenged for titles in recent years, Unicaja has been consistent, especially in the Euroleague. Unicaja has reached the Top 16 in each of the last nine seasons – an achievement that only Maccabi Tel Aviv, FC Barcelona and Panathinaikos Athens can match. During a return-to-form 2013-14 season, more and more fans came to Palacio de Deportes Jose Maria Martin Carpena, which proved that the club is moving in the right direction. With Coach Plaza still running the show, Unicaja will be a defensive-minded and ambitious team that is loyal to its tradition. Expect Unicaja to be hungry and competitive at all times, as it aims to thrill its fans by going as deep as possible in all competitions.
Turkish Airlines Euroleague: Top 16
Spanish League: Semifinalist
Spanish Cup: Quarterfinalist