Unics Kazan returns to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague after a season away and will be certain to hit the ground running with the core of the team back from last year. In fact, two of the team’s best-known signings over the summer, guard Evgeny Voronov and forward Pavel Antipov, are former Unics players back for a second stint. Coty Clarke arrives to make his EuroLeague debut and could emerge as an important weapon, while Aleksandr Karpukhin gives Coach Pashutin added depth in a very deep backcourt.
There is no doubt that Unics opponents this season will be worried about how to stop its incredible backcourt. Keith Langford, the 2014 Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy winner is now well established as one of the top scorers in Europe, while point guard Quino Colom comes off a breakout campaign in which he led the EuroCup in assists. That duo is complimented well by Anton Ponkrashov, who combines a point guard’s court vision with a good outside shot and a small forward’s height. Voronov tasted the Final Four last season as a starter for Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar and will try to spark his new/old team on a similar run. Three-point ace Vadim Panin will seek big minutes off the bench on the wings, while Karpukhin, Ruslan Khabirov and young point guard Azat Tukmakov will wait their turn to be able to contribute.
The attention focused on the guards should suit center Art Parakhouski well as the big man attempts to dominate the glass, block shots and throw down dunks that his smaller teammates set him up for. The athletic Latavious Williams and savvy Kostas Kaimakoglou are a nice tandem at forward with Antipov the likely candidate to come off the bench. One strength this team has is the opportunity to play will smaller, quicker lineups with power forwards Williams or Marko Banic as undersized centers. In that scenario, either Kaimakoglou or Clarke – both of whom are already excellent rebounders at the small forward spot – can play at power forward.
PLAYER TO WATCH
When he looks at his key rotation players, Coach Pashutin will see a squad that features much EuroLeague experience. Colom, who is surely among the team’s most important players, is not among them. The playmaker only debuted in the EuroCup last season! But his extraordinary passing skills were clear from the start last season and helped not only get his teammates loads of open shots, but helped Unics emerge as an offensive force. If he can smoothly adjust to competing at the highest level, Colom may not only compete for the Euroleague’s first triple-double in more than a decade, but propel Unics far once again.
Unics will be tested early this season; it Rounds 4 and 5 at the end of October and start of November, the team will play back-to-back road games last season’s Turkish Airlines EuroLeague finalists, CSKA Moscow and Fenerbahce Istanbul. A hiccup in the first games of the season could have Unics in an early hole, however the opposite is also true; since Unics has the majority of its roster back from 2015-16, it could start strong and send a message too.