Pre-draw profile: Montepaschi Siena

Dec 27, 2011 by Print
Bo McCalebb - Montepaschi Siena
Bo McCalebb
Montepaschi SienaJust like last season, Montepaschi Siena has successfully vaulted over hurdles in its way to prove it is among the continental elite. The perennial Italian champions overcame injuries to three starters to march through the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Regular Season. By winning its last four games, Montepaschi notched an 8-2 record to place second in Group D and now enters the Top 16 as a respected contender. It was another strong run that honored the Siena's ever-growing basketball tradition. Indeed, the club's roots run deep, as Mens Sana Basket claims to be the first Italian club to play the sport soon after Dr. James Naismith invented basketball in 1891. Siena did not reach the Italian first division until 1973 and graduated to European competitions in the late 1990s. Soon, in 2002, Vrbica Stefanov, Milenko Topic and Petar Naumoski brought home the club's very first trophy, the Saporta Cup. The next season, Siena marked its Euroleague debut by going all the way to the Final Four led by Michalis Kakiouzis, Mirsad Turkcan and the late Alphonso Ford. Montepaschi returned to the Final Four in 2004 and fell again in the semifinals, this time in a overtime thriller, but with new players like Bootsy Thornton, David Vanterpool and David Andersen, went on to lift its first Italian League trophy that spring. Since the promotion of Simone Pianigiani to head coach in 2007, things have only gotten better for Siena. Pianigiani has led the club to five Italian League titles in a row, a first in Italy, while also winning the last three Italian Cups. Montepaschi returned to the Final Four in 2008, losing in the semifinals to Maccabi Electra, despite the efforts of players like Terrell McIntyre, Romain Sato, Rimas Kaukenas, Ksistof Lavrinovic and Shaun Stonerook. The latter trio was joined by Nikos Zisis, Marko Jaric, Malik Hairston and McCalebb for last season's unlikely run to the 2011 Final Four – its fourth such appearance among Europe’s elite quartet of teams in nine seasons! It was an even more impressive achievement considering that Siena had lost four starters the previous summer, suffered key injuries in the middle of the season and started both the Top 16 and playoffs on the wrong foot. But each time it rallied to advance and after losing to eventual champion Panathinaikos and placing third in the Euroleague, Montepaschi collected its record fifth consecutive Italian League crown to finish the season in style. So far this year, Pianigiani’s trusted core has been strengthened by the addition of old friends Andersen and Thornton, newcomer and three-time scoring champ Igor Rakocevic and the emergence of Pietro Aradori. With tradition, talent, determination and a coaching mastermind on the sidelines, there is no doubting that Montepaschi enters the Top 16 as a serious threat to crash the Final Four yet again.