Pre-draw profile: Bennet Cantu

Dec 27, 2011 by Print
Vladimir Micov - Bennet Cantu
Vladimir Micov
NGC Bennet CantuThirty years after it first lifted the Euroleague trophy, Bennet Cantu returned to the competition to become the first team to seal a Top 16 spot in the most balanced regular season group ever. A strong performance at home and a wild road win in Bilbao on an unbelievable three-pointer by Gianluca Basile allowed Cantu to reach the Top 16 in spectacular fashion. Cantu was a powerhouse in the 1970s and early 1980s as it racked up 10 trophies, including two Euroleague titles, in continental competition. To this day, only Real Madrid has more trophies in European competition. Cantu disappeared from the scene for many years, but proved it was back last season by going all the way to the Italian League finals and earning a berth in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague. The club was founded between 1936 and 1937 as Associazione Pallacanestro Cantu by the initiative of two youngsters, Mario Broggi and Angiolino Polli, and coach Luigi Cicoria soon led the team to its first relevant title, the Mussolini Cup in 1942. After World War II, Cantu reappeared in the Italian third division in 1949, made the second division by 1953 and rose to the top Italian league the following year. Tom Burgess, Carlo Recalcati and Boris Stankovic gave the team its first-ever Italian League title in 1968. Pierluigi Marzorati arrived soon after that and Cantu became a top team outside the Italian borders. Marzorati and Recalcati led Cantu to three consecutive Korac Cup titles from 1973 to 1975. Cantu also beat Real Madrid for the Intercontinental Cup in 1975. Cantu then lifted three straight Saporta Cup titles from 1977 to 1979. Despite losing the 1980 Saporta final to Varese, Marzorati and Antonello Riva led Cantu to another Saporta Cup title in 1981 and the club added its third and last Italian League title that same year. In 1982 Cantu lifted its first European Cup trophy by downing Maccabi 86-80 in the final behind 25 points from CJ Kupec. Ford Cantu came back to defend its Euroleague title in 1983 by edging Milano 69-68 on a last-second blocked shot by Bruce Flowers. Cantu added another Korac Cup title in 1991 over Madrid in a two-game finals behind an unstoppable Pace Mannion. However the team fell into obscurity without Marzorati and Riva and even dropped to the Italian second division in 1994. The club bounced back to reach the Italian League semifinals in 2002 and has been competitive ever since, winning the Italian Supercup in 2003. Cantu took part in the 2004-05 ULEB Cup and last season played the Eurocup. Its greatest recent successes have come in Italy, but none compared to last season when Cantu reached both the Italian League and Italian Cup finals only to be stopped by Montepaschi Siena. Cantu is doing even better now, surviving a tough, competitive regular season group to become one of the best 16 teams in Europe. With its great fan base and its nice mix of youth and experience, Cantu will stay as a very difficult opponent for everyone.