After a solid season in which the team jelled in a stellar way, Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz had to face a rebuilding challenge during the summer after losing some key pieces of the old squad to other Turkish Airlines EuroLeague teams. Once again, however, the club and head coach Dusko Ivanovic have managed to put together a group that should become a threat to any other EuroLeague squad when the machine is well-oiled.
The backcourt of the Basque team is virtually new from top to bottom. Of course, the name drawing the most attention is Wade Baldwin, whose second EuroLeague season with FC Bayern Munich saw him explode to average 15.3 points, 3.0 boards and 4.0 assists and help the team become the first German squad ever in the EuroLeague Playoffs. Baldwin will have valuable help from Jayson Granger, a fan-favorite who returns to Baskonia after one season in ALBA Berlin. Another new face is that of shooting ace Vanja Marinkovic, who played 42 games in Valencia in the last two EuroLeague seasons and now joins Baskonia at the prime of his career. A product of the youth system of the club, young Arturs Kurucs returns after having appeared in 21 EuroLeague games last season, looking to gain more and more experience. At small forward, the team will continue relying on scoring machine Rokas Giedraitis, whose debut last season with Baskonia saw him average 12.7 points and 3.0 rebounds in 34 games as a starter. Tadas Sedekerskis just extended his contract with the club this summer to prove he has found a solid place on the team that he first joined as a youngster back in 2016.
The cornerstone of Baskonia's frontcourt will probably be Alec Peters, who had a breakthrough season in his debut with the team in 2020-21. He averaged 11.5 points and 3.9 rebounds and is expected to forge a deadly duo with Baldwin. Big man Matt Costello arrives from Gran Canaria to contribute size and experience, and Simone Fontecchio will do the same in his fifth EuroLeague appearance after a solid double-figure season in Berlin. Steven Enoch and Landry Nnoko will bring centimeters and power to the Baskonia paint. The former will make his competition debut at only 23 years old, while Nnoko arrives with already 38 EuroLeague games under his belt in Berlin and Belgrade. The team placed a bet with Sander Raieste in 2020 signing to a long-term deal, and he will have another season to keep rounding those rough edges with minutes on the court. He had a testimonial presence last season with a total 45 minutes.
PLAYER TO WATCH
It's probably no surprise that all eyes will be on Wade Baldwin IV when he starts playing with Baskonia. Last season he started in 38 of his 39 games with Bayern, and even increased his numbers to 15.8 points in the playoffs, the first series ever played by a German team, which went to the wire in Game 5. He scored 17 and 13 points, respectively in two games against Baskonia last season, and he was a leader in Munich all season long. However, Baldwin lands in Vitoria-Gasteiz with big shoes to fill. Pierria Henry left a big mark by leading the team to new heights, and since he left -- together with Achille Polonara -- to Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul. Baldwin will be counted on to run the show in Vitoria-Gasteiz from the get-go.
As in the past, the trademark Baskonia Character will be something the team needs to draw upon to become a solid entity early in the season. After a Rount 1 trip to Olympiacos Piraeus, there are two straight home games, against AX Armani Exchange Milan and Panathinaikos OPAP Athens, that could be the starting push that the team needs to get the ball rolling. Is is hoped that for the first time in more than one year, there will be fans -- loud fans -- again at Fernando Buesa Arena for a EuroLeague game. Due to the rebuild, Coach Ivanovic has a hard task in front of him, but nothing that he has not handled before, and with the help of those fans, this team will not be ignored as the season gains strength.