Coach T.J. Parker and his LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne charges have plenty to be excited about this season. ASVEL boasts a team that is deep and combines speed and size, strength and outside shooting, and youth and experience. Coming an impressive regular season in which the team swept eventual EuroLeague runner-up FC Barcelona, ASVEL looks to be in the playoff hunt this year.
Coach Parker can rely on different guards to run the offense in different ways in their time on the floor. Veteran playmaker Antoine Diot is a pass-first leader who comes off a career-best season in terms of three-point shooting (42 of 80, 52.5%). Chris Jones showed off his scoring chops as a EuroLeague rookie last season with Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv and is hungry for a bigger role. Still a teenager, Matthew Strazel has been a part of the ASVEL rotation for two seasons already and continues to improve. He's a nuisance on defense and growing his offensive game all the time. Combo-guard Elie Okobo returns to his native France after three years in the United States and can play alongside any of the other guards in the ASVEL backcourt, making an impact at both ends of the floor. David Lighty enters his seventh season with ASVEL and was second on the team in scoring last season with 11.3 points per game. His versatility is a great weapon for Coach Parker. Veteran swingman Paul Lacombe brings confidence and maturity off the bench. The senior-most player on the team is Charles Kahudi, who at age 35 remains a physical presence, tough defender and effective shooter. Teenage prospect Kymany Houinsou will train with the senior squad, but is not expected to see many minutes this season.
ASVEL's frontcourt players give the team many ways to attack defenses thanks to the mix of stretch-shooters and size. William Howard (51.5%) was among the best three-point shooters in the EuroLeague last season, while Dylan Osetowski was among the leaders in the 7DAYS EuroCup. However, Osetowski did most of his damage in the paint, just like Raymar Morgan, who will debut in the EuroLeague after averaging 12.9 points in five EuroCup seasons. That trio will ensure that opposing defenses will constantly worry about ASVEL's scoring from the '4' spot. Youssoupha Fall has been a game-changer in the paint the past two seasons with fellow EuroLeague side Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz thanks to his 2.21 meters. Victor Wembanyama is already considered one of the best prospects in the game due to his combination of size speed and hard work. He will get his first taste of the EuroLeague this season. For a different look at the center position, ASVEL can turn to the high-flying Kostas Antetokounmpo, who at age 23 will make his EuroLeague debut, too.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Dylan Osetowski was virtually unstoppable at times last season in the EuroCup with ratiopharm Ulm, where he posted eye-popping statlines on a regular basis. He simply did it all; in only 10 games, he made at least 5 two-pointers four times, had multiple threes on four occasions and knocked down 10 free throws three times – including twice without a miss. Osetowski shot 55.1% on two-pointers, 52% on threes and 85.7% from the line. He also twice dished 6 assists. The ability to take whatever opposing defenses gave him and make the most of it while only 24 years of age is just as impressive. Not a year older and surrounded by elite talents, Osetowski has a chance to climb another rung and perhaps to emerge as a EuroLeague star.
Half of the ASVEL roster is comprised of new players and there are as many as six who could make their EuroLeague debuts, so it may take time in the beginning for the team to come together. However, the talent, hunger and depth are all there to make a lot of noise in the EuroLeague. Starting strong may be imperative, however, because ASVEL plays seven of its first 11 games at home. Even though that stretch includes games against three of last season's Final Four sides, if ASVEL can protect its home floor and build off of that, it could be a historic season in Villeurbanne.