The draw for the 2015-2016 FIBA EuropeCup was made today and Hibernia could scarcely have come out with a tougher draw. The yet-to-be-seen Irish side will face Czech side Nymburk, Danish team Bakken Bears and Tajfun Sentjur from Slovenia. The Czech and Slovenian sides are the defending champions of their domestic leagues, whilst the Danes were runners up, having won the previous season, and have won the title fourteen times.
Sentjur’s squad features Jacob Parker, the 6’6″ forward from the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks, who was one of the leaders of the team that performed so well in the NCAA tournament last year. Otherwise, it is a predominantly Slovenian lineup, with a couple of players from other former Yugoslav states.
Bakken last season were led by former Marquette guard Maurice Acker, 7’2″ center Chris Christoffersen and Estonian international Kaido Saks. They play in the Vejlby-Risskov Hallen in Aarhus, an arena that holds nearly 2,000 spectators.
Nymburk will likely enter the group as the favorites. The twelve-time Czech champions, who have also won ten Czech Cups, include former NBA player Jiri Welsch, and Euroleague great Lubos Barton, both now 35, along with at least three imported Americans. Nymburk alternate between the 2,000 Sportovni Centrum and the Tipsport Arena in Nymbruk, a town 45km east of Prague.
Irish fans will be perhaps somewhat disappointed with the draw in the sense that they will miss out on games against Croatian side Cibona, Germany’s Fraport Skyliners, French sides Villeurbanne and Chalon or Ron Artest’s Italian side Cantu.
In their release on the draw, Basketball Ireland also revealed (perhaps the least surprising news of the week) that Colin O’Reilly would “continue” as coach, even though this isn’t technically the same team as that which competed in the Sino-European games. O’Reilly commented that
The 12 players who represented the squad in China are the holders of the spots as of now, but over the preparation period we will again open up the squad to players who were involved in the earlier training camps as well as those who are impressing for their club during the preseason and early weeks of the National Leagues.
We will try select the healthiest, in-form players who we feel can gel together and fit specific roles within the team structure. Over the course of the six games it’s important that we have a very versatile and close knit group which can change styles quickly depending on the opposition.
O’Reilly continued that:
The overall goal, as with the trip to China, is to give players who are eligible to represent Ireland as much exposure as possible to elite level European basketball.
Again however we will look at all players regardless of nationality competing in our leagues and try to piece together the best squad of players who compliment each other and will help basketball in this country reach a higher level
One assumes that Limerick big man Jason Killeen will be back in the reckoning for a spot, as will O’Reilly himself, assuming both are fully recovered from injury.
What’s less clear is how the team will compensate for the seemingly-inevitable loss of Paul Dick, arguably the most talented player the country has ever produced. Dick was the Irishmen’s top player in China and is surely destined for another deal with an overseas club. Unless someone in Ireland can make him an offer he can’t (though probably should) refuse, the burden will fall on players such as Kyle Hosford, Roy Downey, and O’Reilly.
Now, for the important part: the home games, which are all at the Arena in Tallaght. As you would expect, Basketball Ireland hasn’t yet thought to release information about tickets, because why would they? If anyone does have information about tickets, please let us know and we’ll be glad to share.
Wednesday November 4th vs Tajfun
Wednesday November 18th vs Bakken Bears
Wednesday December 2nd vs CEZ Nymburk