By: Tomas Van Den Spiegel / @TomasVDS
It would be an understatement to say coach Simone Pianigiani’s system and Ferdinando Minucci’s masterminding proved to be safe and sound last season. After losing most of their main players last summer nobody expected Siena to win the Italian Cup, conquer a fifth straight Italian championship and manage to make the Euroleague Final Four for the fourth time.
After losing to Olympiacos by 48 pts in game one of the Euroleague quarterfinals, MPS bounced back in style winning three in a row which earned them a spot in the 2011 Barcelona Final Four. There, only the eventual champs of Panathinaikos were able to block them.
So if losing out on four starters and Eurobasket 2011 hero Bo McCalebb for several months due to injury leads to one of the best seasons in Siena’s history, then the Italian powerhouse surely has not to worry for the upcoming season.
With David Andersen and DaJuan Summers they will only have to fit in two new acquisitions. Even though most of the team had recent national team obligations their preseason went quite well, with a win over Olympiacos amongst others.
On paper Montepaschi has never looked better and if the team, unlike last season, can find a good balance between backcourt and frontcourt, not only will they be one of the favorites to make it to Istanbul, they even might end up being one of the contenders.
Biggest Acquisition: He was an early signing when the lock out wasn’t a real issue yet and might have passed under lots of people’s radars for that, but bringing back New Orleans Hornets center David Anderson might turn out to be the steal of the summer.
He has been to the EL Final Four with four different ballclubs (Siena in 2004) since the start of the competition and the higher the stakes, the better DA’s turn-around jumpers get. Due to timing issues and trading situations he might not have completely passed his NBA exam, but he is surely back to prove he’s still a winner.
Swingman: Siena has post game with Andersen, a tweener with Lavrinovic, a great defender in Stonerook, a slasher in Kaukenas, versatility with David Moss, athleticism with McCalebb and brains with Nikos Zisis. If they can add some pure shooting to that with DaJuan Summers, it’s hard to find any weaknesses. Summers, coming off two seasons with the Detroit Pistons will really get possibilities to find his own niche on this squad and do what he does best: make jump-shots.
Best Drinking Buddy: Having three great former teammates on Siena this season, I will still have to go with Shaun Stonerook on this one. Nothing but respect for a great career based on strengths like passing, rebounding, defense and a haircut.
Shaun’s Drink of Choice: Since he played in Belgium his first year out of Ohio State, the choice of drinks would be limited to beer, and nothing but beer.
Most Likely Not To Miss a Practice All Year: I have never seen a player work harder than Rimantas Kaukenas. Even at the age of 34 he still shows how it is done with great work ethic and focus. Easy running does not exist in Rimas’ world; only sprinting does.
Prediction: Final Four
Tomas Van Den Spiegel is a Belgian 7-footer who’s swatted shots for some of Europe’s most historic clubs in his 16-year career, from CSKA Moscow to Real Madrid to Virtus Bologna. Tomas currently plays for Telenet Oostende in Belgium, and you can follow him on Twitter @TomasVDS.