By: Vladimir Spivak / @selloutxboy
It has taken a while, but the wait for UNICS is finally over.
One of the elite clubs in Russian basketball has been knocking on the door of the top European competition for about a decade, and at long last, they earned the right to play in the big leagues after winning last season’s Eurocup championship.
The Kazan side has never won a national championship, but with the mighty CSKA in their way, this is understandable. Now they’ll fight right alongside their Russian rivals for a chance to advance in the EL.
The city in the central Russia will welcome the likes of Barcelona and Montepaschi for the first time ever, but UNICS does have a few names in the roster that are familiar with the Euroleague, none more so than head coach Evgeny Pashutin. The UNICS boss took CSKA Moscow all the way to Paris in 2010, where they lost to eventual champions Barcelona before defeating Partizan in the third place game.
Dreaming of such success this time around will most likely remain just a dream for Pashutin, but UNICS will certainly take this European season as a big lesson and a chance to attract some new fans to their arena, where full houses has often been absent.
The team has shaken its roster in preseason, adding seven new face, so chemistry might be a problem for UNICS. Pashutin enjoys playing a short bench, so those with limited playing time should be patient, at least early in the season.
Biggest Acquisition: With UNICS’ half-court offense getting stuck occasionally last season, Terell Lyday once again proved to be a vital player for his team. The 33-year-old won’t be shutting down his opponent’s leader, but he’s very sharp offensively, and can create his own shot and get to the rim when he needs to. Lyday doesn’t shy away from responsibility, which is usually reflected in his numbers—Terell scored 32 points in a first half of a PBL game last spring.
Biggest Loss: Marcus Williams should’ve been in the ‘Biggest Acquisition’ part of the story, but the former Nets point guard is likely to miss most or all of UNICS’ Euroleague action this season, after UNICS discovered the player’s heart problems after signing him this summer. Now, he’ll probably miss the whole year. A huge loss for the Russians, as their other PGs aren’t half as good as MW. They did sign Lynn Greer, but the veteran will surely take some time to adjust to the team.
Swingman: Vladimir Veremeenko can do everything a good power forward should be able to do. The only thing is that he lacks the actual power part, and that’s probably prevented the Wizards draftee from having an NBA career. But on a good day the Belorussian can shine in the Euroleague, and his complete offensive arsenal would certainly help UNICS.
Best Drinking Buddy: Holding a PBL record for smart jokes per minute, Henry Domercant is a great person to talk to. Henry is an impressively intelligent person who knows life just as well as hoops.
Shaun’s Drink of Choice: Being a gentleman, Henry won’t go for anything but a glass of good wine. Do they even make wine in Bosnia?
Most Likely Not To Misspell His Own Name: Kelly McCarty hates it when his name is spelled wrong. And rightly so.
(Ed’s Note: After misspelling Vladimir’s name at the top of this article—it’s Spivak, not Spicak—I’m sure Vlad feels Kelly’s pain. Forgive me, V.)
Prediciton: Top 16.
Vladimir is a freelance basketball writer in Russia who mostly writes for Sports.ru, and you can follow him on Twitter @selloutxboy.