By: Sam Meyerkopf / euro_adventures

First off let’s congratulate Bennet Cantu on getting back to the Euroleague and restoring some great Italian tradition.  Now it’s time to work.  A disappointing Eurocup regular season was followed up by an inspiring Italian League Playoff run and a trip to the Italian finals, which ultimately got them here.  A solid offseason combined with keeping the core team members together has Cantu thinking Top 16.

Let’s start dissecting with the big additions Cantu added this offseason to try and compete at Europe’s highest level.  They snagged veteran shooter Gianluca Basile from Barcelona, young big Artsiom Parakhouski from VEF Riga, freshly graduated Ohio State Buckeye David Lighty, playmaker Andrea Cinciarini from Sutor Montegranaro, and Federico Bolzonella got called up from the amateur Italian league.

Basile will provide as much off the court for Cantu as he will on it.  He brings a winning mentality and the lore of being one of the greatest Italians to ever dawn a basketball jersey.  His prefect stroke is dually noted, but for this Cantu team to blossom, Basile needs to be a true leader.

Parakhouski, Lighty, and power forward holdover Maarty Luenen are the young American college kids who should bring the energy this season.  Parakhouski is a smooth post presence who had an extremely successful rookie season in Riga.  Lighty may start the season playing few minutes, but come spring I would be shocked if he wasn’t an integral part of what Cantu does on both sides of the ball.  He’s an in your face defender who should be able to take on any point guards or wings that dare try and go by him off the dribble.  Luenen is a stretch 4 who led the team in scoring during the Eurocup.  He isn’t very aggressive deep in the paint, but will make you pay anytime he finds himself open near the elbow.

The addition of Cinciarini and Bolzonella was an attempt to shore up the point guard role left behind by Mike Green.  Cinciarini looks to play a much larger role and will be counted on to keep the pace going on offense.  Cantu struggled at times to put up points last year and adding in a new point guard may prove more difficulties in the scoring area.

A big question for this season will be what work load can 36 year old Cantu legend Nicolas Mazzarino handle?  He’s been through the wars for this team, and now with maybe a final chance to play in the Euroleague, he needs to make everything count.  Mazzarino and Basile will be the unquestioned leaders of the team, and they need to be the ones that initiate the offense.  When things are getting out of control, it’ll be on them to steady the waters.

Behind Luenen, Manuchar Markoishvili and Vladimir Mivoc will be the ones challenging for the scoring lead.  Both need to stay aggressive on the wings and be the ones early in the season to pick up a large part of the scoring weight.  Some of the newly added players will need some time to get used to not only playing in Cantu but playing at the Euroleague level.

Playing in Group A Cantu will have a chance to sneak into Top 16 play if Bilbao missteps or dare I say it, Olympiacos’s youth isn’t up for some early tests.  It is a pretty safe bet that Cantu will be able to rise above Sluc Nancy baring a Nicolas Batum 40 points outing.  But circle your calendars for a meeting in Bilbao in Week 8 of the Regular Season as a possible elimination game…and maybe ELA will be there to cover it live.

Biggest Acquisition: Gianluca Basile. This team needed a veteran winning presence like Basile if it has any prayer of advancing to the Top 16.  Gianluca has been pouring in long distance jumpers for Barcelona for the last 6 years and will relish an opportunity to come home on his swoon run.  Not sure if Basile has taken a field goal inside the 3-point line in a few years, but he’s going to have to be slightly more versatile for a Cantu team that doesn’t exactly have the same offensive artillery as Barcelona.  Basile’s biggest contribution will come from his winning demeanor and ability to lead vocally and with his presence.  If any young pups on Cantu are looking for a role model, they don’t come much better than the Euroleague’s 3-point king.

Biggest Loss: Mike Green. Cantu doesn’t lose much from last year’s squad and has kept its core intact for a couple years now.  The biggest loss though will be the defensive minded point guard Mike Green.  The Butler graduate has a knack for disrupting the dribble of opposing teams quarterbacks at the top of the key and running a sound offense on the other end.  He led the team in assists and steals in last season’s Eurocup.  David Lighty will look to pick up the defensive load left behind, while veteran Nicolas Mazzarino, Andrea Cinciarini, and Federico Bolzonella will have more responsibility running the team on the offensive end.

Swingman: David Lighty.  Not only will Lighty be the swingman for this team, but on the court he is actually a swingman, so this is very fitting.  Coming off not 4, but 5 years at Ohio State University makes Lighty the most Euro ready player of anyone coming out of the college ranks this year.  Back in Buckeye country Lighty was always counted upon to be the glue guy of the team and someone that can not only be a reliable slasher on offense, but the team’s best defender on the other end.  I don’t see it taking very long for Lighty to get comfortable in Italy because he is more versatile than most sporks and is content to help his team in any way possible, no 15 shot minimums necessary here.

Drinking Buddy: Manuchar Markoishvili.  The dude has been playing in the Euroleague since he was 15, and now he’s 24.  I’d love to know the mentality of a teen suiting up against some of the best ball players in the world.  Did he update his Facebook instantly?  How was he able to make up all that school work? How many girls did he make out with after that opening night?  Too many questions for Manuchar I have.

Drink of Choice: Assuming we’re at a bar in Italy, endless bottles of wine and some limoncello to top it all off.

Most Likely to have an on their Bookmark Bar: We have three guys, who were four year letterman at their respective universities in the USA (Art for 2 year at Radford), I’m sure they want to see how the alma mater is hooping this season.

Prediction: A solid Regular Season run, but coming up just short to Bilbao and missing out on the Top 16.