|Shooting guard Dino Pita was a reliable offensive option for Sweden in the Eurobasket Qualification Round and Södertalje Kings expect him to do more of the same in the EuroChallenge|
By Tapio Joulamo
Swedish side Södertälje Kings returns to the European scene this season after participating in the Korac Cup in 1997 and 2001.
Competing in the EuroChallenge marks a starting point for the club's long-term ambition, to secure continuous presence in European competitions.
The Kings struggled in the Swedish championship after winning the domestic league title in 2005, but have managed to turn around their fortunes in the last two seasons.
After reaching the semi-finals in 2011, the Kings challenged Norrköping Dolphins in the 2012 play-off finals, although they ended up losing the series, 4-2.
They owe much of their revival to coach Vedran Bosnic.
The Bosnian tactician finished his playing career at the Kings and then turned to coaching.
He was appointed as the Kings' head coach in 2010 and has now entered his third consecutive season at the helm of the Swedish team.
Bosnic has earned back-to-back Coach of the Year honours in Sweden.
Under his leadership, the Kings have become a hard-working, disciplined and defensively-oriented team.
Many consider that the Bosnian coach has introduced his players to a ‘truly European style of play', which has proved successful on national level.
"Kings is a team of fighters," says team captain and starting point guard, Adnan Chuk.
"We are not the most talented of teams, but no team trains or works harder than we do. Our achievements are based on structure and team effort."
Going into the season, the Kings lost league MVP Johnell Smith, but the return of post player Kenneth Simms was valuable and marks another important aspect of the team, continuity in the roster.
|Young guard Tobias Borg was a stand out player for Sweden at the U20 European Championship and will get more international experience this season|
Nine of last season's twelve players have stayed with the team, including two Sweden internationals, the talented 1993-born versatile guard Tobias Borg and Dino Pita, a shooting guard who made his first appearances for the national team in this summer's EuroBasket 2013 Qualification Round.
The Kings' program with focus on development has attracted players such as Simms and 21-year-old Sweden international Alexander Lindqvist, who joined the Kings from Solna Vikings last season.
This autumn, Martin Pahlmblad, another member of the Swedish national team that qualified to EuroBasket 2013, signed with the Kings.
"I have admired the Kings and their way of playing ball in the last two seasons," said the shooting guard.
"I want to progress as a player and earn a spot in our EuroBasket team, and with the Kings' decision to play in the EuroChallenge, they were the obvious choice for me."
The latter fills the spot left by Mantas Griskenas, who moved to Romania, and has already made his mark in the early stages of the season.
The 2.02m Bizaca leads the team in scoring in the domestic league with an average of 26 points per game but also adds great power under the boards and on defence.
The Kings are ready to go and it is of course with great excitement that the team takes on the EuroChallenge.
Their goal is to advance from the Regular Season, get the chance to face even tougher opposition in the Last 16 and ultimately improve by competing with the best.