France: Gravelines Off And Running

06 October 2005
By Steve Douglas, PA Sport

If the opening game of the French ProA league is anything to go by, Gravelines Dunkerque are going to make a real impression not only in domestic competition but also in the forthcoming EuroCup.

An 88-71 routing of French champions and EuroLeague qualifiers Strasbourg in the opening round of the new campaign on Tuesday is testimony to the work done behind the scenes this summer by head coach Fabrice Courcier in turning round the fortunes of the club.

A disappointing ninth-placed finish in the top flight last season was followed by elimination in the preliminary round of the play-offs by Nancy.

Marc Salyers (Fenerbahce)
Marc Salyers has joined Gravelines from Fenerbahce
Something had to be done if Gravelines were to rediscover that winning feeling - and by the looks of some of the signings he has brought in, Courcier may have found found the answers.

In came forwards Marc Salyers from FIBA Europe League side Fenerbahce, Rahshon Turner from Le Mans and Kevin Johnson from Nancy. Guard Tyson Wheeler was also drafted in from Italian side Teramo while giant center Saulius Kuzminskas arrived from Lithuanian outfit Lietuvos rytas.

And the quintet played a prominent part in the convincing defeat of Strasbourg on Tuesday. The Wheeler-Turner axis, which provided nearly two-thirds of Gravelines' points in that game, looks particularly destructive.

Wheeler's devastating shooting from outside the arc - he nailed seven out of 11 three-pointers against Strasbourg and finished with a game-high 28 points - proves Courcier's side has a serious perimeter threat which is a must in Europe.

So although the basketball season is very much in its embryonic stages, Gravelines do look like one of the sides to watch out for this term.

The three teams who have been drawn in the same pool as the French club in the imminent group stages of the EuroCup must be ruing their misfortune.

Russian side Dynamo Moscow Region, Gravelines' first opponents on October 25, along with Hapoel Galil Elyon of Israel and Spanish outfit DKV Joventut of Badalona will attempt to provide the French team with a stern examination of their credentials.

On the evidence of the mauling of Strasbourg, Gravelines will be confident of ending up as one of the top two sides in the pool and progressing to the next stage of the competition, a feat they failed to achieve in last year's ULEB Cup group stages.

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