By Jeff Taylor
|Besiktas star Deron Williams will get his first taste of European basketball on Tuesday night, when the Istanbul giants host the Belgians of Dexia Mons-Hainaut |
Sixteen teams looking to compete in this season's Eurocup will play the first legs of their Qualifying Round ties this week and there are some tantalizing match-ups.
Among them are Gran Canaria squaring off against Artland Dragons in a battle of Spain v Germany while another pits French outfit Le Mans against Pinar Karsiyaka.
In all, eight games will be played on either Tuesday or Wednesday with the second legs to be held the following week.
The other six Eurocup Qualifying Round ties are BK Ventspils v Azovmash, Besiktas v Dexia Mons-Hainaut, Elan Chalon v Cedevita, Norrköping Dolphins v BC Telenet Oostende, Etha Engomi v Spartak St Petersburg and Lukoil Academic v BK Prostejov.
Gran Canaria, Azovmash, Besiktas, Cedevita and Le Mans all know what it's like in the Eurocup because they were in the competition last season.
Ventspils, Dexia, Elan Chalon, Norrköping, Oostende, Spartak, Lukoil and Prostjev are battled-tested, too, because they were in a very tough 2010-11 EuroChallenge.
Cedevita would sure like to replicate their 2010-11 campaign on the continent because they advanced to the EuroCup Semi-Finals before falling to eventual champions UNICS Kazan.
Gran Canaria made it to the Last 16 in the 2010-11 Eurocup.
The Canary Islanders didn't allow their European exit to spoil their domestic campaign because they won 11 of their last 12 regular season games in the ACB to finish fifth.
Gran Canaria is off the Moroccan coast, so Pedro Martinez and his players must go a long way to play all of their games, including those in Spain.
In the Eurocup, the distance of travel is even greater but Martinez says: "We should not see the Eurocup as a burden, but as a chance of winning and improving individually and collectively."
|Michael Bramos of Gran Canaria is one of the players who will play in the all-important EuroCup Qualifying Round only a few days after returning from Lithuania |
A couple of players who competed at the EuroBasket in Lithuania, Georgia point guard Marquez Haynes and Greece guard Michael Bramos, are in Martinez's squad.
Bramos played for Gran Canaria last year.
Martinez expects Haynes to be a strong addition.
"He has shown up in good physical shape...
"It's only a matter of adapting to our tactics.
"He's a good kid with a good attitude and is working very well."
Artland Dragons will be dangerous opponents for Gran Canaria.
The team already has a winning feeling after thumping BG Gottingen 95-66 to win the Niedersachsen-Cup on 18th September.
Stefan Koch, the coach of the Dragons, said: "We took a huge step forward.
"We had some problems making adjustments because some of our players are not accustomed to the special style of play of Gottingen. We were a bit too careless. In the third quarter we were better, especially in our defensive execution."
If Bramos and Haynes got a taste of the EuroBasket this summer with their national teams, so did Le Mans forward Charles Kahudi of France.
He will now turn his attention back to the club season.
"For me, it was a huge experience," Kahudi said to fibaeurope.com.
"It was my first EuroBasket, my first chance to play at this level. I hope I'm with the team at the Olympics.
"I'll work hard all year with my team to get back in the national team."