|05 November 2013|
|Veteran Pavel Ulyanko is one of only three players returning for Tsmoki Minsk |
While Belarusian champions Tsmoki Minsk will draw on Tuesday the curtain on what is their fifth consecutive EuroChallenge campaign, Romanian side BC Mures will make their maiden appearance in a European competition.
Yet even the most dedicated Minsk fan would be hard-pressed to spot the similarities between this season's team and the side that competed in the EuroChallenge and the VTB United league last season.
Young Lithuanian coach Donaldas Kairys has been handed the reins of the team, with former head coach Andrei Krivonos now in the assistant's position.
Veteran power forward Aliaksei Lashkevich, who was Minsk's top rebounder in the EuroChallenge last season, winger Pavel Ulyanko and small forward Aliaksei Trastsinetski are the only three players from last season's roster to return this year.
Judging from performances in their first four games in the VTB league, some of the new signings are poised to make an enormous impact in the capital of Belarus this year.
Mures continue with head coach Srecko Sekulovic at the helm, but their roster also underwent substantial changes.
The core of the team that finishes top of the Regular Season standings in the Romanian LNB league and reached the play-off finals (eventually losing the title to Ploiesti) has departed for pastures new.
Serbian winger Andrija Ciric and 18-year-old prospect Adrian Oprea have stayed on, with the former playing a role quite similar to the one he had on the team last year, as he averages 11 points-per-game so far in the domestic championship.
As is the case with Minsk, the new faces at Mures have immediately assumed a protagonistic role, albeit with mixed results so far.
SEASON SO FAR
Minsk have won two of their first four games in Regular Season Group B of the VTB United league and look like they will be in the run for a play-off spot until the end.
This hopeful start is a far cry from their last campaign, when they did not earn their first victory until late in the season and finished bottom of their Regular Season group.
|Ivan Ivanovic brings experience from two EuroChallegne seasons in the last six years to his new team Mures|
Tsmoki's signing of American center Keith Benson is proving to be a very astute so far, as he has performed with the precision of a Swiss clock in the first four games in the VTB, averaging 20 points and 7.8 rebounds-per-contest.
Bulgarian international Branko Mirkovic, another new arrival, averages 15.5 points and a team-high 5.8 assists-per-game, while the sharp-shooting Aliaksei Trastsinetski converts his three-point shots at a league-best 66.7% and averages 13 points-per-game.
Mures have kicked off their LNB campaign with three home wins and three losses, all of the them on the road, which does not exactly compare favourably with last year's record when they registered only seven losses in the entire Regular Season.
Montenegrin power forward Ivan Ivanovic, who competed in the EuroChallenge last season with fellow Romanian club Gaz Metan Medias, leads Mures in both scoring and rebounds, as he averages 18 points and 7.8 boards-per-game.
Another Montenegrin, point guard Goran Martinic, contributes 17.7 points and a team-best 6.7 assists-per-game, while Serbian center Aleksandar Mladenovic, who is also one of the many new faces on the team, is averaging 14.3 points and 6.8 rebounds-per-game so far.
Minsk have only been involved in very tight games so far, including a much-talked-about 113-112 loss in overtime to Krasny Oktyabr last month, and their latest encounter was not an exception.
The clash between the Belarusian side and powerhouse CSKA Moscow went down to the wire, with the scores tied at 58 when there was just 2:46 left on the clock.
Minsk however missed their last two shots and lost 66-62, as the Russian giants kept their calm at the foul line in the clutch.
Keith Benson, the only Minsk player to score in double digits, finished with a game-high 21 points and eight rebounds in defeat.
Mures bounced back from the 88-74 loss at reigning champions Ploiesti with a spectacular 109-58 rout of bottom-of-the-table CS Concordia Chiajna on Saturday.
Vaidotas Peciukas with a game-high 20 points and Goran Martinic with 16 points and a game-high nine assists led seven Mures players that scored in double digits.