Early bird Oostende combines continuity with rejuvenation
OSTEND, BELGIUM (Basketball Champions league) – While the vast majority of the clubs who are set to take part in the inaugural Basketball Champions League season are currently immersed in the usual summer race of putting together the most competitive roster possible, reigning Belgian champions BC Telenet Oostende opted to do their homework early.
Oostende, who were drawn in Group D together with SIG Strasbourg, Sidigas Avellino, Iberostar Tenerife, Cibona Zagreb, Mega Leks and two teams that will emerge from Qualification Round 2, had finalised their 2016/17 roster by 16 July.
The 17-time Belgian champions moved swiftly to ensure that they would maintain the services of the core players on their winning team and injected four reinforcements along the main concepts of ‘continuity, rejuvenation and rotation’, which the club has established well in advance.
The continuity aspect starts of from the top and head coach Dario Gjergja, who took the reins of the team in 2011, will continue to steer Oostende for yet another season alongside the same coaching staff that worked with him last year. Gjergja is renowned for developing young talent and this season he will have at his disposal a team on which nine of the 12 players are currently 26 or younger.
Oostende’s 33-year-old captain Dusan Djordjevic and big man Rasko Katic, who is 36, are the only players on the team over the age of 29. The two Serbian veterans, together with Belgian internationals Pierre Antoine Gillet, Jean Salumu and Khalid Boukichou, up-and-coming winger Nedim Buza from Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as young Belgians Sam Hemeleers and Tim Lambrecht make up the eight-man core that returns from last season.
Two of the four new arrivals came in to bolster the back-court, in American duo Devonte (DJ) Newbill and Corey Walden who are both 24 years old. Newbill is a shooting guard who spent the first half of last season with French champions ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne. He averaged 13 points and 2.4 assists in seven games in the FIBA Europe Cup while he had 6.7 points and 1.8 assists per contest in the French Pro A league. Walden meanwhile is a defensive-minded point guard who can also fill the ‘2’ spot and played last year for the Maine Red Claws in the NBA D-League, shooting 37% from three-point range for the season.
The youngest of the four new faces is exciting 21-year-old Belgian prospect Vincent Kesteloot, who can play at both forward positions. Kesteloot was a key-member of the Belgian national team who clinched a historical-best quarter-final finish at the 2015 FIBA U20 European Championship. He went on to impress as a professional in the 2015/16 season, as he averaged 8.6 points on 62.3% two-point shooting and 2.8 rebounds with Okapi Aalstar in the Belgian Scooore! League.
Versatile power forward Marko Jagodic Kuridza is the only addition Oostende made to the frontcourt this season. The 29-year-old Croatian played first for Cibona Zagreb and then for CEZ Nymburk last season, averaging 11.7 points and 7.7 rebounds in the FIBA Europe Cup, where he competed with both the Croatian and the Czech side.
Oostende feel that this roster is more than competent to tackle what they anticipate will be a very a long and demanding season,as they will play a minimum of 36 games in the Belgian league in addition to what comes their way in the Basketball Champions League (14 games in the Regular Season alone) and the Belgian Cup.
“Our ambition again is to reach second round in Europe and the Play-Offs,” club sources said. “With such a large amount of games it is necessary for us to have three players on each spot, this means that in case of an injury we will be able to utilize our available players instead of looking for a replacement. BC Telenet Oostende is not a team depending on superstars but we are driven by talent, effort and collectivism. This has been our motto in the recent past and will be for the upcoming season too.”