For three years I’ve been working in European basketball, it’s a role I enjoy immensely and one I hope to be doing for a long time.

I figured it was about time I started writing about the Euro game.

With four pan-European competitions to choose from there’s going to be plenty to choose from this season and for this first outing, it makes sense to start with Euroleague, the biggest of the four.

Entering it’s 20thseason this week, there has been so much happening over the summer, the first question is where do you even start?

Should we look at Mike James’ signing with CSKA, or perhaps discuss just how loaded Fenerbahce are following the additions of Nando de Colo and Derrick Williams?

Then again, what about Barcelona? After all, they have a case for the deepest squad in the league.

Well, for this first column, I’m going to focus on AX Armani Olimpia Exchange Milan.

No-one is picking the Italians to win the Euroleague this season, but the roster than they have put together is hopefully going to make them one of the teams you’ll want to watch each week.

Last season, Milan put their hopes on Mike James to help them to the play-offs but despite setting club records for scoring and assists – as well as winning the Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy – it wasn’t enough as the Italians missed the play-offs for the 18thtime in 19 seasons.

It’s the worst record for any of the Euroleague’s A-License teams and in order to change it, Milan turned to one of the league’s greatest coaches.

Before he swapped Moscow for San Antonio in 2014, Ettore Messina was a Final Four regular, collecting four titles over a ten-year span.

After five years working with NBA great Gregg Popovich, Messina has returned and his job now is to bring back the European glory days to a team whose last Euroleague title came over 30 years ago.

It’s worth noting that despite inheriting a team which failed to make the post-season in 2018-19, Messina did not just rip up the roster and start again.

Yes, Mike James was a high-profile departure, but the bulk of the roster remains and Milan have added some interesting pieces which should make them a better team at both ends of the floor.

The additions of Aaron White and Michael Roll give Milan more depth, but the pick of the new signings for me was Sergio Rodriguez, a two-time champion who helped CSKA to the title last season.

I feel his experience will be vital, along with that of Luis Scola, who was announced on Sunday evening in bizarre fashion; Messina mentioning the signing in passing right at the end of a press conference following a shock home domestic defeat.

Scola might be 39, but if his performances for Argentina at the World Cup are anything to go by, he’s nowhere near finished yet.

Milan’s post-season record in the modern era is woeful, just a solitary appearance in the 2014 play-offs to show for it, but now they have players – and a coach – who know exactly what it takes to reach the top eight.

Messina has failed to reach the post-season only twice in 17 attempts and even though the Euroleague has changed a fair bit since 2014, you wouldn’t bet against him continuing that excellent record.

Pic: Ahmedphotos

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