The London Lions now know their upcoming European opponents following Friday’s draw.

Our resident EuroCup expert, Niall Gray, looks at what lies ahead for the team from the Copper Box.

Get ready for a step up in the quality of teams coming to London.

Although they confused some people last season, Europe Cup and EuroCup are two completely different competitions, and the Lions will quickly notice the jump in quality from the former to the latter.

After all, EuroCup is a gateway to the ultimate goal in European club basketball – Euroleague.

The Lions go into this as one of the two lowest seeds – which is fair as no BBL team has entered the competition since 2007 – but it would be unfair for anyone to completely dismiss their chances at this early stage. Especially when eight out of the ten teams in their group will make the play-offs.

With Mo Soluade and Ovie Soko already announced – the Lions have started putting together a team that could compete.

A BBL team playing in a major European competition will likely be a draw for other top British talent to return home, but still be able to play at a high level in Europe.

We can address the Lions’ chances when the squads are more-or-less complete later this summer, but for now, let’s take a quick look at the nine teams the Lions will be facing in the regular season.

And we start with a number one seed in their group, Hapoel Tel Aviv.

This is a good draw for Lions, because they avoid the other top seed, Joventut Badalona, a team considered the favourites at this stage to win the title.

The Israeli side make a return to EuroCup for the first time in 16 years and bar a couple of brief appearances in the Basketball Champions League, haven’t played on a major European stage for a while.

This is a team living in the shadow of local rivals Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv – one of the giants of Euroleague.

The club have been quiet on the transfer market so far, but they have brought back Tomer Ginat, who returns to the club after two productive seasons in France with Metropolitans.

By avoiding Badalona, the same-country rules that apply to EuroCup means the Lions will be going up against Gran Canaria, another of the favourites to win the competition.

This is a team that basketball fans will want to see when Granca come to London during the regular season, one full of EuroCup experience.

French play-maker Andrew Albicy and Ferran Bassas will ensure Gran Canaria have one of the best backcourts in the competition.

It’ll be interesting to see the Spanish side’s playing style with former Ratiopharm Ulm coach Jaka Lakovic – a guard during his playing days – having recently taken over.

Like Gran Canaria, Buducnost VOLI Podgorica are a team looking to get back to Euroleague after a few seasons away.

The Montenegrin side are EuroCup regulars but coming off a disappointing season where they were dumped out of the competition in the first round of the play-offs.

It’s hard to gauge their roster at this stage due to lack of signings, but one thing is certain. If the Moraca Sports Center is packed, it’s going to be one of the more interesting atmospheres the Lions will experience this season.

On to Dolomiti Energia Trento and despite being a 4th seed in this competition, the Italian side picked up just one win in 16 games last time. Having reached the EuroCup semi-finals in 2016, they have not made it to the play-offs for five straight campaigns.

After failing to reach the play-offs in their domestic league last season, it would not be a shock to see a completely rebuilt roster.

Turk Telekom Ankara will be a familiar name to some British fans as they were one of the teams who faced the Guildford Heat back in 2007-08.

The Turkish side returned to EuroCup in 2018 after an eight-year absence and last year were steady, but not spectacular. But they will still be a formidable opponent for the Lions, who will probably be happy they avoided last season’s runners-up, Bursapor.

From Turkey to Greece and Promitheas Patras. Entering their third straight season in the competition, Patras had a dream debut in 2019-20, reaching the quarter-finals, only for the season to be cancelled due to Covid.

In the two seasons since, Patras have struggled and last season finished bottom of their group with just four wins, missing out on the post-season for the second straight year.

Makis Giatras – who has been coach for most of the last decade – has a great chance to get them back into the post-season and it will be interesting to see who they bring in this summer.

Many Lions fans will no doubt be relishing the next opponent – Paris Basketball – as it will be the shortest road-trip of the season, and one I expect a number of fans will want to make.

Paris are the new boys on the French basketball scene, having only been formed in 2018, but the French side have made no secret of the fact their goal is to become a Euroleague staple.

After just avoiding relegation in their debut campaign in the French top flight, expect to see a vastly different roster to the one that ended last season.

Hamburg Towers are one of the more recent additions to the EuroCup fold; they made their debut only last year.

The Germans had a difficult season but were able to get enough wins to make the knockout stages, and a play-off spot will be their ambition again.

And finally, Slask Wroclaw, the Polish representative. A Euroleague and EuroCup regular during the first decade of the century, Slask returned to EuroCup last season after 13 years.

They made the play-offs with just three wins, but this was only due to Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar’s suspension from the competition. Slask will need a few more to make the knockout stages this time around, and I expect to see a roster packed with domestic talent.

For now, that’s it, a brief introduction to the teams London Lions will face. When the rosters are closer to the finished article, we can look a more in-depth look at each one.

Niall Gray has been involved with European club basketball for a number of years and since 2017, has been a play-by-play commentator covering the EuroCup competition.


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