Posted 29 September 2009 - 13:14
Team focus: Partizan (Euroleague.net)
Having enjoyed more fan support last season than any club in European basketball history, Partizan Belgrade returns for the 2009-10 Euroleague with the same high hopes of rising above expectations to challenge the bigger, more experienced superpowers of the continent. With the perfect head coach for upstart young teams and record-breaking crowds of true believers, Partizan enters the new Euroleague season prepared to follow the blueprint that that has led the Serbian champs to the Euroleague Quarterfinal Playoffs in back-to-back seasons. Dusko Vujosevic was honored as the 2009 Alexander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year after last season's performance for developing some of the best young talents in Europe into a team that challenged for a Final Four berth. Despite a revolving door that annually sees those young talents leave for bigger clubs, the secret to Vujosevic's success has been finding the right mix between seasoned vets and rising stars. This season, two such veterans return from the team that started making so much noise team two years ago – veteran playmaker Milt Palacio and Euroleague champ Dusan Kecman – to help lead seven players 22 or younger, including five newcomers. It may be tough to figure out who among those young and new talents will rise to the top, there is sure to be someone, just like big man Jan Vesely, back for his second season, did last year. Also back to bring continuity for Partizan are the guard duo of Aleksandar Rasic and Petar Bozic, plus big men Zarko Rakocevic, Strahinja Milosevic and Slavko Vranes. The list of youngsters who could turn into the next Partizan stars includes big guards Stefan Sinovic and Aleksandar Mitrovic, forwards Bogdan Riznic and Sava Lesic, and centers Aleks Maric, Nemanja Besovic and Branislav Djekic. What is sure is that they will get all the backing needed from the Partizan fans as they try to fashion another Euroleague miracle season.
The vetaran Palacio is equal parts playmaker, clutch scorer and team leader, all of which are needed by such a young team as Partizan. His experience and team-first attitude help make those around him better and Palacio also knows how to step up and score himself in big games, a fact he proved two years ago when he was named Euroleague MVP of the Month for March, precisely when he led Partizan to the its first playoff appearance in the Euroleague. Rasic is a combo guard who figures to start alongside Palacio. He did well in his first Euroleague season last year, displaying a knack for scoring and fine court vision that lets him run the offense, too. Kecman returns after winning the Euroleague with Panathinaikos last season. The veteran swingman is a fine all-around talent who has averaged double figures in points three times in the Euroleague and is a fantastic defender. The team captain, Bozic, backs up at point guard, bringing his fine long-range shooting off the bench. Young gun Sinovic is a promising scorer who will try to crack the rotation in his first season with the club while Mitrovic, a teenager, is another bright prospect who may fight for minutes as the season goes on.
Vesely figures to be the star of the frontcourt after a brilliant rookie season in which he was among the league's best in two-point shooting percentage and offensive rebounds per minute. Now 19, more will be expected of this rising star, but his ability to also run the floor and shoot from distance when the opportunity is there makes him an all-around threat whenever he is on the floor. Vranes, all 2.29 meters of him, clogs the middle and serves as an intimidating shot blocker and excellent rebounder. When he can stay out of foul trouble, Vranes can change games, especially close ones down the stretch. Rakocevic is a high-energy forward who runs the floor well and made quite an impact in several games off the bench last season. Milosevic is a special assignment defensive stopper and a solid rebounder. Maric possesses a true center's body that should serve him well as he fine tunes his game under Vujosevic, hoping to become a reference for Partizan on both ends of the floor. Sava Lesic returns to Partizan after going on loan last season and may get a chance to contribute this season as a power player with plenty of options with the ball in his hands or not. The trio of small forward Bogdan Riznic, power forward Branislav Djekic and center Nemanja Besovic are all highly regarded teenage players, who if they work hard and prove themselves, could be playing plenty for Vujosevic, who is not shy to use youth as an advantage. All in all, Partizan's roster may have some question marks, but based on Vujosevic's track record with young players, the quality of returning players and the tremendous support the club receives from the fans in Belgrade, special things can be expected again in the Serbian capital.