After a slow start to the campaign, Ronen Ginzburg’s squad is starting to hit top speed.
Prometey is 'like a phoenix rising from the ashes'
If you look at the 2023-24 BKT EuroCup standings, Prometey Slobozhanske’s 4-4 record doesn’t exactly jump off the page. But, Ronen Ginzburg’s side is coming along nicely and downed Umana Reyer Venice 89-82 in Round 8 as it chained back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
Last year was a bit of a fairy tale for Prometey as it reached the EuroCup Semifinals in its first year in the competition, but expectation levels are now higher for the displaced Ukrainian team, which plays its home games in Riga, Latvia.
Frustratingly for Coach Ginzburg, one of his star additions in the summer – Arnoldas Kulboka – suffered a serious injury during training camp, which means that he will not feature at all this season. Then, two of the other notable signings, Marcus Keene and Rashard Kelly, have already parted ways with the club as Prometey looked to shake up its roster.
So, in short, things had not quite gone to plan for the 2022-23 semifinalist. However, since that decision to make changes to the roster, Prometey has gone 2-0 and appears to be on the way up again, with mid-season addition Rob Gray – the 2020-21 EuroCup Finals MVP – making his debut against Reyer on Wednesday evening.
Leaning on what worked before
Yet, it was five players from last year’s team that helped Prometey get over the line in Round 8. Ondrej Balvin dominated inside with 15 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 block and 0 turnovers, while Caleb Agada, Issuf Sanon and Illia Sydorov had 12 points apiece. Oleksandr Lypovvy contributed 11 points, too. For Coach Ginzburg, it seems that he is tapping into what made the team tick during the previous campaign, which is something Balvin mentioned in his post-game flash interview.
“There’s no easy game [in the EuroCup],” said Balvin. “We’ve got to fight because, of course, we want to represent our club in the best way possible. The mentality that we have, with all the tough situations we’ve had, it seems like we are – I hope, I hope – like a phoenix rising from the ashes.”
It seems poignant that Balvin, Agada, Sanon, Sydorov and Lypovvy were the ones who stepped up most against Reyer, as this group knows exactly what it takes to reach the EuroCup Semifinals.
Ronald March, the leading scorer in the French League last year at 21.4 points per game, has blown hot and cold since joining the Ukrainian club in the summer, and the same goes for Tai Odiase, who remained in the EuroCup by switching Germani Brescia for Prometey. Then, in the case of Gray, he had 7 points on his debut in Round 8, so he will be hoping to find his feet in Coach Ginzburg’s offense as soon as possible, too.
“In the second half we shared the ball, we were more active on defense, but we need to play [like that] the whole game,” commented Coach Ginzburg afterward. “We started like last time, a little bit flat on defense.”
Reason for optimism at Prometey
The good news for Prometey and its Israeli head coach is that more recruitments could be on the way. One of the notable scenes from after the win against Reyer was the image of Gian Clavell, last year’s star guard, joining his teammates on the court in a Prometey tracksuit. Perhaps his return to the club is just a matter of days away.
“I believe that we will have some new players,” Ginzburg responded when asked about any possible signings. “We need to be stronger if we want to compete at the highest level.”
With Prometey finding its groove and starting to make some noise in the EuroCup once again, adding a player like Clavell who already knows the offense will go a long way. We are just eight rounds into the regular season, but Prometey is a team to look out for from here on out.