Every season witnesses a handful of top talents use the 7DAYS EuroCup as a springboard to the continent’s premier competition, the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague.
Top signings: From the EuroCup to the EuroLeague
No fewer than 11 of the players who appeared in last season’s EuroLeague Championship Game boasted previous EuroCup experience. This season’s chase for glory could be greatly impacted by any number of the stars who climbed from the EuroCup to the EuroLeague this season. Here are the top 10 signings of EuroCup players by EuroLeague teams this offseason.
Andrew Andrews, Panathinaikos Athens
Andrew Andrews was nothing short of a magical figure for Frutti Extra Bursaspor in its run to the EuroCup Final last season. After playing a minor role in the first half of the regular season, Andrews announced himself to the world with a 37-point outburst against eventual champion Virtus Segafredo Bologna in Round 10. He would reach 20 points seven more times after that, including 24 to stun Partizan NIS Belgrade in the eighthfinals and 20 against MoraBanc Andorra in the semis. His combination of scoring, playmaking and the ability to come up big in clutch situations should make Andrews a fan favorite in Athens.
Jaron Blossomgame, AS Monaco
Half of the members of the 2021-22 All-EuroCup Teams will play in the EuroLeague this season, yet Jaron Blossomgame of AS Monaco is the only one of them who will be doing so with a new team. Blossomgame did it all for ratiopharm Ulm last season en route to ranking fourth in the EuroCup in average PIR with 19.8 per game. He rebounded like a power forward, ranking second with 7.6 rpg. per game, while shooting like a guard, with a 41.9% conversion rate from downtown. Those are skills that should fit in nicely in Monaco.
Kevarrius Hayes, Zalgiris Kaunas
Kevarrius Hayes took tremendous strides last season with Bursaspor in what was only his third campaign as a professional. After making his EuroLeague debut in a reserve role with LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne in 2020-21, Hayes became a force in Bursa. He racked up his first double-double in just his third game and proceeded to impact games on both ends all season long. Hayes ranked third in the EuroCup in blocks (1.1 bpg.) and seventh in rebounds (6.8 rpg.). Among his signature performances were a 25-point, 11-rebound, 6-block romp against Ulm in the regular season and a 16-rebound effort against Andorra in the semifinal. Zalgiris fans should be excited to see more of that in Kaunas.
Panagiotis Kalaitzakis, Panathinaikos Athens
After a breakout campaign with Lietkabelis Panevezys last season, Panagiotis Kalaitzakis returns home to Greece to play for Panathinaikos as a stronger and more mature player. The 23-year-old forward, who reunites with twin brother Panagiotis at Panathinaikos this season, averaged 13.0 points on 37.2% three-point shooting, 2.8 assists and 1.3 steals in 19 EuroCup games for Lietkabelis. He scored 20 points in two of his first three games, first by getting to the line 13 times against Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar and then making 4 of 5 threes against Dolomiti Energia Trento. That versatility will serve him well with the Greens.
Maik Kotsar, Cazoo Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz
Estonia-born center Maik Kotsar was not well-known outside of Hamburg entering last season, but he changed that in a big way. Kotsar averaged 13.4 points on 60.4% shooting, 6.6 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 16 games to help the Towers reach the eighthfinals. Once there, he scored 23 points on 10-of-11 shooting against Valencia Basket, even though his team fell short in the game. His average PIR of 17.2 was ninth in the EuroCup, he led the competition in offensive rebounds (2.9 orpg.) and ranked eighth in rebounds. A big role should await Kotsar in Vitoria-Gasteiz.
Johnathan Motley, Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul
Before his season was cut short by injury, Johnathan Motley was the odds-on favorite to win the MVP. In his first European season with Lokomotiv, Motley dominated out of the gate with 29 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks on opening night and did not slow down until he was sidelined. He averaged 21.2 points on 64.5% two-point shooting, 7.0 rebounds and 1.1 blocks for a PIR of 23.9 in nine games. Those averages would have placed him second in the EuroCup in scoring and PIR for the season, and everyone will be watching to see how he transitions in his maiden EuroLeague campaign.
Oriol Pauli, FC Barcelona
The return of small forward Oriol Pauli to boyhood club FC Barcelona is a nice story, but make no mistake, he is not going home to be a poster boy. Pauli narrowly missed the top 50 in the EuroCup in PIR, despite only starting in 12 of his 21 appearances. The jack-of-all-trades small forward contributed 8.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 0.7 steals for a PIR of 12.1 in helping MoraBanc Andorra reach the semifinals. Pauli dominated with 16 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists in that game, in which Andorra fell to Bursa. Now Pauli will set his sights on bigger goals.
Darius Thompson, Cazoo Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz
Signing with Baskonia was the next logical step in the ascending career of Darius Thompson. From a rookie season in the Dutch League where he emerged as MVP to successful campaigns in Italy and then a strong season in the EuroCup with Lokomotiv, Thompson’s career is ripe to take on the challenge of playing in the EuroLeague. Last season Thompson ranked in the top 10 in the EuroCup in assists (seventh, 5.8 apg.), steals (second, 1.7 spg.) and PIR (17.2). Watch out as he takes the keys to the Baskonia attack and looks to hound opposing ballhandlers as a EuroLeague rookie.
Mike Tobey, FC Barcelona
Even though Mike Tobey has two full seasons of EuroLeague experience under his belt, he returns to the competition with a new team. Tobey and Barcelona joined forces after four seasons of facing each other regularly in the Spanish League and sometimes in the EuroLeague, too. Last season, he produced 10.3 points with excellent shooting (61.4% 2FG, 40% 3FG) plus 5.7 rebounds over 16 games in helping Valencia Basket reach the semifinals. Tobey’s size, skills and experience should be welcome additions to a Barcelona side seeking to win it all.
Stefano Tonut, EA7 Emporio Armani Milan
A year removed from being named the Italian League MVP, Stefano Tonut is putting seven seasons with Umana Reyer Venice behind him to join the country’s national champs. A bulldog in the backcourt, Tonut averaged 10.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 16 EuroCup games last season, his fourth in the competition. Although Tonut joins a crowded Milan backcourt, he brings toughness and experience, which are two traits that Coach Ettore Messina values highly. All signs point to Tonut carving out a key role on a team with lofty aspirations.