7DAYS EuroCup, the opponents of Brescia: Crvena Zvezda MTS Belgrade
669 (!) trophies won in 73 glorious years: this is a clear example of Red Star
Belgrade’s greatness, the most popular multi-sports club in Serbia, which is divided into 32 different sections. The Crvena Zvezda basketball team was founded together with the football team in 1945. In its first 10 years, it won 10 championships in the ex-Yugoslavia, and provided the domestic Slavic league with 8 of its 10 players, helping to increase the passion for basketball throughout the Balkans.
This year, Red Star has returned to the EuroCup after 5 consecutive years in the Euroleague. This is “all because of” Budućnost, which won the ABA League and qualified for Europe’s highest competition at the expense of the Belgrade club, which lost in the finals. The 2017-2018 season was therefore quite disappointing and below the standards of the red-and-whites. Despite winning the Serbian championship (their fourth consecutive success), Crvena Zvezda lost the ABA League finals, interrupting a run of success which had lasted 3 seasons, and failed to reach the Euroleague playoffs owing to a terrible end of season, which saw them lose 5 of their last 6 games. As a result, the objective for the new season is clear: to return to their winning ways, both home and away.
After a season of lights and shadows, a significant downsizing of the roster and on the bench is expected. James Feldeine, the last survivor of last season’s starting line-up and the team’s top scorer, has just moved to Hapoel Jerusalem. The most important addition is Joe Ragland, who arrives from Lokomotiv Kuban, following his successful experience with Cantù, Milan and Avellino in Italy. In addition to the point guard from West Springfield, there is also the interesting addition of Stratos Perperoglu, who is 34 years old and still wants to play basketball at the highest level, and Billy Baron, whose brother, Jimmy, played in the domestic Serie A at Virtus Roma a few seasons ago. The low post players section has been supplemented with the acquisition of Momo Faye (a former Varese’s player), Michael Ojo (a 216 cm tall Nigerian center) and the return of Maik Zirbes. With the same role of low post players, Dusan Ristic has returned to the team after a positive experience in NCAA in Arizona (12.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game in
his last senior year). According to coach Tomic, Ristic will start as third low post player but he could rise through the ranks during the season.
The important changes in the roster are reflected by a new situation on the bench. With a three-year contract, Milan Tomic is now on the red-and-whites bench, and he must have considered this to be an incredible opportunity, given that he decided to leave his beloved Olympiacos after 27 years. If you go to Piraeus and ask who are the most popular players of all time, you can be sure that in the top places you will hear the name of Milan Giannakopulos, Tomic’s Greek name. He used to be a player for Olympiacos, and played many games in the championship and Euroleague; then as an assistant coach after retiring from playing. Now, and since the beginning of the season, Tomic is sitting on the bench for the very first time. He learned a lot in Athens and cannot wait to prove it in his homeland (he was born in Belgrade), and to teach basketball.
Playing in Belgrade is always a problem for anybody. Delije (literally “the brave”), one of the hottest and most organized groups of supporters in Europe, create a heated atmosphere inside Aleksandar Nikolić Hall, waiving their red-and-white scarves and flags and cheering on their team non-stop. The arena’s name used to be Pionir Hall. In 2006 it changed its name and was dedicated to Aza Nicolić, the father of Yugoslav basketball. Built in 1973, it has a seating capacity of 5,878. It has been renovated many times (the last one in 2011, and a new expansion is already planned). Their former coaches believe that basketball changed after the arrival of Nikolic on the bench, who won everything a coach could win at club and domestic
league level. The Belgrade Arena dedication to him was therefore fully deserved.