17.10.2003
What is better, to start a season drawing little attention or to have everyone calling you a favorite? CSKA will answer that question in 2003-04. Last season, with a new team, few great expectations and a simple goal – to win each game for itself – CSKA registered the Euroleague’s best record while marching all the way to the Final Four.
Club News
CSKA. Euroleague Focus
What is better, to start a season drawing little attention or to have everyone calling you a favorite? CSKA will answer that question in 2003-04. Last season, with a new team, few great expectations and a simple goal – to win each game for itself – CSKA registered the Euroleague’s best record while marching all the way to the Final Four. There, in the semifinals, CSKA’s best European season in a decade or more was halted by eventual champion Barcelona. CSKA consoled itself with the team’s first Russian title since 2000, but already fans looked ahead to the next Euroleague. Now, the goal is to at least match last year’s success, and CSKA’s summer shopping proved it: In came superstars Mirsad Turkcan, a two-time Euroleague MVP, and Marcus Brown, the continent’s second-best scorer last season, to join holdovers J.R. Holden, Victor Khryapa, Sergey Monya and Theodoros Papaloukas. At the baton again is Dusan Ivkovic, a European classic whose eyes – like those of his team – look at only one prize now, the Euroleague title.

The Moscow public can look forward to seeing 9 out of 15 of the heroes of the last season’s Euroleague campaign when CSKA suits up for the new season. CSKA did not manage to keep its two frontcourt powerhouses, Victor Alexander and Darius Songaila. The departure of Alexander to Unicaja in Spain was expected, but to make sure it covered his spot fully, CSKA brought in two replacements – Chicago Bulls draftee Mario Austin and Dragan Tarlac, European champ with Ivkovic at Olympiakos and also a former Bull. As for Songaila, his decision to try to play in the NBA for Sacramento was less expected. CSKA had hoped to keep the Lithuanian for at least one more season, but when that wasn’t possible, CSKA made a bold major market move to fill the power forward spot: bringing the incandescent Turkcan back to Moscow. Turkcan was just the person to make the fans look forward to big things in 2003-04, too. Hardly a newcomer to CSKA, Turkcan had played in Moscow in 2001-02, earning the Euroleague regular season MVP award. Last season he helped lead Montepaschi Siena to the Final Four and was voted Top 16 MVP for his efforts, particularly on the backboards. His 12.2 rebounds per game in that span are enough for Turkcan to have led the league in three of four phases over the last two seasons. Besides that, Turkcan is a charismatic player who can ignite the public by himself. He is probably just the kind of person that CSKA had missed the last season.

Another loss of CSKA in the offseason was Greek shooting guard Nikos Chatzivrettas. The decision to let the player leave the club for Panathinaikos was taken after CSKA had signed a contract with Brown, himself an all-Euroleague nominee last year for having led Efes Pilsen almost to the Final Four. Along the way he averaged 19.6 points on excellent shooting. His defense also helped make Efes one of the top Euroleague teams in holding down point scoring by opponents. The other backcourt players who will not step on the court in the CSKA uniform this year are the Pashutin brothers, Evgeny and Zakhar, and the young guard Nikolay Padius. Former team captain Evgeny Pashutin decided to retire and was immediately offered a position as the head coach of the CSKA B-team. His brother Zakhar moved to Ural Great, CSKA’s biggest rival in Russia.

The motor of last year’s team, J.R.Holden, returns to Moscow this season. His speed and shooting ability helped CSKA run in 2002-03 and without doubt will be needed again as a high-speed game becomes part of the CSKA philosophy. There were almost no changes among the Russian members of the frontcourt. Perimeter forwards Khryapa and Monya, whose Euroleague numbers last season, under 7 points each, doesn’t describe the talent and youthful energy they bring to CSKA. They are complemented by Sergey Panov, Aleksander Bashminov and Alexey Savrasenko – specialists in scoring, shotblocking and rebounds, respectively.

Hopes and expectations are high in Moscow this season. Success does that. On several different levels, attracting audiences for great basketball as well as a top-notch pregame show, CSKA has made sure that interest in the sport is on the rise the Russian capital. It very important to keep up that progress, and by all means CSKA has the potential to do it. With superstars everywhere, a balance of youth and experience, plus speed and power, CSKA can look to get through a very difficult regular season group with the guidance of an old master, Ivkovic. From there, it will be up to fate and fortune to see how long CSKA’s dream stays alive.


Dusan Ivkovic, Head Coach of CSKA:

- CSKA has always had the highest ambitions in European competitions. The upcoming season will not be an exception. We are not intending to reduce our expectations after the last year’s great experience. The performance of our team was outstanding and I even heard an opinion that our game was perhaps the best in Europe. If the Final Four had been held in any other place, who knows where we would have ended. The past performance puts some obligations on us. We have to progress in our game and to meet the expectations of our fans. In other words, our goal is to enter Final Four again.

We have a very tough group in the regular tournament. But probably it is some kind of an advantage for us as we will have to pull ourselves together for each and every Euroleague game. We shall have to start thinking how to qualify for the decisive Top 16 already in November. This year we have nine players coming back from the last season. It is great that more than a half of our roster already knows the CSKA philosophy and organization. I am satisfied with the work of all the guys at the start of the season. But we have a lot of things to be worked out before the start of Euroleague.

On the other hand, it is very important to avoid putting pressure on our players. One of my goals as a coach is to set them free psychologically. They ought to be focused on their game rather than on big ambitions. My team will not change its style of playing this year no matter who of the players comes or goes. The team will remain fast with a lot of transition points and good defense.

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