With the new Euroleague season nearing, BallinEurope is once more break down each of the teams individually on 16 consecutive days in the run up to tip off. As with last season, we’re going in reverse order from the opening round of games…and we are comically behind schedule because Emmet Ryan needed a rest…actually he still needs one but is ploughing on…so our next stop is Unicaja Malaga
For Ray McCallum, this wasn’t the stop he planned at this stage in his career but he’s always been happy to go against the grain in his basketball career. McCallum famously turned down offers from big time college programs so he could link up with his dad, Ray Sr, at Detroit Mercy. He got that Detroit side a ticket to the dance but after that things have stuttered a bit.
In the NBA, as a high second round pick, he found himself quickly bouncing around. First with the Kings, that involved a D-League stop. Then to the Spurs, with another D-League stop. Then the Grizzlies, no D-League stop as such this time inside going straight into the Grand Rapids Drive side after finishing up a pair of 10-day stints in Memphis.
Getting a spot, a chance to make a name for himself, hasn’t been easy for McCallum so far. Now, he’s going to get his chance in Malaga. Weather is good, life is relatively cheap, and the fans have a good rep. It’s a nice spot to land. Unicaja however are staring down one mother of a challenge. Having won Eurocup last season, the Malaga club enters a Euroleague season where there are oodles of stacked sides and the ACB in Spain doesn’t exactly look a walk in the park either. McCallum should feel at home in such surroundings. What he makes of them, only time will tell.
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Coach: Joan Plaza
Arena: Palacio de Deportes José María Martín Carpena, 11,300
Last season in Eurocup: 7-7, champions
Last season in ACB: 22-10, lost semi-finals
Who’s new? James Augustine (CSKA), Ray McCallum (Grand Rapids Drive), Dragan Milosavljevic (Alba Berlin), Sasu Salin (Gran Canaria), Giorgi Shermadini (Andorra), Morayo Soluade
Who’s gone? Juan Garcia (Castello), Christian Eyenga (Fuenlabrada), Kyle Fogg (Guangzhou), Alen Omic (Hapoel Jerusalem), Jamar Smith (Unics), Oliver Lafayette (Virtus Bologna)
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Ok, ok, before we get to looking ahead and all that. A quick word on that Eurocup winning campaign. Unicaja managed to scrape into the Top 16 with a 4-4 record, then into the playoffs with 3-3, and ended up winning the whole thing. If you include playoffs, they ended up with only 4 more wins than losses. That’s just cool in the silly kind of way.
The shape of this roster looks like one built around calculated risks but with just a touch too much caution in the off-season moves. There are plenty of guys that have come in that are reliable, are unlikely to be catastrophically bad on the floor or in the locker room, but equally few that make you think this is the piece to bring this side to the next level.
The massive thing going against what is a pretty shallow roster is that they will be fighting hard on two fronts. The ACB isn’t getting any easier and it’s tough to see Malaga really lasting in the second half of the season when they have that domestic campaign to fight. There’s a good bit to like here but not enough to love.
Fearless prediction: 15th. Yup, yup. Just can’t trust them to have the legs through the second half of the season.
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