26 November 2012

GUINÉE EQ. : Renewed ACC champions to battle in Malabo

Etoile Sportive du Sahel (Tunisia)
MALABO (2012 African Champions Cup) - Four new players and a new head coach are the image of Tunisian club Etoile Sportive du Sahel, who aim to defend their title at the African Champions Cup (ACC) in Equatorial Guinea's capital.
But they are not the only team that made adjustments.
The tournament tips off on Thursday 29 November and runs until Saturday 8 December and teams are going to display players from most parts of the globe, including one from the current Spanish gold generation.
Twelve teams from nine countries are expected to make it to Malabo, the backdrop of the tournament.
Egyptians (Al Ahly and Al Ittihad) and Angolans (Primeiro D’Agosto, Petro de Luanda and Recreativo do Libolo) are the most represented countries in the showdown.
The ACC defending champions signed Serbian forward Milan Vucicevic, Jamaica captain Andre Omar Smith and two Tunisian internationals Mohamed Hadidane and Marouen Lahmar.
On other hand, Serbian Dragan Petricevic, the man who last year coached the Tunisians to their first ACC title ever in his first season, has not reached an agreement with the club and left his seat to Cypriot Linos Gavriel.
Olympian Radhouane Slimane, American point guard Willie Kemp and Montenegrin Ersid Ljuca also parted ways with the Tunisian champions.
Despite the changes, Etoile Sportive du Sahel’s new boss says they want to win, although he acknowledges that things may be different this year.
“Last year this team was extremely hungry to win, and their opponents underestimated them. We are going to need to be mentally strong [to retain the title],” Gavriel said to FIBA.com.
Earlier this month, Gavriel’s men began their ACC qualifier tournament with a 78-75 defeat to local rivals Club Africain in the Tunisian region of Sousse.
Since then, things have improved, said the new man at the helm of the ACC champions.
“We are very aggressive defensively. In the qualifying tournament we conceded fewer points than our opponents,” he explained.
Last year, Etoile Sportive du Sahel defeated six-time ACC winners Primeiro D’Agosto 82-60 in the Final with Macram Ben Romdhane named MVP of the tournament.
Asked to describe the potential of their opponents, Gavriel revealed he arrives in Malabo well revised.
“I have watched some videos of Primeiro D’Agosto, and I think they are the strongest opponent in the tournament," he offered.
“We have defeated Al Ittihad [in the qualifier], but things may be different in Malabo.
“D’Agosto, Petro de Luanda, Libolo, Al Itthiad and my team are strong teams. The Rwandese team [Espoir] seems to be quite strong too.
“This is going to be strongest tournament in the recent years,” Gavriel explained.
The contenders
There have been many changes for
Primeiro D’Agosto parted ways with Portuguese legendary coach Mário Palma, and 1992 Angolan Olympian Paulo Macedo took the helm.
Veteran Miguel Lutonda (who turns 41 on 24 December), will take part in the tournament with D’Agosto, in his final official competition.
Angolan champions Recreativo do Libolo have signed Mali international Mohamed Tangara, and last week they signed Luís Magalhaes, a man that helped D’Agosto to win their last ACC three years ago.
Petro de Luanda head coach Lazare Adingono of Cameroon will be the only coach in this year's tournament who reached the podium last year, after helping host club Moroccon AS Sale come in third.
Petro de Luanda will be counting on two prominent names of international African competitions, Carlos Morais and Parfait Bitee.
Rwandese side Espoir are expecting to make an impact on the tournament, according to their head coach Jean Bahufite.
“We have been doing well in the league which is a good sign for my team,” he told the local press.
“I hope we will go there (ACC) with strong character and mentality.
“We have a winning team and I am confident we can maintain our winning streak at the African Club Champions Cup,” said the former Espoir star.
From Spain to Malabo
While host side Mongomo Basket Club have signed 32-year-old Miguel Montañana, Egyptian side Al Ahly will be without Tunisia captain Amine Rzig who suffered a knee injury last week.
Montañana, a 2.06m power forward, who competed at the 2000 European Championship for Young Men, is a well known to Spain’s fans.
He is part of the country's golden generation and played alongside Carlos Cabezas, Jose Calderon, Juan-Carlos Navarro, Felipe Reyes and Pau Gasol.
He started his basketball career at FC Barcelona.
Nigerian side Kano Pillars, ASB Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon's Manga Basket and Ivory Coast's Abidjan Basket Club (ABC) complete the 12-team field.
You can follow the African Champions Cup by going here.

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