AS Monaco Basketball marked their return to pre-season training with a press conference in the Monte-Carlo Casino on Tuesday, where the objectives for the upcoming campaign were outlined.
Last season, the Roca Team surpassed expectations on a European level, reaching the playoffs in their debut Euroleague season. However, the season ended in heartbreak on a domestic level as the side were narrowly beaten by ASVEL in a five-leg thriller in the Betclic Elite.
The objectives this year are clear: consolidate and build-upon last season’s success. Once again, the club will be competing in the top tier of European basketball, and matching last season’s achievement is the minimum requirement. Coach Sasa Obradovic told Monaco Life, “I have always set big goals and there are so many factors that decide whether you reach them or not. I can guarantee that this team will give their maximum to achieve your expectations and goals.”
He continued, “For us, reaching the Euroleague playoffs is a must-do, and anything more than that is another step in writing another chapter in this team’s history and also the Principality’s history. In the Euroleague, this has to be the goal.”
New signing Jordan Loyd added, “Reaching the final four is always the goal, but besides just saying it, I think we really just need to put the work in. On paper we have a great team and if we all just buy in and sacrifice a lot we can do a lot of good things this year. I think we have a chance every night, no matter who we’re playing.” (Watch the video interview below)
To reach those goals, Monaco are counting on a highly altered roster. For consecutive seasons, there has been a high turnover at the Roca Team as the squad is moulded around ever more ambitious objectives. However, having found a “balance”, Oleksiy Yefimov is now aiming for a greater continuity, and he doesn’t foresee the same level of squad upheaval in the future.
Roca Team general manager Oleksiy Yefimov told Monaco Life, “We want to build a stable roster and we want that continuity. We want to avoid situations where we’re significantly changing the roster. Once you reach Euroleague level you cannot build up the team the same as you’ve been doing before. Last year, we entered the Euroleague as an unknown team, because of certain circumstances we took a risk in having four rookies, and we succeeded.”
There is also a very discernible shift in the club. Gone is the underdog mentality that has thus far defined a club, which has seen a sudden and steep rise. “It’s no longer the time for a Cinderella story; we need to be more professional and show that we’re well prepared for the Euroleague level. That’s why we have players with experience and players ready to commit long-term deals,” said Yefimov.
It is not only the quantity of reinforcements at Monaco that catches the eye, but the quality of those recruits. Many of those who arrive at the Salle Gaston Medecin do so with years of experience at the highest echelons of the game. Last year, Monaco were heavily reliant on star man Mike James, but the club’s summer business will ease that burden.
“Mike James is a really good player. We depended on him a lot last year. This year we have more options. He’s a key player, but we can also rely on the other guys, who can take over and make the difference in every position, even more so than in the previous year. I’m expecting even more team basketball to be played, and I’m expecting contributions from everyone. I also expect a bigger rotation, which will give us more consistency in the Euroleague and in the French division,” said Obradovic.
Notably, there are many more French players in the squad compared to last year. Betclic Elite rules stipulate that only six foreigners can play in any one match, and due to the lack of French players in the squad, it became difficult to be consistent on the European and domestic fronts.
“Now the team is more balanced with more French players in the roster and with fewer foreigners. This will help the coach rotate the team,” said Yefimov.
During the press conference, the club’s pre-season plans were unveiled. The club will first travel to Bormio. Then they’ll go directly to Sardinia to play a friendly tournament before travelling for a German tour. They will then finish their preparation in Antalya, Turkey.
None of the preparation for the season, which starts at the end of September, will take place in the Principality. That is due to the continued construction taking place at the Salle Gaston Medecin to make the court comply with Euroleague requirements.
The government’s Interior Minister, Patrice Cellario, revealed that the work on the hall was on schedule and that it will be ready for the first home game of the season on 2nd October. He also revealed that the capacity of the stadium will be 4,600, just above the minimum requirement stipulated by Euroleague regulations (4,500 minimum).
As Yefimov exclusively revealed to Monaco Life, the changes will allow the club to meet short-term goals, although in the long-term, they have more grand plans. “If we want to remain part of the Euroleague family, of course we have to think about having a new venue, but at the same time this isn’t the only thing we have to work on. We need to show Euroleague that due to our participation in the competition, that the organisation as a whole will benefit. This is also a huge element that will have an impact on our Euroleague future,” said Yefimov.
What underpins this ambition is new research, which shows the potential of the Roca Team. Yefimov revealed to Monaco Life that latest research shows that Monaco have overtaken ASVEL and Limoges, historic French clubs, to become the most recognised basketball brand in France.
To confirm their exponential growth off the court, another strong season on the court is a must, and ideally one which sees the club surpass last season’s Euroleague achievements, whilst also finally sealing that all-elusive Betclic Elite title.
Watch Luke Entwistle’s interview with American basketball player Jordan Loyd about his move to Monaco and his objectives for the season ahead…
Photo above credit: Manuel Vitali, Government Communication Department