By Aris Barkas/ email@example.com
While everyone is focused on traditional powers or the up-and-comers from London and Paris, there’s another EuroCup team that is steadily improving and proving that it can be a factor in the European basketball landscape.
While you were not watching, U-BT Cluj-Napoca has a 5-1 record – including a pair of road wins – and everything in place to take the next step.
Not bad for a team that made its EuroCup debut last season and remains pretty much an unknown quantity in European basketball. However, if you look closer, it’s easy to understand why this is happening and why Cluj-Napoca is here to stay.
The EuroCup is a strange beast and you need a good mix of old and young to make it. After testing the waters last year, U-BT Cluj-Napoca made two moves that might be enough to climb to a higher level.
Enter D.J. Seeley and Jarell Eddie. Seeley played in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague for both FC Bayern Munich and Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv for a total of three seasons and also has six years of experience in the EuroCup. Eddie also played in the EuroLeague for Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul.
Bosnian big man Andrija Stipanovic has also played six EuroCup seasons. This trio knows the way and leads the others. The other players on the roster are in their first or second EuroCup seasons, having played at this level only with Cluj-Napoca.
However, a special mention must be made of Patrick Richard who signed with the team in 2019; he is still there as the captain and is the soul of Cluj-Napoca.
Cluj-Napoca has one of the best gyms in the BKT EuroCup. The BTarena can host 10,000 fans, thus giving a boost to the players and a home court that is adequate even by EuroLeague standards.
So far, in three home games, the team has averaged 7,000 fans, a number that can be expected to grow if the team continues to deliver. So things can get even better, as the team continues to exceed expectations.
The home-town hero
The most famous name who played for the club remains the iconic giant Gheorghe Muresan. However, right now the name you need to know is Mihai Silvasan.
The current coach is a club icon, not only because he led the team to back-to-back domestic league titles in 2022 and 2023, completing a three-peat starting in 2021 when he was still an assistant coach.
Silvasan played for the club from 2002 until 2015 and was a deadly three-point shooter. Since 2016 he has coached U-BT Cluj-Napoca. He is the link to the past and the architect of the future which naturally focuses on the European stage.
With the team dominating the domestic scene the last few years and having a basketball tradition that dates back to the 1960s, the Romanian champions are more than ready to make their mark in the EuroCup, setting high goals in just their second season in the competition.
Who knows? While everyone expects a contender from the West to rise to the top and even make it to the EuroLeague, a surprise from the East and a country that is still considered a “virgin” basketball market might be in the cards.