After winning the Belgian cup and ending third in the regular phase of the EuroMillions Basketball League, Antwerp Giants were not able to play in the FIBA Basketball Champions League. Via a wildcard the club could still participate in the Champions League, but then they had to play two qualification rounds.
So, the Giants decided to apply for a EuroCup wildcard, which they received.For Antwerp Giants head coach Christophe Beghin does it feel like coming home in the EuroCup. “I played several years with Ostend and Charleroi in EuroLeague and EuroCup. I must admit, it gives you goosebumbs when you can play such big teams.” Antwerp Giants won the bronze medal in the 2019 Basketball Champions League, but now take it to a higher level.
“It is an honour to play in the EuroCup”, says Antwerp Giants head coach Christophe Beghin. “We were already looking for several options at the end of last season, but as cup winners we could immediately go to the group phase in the EuroCup. Otherwise, we still had to play two qualification rounds – if we would have received a wildcard for the Champions League – and if we would not qualify then, we had to play Europe Cup.”
The sophomore coach speaks out his clear ambitions for his team: “We will not participate ‘just to play EuroCup’. No, we want to become a better team and be a competitive team. I want my guys to gain a lot of experience, which they certainly can use in the domestic competition and in their further careers. We will be ready for it and have ambition. The players also realize that they have to be ready. We have be ready for 200 percent. No regrets after every game. But we know that the top four teams out of six go to the next round, so we must have ambition. I also know that if you play at Partizan Belgrade, the fans are crazy. But I don’t fear anybody, and that’s what I also want from my team. We have to be ready to go to war every single game. This opportunity – to play such high level teams – is something we will maybe not experience again in the near future”, says Beghin.
Then the question is, how will he get his team ready for the clashes with the top teams ? “I don’t know yet what I will say on the big European nights. I experienced playing the EuroLeague and if you can play Real Madrid… it hits you different. Now, it won’t be Real Madrid, but all teams and players are very good.”
For Christophe ‘Bugs’ Beghin, a new player for his team is not necessary. “Our team is almost ready for the new season. We will be looking for maybe one more player at the center spot because I don’t know what will happen with Owen Klassen yet. With Dennis Donkor, Dave Dudzinski, Vincent Kesteloot and Speedy Smith we have a lot of experienced players in the group, and the young guns will also fight for every minute on the court. Bleijenbergh can play spot 1, 2 and 3. I see he is getting better and better. I am very happy with that. Luka Rupnik has the ambition to play in Spain again, and we already signed Kenneth ‘Speedy’ Smith to play at the point guard spot.”
Two years a go, Antwerp became third in the Champions League, last year the Giants ended last in their group. “We know that we will be the underdog again. Last season we also had a lot of new players, but now most of them are still in Antwerp. I am sure that we will be ready for the new European and domestic season”, ends the very ambitious coach.