San Pablo Burgos who easily disposed of Hapoel Jerusalem, JDA Dijon and then AEK to capture the 2019/20 Basketball Champions League title were dominant in their first foray into European basketball.
After defeating Kyiv in the qualification round of the competition way back when, who would have thunk in their right minds that this Burgos squad who were only founded as a professional team in 2015 would have been able to win their first European title? Not only did they just turn pro in 2015, they moved into Spain’s top division for the first time in the 2017/18 season.
Not bad. Not bad at all.
Through intelligent management and with Joan Pennaroya at the helm this past season, the former Manresa and Andorra coach knew what he needed to do in order to bring home glory to this new basketball bastion.
The team obviously saw player movement between the squad that was pre-COVID to the one that as post, but both were built intelligently with a combination of solid Spaniards as well as foreigners.
Earl Clark, JP Tokoto, Ferran Bassas, Augusto Lima and Bruno Fitipaldo are no longer with the club as Dejan Kravic, Jordan Sakho, Ken Horton, Alex Renfroe, Xavier Rabaseda and Omar Cook all came in to join the remaining members; Thad McFadden, Vitor Benite, Jasiel Rivero, Alex Barrera. Pretty incredible that with so many changes, Pennaroya was able to quickly mold the unit into one that would win it all. But he did what he set out to accomplish and create a tradition in Burgos a city that will now welcome its heroes home.
One of those heroes of course was the MVP of the Final 8, Thad McFadden who was able to stealthily hit one triple after the next against both AEK and Jerusalem. The Reds should have seen it coming especially after he had gone off for a half a dozen of them back when the clubs faced each other in a very close battle that saw the Fairmont State product just carve them up. The Flint, Michigan native’s shooting was lethal as he destroyed anything lying in his way.
McFadden is truly the underdog’s underdog. With 18 points on 7/11 shooting, 6 rebounds and 5 assists in the final, there was no question that the 6”2 yard was going to take home the prize.
“It feels great. I’m a true underdogs. When I first came to Europe, I played second division in Czech Republic, I was the only American there. Year after year, you hear that I’m the underdog. You can’t do this, you can’t do that. But I never listened. To be able to play in the second best national league in the world is special. ACB is a special league, I want to play there for years to come, and to be able to play in the best league in all of Europe and to win the Basketball Champions League now, it’s special to me.”
“Growing up in Flint taught me a lot in life. If you’re not first you’re last. Keep pushing in life as there is going to be bumps and bruises along the way. Starting off at the lowest division and now being in the best league in all of Europe, winning the Basketball Champions League is a great accomplishment. My city is a big part of me in growing as a man.”
The other big story out of the Final 8 for me was Dijon’s 3rd place finish. Coach Laurent Legame did a marvelous job taking home the bronze as he continued to build a basketball tradition in the small city in central France.
Dijon was able to take a team without a big star and create a team. A group of players who played for one another from Chase Simon and Jaron Johnson to David Holston and Axel Julien.
“For Dijon this is amazing to take third place,” said Legame. “We are not a big city or big club in Europe and for the second time this season we finished in third place. But it’s not just me but my staff, the president and the whole organization. It’s unbelievable to see this club now compared to when I arrived in 2015. I am so happy for my players both the ones who started and those who ended this season. I have a lot of emotions inside me as this was the consequence of a lot of work from my staff and for the players. They deserve this.”