Players who are largely known quantities in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague but may now be poised to take the next step to stardom fill our list of sleepers for the upcoming 2020-21 season. None have been sleeping, of course, but their potential for impacting the competition is most likely to surge in this coming season.
Kevin Punter, AX Armani Exchange Milan
Punter, 27, played 23 games split between two teams last season, his first in the EuroLeague. In 11 games with Olympiacos Piraeus, he struggled to average 6.8 points. In 12 with Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade, however, his shot started falling and he put up 15.9 points on 48.1% three-point shooting before the season was suspended and eventually canceled. A smooth operator with a killer shot, Punter has also been a two-time FIBA Basketball Champions League winner and MVP of one of those final fours. Having come this far from humble beginnings, the MVP of this season's first We're Back Preseason Tour seems poised for big things.
Patricio Garino, Zalgiris Kaunas
In fits and spurts during three seasons with Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz, the hard-charging Garino often looked like the most active player on the floor. Now 27, he moves north to the basketball capital of Kaunas with a chance to earn more minutes on a team that, like he does, likes to punch above its weight. As the club's first player ever from Argentina, expect Zalgiris fans to love the fighting spirit that has made Garino's country a top source of winning players who leave everything they have on the court in every game.
Shaquielle McKissic, Olympiacos Piraeus
This player who has fought for everything in his career has already won hearts in Piraeus. McKissic, 30, played just three EuroLeague games last season, but his 22 points in 34 minutes of a win over archrival Panathinaikos OPAP Athens lifted Olympiacos fans to their feet. What's more, he looked like a fish in water, unafraid to take risks and make plays that few others saw taking shape. That's just the kind of self-assurance it takes to make a big impact amid the high pressure of EuroLeague games.
Mateusz Ponitka, Zenit St Petersburg
Perhaps a better-known name than many on this list, Ponitka nonetheless has only been in the EuroLeague for cups of coffee three times since 2012, never playing a full season. Despite three different injury absences last season, Ponitka ranked 34th in the EuroLeague in average performance rating based on 9.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. The determined small forward's importance to Zenit could not have been more clear, however, when looking at the team's record: 7-11 when he played and 1-9 without him.
Guerschon Yabusele, LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne
Another player whose EuroLeague introduction was cut short last season, Yabusele is an intriguing 25-year-old wide-body with surprising versatility. He pulled 7 rebounds in his EuroLeague debut for ASVEL, then had 3 three-pointers and 4 steals – but no rebounds – in the second. In a We're Back Preseason Tour this month against Olympiacos, he collected 6 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals. Let's just say that few power players put up such varied numbers in the span of three games. If he can do so consistently, Yabusele will be a true disruptor for ASVEL.
Klemen Prepelic, Valencia Basket
His EuroLeague career to date consists of just 31 games spread over seven years, but Valencia's new sharpshooter has entered his prime having proven himself a dangerous offensive force in both the 7DAYS EuroCup, where he ranked second in points per minute last season behind only Milos Teodosic, and in the Spanish League, which he led in scoring while playing for Joventut Badalona on loan from Real Madrid. Although his minutes are likely to be fewer on such a deep team as Valencia, when he's on the floor, expect Prepelic to fill it up.
Joel Bolomboy, CSKA Moscow
Practically doubling one's minutes on CSKA from his rookie season to the next is no small feat, but the fact that Bolomboy also doubled his production proved that he may well see more and more time with the still-defending champs. This jumping-jack forward's appeal will not be with numbers as much as how he fits into the CSKA machine by taking care of the small details. Machines don't make big plays, though, and despite limited minutes, Bolomboy already has plenty of those. Expect this 26-year-old to have even more of them going forward.
Howard Sant-Roos, Panathinaikos OPAP Athens
In the past, whenever Panathinaikos had the best defender on the floor, good things happened. In the modern game of plenty pick-and-rolls and constant switching, a long-armed, quick-footed and tenacious defender who finds his self-worth on that business end of the court has a hidden value much greater than is evident to the naked eye. Sant-Roos, who debuted is that kind of defender. That's why David Blatt brought him three years ago from obscurity to Darussafaka Istanbul, where they became EuroCup champions with Sant-Roos as a regular starter.
Alex Poythress, Zenit St. Petersburg
After three years in and out of the NBA since turning pro, Poythress joined Galatasaray in the EuroCup last November and quickly showed how he puts the power into the power forward spot. He had just seven games to show his stuff, but his 13.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists certainly got the attention of Zenit. Expect Poythress, who eats rebounds and knows well how to play the game, to attract even more attention, from opponents and fans alike, as this EuroLeague season goes along, too.
Langston Hall, Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade
Running a team on the floor takes a lot of learning, and Hall has put in the time through six pro seasons that took him to four countries, debuting last year in the EuroCup with that competition's biggest surprise, Promitheas Patras. Hall put up 11.4 points and 5.7 assists – the latter ranking fifth among all EuroCup players – but most importantly had his team sitting pretty in the quarterfinals when the season was cut shot. Zvezda will give him the ball a lot as a EuroLeague rookie, but Hall has shown all indications of knowing how to handle it well.