BEIRUT: The transfer window of the Lebanese basketball season is almost into its second month, and it couldn’t get hotter, as the clubs are still taking the opportunity to strengthen their squads. The Daily Star rounds up all the transactions that have been made so far.
Champville Maristes club, the reigning champions, have almost completed their local lineup as they signed four players: Hussein al-Khatib, Nadim Souaid, Sevag Ketenjian and Anis Feghali. The team lost the services of two of its important members last season, Mohammad Ibrahim and Elie Stephan, who both moved to Sagesse.
The defending champions also retained their old soldiers, including team leader Fadi al-Khatib, Karl Sarkis, Nadim Hawi and Khalil Aoun.
Champville is yet to sign any foreigners; they came short on recruiting Georgian center Nikoloz Tsktshivili, who signed instead with Foolad Mahan of Iran.
“I am more than satisfied with our additions. We have always been under pressure regarding our squads in the previous years and yet won the title last season and finished as runners-up for two seasons before as well,” head coach Ghassan Sarkis said.
“I am [a] type of person who admires the challenges. And without it, there is no motivation, so our duty is to live up to that and overcome all the criticism.
“We are still searching for two foreigners now. I can’t say we are close or not to sign anyone, because in that matter there is nothing guaranteed until the player puts pen to paper,” he added.
Riyadi have put the final touches on their roster, having signed point guard Miguel Martinez for three years. Martinez has joined his former teammate from Blue Stars club, Jean Abdel-Nour.
The former seven-time champions have also recruited starlet Ahmad Ibrahim, while they kept their key players from last season such as Ali Mahmoud, Omar Turk, Ali Kanaan, William Pharis and Joe Vogel.
Riyadi will be managed for the first time since the 2002-2003 season by a foreign coach, Slovenian-Greek Slobodan Subotic, who will be arriving on Aug. 15. He is expected to begin preparations for the Asian Club Championship, which will be held in Beirut in mid-October.
Also, American giant Loren Woods will team up again with Egyptian forward Ismael Ahmad after they formed a formidable duo during the Asian championship last year in Manila, which Riyadi won.
“From my past visit to Beirut I see that the management is in love with their club and I really like their passion when they talk about the club. I spent a couple of days with them and I felt as if I had known them for many years,” Subotic said.
“Yes I know that my mission is to bring back the title, but I also want to be successful in all the other competitions. And I am ready for that.
“It will be a new but very good experience for me. I believe the level of basketball in Asia is not far from European basketball, and I am looking forward to playing and competing against the teams from all the countries. I expect to have a tough season, but I am ready for the challenge,” added Subotic, who previously coached Greek giants Olympiacos and Panathinaikos.
Anibal, runners-up of the last season, have been busy rebuilding their team after the departure of captain Rodrigue Akl and center Roy Samaha. They have signed point guard Joey Accaoui and shooting guard Tarek Ammoury, who both have played in the American college system.
Ammoury is the youngest brother of Bashir, who also renewed his contract with his hometown club for one more year.
It has been rumored that the Zahle-based club is interested in acquiring the services of Charles Tabet’s twin brother, Philip, who arrived in Lebanon Friday, according to his Facebook post.
Sagesse’s forward options have been strengthened with the arrival of Roy Samaha and the renewal of Daniel Faris on a long-term contract.
Faris barely saw action last season, playing less than five minutes after injuring his leg with a torn ACL, but has been praised for his advanced basketball skills, which could prove vital in Sagesse’s attempt to win the title for the first time since the 2003-2004 season.
The Green Castle, managed by experienced coach Fouad Abou Chacra, have almost closed their lineup after signing Akl, Elie Stephan, Elie Rustom, Mohammad Ibrahim and Patrick Bou Abboud. They also renewed the contract of Jad Bitar. The team is yet to sign any foreigners.
Mouttahed Tripoli has secured the services of Lebanon’s former point guard Rony Fahed, who played last season in China with Tianjin.
Mouttahed, who failed to make it to the Final Four last season for the first time in five years, succeeded in retaining their key players, including Bassel Bawji, Samer Mechref and Marwan Ziade. The club are close to signing 21-year-old point guard Hasan Dandash from Champville.
The team haven’t made any definite choices concerning the coaching job and the allocation of two foreigners.
The newly promoted Amchit club have been quite active on the radar, earning one of the biggest moves this summer with the addition of American-Lebanese forward Matt Freije, who will play next season as a local for the first time.
The Jbeil-based club has also captured the signatures of Sagesse’s former captain Sabah Khoury and Hoops center Mohammad Hamdar.
They also signed with newcomer Robbie Habib, who played for four years in the Canadian college system, and came close to bringing Lebanese-American point guard Victor Kashouh to the club.
Mouttahed have allowed their American point guard Austin Johnson to join Amchit.
Despite having a respectable budget, Byblos club have struggled to sign any of the elite players, with the big clubs controlling the market.
The Jbeil side have signed the promising guard Omar Ayoubi from Mouttahed, as well as 22-year-old forward Hasan Safieddine, who showed potential in his first season with Chabab Zahle before they were withdrawn from the league.
They also renewed with Karam Mechref and Ali Barada and regained Tom Ammar.
The other three clubs: Hoops, Antranik and Bejjeh are yet to make any signings.