Pini Gershon in action 248.88 ap.
(photo credit: AP [file])
The 2009-10 Euroleague season marked its first event Wednesday as the regular season and qualifying rounds draws were held in Barcelona, Spain. A new competition system unveiled this week saw 22 teams drawn into four groups of six with last season's Final Four teams - champion Panathinaikos, runner-up CSKA Moscow, third-place Regal FC Barcelona and fourth-place Olympiacos - serving as group leaders.
Maccabi Tel Aviv was drawn in Group C - CSKA's group - along with last year's second-place finishers, Lior Eliyahu's new club Tau Ceramica, Virtus Roma, Union Olimpija, and a final team still to be determined by a further round of qualifying to be held in September.
Maccabi's coach Pini Gerson had this to day about the results of his team's group placement: "The regular season is a stage that we have to get through and I think we will advance. What is really important is who we will face in the Top 16. I always say it's better to face the strongest teams in the beginning and I hope that CSKA Moscow and Tau Ceramica are considered strong. The games against Tau and Lior Eliyahu will, of course, be interesting."
After returning to Maccabi's helm midway through last season, Gershon has the chance to handpick his roster for the 2010 campaign. In every season that Gershon has started on the sidelines at Maccabi, the club has reached a continental title game. The fans at Nokia Arena are expecting no less this year.
The regular season is scheduled to begin on October 21 and last until January 14, to be followed by the Top 16 (January 27 to March 11) and the expanded best-of-five Quarterfinal Playoffs (March 23 to April 7). The season culminates at the 2009 Final Four, to be held May 7 to 9 at the Palais Omnisports Bercy in Paris, with the crowning of a Euroleague champion.
Shimon Mizrahi, Maccabi Tel Aviv's president, was realistic in his analysis of the club's draw.
"I think it will be a very tough group. We have CSKA and we all know their ability. We have Tau with one of our former players, Lior Eliyahu, so it will be very strange, yet interesting, to play them. Roma and Olimpija are teams with a lot of experience."