Is Enisey Ready For Next Step?

Enisey Krasnoyarsk generally finishes in the middle of the standings and competes for one of the final playoff spots. The team has ended up 9th, 11th, and 10th in the previous three seasons. But the club hopes to break out in 2016-17. A calculated signing campaign and smart acquisitions, not to mention the team's performances in preseason, suggest that Krasnoyarsk is ready to take flight. Exclusive for VTB-League.com, Konstantin Kucher grades the Siberian club's preparation for the season.


Things did not look as promising a few months ago. Enisey lost key foreign contributors, as well as top Russian talent: Yakovenko, Zakharov, and Sergeev. Losing the Russians was an especially big blow, given the high demand for domestic players. But Krasnoyarsk's scouts managed to deliver. Instead of hunting for a star, the front office acquired experienced veterans (Koshcheev, Zavoruev) and youngsters loaded with potential. Enisey has especially high hopes for its new crop of youth.

The White-Blues will feature four talented players in the rotation this season: Trushkin, Kanygin, Martynov, and Mitusov. The oldest of the group, Vladislav Trushkin, is ready to play in the VTB United League. He's even considered the favorite to start at small forward in Krasnoyarsk. His incredible work ethic and effort on the court sets him apart. Trushkin loves to mix it up on the court, scrap for rebounds, defend a variety of positions, seek out contact, and drill clutch three-pointers in close games.

Igor Kanygin has also impressed in preseason. One of the leaders on the Russian youth national team, he's still adjusting to the next level. But he definitely has potential. The center sparkled at times during preseason tourneys in Lithuania and Latvia, both on offense and on defense. Kanygin dunked the ball, drove to the basket and had a huge impact on defense, blocking shots with regularity.

The team gamble on youth doesn't mean veterans will not play a big role. Andrey Koshcheev, Alexey Vzdykhalkin, and Vasily Zavoruev will be major contributors. Koshcheev will provide extra muscle on the glass. Playing with Elegar or Kanygin, he gives Enisey an imposing frontcourt. In the era of the three-pointer, emphasizing post play appears archaic. But in Enisey's case, it's an interesting strategy.

Of course, when necessary, the Siberians can attack from outside. Last season, Krasnoyarsk set a league record, knocking down 11 consecutive three-pointers against VEF.

Overall, however, the team struggled from the perimeter. Enisey finished last season in 15th place in three-point field goal percentage (32.2%), ahead of only Vita. Don't expect Krasnoyarsk to be among the league leaders this season, but the team should improve on last season's mark.

Vzdykhalkin, Zavoruev, and Trushkin are expected to be the top threats from outside. But the team also has high hopes for new signing Maalik Wayns. The American missed most of preseason, while playing for the Belarusian national team. He didn't impress in EuroBasket qualifying, but he gets a fresh start at Enisey.

Belarus tried to make Wayns into a playmaker, even though he's a true scorer. That's why Enisey signed him. He quickly got on the same page with his teammates, averaging 17 points per game in the preseason, while shooting 65.6% from the field (21-32, 8-12 on the perimeter).

Suleiman Braimoh is another new addition. He has an interesting story, picking up basketball at the age of 15. He had to make up for his late start with a lot of hard work, adding to his game and improving his physical fitness every summer.

You can see the progress. Three years ago, Braimoh couldn't stick in the Japanese league. Last season, he played in Germany's All-Star game. An impressive work ethic, imposing physique, mature game, and unselfish approach make him a valuable asset for Enisey.

The biggest stars on the team will be Elegar and Taylor. Both these players have a lot of experience in the VTB League. Elegar impressed during his three seasons at Kalev (2012-2015). During the 2014-15 season, he recorded 11 double doubles in 17 games. Elegar will maintain his production in Krasnoyarsk. Compared to the player he is replacing, Tim Olbrecht, the American should be stronger on offense and on defense.

Tony Taylor will lead the way for Enisey, returning for his second season in Siberia. In 2015-16, Taylor did a good job as point guard, displaying defensive ability, accurate passing, and three-point shooting. But he was often overshadowed by teammates Delroy James and DJ Kennedy.

Expected to play a bigger role, Taylor looks transformed in preseason. He changed his haircut, but more importantly he's much more confident on the court. The point guard is not afraid of taking control, driving to the basket, knocking down tough shots, and dribbling through the defense. Taylor appears to be the heart and soul of this team.

Without Taylor, Enisey lost five of its first six preseason games. With him on the squad, the club won four of five and Taylor averaged 16.2 points, 4.8 assists, and 3.4 rebounds per game.

Krasnoyarsk head coach Oleg Okulov gained valuable experience in his first season in the league. This year's team has changed considerably from the previous campaign. The Siberians parted ways with several stars, but should be better on the glass, perimeter, defense, work ethic, and depth.

Enisey has a tough start to the season, matching up against CSKA, UNICS, and Lokomotiv-Kuban. But Krasnoyarsk has nothing to lose, unlike the favorites.

Konstantin Kucher