St. Petersburg is the birthplace of Russian basketball, the city of famous basketball players, coaches and the legendary Soviet basketball club Spartak that brought up a galaxy of famous Soviet and Russian athletes, members of the USSR and Russia national teams.
City-based sports brand Zenit became widely known in Europe for the first time thanks to its successful football club, which is the flagship of Russian football. The football club has won not only multiple championship titles in Russia, but also has European trophies in UEFA Cup and Super Cup.
Basketball club Zenit is the successor of the glorious basketball traditions of St. Petersburg and, like his older football brother, strives to become a stable leader in Russian basketball and to enter the list of top clubs in Europe.
In 2014, determined to return great basketball to St. Petersburg, Zenit entered the basketball court. Ever since it had been founded, BC Zenit was able to compete at the highest level both in Russia and in Europe. In its first season, our team qualified for knockout stages of Eurocup and lost only in 1/8 to Khimki Moscow region, a team that eventually won the trophy that year.
A year later, along with success in the Eurocup, Zenit had a great season in the VTB United League. Zenit’s main team with Ryan Toulson and Janis Timma finished the regular season in third place, and in the quarterfinals overtook Avtodor Saratov to make it to the semifinals for the first time in its history. Our club won bronze medals and played in the Russian Cup final stage.
In the 2016-2017 season, Zenit was one step away from the VTB League finals and – along with it – a ticket to the Euroleague. We were winning against Khimki 2-0 in the semis, but unfortunately lost the series 2-3.
In Eurocup, Zenit played in quarterfinal that year where lost to Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar. The results showed that the club was on the right way.
That season, VTB League final stage was played as Final Four. It automatically meant that the championship was decided by just two games. Zenit qualified for the final games along with CSKA, Khimki, and UNICS.
We lost to CSKA in the semifinal, but grabbed bronze medals defeating UNICS Kazan – 93:79. Another medals!
Meanwhile, in Eurocup Zenit once again stopped at the quarterfinal stage. Our guys faced Reggio Emilia and won one game of total two, but the Italian side had a better points difference. Though, Zenit guard Kyle Kuric was named the Top-16 MVP.
In the 2018-2019 season, Zenit got into the Top-16 stage of Eurocup, but found itself in a very tough group of future-semifinalists – UNICS and Andorra. Our club ended up not to qualify for the playoffs and finished the European season earlier than expected.
In the VTB United League, after Joan Plaza substituted Vasily Karasev and became the new head coach, the team achieved a good result. Lokomotiv was defeated in the quarterfinals, 3-1, but the road to the final was interrupted by a series with the future champion CSKA.
The 2019-2020 season became both very significant and the most unfortunate for BC Zenit. Almost until the last moment the club had been preparing to participate in the Eurocup, forming a team accordingly. Barely at the end of the transfer campaign, BC Zenit received a Euroleague wild card and lost the opportunity to properly prepare for a more complicated sports season. After a series of serious setbacks, the club was forced to say goodbye to Joan Plaza, who was replaced by Хavi Pascual. With star players such as Gustavo Ayón and Will Thomas, at the time of the suspension of tournaments due to the spread of the coronavirus infection, Zenit ranked lowest in the Euroleague and fought for the playoff spots in the VTB League.
Pascual had too little time to work during that season, because in March all the sports activities around Europe were postponed due to the coronavirus.
This season was much more successful for our team. Zenit once again got the wild card to play in the Euroleague, and now was ready to form the team from the beginning of the transfer campaign. Xavi Pascual managed to gather a group of guys that qualified for the playoffs. Our team tried its best and forced Barcelona to play the 5th game, but lost in the decisive moment – 2:3. We were defeated, but we showed the whole Europe that we are able to compete against any club on the continent.
In the VTB United League, Zenit won the regular season and overtook Parma in the quarterfinals. But in the semis, our opponent was CSKA, and we could only win one game in the series – 1:3. Bronze again.
In the summer 2021, Euroleague once again gave the wild card to Zenit, and this time our team was preparing not only to play in the playoffs, but to qualify for the Final Four. But in February, all the Russian teams were excluded from the European competitions due to the special military operation in Ukraine. At that moment, Zenit was in the playoff spot and was fighting for the home court advantage.
But in the domestic competition, Zenit continued to show a good game. We qualified for the playoffs from the second place and won against Parma – 3:0. In the semifinals, there was UNICS, but the Kazan team was also overtook – 3:1. In final, there was CSKA waiting…
It was the first time when the final series was played until one team wins four games. Zenit lost first two games in Moscow, but then our team managed to comeback and win – 4:3. The decisive game took place in Moscow and gathered more than 12 thousand spectators. We won 75:81 and became the VTB League champions for the first time in our history.
It was the first year without European competitions both for Zenit and Russian basketball overall. So, the teams could focus only on the domestic competitions.
Zenit won both pre-season tournaments in Kondrashin and Belov Cup and Supercup, starting the season in style. But, unfortunately, the season wasn’t as good as this.
Our club qualified for the Russian Cup final where we lost to Nizhny and took only silver medals, and in the VTB League Zenit couldn’t go until the final series as we fell short to UNICS, 4-3, in the very end of the 7th game. Later on, we lost to CSKA the bronze series, 1-4, and finished the season with no VTB League medals.
BC Zenit today
Today, BC Zenit successfully competes in the VTB United League. The club is actively developing its own youth system that raises the future of BC Zenit, Russian and European basketball. Zenit maintains and expands partnerships with the RBF, leagues, organizations, educational institutions, higher professional institutions, government authorities, business and local communities.
We believe that, along with you, people who come at the games and support the team, we will bring more trophies and more greatness to Saint Petersburg and its people!