|Cyprus Division A||12/13 17:30||11||Apoel vs AEL||-||View|
|Balkan League||12/18 17:00||10||AEL vs Lovcen||-||View|
|Cyprus Division A||12/20 12:00||12||AEL vs Anorthosis Famagusta||-||View|
|Cyprus Division A||01/04 12:00||13||Etha Engomis vs AEL||-||View|
|Cyprus Division A||01/12 12:00||14||AEL vs Apollon Limassol||-||View|
|Cyprus Division A||01/19 12:00||15||PAEEK vs AEL||-||View|
|Cyprus Division A||12/08 17:30||10|| AEL v Achilleas Kaimakliou ||W||82-41|
|Balkan League||11/30 17:00||4|| Lovcen v AEL ||L||78-75|
|Balkan League||11/28 17:00||7||Pljevlja v AEL||W||51-72|
|Cyprus Division A||11/24 17:30||8|| EN Paralimni v AEL ||W||70-78|
|Balkan League||11/21 17:30||2||AEL v Pljevlja||W||93-42|
|Cyprus Division A||11/17 17:30||7|| AEL v APOP Paphos ||W||82-53|
|Cyprus Division A||11/12 17:30||6|| Keravnos v AEL ||W||74-80|
|Cyprus Division A||11/05 14:00||5|| AEL v PAEEK ||W||92-71|
|Cyprus Division A||10/27 16:30||4|| Apollon Limassol v AEL ||W||90-94|
|Cyprus Division A||10/21 16:00||3|| AEL v ETHA Engomi ||W||81-63|
|Cyprus Division A||10/15 15:00||2|| Anorthosis Famagusta v AEL ||L||91-78|
|Cyprus Division A||10/09 16:00||1|| AEL v AEK Larnaca ||L||94-96|
AEL Limassol Basketball Club (Greek: Αθλητική Ένωση Λεμεσού, romanized: Athlitiki Enosi Lemesou, lit. 'Athletic Union of Limassol'), also known as PAYABL EKA AEL for sponsorship reasons and commonly referred to simply as AEL, is a professional basketball team of the major multi sports club, AEL Limassol, based in Limassol, Cyprus. The basketball club, nicknamed "The Queen", is one of the founding members of the Cyprus Basketball Federation and in the years since, the club has established itself as the most successful basketball team in Cyprus.
Since the club's inception, it has experienced two separate periods of domestic dominance, retroactively branded as AEL's two "golden ages". The club's first golden age generally refers to the period between 1980 and 1989, during which AEL, under the leadership of player–coach Giorgos Thyrotos, won 12 domestic trophies. It was however during the second golden age (2003–2009), where the club enjoyed the most successful period in its history, winning 15 major trophies in 7 years and setting Cypriot records for the number of national championships and Super Cups won in a row and for being the only sports club in Cyprus to have ever clinched a European title, having won the 2002–03 FIBA Europe Regional Challenge Cup. Throughout its history, the club has participated in 54 competitive finals both domestically and internationally, from which AEL has won a total of 37 major trophies consisting of 13 Division A titles, 9 Cypriot Cups, 8 Super Cups, 1 FIBA Europe Challenge Cup, 4 Division B titles and 2 Division B Cups.
In the period between 2002 and 2010, AEL boasted an average win percentage of 62.38% for their European games and they also managed to advance to at least the knockout phases of the FIBA EuroChallenge in each of these seasons, with the 2008 and 2009 seasons being of particular note, where the team qualified for the Final Four phase of the tournament, finishing in 3rd and 4th place respectively. During these successful campaigns, AEL also managed to defeat several European basketball giants across various iterations of FIBA Europe's top-tier continental competition, securing important victories against teams such as, Fenerbahçe S.K., Virtus Bologna, ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne, PAOK B.C., Real Betis, BC Khimki, Bandırma B.İ.K., BC Spartak Saint Petersburg, PBC Lokomotiv Kuban, Paris Basket Racing, Ural Great, Azovmash Mariupol, G.S. Iraklis Thessaloniki and CB Estudiantes.
Certain notable players that once played for the club include Georgios Thyrotos, Duane Woodward, Milutin Aleksić, Frankie King, Giorgos Palalas, Haris Mujezinović, Remon van de Hare, Bruno Šundov, JamesOn Curry, Kenny Gabriel, Karim Souchu, Goran Nikolić, Michael Antonio "Mike" King, Bryan Bracey, Michael McDonald, Michalis Kounounis, Ilian Evtimov, Goran Jeretin, Vassil Evtimov, Kęstutis Šeštokas and Giannis Giannoulis.
The basketball department of AEL was founded in 1966 with Michalis Nikolaidis being the pioneer and coach and the club was one of the founding members of the Cyprus Basketball Federation. Nikolaidis, himself being a high school teacher of physical education, recruited his most promising students (such as Georgios Thyrotos, Panikos Evzonas, Spyros Antoniou, Donis Kounounis, Andros Michaelides, Andreas Katsampis, etc.) he considered suitable and formed the first basketball team of AEL, which was based in the open court in "Oasis" located in Gladstonos Street, Limassol. Nicolaides worked very hard and methodically to produce a talented batch of basketball players.
The first distinction for AEL came in 1972, when they finished second in the Cyprus Basketball League, behind the most dominant team of that period, PAEEK Kyrenia, while in 1973 AEL played in its first cup final, losing to APOEL. Despite the fact that both opportunities to bring silverware to the club had failed, it was obvious that the foundations had been laid and the team was ready to take the next massive "leap".
The following year, in 1974, the team celebrated its first Cypriot Championship, with Dimitris Palalas, Lakis Silvestros, Giorgos Fotas and Michalis Loizidis slowly being added to the roster.
Two more doubles followed, in 1978 and 1980, and from 1981 the technical leadership was taken over by captain Georgios Thyrotos, who had a double role as a player and coach. Thyrotos – AEL's primary flag bearer for three decades – played for the club from 1967 until 1987 and following his retirement as a player, he carried on exclusively as head coach until 1989. The next batch of up and coming players that were to become the new stars of the team were Antonis Evzonas, Marios Thrasyvoulidis, Michalis Hadjineofytou, Stavros Stavrou, Marios Georgiou, Frikos Karagiannis, Melios Athanasiadis. With these players, AEL won three more doubles (1982, 1983, 1985) and rightfully earned the nickname "Queen" of Cyprus basketball.
|First Golden Age (1980–1988)|
|Winners Runner-up Final Four Knockout Round|
Club legend, the late Giorgos Thyrotos participated in the AEL B.C. team during this era as a player (1967–80), as a player-manager (1980–87) and as head coach (1987–89). Throughout this period, managed to secure multiple major trophies for the club in each of these separate roles.
For this reason, Thyrotos, who wore the number 15 jersey when playing for the club, is often considered AEL B.C.'s greatest player. AEL became the dominant team in Cyprus in the 1980s, a decade in which it won twelve major trophies in total (six national championships, four Cypriot Cups, and two Super Cups).
Due to these unprecedented (as they were at the time) domestic successes, this has resulted in the time period between 1980 and 1989 being retroactively dubbed by the club itself as AEL's "First Golden Age".
In the early 1990s, however, the team had begun to display signs of its decline. This was due in part to the retirements of the great players of the 1980s as well as the loss of two star players, Antonis Evzonas and Frikos Karagiannis, who had been transferred to other teams (POL and Keravnos). Another factor which greatly influenced the team's decline was that other Cypriot teams started to sign foreign players and whilst AEL also participated in this practice, the misjudgment of many events brought the team to its knees and it was eventually relegated to the second division in 1992.
Stavros Grigoriou, Dimitris Palalas, Marios Thrasyvoulides who took over the technical leadership at times could not impose what they wanted. The following year they returned to the top-tier undefeated and in 1994 they began a major reconstruction effort, with a strong focus on developing robust infrastructure departments, from which the talents of the next decade emerged, such as Georgios Palalas, Michalis Kounounis, Rakis Karagiannis, Lauris Hadjivassiliou and George Nikolaou, amongst others.
By the summer of 1996, George Triantaphyllides was hired at the helm of the technical leadership. The fans of AEL, disappointed by the relegation of the football team, found "refuge" in the basketball team. The passion of George Triantaphyllides for basketball in combination with the unwavering support from the basketball club played a massive role in AEL B.C.'s subsequent successes. Despite the seemingly abysmal start to millennium for AEL, the club nevertheless managed to close the decade with moderate success, by reaching the 1998–99 Cypriot Basketball Cup Final, against Keravnos B.C. Even though AEL lost the game by 78–49, the team's significant overhaul during the mid–1990s was finally beginning to yield results on the court and it was becoming all the more apparent that AEL was on the cusp of another "golden era".
In 2002, AEL appointed Dragan Raca as head coach, a former player of the club that had retired from playing at the end of the 2001–02 CBL season, with his managerial duties commencing from the start of the 2002–2003 season. As the season progressed, it was becoming all the more apparent that with Raca's coaching prowess, in combination with the technical abilities possessed by the club's three star players at the time, Georgios Palalas, Michalis Kounounis and Duane Woodward, AEL was a force to be reckoned with and a serious title contender at least on a domestic level. Against all odds, on the 13th February 2003, AEL was crowned with its only European title after winning the newly established 2002–03 FIBA Europe Regional Challenge Cup (South Conference).
AEL clinched the title with an astonishing record of 10 victories in 10 games. The victory signalled the beginning of the team's European successes in the years that were to follow and between 2002–2010, AEL enjoyed the most successful period in its history once again retaining its title as the "Queen of Cypriot Basketball". The particular tournament was only organised in this format for one season. It was thereafter merged with the FIBA Europe Champions Cup to form the FIBA Europe Cup (2003–2005). The list of winners of FIBA's Conference South include AEL, Aris B.C., PBC Academic, Tuborg Pilsener, Banvit. Following their unexpected success in the Challenge Cup, they were awarded a berth in the FIBA Europe League and in the following season, AEL officially made their debut at the top level of FIBA Europe competitions. AEL retained the services of their previous season’s top scorer in the Cup (Dwayne Woodward with an average 26.7 PPG) as well as the services of local up-and-coming star Konstantinos Perentos (with an average 12 PPG and 4 RPG in the previous season).
In the season that followed, AEL participated as Cypriot champions in the newly established FIBA Europe League whereby they qualified from the group phase after eliminating both Peristeri and Paris Basket Racing. However, the club was subsequently eliminated by Hapoel Tel Aviv in the Round of 16. Domestically AEL won the treble by winning the Cypriot Championship, Cypriot Basketball Cup and Cypriot Super Cup.They faced Keravnos in the championship final and although the first game of the series was very tight with the Nicosia team managing a 99–96 win, the second game was held in front of a capacity crowd in Lemesos and EKA AEL were unstoppable offensively. They defeated Keravnos 103–70. The third game proved to be the most significant of the series. EKA AEL travelled to Nicosia knowing that an away win would almost certainly guarantee the second successive championship. The Lemesos team once again rose to the occasion and played attractive basketball. The final score was 96–110 for EKA AEL. The final game of the Cyprus play-offs, as it proved to be, took place in Lemesos on 16 April 2004. All 3.000 tickets for the game were sold-out several days in advance.
In 2004–05, AEL secured another double by winning both the Cypriot Division A and Super Cup. They also came close to repeating their previous achievement during the 2004–05 FIBA Europe League, but, despite being tied in victories with 4th-placed Hapoel Tel Aviv B.C., they were behind on points differential statistics and thus finished 5th (the top four teams qualify to the next round), and were eliminated from the competition in the group phase.
During the 2005–06 FIBA EuroCup (when the competition changed format) AEL passed the first group round by finishing second, eliminating PAOK BC and Kallev Tallinn. However, after reaching the second round (round of 16), the team finished last in the group and were eliminated from that season's competition. Despite the fact that the club was facing tougher opposition in comparison to the opposition it had faced in previous European campaigns, the effort to reach the quarter-finals was finally achieved during the 2006–07 Basketball season.
The group that AEL were drawn in the first round of that year's competition included former European Champions Virtus Bologna, french giants, ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne and Astronauts Amsterdam. Given the strength of AEL's opposition, very few believed that AEL had a chance to qualify to the next round. However, after a surprise victory against Virtus Bologna with a scoreline of 88–83, followed by an upset against the French giants Villeurbanne by 84–58, the club came 2nd in their group and achieved the unimaginable by qualifying to the second round with four wins and two losses in total.
Unlike the previous season, in which AEL finished with 0 points in the second round, in the 2006–07 FIBA EuroCup, AEL who were in the same group with CB Estudiantes, Liege Basket and BC Šiauliai, finished second with 5 victories and 1 defeat – tied with the Estudiantes because of the matches between them. AEL beat Estudiantes 63–62 in order to reach the quarter-finals. AEL made it all the way to the EuroCup Quarter-Finals before getting ousted by Ukrainian side Azovmash Mariupol in the three-game play-off series, the best ever performance of a Cypriot club in any European club competition at the time. Indeed, the club's dream to reach the Final Four stage of FIBA's top tier competition, still remained elusive to them as they were eliminated from the competition by the Ukrainian team Azovmash 2–1 in victories. AEL won at home 85–79 but were beaten away 88–63 and 97–69.
AEL also played a detrimental role in FIBA's decision to host the FIBA EuroCup All-Star Day in Limassol for three consecutive seasons (2006–2008). Previous iterations of the All Star games were held in Kyiv and Nicosia. The tournament was played from 2004 until 2008, and during each iteration, the AEL team made various contributions to the rosters of the two competing teams, Rest of World & Europe. Namely, AEL's coach, Dragan Raca, was selected as coach of Europe's All Star team on two occasions, in 2004 and 2005. Indeed, Milutin Aleksić was selected on three separate occasions to represent the latter team (2006, 2007, 2008) whereas Michalis Kounounis was also selected once during Europe's 2005 All–Star team as was Michael McDonald, who was selected to represent the 2005 Rest of World team. Duane Woodward was selected to play on behalf of rest of world on two occasions (2004, 2008), on one occasion playing against Giorgos Palalas who was selected as part of Europe's 2004 All Star team. Frankie King also was selected for the Rest of World All Star team in 2007. Finally, Ryan Randle took part in and won the 2007 FIBA EuroCup All-Star Day Slam-Dunk Contest.
In addition to the above, during the 2008 off-season, AEL B.C. officials indicated that they would be interested in abandoning the Cyprus Basketball Division A to join the Greek A1 Basketball League, commencing from the 2008–09 season. However, despite AEL's interest having been warmly received by officials from the Hellenic Basketball Association, the club ultimately opted against the move.
It was during the two consecutive seasons that were to follow where AEL boasted perhaps its greatest European achievements. During the 2007–08 FIBA EuroChallenge season, AEL achieved a EuroChallenge season record of 8-2 (both losses occurring on the road and by a maximum margin of five points), Additionally, AEL successfully maintained an average of 81.9 PPG, with an average OPPG of 71.8, which was the highest average margin of all the Final Four teams in that season. It also marked the first time AEL lost a home game in the EuroCup since 31 January 2006.
Furthermore, AEL's star player, Milutin Aleksic, lead his team in points, rebounds, assists and steals and during this season Aleksic held that season's highest field goal percentage in a single game by connecting on all of his nine shots from the field in AEL's 103-80 win over KK Zagreb. AEL also drew more fouls than any other club in the EuroChallenge (25.3 fouls per game), and stole more balls than any other club in that season's EuroChallenge (10.3 steals per game).
|Second Golden Age (2002–2009)|
|Season||EC / ERC|
|Winners Runner-up Final Four Knockout Round|
Following a decisive 2–0 victory against Khmik in the Quarter Finals. AEL would then eventually progress to the 2008 FIBA Europe Cup Final 4, facing Dexia Mons-Hainaut in the semi-final, however AEL surprisingly lost the match by 70-55. They nevertheless claimed 3rd place in that season's competition, after having defeated Tartu Rock in the consolation final.
During the 2008-09 FIBA EuroChallenge season, Dragan Raca led AEL into the EuroChallenge Final Four for a second season in a row and the team was looking like it had regained its confidence following the disappointment during last season's competition. Despite AEL's European achievement that season, AEL faced a string of disappointing results in the domestic league, which eventually culminated in AEL losing 2-0 in the Cypriot league play-off semi-finals to APOEL.
Due to the team's poor domestic performances, AEL decided to sack Raca and his assistant coaches Mike Protics and Thanasis Mastoris. Immediately following Raca's sacking by the club, AEL appointed Serbian coach, Miroslav Nikolic, in time for the Final 4 phase of the competition, this time being held in Bologna, Italy. However, this last minute managerial change would eventually prove to be fruitless, as AEL lost in the Semi Final to Virtus Bologna by 83-69. The club also lost against Triumph Lyubertsy during the consolation final by 94-82 and finished the tournament in 4th place.
Following various administrational changes that occurred between 2008 and 2012, combined with the sudden departure of most of the club's key players, AEL's on-court performances struggled greatly, which left the formerly unstoppable force of Cypriot basketball looking like a shadow of its former self. In addition to these issues, during the 2012–13 season, the club was also experiencing financial difficulties and at the end of the regular Basket League season, AEL finished in 6th place (out of 8 teams), thereby missing out on the League playoffs. In October 2014, the club announced that the basketball section would be dissolved due to mounting financial difficulties.
However, despite the club's initial decision to dissolve the basketball team, AEL Limassol nevertheless announced that it would re-establish the club for the following season with the team competing in Cyprus Basketball Division B. The financial difficulties that the club faced still continued to burden the newly formed team and the Cyprus Basketball Federation prohibited AEL from joining the Cypriot top-flight as long as the club's debts remained unsettled and irrespective of whether they managed to achieve qualification via their final Division B position.
Ironically, AEL won the Division B championship three years in a row (2015, 2016, 2017), as well as the Division B Cup twice (2015, 2016). Nevertheless, the club had no choice but to continue competing in the Cypriot second division while the club's financial struggles persisted, eventually leading the club to the brink of collapse for a second time at the end of the 2016-17 season.
With another dissolution appearing imminent, a consortium of around 20 local businessmen and AEL supporters took control of the basketball club and thereafter formed a limited liability company (AEL Basketball Ltd). The club, benefitted by the new corporate structure, managed to settle a significant amount of its unpaid debts with the scope for the club to finally return to Cypriot Basketball Division A.
In September 2018, under new administration, the club returned to the Cypriot top flight following a 5-year hiatus. During the team's first season back at the top-tier of Cypriot Basketball, ageing club legend, Giorgos Palalas, who was contemplating his retirement following the end of the 2017–18 season, instead chose to rejoin the newly formed team for the 2018–19 season after which he decided to retire from playing. Since then, the club's final league positions for the 2018–19, 2019–20, 2020–21, 2021–22 and 2022–23 seasons were 5th, 8th, 9th, 7th and 5th, respectively. During this period, the club also reached the 2022 Cypriot Cup final but they were ultimately unable to claim the trophy, losing the game to Keravnos B.C. by a scoreline of 87–55. By reaching the 2022 cup final, AEL also qualified for the 2022 Cypriot Super Cup final once again against Keravnos (who were the 2021–22 double winners), however AEL also lost this match by a scoreline of 89–74.
The club currently competes in Cyprus Basketball Division A and the Cypriot Basketball Cup. Additionally, in 2023, Payabl EKA AEL were invited to compete in the Balkan International Basketball League, a European regional basketball competition that features a closed league format. This marks the club's return to European basketball competitions following a 14 year absence.
During the 2023 off-season, overhauls were made to the team's roster by signing foreign players Jordan Shepherd, Nelly Cummings, Adong Makui and Phil Henry. In their first match of the 2023–24 Division A season, the team was defeated by reigning double–champions, AEK, in a 94–96 game thriller that was decided after two overtime stoppages at Nicos Solomonides. Following this closely tied league match, AEL then faced the 2022–23 Cypriot Cup & 2023 Super Cup runners–up, Anorthosis Famagusta away from home, losing the match 91–78. AEL's first league victory came in their third match against their old rivals, ETHA Engomis, defeating them by a scoreline of 81–63. During their fourth league game against arch-rivals, Apollon, AEL secured an impressive victory away from home, beating Apollon by 94–90. On 30 October 2023, the club announced that it had terminated Cummings' contract with the club, by mutual agreement. On 31 October 2023, the club announced that it had entered an agreement to sign Kyran McClure, as a result of Cummings' unexpected departure. In their fifth OPAP Basket League game of the season, AEL beat historic basketball club, PAEEK by 92–71 at Nicos Solomonides Arena. In their sixth Basket League game of the season, AEL secured their fourth consecutive victory after beating Keravnos by 80–74 away from home, thereby ascending to the top of the regular season table with Jordan Shepherd managing 37 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. AEL maintained its position at the top of the Basket League table by beating APOP by 82–53, the team's fifth consecutive victory for the 2023–24 OPAP Basket League season.
On 21 November 2023, AEL began their 2023–24 BIBL campaign in Limassol with a stellar performance, securing a fifty-one point margin in their victory over Montenegrin club and fellow BIBL newcomers, KK Pljevlja by 93–42