By Cesare Milanti / firstname.lastname@example.org
Bologna, Italy – When Toko Shengelia fell down on his shoulder against the Netherlands in the 2023 World Cup European Qualifiers game, what could have been a historic moment for him, went down the drain. He went on to miss the whole EuroBasket 2022, in which his country Georgia was one of the hosts, and he will surely miss the start of the season.
Ultimately, the Georgian superstar decided to sign a new contract with Virtus until 2024 (with an option for the 2024/2025 season), despite some other interesting options available for him and his own desire for one more shot in the NBA.
“During the summer I had my mind set also to go back to the NBA, and I had many other offers from several different clubs. Finally, I decided with my family to sign a new contract here with Virtus. Obviously, I already saw how the system and the team were working. I like the project, the coach, the players, and the city is amazing. These things combined together are enough for me to push me back to this decision”, he said.
The former Baskonia and CSKA Moscow player is already settled in Bologna. He joined the team during the 2021-2022 season, ending up being a key player in the EuroCup triumph. Now, he’s ready for his first EuroLeague season with the Italian team, even though he won’t step onto the floor in the first months.
“It really sucks that I’m not going to be able to play in the beginning. But this is part of the sport, I’ve been there before and I’m gonna try to come back as strong as I can”, he commented.
However, he thinks that being here from day one could help him and the team even more. “Other than that, as much as I can help this team even if I’m not playing: I’ll be around, be present during practices and games. I’ll be helpful, somehow”, he added.
It’s not news that Toko Shengelia had to miss EuroBasket 2022 since the group stage, losing the opportunity to play in front of his home crowd. If he didn’t suffer that injury, he would have played against one of his current teammates, Ismael Bako.
He is excited to play alongside him and the new additions in the big department. “We had some great additions this year. Bako is a very good addition, he had an amazing year last year. He can play on both ends of the floor, he can play great defense. I think we kinda want him to be our rim protector and I think he’s going to do a great job on that. In offense, he can grab many rebounds and play in the post, over the rim. He already proved that both with Belgium and Manresa”, he said about the former ASVEL player.
However, Ismael Bako wasn’t the only new Virtus face that arrived in Bologna during the summer. In fact, he was announced the same day as Jordan Mickey, who came from a season with Zenit in which he won both the VTB Defensive Player of the Year and the VTB Finals MVP Award.
“Everybody knows what Jordan Mickey can do. He had a great season in Zenit and overall he has a great career behind him. Semi’s addition is going to be very interesting and I think he’s gonna give a lot of help to us. He can play from both outside and inside, in multiple positions”, he said about the American power forward.
The Georgian superstar talked about the rivalry with EA7 Emporio Armani Milan, with the two teams that will potentially face each other in four competitions, starting from the Italian Supercup: “I think this rivalry has always been special, even long before I came here and way before both of us were playing EuroLeague. They also had many great additions, it’s going to be very interesting. We’re about to face them in the first official game of the season in the Italian Supercup. To start from there and set the tone. It’s always going to be very exciting: I’m looking forward to these games against them“.