“If we play hard we have chances to go to the Final Four”

2016-04-06T16:42:02+00:00 2016-04-06T16:44:39+00:00.

Antonis Stroggylakis

06/Apr/16 16:42


The Euroleague MVP of the month speaks about the ambitions that his team’s progress creates, and not only.

By Eurohoops team/ info@eurohoops.net

After leading Laboral Kutxa to the Euroleague playoffs, where the Basques will play with home court advantage, Giannis Bourousis was named MVP of the Month for the first time in his big career.

The Greek center gave an interview to Euroleague’s official website about the long, yet fruitful, Top 16 journey, offering details behind key victories, while also expressing his ambition to see his team playing in the Final Four.

Hello again, Ioannis. Congratulations on becoming the Euroleague’s MVP for March. This is your first monthly MVP award, and it comes in a critical month. How honored are you about it?

“I am very happy to win this award after so many years in the competition. I have to thank my teammates and coaches, because I couldn’t do anything without them. We are right at the end of the Euroleague season, with the playoffs in front of us. We are feeling good and want to take the next step. We know that if we play hard, we have chances to go to the Final Four. Why not?”

Not only have you played well, but Laboral advanced to the Euroleague playoffs with the home-court advantage for its series. Does that make the award even better?

“I think that, right now, it looks like we have a better chance to go to the Final Four, but it is not easy. If we don’t play good basketball, if we don’t play hard, like we have until now in the Euroleague, you cannot go to the Final Four. For instance, Olympiacos beat Barcelona last season without the home-court advantage and other teams also lost that advantage in previous seasons. We have to play hard at home if we want to go to the Final Four; it takes one loss to lose that advantage.”

Your team is playing fast-paced basketball and a lot of players are having career-best seasons. How much credit does head coach Velimir Perasovic deserve for the success your team is having this season?

“I think all we did until now is because of our coach! He makes us work hard in practice and we are always doing good things there. If you do things right, you don’t have any problems. You know, I am happy to play for this coach, this club and our fans. Coach Perasovic and his staff did a great job and this is very important for us. Without them, we wouldn’t be playing at this level.”

Laboral had a convincing home win against Khimki. You had a career-high 6 assists in that game and in general, are passing the ball better than ever this season? Is it confidence, experience or a little bit of everything?

“The thing is that I have been here for five, six months since the beginning of the season, but everybody works as if we had been together for two years! We found the way to play together and this is a good thing to show to European basketball. Everybody plays for the team and that is really important.”

Next, you held off FC Barcelona Lassa in the fourth quarter to add another win. It was Jaka Blazic who scored the critical basket. Does that prove anyone can be dangerous on this team?

“I remember this game you are talking about, and Jaka not only scored that basket, but a big three-pointer before that. This is what makes us a good team: we play together. It can be Jaka one day and other players any other day. Everyone is part of this team, and we help each other. We have a lot of players with some Euroleague experience, but hungry to continue playing this season, hopefully until the Final Four.”

You finished March with an amazing win against Real Madrid. Was it one of the best games you have ever been a part of. What do you remember about the final seconds, with the big three-pointer by Davis Bertans?

“I think it was a great game, yes. We were down by 10 points at halftime, but had a very strong second half. We managed to recover and it was a crazy game for the fans. Finally, we won by this nice three-point shot by Davis and got this nice win. Our coach said in the previous timeout that all we had to do was to shoot a three-pointer if we wanted to win the game. It went well and we beat a big, big team like Real Madrid, who won the Euroleague last season. Any win against a big team is good for us. We are not a big team, it is true, but a young team that works hard that is willing to go to the Final Four if we keep playing well. So for us, beating Real Madrid makes all our fans and the city happy.”

One of your roles this season is to score and rebound in big numbers, the biggest of your 14-year Euroleague career, and to do so coming off the bench. How do you enjoy that big responsibility?

“First of all, I don’t have any problems starting off the bench. I already came off the bench playing for other teams. I know that our coach trusts me and I feel the same way for them and my teammates. When I go into the game, I am more focused and know how the other team is playing. That makes me be more ready for the game.”

In a similar way, you have to lead this young team with your experience. What have you been telling your teammates most during this great run to the playoffs?

“I was telling them that we had a good chance to go to the playoffs so we couldn’t give up. I have been to the playoffs many times and it is always good to be there. Obviously, if you don’t go there, you don’t have chances to go further! Also, I always give more when we lose! That’s why I try to say that.”

How many of your teammates did you know about before you got to Vitoria? How did you manage to click so well right away?

“Of course, I knew the players when I came here, but like I said before, Perasovic and his assistant coaches made the team work together and play together as if we knew each other for two or three years. Since Day 1, I feel like I have been here for many years. And yes, I didn’t know them personally when I came here. I knew them as players, but not personally.”

You have been to several Final Fours and won the Euroleague title last season. From your own experience, how much potential does this Laboral team have for this year?

“I have been to some Final Fours and am happy I had a chance to win last year after so much time in the competition. I learned a lot from other players when I played in the Final Four – Theo Papaloukas, Sergio Rodriguez, Felipe Reyes… big players who were my teammates. Now I am trying to help my teammates with my own experience. If we go to the playoffs and have the home-court advantage, we will have good chances to go to the Final Four. We played a lot of games to have this chance and we may never have it again! We have to be even more focused from now on and give everything.”