By Johnny Askounis/ email@example.com
Nikos Zisis launched his career with AEK and returned nine months ago after a healthy run in several respectable European clubs. The coronavirus pandemic stopped him in March, but the Basketball Champions League planning to complete the 2019-20 season in Athens resurfaces the opportunity for continental club competition success with the Queen.
“It’s definitely a huge personal motivation to capture a European title with AEK,” the 37-year-old guard confessed to Eurohoops, “We all know AEK is the only big Greek team I played for, so it is certainly motivating, not only for me but for the entire team.”
From Benetton Treviso, CSKA Moscow and the 2008 EuroLeague title, Siena, Bilbao, UNICS Kazan, Fenerbahce, Bamberg, and Badalona back to the first stop of his long professional career. Returning to the BCL after his 2018-19 appearances attached to Brose Bamberg featured 8.8 points, 5.0 assists, and 2.2 rebounds per contest. He helped AEK advance to the quarterfinals since turned Final Eight.
“We are obviously living unprecedented experiences throughout this whole situation. From what I gathered so far, I believe most players are still looking to recover their form,” he explained to Eurohoops, “This is the case every preseason, even more now following such a long break. Teams will need more time to get in their rhythm. The team in the best shape during the Final Eight’s five days will lift the trophy.”
Czech Republic outlet and familiar AEK foe, Nymburk, will be arriving in Athens poised to upset the hosts. The last meeting between the two sides produced a couple of road wins with the Greek club narrowly advancing thanks to a late three-pointer sank by Kevin Punter. Aside from the 2018 win in Greece, they were looking good for a Final Four berth heading into a best-of-three series with the home advantage versus AEK before the coronavirus suspended action.
“Nymburk was on a roll prior to the hiatus,” Zisis recalled and went on, “I currently lack the full picture, as we haven’t yet focused on them. However, I watched Tenerife against Oostende and understood no team can be fully prepared. There are many strong teams, experienced and players capable of going all the way.”
The upcoming Final Eight demonstrates the passion of everyone involved to conclude the 2019-20 season. The hope also expressed by the experienced guard is that basketball can guide itself to a safe path despite the pandemic.
“The most difficult part for everyone is the uncertainty tomorrow holds,” he mentioned regarding the current conditions, “Simply put if someone catches the virus he will be sidelined for several days. We will try to be careful and stay at home as much as possible because the virus is everywhere. That said, we have come to terms that we probably will be competing behind closed doors, which is extremely tough for all of us. We understand no other options are available and have to adapt.”
Scheduled after a 2019-20 champion is crowned, a brand new 2020-21 season. AEK and the rest of the Final Eight participants are included in the Regular Season field, but will not gain a meaningful advantage, Zisis breaks down to Eurohoops.
“I believe the next set of games are not so important because the new season will start from scratch, we will have a lot of games,” he replied, “Surely starting with a tournament like the Final Eight, you will be better prepared compared to the other teams. However, going through such a key tournament will have somewhat of a negative impact moving forward. Ultimately, I don’t consider it an advantage or a disadvantage. I hope for a season without health issues. After the Final Eight, we will have plenty of time to think about the next season.”
Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League