By Johnny Askounis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem’s Oded Kattash, Turk Telekom’s Burak Goren, Hereda San Pablo Burgos’ Joan Penarroya, and JDA Dijon’s Laurent Legname discussed the Basketball Champions League Final Eight Tuesday in the pre-tournament press conference involving the four teams set to tip-off action Wednesday in the first two quarterfinals.
“It’s always fun to back in Greece, especially in Athens,” said Kattash recalling previous experiences of the venue holding the press conference and the Final Eight featuring the eight top teams of the 2019-20 BCL season.
All four bosses agreed that it is very important to eventually conclude the 2019-20 season, even with adjusted rosters coming off a long hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Hapoel Jerusalem completed the 2019-20 season at the domestic level as well much earlier this summer but isn’t among the sides already off and running in terms of the 2020-21 season ahead of the quarterfinal tilt versus Burgos.
“It was a very challenging summer. The management made a big effort to build a strong team,” said Kattash, “We miss about three of four weeks of preparation, but we did our best. We have to be ready mentally. We know that we have to play our A-game to win.”
“They can scout us and for us, it’s complicated to scout them,” added his Burgos counterpart Penarroya, “Important players are different. It’s the start of the season. The teams should improve and the next weeks or months. Here we have three games in four or five days. It’s a strong competition and I don’t have a favorite.”
“We know each other, the system and what we want to do,” mentioned Kattash referring to the two previous meetings between the quarterfinal rivals during the initial stage of the Champions League campaign, “We have some new faces. We are going to build on what we remember from those games and watching them this season.”
The Israeli club brought in Nikos Pappas prior to the tournament. “We know he is a high-level player with a lot of experience,” claimed Kattash, “Unfortunately, we signed Pappas because of an injury.”
“We didn’t have enough time to prepare and we will better in the next months but still you have to do your best,” he added, “We are lucky to have him. I can’t really predict how he can help us in a short time after four or five practices together, but we will try to get the best out of the situation.”
“I want to support my teammates,” said injured J’Covan Brown on him making the trip to Athens during the player portion of the press conference, “It was a great journey from last season.”
The other Wednesday contest features Turk Telekom and Dijon.
“It’s the same situation for every team. In a few days, all teams tried to prepare for this tournament,” explained Goren, “We are ready to play tomorrow and do our best on the court.”
“We played two official games, Nizhny Novgorod last week and ASVEL this Friday. Like the other teams, we are not ready at this stage of the season,” agreed Legname, “More time is needed. It’s the same thing for all teams here. You are just focused on the next game.”
“We respect them too much,” said Goren brushing off the favorite status tabbed on the Turkish club, “They did a very good job last year and this season started very well. It will very hard for us. We are not favorites against a very good team like Dijon.”
“I don’t really think about that,” admitted Legname, “I and my players focus on the next game and try to give the best on the court, give everything in offense and defense. At this stage of the season its tough to make a favorite or an underdog. It’s 50-50 for every team.”
“It’s not the names but the team character will be important for success,” mentioned Goren on his updated squad, “We did everything possible to get ready for his competition. We are really happy to recruit that kind of team. We have names really good on paper, but we will see on the court.”
The Final Eight will be conducted behind closed doors. However, Kattash hopes his players can drive themselves in an attempt to make their fans proud. “When we step on the court tomorrow, we have to remember our fans. And do our best to win,” he said.
Below the pre-tournament press conference:
Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League