By Antonis Stroggylakis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
ANTWERP– Nikos Zisis has been there, done that, won the trophy(-ies) , ate the cake and wore the t-shirt. And now he wants to repeat the whole thing.
During a professional career of nearly two decades, Zisis has lifted cups of all sorts and colors and on almost every level. Yet winning the Basketball Champions League with Brose Bamberg will have a special kind of meaning for him.
“The team has a tradition in winning titles in Germany these last ten years. League titles, Cup titles. But we do miss a European title,” Zisis told Eurohoops. The 35-year-old Greek combo guard and Bamberg are facing Virtus Bologna in the BCL semifinal Friday (3/5).
“It’s a big goal for the club. To fight for a continental title in such a tournament. And that further increases our motivation,” Zisis added.
Zisis isn’t the only Bamberg player who carries a deep know-how on winning. There’s 2014 Euroleague champion and Final Four MVP with Maccabi Tel Aviv Tyrese Rice. Ricky Hickman was also a key player of that Maccabi squad.
The coexistence of these three experienced guards can give an powerful edge to Bamberg in the BCL Final Four. Zisis believes that it’s just one factor among the many that will determine if his team will go all the way to the top.
“It’s definitely important to have such experienced players in its ranks. But in such a tournament, teams win. Guards are surely important. Yet what matters is how ready the team is. Also, in Final Four tournaments, you see players being decisive when none expects them. Such a thing has happened many times on all levels.”
“We are ready to put up a big fight for the best possible result.”
Halfway through the season, Brose Bamberg fired coach Ainars Bagatskis. 34-year-old Federico Perego took over the helm and the team began transforming into a more efficient squad, according to Zisis.
“Even though the coach was inexperienced, he showed to control the situation . After many meetings and practices, we became more team-oriented on offense and defense. We previously relied more on individual talent,” Zisis said.
“Then we won many close games, including the German Cup. This increased our confidence and resulted in getting close wins,” Zisis added before beginning to praise a certain teammate.
“Of course we have Tyrese Rice with us. He has shown how clutch he is many times in his career and especially this season. He knows how to score the ball when the clock is ticking down.”
Zisis has hinted that this may be his last season with Brose Bamberg. And what can be more ideal than closing this four-year stint with the Bavarian side other than claiming the BCL title.
“I’ve had the blessing and luck to play for titles on every team I’ve been with. I don’t want to look any further. It’s a big opportunity to win a European title. You work hard all year long and there’s no bigger reward than winning a title.”
“If this is my last season in Bamberg, there won’t be a better way to close the season than winning a European title.”