By Alex Madrid / email@example.com
The first experience of Darrun Hilliard in Europe will be unforgettable. After three seasons in the NBA, the former Villanova Wildcat landed to a team that had a dream: play the EuroLeague Final Four at home.
Several months later, despite all the injury problems, Baskonia‘s dream is still very much alive. They managed to make playoff and now will face the almighty CSKA. But Hilliard trusts their chances, as he told Eurohoops.
– First of all, how is your first season in Europe so far?
It’s great. A lot of ups and downs but I’m on a great team. We have a lot of great guys in the locker room. They helped me make the transition as easy as possible. It’s being a great experience, for sure.
– For Baskonia, it’s being a wild year. We can say that you had to play some games with just seven players.
Yeah, yeah (laughs). That’s the most impressive part of this whole experience. We haven’t had all the guys at once for a long period of time and we still get it to make it to the playoffs. I hope our fans notice that and people around EuroLeague notice that. We played most of the season with seven guys but a lot of players stepped up and made plays in the right time.
– But how important is having Toko Shengelia back for the playoff?
When you got a caliber player like Toko it’s always great to have him back. I’m not sure how he feels physically. If his knee it’s at 100%, 80% or 90%. But just having these players back on the court, having his knowledge about the game… just his leadership it’s a plus for us, for sur.
– How do you see this series against CSKA?
You know, I’m always confident, I’m always confident. This group of guys goes to every game always expecting to win. CSKA is a great team, they have a lot of great weapons and we are gonna prepare for them. We have to focus on Andorra [they beat them last Saturday] and hopefully, that game will get us prepared for CSKA. CSKA is a great opponent but I’m confident on this series.
– During that series, you will have to defend two of the best forwards in Europe, Cory Higgins and Will Clyburn…
They are great players. They have been in Europe for a period of time, they know the game and they know how to take your spots. They have been around the EuroLeague for a while and this is my first year. Going against guys like them and stepping up to that challenge every play, every possession… makes you better. They teach me and I have to learn from them in some ways. I have to compete hard and give all I’ve got.
– Do you know the last time Baskonia beat CSKA in Moscow?
Yeah, I heard it’s been like 17 years.
– Well, actually it was during 2005 Final Four but you are also right. Do you see the team ending that curse this season?
I hope so, I hope so. I know it’s been a long drought. But Baskonia also had a long period without winning in Canarias. We broke that this year so hopefully we will repeat that in Moscow. It’s gonna be a hard challenge, won’t be easy.