By Bugra Uzar / firstname.lastname@example.org
Eurohoops: Congratulations for the Final Four, huge success. You’ve had a few problems this year especially in key games. So how is this different compared to other years’ Final Four achievements of yours?
Kostas Sloukas: First of all I don’t try for excuses, this is the mentality of the coach, the club and my teammates. Injuries are part of the game, we continue to play and we’re very happy to go to the Final Four. Now our expectations are big. We have to fight because we play against a very good team. They are very talented and dangerous.
EH: What would you like to say about the main absences?
KS: I told you, no excuses. We have to fight more than any other time. We have to follow the coach’s instructions and plan because he always has the way to win even like this. So, this is the most important. We also need luck for this kind of games and I hope it will be on our side.
EH: You’ve had an amazing season, people consider you as the leader of Fenerbahce and I believe that’s the first reason you came here at the first place, to become a leader and be successful. Am I right?
KS: It’s not exactly like this. I came here because I’m an ambitious guy. I like to be in successful teams and to work very hard. I came to work with the best coach, with good teammates and a very organized club. I’m very happy to be here. I don’t think like that [about being a leader]. All of the players do a great job, they have their roles. I agree that my coach and my teammates trust me more and I’m not afraid to take responsibility. Sometimes I do the right thing, sometimes wrong, but the most important is that everybody sticks together.
EH: Coach trusts you a lot. In many press conferences, he praised your game. So how it feels like for you to receive these comments from a legendary coach like Zeljko Obradovic?
KS: First of all, I like working with him, even if sometimes he’s very aggressive. He’s a very honest and straight-forward guy. This is his way, I know. I’m very happy that I work with him and this kind of teammates that I have. From my side, I try to do what he wants from me in the court. At the end of the day, he is sure that I give everything that I have for the team and to win. As I said, I’m ambitious and competitive in every game.
EH: In the semifinal you are going to face Anadolu Efes, a team that you know very well and they also know you very well. What would you like to say about them? Are you surprised that they made it to the Final Four after finishing last season at the bottom of the standings?
KS: No, for me it’s not a surprise because Efes plays very good basketball throughout the year, from the beginning until now. They have talented players and a respectful coach. It will be very hard to beat them in the semifinal. We have to fight and we have to control the rhythm of the game.
EH: By controlling the rhythm you have to focus on their guards in particular. Vasilije Micic has a very good season, Shane Larkin is playing really great, Rodrigue Beaubois, Dogus Balbay, they are a really talented backcourt but you also are one. What do you think about this battle of the backcourts?
KS: Our position is really crucial for the team. We have to be ready, they will be for sure, for a tough game. Bobby and I will do our job for the team. I have to be concentrated for 40 minutes.
EH: Before coming to the Final Four, you have a tough quarterfinals series against Zalgiris. You managed to win two games away from home. Did you think to yourself, when the series was at 1-1, that “we have a problem, we’re playing against a team with 15.000 people”?
KS: First of all we have to congratulate Zalgiris because they had a very good season. Second time in a row. They are a really talented team. They deserve to be in the Final Four but at the end of the day I trust my team. We had two in a row wins and made it to the Final Four.
EH: How is it going to help you that you beat such a tough team?
KS: This shows the “metal” and the character we have as a team. We play smart, we play hard, and finally, we won these games. The fact that these guys have been together for like four years gives something extra to us, but I told you that the character is the most important. We know that this team showed it.
EH: You are one of the most experienced teams in the Final Four, the core of the team has been playing together for a while. So how will this help you in the Final Four?
KS: I feel like it’s my first time. Even if this is my seventh Final Four. I feel anxious, excited. I try to prepare myself as best as I can and to help the team in every situation. I think all of my teammates will do the same and we have to be ready on Friday.
EH: Greek basketball was very successful in recent years but after that, there were some economic problems and now Turkey is somehow in the same situation. What should Turkish Basketball do to survive these problems?
KS: This is not my job. My job is to be in the court and to take decisions in the court. What I can say from my side is that I’m very proud of the Fener family because in the last five years they’re going in five straight Final Fours. This means that Fener is growing. About Turkish basketball, I cannot do anything.
EH: In the Fenerbahce organizations, fans are the most important part. They support you greatly. What is your message to them ahead of the Final Four?
KS: I think we deserve to have support from the fans. These years we’ve shown what we can do. In many losses, we fought until the end. Fans are the sixth player in the court. So, we need them to go to the final.
KS: Again it’s not my job. My focus is only at the Final Four and Fenerbahce. They are clubs and they try to do their business.
EH: Could you tell us your All-EuroLeague First team for this season?
KS: Jan Vesely, Vincent Poirier, Will Clyburn, Cory Higgins and Vasilje Micic.
EH: What about the MVP?
KS: Jan Vesely.
EH: What’s the happiest moment of this season for you?
KS: First of all the Cup and when we qualified to the Final Four.
EH: Could you sum up the season with one word or one sentence?
KS: Difficult. We suffered a lot, but finally, we are in front of the main target.
EH: And if you had to choose one song or one movie for this season, which one would you choose?
KS: The Final Countdown (laughs).