By Antigoni Zachari / firstname.lastname@example.org
There have been lots of discussions about the FIBA World Cup November Qualifiers’ windows and their schedule that interferes with continental league action. Lots of arguments about exhaustion, injury management, players who can’t leave their duties with their teams. Tornike Shengelia gave his own answer to all of these on Friday night with Georgia.
Roughly 24 hours before Georgia’s matchup with Ukraine in Tbilisi, Shengelia helped CSKA Moscow grab a hard-fought victory against FC Bayern Munich in Moscow on Thursday. He played for 31:42 minutes, longer than any other player of the Army Team, and posted 12 points and 5 rebounds in a win that pushed CSKA further up the standings in a very competitive EuroLeague season.
Despite the demanding schedule, Shengelia showed up for his call with the Georgian NT, proving once again his dedication and leadership. After all, this has always been his dream, as he explains.
“My motivation is the same motivation as I had since I was a young kid,” Shengelia told reporters in the post-game press conference. “The first time I saw the national team play, I was on the court in this gym. My first dream – before it was to go to the NBA – was to play for the national team and play here for my country. This is the motivation I’ve had since that day and nothing changed since. It’s 100% percent there and it’s not going to change until I can’t play.”
Fatigue was out of the picture, as Shengelia poured a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds in nearly 33 minutes to help Georgia register its first victory in the 2023 Qualifiers against Ukraine (88-83) with the home crowd cheering for their loyal captain.
What makes his presence in the NT even more significant, however, is the fact that he had just returned to action in early November, after missing several games with an injury. The scare wasn’t enough to hold him back, nor did it take away any of his star quality, which had a huge impact on Georgia on Friday, as coach Elias Zouros also highlighted.
“When one of the best players is coming it is important psychologically, it gives a boost to all the rest of the team. Many of our players are in the domestic leagues and don’t have experience of the big games so they need the push from our players coming from abroad,” Zouros said in the presser.
Georgia is now called to face reigning World Cup champions Spain in Jaen on Monday (November 29), which will be a true crash-test for both nations that registered respective wins on Friday.