Colton Iverson: ''We are ready for the battles''
TENERIFE (Spain) - Colton Iverson and Iberostar Tenerife are preparing to begin their Play-Offs campaign as they aim to get back on the winner's podium they stood on in the Basketball Champions League’s inaugural 2016-17 season.
Iverson was not with the side then - at that point plying his trade in Israel with Maccabi Tel Aviv - before spending last year in the ACB with Andorra and then joining Tenerife this season.
The 7'0" (2m13) centre has helped lead Tenerife to a 12-2 Regular Season record, steamrolling their way to the top seed in Group B. It's the same record and seed they finished with last season, where they ultimately ended up with a Round of 16 exit at the hands of UCAM Murcia.
However, this time around, Iverson is confident they are ready for the post-season.
"We had almost a perfect first round, with only two losses by very small margins at home, which was a bit frustrating," Iverson reflected on the year.
"The one against PAOK - by one point margin- and the game against Venezia by a two points margin only, despite having very good games against those teams.
"We wanted to try to wrap up the first round with a perfect and no lost games, but those two ones were frustrating losses because we know that we could have won them. But we can’t redo the past and we did a pretty solid first round, which helped us gain confidence and chemistry for the next steps coming in the season in the BCL."
Their Regular Season efforts have seen them drawn against Promitheas Patras in the Round of 16, a team who went 8-6 in Group D.
Despite their record, Iverson says, his squad is not downplaying Promitheas' potential to pull off an upset, especially at home in front their passionate Greek fans.
"It's going to be a very tough opponent and we can't underestimate them at all. They were able to get out of a tough group, and the second phase of the competition is now pretty much very opened, so every team can beat anyone.
"We will have to play at our best level during the two games and we have to play the same way we did in the first round, so we don't get into situations that we don't want to get ourselves into, like losing by a big margin in the first leg for example.
"Greece is an amazing country of basketball, and the fans are very passionate and love to be 100% behind their team. We will have to be focused and not feeling pressured by the environment, but we dealt with it before and we did it very well, so I think that we can handle this kind of situation."
The 29-year-old Iverson is averaging 10.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.3 steals on 61.6% shooting thus far this season, on a side who have drawn plaudits for their ability to share the ball; they have eight players averaging over 8 points per game.
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Tenerife are second in the Basketball Champions League in assists per game at 21.9 and as a result of that, lead the competition in field goal percentage at 49.2%.
Iverson believes this chemistry is what has allowed them to experience success up until this point.
"I think that we play as one; we play as a team no matter what," he said.
"Our chemistry and unity is very solid, and we stick together in the good and bad moments of the games we play. We aren't scared and we play with a lot of passion, and we all want to help the team win."
Iverson points to the likes of Bologna, Murcia, Hapoel Jerusalem, and AEK Athens as fellow title challengers, but says a surprise can come from anywhere.
"My years in Europe taught me that a lot of surprises could happen," he exclaimed.
"Every team has a chance to have a good run starting now, as in two leg games, you can have great ones and beat any team. They are some teams that did very good first round stages, like ours, but everyone has to play at their highest level to not get surprised and don't take things they did in the group stage for granted. It's going to be a tough battle, and the road to the title won't be the easiest one."
But make no mistakes about it, the title is the goal.
"We all know that it is going to be tough for every team starting now, but we are ready for the battles and the challenges coming. We want to make the best out this campaign and we would like to bring the title to the island, to share this moment and this trophy with our fans.
"We know what we are capable of, and we have been showing our level in the last couple of months against very good team both in the Liga ACB and in the BCL. After our first part of the campaign, we can aim high."