Burgos sharp-shooter Vitor Benite is Round of 16 MVP
BURGOS (Spain) - Hereda San Pablo Burgos shooting guard Vitor Benite has been named Basketball Champions League Round of 16 MVP for his performances in the series against Dinamo Sassari, which ended with the Spanish team sweeping their first ever Play-Offs series in club history.
In Game 1 in Italy, Benite came up with a Round of 16-high 30 points, 7 made triples and 32 PER to lead the Spanish team to an 84-81 road win that eliminated Dinamo's homecourt advantage.
"What I remember the most is the mindset we had as a team going into that first game," Benite told championsleague.basketball.
"We arrived in Sassari knowing that the game was really important to us, [that a win] would mean we could decide the series at home.
"I knew I was going to have a good performance when my first shots went in. When this happens, as a shooter, all you need is have the mentality to keep trying, keep shooting."
Game 2 in Burgos on March 10 was a totally different experience than anyone could have expected, as it became the first basketball game in Spain to take place behind closed doors due to the pandemic. Three days later, Spain imposed a lockdown.
"The most important thing in this situation is to adapt as fast as you can," Benite said.
"When you don't have the crowd in the stands, you need to focus on the little details that can create a game-like environment for the whole team.
BENITE ADOREMUS pic.twitter.com/3Q0rXydERg— Hereda San Pablo Burgos (@SanPabloBurgos) March 4, 2020
"Without the fans, especially our fans, you go onto the court without hearing the noise, without feeling that atmosphere.
"So between us players, every player on the court and on the bench, we try to recreate that feeling of support for each other and we try to have the best experience that we can in this new situation of playing without fans."
The Brazilian international has of course received a host of personal accolades in the past, but this is certainly the first time in his career that it's relevant to a feat he accomplished six months earlier, having gone through a lockdown in between. Interestingly, he went through the lockdown with exactly the same approach he had in an interview with championsleague.basketball on its very first day.
"I am really happy for the recognition because we did an amazing job to get to the Final 8 and during the Round of 16 we were actually a better team than we were at the start of the season," Benite said.
"Everybody had to work on their state of mind and adapt, because everybody had to stay at home."
"I thought the most important thing was to stay positive despite the challenges and I kept practicing and stay in the best shape I could for when I would get back on the court."
Many people have the feeling that everything in the world has changed since last March but, for Burgos, what has changed is the perception opponents had of them.
After what they showed in their maiden European campaign up until March and then in Liga Endesa's season-ending tournament in Valencia in June, where they reached the semi-finals, Burgos won't have the element of surprise against Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem when the two teams clash in the Quarter-Finals on September 30 in Athens.
"We did lose a little bit of that element of surprise, but that is not necessarily a bad thing," Benite said.
"I think it brings confidence to the team, that we know we can do really well and win, and that is amazing.
"I know a Cinderella story makes for a beautiful story, but it doesn't matter what other teams are thinking about us, what matters is how we are going to face the teams we're playing.
"Right now, the most important thing is to find our chemistry and get to know each other so we get to play the best Final 8 we can.
"I think that from last year we have to keep the positive energy we had going into every game.
"There were times that we had some tough losses but the team was really good in getting back on track, in staying positive and bouncing back."
Benite is one of the few players on the Burgos roster who has experience of a BCL championship tournament, as he was on the UCAM Murcia squad that made it to the 2017-18 Final 4, also in Athens.
If his exploits in the Round of 16 are an indication, then we should expect him to go after the records for most points scored and most triples made in a Final 4.
"I am going to sound a bit cliché and say that the most important thing in the Final 8 is for us to win," he replies after a brief pause.
"But of course, if we can win and I get to beat at least one of those records, that's going to be even better."