Zaragoza's Brussino on a ride back to the future in 2020
ZARAGOZA (Spain) - Nicolas Brussino played in so many big games during 2019 that even a fleet of nuclear-powered DeLoreans travelling back in time could not erase the Argentinian small forward's unique basketball experiences during the course of the year that just ended.
It would be very difficult to surpass 2019, but you have to set impossible targets if you are to accomplish big targets - Nicolas Brussino
The milestone year in the career of the 26-year-old Casademont Zaragoza player started with the exploits of his previous club, Iberostar Tenerife, in the Basketball Champions League.
"With Tenerife we reached the BCL final, we came within just one step from winning it and although we didn't make it, it still was a great season," Brussino told championsleague.basketball.
View this post on Instagram
The Spanish team fell to Segafredo Virtus Bologna in the Final in May and, after they also completed their Spanish Liga Endesa campaign, Brussino joined the rest of his Argentina teammates in what would turn out to be a memorable summer.
"With the national team we were proclaimed champions at the Pan American Games and then we won the silver medal in the FIBA Basketball World Cup, in China. To accomplish that, to reach that far in a World Cup was a dream come true," he said.
"And in my first season in Zaragoza, which started in September, I think we are so far meeting both our expectations and the fans' expectations, so we are very satisfied with what we did in 2019."
We have the players, the talent and the ability, both as individuals and as a team, to compete at the highest level and reach as far as possible in the competition - Nicolas Brussino
Brussino considers his 2018-19 BCL experience helped him develop into a player who is better equipped to help Zaragoza navigate their maiden campaign in the competition, this season.
"Last year [I saw firsthand] that the BCL is a very physical, very tough competition," he said.
"I think I learned a lot from that, from the physical aspect. And playing in a European competition is a very good experience on a personal level, so I enjoyed it very much and I hope that this year it ends in the best way possible."
Does this mean that Zaragoza, who currently stand at 5-4 in Group D, have a deep run in the competition similar to Tenerife's last year?
"Yes, yes, I think so," Brussino said without hesitation.
"We have the players, the talent and the ability, both as individuals and as a team, to compete at the highest level and reach as far as possible in the competition.
One of the main things about our team is that we don't depend on one or two star players, someone different steps up in each game - Nicolas Brussino
"I think we are in the most difficult group, there are no favorites and every team has chanches of qualifying to the Play-Offs. We need to be extremely well prepared on both defense and offense in each of the remaining five games and I think we will need to get three or maybe even four wins out of them to advance, but every game is going to be a very tough battle.
"They are all very good teams in this group, I really think they all have a chance to advance, so I can't predict which four teams will make it."
Zaragoza's fate in Group D will be determined in the next weeks, but on the domestic front they have already accomplished their first big objective for 2020, punching their ticket to the Spanish Copa del Rey that takes place in February.
The Aragon capital's team secured their spot in the cup showdown by virtue of their amazing start to the Liga Endesa season. They entered 2020 on a 12-3 record in the domestic league, tied with Real Madrid and Barcelona in first place on the table.
So how does this team whose roster doesn't feature superstars manage to make headlines in Spain almost every weekend while at the same time find itself in a solid position to advance from the tightest group in the BCL?
I am a player who likes to do a bit of everything on the floor, to contribute in scoring, passing, rebounding, on defense, I think this is my specialty - Nicolas Brussino
"One of the main things about our team is that we don't depend on one or two star players, someone different steps up in each game and that is really great," Brussino explained.
"The cornerstone of our philosophy is our tough defense and on offense it is about making the most of whoever is having the best day and looking to make the extra pass.
"I think that is the foundation of our style of play."
The Argentinian winger is averaging 8.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.1 steals per game in the BCL. He is certainly a trusted piece in coach Porfirio Fisac's scheme, as one of the five players to average more than 22 minutes of playing time.
"I am adapting well to what coach is asking of me and the confidence my teammates show in me helps my game fit in the style of play," the winger said.
"I am a player who likes to do a bit of everything on the floor, to contribute in scoring, passing, rebounding, on defense, I think this is my specialty.
"The way we understand each other, on and off the court, and the confidence we have in each other is a fundamental reason. this leads to a healthy internal competition during practice and in games and it makes the team grow day by day."
Brussino's game is typical of a no-nonsense player and he always cuts a solemn figure on the court - even during the highs of 2019 both with Tenerife and Argentina - so it comes as little surprise that his wish for 2020 is dipped in realism.
"I always say [my wish] is to continue improving every day, both individually as a player and collectively as a team, and to fulfil the objectives we have set for ourselves," he said.
"It would be very difficult to surpass 2019, but you have to set impossible targets if you are to accomplish big targets. "