05 October, 2021
15 May, 2022
10 Sasu Salin (TENE)
14/06/2022
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Boiling like Salin, glacial like Sasu

The growth of the Basketball Champions League saw a rise in media coverage in all of Europe. This week, we hand the floor over to Cesare Milanti from Overtime, who will give us his insights on Sasu Salin, from Lenovo Tenerife.

PAVIA (Italy) - It's amazing how two words so far apart semantically can, if translated into the world of basketball, get so close. Outside of the court, something "icy" can never be associated with a "hot" feeling. Watch the first quarter of the Basketball Champions League final between Tenerife and Manresa: Sasu Salin has just questioned your vocabulary.

  • First offensive possession for the Canarias, Dani Perez arrives late while the Finnish is coming off the screen: he gets up and shoots. Three.
  • Take the previous action and do a CTRL+C, CTRL+V from late-timers, with the substantial difference that Bako's close-out turns into a too tempting aisle not to be explored. Runner climbing on the rim. Five.
  • Shermadini brings the experience to another level with one of those perimeter blocks that only the long experts at this level can perform, Thomasson crashes and Salin can only give continuity to his shot. Bang. Eight.
  • Always on the left side of the court, always coming out of the blocks and once again puncturing the defensive cover of Manresa, bewildered by the absence of the Georgian center around there. Fitipaldo's assist puts him in rhythm, the first step is still burning, Moneke stretches his right hand but the trajectory is soft and unreachable. Ten.

Sasu Salin started strong, very strong. When he gets up from the arc or with the tear on the first step that leaves planted the opponent defender is glacial, as the temperatures at home; and if he puts himself in rhythm, just like in this 100% from the field turned into 10 crucial points for the start of the game by Tenerife, he's as hot as the breath of Teide, the real master of the island to which Dante Alighieri would have dedicated some verses of his Commedia. We're talking about Hell, of course, metaphorically comparable to what the number 10 had spent on the parquet of the Bilbao Arena two days before this lightning start.

"I missed some in the semifinal, so I had to make some shots tonight." He said so at the end of the triumph over Manresa, remembering the glacial performance - yes, in that other sense - against Hapoel Holon: 6 points, 2/8 from the field with 1/6 from the long distance. In the closing act of the Final Four of the Basketball Champions League, his boxscore will be much more interesting: 18 points, 7/11 from the field with 4/8 from three-point range.

The conquest of his third trophy with Tenerife (the second international after the Intercontinental Cup 2020) is the icing on the cake of a season that has made him the best three-point shooter in the history of the competition: with 64 triples in the BCL 2021-22 (record for a single season), it was brought to 144 overall. No one like him, and perhaps it would be time to consider him more in the debate around the specialists of this feature at the continental level: "I know I’m a pretty good shooter. This year we've been playing very good as a team, my shooting has been helping it a lot. Both in BCL and ACB (where he shot 45.4% and 40.5% respectively from the arc, ed), I've proven that I'm pretty good at it. I don't mind if people don't consider or put me in the list of their best shooters. I let the numbers speak for themselves: I know what I'm capable of doing and I'm happy if somebody mentions or notices it, but it's a tough world where you have so many good players. Maybe I'm not the flashiest guy with amazing spin moves before the shot: I don't do crazy stuff, I just take my shots and I usually make them. I'm always ready to help and score some baskets."

 

Sasu Salin aka Wannabe Iceman

The Sasu Salin who has recently turned 31 is now a complete player, who likes to be included in the circle of 3&D specialists. The numbers give him reason, because if as for the three-point shots proved over and over again to be an ideal element. In the two decisive games in the Basque Country, he also collected six steals: five in the semi-final vs. Holon (with as many turnovers as Joe Ragland, his guarding opponent) and one in the final vs. Manresa, in addition to a clever defensive play that we will see in detail later.

It is thought that a boy like this, who specialized so specifically in a particular aspect of the game, had an innate passion for basketball from the very beginning. Instead, on the small screen of Salin house in Malmi, during the 90s, were broadcasted more games of Ajax than of the NBA: "When I was little, it wasn't so easy to connect. I wasn't actually following so much basketball when I was very young, I was more a football fan: Jari Litmanen used to be my childhood idol, even more than any basketball player. That's why I picked number 10 when I was younger. Different sports, but I took a little bit of football to basketball."


When a few weeks ago he posted a photo in the company of Stella, his daughter, wearing a basketball jersey of The Mozart, curiosity emerged: "Sometimes you saw some highlights on TV, but I couldn't say that Drazen Petrovic was my idol back then. But of course, starting to become older and watching more when internet was available, for sure I went on watching his style of play. Amazing player." On June 28, 2000, Hanno Möttölä joined the NBA and was the first Finn to play on a strip-and-star parquet, well before Lauri Markkanen landed on US soil. There's someone who keeps a memory (or maybe not?) of that other prophet in their homeland: "When Möttölä was drafted, I remember I went to one of his training camps. He signed me a water bottle. I don't know if my wife threw it away already," he says laughing.

But Hanno wasn't the first countryman to get the current Tenerife player interested in basketball: "When I started following basketball more, my idols were Teemu Rannikko, who used to play also in Italy before, and Petteri Koponen, who played in the same club where I started to play basketball in Finland, Espoon Honka." There is nothing better than emulating their idols, and Sasu knows this well, since with the two above, as well as with Möttölä, he shared the jersey of the National Team of which he is now one of the undisputed leaders: "I was always dreaming about playing for the National team. Even with Petteri, I played with him during one year in Finland, in Honka, before he left for Virtus Bologna. Teemo and Möttölä were bigger stars at that time and I got the opportunity to play with them. Amazing guys, I really had fun with them and I learned so much from their experience."

When he's asked what other Finn's jersey he would have liked to wear in another life, he's not mentioning basketball: "If there was a possibility, I would surely be like Kimi Räikkönen. I mean, the career he had, the coolness he has. The Iceman has been amazing: he never gives a fuck! Amazing character, he has done great things for our country." I can assure you that when the Tenerife celebrations in Bilbao began, the result was different from a classic radio team made in Räikkönen. Considering the choice of Sasu about which character he would be in TV series, the association with Kimi takes on even more value: "I can be Tyrion Lannister, the imp, the little fella. He's doing little dirty stuff, finding his way to succeed."

 

A Finnish in Spain

After a longshot by Jari Litmanen and a speed up by Mika Häkkinen, the greats of American basketball and the country idols a few steps away come in Sasu's thoughts. Among them, Teemu Rannikko, who after five years in Italy moved to Union Olimpija, where he won the championship and the Slovenian Cup, as well as the three-point shooting competition in the Slovenian All-Star Game in 2006.

A Finnish shooter does well there apparently, because it is in the same green and white that Salin plays his first experience outside of his country: "I think for me it was the best that could happen at that moment of my career. Being a 19 year old, still very raw as a player, going to a place like Ljubljana where they like to practice and to develop young players. I had also informations from Teemu Rannikko who used to play there before: he had nothing but good things to say about the city, the team and the organization. At that age, it was the best opportunity for me." On the table, however, there were also other very tempting offers: "When I was considering the first place where I would play abroad, the choice would have been made among three teams: Union Olimpija, Skyliners Frankfurt and Virtus Bologna. But at that time it happened that I went to Ljubljana: happy about that, I can’t say anything bad about that experience."

The native of Helsinki had the opportunity to share the parquet with players of the highest level. In the period of the NBA Lockout 2011, Danny Green joins the Slovenians, and was the protagonist of a 23-point performance against the Polish Prokom Gdynia in EuroLeague. In that year, Salin is still a young man coming off the bench, where he learns a lot from teammates who had or would have had American experiences in curriculum: "Playing with Aron Baynes, Davis Bertans, Danny Green and