04 October, 2022
14 May, 2023
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"We're gonna win because we'll score more points" and other gems on the eve of the Final Four

MALAGA (Spain) - Pre-event Press Conferences always offer unusual insight into the world of the Semi-Finalists. The Thursday edition in Malaga, on the eve of the Basketball Champions League Final Four was no different, offering plenty of soundbites.

How are they feeling?

The coaches sung the praises of their colleagues, while it was obvious that both Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem and Telekom Baskets Bonn don't mind being the underdogs, hoping for a super special secret plan to prevent another Spanish Final.

Unicaja and Lenovo Tenerife, meanwhile, aren't running away from the fact that they are the favorites, the first because of home court advantage, the second because they are the defending champions. But there was a lot of respect in the air when the head coaches and the captains lined up in front of the big spiky trophy for the 2022-23 Basketball Champions League winners.

Why are they confident?

Three of these teams already picked up a piece of silverware this season. Lenovo Tenerife are the FIBA Intercontinental Cup winners, Unicaja won the Copa del Rey, while Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem added the Israeli State Cup to their trophy collection. Telekom Baskets Bonn haven't won a major competition this season, but have secured the top seed in the German Bundesliga after the Regular Season.

All of them are peaking at the right moment of the season.


They said:

"We are not talent-wise where we should be. But we ended up here, so I guess we played some teams with a little more talent that didn't beat us, that says a bit about us." - Hapoel Bank Yavah head coach Aleksandar Dzikic on the growth of his team

"Listen, guys. It's kinda obvious. (Lenovo) Tenerife and Unicaja are EuroLeague teams. Quality-wise, coaching-wise, experience-wise, logistics-wise. Come on. Everybody in this room knows that. I'm a little bit of a loner, I watch a little bit of basketball from time to time, it happened that I watched the Final of the Spanish Cup. And then I watched a final of some other European competition. I'm not a good coach, but I'm in this for 32 years, so I think I can compare a little bit that game from that other competition with the game between those two gentlemen (Txus Vidorreta and Ibon Navarro) in the Finals of the Spanish Cup. I liked their game a little bit better. Okay? Let me tell you something about Tenerife. Everybody knows it. So they are doing there everything right. Txus, you're there five years, am I right? And it's not for no reason. Seven-eight guys have been playing for three or four years for him. Not for no reason. You cannot put it on paper and evaluate that kind of quality. Vision, quality of loyalty, quality of selection, support, commitment from the club to players, players to club. Plus the coaching. So we will have a... Kinda tough job, huh? That's is. I mean, I cannot get into my locker room telling them 'hey, do not fight because they play for the same coach so many years, they have so much experience, they have quality.' What's the weak link of that team? Please, somebody help me? We will go out trying to win, obviously. Are they better? Yes, they are. Are we underdogs? Yes, we are. Okay. Do I believe we belong here? Yes, I do. I'm not sure I gave you the right answer." - Coach Dzikic on the comparison of this Final Four with the Israeli Cup system that they've already conquered this season

"I think the key for us in every game is defense. But especially against (Lenovo) Tenerife. They are the defending champions, better team than us, like coach said, but we've beaten this year better teams than us, and we're gonna try to do it again." - Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem captain Itay Segev

"We're gonna win because we're gonna score more than the other team in every game." - Segev responding to the question who's gonna win the BCL and why

"(Hapoel Atsmon) Holon was a big team, they had a great season, but (Hapoel Bank Yahav) Jerusalem is an even better Hapoel this year. They lost only two games in the last four months, they won the Cup in Israel, the opponent is totally different, the next game will be totally different. But for us, we are here with the same focus and with the same commitment to compete." - Lenovo Tenerife head coach Txus Vidorreta on the similarities of facing another Israeli team in the Semi-Finals, same as last season in Bilbao

"I understand what (Coach Dzikic) means. But they are here because they are a really good team. A team with the focus of the coach, they play very well and this combination between Aleksandar and his players is what we need to take care of, because they know how to play against every opponent. And for sure, they will know how to play against us." - Coach Vidorreta talking about Jerusalem's strong sides

"We have to use our experience in order to be able to prepare the game well, and respect them to the fullest. They had a tremendous season, they are a very good defensive team, with good intimidators close to the rim, aggressive on the ball. For us, we just have to focus on the game plan and be mentally focused from the beginning. Being here quite a few times in different competitions gives us maybe a little bit more experience, but we have to be smart enough to use that on the court (on Friday). Hopefully we can be not only with that, but also with the same level of energy and also be able to to defend a team that's very talented, especially creating with their small players on the outside." - Lenovo Tenerife captain Marcelinho Huertas answering about his team being the most experienced in events like these

"Here in Spain, a lot of clubs take stuff very seriously. Like coach Dzikic was saying, a lot of teams are trying to build something in long and mid terms, keep guys in the same team for a long time. This is very important in order to achieve something. It's not for nothing that Madrid and Barcelona - okay, they have high budgets - but to see those teams get to the Final Four year after year, you see Spanish teams like Gran Canaria, Badalona, even Andorra when they got to the Semi-Finals last year... They are able to keep the core for many years, and bring important pieces to add to that identity. This is what here in Spain a lot of teams value, and those teams are able to reach something important, not only in domestic leagues, but also in European competitions and the national team. You can see this, even with changes of players coming in and out, they are always able to keep the Rudys, players like this who are able to make people stick together and transmit something they've created and earned throughout their careers, not only in the national team, but also in clubs." - Marcelinho explaining the successes of the Spanish clubs, with Tenerife and Unicaja in the Semi-Finals here, Real Madrid and Barcelona in the EuroLeague Semi-Finals, and Gran Canaria winning the EuroCup

"Hopefully, we can win because we are gonna play as hard as other teams, but we're gonna try to play smarter than them, hopefully we can use that as an advantage as well." - Marcelinho responding to a question who's gonna win the BCL and why

"It's going to be a necessity against a team of Malaga's quality, who I personally think is the biggest favorite going into the Final Four with the home court advantage and very strong performance overall this season in several competitions. Obviously, we have also had a very good season so far in all the Leagues that we have played in, and built what I would call a collective confidence that comes through the daily work. It's something that will also hopefully carry us in the Final Four." - Telekom Baskets Bonn head coach Tuomas Iisalo talking about his team needing to be a mentality monster again

"Yes, I think there are similarities in the level of activity and work ethic of the teams. We are also a strong collective like Unicaja, with a roster that's 12-deep, that's unparalleled in this competition, with the quality and the depth and very good coaching. In that regard, I see parallels between the two teams and also that both teams have several different options on offense that they can go to against different type of opponents or different types of defensive choices. But most of all, both teams are defensively extremely solid, and play with a high pace. In Unicaja's case, they are the best transition team in the whole ACB, according to Synergy. Very dangerous opponent in this, because they generate a lot of offense through defense, just like we have done during our best games, so yes, I see some parallels there." - Coach Iisalo on the comparison of Unicaja and Bonn.

"I think that nobody has to do something special (on Friday). We just gotta follow the game plan that coach gives us, we gotta do the things that we did the whole season, play with our identity, play with our heart and put all effort on the court." - Telekom Baskets Bonn captain Karsten Tadda giving advice to his younger teammates for this Final Four.

"We're gonna win because we do what brought us here. Play hard, play with focus, out-compete the other team." - Tadda responding to a question who's gonna win the BCL and why.

"We accept that everybody says we are the favorites because we are at home. Our performances at home with our people, our fans, provided us a lot of energy, that's the main reason everybody expects us that we could win. Bonn are a Cinderella story in terms of budget, because the quality of their basketball is one of the top of this competition." - Unicaja head coach Ibon Navarro not shying away from home court advantage status.

"We are facing a tough game against a team that built a winning culture. It's not by accident that they've lost only five games this season, they never relax on the court, they keep playing and it would be a mistake to consider that we are the favorites just because we're playing at home. Everybody is talking about TJ Shorts, but Bonn is much more than TJ Shorts." - Coach Navarro on Bonn's intensity.

"It's really tough because we are similar teams, we have 12 players that can do everything for the team. We will try to make little tricks on defense, little things and adjustments to try to beat them in these similarities that we have. It will be a battle, a long game, we know that the game will be decided in the last minute." - Unicaja captain Alberto Diaz expecting a close game.

"We are proud for these results because it means our League works well, the teams work well. Playing in these leagues in a high European level means a lot. To get here is really tough, really difficult, we showed that we have enough level to stay here and we deserve to stay here. It's really nice to see the Spanish teams play for everything in each competition. As a Spanish guy, it's really fun to see that." - Diaz talking about the Spanish dominance in continental competitions.

"Because we created a little family in our team. All of us want to win for the others, for the teammate, we can give this to the fans, they suffered a lot in the past few years, we can win for us, and for them." - Alberto Diaz responding to the question who's gonna win the BCL and why.