Kostas Charalampidis, Panellinios BC
|It's safe to say that Panellinios was not among the favorites to win the Eurocup this year when the season began in October. But now the Greek club is one of four in Vitoria with the dream of Eurocup glory. One of the main reasons for its success has been the play of star sixth man Kostas Charalampidis, who has provided instant offense for Panellinios all season long. Charalampidis, an All-Eurocup Second Team selection this season, has been super productive for Panellinios, ranking fifth in per-minute index ranking (0.6) and second in points (0.6). Charalampidis, along with Panellinios teammates Manolis Papamakarios and Alekos Petroulas, reached the ULEB Cup final with Makedonikos in 2005 and now gets another shot to lift this continental crown. Panellinios has been taking things one game at the time all season so far as it began to realize that this could be a special year, as Charalampidis explained in this Eurocupbasketball.com interview. "As time went by, we started to realize we could do something really good this season," Charalampidis said. "I don't think that making it to the Eurocup Finals is the highest this team can achieve."
Hello, Kostas. Congratulations on making it to the Eurocup Finals. It’s been a long run for Panellinios from the Qualifying Round to Vitoria. How does it feel to be part of something so special, with the chance to win the title?
"It’s been a very long journey. We started the Eurocup season in late October, but I must say I have enjoyed the journey very much. We showed we could do something good from the very beginning. We believed in ourselves and the work we were doing all the way, every day. Like I said, it has been a good journey for us, but it is not finished yet."
When the season began few expected Panellinios to reach the Finals. What would you have thought if someone had told you back in October that Panellinios would still be playing for Eurocup glory?
"If someone had told us about it back then, we would have thought it was incredible. We wanted to take things one step at a time and I am sure nobody believed that we could reached this far in the Eurocup. But again, we have worked really hard to be where we are right now. We never gave up and I think we deserve to be in Vitoria. This is a great success for this club, as it has not won a title for a long, long time and had not been in a final four situation either, in Europe or in the Greek League. So this is a great achievement for the club."
You have a key role in this team as its leading scorer coming off the bench, becoming the best sixth man in the competition. Does it help you to come off the bench to understand the game better? Did you have to adjust to this new role?
"I don't think I needed to adjust to any particular role because I don't believe we have starters or backup players. Everybody has his own role and tries to make the most out of it. Some players may have a good day, others don't, but we try to make that up with teamwork. Sometimes it's me, or Blakney, or Smith... anybody can step up. It is all about team work for us."
You faced your first do-or-die game of the season already in the regular season finale against SLUC Nancy. Looking back, what do you remember about the big game against Nancy?
"Like you said, we had to win that game to advance, so it was a very important one. We knew we needed to win in order to qualify and didn't let that chance slip away. We played in France and managed to beat them. We thought it was not a very difficult goal to achieve to be able to beat Nancy at home."
Perhaps you realized you could make it to the Eurocup Finals when Panellinios was able to beat Benetton twice to be to 3-1 in the Last 16 and clinch a Quarterfinals spot. How important were those wins against Benetton?
"Just as the game against Nancy was crucial at the end of the regular season, being able to beat Benetton in Treviso was very important for us. From that moment, we played some great games and earned the right to be in the Finals. As time went by, we started to realize we could do something really good this season. I don't think that making it to the Eurocup Finals is the highest this team can achieve."
Panellinios took an 11-point lead in the series against Gran Canaria and managed to survive a very tough situation. What allowed you to win the series when Gran Canaria tied it with five minutes left in the second leg?
"We said from the beginning that the game would have ups and downs. We could have a small lead in the series at some point, but also expected Gran Canaria to do well. At some point they had a 17-point lead in that game, but we managed to do what we were supposed to do. I think this team has talent and character to overcome all the difficult parts in every game. Our coach is one of the best ones in Greece and has done a great job until now. We believe in us, the players, and we go to every game trying to be the best we can. It is in our hands to take care of business."
Three Panellinios players - Alekos Petroulas, Manolis Papamakarios and you - took part in the 2005 ULEB Cup final with Makedonikos. What do you remember about that night in Charleroi and how does it feel again to be so close to winning the title?
"You know, there are some similarities with us and the Makedonikos team that made it to the ULEB Cup final five years ago. Back then, it was a big surprise for everybody. Nobody expected Makedonikos to be in the final. We had a great year but didn't make it in the end. I don't think that history owes something to us, but it is a good chance to, in a way, recover from that loss."
Panellinios has not won an official title of any kind since 1957. What would it mean for you and for this club to win the title, have the chance to go to the Euroleague and give your fans something to celebrate for the first time in 53 years?
"I don't even want to think about it! Of course, it would be great, truly great. As I said before, we have gone step by step throughout the entire season. Once we get to Vitoria, the only thing we will have in mind will be the first game against Valencia. We will see what happens, but we will be ready to play."
Wednesday, April 14, 2010