Few players have dominated a 7DAYS EuroCup season the way Alexey Shved did until now. In his second season with Khimki Moscow Region, Shved has been unstoppable all season long, playing with great consistency and scoring at least 15 points in each and every game. Right before the start of the playoffs, Shved is the EuroCup's top scorer at 22.6 points per game. He has shot the ball with great consistency (58.4% 2FG, 41.2% 3FG) and added 3.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.3 steals for a performance index ranking average of 22.2, also the best in the competition. His numbers went up in the Top 16, in which Shved averaged 25.2 points, 4 rebounds and 5.3 assists, hitting 43.5% of his three-point shots. Even when his numbers are overwhelming, his best skills - leadership, poise, determination, talent - are not easily measured. Khimki will need Shved's best version in its quarterfinal playoffs series against Valencia Basket, in which the Spanish powerhouse will have the home court advantage. "A lot of EuroLeague-level teams play now in the EuroCup. It is much harder to win right now, plus there are a lot of good players in the EuroCup," Shved told EuroCupbasketball.com. "Everybody wants to win! Before the start of the season, I saw the teams and the players that were in the EuroCup, so I am not surprised. It is a good basketball level."
Hello, Alexey. Congratulations on reaching the EuroCup playoffs. How has been the season so far for you and Khimki?
"Thank you! You know, the EuroCup is much better this year then before, because the EuroLeague regular season now has 16 teams and some of the teams that were in the EuroLeague last year are now in the EuroCup. We will play the quarterfinals against a good team like Valencia. It is hard to play against them, especially on the road, but in a few days we will go there and see what happens."
You won seven of your last nine games, losing twice against Bayern Munich. Are these two losses a wake-up call for you guys, knowing that the most important games are right in front of you?
"Well, yes, but we had chances until the end in these two games. The second game against Bayern went to overtime, even when we ended up losing by a lot of points. Still, we played well and Bayern is a very good team. They finished first in our group, but now we are ready to play much better than before. We have three games now and have to get two wins, and this is what we want."
You have been playing really well this season, leading the EuroCup in scoring. How comfortable do you feel in this team?
"I fell really good here. We have good teammates and a good coach - we practice a lot. I feel really comfortable here. I hope I can help the team go one step higher and beat Valencia, you know? This is what everybody wants in Khimki, get two more wins and then think about the next round."
Coach Dusko Ivanovic has a reputation for bringing out the best of talented players. Is that the case with you - do you feel you are playing some of the best basketball of your career?
"Like I said before, I like him. He is a good coach and we practice a lot, more than everybody else, I think, and I believe that it will help us win more games and maybe championships. I feel comfortable here, I trust him and I think he trusts me, too. We really want to do this - get as many wins as possible."
Like you said, you will face Valencia Basket in the quarterfinals, a deep, solid team. What do you like about this team?
"As every Spanish team, they play hard, aggressive, with a lot of contact. They play great at home and their fans help them a lot. Valencia plays fast basketball and just beat Barcelona in the Spanish Cup the other day. That shows everyone that this is a very good team that can play at a high level."
Valencia will have the home court advantage in the series and won its last 12 EuroCup games. Does that put extra pressure on them?
"Oh, I don't know. All I know is that Valencia and us want to win and go to the next round. They have a good team with great players, just like us. It is going to be a hard series for everybody."
What do you think about the other series, especially Lokomotiv vs. Zenit, two teams you know very well?
"Like you said, I know the two Russian teams very well and a lot of guys in both teams. It is going to be a hard series, too, just like all others. Everybody wants to go to the next round. Like I said, Bayern won all games in our group, Lokomotiv and Zenit played well... the EuroCup is much better this year! Much better than before."
You scored 15 points or more in each and every EuroCup game this season, playing with great consistency. Do you feel as Khimki's leader?
"You know, I wouldn't say that I am a leader, but I do my job and want to do it really well. All I want is win titles and we can talk about this after the season. I don't want to say anything about it right now. I can say that everybody in the team trusts me, players, coaches, everyone. I just hope I can help the team get good results."
This is your first EuroCup season in seven years. How do you like the competition and how tough has it become?
"Like I said in the first questions, a lot of EuroLeague-level teams play now in the EuroCup. It is much harder to win right now, plus there are a lot of good players in the EuroCup. Everybody wants to win! Before the start of the season, I saw the teams and the players that were in the EuroCup, so I am not surprised. It is a good basketball level."
In which ways does Khimki need to improve in order to win another EuroCup title? Which will be the keys going forward?
"For sure, this is defense and rebounds. We have played well on offense and scored a lot of points but sometimes we don't play good defense and a lot of teams take rebounds. So this is what we need to improve on: defense and rebounds."