Unics Kazan advanced to the Eurocup Last 32 by downing Buducnost VOLI Podgorica 91-77 last week. That was the minimum goal for the former champion, which wants to go all the way again this season. One of its new players is playmaker Quino Colom, who after many years in Spanish basketball has adjusted very well to playing twice a week in a very different country. It took Colom nine games into his Eurocup career to record a triple-double of 15 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists against Buducnost. Colom leads the Eurocup in total assists (71, 7.9 apg.) and is averaging 11.7 points and 5.2 rebounds for a performance index ranking of 21 per game, which places him fifth overall in the competition alongside teammate Keith Langford. Colom is the only Andorran in the competition and is happy to represent his small country in European competitions, as he told Javier Gancedo of Eurocupbasketball.com in this interview. "For a small country like Andorra, having an elite player and also my brother, who plays in the Spanish second division, is a good thing," Colom said. "I hope basketball stays popular and that more Andorrans can make it to the Spanish League or play European competitions."
Hello, Quino. Congratulations on a great season and for qualifying to the Last 32. I know Unics aims for much more, but how important is to reach the first goal of the season?
"Well, like you said, Unics is an ambitious club with very high goals. We will try to win the two competitions we are into, the VTB League and the Eurocup. Making it past the regular season is just a first step for us. We have to be ambitious in the future, knowing that we just took the first step by surviving a regular season group, which was more difficult than we initially expected."
You achieved a triple-double last week, the seventh in Eurocup history. Did that make your win - and the ticket to the next round - even sweeter?
"It is not easy to make a triple-double, especially for point guards because of the 10 rebounds. We were under special circumstances, our other point guard couldn't play and I had to play for 40 minutes. The most important thing is that we won and made it to the next round."
Looking at your numbers, it looks like you could do it again. What does a player need, in general, to have triple-double chances in Europe?
"It is very difficult, and you can tell because it doesn't happen very often. It is true that I got close in some games and had talked about it with some friends, even with my brother. They joked about me being able to do it. It is difficult for a point guard to get 10 or more rebounds and when it comes to assists, you need your teammates to go a good job and score. Points are the easiest thing, but sometimes defenses focus on you and it is hard. I will see if I can ever repeat it, but am not obsessed with it. I always try to give my best to help my team."
You said it, due to the circumstances, you had to play all 40 minutes against Buducnost. The truth is you are seeing a lot of playing time with an important role. Did you expect that, especially on a strong team like Unics?
"Well, I arrived to a new team in a new country, and I didn't know what I would exactly find, but the idea coming in was that I would play a lot and would have a lot of responsibilities in the team - and that is what is happening. The team is working well and I am playing well; there are things I need to improve, but so far, so good. I am happy about the start of the season, but must keep working to help the team win a title, which is why I came here."
This is your first Eurocup season and you hadn't played twice a week for many years. Has it been difficult for you to play more games, especially in such a tough competition as the Eurocup?
"It is true that I played the EuroChallenge for one season, but the playing level is very different. All Eurocup teams are quite good and every game is complicated. It is something I was really looking forward to trying - and it is going very well for me. You practice a little bit less because otherwise you cannot stand the rhythm, but I adjusted well to playing twice a week. It is something I expect to keep doing for many years. Travelling around is the toughest part, but your body gets used to it and we try to travel way in advance to get some rest. It is tough to travel from Kazan, but we must get used to it and live with it."
For a pass-first point guard like yourself, how is it to play in such a talented team like Unics?
"It makes things easier. I already played for Bilbao around high-level players and it is the same thing here. Players like that generate space and know how to play with and without the ball. It is easier for a point guard - for instance, when it comes to assists. They know where to look for the ball and hit shots with better percentages. We adjusted very well as a team and understand each other well, so I am happy about it."
You are the only Andorran in first-level European basketball. How popular is basketball in your country?
"They follow basketball in general, especially now that Basquet Club Andorra is in the Spanish League. People follow the team a lot and I am happy the club made it to the Spanish elite - I hope it stays there for a long time! For a small country like Andorra, having an elite player and also my brother, who plays in the Spanish second division, is a good thing. I hope basketball stays popular and that more Andorrans can make it to the Spanish League or play European competitions."
Coming from Andorra, has it been more difficult for you to make it?
"You cannot really say. It is true that when I was younger, playing for the Spanish or Catalonian teams was more difficult than if I played in Barcelona. In the end, that makes you stronger, more mature and I always get a positive outcome of everything I do. Things were not that easy for me, but my time has come and I have to make the most out of it. I cannot relax now."
You seem to have fully adapted to Russia and Kazan. How did you do it so quickly?
"I also thought it would be harder for me to adjust, but my teammates and coaching staff made me feel integrated from Day 1. I have felt comfortable since I arrived in Kazan. Playing with guys I had played before like Marko Banic and Latavious Williams also helps a bit. I feel really good with the team and I believe Kazan is a good city to live in. That is also good for your everyday life."
Unics is in the Last 32 - and I am guessing that the next goal is to reach as far as possible and, if possible, win the title, right?
"Yes, that is the goal, even before I came here. We want to win the Eurocup, this is an ambitious club and that is why I came here. We have to try to do it even though this is just the beginning of the season. We are working in the right direction and have to challenge for the title."