Melvin Ejim, UNICS: 'We want more'

Mar 18, 2019 by Print
Melvin Ejim, UNICS: 'We want more'

So, we made it to the semifinals. Obviously, we have a good team and we've proven that we can compete at the highest level in the EuroCup. It was definitely one of our goals to reach this far, but we know we still have a lot of work to do. We also knew it was going to be very tough to beat a good team like Lokomotiv Kuban in the quarterfinals. We knew it was going to be a grind even when we won Game 1 by 20 points. Lokomotiv plays very tough defense, but in Game 1, we were really efficient offensively and did a great job defensively. In the last two games of the series, we were not quite as efficient, but I think it showed the character that we have as a team. We are able to play different kinds of basketball. We can score the ball and play defense, and if a game gets ugly, we can still get a win. I think we showed more of our character in those last two games than probably in any other game that we played all season.

Speaking of character, Kostas Kaimakoglou played great in Game 3 and gave us the push we needed to advance. One great thing about our team is that we are very versatile. We have a lot of weapons, and if some guys are not playing well, other people are able and willing to step up and get the job done. Kostas had a great performance, but in any game, someone can come up and be big for us. We had a lot of foul trouble in Game 2, but we have a lot of depth and a lot of versatility. Even in a game in which almost all of our big men had foul trouble, and the situation was not good for us, we were able to battle it out, stepping up and performing really well.

"We just have to go out there and play each game like it is our last."

Before I talk about Valencia, I would like to wish Dylan Ennis good luck in the other semifinal. We are really good friends and go back to elementary school. We have known each other for a long, long time. It is great to see him doing so well with Andorra. His team is doing well and I am happy because of our relationship and how far back we go. We even played on the same team in elementary school, when we were really young. I hope he can continue to be successful. We went out to eat when we played against them in Andorra this season, and even last year, when he was in Belgrade, we kept talking. I started to play in Europe before he did, so I was honest with him and told him about some of the experiences that I had, the things he can look for. He has been able to come here and perform, and do well, so I didn't have to guide him too much. It would be great to play against him in the EuroCup Finals, but both of our teams have a lot of work to do to make it happen.

Valencia has the home-court advantage in our series, but for us, we just have to go out there and play each game like it is our last. I feel that this is where we are right now. We know that every game is important and do-or-die, whether it is home or away. So we know that they have the home-court advantage but honestly, each game that we are going into is a must-win one. We have to approach each game as one game at a time. It is good for them to play Game 1 at home but our mentality will be the same regardless of where we are at. We have a lot of guys who understand what it takes to win this competition before, but also a lot of young guys and new guys hungry to experience that for the first time. We have a great mix here and I think we have a good atmosphere, in terms of our focus and determination to reach the goal that we want to reach.

One good thing about us is that we have a full roster now. We battled with some adversity as a team because we had to deal with so many injuries. It is important that in these final games, we have pretty much everyone healthy and that is always good. For me, personally, I didn't play in the first round because I was hurt and I have been able to do some things since that. I started playing my game. Like I said, we have so many different weapons that it can be my night one game, and if it is not, someone else will be stepping up. We are just always here sacrificing and making sure that we are making the right plays to win. This is all we want to do, and I think that so far, this season has been good for me.

"We are going to be locked in and ready to make the most out of the opportunity."

We know that Valencia is a really tough, really smart, well-coached team. They understand the game and play well. They have a good nucleus that has been together for a while, but we have to focus on what we do best. That's defending the ball, going out and making plays. Hopefully, we will do that and good results will come. We have to play strong and physical, be aggressive at both ends. That could play in our favor, but ultimately, it is going to come down to who wants it more -- who is willing to sacrifice, who is going to make plays down the stretch to win the game. We are going to be locked in and ready to make the most out of the opportunity in front of us.

Personally, I have never been so close to the EuroCup title. It is extremely exciting. For every team that is here, four wins will let you lift the trophy. Four wins, whether it is out of six games or less. To be this close is very exciting and nerve-wracking because, obviously, you want to do well. Once the lights come on and the ball goes up, it is about who is going to fight. We have a good group of guys and I think we will fight to the death for each other. We are excited just to be here, to be in this position, but we want more and I hope we can take another step forwards.