Wilfried Yeguete, Monaco: 'We've enjoyed the journey'

May 11, 2021 by Wilfried Yeguete, Monaco Print
Wilfried Yeguete, Monaco: 'We've enjoyed the journey'

I don't think we realized yet what we’ve done. It's a great feeling because we came a long way with the team we have, the players, the road we took from the quarterfinals where we lost the first game. We had a chance to win, but Mathias Lessort missed the last shot and I remember telling him, "It's gonna be okay, we're gonna be alright. Don’t get down on yourself. We‘ve gotta stay positive." The way we were able to bounce back after that game with our back against the wall set the tone for the rest of the competition for us.

We are really grateful for the opportunity. It’s not easy to win the championship. It’s not given to everybody to win a championship in their career. The way we did it on the road, against fans, during the pandemic with 10 players – eight pros and two young guys – doesn’t happen a lot. I think what we did was unique because usually, teams in the EuroCup have at least 12-14 guys. We were just dogs. We were able to play with the players we had.

"The way we did it on the road, against fans, during the pandemic with 10 players... doesn’t happen a lot."

And the way we did it. 2-0 against a really good team. I don't think we were favorites against UNICS. Obviously, we had the home-court advantage in the quarterfinals against Gran Canaria. We were the favorite, but lost the first game at home against Buducnost. But we always believed in ourselves and played to our strengths. We really are just dogs and wanted to win.

We just have good players who can make plays. I think about obviously the Finals MVP, Rob Gray. He saved us a couple of times. Marcos Knight had some huge rebounds under stress as well. Last possession, big free throws. I don’t think people realize that J.J. O'Brien also in the last game saved us with the and-one. I think we always stayed poised and we always knew that if we stay in the game, if the game is close, we have a chance to win it. And that was our goal: to stay in each game and make a play in the end. Those are good teams and they can come back even if you are up like 5-6 with 2 minutes to go, they have players who can make plays. We just made more plays than them.

After we won, I ran to the locker room and got my phone. Some guys went live to be able to experience it from the inside, to show what is going on. It was a really emotional moment for some players. Being able to capture that moment live was great, especially as you have a few minutes where you can’t go and actually get the phone before they give you the medal. Damien Inglis thought about that and I just followed him and did the same thing. We were able to get back fast enough to get the medal and celebrate.

I was carrying the trophy for the most part onto the plane for the trip home. We flew at 3:45 in the morning and we took two flights. We flew from Kazan to Moscow and Moscow to Nice, which was great. We didn't have to go back to Paris. I had the trophy by my side the whole time. It was sitting by me in its own little seat with its seatbelt on and all that. It was a great feeling. Winning is an amazing feeling and the way we did it makes it even better.

Our fans were waiting for us when we came home to Monaco. We had a small parade outside the gym and we showed off the trophy and chatted with them for 15 or 20 minutes. We didn't do much else, for now. I think we may organize something later on, but we went right back to preparing for French league games. It's going to be tough to really celebrate, especially the way things are going with the pandemic and stuff. Things aren’t really open here, so it’s tough to organize something. Maybe we’ll just go meet with the prince sometime soon. Other than that, I would love to have more interaction with the fans, but I don’t know if we will even be able to do that. We'll see.

"Winning is an amazing feeling and the way we did it makes it even better."

This is a blessing because it can never be taken away from us no matter what happens after this. We are part of history, part of this club's history. Being able to do it the way we did it, they will talk about us for a long time. You are not guaranteed anything when you play at this level. You are not guaranteed to play in a final. You are not guaranteed winning it. The way we did it was amazing for the team, for the club. Some guys have been here since the fourth division, the fans as well, it's historic and I think they will always remember that moment because of the way we did it and the years of work and dedication by the team, the staff, the president, of putting into the club. It's paying off now.

I’m really excited about Monaco playing in the EuroLeague. I’m not under contract for next season, but I am hoping to be a part of it. I think it's gonna be a great experience to play at the highest level in Europe. It will be a great experience for me and the team to play against big teams. When we watched the EuroLeague Playoffs, we thought about those teams coming to Monaco. That would be great for the fans and for us. We earned a seat at this table. We worked really hard to get access to the EuroLeague and I feel like next year we’ll have a good squad to be able to compete and make some noise. We’ve enjoyed the journey and look forward to being a part of the best league in Europe.