Turkish Airlines EuroLeague
Adidas Next Generation Tournament
Kostas Vasiliadis, Uxue Bilbao Basket
Feb 01, 2013
by Javier Gancedo, Eurocupbasketball.com
On Tuesday night, Kostas Vasiliadis authored one of the top highlights in the 2012-13 Eurocup season. With the game on the line and Valencia leading 60-58, Vasiliadis received the ball beyond the three-point line and did not hesitate to down the game-winning shot with just 2.1 seconds left to lift Uxue Bilbao Basket to victory in Group J. It is not the first time that Vasileadis has saved Bilbao this season. The top-class clutch player also nailed a shot off his own missed free throw to force overtime and eventually help Bilbao beat Buducnost. Despite a 0-2 start, back-to-back wins against Valencia Basket – which had lost only once at home in seven Eurocup seasons before the game – have allowed Bilbao to keep full chances of fighting for Eurocup glory. Vasileadis is having a solid season. He leads Bilbao in scoring at 15.4 points per game to go with 3.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.3 steals. Vasileadis knows that Bilbao will only get far by taking little steps, as he told us in this Eurocupbasketball.com interview. "When we were 0-2, a lot of people started to say that Bilbao could not go through and reach the quarterfinals," Vasileadis told Javier Gancedo of Eurocupbasketball.com. "Things have changed, the team is playing better and all I want to say is that we will focus on each individual game. We will prepare the games well and try to win them one by one."
Hello, Kostas. Bilbao started 0-2 in the Last 16 but great back-to-back wins against Valencia Basket put you in a better situation. What was the key to the win in Valencia?
"Well, defense was the key. Like you said, we started 0-2 by losing against Nymburk and VEF Riga, we talked things over inside the team. We knew we had to play better on defense. We have worked very hard to improve our five-on-five defense. I believe we did it; we improved a lot. We managed to take a step forwards, as not only did we beat Valencia twice, but were about to beat FC Barcelona in the Spanish League, too."
You hit the game-winning shot, too. What do you remember about that play?
"Our coach told us to play a system, knowing that they were switching in all direct screens and in pick-and-roll situations. We had the luck that I had an open look. I was given the ball and in such a situation, you cannot really think much. You just get the ball and shoot, as simple as that."
Your clutch performances have saved Bilbao this season. You also forced overtime against Buducnost and made several great shots in the Spanish League. What does it take to be a clutch player?
"First of all, the whole team expects us in step up in clutch time. I just try to get the ball and make things happen for my team. It is not just making shots – good defense or a good pass to a teammate can be equally important. It was me this time around, but for instance, Raul Lopez is also a great clutch player. We all believe in him when it comes to take the game-winning shot, too. If we carry on playing like that, as a team, we won't have much problems in last-shot situations."
Do you think that your 23-point loss against VEF Riga could be the lowest moment for you this season?
"I think so. We played our worst game so far this season. After this game, we managed to work harder on defense and got better. We now have the chance to go to the Czech Republic and beat Nymburk before we host VEF Riga. We know we will qualify if we win both games. We have to focus on the next game and try to do good work at both ends of the floor. If we play well, we will even have a chance to be first, even if that means having to beat VEF by those 23 points."
Your next game is against Nymburk, a team that beat you in Bilbao. What do you think about the team? What do you have to do to beat them?
"Well, first of all, we need good defense. If we do that, we can feel confident on offense and that changes everything. Nymburk is a very good team, but we are a different team when we feel confident. First and foremost, we have to play good defense against them. I believe we are a better team, but we have to prove that on the court."
This is you first Eurocup season in seven years. How do you find the competition now?
"It is a very tough competition, with a lot of good teams. It takes a lot of scouting, because there are a lot of teams and a lot of players you haven't played against. It is fun and a great competition, a bit better every year. A lot of their teams could compete really well in the Euroleague."
There is beginning to be a Greek tradition in your club. Your coach, Fotis Katsikatis, is Greek. So is point guard Nikos Zisis and before him, Dimitrios Mavroeidis played for Bilbao. How do you like being surrounded by so many Greeks?
"Of course! You speak the same language and that way, we can understand our coach's orders even better. I think it is a very good thing for me. I have had the same coach for three years and he has done a very good job in this club. Bilbao has grown a lot with him and I am sure he can do even better with this team."
You played your first Eurocup season in 2004-05 and left to play for Unicaja the following year. How have you developed as a player since those days?
"Well, that was a long time ago! I was a 21-year-old kid when I joined Unicaja. It was the first year outside my country, away from my family. It was all very different for me. I have been away from Greece for a few years now and playing at a good level. I have grown up a lot as a player. I work really hard in practice and during games, doing whatever our coach asks me to do. I still think I can do a lot more to help my team."
This is your third season in Bilbao. How do you like playing for this club and living in such a great city?
"The city of Bilbao is great and our fans are amazing, I have a very special relationship with them. This is a great place to work. People in the club really help me a lot, not just our coaching staff, but everyone in this club. They really have helped me to grow up as a player."
Finally, now that Bilbao is back in the quarterfinals race, how far can you go in this Eurocup season?
"I don't really want to say a lot about it. The only real thing right now is that when we were 0-2, a lot of people started to say that Bilbao could not go through and reach the quarterfinals. Things have changed, the team is playing better and all I want to say is that we will focus on each individual game. We will prepare the games well and try to win them one by one."