Loukas Mavrokefalides, Spartak St. Petersburg

Apr 09, 2012 by Javier Gancedo, Eurocupbasketball.com Print
Loukas Mavrokefalides, Spartak St. Petersburg
Loukas Mavrokefalides - Spartak St. Petersburg (photo Spartak SPB)_36757Spartak St. Petersburg reached the Eurocup Finals with the best record in the competition just one loss in 14 showdowns on the way to Khimki, Russia. One of its main pillars has been big man Loukas Mavrokefalides, who since arriving to Spartak last summer has played a critical role in the team's success. Mavrokefalides has opened the floor with his shooting and provided mobility and experience to the mix. His skills have translated into 12.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and a 12.2 performance index rating per game. Mavrokefalides has the chance to become the first Greek to win the Eurocup title since 2006, when Lazaros Papadopoulos and Antonis Fotsis led Dynamo Moscow to lift the trophy. Mavrokefalides believes his team can down BC Khimki Moscow Region in the semifinals, as he told us in this Eurocupbasketball.com interview. "I believe we can win this game, of course, because anything can happen in 40 minutes. I am sure we will be ready for the challenge; we will work hard to prepare the game," Mavrokefalides told Eurocupbasketball.com. "We know them very well and even though we lost against them in the Russian League, it was by a small difference. I think we have a good chance to beat them this time."

Hello Loukas. How has the Eurocup season been for Spartak until now?

"It has been good. We haven't reached our goals yet but are on the right way to do it. We want to get to the Russian League semifinals and have already made it to the Eurocup Finals. The Eurocup is a very important competition for us. It has been a good season not only for me, but also for my team. The most important games are about to come, however, but I believe we are ready for them."

Spartak plays against BC Khimki Moscow Region in the semifinal, a team you know very well. What do you see as the keys to this game?

"Khimki is a very good team that has fought CSKA for the Russian League title over the last few years. They have a big budget and very good players. I believe we can win this game, of course, because anything can happen in 40 minutes. I am sure we will be ready for the challenge; we will work hard to prepare the game. We know them very well and even though we lost against them in the Russian League, it was by a small difference. I think we have a good chance to beat them this time."

Loukas Mavrokefalides - Spartak SPB (photo Spartak St. Petersburg)_37288Did you expect to make it to the Eurocup Finals and lose just one game so far in this Eurocup season?

"It's a good question. I don't think anyone expected us to lose just one game. From the beginning of the season, our goal was to reach the Eurocup Finals and we managed to achieve it. I knew we would do well; we are a good team with good coaching staff. We have worked very hard. I really expected the team to go to the Finals."

Spartak is the best defensive team in the 2011-12 Eurocup. What makes you be such a great defensive team?

"Well, it is our coach's fault! We have a good defensive team because that is his basketball philosophy. He wants us to play hard and to use defense to win games. His philosophy is that you can only win titles and championships if you play good defense. And our success until now is based on our defense."

Do you think that not having a superstar, but a lot of good players in important roles, makes you a stronger team?

"Absolutely, and you have to give credit to our managers for that. Spartak, as a team, is the most important thing. The more we play as a team, the better chances we will have to succeed in the future. Team spirit is the most important thing if you want to be successful. When you see it in the Euroleague, in every good competition, it is team spirit that leads to championships, not individuals. If your team has character and everyone plays together, then you are on the right path."

Your potential matchups against Khimki are Kreso Loncar and Alexey Zhukanenko. How tough is it to play against them?

"Loncar is a very good player who is always with his national team. He has improved a lot, is a fighter and plays for the team. He helps his team a lot and is very talented. It is not only Loncar and Zhukanenko, they have a good frontline with Nielsen and Monya. They have a lot of talented, versatile and experienced players."

This is your first season in Spartak. How do you find the club and the city of St. Petersburg?

"It is nice to play for Spartak. I arrived here from a big club, Olympiacos. It is different even though both teams are high-level ones. Olympiacos has bigger goals, of course, like going to the Euroleague Final Four, and Spartak is playing the Eurocup. I like playing for Spartak; the team is great, there are very good guys and it is easy to play and practice with all of them. The city is great, very beautiful and has all anyone could need. There is no big difference between Athens and St. Petersburg expect, of course, the weather. But I really can't complain, like I just said, I like living in St. Petersburg and playing for Spartak."

Loukas Mavrokefalides - Spartak SPBLet's talk about the other semifinal. One of your former teams, Valencia Basket, faces Lietuvos Rytas. What's your take on that game?

"We played against Lietuvos Rytas this season and they are a very good team, really strong. I have also watched Valencia on TV, so I don't really know what to say. It doesn't matter which is the opponent or who you are, it is only one game and many things can happen in 40 minutes. Defense is really important in such games, as well as coaches, personality and character. Like our game, I believe that semifinal is also 50-50."

Jure Zdovc was chosen as the Eurocup Coach of the Year. Did he celebrate with his team in any way?

"Well, not really. Our coach is a really low-profile one, he doesn't celebrate these kind of things. I am sure he will celebrate a lot if we win the Eurocup. This is the most important thing not only for him, but for all of us. I believe the team character is also that - not celebrating beforehand. It is a success to go to the Eurocup Finals, but once you get there, you want to do something big."

No Greek players have won the competition since 2006. What would it mean for you, personally, to win the Eurocup?

"It would be a great feeling for me, the team and the city of St. Petersburg. I am trying to take care of a small injury and be ready to play in the Eurocup Finals and help the team as much as I can!"