Exclusive interview with coach Ilias Zouros (agency: Alti Sport) who talks on Anadolu Efes, Valencia, Zalgiris, Greek National Team and Euroleague
Coach Ilias Zouros you arrived in Istanbul a bit more than a week ago. What kind of team did you find? Anadolu Efes was supposed to reach the Euroleague Final Four which will take place in Istanbul, furthermore Efes didn't win the Turkish Cup. There was lack of confidence in the players, in the roster and the organization? Yes, it is normal when you don't reach something that you expect to reach, as for example Final Four or the Final in the national Cup. The moral of the players was not so good. First thing I did, and every coach has to do, it was to enocourage and help the players psicologically to be better for the rest of the season.
For Anadolu Efes, what is the goal of the season? First of all, now our goal is to come back and be strong for the last part of the season and during the playoffs.
Is Anadolu Efes on the market looking for a new player who can help the team till the season ends? First of all I want to check all the players I have in the roster. You can't judge the players in such a short period. So I need a little bit more to understand what is going on with the team at the moment, how the players can do their job. The team has one more opportunity to sign a new player. But as a coach, I don't like to take decisions until I am 100% sure that I have to do something to improve the roster. I don't want to make a mistake deciding to sign a new player without the perfect knowledge of what I have now in the roster. It is important to make the right decision without any rush because we are getting closer to the crucial part of the season. For the moment I am very satisfied with the player I have. But during any game and practice I check deeply the situation.
On what ground did you accept a three-month job with Anadolu Efes? It was reported that you signed without any option for the next season. Is that true? Yes, it is true. But together with Anadolu Efes management we agreed that right after the end of the season we will discuss again about future. I made the right decision for me. I am in one of the best clubs in Europe, as team, organization, results and history of the club. It is a big honor for me to work with such an important club. Of course, it is much better to get a job like this and with good results you have the chance to extend the contract for other seasons being ready to make even better things.
Early in the season, you were at the helm of Zalgiris Kaunas. What did not work properly with the team and management? I have excellent memories of my period in Kaunas because we won titles. I love the city and I have loved my basketball experience there. I cannot explain why I was out of the team without a normal reason. It was impossible to work because we started with a lot of games in a row, plus I didn't have any foreign players. Even for the first game, they arrived just the game before our debut. So it was impossible to find a good chemistry and to have the good results they were expecting in such a short period, considering that many players were with their National Teams. When you have enough time to work, everything can come.
In Zalgiris Kaunas you have coached Ty Lawson and Sonny Weems. Lawson is now back to the Nuggets and is having a huge season but in Kaunas he had big problems in adapting to European basketball. While it was clear since the beginning that Sonny Weems could be a crack for Europe. In your opionion, why Ty Lawson had so many problems? Was he just thinking to go back to the NBA at the end of the lockout? Sonny Weems signed for the season, he knew since the beginning that he was staying in Europe without going back to the NBA. He was focused to do his best, to improve his game. Ty Lawson, on the other hand, has a big talent. But it is normal, when a player has a contract in the NBA, he is interested just in being in shape. For Lawson it was difficult to adapt to European basketball because the style and rules are different. He needed more time to understand how European basketball is. Especially in offense because, as we know, in NBA Lawson has a lot of space to drive to basketball. Driving to the basket facing European defense is more difficult.
Before signing with Anadolu Efes, how close you were to Valencia? Did you get any other offer? There were some proposals to my agent Obrad Fimic. But we wanted to find the best solution for me and not just to sign somewhere to get a job without expecting something from this job. It is true that I was very close to Valencia. It is a very good club and organization who had great results over the last seasons. We were very close but something happened at the end. It is good that I got the job here in Efes. I am happy that my career is continuing in one of the best teams in Europe.
In the summer you won't have time to rest because with Greek National Team you have the last chance to qualify for London 2012. Do you expect to have the best players for the Qualifying Tournament? Last summer, in Eurobasket, Greece reached a great result without having all its best players. I hope so. Any coach, every time hopes to have all the best players available for the National Team. For sure Dimitris Diamantidis won't be with us, because he retired from the NT. But I think that most of the players will be ready to play. A problem this year is that a lot of national championships end very late and the Pre-Olympic Tournament starts very early. There are leagues, as the Italian one, that finish late. We don't have enough time to prepare our team. So we will not make many changes, because we believe that it is better to go with a big part of the players we had last season. They know better each other and they know my philosophy about the games. We need to have good results in a short period.
Talking about the Greek players in Italy. A question about Ioanis Bourousis (Olimpia Milano). In Olympiacos he was one the most dominant centers in Europe while this season he is struggling and having problems to be decisive as expected. While Antonis Fotsis is playing at his standard levels. Why? I believe that every team, every player and every coach are different. You can do a good job in one team and maybe in the next one you are not so succesfull. Antonis Fotsis has played many years outside Greece and he had an easier job to do. For Bourousis this is his first season outside Greece. And sometimes players need more time to understand the differences between the leagues. Ioannis is a huge talented player and I hope he will be able to show his talent soon, even in Milano.
In your opionion, who is going to win the Euroleague? I think that CSKA Moscow and Regal Barcelona are the two favorites to win the Euroleague. CSKA has a huge talent with players that have played together for a long time. Regal Barcelona is a good team as well. Last season they could reach the Final Four in Barcelona and for sure, they want to qualify this year for the Finals. Panathinaikos vs Maccabi Tel Aviv and Siena vs Olympiacos, they have to fight till the end to get a spot for Istanbul. Panathinaikos has the court advantage but Maccabi Tel Aviv has an experienced roster with quality. Olympiacos and Siena fought a lot last season, it will be tough to make a prediction.
Who is the player that impressed you the most in Euroleague? Even a young one? For me Shved is one of the best players this season. He started playing well from Eurobasket with Russian National Team. He exploded this season with CSKA Moscow. A lot of players coming from the NBA are playing nice basketball, for example Andrei Kirilenko.
Last question is about the agency that represents you, Alti Sport, with Obrad and Aleksandar Fimic. How important are they for you in getting such important contracts with European Top Teams? I am very happy to be working with Obrad and Aleksandar Fimic. They both helped me a lot. Not just in getting me a job but also taking care of their clans. We talk a lot about the job and they show you everytime that they are close to you, thinking and working for you. I am really happy to work with them.
Kepez Belediye Antalya (TB2L) landed 18-year old small forward Oguzhan Yarol (195-98). Despite young age Yarol had impressive career. He received Eurobasket.com All-European Championships U16 2nd Team award in 2014.He represented Turkey at the European Championships U16 in Latvia two years ago. Yarol's team got to the Semifinals and his stats at that event were 9 games: Score-5(15.9ppg), 5.6rpg, 2.3apg, FGP: 50.7%, 3PT: 41.3%, FT: 66.7%. By Eurobasket Data Center Check also Complete Tra... [read more]
Kepez Belediye Antalya (TB2L) landed 18-year old small forward Oguzhan Yarol (195-98). Despite young age Yarol had impressive career. He received Eurobasket.com All-European Championships U16 2nd Team award in 2014. He represented Turkey at the European Championships U16 in Latvia two years ago. Yarol's team got to the Semifinals and his stats at that event were 9 games: Score-5 (15.9ppg), 5.6rpg, 2.3apg, FGP: 50.7%, 3PT: 41.3%, FT: 66.7%.
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Yesilgiresun Belediye (BSL) landed 27-year old Romanian international point guard Malcolm Armstead (187-87kg-89, college: Wichita State, agency: BeoBasket) from Istanbul Buyuksehir Belediyesi. He managed to play in four leagues in three countries last year (!!!). In 14 BSL games in Turkey he averaged 10.0ppg, 2.3rpg, 3.9apg and 1.5spg. Armstead also played that season for AEK Athens in A1 where in three games he had 7.0ppg, 1.7apg and 1.0spg. The other team he played shortly was Avtodor in Russian league. In four Eurocup games he recorded 13.0ppg, 3.0rpg, 4.5apg and 1.5spg. Armstead also played 7 games in VTB United League where he got 13.7ppg, 2.7rpg, 5.4apg and 1.6spg. He won Panhandle Conference championship title in 2009. He has a double citizenship as he also holds American passport. Armstead was called to Romanian Senior National Team this year. He has played also professionally in Slovenia (Krka). Armstead attended Wichita State until 2013 and it will be his fourth season in pro basketball.
Yesilgiresun Belediye (BSL) landed 24-year old American forward Anthony Gill (203-105kg-92, college: Virginia). He was about to sign at MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg in German BBL league. Gill just graduated from University of Virginia and it is his first season in pro basketball. He played in the final of ACC Tournament. Gill received All-ACC 3rd Team award in 2015 and 2016 at his college time. Yesilgiresun Belediye roster for 2016-2017: Guards: Okben Ulubay Ricky Ledo Forward: Anthony Gill... [read more]
Yesilgiresun Belediye (BSL) landed 24-year old American forward Anthony Gill (203-105kg-92, college: Virginia). He was about to sign at MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg in German BBL league. Gill just graduated from University of Virginia and it is his first season in pro basketball. He played in the final of ACC Tournament. Gill received All-ACC 3rd Team award in 2015 and 2016 at his college time.
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