That his team has all but owned Group B since the Euroleague started - unexpectedly for some - is no accident at all The first head coach Fan Mail guest of the season, Aleksandar Trifunovic of Lietuvos Rytas, had planned to have his team on-form as early as possible to be ready if opportunities arose. L. Rytas has seized almost all of them, going 4-1 so far, and now Trifunovic is trying to solidify those gains. He knows that the regular season is just a third over, and he won't let his team relax or get too impressed by itself now. "There is no other strategy than hard work," Trifunovic responded to one Fan Mail question. "In the selection of the team, we take a lot of care about personality and the individual ambitions of each player, and we try to mix those into a good team. All of the players - and me as their coach, also - knew that this year was a good chance to establish ourselves on the top European level."
Hi, Coach. Congratulations with this year's good start in the Euroleague!!! The question is the following: What strategy does a coach need to apply when he trains a team with many rookies to play in the Euroleague for the first or second time only? Respect,
Arnoldas Matijosius - Vilnius, Lithuania
"There is no other strategy than hard work. In the selection of the team, we take a lot of care about personality and the individual ambitions of each player, and we try to mix those into a good team. All of the players - and me as their coach, also - knew that this year was a good chance to establish ourselves on the top European level. And still, the only real strategy is hard work."
Coach, in your mind, what has been the key factor to your team being maybe the surprise leaders of your group so far?
Meir - Israel
"We at Lietuvos Rytas knew that some other teams would have late starts in preseason and not begin the Euroleague season with full rosters, so we have all along been emphasizing the importance of starting strong at the beginning of the season. On the other hand, we respect all our opponents, whether they are in the Baltic League, Lithuanian League or the Euroleague, but we respect no one more than ourselves. That's something I am trying to teach them, to respect themselves most."
A short, but hard question: which position player you would want to add to the team?
Shilas - Lithuania
"Well, the truth is that we are pretty much short of a player of the same type as Roberts Stelmahers. We tried to recover a little of what he does with Darrel Mitchell. But even though he's a great player, with the games coming so fast, we've had a hard time fitting him into the same role. Even with a player as good as Darrel, it can be difficult to help him get that experience. So we are still looking for that fit. What I want is the guy we have, Stelmahers himself, but that can't be right now."
Dear Mr. Trifunovic, I believe congratulations are in order. The 4-0 start was great, but how do you keep your players from getting overconfident. What's your secret to keep the bandwagon going in the right direction? Keep up the good work. Regards,
Mitja Krizan - Ljubljana, Slovenia
"I don't think we're going to have a problem with our players getting overconfident. Maybe the problem in that regard will be with the fans and other people around putting too high expectations on the players after our good start. It's maybe too exaggerated already. The problem we are facing now is to make the players aware that they are the ones who made the good start possible and they are the ones who can handle it now, and keep it going in the right direction."
Coach, what do you think about your Bosnian player Kenan Bajramovic? Is he playing at the level which you expect to play? Congratulations on the good start!
Kenan - Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina
"Kenan is a great player who knows a lot of basketball. He has shown this year in some games his huge potential, which is exactly why he was brought here to Lietuvos Rytas. Right now, he's been slowed down with some injury, but once he's over that he needs to be thinking of raising his level of hunger and level of desire to repeat his best effort every single day at practice and in every single game. Probably his biggest problem is that since start basketball, he hasn't had to prove himself like he does now, every day in practice just like in every game. There are yesterdays in basketball - that's for the newspapers and Internet - but for players there is only today and tomorrow."
Hi Aleksandar. I have a question: why doesn't Andrius Slezas play so much in the Euroleague games?
Jurgita - Lithuania
Let me say first that Slezas is the type of player and person that I always would want to have on my team. He's the type of person who is like gold for a team. However, because he was moved a couple years ago from the three position to the four position, he has some difficult matchups, especially in the Euroleague. He is often looking at much taller and stronger guys, and it's hard to match him up that way. It's the only reason he has been playing less in the Euroleague, but since we play in there leagues, there is time for everybody."
Hi Aleksandar! I am 13 years old , and I really love basketball. Do you think Lietuvos Rytas has the chance to win the Euroleague this year? And do you think the Partizan has chances
to reach the quarterfinals? Pozdrav!
Marko - Montenegro
"We're not thinking so far ahead to the Final Four. We go day by day, and our first goal is the Top 16. Of course, you must think big to maximize your potential sometimes, but not yet. As for Partizan, I think they do have enough to be in the quarterfinals. Partizan has been in the Euroleague at least five consecutive years, and that kind of experience is priceless. You can't take that away from them, and I think it helps them keep getting better every year."
Hi, Coach Trifunovic. We all know that Lithuania is a basketball-crazy country, so what excites you most about coaching Lietuvos Rytas?
Klemen Kodrca - Ljubljana, Slovenia
"I think I can answer that by saying that every time I step on the court at Siemens Arena, I am hungry to play. We were playing for a month-and-a-half before the Euroleague started, and the night that Maccabi came for our first home game gave me even more motivation. I think that explains what excites me most coaching Lietuovos Rytas."
Dear coach. In the context of the globalization process, please express some your views on main trends covering style, values, player skills, tactics in nowadays European basketball. Best regards,
Bronislovas - Lithuania
"I think that right now, what's most interesting to me is that the division between small and big players is slowly disappearing from basketball. It's all about athleticism and all-around players who cover a lot of positions and run the game better and easier. Also, the changes in the rules and opening to the NBA is bringing some ideas from there to Europe, where there is more tension in every game, unlike the NBA. In general, this movement of people back and forth has cleared all the borders and barriers there were before. The other thing is that the rhythm of games now is so quick that there is not so much practice as before. That's why we focus in preseason on doing as much as possible, because doing it during the season is difficult. There 75 elite teams or so between the Euroleague and ULEB Cup playing at a great rhythm, two games a week for at least two or three months each. The Lithuanian teams are playing three a week. Before the Euroleague started, we had 13 games in 28 days. When I was a player, and not too long ago, we played 30-something games the whole season. With only one-third of this season gone, we are almost on that number already."