One of the most unique forces to be found on any basketball court, Maccabi Electra center Sofoklis Schortsanitis is also one of the most thoughtful respondents when it comes to explaining his motivations and aspirations as a Turkish Airlines Euroleague superstar. As he tries to follow up on his All-Euroleague performance and a march to the continental title game with Maccabi last season, Schortsanitis returns this week to play his former club, Bennet Cantu of Italy, in a battle over second place in their Top 16 group. Before that big showdown on Thursday, he took time to answer the Fan Mail that poured in for him last week, and in so doing to praise the supporters he has found in Tel Aviv. "The fans are great to me, very welcoming to me, showing me their love every time I see them on the street or on the court," Schortsanitis said. "So I never feel pressure, and because of that, I want to try to do my best for them."
Hello, Sofo, from Holland. Can you briefly describe what change you went through after leaving Olympiacos and joining Maccabi Electra? How big is David Blatts influence on your game and life? I wish you all the best and hope Maccabi can return to the final and this time return home as European champs.
Shay Ilsar - Holland
"Basically, it was a perfect move for me at the time. I was trying to mature as a player and a person, Coach Blatt wanted me here, and I wanted him as a coach. From the first time I met him, he expressed a desire to coach me and to bring my abilities into the light more. Also, the whole coaching staff here, from the first day, it has been great working together with them. All that helped in developing me personally, inside and outside the court. It was a big thing to be able to start from scratch. I wont say at Olympiacos that I had trouble. But I had a reputation, so it was difficult to start from scratch. Maccabi gave me that opportunity to start from scratch and try to build a new order for myself as a player and a person
Sofo as a former Olympiacos player, do you believe this historic team can make a comeback to the Euroleague playoffs? All the best,
George - Athens, Greece
"Olympiacos is a team with a lot of history. I know most of the players there and I know that they will fight until the end. I believe, from being part of Olympiacos myself, that the crowd will support them to the end, too. For me, when I was there, the fans gave me an extra boost every time. I believe thats all they need. Things havent gone their way, especially in the last game, but they gave their all and tried their best. I believe that with hard work and patience, something good can happen for Olympiacos in these next four games."
Sofo, we are very pleased to see you in Israel. What do you love most in Israel, and do you want to stay here for years to come?
"If I can, of course Id like to stay here. My family and I, my wife, we love it here. It would be a great place to raise my son, who will be born in a couple of week. That would be great because we both love it here and I love playing for Maccabi fans. Everybody on the team and in the organization is great. They show me great love and support. If I can, Id like to stay at least a couple years, as much as I can. Like everything, itll be all about what you can produce and what you can do. I hope I can help the team and theyll want me to stay more.”
Sofo, i am a huge fan! I was hoping that we might see you again wearing the Greek national team shirt for the Olympics. Is that a possibility? All the best for the future!
George ~ Cyprus
"Of course, its a possibility. The only reason I didn't play at the last European championships was because my wife at the time had just found out she was pregnant. Unfortunately, we came back from her examination and found out there were some complications and I had to stay by her side. I found out before national team training camp, and I was serious about going there. For a couple days, it was really tough for me to decide what to do, but I finally decided to step away from the national team. But always, even if I didn't have a great season with Olympiacos, the national team helped me a lot. I always came back strong with them. The coaches and the people in charge there all helped me. So if they want me, I'll be there, god willing. If nothing else happens to me, hopefully I'll be able to give my services again to the national team. We'll see when the time comes. I know there were some bitter feelings about me pulling out at the last minute, but I hope that doesn't put a barrier on my relationship with the national team and they call me back."
Hi Sofo, I'm one of the Nokia arena fans. What are your aims for this year? Personally, and with your team? Thanks for all you give to our club.
Elie Dray - Israel
"Elie, I am just trying to do the best that I can. Last year, I had a good season. And now, I am just trying to live up to the expectations of the people and my team. I've got some good friends here helping me, and I'm doing the best I can. The team, like last year, is taking every challenge one at a time. Our first goal was the To 16, now it's the playoffs. We've got a game now in Cantu, and hopefully we come back from there to Nokia Arena in good shape and continuing to be strong in the Top 16. We need to take every game one at a time and every competition one at a time. The goal now is to be one of top eight teams. Eventually, every player wants to go to the Euroleague Final Four and get titles. But it's best now to keep control of our emotions and our desires; that way we'll be able to achieve more. More, compared to last year, would be winning the final. But for now, I am just hoping we have another good season like last year's."
Hello Mr. Schortsanitis, I am Mario from Italy. How do you remember your days in Cantu and how excited are you to play them in the Euroleague this week? Good Luck!
Mario Cimbrellini - Italy
"Of course, I am excited. When I was there, I was 18 years old. It was my first time playing away from Greece. I wasn't quite ready. Even when I left there, I knew that I could have given more to the team. Everyone there was great to me. The people, of course, were just awesome. So I am happy to be going back there and happy for them that their team is doing good this season. In the end, though, I am going there to win, not to have fun. To do work and win. But yes, I am happy to visit Cantu.".
Hey Sofo, this is Manuel of Spain. After playing in Greece, Israel and Italy, how would you like to play in Spain one day?
Manuel Perez, Spain
"Of course, playing in Spain would be great, basketball-wise. I don't know about the lifestyle and whether it would be compatible for me. But basketball-wise, Spain has one of the strongest leagues in Euroleague. They are always playing good Euroleague and Spanish League games. That's one of the reasons their teams always do well and are ready for the Euroleague, because they see the highest level of competition in almost every game. That is always the best way to test yourself. To do well, you've got to win in Spain or at least go through a Spanish team. Until now, I haven't had that chance. I don't want to contradict myself and what I said about the Maccabi question, but of course Spain would be a great place for anybody to play. Basketball-wise, it's a place where you can find out what you can really do. It would be great to play in that league and the Euroleague at the same time. Every game would be tough."
Sofo, I want to ask you about defense. Have you changed the way you see or play defense since coming to Maccabi? Best of luck,
Mantas Aleksuinas - Lithuania
"Yeah, basically I did. Coach Blatt has a great reputation and background in defense. In that part of my game, he was pushing me and saying that there are a lot of things I can do that I wasn't doing before. He push me and asked a lot out of me. Getting more experiences and getting more mature and having great guidance from Coach Blatt, I was able to develop my defensive game more. Of course, I still have a lot of holes in my game and I need to improve more. But defensively, I believe I am moving in the right direction."
Sofoklis, do you think there is more pressure now in your second year at Maccabi than the first season?
Dvir Levi - Tel Aviv
"I don't know. They told me before my first year playing for Maccabi that there's a lot of pressure here. I don’t know, because I haven't really felt it. Maybe that's because the fans are great to me, very welcoming to me, showing me their love every time I see them on the street or on the court. So I never feel pressure, and because of that, I want to try to do my best for them. In the last couple of games, I am not doing my best, but they are right with me, no pressure. So it's pressure to do good for the people who support you. Other than that, it's a great place to be, play basketball and having fun without all the pressure on you."