|Few people counted on Gescrap BB to be so close to reaching the playoffs, but its inspired home win against Real Madrid two weeks ago has put the Turkish Airlines Euroleague newcomers in an excellent position to survive the Top 16. One of Gescrap's main pillars right now is veteran swingman Kostas Vasiliadis, who has been unstoppable in this round. Vasiliadis is now the second-best scorer among all Euroleague players in the Top 16, with 16.8 points per game, and has downed 12 three-point shots in the last four games, behind only the competition's all-time triples king, Gianluca Basile of Bennet Cantu. Although he has previously reached a Final Four, in 2007 with Unicaja, and the playoffs, in 2008 with Olympiacos, Vasiliadis says that he is now playing the best basketball of his Euroleague. "I feel that the team needs me and my role in Gescrap is bigger than it ever was with other teams in this competition," Vasiliadis told Euroleague.net. "This is why this year's Euroleague is a new experience for me. I want to enjoy every game, every minute I am on the court."
Hello, Kostas. Congratulations on a great season. How are you enjoying the Euroleague season until now?
"Thanks a lot. Well, the team is doing really well. As you know, this is the first time that we play the Euroleague and our initial goal was to enjoy ourselves in our 10 regular season games. This team can do a lot more now, of course. We need to try to win the next two games, which will lead us to the playoffs – and only then, see if we can do something else."
How special was it for you guys to beat Real Madrid by 24 points and get in a good position to go to the playoffs?
"It was very special. I believe it was our best game so far this season. We played very good defense and shot the ball well from mid and long range. We did everything right in that game! We had a good game and we know that we can play like this in the future. It is all in our hands now. If we manage to beat Montepaschi, a team that is better than us, by just one point, it will be a great result for us. We will have 10,000 people helping us at Miribilla."
Despite a 1-3 start to the regular season, Gescrap managed to rally and reach the Top 16. What happened in the beginning of the season?
"Not only did we play badly in the Euroleague, but also in the Spanish League. We worked hard from Day 1, however, and the team changed a lot, especially on defense. We manage to play hard defense all 40 minutes and play at a very high tempo on offense. Not all teams can follow our rhythm. I think we improved our defense and that was the key for us to overcome that 1-3 start."
You are about to face Montepaschi, which is undefeated in your Top 16 group. What do you have to do to beat them?
"Well, the first and main key is defense, always. We have to play at our own rhythm, non-stop at both ends. We have all of our players 100-percent fit and ready, and I think we can play at the very good level, using 10 or 11 players. We need a good game from D'or Fischer on defense. Like I said, if we can win by just one point, we will be in an even better situation."
How do you see the matchup between Aaron Jackson and Bo McCalebb, two of the quickest point guards in Europe?
"I am sure it will be an exciting matchup. Aaron is a quick player and can play good defense against someone like McCalebb. I am sure that the team will do a very good job and that we all will help to stop him. Montepaschi has a lot good players able to score, such as Igor Rakocevic, David Andersen and Ksistof Lavrinovic - everyone, really. We need to work hard for all 40 minutes."
At age 28, this is already your 12th season as a professional player. You are playing with a lot of consistency, too. Do you think that your best years are still ahead of you?
"It is hard to predict the future but this is definitely my best year so far. I didn't play much with PAOK when I was 16 and 17. So, since I fully joined the team at age 18, this is my best year, also because the team is doing a good job in the Spanish League and the Euroleague. Our playing style helps me to play better, too. I am very happy in Bilbao and know that I need to work every day to improve some things that I don't do very well."
This is your first Euroleague season in four years. What did you miss the most about it?
"More than what I miss, I have to say I see things different now, as a player. I feel that the team needs me, and my role in Gescrap is bigger than it ever was with other teams in this competition. That is why this year's Euroleague is a new experience for me. I want to enjoy every game, every minute I am on the court. I have always switched many teams and cities since I left PAOK, but now everything is different."
You played the 2007 Final Four with Unicaja in your own country, Greece. How was that experience?
"Well, the Euroleague is the best competition and the Final Four is its best moment. Unicaja had also made it to the Final Four for the first time in club history. We couldn't beat CSKA in the semifinals; they and Panathinaikos were the best teams that season. It was something new and different, and I will remember it for my entire life. It is difficult to play the Final Four twice, even once! The final was amazing to watch – I was in the gym with my family and it was an incredible game. Diamantidis against Papaloukas, almost 20,000 people in the stands – it was something amazing!"
What would it mean for you to lead Gescrap to the playoffs, which a chance to keep fighting for a Final Four spot?
"It is a little bit difficult for us to even think about that. First of all, we have two difficult games in front of us. Of course, nothing is impossible, but we have to focus on beating Montepaschi. We will try to beat them and have fun in that game. Since last season, every time we have fun on the court, we play good basketball and win the game. I will give everything for Bilbao, my teammates and fans. I will do whatever my coach asks me and give 100 percent to go further than we could have ever imagined."