He's certainly not alone in being excited about the Final Four, but from reading his Fan Mail answers, you can conclude that one of the most excited people headed to Moscow for the Final Four is Panathinaikos forward Mike Batiste. His second season for Panathinaikos has been a great ride for Batiste, especially the last game, when the Greens vaulted into the Final Four on a wave of unprecedented fan support the final game of the Quarterfinal Playoffs. "It totally amazed me," Batiste said in on Fan Mail answer. "I never saw anything like that in my life, not even being in gyms with 20,000 people. In the States, even that size crowd can get quiet unless there is a spectacular pass or dunk. Here, it doesn't matter. The crowd goes crazy the whole game. It keeps you ready to play, even if you are on the bench. You are just waiting for Obradovic to call your name so you can get in there and feed off that energy. It's unbelievable."
Hi, Mike. Being an American at your first Final Four, what do you expect to see? What are your teamates telling you about that?
"First of all, my teammates tell me that being in a Final Four is a wonderful experience, and to try to go and win, because it doesn't do you any good to feel happy just being there. If you're only content with the idea of winning, then you will go with focus and be ready to play. Second, being American, I feel that the highest level to play basketball is at the Final Four. There are four great teams here, the highest intensity level, great players. Now, I am just waiting to play. You're so excited to be on stage, with everyone in Europe watching, lots of people in America, a soldout crowd. The highest level you can play basketball now is at the Final Four. I can't wait, really."
Hello, Mike. This year you have made huge improvement compared to last season. Keep up the good work. Are you happy in Greece and at Panathinaikos?
Panos Georgellis, Greece
"Of course I am happy in Greece. I love it, my fiance loves it. It reminds us a lot of California because of the weather and the beaches. You can get away a couple days and go to the islands. It's a nice place to sit, relax and not worry about America so much. Other American guys get homesick, but from the first day over here, I like my situation and my teammates make me feel like this is home to me. I give them a lot of credit for making Greece comfortable for me. As for playing better this year, last year I dealt with some injuries, pulling my hamstring three different times during the Euroleague. It hurt me and hurt my team because I knew I was a part they needed and I wasn't 100 percent coming back, even though I tried to help. This year I have been fortunate to stay healthy and I knew coming in that if that happened, I would have a good season and would help my team. Now, we are doing what I talked about before coming here. We've won the Greek Cup, which we didn't do last year, and we've reached the Final Four, which we didn't do last year. That is what it's all about."
Hello, Mike. Could you mention the most interesting or curious situation you've been involved in on a basketball court?
Mindaugas Vasiliauskas, Lithuania
"In terms of interesting, the last game we played in the Euroleague quarterfinals was something I never witnessed before in my whole career. In the world I come from, fans are there to take their girlfriend on a date or something, to be entertained. Here in Europe, the fans are diehard, singing and chanting songs whole game. It's something that keeps you going 40 minutes. It's an unbelievable feeling to play in front of 18,000 people who support you like that. It totally amazed me. I never saw anything like that in my life, not even being in gyms with 20,000 people. In the States, even that size crowd can get quiet unless there is a spectacular pass or dunk. Here, it doesn't matter. The crowd goes crazy the whole game. It keeps you ready to play, even if you are on the bench. You are just waiting for Obradovic to call your name so you can get in there and feed off that energy. It's unbelievable."
Hello, how do you feel about your first Final Four appearance? Mike, I wish you the best, and I hope you guys come back to Athens with the trophy!
Thanos Kontogiannis, Greece
"I'm excited, man. Why not be? This is what you work hard for all year long and what you fought for all year long. The road for us wasn't easy. We started with CSKA, Tau and Benetton in the same regular season group. Then in the Top 16, we had to go through Tau again, plus Climamio, just to get to the quarterfinals, where we had the only three-game series with Efes. It was tough and I think we deserve to be where we're at. You can't say we got lucky or the ball bounced the right way for us. We worked and fought hard to get to Moscow, so we are deserving of this chance."
Mike, hi! We have quality big men (you, Kostas Tsartsaris, Patrick Femerling, etc.) and a guard with exceptional rebounding skills (Dimitris Diamantidis), but we are by far the worst rebounding team in the Euroleague. We have managed to get away with it so far basically because of our top two-point and three-point percentage. Is Panathinaikos preparing anything special to rebound better in the Final Four? Good luck!
Nick Birakis, Greece
"Of course. We have to fight against guys like Baston and Vujcic, guys that rebound well. Baston is very long and goes for every possible rebound. But it's just a matter of fighting for them. You're right that rebounding hasn't really hurt us, but you can't get so deep into stats. Some games you can shoot bad and win, or have 25 turnovers and win. We don't get caught up in stats. We go out and lay it on the line, play hard for 40 minutes and win ballgames. And that's what we'll try to do against Maccabi to reach the final."
Hello, Mike. What do you think are Maccabi's weak points, and what will you have to do to beat them?
Ziv Kesselman, Israel
"First of all, we have to rebound the ball. We have to play very aggressive and defend all 40 minutes because they have a high powered offense. If we let them get comfortable to the point where they get easy shots in transition, it's going to be a long day for us. But in my heart I believe all 12 of our players are ready to play and we'll use that to our advantage to play hard defense. If we do that, it will be the key to winning."
Dear Mike, will the Greek fans who show up in Moscow affect the performance of Panathinaikos against Maccabi?
"We hope so. I hope so. This is something that we need, for somebody to be there and cheer for us and give us an extra push. I don't know how much the fans understand how we feed off them to get energy. I remember the one game we were down at home against Tau by 20 points. We score 10 in a row before halftime and the crowd went crazy. Then we came out for the third quarter, and they stayed crazy from then to the end of the game. We fed off them and won an unbelievable game. Hopefully, they will be there in Moscow to give us that push again."
Hi Mike. What is it like to play under Zeljko Obradovic?
"It's very exciting, because he knows how to get the job done. He knows how to make adjustments during a game and does some stuff that really surprises me. He can make sure with one certain play that we get the shot we need almost all the time. It can also be tough at times because if you're not giving 110 percent on the court. He's going to let you know, but that's only to make you better and push you to play to your best ability. For that reason, I think everyone likes to play for him. He's going to make sure he gets your best effort."
Hi Mike. I am a big fan of Panathinaikos. Are you and the newest players going to ask Fragiskos Alvertis his advice about the Final Four and how important is he to the team?
"First of all, he's the flag of the team. He's everything that Panathinaikos stands for, and of course we are going to be looking for his advice, just as we'll be looking to Obradovic, too. These guys know how to get there and know how to win. I think we'll be fine if we follow their lead. Not only have the been there before, but they've won more than anybody. If we follow their direction, we'll be fine. In terms of all the players going for the first time, Frankie is keeping us relaxed. Of course, he says we should have fun, but the way to do that is to go out there to win. We won't be happy just being there. It is the first time and it could be the last time for some of us. So I will play as if I never have another chance to go again to a Final Four. And when it's over, hopefully we'll be holding the Euroleague trophy."