In his return to the Euroleague after four seasons, Unicaja swingman Jiri Welsch has hit the jackpot with his first Final Four appearance. And due to Welsch's diverse basketball background – growing up in the Czech Republic, breaking through with Union Olimpija in Slovenia, playing for four NBA teams and now starring with Unicaja in Spain – fans from everywhere in Europe took advantage of the opportunity to ask Welsch their questions. Despite injuries to some of Unicaja's top players, Welsch is optimistic that his underdog team can get the job done in what is the first Final Four experience for practically the entire organization. "Anything can happen in one basketball game. We're going there with a mindset to play hard, play our best and see what happens in the semifinals," Welsch said in one Fan Mail answer. "I can only promise that we'll do everything possible to make the dream come true for everybody in Malaga."
Hi Jiri! Did you come back from the NBA with the Final Four as a goal of yours?
Peter - Germany
"Well, yes. I mean, I don't know if goal is the right word, but it was definitely something that was on my mind. Last year during this time, I had finished my season with the Milwaukee Bucks, and I was watching the Final Four in Prague from over there, watching what I could on TV and through the Internet, and I thought it was just an amazing event that it would be great to be part of. So when I decided to come back, for sure it was something on my mind."
Hi Jiri! Where do you feel more comfortable playing, at shooting guard or at small forward? Good luck in the Final Four!
Iñaki Esteve - Malaga, Spain
"It doesn't really matter. The way it is in basketball these days, and on our team, there's not such a huge difference. I don't prefer one or the other. Either is fine as long as I'm on the court."
Hi Jiri, I am an Italian fan from Varese, but I support Unicaja in the Euroleague because of Sergio Scariolo and Marko Tusek, who played in Italy for the last three years. Can Unicaja get the title, and if so, what can be the key?
Filippo Antonelli - Italy
"Of course we can get the title. We are not going into the Final Four as favorites, but we're also not going there just to participate. We feel like we played well this season in the Euroleague and beat some strong teams. Obviously, CSKA is a very strong opponent, but it's one game, and anything can happen in one basketball game. We're going there with a mindset to play hard, play our best and see what happens in the semifinals."
Hello Jiri! Unicaja goes to the semifinal as the big underdog against CSKA. How important is that for your team? How important is for you guys to have Marcus Brown back?
Angelos Georgiou - Piraeus, Greece
"I guess being an underdog does help us a little bit. Obviously, the pressure is on CSKA. They are defending their title, while we have already overachieved on our Euroleague goals this season by going to the Final Four. We won't play with press and that will help us play relaxed, to enjoy it and just see what happens. Of course, we're happy to have Marcus back, because he's probably the most experienced guy on the team. We missed him a lot during the season. It's just unfortunate that right when he came back, we lost another important piece for us, Daniel Santiago. I just wish we could have to the whole team together to be in the best shape possible."
Dear Jiri. First of all, thanks for coming to Malaga. My question is: how does it feel to play with playmakers like Pepe Sanchez and Carlos Cabezas and what do you think they give the team? Thanks and good luck!
Antonio Cabral - Malaga, Spain
"They are both great players, and yet they are very different. Carlos is a guy who likes to attack the basket and score. Pepe is a true playmaker, who keeps the game under control and likes to distribute passes to everyone. Both are great players, but different, and the balance between them works really well for the team. It's fun for me to be out there with them. Both have achieved a lot in their careers, and it's fun to have those kinds of teammates."
Hello, Jiri. As you know, Marko Tusek and Daniel Santiago may miss the Final Four. How important is that for you guys and what does Unicaja have to do to beat CSKA? I will be rooting for you all there in Athens!
Manolo Velasco - Conil, Spain
"Like I said before, Dani has been one of the biggest parts of our team all season, so we're going to miss him a lot, not only in the Final Four, but also in the Spanish League. It's a tough loss, but have to figure out a way to make it up. The same for Marko, although we hope he'll be able to play. Marko has been very import for us as well, and if he can't play, we'll have to make up for him, as well. One way is to be more aggressive. We will probably have to play smaller and be more aggressive defensively and all over the court. We'll have to play a different style."
Hey Jiri. You came back from the NBA after many years in there. What is the difference in the Euroleague, compared to what it was three years ago? As a former Olimpija player, we will be rooting for you here in Ljubljana!
Tanja Majnik - Ljubljana, Slovenia
"It is different. I think that since I left in 2002, the Euroleague as a competition has grown up a lot and gotten better. The teams have gotten better and the Final Four is now one of the most celebrated events in basketball. Of course, it is a little different, but it feels good to be back and part of it again."
Hello, Jiri, I think you are an example for Czech players. My question is: do you think that having the Final Four in Prague last year and then having you in the Final Four this season helped our basketball of develop? Thanks and good luck!
Radoslav Vizner - Nymburk, the Czech Republic
"Of course, I do. In the NBA, I was only the second player out of our country to make it there and experience that. Now, being part of the Final Four, I hope it's a motivation for young players and kids to see that it is possible. Of course, the from the Czech Republic is a small country and basketball there now doesn't have such a strong tradition, but I just hope I can be an example that with hard work and dedication you can come out and achieve a lot."
Dear Jiri. Nobody has been able to beat CSKA's defense in the entire season. Do you feel like you are ready to do it in Athens?
Boris Ryzhkov - Moscow, Russia
"We haven't really spent much time on preparing for CSKA yet, because we had some important domestic games to play. The preparation will come closer to the game itself. CSKA is a defending champion and has been a top team this year, as well. They have a great team, so it will be a tough challenge to play and beat them. But I think we have a good enough team, as well, to step up to the challenge."
Hi Jiri, I am a young Unicaja fan who will travel to Athens for the Final Four. What would it mean for you to win the title in Athens? Because it would mean a lot to all of us! Go for them!
Andres Salzillo - Malaga, Spain
"Of course, winning the whole thing would be incredible. I mean, reach the Final Four has been a really special achievement, as well. But of course, it's not over and we have the chance to go even further. It would be a great achievement, but of course, it's not easy with such tough teams. I can only promise that we'll do everything possible to make the dream come true for everybody in Malaga."