One thing is for certain after reading the Fan Mail for Pepe Sanchez of Unicaja: Fans around the world consider him to be one of the unique players in modern basketball. And that was even before he made a pair of magic plays to lift Unicaja into the Top 16, where it hosts Benetton Treviso in its Group G opener on Thursday. Going into the next round with a clean slate, Pepe says in his Fan Mail answers, is the best thing that can happen to Unicaja right now. "We've been up and down, as everyone knows," Sanchez said in one answer. "The good thing is that, especially in the Euroleague, we made it through the first phase and now we are starting from zero like all the other teams. I am hoping we can get more consistent, especially during the Top 16 and go to the playoffs."
Hi Pepe! To me you're the most fascinating player in basketball and the best playmaker in the game today. I think I've never seen such a court vision and such an ability to keep an offense in motion. Only very few players are able to dominate a game without scoring. This pass-orientated Argentinian basketball style with a lot of motion is to me the most attractive thing in basketball since the "Showtime Lakers," and equally successful. So, after all this praise, what is more important to you, sticking to your philosophy of play or would you be willing to give it up if you could be more successful with, let's say, a Greek-style 'destroy the opponent' game? Greetings from Germany,
Marco - Germany
"I think that if you can be successful in the way that you want to play, your style, it's better. With your own style, the way you have been in the past and what got you where you are, it's the best way to go. Every team has its own style. For us, it would be hard to modify that style. We have played that way since we were kids. We love playing that way and would like to keep going like that."
Hi Pepe. First, congratulations for your strong play on the toughest ground in Europe, in front of the loudest fans in Europe, the fans of Partizan Belgrade. I was there as well and I must confess at the moment you scored your three-pointer on the buzzer, I couldn't appreciate it! Later I realized how great a player you are! How did you manage to keep your head cool at such a big moment and to not pay attention to the crowd who were making such noise? Respect and keep doing good things for the basketball! Regards from Holland,
Shapke - Holland
"Well, I guess it's experience. I have always been cool in the key moments of the game. I always try to play in a way that I try to take the emotion away. It's the way I play, especially at the end of games. I just try to make the right play. It's something that comes natural to me. To try to take the shots that count for the game is something that I always liked to do, and in this case, I had that chance. It happened. Basically, I love to take the last shots. That's the part of the game I like most, the last three minutes."
Hi Pepe, and congratulations for your nice game in Belgrade against Partizan. I would like to ask for your opinion about the team of Partizan and their fans?
Miki - Belgrade, Serbia
"It was unbelievable that night. I think that since I played the derby in Greece, with Panathinaikos against Olympiacos, I have never seen anything like this other night in Belgrade. It's unbelievable to play in that atmosphere. Luckily, both teams won in the sense that we both went to the Top 16 and went home happy. It's probably the loudest place I have ever played in, though."
Dear Pepe, I am a Panathinaikos fan and I am glad you were once here in Greece and played for my favorite team. It seems though that you hate Panathinaikos because you always have brilliant performance when Unicaja confronts my team! Do you ever recall the 2002 glory days here in Greece and winning the Euroleague championship in Bologna?
Chris Vasdaris - Athens, Greece
"First of all, I don't hate Panathinaikos. I have good memories of winning the Euroleague with them. It's something I will always remember, playing on a great team like Panathinaikos under a great coach like Obradovic. It just happens that Athens to me seems to be a good place to play. I won the Euroleague with Panathinaikos and then the Olympic Games there. So, to play in Athens is something special and always brings me good luck. Also, against a great team like Panathinaikos, you are always ready to play your best. That has something to do with it, too."
Hi, Pepe. First of all, congratulation for going to the Euroleague Top 16. Why is Unicaja so up and down this season? What can the team do to avoid this problem? Thanks, for your answer and greetings from New Zealand,
Rokas Beisinas - New Zealand
"We have a new team. You know that last season's team had been together a couple of years, so we had some chemistry. This year, it's like a whole new team. It seems we cannot get consistent. We've been up and down, as everyone knows. The good thing is that, especially in the Euroleague, we made it through the first phase and now we are starting from zero like all the other teams. I am hoping we can get more consistent especially during the Top 16 and go to the playoffs."
Hi Pepe. What do you think about Top 16 Group G? Do you believe it's a completely open group with no underdogs or favorites? Best regards,
Tolis Papas - Greece
"I believe it's an open group, yeah. I believe that all the teams are pretty good teams. Maybe in other groups, you see more of a difference between one or two teams, but in ours, it's very even. That's dangerous, too. You can finish first or last. It's a great opportunity for all these teams to take. Whoever plays best in a short race is going to win and advance."
Pepe, I would like to ask you the following: How did you learn to pass so well and, above all, how to you contain your emotions like you do?
Francisco Porcel - Malaga, Spain
"Passing comes natural to me. I have passed like this since I was 5. I have video tapes when I was 8, and I was passing the same way as I do now. So it's a natural ability, but I also learned from great players like John Stockton. I learned from him how to pass with one hand, using the wrist only like baseball players instead of the whole arm, because it's quicker that way. By watching the best, you perfect your skills, too. As for my emotions, I think in college at Temple University with my coach, John Chaney, I learned to play the game without emotion. On court, every team needs someone to think and be cooler than the rest. If everybody plays with emotion, it can get out of hand. So I see my job as one to keep emotions down. There are always others who can be emotional. It doesn't mean that I'm not emotional. I just learned to keep it under control."
Hello from Greece, Pepe! My question is: How much has the Euroleague developed during the last years and what are the differences from the time you won the Euroleague with Panathinaikos? With lots of respect and nice memories from you,
Kostas Voukolas from Athens
"I think you can see a progressive evolution from four of five years ago to now. Every year there are more competitive teams from more countries bringing more talent to the table. That makes it better. You can see all the European players going to the NBA more and more, and that proves how competitive Europe has become."
Dear Pepe, first let me tell you that you are one of my favorite players. You really give your heart out on the court, and that's great. What, in your view, are Unicja's chances of making it to Athens, and who do you believe will also be in the Final Four? Thanks,
Shatz , Haifa
"The Euroleague is a competition where you can see some teams focused and putting energy into the competition at all times. I can see Panathinaikos or CSKA in the Final Four. Then, there is always a surprise team, but you always know two or three names that might be there for sure. I just really hope ours can be one of those four teams."