Montepaschi Siena big man Ben Eze is delighted to be making his Final Four debut - and to talk about it as a Fan Mail guest! Eze is best known for his stern presence presence around the basket, where he serves as a pillar for Montepaschi's defense. In four seasons with the Italian club, the Nigerian-born center has become a menace for opponents in the paint, where on offense, he is a specialist in rim-rocking dunks, the kind that can create positive momentum in a hurry for him and his teammates. In this edition of Fan Mail, Eze took questions from far and wide on a variety of topics, including his team's trademark defense, the toughest opponents he has faced this season and his pride as an African player at the Final Four. Among the things that Eze makes clear is that his team isn't traveling to Madrid for holiday. "Now that we made it to Madrid, I want to win the Euroleague title," Eze said. "We are not going there just to hang around in Madrid, you know. I feel great but I am not satisfied with what we did. None of us is. We haven't won anything, we just made it to the Final Four. Our goal is to win the title."
After a one-season break, Montepaschi came back to the Euroleague and won a ticket to Madrid. What is your team's secret?
Elvinas Kiminskis - Lithuania
"Well, there is no secret! (laughs) We work really hard in practice. We try to give our best in each and every single practice. We also try to play together in every single game, play defense and try to help each other in offense, too. There is no secret to our success. Just hard work."
Hello Ben, and thank you for the great season you are having. My question is very simple: Who is the hardest player to guard you have faced in the Euroleague this year? Everyone in Siena is rooting for you! Go Montepaschi!
Mario Cimbrellini - Siena, Italy
"Well, it is difficult to say, there are very good players out there. If you ask me about it, the hardest player to guard I played against is, without a doubt, Nikola Pekovic, the big man of Partizan Igokea. He is very strong! (laughs) As a team, I would say it is CSKA. We played twice against them and were not able to beat them. It has to be CSKA."
Hi Benjamin. This is Spyros from Athens. Since there are no Greek teams in the Final Four, I am rooting for Montepaschi in Madrid. This is your first Final Four – what does it mean for you to have made it to the Big Event?
Spyros Seferis - Greece
"Oh well, I feel great about it! I told everyone at the beginning of the season that I wanted to make it to the Final Four. Now that we made it to Madrid, I want to win the Euroleague title. We are not going there just to hang around in Madrid, you know. I feel great but I am not satisfied with what we have done. None of us is. We haven't won anything yet. We just made it to the Final Four. Our goal is to win the title."
Hello Big Ben! My question is about Rimantas Kaukenas, because I am surprised that a team like Montepaschi seemed not to miss him at all! What has kept the team together without one of your leaders?
Lukasz Zulawski, Poland
"Of course we miss Kaukenas, but we still have players like Bootsy Thornton, Terrell McIntyre and Ksistof Lavrinovic. I think it is impossible not to miss a player like Kaukenas. We all had to step up once he got hurt. We had to play hard to make him happier. He is a little bit sad these days, so we all try to make him happier, as much as we can. Hopefully he will come back for the Italian League playoffs."
Dear Mr. Eze, good luck from Angola! You and Romain Sato will be the only African players in the Final Four. Do you feel like you are representing African basketball in such a big event? Good luck!
Angelo Goncalves - Luanda, Angola
"Well, it's true, yes. In a way, Romain and I represent Africa in the Final Four. I do feel like that. Not only that, I represent my family and everyone who cares about me. Like I said, we haven't won anything yet and I would like to win for all that I told you about."
Hello Ben. First of all, best of luck in the Final Four. What would it mean for you to win a Euroleague title? Let's hope it happens!
Antonio Povedilla - Spain
"If it happens, it is going to be one of the best things for my and my career. I don't know how I am going to feel, because I never won the Euroleague title, but for sure it will be a great feeling. It is tough to know how to feel when you win a competition that you never won before. It is also my first Final Four, so it would be very special."
Mr. Ben Eze. How do you plan to stop Maccabi's big men and their experience in the Final Four?
Danny - Israel
"It is not a new story to us. We have to do just like we did all season long against all the powerful teams in the competition. We did it against Panathinaikos, the Euroleague champions, with a lot of experienced big men. It is all about playing defense and being tough. I know how my team feels that we have a desire to win the Euroleague."
How do you find living in Italy and do you plan to play someday for our national team, the "azzurri"?
Matteo - Bologna, Italy
"Everyone has been really good to me here in Italy and I am happy to be here. As for the national team, I hope, I wish, but I don't think it is possible because I already played for the Nigerian national team. Life in Italy is great, it is all I can say about it. I am in a good team, too, so I have to thank God for everything."
Hello, Ben. Do you consider that your specialty, defense, the key for your team and for any team that wants to win the Final Four?
Jurij Jericek - Ljubljana, Slovenia
"First of all, it is a big key for us, because we are playing Maccabi in the semifinals and they are the best offensive team in the competition. We have do play good defense and stop them. We already know that if we want to win the competition, we have to play good defense against everyone. Defense leads to good offense and everyone knows that in our team. So it is not all about defense, but it is very important."