|With a unique game to go with his unique surname, 22-year-old Sergio Llull is attracting lots of attention since he helped nail down Real Madrid's place in the Quarterfinal Playoffs with a killer three-point shot on the buzzer in Top 16 Week 4 against Montepaschi Siena. It wasn't the first of Llull's major moments late in big victories, and his fans in the Spanish capital and beyond are betting it won't be the last, either. Another would come in handy this week as Real Madrid hosts Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv for first place in Group F, considered by many to be the toughest entering the Top 16. With that victory would come the prize of homecourt advantage in the playoffs - not to mention avoiding a homecourt disadvantage against probable playoff opponent and archrival Regal FC Barcelona. All of those things and more were on the minds of those who sent Fan Mail questions over the last week to Llull, who said "No one can deny that for the fans, a Quarterfinal Playoffs series between Real Madrid and Regal FC Barcelona would have great appeal. But if you ask me, I would prefer to face them in the Final Four title game, for instance."
Hi Sergio. First, congratulations on your recent games. We fans of basketball really enjoy how you play. The moment your three-pointer fell through against Siena was incredible. I'll never forget that moment, your expression and those of your teammates (especially Jaric), which showed what all of us were feeling then. My question is: What went through your mind at such a big, important moment for you and your team? Also, what would it mean for you to reach the Final Four this year? Take care,
Diana - Zaragoza, Spain
"First of all, thank you very much Diana. Of course, scoring that basket was a great moment of joy for me because it meant that we would surpass the point differential that Montepaschi had with us. And about the second question, reaching the Final Four would mean, of course, reaching one of the main goals that we have set in Real Madrid for the current season."
Sergio greetings from Cyprus. Which teams do you consider as favorites to reach the 2010 Final Four in Paris?
Tofi Kyriakos - Cyprus
"Hmmm, I think that the favorite teams are Regal FC Barcelona, Olympiacos and CSKA Moscow. As for us, Real Madrid, I don't see ourselves as favorite to be there but it is true that if this week we manage to beat Maccabi Eelectra, we will have the homecourt advantage in the Quarterfinal Playoffs and that would be a big step forward in order to be in Paris."
Hello Sergio! When you arrived in Madrid, I told my brother you would be a star and he laughed at me. Did you expect to reach such a high level so soon and be a leader at just 22 years old? Cheers,
Angel - Asturias, Spain
"Well, I always try to think about the future as little as I can. I like to focus on the present time, the day by day, and keep on practicing to become a better player. When I got to Real Madrid that was also my philosophy, trying to work every day to help the team in any way I can."
Hi Sergio. First, congratulations on your awesome way of playing, which I've always admired. What is your opinion of the difference between youth programs in Spain and Italy, and which factors influence the consistent rise in fantastic players there over recent years. How is the development of a young player handled in Spain? Thanks again,
Valerio D'Angelo - Rome, Italy
"Thanks to you Valerio. I think that Spain is constantly proving to have a great reserve of young players who keep getting their opportunities. The youth categories of the national team, both men and women, and their international successes, are proof of what I am saying. The clubs are doing a great job to promote the work with young players in order to get a constant flow of interesting players at a national level."
Sergio, I am a season-ticket holder of Madrid and I'd like to ask: Why are some European players so taken with the NBA when many players there could not be starters in Europe?
Juan Antono Galey - Madrid
"Well, the NBA is a very attractive league for any player, it is the best league in the world. And it is normal that many players want to play there, that depends on each individual. Personally, I think that before going to the NBA the player has to be ready, especially at a mental level, and it is crucial not to rush it if you really want to do it. Right now, I feel great in Madrid playing with Real, and I hope to stay here for many years."
Sergio, would you like to face Barcelona or not in the Euroleague playoffs? It would be great for the fans. I hope it happens. Cheers,
Murat Sahin - Istanbul
"No one can deny that for the fans, a Quarterfinal Playoffs series between Real Madrid and Regal FC Barcelona would have great appeal. But if you ask me, I would prefer to face them in the Final Four title game for instance (laughs). But as a team, we prefer to have the homecourt advantage in our hands by finishing first in our Top 16 group and if we can avoid Barcelona, which is a great great team, even better."
Hi, Sergio. What things does Coach Messina have you working on to improve individually this season? Best of luck,
Marek Popolowski - Gdynia, Poland
"First of all, Ettore is putting a lot of trust in me and in my game. He is giving me very good advice, and individually we are working a lot on dribbling and shooting off the dribble. And the truth is that he is helping me a lot in my growth as a player."
Hello Sergio. First, congratulations on your work. Your mental strength and determination make your physical skills shine and are an example to us all. My question: What happens when Madrid plays Barcelona? Do you get unfocused? Does losing twice to them in the Spanish League make you insecure or anxious to play Barcelona again? Many thanks,
Juan Antonio Gavilan - Cordoba, Spain
"Thanks again, Juan Antonio. I am a player that doesn't like to lose at anything. That mental strength and energy is what I try to transmit to my teammates, when the going gets rough especially. And if we played against Barcelona again I am sure we would be supermotivated. They have defeated us twice in two finals this season, and I think that we have a great team that can beat them at any given moment."
Sergio, what was the experience of winning the EuroBasket 2009 title like for you as a new member of the team? How did the "golden generation" guys treat a rookie like you?
Seth Williams - San Clemente, California, USA
"The truth is that it was an unforgettable experience for me. All the teammates helped me from day one in everything and they treated me like a regular member of the team. They didn't play any hazing on me for being the rookie or anything. Making history in Spanish basketball was a great thing for me, it filled me with absolute joy. And for that I also have to thank coach Sergio Scariolo for counting on me, for giving me that golden opportunity."