If any player can appreciate how difficult it is to reach and win a Final Four, it might be Dejan Tomasevic of Panathinaikos. The veteran center played his first Final Four in 1998, and since then has been a regular season MVP, an All-Euroleague selection and the ULEB Cup Final MVP. Despite all that success, Tomasevic had to wait all this time - nine seasons - to get back to the big stage. Now that he is just days away from the 2007 Final Four, Tomasevic knows that even with the help of the Panathinaikos fans on the team's homecourt, OAKA, he and his teammates have to be prepared to excel against tremendous opponents if they wish to complete their dream of a title. "This is the most important of the club titles," Tomasevic said in one Fan Mail answer. "This is the most important and most prestigious. And since it's the only one I am missing, of course, I have a big, big wish to win. I also know it's going to be very difficult, because in my opinion, the four best teams are really there, and there's only one cup. So we have to be very, very good to win."
Hello Dejan! You won a lot of titles in your career. How important for you is winning the missing one, the Euroleague title?
Evangelos Robies, Germany
"This is the most important of the club titles. This is the most important and most prestigious. And since it's the only one I am missing, of course, I have a big, big wish to win. I also know it's going to be very difficult, because in my opinion, the four best teams are really there, and there's only one cup. So we have to be very, very good to win the cup."
Hi Dejan! I noticed that you improved your free throw percentage. How did you do it?
"Yeah, it's true. I changed my mechanics. I reviewed many times on video how I shoot and what I was doing badly. Then I went to practice and started changing it. Every day I got better and better, and now I'm more secure and comfortable and confident that I am going to make it. That confidence is also very, very important."
Dejan, What do you remember from your first Final Four in 1988 in Barcelona? Did you think you would be back sooner?
Zarko - Belgrade
"Yes and no. No, because in my first few years, we didn't have the opportunity to play in the Euroleague, because Serbia at that time was out of European competitions, and I knew that opportunities didn't come often. After I was in Barcelona in 1998, I immediately changed teams. First with Buducnost, we didn't get a chance, later with Pamesa were played the ULEB Cup twice. I was close in my one year with Tau and the second year in Valencia, one victory away, the same as last year with Panathinaikos, so in a few years, I was very close, but unfortunately finished one win away. When I went the first time with Partizan in 1998, it was totally different than this time. I was more euphoric because I was younger and didn't have so much experience with Euroleague games. But I think that mentally we weren't ready. We were too young. We had a great tam and played well, but we were not prepared for big games. That's why we didn't play good in Barcelona. Now, it's different, and with more years and experience, I take this as something like normal. We played good from the beginning of the season and won our quarterfinal playoff with Dynamo almost easily. Believe it of not, I don't have that Final Four feeling yet, but I know it will start now with my friends and family coming to Athens to watch us."
Hello from Bulgaria, Dejan. Panathinaikos hosts the Final Four this season. How much of an advantage it can be for your team?
Elena Boitchinova, Bulgaria
"First of all, if someone asks 'Do you want to play in the Final Four and where?', 100 percent of all players say 'Yes, and on my homecourt'. I think it's a big advantage, but only if you play good, of course. Even with 10,000 of our fans, it depends on the players. We have to play well. In the end, it's only five-on-five and the players will decide. We have a serious team with experience, but we play Tau, another team with a lot of experience and quality players, in the semifinal. It's going be very difficult. The great thing, however is to be playing in the Final Four and playing at your home."
Hey Dejan. First of all, thanks to you and all the guys for reaching the Final Four, I am sure you're going to make us all proud by winning the tournament. You've played for a few top European teams and also faced a lot more as an opponent. What do you think is the main difference between Panathinaikos and the others? All the best,
Stefanos Kyriakopoulos, Athens, Greece
"I don't want to say that Panathinaikos is the best team in Europe. In the last 15 years, however, they are always in the Final Four or very close to the Final Four, especially in the last seven years or so with Zeljko Obradovic. That's the difference with Panathinaikos: you always have to count on them being one of teams going for the Final Four and the title. I am very proud to be part of it and lucky to play for Panathinaikos."
Hello. I am a big Panathinaikos fan. I rarely missed a game in the last 10 years. I always thought of you as one of the smartest players in Europe, you always seems to be one step ahead to give the perfect pass, like a tall playmaker. How did you develop that way?
Marilena - Greece
"First of all, thanks for the compliment. I try to play like this, and I think it comes from the Yugoslavian school of basketball. I remember as a young kid that in many of the practices, we changed the roles: big guys had to play like point guards and small guys play like pivots. That's very interesting. That's why, I think, we understand basketball so much. I have also been lucky to play with guys who understand. I have play especially with many unbelievably good players, and I tried to learn something from each of them. I had great opportunities to play with guys like Divac, Danilovic, Savic, Djordjevic and others, and I took something from everyone: how to practice, how to play and how to think about basketball. I think that has made it easier for me."
Hi Dejan. Do you think that our frontcourt is ready to beat Scola and Splitter?
Jaime - Spain
"Of course, it's a very, very important challenge, because they are an important part of Tau's play. If we stop them, we're going to finish half of the job. Of course, we have to think what is the best way to defend them and make them tired on defense themselves by attacking them. They will score, but we have to make them score with low percentages, that is the key. I know Scola and played with him. He's maybe one of best players in Europe. It's very important how he starts the game. From the first moment, we have to think about him. We can't let him score easily, because if he starts well, we almost cannot stop him after. He's playing better and better every year, with more confidence. He's sure of himself. It's very important to stop him. We'll prepare well."
Hi Dejan, you are one of my favorite players in Panathinaikos and I think that you are very smart. Who is your best friend in Panathinaikos?
Efi Theodorou - France
"The good thing is that we are all friends. In my two years on Panathinaikos, I have not seen even one problem, which is unbelievable: not in practice or anywhere. Of course, it is something normal that I spend time with Vujanic, Sakota and Becirovic, since we all speak the same language. Our wives are friends and after practice we all go out together. We also live very close. They are important in my life here."
Hello, Dejan, I hope that you close your long and successful career in the best way, by winning the Euroleague title! We see fewer and fewer centers in the best leagues in the world. Why do you think this is happening? Thanks!
Kintzios - Greece
"I don't agree completely with this. We have very good centers in Europe. One problem in European basketball is that the best of the big guys and especially the young big men are going to the NBA. Can you imagine how good we would be with them? I know it's not just big men, but it seems to be them especially, and I understand why. But that may be part of the problem you are seeing."
Hello Dejan. Will last year's defeat against Tau be an extra motivation for "revenge" in front of 14,000 fans in a sort of rematch of last year's playoff game? Thank you very much, and I hope to see you lifting the Euroleague trophy in OAKA!
Vassilis - Athens
"Many journalists ask me this, too. I think it's a totally different situation. One thing about basketball and sports in general is that you immediately have to forget the last game to start thinking about the next one. Even when you won the gold medal and are first, you can be on the pedestal and celebrate for a couple hours, but immediately after that, there's a new competition. You have to play and fight again for a new title. It's the same with that game last year. We played, we lost, unfortunately we lost in our gym, but I think it's totally different now. We just have to be stronger than them this time. In that game last year, we weren't mentally ready, and that's why we lost. If you have to take something important, you have to be 100 percent ready for the game. That's the only way to beat Tau, for sure. Other teams you might beat without being on your best level, but with Tau, in this type of game, a semifinal in the Final Four, we will have to play at 100 percent."