As it looked ahead last summer to the challenge of reaching the Final Four, there are plenty of good reasons why Panathinaikos chose swingman Ramunas Siskauskas among its primary reinforcements. Besides winning at every step of his career so far, Siskauskas has been remarkably consistent, with shooting percentages that are among the highes on the continent all decade. That doesn't mean that Siskauskas cannot be spectacular, too, as he showed in earning Euroleague Basketball's award as MVP for April. His near-perfect three-point shooting helped the Greens reach their promised land and landed Siskauskas in his first Final Four, where he knows from experience that steadiness could provide the key to success. "I don't feel so much pressure," Siskauskas told Euroleague.net. "A little maybe, but it's normal. With many years in basketball, playing on good teams and playing in big games, gives you more experience. Anyway, one player cannot win the game and do everything himself. We need a good team game."
Hello Ramunas, congratulations on being the Euroleague Basketball MVP for April. How does it feel to be going to your first Final Four?
"It's a great feeling. As you said, it's the first time. We still need something more, however. It's great to be there, but it will be much better to win something. It will be better to talk after that, because our work isn't done yet."
You were injured near the end of the Top 16 in March. Were you sure that you would be ready to play in the Quarterfinal Playoffs against Dynamo?
"I was pretty sure, because the injury wasn't so serious. I stayed out awhile because we just didn't want to risk anything by coming back to the court too early. I had a couple practices and a Greek Cup game before the playoffs, so I had the feeling I was ready, yes."
And you were, of course, scoring 10 points in the first quarter of Game 1 and making 7 of 8 three-pointers in 48 hours with a flight in between. Did you have the feeling you were ready to explode like that so soon after the injury?
"Well, of course I am trying every game to play as good as I can. It wasn't something special in my mind at that time. I had no feeling that I would do something like that. To me, it never matters what team I play against or if it's an important game or not; I always am trying to play 100 percent, as well as I can. Some days are better and some are worse, but in those two important games, things went well for me."
This is your first season with Panathinaikos, always a top contender to win the Euroleague title. Is there a big difference playing for the Greens compared to other places?
"First of all, I would say it doesn't matter what team I am on. Everywhere I play and everywhere I will play, I try to do my best. That was true the last two years in Italy with Benetton, which was also a good team and we won the Italian championship. But coming here I knew that this team has, let's say, a big name, and that every year they want to win as much as they can: Euroleague, Greek League, Greek Cup. For me, it was like a step forward to have that challenge. I knew they had a good coach and good players, which is why I came here, to play with the best, to improve myself and to play to win the Euroleague. Everybody knows that was our target all this year, to win everything."
Usually a team full of new players needs time to come together. Panathinaikos got six new players for this season, but instead of a slow start, won the first 11 Euroleague games. How did that happen?
"It's true that with changing players, most teams need time to show something. I think a lot depends on the coach. We have a good coach and he knows how to motivate players and how to build the team. We also have a lot of guys from the Greek national team, too, who know each other well and also some foreign players who have been here awhile. So it wasn't so difficult to adjust to this team or coach. In the beginning, maybe we didn't show such good basketball, even though we won. As time went by, we got better and now we are playing our best."
What kind of atmosphere do you expect in OAKA for the Final Four with all those Panathinaikos fans going there?
"It should be great. There will not be only Panathinaikos fans this time because, of course, in a Final Four, everybody can come. Maybe we can expect a lot of fans from Spain with two teams coming from there. I am expecting a great atmosphere. I like top play in gyms that are full and crowded and have atmosphere like that. Of course, that's much better than not having it full. I was with Benetton last year visiting Panathinaikos in the Top 16 with 20,000 people at OAKA, and I enjoyed playing there. The Olympic Games were similar, so it's not something new for me, just something I enjoy."
With you and Robertas Javtokas as the only two Lithuanians in the Final Four, does Lithuania now officially support Panathinaikos, too?
"I hope so. I don't know, but I hope. Everyone knows that we have really good fans of basketball in Lithuania. They like our sport very much and I will be happy to feel their support in the Final Four, too."
You play Tau Ceramica in the semifinals. What do you know about them? What will it take for Panathinaikos to beat them?
"Well, we simply have to play really well. Tau is a team that has played good all year. They are so strong that it is sure to be a very tough game. Very tough. I don't want us to get ahead of ourselves. I only want to do everything to win. We have time. We have two or three Greek League games to help us get ready. Then we'll concentrate on Tau. It will be difficult. We'll see."
You hve won leagues and cups in three different countries so far, not to mention a European national title and an Olympic bronze medal with Lithuania. How will those experiences help you going into the Final Four?
"I think they help, of course. I don't feel so much pressure. A little maybe, but it's normal. With many years in basketball, playing on good teams and playing in big games, gives you more experience. Anyway, one player cannot win the game and do everything himself. We need a good team game in the semifinals, and the main key will be to play well and as a team."