| Great balance, solid fundamentals, good decisions and non-stop effort are some of the qualities that have made Regal FC Barcelona forward Pete Mickeal such a consistent performer as to merit the Sportingbet MVP of the Month award for November. If there is one quality that sets Mickeal apart, however, it might be his laser-like focus whenever he steps on the court. And in his first season with Barcelona, as he says in this Euroleague.net interview, there is no doubt as he takes care of business what prize Mickeal has his eyes on: the Euroleague trophy. "That is my ultimate goal right now, because the Euroleague is also my favorite competition," Mickeal said. "I have never won it and I know how focused you have to be in a Final Four game. It is so difficult. This is the hardest thing to win - and this is why it is my main goal right now. I don't settle for easy goals, that doesn't mean anything. I am ambitious and have to go for the hardest thing to win - and this is the Euroleague."
Hello Pete. First, congratulations on becoming the Sportingbet MVP of the Month for November. How do you feel about receiving
"Thank you. I have to say that I am very, very honored. This is my third year in the Euroleague, and if you look at my
numbers, they went up season after season. I cannot say it is a surprise, but at the same time, it is extra responsibility for
me, that is how I feel about it. It is the kind of pressure I always put on myself to perform."
Barcelona has been virtually unstoppable so far, losing just one official game in two
months. Is this what you expected when you decided to join the club?
"Yeah, I expected that because I think I played against Barcelona 11 or 12 times last season and knew a lot about this team.
Barcelona is a big club in Europe and I felt that it was a great place for me to be. Barcelona is a great city and I already
knew that it had coach Xavi Pascual and very good players. It was a great opportunity for me, and the club is a great sports
In November, the team opened with a big win against Zalgiris in Kaunas despite having to play without reigning Euroleague MVP Juan Carlos Navarro. How difficult was that?
"That was the game that really helped to keep us going. We played in front of a sellout crowd, with great fans and against a good team with good American players like Marcus Brown and Travis Watson. We knew it would be a tough game but
took the challenge and worked hard together as a team. Like I said, I took responsibility and felt that I had to do my job.
I count on this team as much as they count on me. I had to do my job, and that was not just one thing, it was a little bit of
Next, Asvel came to Barcelona needing a win to rejoin the Top 16 race. How dangerous was Asvel and what did you have to do to beat them?
"If you look at its previous game, Asvel was leading Montepaschi by 21 points in the first quarter, even though Siena came back
and won the game. We knew Asvel was dangerous and they started the game against us really well. It was very hard to control the game in
the first quarter and that was the key: not letting them go and controlling the game tempo. They played with a lot of energy
and great rhythm. It was a game for us to come out and show our face, who we are."
Barcelona closed November with a resounding road win against Montepaschi in Siena. Few teams have been able to beat
Montepaschi on the road - let alone by 19 points. Has it been your best game so far?
"Defensively, I think it was our best game. You can just see how we got stronger every quarter. That is a great sign for the team, getting stronger after halftime, with rotations and a lot of players taking individual responsibilities. Montepaschi has a lot of good players so we had to our best. They didn't give up, but in the last three minutes, we kept executing like it was the first quarter, following our game plan. I had the feeling that we all wanted to keep working until the final buzzer. This is what our coach wants from us, to fight from the first minute to the last second."
Speaking of your coach, Xavi Pascual led Barcelona to the Spanish League title and the Final Four last season, in his debut as a top-level head coach. What do you see in this new, young coach who has been so succesful so quickly?
"I have said it once and I will say it again. What I like about him is the environment that he creates to come to work. For me, this is what happens and makes the difference - the way you feel when you come to do your job. Players have a good attitude to come to work. There hasn't been a single day, I think, that I wanted to go home, and it is all because of the environment he creates. He is the boss and controls everything. You want to work, get better and all players believe in that. That way, you know you will have success. It wouldn't be the same if Xavi was not here. He is the type of coach that you join a place for."
This is your third Euroleague season after leading Makedonikos to the ULEB Cup final back in 2005. What has the Euroleague
meant for you as a player and which are the main strengths of the competition?
"Having my first shot in the ULEB Cup meant a lot to me. Nobody expected us to do anything but me and Andre Hutson, who is now playing for Lottomatica Roma, took Makedonikos to the final game against Lietuvos Rytas. It was when I first got my name out there and I had unbelievable numbers that helped me to get to Spain, in Breogan. My first coach in Spain, Moncho Lopez, saw me play in the ULEB Cup final and that is the way I caught his interest. Everybody got to see me on TV. The ULEB Cup meant a lot to me, as the Euroleague does. I love the Euroleague, the rules are just great. They let you use your strength and you can use contact a lot more. There is not that much charging or flopping. They make you play defense and you have to score, play basketball to beat your opponent. They let the players use their strengths, and this a big, big plus. They let you play your game."
You never give up and like to take responsibility on the court. Where does your winning mentality come from?
"That mentality comes from when I was a kid, playing against my brother in the playground. My brother is dead now, he was murdered when I was younger. He was my influence in life and basketball. He was bigger than me and I could never win a game against him - but I never stopped trying. My brother was bigger and stronger, and I could never beat him, but I never gave up and tried hard every day. He was my best friend and always believed in me. I wanted so much to succeed that he would wake me up at 12 at night to come on the court to play against him and compete. I learned to have this winning mentality throughout my own childhood."
Barcelona last summer shopped for athletic players like Terence Morris, Boni N'dong, Ricky Rubio and you. Is this team the most physical and athletic team you have seen in European basketball?
"That is a good question. What I can say? Sometimes I see Terence, Boni or Ricky and think: wow. They all have energy, are such good players. They all jump, run and are great basketball players, it is unbelievable. Fran Vazquez is an incredible athlete, too. It is good to have all those players on my team, so many at the same time. It is difficult to say if it is the most physical team I have seen here. We have great athletic ablities, but for instance, I was on a great athletic team last season. In the end, Barcelona beat us and they went to the Final Four. I think we are more talented and athletic this season."
Barcelona made a great effort to go for the Euroleague title this season - and you have a reputation as a natural-born winner. What would it mean for you to lift the Euroleague trophy in Paris in early May?
"It would mean a lot to me. I have already won everything in Spain at least once. that is my ultimate goal right now, because the Euroleague is also my favorite competition. I have never won it and I know how focused you have to be in a Final Four game. It is so difficult. This is the hardest thing to win - and this is why it is my main goal right now. I don't settle for easy goals, that doesn't mean anything. I am ambitious and have to go for the hardest thing to win - and this is the Euroleague."