| With two games remaining in the Euroleague regular season, Maroussi BC is sitting in fourth place in Group C, trying to hold that position in order to reach the Top 16. If successful, Maroussi will have proven the competitive value of the first-ever Euroleague qualifying rounds, which the team started playing way back on September 29. From that first qualifying game until now, young center Dimitrios Mavroeidis has personified Maroussi's can-do spirit. Coming off the bench for less than 20 minutes per game, Mavroeidis nonetheless ranks 11th among all Euroleague players in average performance index rating. On a per-minute basis, he ranks even better - second overall - based on his 10.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. A Euroleague rookie just like his team, Mavroeidis is almost doubling what had been the best scoring average until now in his career. For him and for Maroussi, the inspiration that comes with playing in the Euroleague has been a major ingredient in how they are beating expectations. "I've always been hoping to play in the Euroleague, which is a dream for every player," Mavroeidis told Euroleague.net. "It's an honor to play at this level and to show other teams what you can do. I worked a lot over the summer to get ready. Once we got started, I began playing well and getting a lot of help from my teammates. Of course, your team has a lot to do with any success you have. I just hope it continues."
Hello, Dimitrios. How do you and your teammates feel about going from the qualifying round to the doorstep of the Top 16?
"You know, it's a very big thing for us. When the season started, we did not even expect to play in the Euroleague. Now we are close to making the Top 16. We needed to qualify first, beating a big team like Alba Berlin. Now, we are just one win away from the Top 16. For the club and all of us on the team, this is of course something special."
To advance, Maroussi will probably have to beat one of two teams with huge Euroleague experience, Caja Laboral or Maccabi. How difficult is that?
"This week's game against Caja Laboral will be very difficult, because they are a great team on a difficult court in Vitoria and they beat us by the most points of any team this season. So I think we know we must be ready to beat Maccabi on our home court, where we have won most of our games. That will be our big chance, but we'll play focused in both games. If we play like we did in Rome, we will have a chance to qualify."
Indeed, one impressive thing about Maroussi is that, except for the first Caja Laboral game, you guys have been close in every single game. How?
"From the beginning of the season, this team was built with players who play defense, play like a team and have good character as people. So this team is made of good metal that is not easy to break. We never give up, we fight to the end, whether we are playing the last team in Greece or the first team in Europe. That makes us very difficult to beat. In the Greek League, we are also doing well, and I believe that's the key, fighting like a team all game, every game. We enjoy it."
What does it mean to hear Euroleague coaches compliment your team after you play them, as several have this season?
"Again, I think it's because we play as a team. We don't have one big scorer with a 20-points average. We are all helping each other, and whoever is playing good that day can be the one who scores. All of this means that it's not easy for other teams to play against us. It all starts from defense, we are all trying hard there, which is our coach's philosophy. We also play free, without pressure to go to the next round. That lets us all play free and nice basketball."
You, personally, see to enjoy this competition, since you are putting up the best numbers of your career in the Euroleague. Why?
"I've always been hoping to play in the Euroleague, which is a dream for every player. It's an honor to play at this level and to show other teams what you can do. I worked a lot over the summer to get ready. Once we got started, I began playing well and getting a lot of help from my teammates. Of course, your team has a lot to do with any success you have. I just hope it continues like this and someday I'll be playing for bigger things in the Euroleague."
Did you know that on a per-minute basis, you are the second-best Euroleague performer so far this season?
"I didn't know until my friends told me. What can I say? I will try to become the first now!"
How do you like coming off the bench?
"Here at Maroussi, we don't have starters and backups. Our coach has a philosophy that everyone gets involved the same. If you start or not, it doesn't matter, because everyone comes on the court for the same time, and when they do play, everyone gives 100 percent."
Speaking of your coach, Georgios Bartzokas, what is his style and what's it like to play for him?
"Our coach is new in Greece as far as big teams are concerned. He was an assistant here in Maroussi years ago, and now he's back showing what he can do. He's a very good person and a very good coach. He works very hard in the preseason. He also puts in some rules, but after keeping those rules, every player can be free in the game to show himself. I am very happy to play for him and he has helped me a lot this season."
Losing the opening game of the season to CSKA on the buzzer at home could have hurt your team's confidence, but it didn't. Why not?
"When we started this season, not everyone expected us to make it to the Euroleague regular season. Even getting here was a dream come true. Then, after losing by one point to CSKA, one of the biggest teams in Europe, we said to ourselves, 'Maybe we can go farther. If we continue playing like this, it is not impossible to reach the Top 16.' After the second game, which we won at Olimpija, we saw that now we can make it."
Everyone knows that Maroussi gets very few home fans, especially for a big arena like OAKA. What affect does that have on the team?
"It's true that very few fans support our side, and because of that, we know that the only thing we have is each other. When we go on the court, we don't expect any help. It's just us, and I think that's good. Whether we play home or away, it's the same for us. That's why we win away a lot, I think. We have learned from this to play without help."
Finally, how has your first Euroleague experience been so far, and how much do you want to continue it?
"Last year, we played in the Eurocup, but the Euroleague is completely different. This is very high quality, both the players and the organization. I just want to keep playing on this level, for now in the Top 16, and someday on a team that can go for some cups."