|This season has already been a dream Turkish Airlines Euroleague debut for Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv point guard Jeremy Pargo. And it can still get better. Pargo was the hero of Maccabi's playoff series win over Caja Laboral, as his clutch plays and impressive stats led to his selection as Sportingbet Euroleague MVP for March. Now, Pargo looks to shoulder the load for two more do-or-die games as Maccabi heads this week to the 2011 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four in Barcelona. Pargo has a chance to join some elite company. The three starting point guards who led Maccabi to its five previous Euroleague crowns – Moti Aroesti, Arriel McDonald and Sarunas Jasikevicius – remain legends in Tel Aviv. Pargo is naturally eager to become a Euroleague champ and join their company. He possesses all the tools to accomplish that: extraordinary speed and explosive leaping ability – main ingredients in the highlight-reel slams that make him a fan favorite in Tel Aviv – plus outstanding perimeter shooting and tough defense. The challenge, which starts with a duel against Real Madrid in the semifinals on Friday, May 6, will not be easy for a rookie whose backcourt partner, Doron Perkins, will miss the Final Four after getting injured in Game 3 of the playoffs. But Pargo has shown himself to be adept at surpassing challenges. With his playoffs performance, he met a big one by becoming Maccabi's leader at the moment that Perkins was lost. Now, he'll play the same role at the Final Four. "We have to come out, be ourselves and do the things that we have done to get to this point," Pargo told Euroleague.net. "If we manage to do that, I think we will have a good chance to reach the final."
Congratulations, Jeremy, on a great rookie season, going to the Final Four as an all-Euroleague nominee. How are you enjoying this competition?
"Thank you. It is being a great experience. This is my first Euroleague season and I am excited to go to the Final Four. We have to stay together as a team, play hard and see where that takes us, but so far and like I said, it’s been a great experience for me."
Advancing to the Final Four was surely the highlight until now. What was the feeling like to win Game 4 and clinch a spot in Barcelona?
"We knew what we wanted to do - come out and play hard, do whatever it takes to get to the next level and reach the Final Four. The feeling was great, it was a sense of joy and excitement. It was a tough series for us, losing a great player like Doron Perkins, so being able to come out and win both games in Tel Aviv without him says a lot about us, our character and how well we play together."
Your dominant performances in the Playoffs led to your selection as the Sportingbet Euroleague MVP for March. What does that honor mean to you coming at such a pivotal part of the season?
"It is an achievement that I honestly didn't expect. It came out of nowhere for me and it wasn't one of my goals. Of course, I have to thank my teammates because I wouldn't have won it without them. Winning the MVP of March means that I played well in some of the most important games this season and I am proud of that. You always want to win games, but we have been able to pull together at the right time. We have to keep it going, even when there is a month between the end of the Playoffs and the Final Four. We hope to come back ready to play and win the title."
It was back in Game 2 against Caja Laboral that your game-winning jumper very much changed the series. Was that a planned play or an improvised shot?
"You know, it is actually a play that we run during the course of the game. Just a play that we called at that moment and worked out for the best. They have great fans over there and it was not an easy opponent to face on the road, but it was a great opportunity for us to come out with a win."
How did you and your teammates overcome seeing Doron Perkins carried off the floor in Game 3 of the playoffs to win that night and clinch without him in Game 4?
"In that situation, we pulled together closer as a team. Unfortunately, Doron's injury happened, so we tried our best to come together as a team and play hard. The only thing in our mind had to be going to the Final Four and it worked out. Seeing him in good spirits - in a message in Nokia Arena's video wall before Game 4 - and smiling one day after he went down was definitely a great inspiration for all of us."
Now the focus is on Real Madrid in the semifinals. What do you expect from having watched them play?
"I expect it to be a tough game, of course. Real Madrid has a lot of great players and they are a good team. They wouldn't be in this position if they weren't a good team. We have to come out, be ourselves and do the things that we have done to get to this point. If we manage to do that, I think we will have a good chance to reach the final."
You will likely match up against one of the Euroleague's most veteran playmakers, Pablo Prigioni. How do you prepare to face an older, experienced guy like that?
"You just have to give your best and be smart on the court to match his level of experience. You cannot pretend to do anything special against him, just come out, play hard and like I said, do what you have done to get to this point."
How does not having Doron Perkins affect your game individually and that of the whole team in general?
"It is going to be a bit different because Doron does a lot of things on the court. He is an intense guy that plays hard every moment and we have to pick that part up that will be missing. I think he is the best defensive player not only in the team, but in the Euroleague, so we will have to give our best to be at the same defensive level."
While you have been Maccabi’s top weapon from the perimeter, Sofoklis Schortsanitis has been unstoppable in the paint. What is it like playing with him?
"Oh, Sofo is big and demands so much attention. Having a guy like that can change every game and makes it easier for the guards. Hopefully we can do our part and help him. The better we play, the easier options he will have in the paint - and if he plays well, he will be double-teamed and will give us a better chance to score."
Coach Blatt gave you the keys to this team. What did you learn this season and how do you plan to drive at the Final Four?
"Like I said, the one thing we plan to do and the most important one is being ourselves. If we do that, this is what got us to this point. If we come out ready and play as a team, like we did all year, and take one game at the time, we will be fine."