| His team may be new to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague this season, but Henry Domercant and Unics Kazan have proven that individual personal experience in this competition matters most. Domercant, at 31, has more older teammates than younger ones, including two with Euroleague titles. In five previous Euroleague seasons, Domercant himself has made the Euroleague playoffs four times. Going into another Top 16, he is leading Unics with the best averages of his Euroleague career so far: 16.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 55% three-point shooting and 16.6 performance index rating. It all adds up to a measure of confidence that makes Unics and Domercant very dangerous entering the new round. "I don't think a lot of people in Europe had high expectations for us," Domercant told Euroleague.net. "But I think in the locker room we have a lot of experience, and we knew between us what great guys we had. So we expected to be here...We're happy with the results so far, but we still want more."
Hello, Henry. Congratulations on reaching the Top 16 for the sixth time in six Euroleague seasons. How would you sum up Unics's season so far?
"Obviously, this season is our club's first time in the Euroleague, and I don't think a lot of people in Europe had high expectations for us. But I think in the locker room we have a lot of experience, and we knew between us what great guys we had. So we expected to be here. We didn't know exactly how it would happen, but with the group we have, we expected to be here. We are confident with what we can do and we believe that when we play together, we can compete with anyone in Europe. We're happy with the results so far, but we still want more."
By the numbers, you're having your finest Euroleague season yet: career highs in scoring, three-pointers and shooting accuracy, rebounds and performance index rating. What has made the difference?
"Obviously, different situations on different types of teams affect everyone. But the coaches here have shown a lot of confidence in me and gave me more responsibility this year than I maybe had in past seasons. I just thank god that I have been able to perform in some of the key moments when the team needed me."
How would you say your game has developed since you first made your Euroleague debut with Efes Pilsen back in 2004?
"Just more experience, learning a lot about how the Euroleague is played. It's a unique competition, so that experience is key, along with just getting better as an all-around player. I think that as far as scoring, in addition to doing some of the same things I always have, I have learned a few new ones, gotten better at some like my mid-range game, things like that. I would be interested to hear how someone who has watched me over the years would answer that question."
You are Unics’s only player to start all 10 Euroleague games thus far and lead the team in minutes played. Do you see yourself as a team leader?
"I think I am one of the leaders. Like I said, we are probably one of the oldest teams in the Euroleague. We have a lot of guys with different types of experience. Guys who are 37, 36, a couple 34-year-olds, a couple 32s and I just turned 31. Even our youngest guys are in their mid-20s. So there is a lot of guys who can step up and offer leadership in different ways. I try to be one of the leaders on the court, by example, but I can say the same thing about at least a couple of other guys we have."
Does all the Euroleague experience on the team give you confidence heading into the Top 16?
"Definitely. "e understand that every Top 16 game is like a final and every week things can change. Our coach has done a good job preparing us, game to game, for going into different atmospheres on the road. I think that as a group, we've been able to stay just locked into the game plans we've had and in that way have been able to get good wins. We're hoping to build off that for the Top 16, when every road win can be crucial, and hopefully, we'll be able take care of home better, too."
What can you tell us about your Top 16 opponents: Fenerbahce Ulker, Panathinaikos and EA7 Emporio Armani?
"Where do you start? Panathinaikos, for all they've won, and for being one of the top teams in Europe in my time here. Great system, great coach. I have a lot of respect for their players. I played with Romain Sato two years, so I know his work ethic. I played against Dimitris Diamantidis when I was on Olympiacos, lots of battles. I just have a lot of respect for them and their program. Fenerbahce, I played in Turkey, too, so I know a lot of those guys. They've got a lot of talent and are the number one seed in our group, so you have to respect what they've done to get here. They've got great players inside and outside. Then there's Milan, which has some of the most experienced players in Europe, guys who've been to the Final Four and won. They've got a lot of scoring potential and are a very dangerous team. So, all in all, it's a tough group."
Like you said, you played before with the chief rival of each of your Top 16 opponents. Does that give you any kind of advantage in visiting Istanbul, Athens and Milan?
"I think so. Just the simple fact of going into OAKA with over 20,000 people there makes it unique atmosphere. Only Partizan and a couple places have that type of basketball atmosphere. Just me being there before and knowing what to expect definitely can't hurt. The same goes for playing Fenerbahce and Milan: against great teams, great players and great coaches, I'll try to use whatever I can that's to my advantage, including the experience of playing there before."
At home against Fenerbahce Ulker in the Top 16's first game on Wednesday. With all your experience, what will be the importance of that game and the key to winning it?
"It's one game, it obviously doesn't decide everything, but it definitely means a lot. It's a game that sends a message. And also because we're at home and every home win is crucial and critical at this stage, it's the most important game so far, and not just because it's the next one. The first game of the Top 16 is very, very important."
Unics won more regular season games on the road than at home. Do you feel like you have a homecourt advantage in Kazan yet?
"We feel that we have some advantages being at home. The travel is not the best for other teams, and the time difference is bad for some of them. Of course, when we travel, we have to deal with it, too, but when we're at home, we think those things help us. Also, as the competition goes on, we are more comfortable at home. When we started, we were a new team with lots of new players on the roster, and all of us had to adjust to each other's level of play. The first Euroleague game against Siena we were up by 11 points, but let them come back and win on our court. Part of that was our lack of experience together there. With a little more time and togetherness as a unit, we can limit that type of situation from happening now."
You were in the playoffs in four of your previous five Euroleague seasons. How much does it motivate you now to get back there and take another shot at the Final Four?
"I am very motivated. I know just how hard it is to get to the big dance, the Final Four. I know the Top 16 is a step in that direction. Being as the last time I was in the Euroleague was the only time I didn't qualify for the playoffs, in Siena, I remember that most, and it hurt. I don't want to go through that feeling again. I think we have a great opportunity at a legitimate chance to advance, and I want to seize that chance. You never know how many times you will get those chances. Us being in the Euroleague next season isn't even guaranteed. So we want to take full advantage of the opportunity now. Also, I love playing on the biggest stage, and this is another step higher. Everyone is watching and it's lots of fun. For these kinds of moments is why we play this game."