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Fan Mail: Vassilis Spanoulis, Panathinaikos
April 27, 2009
One of the happiest people in basketball right now surely has to be Panathinaikos guard Vassilis Spanoulis. Not only he has been chosen to one of the All-Euroleague teams, but Spanoulis is also getting ready for his Final Four debut and the chance to lead Panathinaikos to its fifth Euroleague title. His versatility, character and skills have turned Spanoulis into one of the most unstoppable guards in the competition. Even with his star status, Spanoulis always thinks team first, as he showed in this Final Four edition of Euroleague Fan Mail, in which he took questions from around the world. "These last three months especially, I've felt great and I have simply done my best to help my team qualify for the Final Four," Spanoulis said in an answer to one question. "It is a challenge for all of us to be in Berlin, but moreover to win the title."
Dear Vassilis. I'm a huge fan of Panathinaikos and I'm very proud of what you guys have achieved so far. What aspects of your game would you like to improve? Good luck in the Final Four!
Alexis Katsouris - Greece
"I am 26-27 years old. I want and try to improve many aspects of my game, to improve in general as a player. It is a daily effort. In every practice the goal is to enhance your play. You even work on your alleged strong spots. It is the only way to evolve as a player."
Vassilis, with Diamantidis being injured and not 100-percent ready, how challenging is it for you to be the main point guard for Panathinaikos at this Final Four? Thank you.
Christos Marazopoulos - Bath, UK
"This team has many good players. Dimitris is a very important part of the team but unfortunately he was injured. There are no starters or second strings in the team. Anyone could be a star on another team and not for Panathinaikos. Personally speaking, these last three months especially, I’ve felt great and I have simply done my best to help my team qualify for the Final Four, so did and will do all my teammates. It is a challenge for all of us to be in Berlin, but moreover to win the title."
Let's go Greens! I'll be there in Berlin cheering you on. How does the excitement for you before the Final Four compare to before big games with the national team?
Thanasis Rimbas - Athens, Greece
"It's two entirely different situations that are, at the same time, similar in a way. With the national team, you are representing your country and with Panathinaikos a great, legendary club. It's an honor in both cases for any athlete. Preparation before great encounters is quite the same though, and I strive to be as prepared as possible mentally for these particular games, staying very, very focused!"
Hey Bill! What is it like to face your former coach, Panagiotis Giannakis? Did you like playing for him?
Markos Stefanidis - Greece
"I was his player both in Maroussi and the national team. Now we are opponents on the court. I focus on my team. Throughout my entire career, all I focus on is doing whatever my coach requests of me, always for the best interest of the team."
Hello, Vassilis! I know they call you "Kill Bill". Are there any funny nicknames for players on the team that you can tell us?
David Weathers - Houston, USA
"Not many. Fotsis is known as 'Batman'. Diamantidis is called 'The Octopus' due to his defending style…"
Hello Vassilis. What is you favorite arena to play at in Europe?
Mattia Pellegrino - Bologna, Italy
"That's easy: OAKA! It is our court, our HOME court, where we practice daily, it is familiar ground and when packed to the rim the atmosphere is unique!"
Who was your favorite player when you were growing up? Please bring the Euroleague trophy back for us!
Stefanos Klokidis - Athens, Greece
"Michael Jordan. We all grew up admiring him. And we were really lucky to have seen him 'in the flesh', which is to say at the peak of his career."
Is it true that Nikos Zisis from CSKA is one of your best friends? Do you hope to face him in the Euroleague final?
Igor Rodchenko - Moscow, Russia
"Yes, it's true. We have experienced many great moments together. We have been roommates for many years now, approximately 10 in the national teams. We hang out a lot. I would like meeting up with him in the final. We would be opponents for 40 minutes, but after we'll have a sit-down to discuss every single aspect of the game!"
So many people say that Zeljko Obradovic is the best coach in basketball. What is it like to play for him?
Lazar Bjelac - Belgrade, Serbia
"Playing for Mr. Obradovic is an uncanny feeling. He knows the way to get 100 percent out of every player and knows how to get us ready for important games and to have the team prepared when the situation calls for it. It's an honor for a player to have him as a coach. And I must say playing for him is not easy. He is intensely demanding and being simply good is not an option. He aims for perfection. This is why he chooses very wisely when forming his team's roster."
Between Panathinaikos, Olympiacos and CSKA, almost the entire Greek national team will be in Berlin. How special is that for the players? Good luck in Berlin and this summer in Poland!
Christos Boutzikos - Rhodes, Greece
"This is proof of Greek basketball's dynamic, the fact that over the last four or five years, our national team ranks among the top teams worldwide. That it endures, which is essential in basketball, but that it also has a promising future."
I'm a big Panathinaikos fan and rarely missed a game since 1998. Two years ago, when Panathinaikos won its fourth European title, you were not here. Do you ever regret leaving and missing that opportunity? Do you think this time our team has more of what it takes or do all four teams have a 25-percent chance?
Marilena Koumareli - Athens, Greece
"No regrets. I never regret my decisions. I was delighted for the players, coaches, fans, and administration when they won the trophy in 2007, because apart from being teammates we are also very dear friends and it is only natural to share their joy. This is one of the reasons why I chose to return to this particular team, the fact that I am actually happy here. Panathinaikos has aspirations and expectations covered and we have the chance to compete for the Euroleague title more than once. In every Final Four, the possibilities for success are 25 percent for each team; though I must admit that this year's roster could very likely be the most complete in the history of Panathinaikos. But make no mistake, being the best team does not equal getting the trophy. A great deal will be based on our form when in Berlin. There is no rule commanding that the best team takes it all. What I and all of us try for is to do everything in our power to snatch the trophy. We set off for Berlin bearing in mind not just to beat Olympiacos, but essentially to conquer the cup!"
Yia Sou Vassilis. Although you missed out on the Euroleague title back in 2007, do you see your experience in America as an important step in your development? Best wishes for the Final Four!
Bill Kotopoulis - Sydney, Australia
"That year I was pursuing a dream, which then was to play in the NBA. It was a season that mostly aided in improving as a person, I believe. Everything I experience, whether a good or bad season, enables me to gain experience, positive or negative, which will come in handy somewhere down the road."
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