It is rare enough for any player to join the defending Euroleague champions in midseason. When that player is a 31-year-old veteran who has never played in the competition before and becomes a starter within weeks, it is even more interesting. That is why fans flocked to ask questions of Oscar Torres of CSKA Moscow, the first Venezuelan to ever play a Final Four. Torres has been among CSKA's leading scorers and rebounders while starting 7 of his 8 games with the team. The energy boost Torres provided has helped, for sure, and what impresses him about CSKA is the work ethic from the top down. "Like this team, I haven't seen any," Torres said in one Fan Mail answer. "I think the players and coaches here deserve a lot of credit because of the work they put into it. We work hard and always study our opponents a lot, and our success comes from that. And it's not just working hard, but also bringing all that work to the court for the games. The togetherness between the players on the court really helps. Personally, I feel those things to be the basis of the success of this team."
Dear Oscar! I am a great CSKA Moscow fan. I was very happy to know that you left Khimki to join CSKA. How do you feel at CSKA now, after a few months? You are the best!
Mikhail Egorov - Paris, France
"I feel very good because, as you know, I have been in Moscow for three years, and I knew about CSKA, its players, how they play together, and about the coach. So when it came, the opportunity to play here was very special for me, and not just because they had won so much and were Euroleague champions. In my last team, Khimki, I had a lot of problems finding playing time because we had so many foreigners on the team. Because of the rules, it became difficult to get minutes consistently because you would play one week and not the next. So this opportunity was great in that way as well."
Hey Oscar. You came to CSKA in the middle of the season, but soon you were a regular starter. How did you fit in so quickly and easily?
Armand Alleg - Oostende, Belgium
"I am very happy with the way they received me here. There's a lot of camaraderie here, a lot of togetherness always. Sometimes we go out to eat together or things like that. And that is important for the togetherness of the team both on and off the court. When a group is united like that, it makes you think you can win all the time. We have that family feeling, and it's very important. To fit in, all I do is try to improve at every practice. I know how tough the Euroleague is, so I just try to be always in condition to play and to be ready for whatever Coach Messina needs from me."
Oscar, what are your teammates telling you to expect at the Final Four?
Raul - Spain
"How important this event is, I already know. Some of the guys have talked about how difficult it is going to be, but that we are capable of doing exactly what we are going there to do. There's a lot of talent and everything, but we know if whenever we defend 100 percent, we can win games easily. That will be the key to getting that first game, getting mentally prepared to play 100 percent on defense."
Hi Oscar. I am 15 years old and have been playing basketball since I was 4. My goal is to play in the Olympic Games with the Venezuelan national team. I have followed your career since you played for Marinos de Oriente and you are an example for me. You make me proud to play this sport. Can you give me some advice to improve as a player and as a person, on and off the court? Keep fighting hard, you are doing a great job,
Gabriel Garcia - Venezuela
"First, lots of work and consistency year after year, and a lot of discipline and dedication. When you want and know you can get something, it's then a matter of learning and trying to do that something the best that you can. In my early years, I never played too much: a few seconds or minutes or not at all in some games, because I was being rotated with other rookies. So I dedicated myself to practice, to taking advantage of those minutes by playing tough and tougher. I was always the first player to arrive and one of the last to leave. Without playing much, I felt I had to do extra in order to keep in condition for whenever the opportunity came. The opportunity always comes, and when it does, you have to be ready to take advantage at that moment. That will give you more confidence when you do have minutes on court. You won't be afraid and you can depend on what you learned earlier. One of the main things is always discipline. It's most important, more than having talent. If you always have discipline, your teammates and your coaches appreciate that, and it helps your confidence, too."
Hey Oscar. We have not forgotten about you here in Napoli. After so many years playing for good teams all around the globe, how does it feel to play in one of the best teams in the world like CSKA Moscow! Good luck in the Final Four!
Marcello Abate - Napoli, Italy
"I am very happy. I have known a lot of places, as you said, and have seen a lot of teams. But like this team, I haven't seen any. I think the players and coaches here deserve a lot of credit because of the work they put into it. We work hard and always study our opponents a lot, and our success comes from that. And it's not just working hard, but also bringing all that work to the court for the games. The togetherness between the players on the court really helps. Personally, I feel those things to be the basis of the success of this team. I am very happy here and just trying to reach the same level as the other players."
Hi, Oscar! Could you please tell us about the experience of playing in same team with Theo Papaloukas? What is your opinion on the way he plays?
Kintzios - Greece
"It's funny, be he reminds me of an American player who played with me in Venezuela. They have similar characteristics, in particular great court vision and coming from the bench to inspire other players. For me, he's an excellent player and a great person on and off the court. He's one of the principal pieces of this team. Every game he helps the team, whether on defense or on attack. He always finds someone open to shoot. For me, he's an excellent 'pilot'."
Hello OT, this is Darren from the United States. I have been following Euroleague Basketball through its website this season. Does CSKA's defense make the team feel unbeatable at times? Good luck and best of luck.
Darren Smith - Oklahoma City, USA
"Surely. As I said before, the defense of this team forms a fundamental part of our success. When we defend well, the five guys on the court, it's very difficult the other team to score. They always end up shooting forced shots, and then we take advantage to attack easier. In the last Euroleague games- in fact, since I came here - I have seen us defend incredibly. We have been just all over other teams. So yes, defense is our fundamental base."
Hello, I am Valentina, a CSKA fan traveling to Athens! How does it feel you be the only player from Venezuela in the Final Four? Do you feel like, in a way, you are representing a whole country? Go CSKA!
Valentina Nikolaevna - Moscow, Russia
"It's a privilege for me. I feel very happy for this fact. Personally, I hope it is going to serve to open doors for other Venezuelans. It's going to be great. And I think will be even better when we have won the two games and lift the cup. I have thought a lot about that and when we're in Athens, I'll try to enjoy myself and do what I always try to do - help my team as much as I can."
Hello Oscar, you arrived to Moscow before the start of the Top 16, so you had enough time to see how coach Ettore Messina and his crew work. How does it feel to play for coach Messina and how does he fit to your playing style?
Claudio Ceccaroni - Italy
"First and foremost, I have great respect for him as a person and great admiration for the way he works. He dedicates himself to his work, and all he has achieved he deserves. I had never worked with coaches like him before, so it is something special to do so with him. He's a person who is attentive to everything. When we are practicing or playing games, the most important thing for him is that we work and do what we know, and don't try to do more than we can. Like I said, I just have a lot of admiration and respect for him."
Hello, Oscar. What do you think of young Russian players and their future?
Dok - Russia
"There are quite a few players who have a lot of talent here. The country has to develop a little bit more in terms of basketball coaches. I haven't seen Russian coaches of top quality, and of course it would be better if there were such coaches to add to the foundation of Russian basketball. I have seen these good players and some of them - not all - lack a little of that extra development. With so many foreign players here, they will get to see a little more about the international way of playing. Whether Americans or other basketball that is different than the European kind, that mix of influences can really help the Russians, too."
How much do you like Russia as a place to play professional basketball?
Andrey - Moscow, Russia
"From my first year until now, I can say I feel very good in this country. I have come to know a lot of people. The first year, more than anything for the climate, I had to make a big adjustment. Playing was no problem. I can adjust to basketball in any place. But the climate was tough. Coming from a tropical climate to a place like this, where it's cold most of the year. But I have been able to adapt day-to-day to know the country and now I am more a comfortable and I share more time with the people I know here. There are also people from Venezuela and Argentina, something I never expected. I am very comfortable here now."