Time to step up and maximize our potential

Sep 24, 2012 by Ian Vougioukas - Kazan, Russia Print
Ian Vougioukas - Unics Kazan Hello again everybody. I am back for my second blog post. We spent the past week in Kazan practicing and getting ready for the qualifying tournament in Desio that starts Tuesday. We just had our last practice before we leave for Italy, flying through Moscow. I am excited; the team is excited about the opportunity to play in this tournament which will mark the official beginning of the 2012-2013 season. We have had a variety of exhibition games in Bormio, Antalya and Kazan and now we finally get to play in games that matter. Our first opponent is the German team Ulm. We spent the week scouting them. They finished second last year in the German League and from what we have learned, have brought back the same coach and many of the same players from last year with a couple of new additions, which in my opinion make them a better team than last year. In general they have a young team. What they may lack in experience, I am sure they make up for in team energy and enthusiasm. We will have a difficult opening game as this team has an advantage because they kept the same core as last year, so they make some movements offensively and defensively automatically. We will be ready for the challenge and we definitely respect the way they play after watching them on video.

I believe we have had a good week of practices. The team was focused as we zero in on our first team goal. Knowing that it is a knockout style tournament makes every game do or die. For this reason we need to respect the team and players we play against and have to play hard from the first to the last minute. From my experience against German teams, I know that they play hard and never give up. They play to the last second whether they are winning or losing. This makes them a dangerous opponent, but I believe we will be in the right mindset and will be well prepared for that. Our team is coming together nicely too. The unfortunate thing for us is that we will be missing two important players for us, Marco Banic and Kelly McCarty, due to injury. I wish them a speedy recovery and look forward to having them on the roster again. With these key losses, more weight will fall onto the other players’ shoulders. Players that may not have had such a big role if they had been healthy will be "forced" to step up. I am confident that we will try our best to make up for their absence. On a more positive note, I believe that we have continued to build our team chemistry on and off the court, which will be important for this tournament and for the remainder of the season. I believe that week by week and month by month, we will become a better team and instead of relying on an individual’s games, we will also be able to play more of a team game.

For the time being though, we are focused on Ulm. I am sure like they are, and every other team in this tournament is, we are looking just at the first game. We know that to play well in this tournament we will have to play our game and not worry so much about our opponents. What I mean is that after the first game, the games that follow, we will have very little time to scout for them. Our coaches I am sure will have us well prepared, but playing against very different opponents every day makes it almost impossible to thoroughly know the other team. This is why, as I said in my first blog post, we need to respect our opponents, but should also learn to how to maximize our potential.

In closing, I wish the best of luck to all the teams participating in the qualifying rounds and may the best team win!