Making the Final Four is an amazing feeling. Our club waited for this moment for a long time - it has been 18 years since we made it to the SuproLeague Final Four. We were really close a couple of times but didn't end up making it. This is the year for us to finally reach that goal. This is an amazing feeling for us and also a great achievement for Turkish basketball; for the first time ever, two Turkish teams will play in the Final Four in the same season. It is a historic moment for Turkish basketball, so 2019 is already a special year in some different ways.
As I said, we were really close to the Final Four a couple of times in recent years, especially when we were up 2-1 against Olympiacos in 2017 and had a 15-point lead against them in Game 5 in 2013. Those were really heartbreaking moments for us. This year was also a tough one because we had to play all five playoffs game against Barcelona. It wasn't easy, but we knew it couldn't be any other way. Definitely, we are looking forward to playing the Final Four. It is going to be a great experience.
"It is a historic moment for Turkish basketball."
We wouldn't have made it to the Final Four without our great fans. There were 15,000 of them at Sinan Erdem Dome and we got chills as soon as we stepped on the court. We knew that their support would be crucial in Game 5 and it was a historic night for our organization, the club, and Turkish basketball. The support that they gave us played a big role in us qualifying for the Final Four. It was really hard for Barcelona to compete against us in that environment. We also felt the same when we played in Barcelona and wanted them to feel the same way in Istanbul. I think our fans did a great job and we felt very good as a team. Our fans are behind us and we know that. A lot of people stop me on the streets to congratulate me for reaching the Final Four. Wherever I go, I get good support from Turkish basketball lovers. They are really happy to see Efes in the Final Four after a long time. I guess that all basketball fans were waiting for this moment as well. I know that a lot of our fans will travel to Vitoria for the event. It will be really nice to know they have our backs, to know they will support us.
We played so many games and not reaching the goals that the team had at the beginning of the season can be really frustrating but finally, we will be the ones competing in the Final Four. I am really happy for some of my teammates who have been around the EuroLeague for a while but never played the Final Four until now - Tibor Pleiss, Kruno Simon, Adrien Moerman, Brock Motum... we played in the EuroLeague for many years without reaching the Final Four but that frustration is over. We will be the ones competing there for the title. The hard work definitely paid off and we never gave up. We kept working until we reached the Final Four.
Our opponent in the Final Four will be Fenerbahce, a team that we know very well. We played against them six times so far this season, including cup games. It is a team that has been to the Final Four many times and has a lot of experience in this environment, so it seems they may have an advantage because they know what to expect and this is their fifth consecutive Final Four. Still, you never know what is going to happen, it comes down to one game, 40 minutes to reach the final. This is why it is a 50-50 game and we will see what happens. We don't have that much Final Four experience but at the same time, we have a lot of hungry players willing to be there and compete. This is a great opportunity for us, this is not something we do every year. The goal is always to reach the Final Four, but it is not easy in this competition. We made it this year and are one of the four best teams in Europe and are two games away from the trophy. The experience that Micic and Dunston have in the Final Four will be helpful for us, but it is not the biggest factor. As a team, we need to focus and feel like we belong there.
"We need to focus and feel like we belong there."
The game between Real and CSKA will also be very tough and fun-to-watch, too. When two great teams like that compete against each other in the Final Four, there are no favorites. I think that it is important for us to play first; we might be able to get some extra rest and have more time to analyze our opponent on Sunday. Overall, the Final Four will be a great experience and all games will be fun-to-watch. As a club, we are really happy to reach this goal after a long time. All of our workers, from the owners to the director or the equipment managers, see this as a special moment for the club, something amazing. We worked hard to reach the Final Four and achieved our goal. The vibe inside the club is amazing, everyone is really happy. After reaching the Final Four, we had a little celebration, all of us working for Efes. The environment is great.
I have been to Final Fours before, as a fan, to watch the games. Obviously, when the Final Four was played in Istanbul back in 2012, I was able to see the games live and it was a great experience. Olympiacos won with a miracle shot by Printezis and everyone went crazy. It was amazing to see that with my own eyes, right there, in the arena. Realizing that we are two games away from the EuroLeague crown seems like a dream, but we can achieve this goal. As a team, we believe we can do it. We are focusing on that at this point and will have had 10 days to prepare for the Final Four, but we have to get there with confidence and believe that we are going to get that trophy. Our fans will be with us, too, so let's try to play our best basketball and fight for the EuroLeague title!