Reigning Turkish Airlines EuroLeague champion Daniel Hackett of CSKA Moscow was at the top of his game again on Monday in helping Italy overpower Angola 92-61 for his country's second win at the Basketball World Cup in Foshan, China. Hackett started and tallied 11 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in just 18 minutes as Italy cruised to victory. After the game, Hackett chatted with Vladimir Stankovic of EuroLeague.net about the World Cup, defending the EuroLeague crown, and what the coming season in Europe's premier competition will look like.
Are you happy with your game today?
"Yes, I am happy, but mainly because we had our second win. We are not at 100 percent yet because Luigi Datome and Danilo Gallinari joined the group after injuries and we are also missing Nicolo Melli, but we are doing okay."
You won the EuroLeague with CSKA last season. What would success be for Italy in the World Cup?
"At the very least, making it for the pre-Olympic tournament I'd say. We'll go game by game with the intention of playing better than the previous game."
Next is Serbia.
"A great opponent and one of the favorites for the podium."
Do your two losses in the pre-World Cup tournaments against them mean anything?
"Not much. In Athens, we were not a complete team and in the second game we played better, but they were the better team."
Your coach, Meo Sachetti, told me that he sees Serbia in the final.
"I think he's not the only one thinking that way. It's a general belief around here, many people talk about a final between Serbia and the United States, but that has to be earned on the court."
Let's talk about the EuroLeague for a bit. What is more complicated, winning the title or defending it?
"Both things are difficult. I am happy to have won the EuroLeague with CSKA Moscow. We will try to defend the title, but it will be complicated. Our team changed; players like Sergio Rodriguez, Nando De Colo, Cory Higgins and Othello Hunter left. We must gel right away to establish the chemistry that we need to take game after game. The league, with two added teams, will be longer and more difficult."
And with more quality. Many teams had big signings.
"Yes, for sure. Some teams made some important moves."
"Yes, but not only Barcelona. Milan, with Ettore Messina as head coach, also had good reinforcements and so did other teams. I expect a high-quality, close EuroLeague."
Any favorites in mind?
"Many of them. Barcelona and Fenerbahce are probably at the forefront, but there will be many more Final Four hopefuls."
Will we see a surprise team like Anadolu Efes last season?
"I think it's very likely. I see a much improved Panathinaikos. Olympiacos can always come out of nowhere to surprise you and even Efes itself will try to repeat last season's success."