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Dario Saric, Anadolu Efes Istanbul
Dec 02, 2014
by Javier Gancedo, Euroleague.net
A lot of people saw it coming for many years after he was arguably the most promising player seen at the International Junior Tournament this decade, but Dario Saric of Anadolu Efes Istanbul has confirmed the really high expectations everyone had of him. At age 20, Saric has become the youngest player named bwin MVP of the Month when he won the award for November this week. Saric stepped up right when Efes needed him most, after losing Nenad Krstic to injury for the remainder of the regular season, and following a dangerous home loss against Zalgiris Kaunas. Saric in November averaged 15.5 points and 7.75 rebounds while making 61% of his two-point shots, giving the consistency at both ends of the court that Efes needed at that moment to win three crucial games, including a prestigious home win against mighty Real Madrid and road triumphs in Nizhny Novgorod and Sassari. Saric is really happy about the award, as he told us in his Euroleague.net interview. "It took a lot of practice and a lot of work to win such a special award as this," Saric told Euroleague.net. "It is very important to me, I am very happy to win it. It is amazing and a part of my dream has come true."
Hello, Dario, congratulations on being chosen as the bwin MVP of November. You are the youngest player to receive the award - how much of an honor is this for you?
"It is a big things for me. Like you said, I am the youngest player to win this title - I can call it a title. I am very proud of myself and the work that I did. It took a lot of practice and a lot of work to win such a special award as this. It is very important to me, I am very happy to win it. It is amazing and a part of my dream has come true."
Your team managed to win three games in November without injured center Nenad Krstic. How difficult was to cover his absence and what allowed you, as a team, to do it so well?
"I can say that his injury was... I cannot say it was a good thing because he is my teammate and a very good person, but after his injury, I started to see more minutes and play with the ball. I started to do better and even when it is unfortunate not to have Krstic with us, his injury allowed me to do something more for the team, something bigger."
Efes opened May with a 66-76 road win against Nizhny Novgorod. That win came right after a tough home loss against Zalgiris Kaunas. How important was to recover from that loss right away?
"First of all, I didn't play the game against Zalgiris - I had a little injury and was out for of 10 days. The game against Nizhny was the first one after the injury. I can say that I was guarded by a big guy and had some space to play one-on-one from the three-point line. I did a lot of good things in that game and got better after that."
You went on to beat Real Madrid 75-73 on a last-second tip-in by Matt Janning. How satisfying was for the team to beat such a strong opponent? How much confidence did the team get from that win?
"That game gave us a lot of confidence. What we did in practice and prepared against Real Madrid worked really well. It really opened our minds and eyes to play better, as we did in that game. It was a good home win for us. Maybe it was not the kind of game that everybody wants to watch but it was really good for us. Matt scored the last basket in the final second! It was a great win for us."
What do you remember about the final play? How cool was being there in that moment?
"I was on the bench. Milko Bjelica missed a layup - maybe he was fouled, maybe not, but it doesn't matter now. Cedi (Osman) missed what looked like a 100-percent situation and finally Matt scored for the win. It was amazing, an amazing feeling. Everybody started to jump and celebrate. Everybody wants to beat a team like Madrid at least once in a lifetime."
You were really close to beat Unics in Kazan but a fourth-quarter comeback prevented you from doing it. What did you learn from a loss like that?
"We led by 10 points at the end of the third quarter and after that, in the fourth quarter, we played very bad. We learned some things from that game - to be smarter in the fourth quarter and in the final minutes. Keith Langford and Curtis Jerrells scored most of their points in the fourth quarter. It was an experience for us and we took some good things from that game."
You finished November with a great individual performance and a big win against Dinamo Banco di Sardegna Sassari. You limited a high-scoring team to just 62 points. How great was your defense and how did you feel, personally, in that game?
"I felt amazing because Coach Ivkovic said they would run a couple of plays for me at the beginning of the game. I tried to be ready, physically and mentally, at the start of the game. I started the game very well and everything went easier for me and the team after that. We played a very good home game again and it was a big win for us. We have five wins now and are close to get to the Top 16. For me and for everybody, however, the most important game is always the next one, and that is against Zalgiris in Kaunas this week."
You had a brief first experience in the Euroleague with Zagreb in 2011. Did knowing the competition already help you play well right away?
"Yes, that season with Zagreb was very good for me because I played 15-20 minutes in the Euroleague. I had space to show my skills. I helped me a lot, just as my two seasons with Cibona. Now I am back in the Euroleague and feel great."
Head coach Dusan Ivkovic has a reputation for developing young talent. How important is it for you to play for him? How much impact did that have in your decision to play for Efes?
"First of all, I spoke with our coach a couple of times and saw that the best decision for me was to join Efes. Coach has a lot of experience and can help me a lot and explain me every situation on the court. He is giving me a lot confidence, it is great to play for him in this team."
This is your first time playing outside your own country. Has it been difficult to adjust to a huge city like Istanbul? How are your teammates helping you in this matter?
"Yes, it is my first time out of Croatia to play for a club. It was hard for me in the beginning of the season but now it is OK. I got used to the city, the club and its fans. It is now much easier to play than it was before. My teammates helped me a lot. I played with Matt Janning in Cibona and with Dontaye Draper in the Croatian national team. It is good for me that the team has so many young players, too. People in the club are always ready to help."
Efes is 5-2 and very close to make it to the Top 16. Its last Final Four appearance was in 2001 and it was close to qualify many times. Is that the ultimate goal for this team - working hard to get to Madrid in May 2015?
"I don't know, we have a good chemistry in the team but I want to say that we must go step by step in every game, every quarter, every minute. I think we can have a great season but I cannot say right know if we will go to the Final Four, the playoffs or even the Top 16, since we didn't qualify yet. We will see how far we reach."