Luca Vildoza broke several personal records in Kirolbet Baskonia’s defeat to Olympiacos at the Peace and Friendship Stadium last Tuesday: 19 points, 4 rebounds and 1 block, as well as 4 assists, could have made the difference if it wasn’t for the incredible three-pointer of Kostas Papanikolaou at the buzzer that tied the game and gave the Reds the chance to claim the victory in the extra time.
Vildoza is averaging 8.5 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal and 3,7 assists in 18 Euroleague games this season, while shooting at 41.7% from three and 89.3% free-throws. Coach Velimir Perasovic is fully confident in him and the guard from Mar del Plata returns that confidence with great performances. The Argentine landed in Vitoria in 2016, but made his European debut the next season, as he remained in his country playing the 2016-17 campaign on loan in LNB for Quilmes (Mar del Plata).
At the age of 23, Luca Vildoza looks like the next big thing of Argentine basketball, living and playing in a city which first brought to Europe the likes of Prigioni, Nocioni and Scola.
TalkBasket.net had the chance to chat with him after the game in Pireaus and, despite the unfortunate result for his team, he had some very interesting things to share.
Q: Was the three-point shot that Papanikolaou made and tied the game a matter of luck?
A: No, we knew who he is. We lacked the experience at the end and we couldn’t avoid that shot. However, we’re happy to have played a good game. We have to raise our heads, no matter how tired we are. It’s not an excuse. We have some days to recover.
Q: Do you think that the game was influenced by both teams’ absences?
A: It was different because we knew that we did not have to guard Milutinov. I think it was a nice game, we played in a very intense rhythm. We would have loved to win here because it’s been a long time since our last victory in this gym. Nevertheless, we faced a team that is fourth or fifth in the competition. We know that we also deserve to be a little bit higher in the Euroleague.
Q: Did you know that Baskonia has not won at the Peace and Friendship Stadium in the last 12 years, since 2007?
A: I thought it’s been 13 years, but in any case it’s a long time. Today we missed the chance for a historic victory. These are things that can happen. The truth is that noone expected this triple. I think that in overtime they had a little more energy than us and obviously with their experience they managed to take advantage of it.
Q: Is this court cursed for Baskonia?
A: I do not think so. It’s the first time I play here. Last year we played in Crete and we also lost there. Hopefully I’ll return to this court to show that it’s not cursed.
Q: From now on, what is to be done?
A: Well, we have hard games at home, but we have to focus on the Euroleague. I do not know if the team will add more players to the roster, but there is a lot of talking about that. We as players are very close and know that we have to keep winning, working and resting. This is the best for us.
Q: To what extent has the team’s philosophy changed with the presence of Velimir Perasovic?
A: I think we’re playing at a pace that maybe we did not play before, a little more dynamic and risky. We are taking shots that we did not take before, maybe because we were sticking to the system. The type of the game is different. Now all of us have stepped up a little bit more and have taken more responsibility. Now that we all feel comfortable, we are waiting for the results to come our way.
Q: Do you cherish realistic hopes for the play-offs?
A: We’re fine, but a lot is still missing. We know it’s hard, but we’re “stuck” like many teams. Making a winning streak will help us get higher.
Q: Do you think that Vitoria is the ideal place for an Argentine player?
A: I think it is, for any player. There are no distractions like in other cities and one can focus on basketball all the time. Having your family by your side makes you feel calm and comfortable. At least, that’s how I feel. So, I would recommend to anyone to go there because it keeps you away from everything.
Q: I was referring mainly to the great players from your country who have played in Baskonia, like Luis Scola and Andres Nocioni.
A: Yes, obviously they left their mark on the club. Me and Patricio (Garino) maybe want to do the same. We are trying to leave our mark on the club, so that after many years people will remember us.
Q: Would you like to imitate someone’s career?
A: Maybe that of Pablo Prigioni. He had an excellent career, both in Madrid and in Vitoria. Hopefully one day I can have a trajectory like his.
Q: I read that two years ago you had to go to the psychologist. What was it about?
A: It was due to the fact that I had to leave my house and my people for the first time. I think this year I am more comfortable with the situation. I feel at home, with my girlfriend and my family, who are enjoying themselves. The truth is that it was not so tragic to come here, but separating myself from my parents was indeed tragic for me. I talked a lot with other Argentine players, but what you have in your head is hard to get rid of.
Q: In general, do you think that the presence of a specialist is necessary within a team?
A: It would definitely serve some players. What’s beneficial to some, could be harmful to others. As for me, it helped a lot to get rid of so much stress that I had in the past.
Q: Are you delighted that the next Final Four will be held in Vitoria?
A: Without a doubt. I think it’s something incredible for the club and the city that is preparing for it in an impressive way. We want to be there, in this Final Four, so we have to continue. We know it is difficult, but nothing is impossible. We also know that we are playing well, that we are improving and we hope to get the results we need to be there.
Q: Until now, what do you think of European basketball?
A: It’s different, in terms of the pace of the game. It is very physical and this is the main reason why not many talented players from Argentina look this way. Obviously, they have to improve a lot on the physical aspect. It is enjoyable playing against athletes like Spanoulis and others.
Q: Is there a player in the Euroleague who has impressed you more than any other?
A: Rodrigue Beaubois. I had never met a player with so much talent, such quality and scoring ability in his hands. It was incredible to be on the same team with him.