In an exclusive interview with TalkBasket.net, the head coach of Zenit Saint Petersburg, Joan Plaza, talked about the new season in the EuroLeague and the VTB League.
The Spanish coach addressed a series of topics, including the team’s signings during the offseason, the keys that will lead the Russians to a successful campaign and more.
Zenit will make its debut in the EuroLeague and has created a completely new roster, with 11 newcomers. With that in mind, will the team need an adjustment period to reach its full potential?
“All the teams need to adjust and to practice more (some players arrived from the World Cup 10 days ago!), but there are no excuses, we should be ready from Day 1.”
The club has signed players, who have had a decent career in the EuroCup. Do you think that playing in the top tier European competition will be extra motivation for them to prove their value?
“The club signed players according to its budget and experience. Who wants to come to a no Euroleague experience club?
We begin to sign thinking we will play in the Eurocup but our final roster has a pretty good European experience and the majority of them could be on a great moment of their careers.
I expended a lot of time talking with them before they sign and for sure they will have a big challenge in front of them.”
Will defense and aggressiveness on both ends of the floor be the key for the team’s success this season?
“The key will be humble and ambitious at the same time. We are happy about the talent we have in our hands, but it is fundamental we must understand we will play in the second best basketball championship of…the planet!!!
And against the top players of the world. It means we can’t give presents, means we must be solid rock, means we should get whole opportunities opponent give to us…and everything begins from our serious work on practice.”
With Zenit not having a long-term license in the EuroLeague, what is the top target ahead of the new season? Winning the VTB League or advancing to the postseason of the EuroLeague, given the very high level of competitiveness this year?
“We will grow step by step and enjoy and feel a privilege club and the city to live this moment. By numbers, by experience, our possible spot should be on the bottom of the championship.
In the Euroleague, we are wild card team and 17 teams have greater curriculum vitae (and money) than us, but…if we do what we must, we keep focus on what depends on us, if players improve like I expect, and club and fans giving their best, we could give more than a single surprise.
In the VTB, we would like to be as close as possible to the Final. With maximum respect to whole teams.”