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Azovmash Mariupol won the Ukrainian Cup by beating Kiev 75-74.

Khalid El Amin was the MVP of the Final scoring 23 points.
Quote:UKR - Gumenyuk looks to make his mark in Ukraine

KIEV (Superleague/EuroBasket Relegation Round) - If there is one thing that Roman GUMENYUK has learned in the past year that should benefit him in his career, it's the phrase `Good things come to those who wait.'

The 21-year-old center that cuts an impressive figure when he runs onto the court with his 2.2m frame weighing 107kg has had to show plenty of patience for both his country, and club.

Gumenyuk is Ukrainian, and he plays in his homeland for Pulsar Rivne.

Though he's only averaging 6.0 points and 5.1 rebounds 16 games into the Superleague campaign, he has enjoyed a significant rise in production of late.

He goes into this weekend's action having averaged in 12.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in the last four games.

Gumenyuk just helped his team advance into the Cup of Ukraine Final 4, scoring 14 points and 11 rebounds in 22 minutes in an 85-69 second-leg win over Sumykhimprom.

Do not be surprised if he is in the Ukraine national team line-up again this summer when Valentyn Melnychuk's team attempts to protect its Division A status in the EuroBasket when it competes in the Relegation Round.

Gumenyuk spoke to Oleksiy Naumov for

FIBA: Roman, congratulations on the win and advancing to the Final Four. Prior to the game, your coach said the eight-point first-leg advantage could hurt your team and that instead of thinking about a win, you would be thinking about the possibility of losing by seven. How did the team manage to play so well and win comfortably?

Gumenyuk: I think the fact that we lost to Khimik Yuzhny several weeks ago (in the Superleague), when they released five key players helped us this time. Back then, we thought the win would be easy and got pretty badly upset by them. This time we were in the right state of mind, did not allow ourselves to relax and stayed focused throughout the entire game.

FIBA: Well, you let Sumykhimprom get a 10-point lead midway through the third quarter, but fought back and restored a lead of your own. What was the key factor?

Gumenyuk: We always play like that at home. We start off very well - that's how it was against leaders Azovmash, Kyiv, Donetsk. But this time we found the energy to fight back and get the win. I think we first of all overcame Sumykhimprom psychologically - they were under the pressure of the eight-point difference and when they realized they would not be able to get it, they stopped. That explains our big lead at the end of the game.

FIBA: You've had a substantial increase in scoring and rebounds the last several games and it's obvious you are improving your game…

Gumenyuk: I think this is because my teammates are passing the ball to me a lot more. Most of my points come from their passes in the paint. My job is to get open, get the ball and score.

FIBA: Do you get more confidence looking at your stats?

Gumenyuk: You get the confidence when your solid play helps the team win. But if you keep losing, the confidence level is not changing.

FIBA: Are you happy with your playing time?

Gumenyuk: Yes. I played similar to this last year in Latvia (VEF Riga), but got injured at the start of the season and never managed to get back into rotation after I got healthy. I hope I get a lot more fortunate this year and avoid getting hurt.

FIBA: You played for the senior national team last fall, but got cut three times right before the start of the game. What did you feel?

Gumenyuk: Yeah, I was cut three times. It hurt a lot. You are coming in motivated and focused and ready to play and as you enter the locker room you are told you are not playing tonight. That was tough. So I asked the coach to tell me whether I would be playing or not a bit earlier and it helped me not to get too upset over the issue. This is normal, though, because this is the national team. I understand I was asked to join them as a prospect.

FIBA: So you must be hoping Melnychuk is following you now when you are showing a pretty solid game…

Gumenyuk: I am hoping he is. I saw him at our game against BC Kyiv in Kyiv, but I didn't do well then and even thought I wasted the chance to make him pay attention to me.

FIBA: Still, being one of the 13 players on the roster of a national team is quite an accomplishment for a young player. Did you feel this even when you were not playing?

Gumenyuk: To tell you the truth I was not even supposed to be there. I was called up to join the tryouts at the end of May, but was told my services would not be needed and I was free to go on preparing for the next season. But all of a sudden the league broke up and several key players were called off by their teams. That's when I joined the team. Not much to talk about the emotions here - I was given a chance and I tried to use it.

FIBA: Growing up, did you ever hope you would be on your country's national team playing at the highest level?

Gumenyuk: I come from a tiny village of Tlumach with nearly 10,000 people in it, so we didn't even have a basketball club there. There was some soccer and some volleyball so I didn't even think about it. But when I moved to Bila Tserkva (near Kyiv) and my coach started telling me I could achieve a lot in basketball, I started to get the hope. But I am still far from being the team leader, so there's nothing to be too happy about.

FIBA: What do you need to do to become one of the leaders?

Gumenyuk: Work hard. Also one needs the talent and the health as injuries can prevent from achieving high results.

FIBA: The Sumykhimprom coach prior to your cup game said that neither his team, nor Pulsar belong in the Final Four. What do you think, what are the chances for you against Azovmash in the semi-final in Kyiv?

Gumenyk: Just advancing there is a great accomplishment. But we'll fight. Nobody is going to give up before the game. If everybody stays healthy we'll make sure Azovmash does not get an easy ride. We are very motivated, especially after our success against Sumy.

After the defeat of Kyev in the Cup Final, Kiev's board is looking to replace Sasa Obradovic.
Almost all non-Ukrainian players of BC Kiev left the team due to financial dicciulties

Clay Tucker, Scoonie Penn, Ryan Stick, Brent Wright, Jovo Stanojevic and Goran Jeretin are already looking for new teams.
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Oleg Saltovets has never made it to the headlines.

Seldom has his name even been mentioned in game reports.

The 2.02m forward, quite simply, has never played much unless his team had a good lead or was losing badly.

Yet Saltovets, who was never a part of the national team, has been a part of the BC Kyiv organization for almost a decade - the only Ukrainian player in recent years that has stayed with one team for so long.

While the 31-year-old isn't the most skillful, he is known by people at Kyiv as one of the hardest working individuals one can find in the business.

The club's decision to release six imports recently opened the door for Saltovets to prove his worth, and his 10 points, five rebounds and three steals in Kyiv's unexpected 76-68 win at Khimik Yuzhny showed that he's ready to make the most of his opportunity.

The 31-year-old is now getting ready to take part in the EuroChallenge.

His presence in the paint will definitely be noticed by the Oldenburg big men on Tuesday night.

He spoke ahead of that game to Oleksiy Naumov for FIBA Europe.

FIBA Europe: Oleg, your team is 2-1 after the first round of EuroChallenge, but you lost six players. What do you think your chances of advancing into the next stage are?

Saltovets: I can't really estimate. Everybody expects us to exit the tournament after this stage, but we can surprise any team as well like we surprised Yuzhny last week. We have only five players left who are ready to play at this level and it's not enough, we need at least seven. But still, we'll do all we can - no point to play without expecting to win.

FIBA Europe: But this situation will affect your playing time, will give you a chance to prove something. Aren't you happy?

Saltovets: I am happy, but at the same time I understand that the highest goals that had been set at the start of the season will be very difficult to achieve. I realize that the coach will look at me and use me differently from now on. Your mistakes or your success is perceived by him way differently when he lets you replace someone for a couple of minutes and when he actually expects you to help the team win and puts you as a starter. It gives you a lot more confidence and makes you more relaxed when you play.

FIBA Europe: You've been on the team for almost night years. Do you feel anything special about this?

Saltovets: Not really. I only thing about doing my job - working hard at practices and proving to every new coach he needs me. Maybe when I retire I will think about how many years I gave to a club. It might even feel good that you spent your entire professional career on one team. But it's too early for that now.

FIBA Europe: How did this season (before the imports left) compare to the rest in terms of your playing time?

Saltovets: It was sure not the worst one, but to tell you I was happy with how much I was playing would be a lie. I'd played 20 to 25 minutes during pre-season and was thinking this was how it would be, but the imports came and I realized nobody was going to let me play that much, so I once again had to fight for every minute and prove to the coach I deserved to be on the court.

FIBA Europe: Having spent so much time on the team, do you have a special authority?

Saltovets: I don't think so. To have an authority not only in the locker room or practices but also during the games you have to play a lot. I think when you don't play you don't have the moral right to teach those who are on the court.

FIBA Europe: But one of the reasons you've been with the team so long is because you give such a hard time to the team's centers during practices.

Saltovets: I agree. I work so hard during the practices and I give it all I've got and the coaches see that. Teammates call me Steel. Some ask coaches not to let me guard them. So the way I play during the practices is very close to what my teammates will feel during the real games and this is very beneficial for the team.

FIBA Europe: Do you feel sorry you are not endowed with a couple of extra centimeters?

Saltovets: Hard to tell... Considering the fact I started to play basketball at the age of 18, I feel lucky I made it all the way. There were kids that had been playing for 10 years at that point and now nobody knows where they are. I can't say I am a very skilled player or that I am a deadly shooter. There are people who are much better at these aspects. But what I can tell for sure is that my hard work and professionalism compensate for the lack of height. Of course, had I had five to six more centimeters, I probably would be playing at a totally different level.

FIBA Europe: You are so strong. Do you think there is any one physically stronger than you in the Superleague?

Saltovets: Not sure. But what I am sure of is that whoever I guard knows who he's playing against and realizes how much he'll be shaken up every time he is on offense.

FIBA Europe: What's the highlight of your career in Kyiv?

Saltovets: Definitely the 2004-05 season when we won the Championship in Mariupol and came second in the FIBA Europe League, even though I missed most of the season due to an injury.
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Quote:After renewing the contract with the Lithuanian coach Rimas Girskis Azovmash Mariupol has sent to plan the next season. His assistant will be Sergey Zavalin. The first aim of the team is to keep its core for the next season.

Dijon Thompson, Hasan Rizvic, Richard Guinn, Marius Prekevicius, Bogdan Bayda, Oleksandar Skutyelnik, Rolandas Jarutis plus Maxim Ivshin led the team to winning the Ukrainian double and Azovmash will try to keep all of them.

That doesn't mean that Azovmash isn't looking to sign new players on the contrary they are interested in any player that could help them next season, starting with Mladen Å ljivančanin, from CSK VVS Samara.

Azovmash will travel to travel to Klaypeda, Lithuania for the first part of their training camp, before traveling to Bormeo, Italy for the second part of the training camp.
The dream of the Ukrainian basketball to see a team of their own in the Euroleague will have to be postponed as Azovmash could not afford to play in the Euroleague.

The economic crisis is affecting Ukraine heavily, so basketball is one of their last concerns right now...
Budivelnik Kiev signed former Maccabi Tel Aviv Maceo Baston. That's a surprising signing to me. Either Baston is completely out of shape or the offer was too good to refuse.

Budivelnik may also bring back Tomas Delininkaitis who was released by Murcia. The club obviously has high ambitions. If they win Ukrainian league, they will be playing in Euroleague's qualifying rounds, won't they?
Maceo Baston was cut by Budivelnyk - Their head coach Rimantas Grigas also left the team unexpectedly.

Rimas Girskis, another Lithuanian coach, is the favourite to replace Grigas in Budivelnyk.
Azovmash Mariupol signs former Aris Thessaloniki player Pierre Pierce