|Dmitry Kulagin averages 8.1 points for Triumph Lyubertsy in EuroChallenge 2012.|
When Triumph Lyubertsy coach Vasily Karasev talks about his team, he does so with immense pride.
Karasev once served as the floor general for Russia's national side and with Triumph, there are youngsters who are showing that one day, they may play in the international game, too.
There is also Dmitry Kulagin, a 19-year-old whirling dervish of a guard who competes as hard as any player in any game.
"I am very proud of the work of my young players," the coach said.
"They are the future of the Russia national team."
That is just one story that makes Triumph a club worth watching, but it's an important one.
Triumph is putting its best foot forward for its fans, and for the country.
If Karasev's outfit is going to make it to the EuroChallenge Final, all of the youngsters will need to be at their best when they take on Elan Chalon on 27 April at the Final Four in Debrecen.
Kulagin can't wait.
He gave this interview for Basketball World News.
How does it feel when your coach, Karasev, says that Triumph's young players are the future of Russia's National team?
Kulagin: "I appreciate the trust and the help of Karasev. He supports me and all young players of Triumph such as Artem Vikhrov, Sergey Karasev, others. We feel the pride and we try to work more and do all our best during practices and games to meet the hopes of coaches and fans."
What do Triumph need to do to beat Chalon in the EuroChallenge Final Four?
Kulagin: "First of all, we have to respect the rival, to be concentrated and motivated. I'm sure coaches will give us all the necessary information and we have to fulfill all the instructions and play smart, with high concentration, work on defense. We have to play as one team, all together, and show our best game, do all we can do."
Dmitry, how important was it for your career to play as well as you did at last year's FIBA U19 World Championship and make the all-tournament team after Russia's bronze-medal win? Did your confidence grow from that experience, and what is your best memory of that event in Riga?
Kulagin: "My game at the World Championship was like a step to a new level, like from the youth to the senior level. It was very important for me. But I think that it was just one step and I have to continue working in this way. I feel confidence in my game. There were some very memorable episodes of that championship. First of all, the three-point shot of Karasev in the game against Brazil. We had so much emotion in this game, though it was the first game of the championship, but emotionally it was like the final. Secondly, the game against USA. (Russia won that Quarter-Final against the USA). And the third moment - the award ceremony, when we got the bronze medals. They say that bronze is better than silver, no doubt. Everyone in our team, including myself - we were very happy to become the under-19 world championship prize-winner, but I'm sure we can do better."
All the experience that coach Vasily Karasev has - how do you benefit from that? Do you remember him as a player?
Kulagin: "Yeah, I've watched a few of his games. He was a brilliant player: speedy, smart, and full of self-sacrifice. I can learn a lot from his game. We all respect Karasev a lot. We consult with him not only about basketball, but life."
|Concentration, teamplay and defense are the keys for Kulagin to be successful at the Final Four|
The EuroChallenge has been a great experience for Triumph. In your wildest dreams, did you expect to reach the Final Four?
Kulagin: "We made it step by step, game by game, and now we all have to do our best in the Final Four, showing our best basketball in these two games and make all our fans happy."
Growing up, which sportsman did you look up to most and when did you know you had a chance to play professional basketball? Which person was most important to you in helping you become a professional at such a young age?
Kulagin: "I remember always wanting to play basketball. I enjoy this game, and it's a pleasure to spend my time on the court with the ball. When I was a kid, I watched NBA games and tried to learn from the example set by different players of different ages: (Michael) Jordan, (Kobe) Bryant, (Tracy) McGrady. All are great players, and even now I follow NBA games and admire the play of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant. And I respect a lot the 33-year-old Kobe Bryant. He plays at the highest level of basketball.
What are your dreams when it comes to playing basketball? Can you imagine one day playing at the Olympic Games?
Kulagin: "It's one of my dreams, to play at an Olympics. And also, I'd like to achieve the title of Russian champion and Euroleague champion. But still my dream near to my heart is to play in the NBA, not just to become an NBA player but to play there and become an NBA champion."