Saltovets Given Rare Chance To Shine For Kyiv

23 February 2009

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 skilful, 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 nine 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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