|09 April 2014|
|Ádám Hanga made himself known last week with a spectacular dunk against Fenerbahce|
By Dimitris Kontos
If you only realised that Adam Hanga was playing in his maiden Turkish Airlines Euroleague season this year because of his spectacular alley-oop reverse dunk against Fenerbahce in Top 16 Week 13 action, you are not alone.
The Hungarian winger of Laboral Kutxa Baskonia only made his debut in the competition in December, playing mostly through the pain and struggling for quality minutes on the court.
He still somehow managed to average 5.5 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game but will see little further action in this season's Euroleague, as his team's campaign terminates on Thursday.
"Yeah, I was out for a long time," Hanga explained to fibaeurope.com.
"Last year (while in his second season at Manresa) I played most of the season with a knee injury (meniscus tear).
"I waited for the season to finish and once I signed for Baskonia, I arrived there in July and had surgery.
"But after two months another problem came up with my knee and I could not return [to action].
"So, in the end, it was almost six or seven months that I could not play, could not practice - it had been too long.
"Finally in December I could return but still since then I have some pain and I am still trying to find myself.
"Even though we don't have a chance to qualify we still want to compete and finish the Top 16 really good."
Hanga's first season at Baskonia might have started much later than he had hoped for, but it has still provided him with some valuable experience for the remainder of the year and, more crucially, for the years ahead.
"It's a new team, a new competition with the Euroleague, so it's a little bit difficult," Hanga said.
"But then that is why I came here, because I want to compete and I want to challenge myself.
"There is definitely a difference [to only playing in the Spanish Liga Endesa].
"The Euroleague is much more physical, even the referees let you play a little bit more physically, they allow more contact.
"And of course it's one more competition [to play] so you don't have too much time to think between games.
"If you lose one game, as soon as it's over you have to start thinking about the next one.
"So for sure there is a difference in psychological preparation.
"At Manresa, if you played a bad game you had the whole week to think about what you did wrong, you had time to think and prepare for the next game so it was very different."
RESET AT 25
|Baskonia Head Coach Sergio Scariolo sees Hanga as a longterm investment|
When Baskonia, somewhat surprisingly, signed Hanga in the summer, they knew they were making an investment for the future.
"We have to be patient with him, he is very athletic, he is very talented but he has been out of action since May," Baskonia coach Sergio Scariolo was saying while the Hungarian was still sidelined due to his injury.
The Basque club's front office is notoriously astute when it comes to recruiting promising players and in Hanga, who was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in 2011, they were getting one of the most promising swingmen in Europe.
"This year we can say that for sure I am not having a great season but I am trying to get into the team and find myself," Hanga said.
"There was the injury, but I don't want to make any excuses.
"It's hard for me right now but I am going to work out every day and we will see what is going to happen next year, maybe some things change.
"I am here now, I am working hard, I have a long contract (four years) so I have time to give more to the team, and I want to play better."
The best part is that he is only turning 25 on Saturday and he is yet to reach his pick as an athlete.
"Yes," he says with a laughter, "12th April is a little bit special to me, my birthday is coming up."
"My birthday wish would be one year without any problems, because it's tough to play in one game and feel pain.
"One year free of any injury, to see what could happen."
TOUGH, BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE FOR HUNGARY
|Ádám Hanga first represented Hungary at U16 level in 2005|
Because of his injury, Hanga missed out on the 1st Qualification Round for EuroBasket 2015 last summer and, without their top scorer, Hungary did not even manage to advance from their first round group.
"I don't know if we would have done better if I was there," the modest Hanga said.
"But, anyway, of course I followed the national team and let's see what is going to happen this summer.
Hungary embark on their 2nd Qualification Round campaign in August.
"I've heard everybody saying it's an easy group, but of course it's not easy for us," Hanga says with the smile of someone who knows he plays for the underdogs.
"We are playing against the Czech Republic, Portugal and Georgia so, for us, it's going to be very tough.
"If you see the players on paper, for sure Georgia and the Czech Republic are much stronger teams.
"But we will see, because when Hungary plays at home, we are usually playing good.
"The last couple of years we didn't play well and we were a bit unlucky too.
"While they are better teams than us, we have time to prepare, we have some young guys joining the team and some other older guys maybe coming back."
Ever since Hanga impressed at the U16 European Championship Division B in 2005, the Hungarian national team knew they had found their leader for the next decade.
If they are to spring a surprise in Group E in the summer, they will need their high-flying star to return to the team and be at his very best.
"If everything is well with my knee I would like to go, but we will see what happens because it's a long season and I still have some pain," Hanga said.
"I would sure like to play if I feel no pain.
"Hopefully I can make it because of course I love playing for Hungary, it's my home country."