Jota Cuspinera will bid to win a second U16 European Championship title in a row when the defending champions Spain face Serbia in tonight’s final.
Regardless of the outcome of the game, he believes his team has done very well to get to the title game.
That isn’t to say he doesn’t want his team to win but, throughout this tournament, Cuspinera has been methodical in his approach and never looked too far ahead, ‘One game at a time’ could be his motto.
And in the case of tonight’s clash against a Serbia team that beat them 59-48 in the last game of the qualifying round, he is that much more cautious and is just concerned with putting his team in a position to win in the final period of the game.
|Cuspinera will take a wait and see attitude in dealing with Serbian big man Dejan Musli. |
FIBA Europe talked to Cuspinera ahead of the Termosteps U16 European Championship Men final in Crete.
FIBA Europe: What is your mindset going into the final?
Cuspinera: Well we are guaranteed of getting at least a silver medal but we’re going to fight for the gold. We know this is the last game. There’s no tomorrow so we have to give our best.
FIBA Europe: Will you be making any adjustments to how you play Serbia after Thursday night’s game?
Cuspinera: We’re trying to make it a different game for sure. We’re not going to defend the way we did on Thursday. We have been working on something and I hope we can develop that on the court. The problem is that Serbia have enough talent against whatever you try to do against them. But we’ll try something.
FIBA Europe: You were saying after the game that maybe your players came out a bit too relaxed. What are they like today?
Cuspinera: They’re definitely not relaxed. They are concentrated and focused but not too much that they will come out and be nervous and unable to play their game. They are ready to play for a gold medal.
FIBA Europe: You look at how Lithuania led by 12 against them at one stage and how they kept Dejan Musli rather quiet for the first half of their semi-final. Does that give you more confidence?
Cuspinera: We’re not thinking of what Lithuania did with them. Of course we know that we can stay in the game with them, we can have our chances at the end of the game. But we’re thinking more about how we played against them on Thursday. We didn’t have a very
good game and they only ended up winning by 11 points which is not so much. So we know we can be in the game. But for that to happen, we have to do the things that we know how to do and play our game.
||We didn’t have a very good game (against Serbia) and they only ended up winning by 11 points which is not so much.
|Spain Head Coach Jose Cuspinera|
FIBA Europe: But the fact that Musli was kept in check for an entire half is something no other team has done in this tournament other than Lithuania. That has to be something to take notice of and try to replicate?
Cuspinera: Well there are two approaches: you can think about stopping Musli and letting Serbia beat you with their other players or you let Musli get his usual 20 points and 15 rebounds and you shut down his team-mates. So those are the ways to play Serbia.
FIBA Europe: Which of those two ways are you going to play them?
Cuspinera: For now I think we have to be open to using both ways. It’s something that depends on the momentum of the game. We’re not going to be obsessed with Musli because he’s a very good passer and if we put too much pressure on him they’re going to get easy shots and we don’t want to let them hit three-pointers.
FIBA Europe: What are your thoughts on your win against Turkey last night?
Cuspinera: Well I think maybe they didn’t expect us to go for the win after half time when we trailed by 12 points. That’s my opinion. They came out of the locker room a bit relaxed and we didn’t. So they found themselves going from a 12-point advantage to being in a six-point game – which is a close game – very quickly. We managed our nerves and we knew we weren’t going to beat them in the third quarter. So we kept on going and beat them in the fourth quarter.
FIBA Europe: Last year was a great experience and triumph for your team and especially for Ricard Rubio [the tournament’s MVP]. Have you had moments in this year’s competition where you wish you had him on your team?
Cuspinera: Yes of course. I think every coach who has had a chance to coach him wishes they still had him. He’s an incredible player but we don’t have him this year so we have to think about the players that we have. We have a good team and we had a good team last year.