Bulgarian national team captain Todor Stoykov wrapped up another successful domestic league campaign with Lukoil Akademik Sofia last week, his third title with the club in as many years.
With another trophy firmly in the cabinet, Stoykov will turn his attention to EuroBasket where he will be making his debut.
The 198 cm scoring machine was instrumental to Bulgaria's qualification campaign, leading them to a 4-2 record, including vital wins over Latvia and Israel.
Stoykov's importance to the Bulgarian is side is reflected in the statistics. In the six qualification games, he led the team in points (19.3), rebounds (6.2), assists (4.0) and steals (1.3).
EuroBasket 2005 reporter Jovo Karanovic caught up with Stoykov this week to pick his brains about his side's EuroBasket hopes.
What are your expectations for the upcoming EuroBasket in Serbia and Montenegro, given that Bulgaria is in arguably the most difficult preliminary group of the tournament. What would be considered a success?
Stoykov: The last time Bulgaria played at a EuroBasket was in 1993. The first goal of the Bulgarian national team was to qualify for EuroBasket and we are glad that we will compete with the best nations in the European basketball family.
Considering the current state of Bulgarian basketball, we consider this a success. We know that nobody expects our team to go past the preliminary round, but at every big tournament, there are surprises. We want the way we play in Podgorica to be a pleasant surprise for everyone who watches and loves basketball.
In your opinion what are the strengths and weaknesses of the Bulgarian national team?
Stoykov: Although most of us have experience competing for our club teams on the European basketball stage, no one from the national team has played at a European Basketball Championship. Our strongest weapon is the ambition and desire of a young team. On the other hand, this lack of experience might also be our biggest drawback.
Personally, what does it mean for you to have the chance to play against the best teams in Europe and some of the best players in the world?
Stoykov: It’s a great challenge, first of all. As captain of the Bulgarian national team I feel honoured to lead our team during our first appearance in 12 years at a EuroBasket. I hope that our team will play well and this will be only the first of many successful appearances of Bulgaria at European Championships.
Do you think many will travel to neighboring Serbia and Montenegro to support your team?
Stoykov: I am sure that many fans from Bulgaria, who appreciate world-class basketball will be in Podgorica in mid-September. I expect and count on the local fans to support our team as well.
Who is the favorite to win the title?
Stoykov: In my opinion Serbia and Montenegro are one of the two favorites, not only because they are the host country, but also because their well-known tradition in basketball has produced so many unique players. Lithuania will be the other contender for the title, after all, they are the reigning European Champions.