By Yarone Arbel
Dexia Mons-Hainaut's Travis Conlan isn't new to big games and titles. The 32-year -old US point guard won NIT and Big 10 titles while playing for Michigan college.
In his first season in Europe with Sheffield Sharks of the English league, already under coach Finch, he won the national championship and after a long tour around the continent he added the Belgium league title,
once again under coach Finch, at their former club - Bree.
|Conlan hopes to win a title in Roger Huggins final season.|
Now he's one more game away from adding one more title to the list, a European one, when he, his team-mates and coach Finch will take on Barons LMT in the EuroCup finals tomorrow at Limassol, Cyprus.
This title game is special already in many aspects, but Conlon clarifies that for his team and specifically two of his team-mates it will be even more special.
"We really want to win this game and not only because it's a title game," he says to fiba.europe.com.
"Roger Huggins will retire at the end of the season, and it is likely Jim Cantamessa will decide to do the same. To win a title in your last year on court is something special, so we want to do it also for them."
FIBA Europe: Do you see yourself playing until you're 40 like Huggins?
Conlan: "I'm 32 now and I still feel good, but I don't think I will stay that long. I'm thinking about playing three more years, and then we'll see, but that has a lot to do with injuries and other things as well, of course."
FIBA Europe: There are a lot of veterans on the team. Is that a plus?
Conlan: "Yeah, I believe we're the oldest team here, but it helps us. A lot of the guys were in a lot of situations, and we know how to handle different situations."
FIBA Europe: Playing two games in 48 hours isn't easy. Will your age effect that too?
Conlan: "We play up and down and we're not as fresh as other teams, so I guess it will make it more difficult to win. We've been having that problem in the Belgian league and in a long season you get tired. We lost some games we shouldn't have because of that, but tomorrow is the finals game. The adrenalin will fill our body, and hopefully it will help us to overcome this tomorrow."
FIBA Europe: You started the game yesterday with four air-balls. Were you too excited or is that a routine to mislead your opponents?
Conlan: "It was a great atmosphere, and the AEL fans were cheering, so I guess in the first minutes we were a little bit over excited and confused, but the fact we recovered quickly from that shows the experience we have on our team, and that we can leave these things on the side. We realized it's just another game, a very important one, but a basketall game we need to win, and that's about it. But maybe it will be a good idea to turn this into a routine. So far it has worked..."
FIBA Europe: What can you tell me about your rivals in the final game - Barons LMT?
Conlan: "They have a good all-around team. They have some good inside players and then some outside players that can give any team a lot of trouble. They shoot well from outside, like us they want to get down the court quick and they have a couple of dangerous players like Alexander."
FIBA Europe: It's your fourth season and third team with Coach Finch. What can you say about the connection between you two?
Conlan: "He was my first coach when I came over to Europe. We had a good time in England and we won a championship. Several years later I played for him in Bree, and we won a title again. I really enjoy his style of basketball. He wants to push the ball, and asks us to make decisions ourselves but it's all inside the rules of his system."
FIBA Europe: Does the fact he was a player helps your communication?
Conlan: "I don't know if that's the reason. There were a lot of great players who didn't become good coaches. He's a really good motivator. He puts a lot of time in his work, focuses on the main parts of what we should be doing. There's a lot of scouting involved and you can see the results on court. What he does great is to recruit players that fit his system, and that's the reason. We play open and free and that's thanks to the great job he's doing"
FIBA Europe: How do you recap this EuroCup season for you?
Conlan: "We enjoyed this year a lot. We played in some really tough places, and we still managed to win. It was difficult to miss Justin Hart and George Banks, because of the foreigner rules, but we knew that as long as we're here we need to give our all. We need to do it one more time."
FIBA Europe: If you win tomorrow that would be the first ever European title for a Belgium team. Does it make you feel more obligated?
Conlan: "That surely would be a pretty nice mark to leave for ourselves and also for the club. It's a big game tomorrow. We want to have a good time and enjoy the moment."