Pressure? What Pressure?

04 August 2007

It must be tough for the young guys here at the UMCOR U18 European Championships.

Hanging out with your friends in a great hotel in Madrid for a week and half, shooting hoops every day, watching some other great players perform, it’s a tough job but somebody has to do it.

Though seriously, as well as all the fun that comes with a tournament such as this there are still some players for whom the tournament is more than just a nice week away.

Antoine Diot (France)
Diot performed well at last years U18 tournament, averaging over 10 points per game for France.
This is probably the youth level that attracts the most attention from scouts and clubs, and for the top players this brings an added sense of pressure.

This is particularly true of players who have stood out in previous tournaments, and who now have people who’ll be watching them to see if it was just a lucky streak or if these guys are the real deal.

Three such guys are Turkey’s Dogus Balbay, Antoine Diot of France and Milan Macvan from Serbia.

Both Balbay and Diot were excellent in this tournament last year, and have gone on from that to have a successful season in their club basketball too.

Macvan was a tournament MVP just last month, when he won gold with Serbia at the U19 World Championships.

FIBA Europe caught up with them after the opening round of games yesterday to discuss how they view the tournament.

FIBA Europe: Congratulations on starting the tournament with a win. How did you rate your sides’ performances today?

Balbay: I think this first game was hard for us, becuase we knew that the Bulgarian team would be a hard team. Tomorrow and the next days we’re going to have to play hard, with more hustle on the game.

Macvan: We had problems in the first half, because, you know, Russia is a good team. But we will play better in the next games.

FIBA Europe: From a personal point of view has this been a good start for you?

Diot: I just tried to use all the opportunities my team gave me. I had good percentages so, yeah, it was cool for me today.

Balbay: I didn’t play so well.

FIBA Europe: Really? You had everyone on their feet with that dunk in the first half.

Balbay: (laughing) Yeah there were good moments, but I need to play better tomorrow I think. I’m a bit tired to be honest, but if I don’t play there are three other point guards who can play too and play well.

Macvan: For me, I wasn’t so happy, I need to play better. I had some trouble with my free throws but I expect to have a better game in the next match and against Spain.

FIBA Europe: Is this tournament good fun for you guys or do you feel under pressure after
Milan Macvan (Serbia)
Macvan opened this years event with a double-double of 21 points and 15 rebounds.
performing so well in previous competitions?

Balbay: We always want to get a medal, so there’s a bit of pressure on us for this. I think everyone here realises that they have to win all their games to do this so, yeah, there’s a little bit of pressure on us.

Macvan: Yes for me there is pressure because this is a good tournament.

Diot: I don’t feel pressure personally because we’re here as a team. I have a lot of confidence in the great guys on my team so there’s no need to feel pressure.

FIBA Europe: And how conscious are you of your own performance? Is it important for you to be able to show people here what you can do individually as a player?

Macvan: I don’t think about it because this tournament is very difficult, so all I really want to think about is the games, not just me.

Diot: Personally I don’t care about personal praise, things like the MVP award. Just awards for the team.

Balbay: Well next year I’ll be playing in (The University of) Texas, which is a good school with a good level. So I want to show what I can do there, that I can play there. And to show people here at this tournament what I can do. American basketball is a little bit different to this but we’ll see what I can do.

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