|Kataja point guard Petri Virtanen might one day turn into a coach, but right now he is focused on the two-leg tie with Aliaga Petkim|
Veteran point guard Petri Virtanen goes into this season with Joensuun Kataja looking at basketball games differently.
The 32-year-old point guard, who played in the EuroCup All Star Game in 2008 with Lappeenranta, spent part of this summer as an assistant coach with Finland at the U20 European Championship Division B in Sofia.
The experience was an eye-opener.
"It was a very rewarding summer," he said , before adding that "the game from a coach's perspective is sometimes very different from what a player is accustomed to."
Virtanen may one day make the transition into coaching, but for now he has plenty of fuel in the tank as a player.
On Tuesday night, the 1.83m point guard will try to help his side knock off Turkish outfit Aliaga Petkim in Finland when the sides meet in the first leg of their EuroChallenge Qualifying Round tie.
Virtanen has been in this position before.
"Four years ago, we played EuroChallenge qualifiers with Lappeenranta and faced Keravnos," he said.
"They were supposed to be far superior to us, but we took a big lead in Game 1 and assured ourselves of a EuroChallenge Regular Season spot on the road."
In those days, when the competition was called the EuroCup, there were two elimination rounds.
Lappeenranta prevailed 87-71 in the home leg of the second elimination round over Keravnos Nicosia with Virtanen playing 33 minutes and scoring 17 points while also handing out five assists.
Keravnos did make things interesting in the second leg, twice going in front by 10 points in the fourth quarter but they only managed a 95-86 win and Lappeenranta advanced to the Regular Season with a 173-166 aggregated triumph.
Virtanen caught fire in the second leg, drilling six of 13 shots from long range and scoring a game-high 25 points.
"It's definitely one of the highlights of my career," Virtanen said.
"The situation right now is almost the same.
"Aliaga Petkim is more experienced, more skillful and bigger, but we have the surprise momentum on our side.
"We have to rely on our strengths and play defense the way our national team played in the EuroBasket qualifiers."
Virtanen played for Finland's senior team at last year's EuroBasket in Lithuania but not this summer when the team clinched a spot in next year's Final Round in Slovenia.
Of the 31 teams that competed in the Qualification Round for EuroBasket 2013, the Finns were second overall in points per game (89.6) while defensively, opponents only shot 41.7% against them.
Henrik Dettmann's team ranked fifth in steals (9.3pg) and only turned the ball over 12.5 times per contest.