|Titus Nicoara says he tries to learn something from every good player he plays against - this summer he had the chance to face top players like Mirza Teletovic in the EuroBasket Qualification Round|
By Jeff Taylor
Titus Nicoara is glad that he spent the summer with Romania's national team, competing hard in practices and games.
There were long road trips to be taken, but so what?
The EuroBasket Qualification Round experience was invaluable because it gave him a chance to go up against the best.
"It was definitely a long summer," he said.
"(But) I had the chance to play against great players from Europe.
"Our results were not that good, but in some of the games we played very well, even if we were not able to win those games.
"I think we should learn something from every defeat and try to do better in the future.
"I don't think the difference is that big, but in the important moments we needed more experience at this level in order to succeed."
Now that he's back with his club side in Romania, Gaz Metan Medias, and just days away from the first leg of a crunch EuroChallenge Qualifying Round tie against Ural Ekaterinburg, Nicoara feels like he has the best possible fitness and is also mentally sharp for the battles ahead.
"I think it is very important for a professional player to stay in good shape during the summer," Nicoara said.
"Definitely, it is an honour for me to play for the national team and I think it helps me to be in better shape when the season starts."
LOOKING TO IMPROVE
Gaz Metan Medias had mixed results last season.
They finished with the best regular season record in the domestic league but fell short of winning the title.
The outfit did well enough to earn a shot at playing in the EuroChallenge Regular Season.
Nicoara remembers what happened last season and is hopeful that 2012-13 will be better.
"We lost in the semi-finals against Asesoft Ploiesti, a team with great experience which played great during the entire play-offs," he said.
"During the summer, there were major changes in our team and I think we are determined to make a great season."
|Nicoara is confident Gaz Metan will do well in both the EuroChallenge and the domestic league - his rebounding ability will sure help the Romanian side|
The club wants nothing more right now than to secure a spot in the EuroChallenge.
Being ready for the opener at home on Tuesday has been at the front of everyone's thoughts.
"We have a new coach and a new team," Nicoara said.
"We try to get better every day and we should be ready for these important games.
"Every detail will count and our staff will prepare the games very well."
One aspect of Nicoara's game that makes him a vital player for Gaz Metan is that he seems to have a nose for rebounds.
With Romania's national side in the Qualification Round, the 2.03m power forward averaged a team-high eight per contest.
When asked how he'd learned to be so good at his craft, he answered: "I don't think you can learn to become a better rebounder. You can try to follow every ball, box out better and probably your chances to have a rebound will increase. I think in some moments it is more a feeling than training."
The idea that he will go up against Ural Ekaterinburg, which is a Russian club, and sides from other countries if Gaz Metan qualify, is something that has great appeal to Nicoara.
"It is going to be a great challenge and experience for me," he said.
"It is different because we meet new teams from other championships.
"Each team has a different style and it is going to be interesting to see how we react to a very physical team."
Nicoara should be ready for the battles because he had some very physical encounters in the Qualification Round.
Even though Romania won just one of their eight games this summer, the team played hard and could have had a better record.
Nicoara says the Qualification Round should not be seen as a failure, but rather as a building block for the future.
They were able to compete against three very good teams - Georgia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Latvia - and a determined Dutch side.
Nicoara is a student of the game.
Every practice and every game affords him the opportunity to get better.
This summer, he had a chance to go up against one of the best players in Europe in recent times, Mirza Teletovic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Teletovic has been a leading light for Caja Laboral (Baskonia) in Spain and is now embarking on an NBA career with the Brooklyn Nets.
Nicoara says he'd love to do something that Teletovic already has.
"I would like to play in the Euroleague," he said.
The Qualification Round was a great opportunity, as is every time he wears the Romania shirt.
"Generally, I try to learn something new from all the good players I play against," Nicoara said.
"This summer, I had the chance to play against Teletovic and it was really a great experience.
"I try watching a lot of good games in order to ‘steal' something from the best players."
Romanian basketball can count itself lucky that a player of Nicoara's talent and promise plays the sport because he started out in something else.
"Both my parents played basketball," he said. "(But) When I was young, I played tennis and then at 14, I decided to focus more on basketball."
Nicoara says he is a work in progress, but does have very clear aims.
"Concerning my career," he said, "I think there is always place for improvement, but overall I am satisfied with how my career is progressing.