|09 May 2013|
|Many fans believe Andrey Vorontsevich is still to reach his full potential |
Russian international Andrey Vorontsevich will turn 26 in July but looks much younger than that - perhaps that explains why many fans believe that he is still to tap into his full potential, to explode as a player.
None the less, the CSKA Moscow power forward has already contributed to some of the memorable moments of modern Russian basketball.
Vorontsevich has one Turkish Airlines Euroleague champion's medal in his trophy case, from 2008, and will try to conquer a second trophy with the Russian power house in this weekend's Final Four in London.
He was too young to be included in the Russian national team that collected the gold medal at EuroBasket 2007 in Spain, but became a senior international the following year and played at the 2008 Olympics.
He was also in the side at EuroBasket 2009, then at the 2010 World Championship and won his first medal with the national team at EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania, when Russia defeated F.Y.R. Of Macedonia to take bronze.
The British capital however is the scene where a six-year long summer habit of playing for the Russian national team, either at U20 or at senior level, came to an end for the Omsk-born forward.
He missed out on the London Olympics last August, and Russia conquered the bronze medal.
Vorontsevich makes no secret of his hopes to return to the national team this summer, at EuroBasket in Slovenia.
"I think we will have a new team, because for sure some of our veterans will still be there but some will not go," he told fibaeurope.com.
"In [the] previous years that I played in the national team alongside Victor [Khryapa] and Andrei [Kirileno], I think I showed some good basketball and with them I grew up step by step.
"If I now receive more responsibility I think I will need to help everybody to stay together and make a team.
"I want to show that I don't play for myself and help everyone, and make good decisions."
Kirilenko, the FIBA Europe Player of the Year for 2012, has officially announced his retirement from international duty.
A possible absence of another star in Victor Khryapa, a team-mate of Vorontsevich on CSKA Moscow, could turn the 26-year-old forward into a focal point in the national team's frontcourt.
That will largely depend on the new Russia head coach, Fotis Katsikaris, who was handed the reins of the European giants in January.
"I have not worked with him, but I know he has worked in St. Petersbourg in Russia and I have heard only good things about him," Vorontsevich said of the Greek tactician.
"[They say] that he is a good guy and an experienced coach.
"I've talked with [CSKA team-mate] Aaron Jackson who played for him in Bilbao last year and he told me that he is great as a coach and if he asks you to do something, you have to try to do it well."
Russia were drawn in a tough First Round Group D at EuroBasket that also includes Greece, Turkey, Italy, Finland and Sweden.
|Andrey Vorontsevich can expect a bigger role for Russia this summer with some key players expected to be missing|
"I think it doesn't matter [that the opponents are strong] because always at a EuroBasket the games are not easy," Vorontsevich comments.
"For us, the first step will be to build a new team.
"We are young, we have talent but also have experience.
"I hope that we will stick together and show to everybody that the result that the guys took at the London Olympics is something special and we can build on it."
Vorontsevich is conscious that for a big nation like Russia simply bringing a rebuilding process to a happy conclusion is not enough, but he does not feel any kind of load weighing on his shoulders.
"For me, success in Slovenia would be some medals," he admits.
"I know that our fans will understand even if we have some losses, for example we didn't have such a great result at the Olympics in Beijing but our fans stayed by our side.
"They supported us and tried to push us and they motivated us for the future.
"So this is not pressure, it is only great help for us."