|Sergio Llull has won two EuroBasket gold medals and an Olympic silver medal with Spain|
By Dimitris Kontos
The modest and naturally reserved - off the court - Sergio Llull would probably have a hard time admitting it, but he is a key player on the Real Madrid side that is chasing three major titles this season.
Pablo Laso's team are the hot favourites to win the Copa del Rey and Liga Endesa while, in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague, the Spanish giants are among the firm candidates for a place in the Final Four in London.
Aside of their fantastic results so far, Real also convince of their title credentials with the attractive and fast-paced brand of basketball that coach Laso implemented upon his arrival in the capital, at the start of last season.
A core component of the new style was to reconvert Llull to a point guard, a position the 25-year-old played at until he joined the Iberian powerhouse at the age of 20, from Manresa.
He had been playing at the two spot for Madrid until Laso's arrival and for Spain, ever since he joined the senior national team in 2009 and hung the first EuroBasket gold medal around his neck.
It is quite likely, in case Juan Carlos Navarro is not on the plane to Slovenia, that new Spain coach Juan Orenga will use him at the same position at EuroBasket 2013, as his starting shooting guard, with expectations growing accordingly.
"There is always a big responsibility when you play for the national team," the guard told FIBAEurope.com.
"You always have to give 100 percent, to only think of winning, to give your all on the court, no matter what."
THE NEW TESTAMENT
Instead of thinking of his exact role within the national team, Llull prefers to think of the team itself and what they will have to do in First Round Group C, against hosts Slovenia, Croatia, Georgia, Poland and the Czech Republic.
"The opponents are complicated, but I think a EuroBasket is a difficult competition anyway and that we did a great job the last two times to win it," he said.
"Slovenia plays at home, Croatia is back to a high level and more importantly, if we pass [to the Second Round] we have difficult teams coming from the other group too."
|Llull: "No one ever can get tired of winning titles."|
There is a lot of talk in Spain about the national team having completed a cycle and starting anew.
"I don't think so, I think this team has a lot left in it," Llull offers.
"There are players that will be coming up from the youth teams and then players who are already [senior internationals] like Marc [Gasol], Rudy [Fernandez], Ricky [Rubio],[Fernando] San Emeterio, Victor Claver and others I am forgetting right now.
"[These players] are still young and for sure, when the time comes that our enormous players like Pau [Gasol], Juan Carlos [Navarro] and co. can no longer play for the national team, they will step up."
Llull himself, is one of those players that have been part of the golden generation but will also be around for Spain for years to come.
"I think it would be a mistake to try to emulate the achievements of the current generation," he asserts.
"This is a generation unique in basketball that might never come along again.
"It made history, it won everything and we [the next generation] can only try to write new pages, of a different history."
Llull is still young, but not hungry. He already has two EuroBasket gold medals and one Olympic silver medal in his trophy case, and could add more illustrious titles with Real Madrid this season.
Surely, his motivation to keep on playing for the national team must be diminishing.
The guard pauses for a split second, but not to think of an answer.
He pauses in disbelief at the suggestion.
And then he carries on as if he is stating the most obvious fact in the universe.
"My motivation is to keep on winning, and try to help my team in any little way I can.
"No one ever can get tired of winning titles."