|Jean-Marc Mwema chipped in with five points and five rebounds in Antwerp's win at ASVEL|
Jean-Marc Mwema and Port of Antwerp Giants are in their seventh consecutive European campaign, starting with EuroChallenge 2009/10, yet rarely had the 26-year-old Belgian international and his club enjoyed a night as special as last Tuesday.
Antwerp carry a well-earned reputation as a team who are strong at home, but on Tuesday they travelled to a storied European club and a hot favourite in the competition in ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne and came up with a 74-67 win in the first game of their FIBA Europe Cup Round of 16 series.
"It's true that it was one of the big wins in the time I've been in Antwerp," Mwema told fibaeurope.com.
"But still, it won't mean anything unless we advance to the next round.
"If we give it away at home, it will undo everything that we've built.
"On paper, they're still a stronger team; we can't deny that, we are still the underdog.
"We surprised them in the first game but I am sure they are going to come out gunning next time, they're going to be super focused, super aggressive.
"They have a couple of big names like Charles Kahudi or David Andersen, who's had a crazy career.
"They have a lot of quality and a deep bench so we must not let them execute, we need to act first rather than react to their play."
|Roel Moors played for the Giants for six years before taking on a coaching role|
MOTIVATION AND CONFIDENCE
There is a secret to how Antwerp managed to hold ASVEL to just 67 points in game one, a whopping 19 points below the French team's average scoring output at home going into the Round of 16 (85.9 points).
Roel Moors took over as Giants head coach in November and is at the beginning of his coaching career, but on Tuesday he pulled one of the oldest tricks in the book.
"Coach said they were maybe a little overconfident, the papers were writing that it should be an easy move to the next round for them," Mwema revealed.
"So we came out really aggressive and with a lot of defensive energy.
"I don't think we played our best defence scheme-wise but we made up for each other's mistakes, we rotated well and in the first half they went 0-for-9 from three, so we took their confidence and their rhythm away.
"One thing that Coach is stressing a lot is to play with confidence, no matter if we're playing the bottom team from the Belgian league or we're playing a big team like ASVEL, we need to be confident in our tempo, in our way of playing."
"He has a great ability to motivate the team; that is probably his biggest quality."
|Mwema on former team-mate and now coach, Roel Moors: "To me, he always had authority, he was a leading figure."|
THE BOSS USED TO BE MY FRIEND
To Mwema, ever since he joined the Giants senior squad, Moors was the point guard and they played alongside each other for six seasons.
Nonetheless, adjusting to the fact that the 37-year-old Moors is now the coach and not a team-mate proved a remarkably smooth transition.
"I was kind of prepared for it because when I started playing with him when I was only 20 or so, to me, he always had authority, he was a leading figure," Mwema explained.
"It's not really that much different because he was a very smart player who was able to analyse both our game and the opponent's game.
"It's stranger to me off the court, because he was a good friend of mine.
"Well, he's still a good friend of mine but the dynamic is different of course.
"We still have a strong bond and I can talk to him about everything, but I have to remember not to call him 'Rool' in front of the other guys," the forward added tongue-in-cheek.
"I think that, as a young coach, he [Moors] is a better fit for us because we have such a young team.
"We're probably not a great half-court team but when we get out and run we can get big plays and everyone gets involved.
"He has a very clear system but within that system he still gives us freedom to do what we do best as individual players."
|Mwema hopes for a bigger role with Belgium in this summer's FIBA EuroBasket 2017 Qualifiers|
THE EUROPEAN APPEAL
The victory at ASVEL was the Giants' 11th success in their last 12 games between the Belgian Scooore! League, the Belgian Cup and the FIBA Europe Cup.
They are one win away from reaching the FIBA Europe Cup quarter-finals, a feat they have achieved only twice in their history in European competitions.
Even the cautious Mwema admits that this great run makes him think - almost despite himself - that Antwerp have the potential to go far in this FIBA Europe Cup campaign.
"It kind of feels like it, but we know there are some big teams still in it," the Belgian forward said.
"I think all of us are trying to not look further than ASVEL for the moment, we want to tackle that first and then think about what can happen next.
"But I guess you always start dreaming a little bit the further you go.
"If we respect our game plan and our style of play, who knows what can happen.
"For now, I want us to finish this at home and not have to go to Villeurbanne again."
Regardless of how long Antwerp's European campaign lasts, Mwema will want to play more at international level as soon as possible, aiming at suiting up for the Belgian national team in the FIBA EuroBasket 2017 Qualifiers this summer.
"Even though I haven't had that much playing time with the Belgian Lions, just being there and playing with guys at the highest level in Europe has taught me a lot," he said.
"I hope to increase my playing time this summer and hopefully through the next summers.
"Playing at the EuroBasket has made me hungry for more, it makes me want to
become one of those players who are considered invaluable to his national team.
"I hope that one day I earn that label, that's the goal I am working towards and what I am thinking about during the season as well."