IDAIS ALL SMILES AFTER GREAT JORDAN MOMENT
Ayman Idais was the happiest of players back on August 16 when he and his Jordan teammates defeated Lebanon for the second time at the FIBA Asia Championship. The 80-66 triumph not only clinched a bronze medal for Jordan, but also sealed for them a place in the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey. Idais, a 31-yearold power forward, had a very big hand in the success. He averaged almost 11 points and 4.3 rebounds per contest in Tianjing. At 6ft 10in, he was virtually unstoppable when he got into a shooting rhythm. That's what Lebanon discovered in the bronze- medal game because Idais connected on six of eight shots from long range and finished with 20 points. Idais was so thrilled and relieved that Jordan had won that he hugged everyone he could find, including reporters who asked him about the game. He gave this interview to FIBA’s Jeff Taylor.
FIBA: Ayman, talk about how things fell into place for Jordan at the FIBA Asia Championship.
IDAIS: We had been practicing hard and it just came together. We've practiced with coach (Mario) Palma and have been with him for three years. We came here to get it done, and finally we got it done.
FIBA: Did you think you would claim a top three spot and make it to Turkey?
IDAIS: No, I did not expect it, to qualify for the FIBA World Championship, but the dream came true.
FIBA: Playing at a FIBA Asia Championship is one thing but going to a FIBA World Championship is something else. What do you think about that?
IDAIS: We will have to work twice as hard for the World Championship as we did for the Asia Championship. We have a lot of work to do now because we will be taking on the world.
FIBA: What is the biggest challenge for your team before next year?
IDAIS: Biggest challenge? We sometimes lose our concentration when we get up by double-digit points, allowing other teams to come back. That is something that we have to work at and hopefully when we get a lead, we will be able to keep it.
FIBA: What do you have to say to the people in Jordan about the bronze medal and qualification for the FIBA World Championship?
IDAIS: We dedicate the bronze medal to the King of Jordan, and to all of the people who watched us and supported us.
TURKOGLU IS PROUD TO REPRESENT TURKEY
There is no greater honor for Hedo Turkoglu than to don Turkey’s national team jersey. Turkoglu, the country’s most famous player and the captain of Turkey at EuroBasket 2009, will lead the Turks when they host the 2010 FIBA World Championship. In an interview with FIBA’s weekly television show “FIBA World Basketball” he revealed his pride when playing for his country.
“I can't really describe it, find the words to say,” he said, when asked what it felt like to play for Turkey. “I can just say this (he points to the famous crescent moon and star that is on Turkey’s flag and also appears on his national team warm-up jacket) is really important in my life because I'm a guy who tries not to forget his past and how he got here.”
The “here” that Turkoglu speaks of is the elite level in the sport. He is among the top players in the game, an NBA star who reached last season’s Finals with Orlando but then decided in the summer to head north to join the Toronto Raptors.
“I've had a great career in the NBA and have done a lot of great things,” he said. “But, before I went to the NBA, I became Hedo Turkoglu in Turkey by playing in the national team. The respect and love I get from those people, I will never forget.”
Indeed, Turkoglu will forever endear himself to the people of Turkey for the commitment he has shown to the national side.
“I am really enjoying it, wearing this (Turkey) jersey and being captain of this team and having the respect of all these people. All of these things are going to carry on in my life after basketball. The love and respect I get here is going to carry on after I stop playing.”
DREAMS COME TRUE FOR BARBOSA
The dust has finally settled on Brazil's magnificent summer. The men's team, led by veteran Spanish coach Moncho Monsalve, captured the gold medal at the FIBA Americas Championship by beating hosts Puerto Rico in the final. It was a far cry from Japan three years ago when Brazil crashed out of the FIBA World Championship at the group stage. The next year they missed out on a top-two finish that was required to play at the 2008 Olympics and the South Americans then failed to reach the Beijing Games when Barbosa and a host of other Brazilians skipped the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for a myriad of reasons.
"We were not having (good) results and we were having pressure from everybody in the country (Brazil), the people," Brazil star Leandro Barbosa said to FIBA.com.
"They were kind of embarrassed for us. We have such a talented team and we never had good results. So that was affecting our heads. I think we're good, now. We set up the team really well. The air that we have been breathing is totally different to what we had been breathing before. People have been expecting a lot of things from us and that means we can give it back."
Barbosa was outstanding this summer, leading the Brazilian team in scoring at more than 21 points per game. He was second in the whole tournament, in fact, to Argentina’s Luis Scola, who poured in an average of 23. Brazil’s top-four finish qualified them for the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey. That means that Barbosa, if he avoids injuries that have disrupted his summers in the past, will lead the national team he adores.
"It's very important for me," he said, when asked about playing for Brazil. "It's the only time, now, that I can play for my country. It's the only time the people in my country can see me play, but it's not only for that. I think it's the pride. That's the most important thing for me, to play for my country."
Barbosa is also doing something else that has been important to him since his childhood. He's playing the game professionally and in the NBA with the Phoenix Suns. Barbosa remembers how it all began.
"It was a dream. When I was a little kid, when I was three, I used to play soccer and my brother played basketball. I used to follow him wherever he went. I started to like it. It was a dream for me to come and play in the NBA." One of his biggest fans was his mother, he says. "Before I went to the NBA, I promised to my mother, I told her that I wanted to play in the NBA and that came true. It means a lot, especially now that my momma's passed away. She also told me to make sure that she would be proud of me, so every time I go to the court, I do my best and play as hard as I can."
BLAZEK THRILLED WITH COACHING APPOINTMENT
Veteran coach Lubor Blazek admits his recent appointment as the Czech Republic national team boss for the 2010 FIBA World Championship for Women is the opportunity of a lifetime. The 55-year-old, who is the head coach of USK Prague in the EuroLeague Women, worked with the national team before when Jan Bobrovsky was the head coach. He wasn't certain that he’d be selected for the job following the federation’s decision this summer to part with Bobrovsky’s successor, Milan Veverka.
"I'm glad that I experienced quite a difficult selection process, because I think it was possibly the first time there has been such a competition (for Czech women's job)," he said. "To be appointed the main team coach is an honor for me. Leading the Czechs is the peak, even for me."
Blazek says his phone has been ringing off the hook since his appointment. “For me, it has been very hectic,” he said in an interview with USK Prague’s web-site. “I’ve given a lot of interviews but other people are interested as well, not just journalists, which for me has been quite a surprise.” While he already has his staff in mind, Blazek says what he is looking forward to most is being with the players.
“Once we manage to build a good team, it's very nice work,” he said. “The most beautiful thing will definitely be to participate in the actual World Championship in the Czech Republic. It will surely be unforgettable."