TO A few months after completing his first year in Unicaja, Fotis Katsikaris lives a moment of uncertainty in the Malaga project. The Greek coach feels more than qualified to lead a transition in the typesetting box that goes through being in the Copa del Rey in Granada and playing a great role in the FIBA ??Champions League. Katsikaris reviews the news of the Los Guindos painting for MARCA in an interview conducted at the Casa Antonio Restaurant on Bajondillo Beach in Torremolinos.
Question: We started strong … Is this Unicaja better or worse than last year?
Answer. We can say that it is a similar team. With the addition of Eric and Cole. The objective is also to improve those that we have here; we’re on that. Improve the mentality and be able to achieve the objectives.
P. And from the point of view of the coach?
R. It is difficult for a coach to be happy, not even winning a title. I am sure the team will play better; we have lost some games due to bad luck or lack of control. Although other teams may say the same.
I prefer to be optimistic and not think about misery: I think you can be in the Cup
P. This break is good to improve … but what things?
R. At the exits we always go in tow. With the quality of the players, you have to avoid losses and lack of concentration. We have to recover the transition defense, where we conceded few points. They are important details in a basketball game.
Q. Let’s talk about proper names. What about Yannick Nzosa?
R. He has the same numbers as the previous year, what happens is that he is a kid who gives a surprise and now he is asked for more. He has a lot of potential, but if I have to be honest he lacks a lot as a player, his physique and everything. We have a demand with Yannick as if he were a benchmark for the team and he is not. He’s young, he’s growing, there’s the NBA buzz and all of this and he’s frustrated. He is very mature and feels very responsible for proving things. That demand hurts him and the team. He is in physical and basketball growth. We have not been able to work in the summer with him, after five months out of work, the summer is to improve and he could not do it. The last two games he has played better, I don’t expect crazy things from Yannick. Activity, intimidation, protect the ring, take advantage of favorable situations in attack. We cannot put expectations beyond what is logical on Yannick. The good and the bad about Yannick is that he is very mature.
P. Another of those who are in the spotlight is Jaime Fernández …
R. We have a player who has worked a lot in the summer to recover from his heel surgery. It is explosive and that limits you. The joy is to see him recovered, with the usual speed and to see how the League has started, with a lot of confidence to make good decisions. We have a problem that I am trying to turn to an advantage. There are similar players, the minutes you have to share you have to find the site for them. When Jaime plays well, Darío was not well. Ideally, the two of you on the track give maximum performance. It is important that both of them are prepared, they have been in the League for many years and are very mature. It’s not just the points. They can do more things, it depends on the opponent and the situation. Jaime should calm down, this break should help him with the selection, I have talked about it before going with him.
Nzosa has a lot of potential, but he lacks a lot as a player
P. And last and not least, the figure of Carlos Suárez …
R. Nothing has happened, he is in a process, after eight months without playing or training, it is not easy. He is a veteran and knows his body. Pacing and training are important. These two weeks are going to be very good, he is very involved, with a tremendous mentality, it is a matter of time before he enters the rotation. I love Carlos, he can give us aspects of the game that we don’t have right now. He and Alberto give us that extra toughness, from the experience they have. It’s fundamental. I’m waiting for it to go into normal rotation.
P. There is talk of going to the transfer market. What is Unicaja looking for? A 4 or a 5?
A. We may need it. Eric passed the COVID in the summer and I hope it gives us even more consistency. There are times when the three interiors have ups and downs and it is difficult to manage. The economic issue limits us. More than positions, I think that what you have to look at is the names and qualities of the players when it comes to strengthening the team.
P. Although before we will have to give way to Rubén Guerrero … Heading to Betis?
A. I don’t know anything about this. We are in the market. He is a boy we have a lot of affection for, who works a lot. If he has not played in these last games it is for tactical reasons. I think there is nothing.
Jaime Fernández has to calm down. This break is going to be good for you
P. The first objective must be to be in the Cup …
R. We are in the fight many teams. It is our goal, I am very optimistic, we will do everything possible. Everything is going to be tough, but we have the quality and a group of players. Without pressure you can’t get anywhere. There is constructive pressure and pressure that sinks you. Self-pressure and self-demand are necessary to compete, otherwise you cannot get anywhere. With a couple of bad results you can be left out. We are not machines. We have three away games and three at home, each game will be tough. We have to be prepared because there is no margin for error, we have made the mistakes we have made. I hope we have learned. Every mistake punishes you. Physically we are very well, we can endure a demanding schedule with training.
P. The Basketball Champions League should also be an ambitious goal …
R. I hope that Dijon does not happen again. We are good, the calendar is more human in the BCL and you have the opportunity to play games, compete and train. In the second phase it will be more difficult. Our goal at BCL is to go as far as possible. There are very good teams. It is a European competition, there are experienced teams, they are champions of their leagues. If we can go to the Final Four we can talk again.
Unicaja is in transition, we need to support our feet and go up
P. To achieve all that … the fans are key.
R. I am very happy with how the public that goes to Carpena helps. I cannot judge a hobby or the idiosyncrasies of a city. This club has a lot of successes and history and we still go through a transition now. There are fans of the victories and fans of the team. There are fans who appear when the team is doing well, I say it with great affection, others are always there. The ones that come are awesome. There were whistles at half-time and I liked that they whistled, without exaggeration, it was to say ‘guys, we’re here, but be smart’.
P. The challenge of returning Unicaja to the elite is complicated …
A. It is a difficult challenge but I love it. There is a demand from the press, from the people. With much affection, I say that there is little humility in the press, we know what there is and the demand to take the greats, but there are cycles that are fulfilled and ended and you return with a good preparation and mentality, only then do you return to the top. We are in the last two years looking to have our feet strong on the ground and support ourselves to go up.