January 31, 2012
|Two weeks after telling Euroleague.net that the veterans on his newcomer Turkish Airlines Euroleague team were ready for the Top 16, shooting star Henry Domercant was named bwin MVP for January after leading Unics Kazan to victories over Fenerbahce Ulker and Panathinaikos Athens. Both victories were comebacks, from 17 behind at halftime at home against FB Ulker and from 8 down after 9 minutes on the road against the defending champs. Unics became the first Euroleague newcomer to go 2-0 in the Top 16 and the first team, new or not, to score the most points in a road win at Panathinaikos in seven years. In short, these were two victories that took Unics to a new level. "Were confident in what we do, and confident that if we play together, we can beat anyone," Domercant said this week. "Were starting to show that now. As the Euroleague season goes on, and we get more and more experience playing together, not to mention more as a team in this competition, I am expecting even bigger things from us."
Henry, as the bwin MVP for January, how does it feel for you and your team to get that kind of recognition?
"Its obviously a great feeling for our club and organization and amongst our team. It seems we're finally getting a little bit of the respect we feel we deserve. We work hard, prepare well for games, because our coach does a great job, and we were able to get some big victories. A lot of prayer and hard work go into it, and now we're seeing some of the fruits of that effort."
Both of the January victories were comebacks. What kind of understanding is needed for you and your teammates to make those comebacks in the crucible of the Top 16?
"Unfortunately, it's typical in most of our games for us to come back. For some reason, we've been starting games all season worse than we finish them. A lot of times, our coach takes a timeout in the first quarter and we're already down eight or nine or whatever is the case. It's even true in our domestic games. But we don't get riled. We understand the game is 40 minutes and we've been able to come back enough times that now we believe. We play defense, we tune in a little more and we believe we can turn it around."
In the win over Fenerbahce Ulker, how did the team turn around a 17-point deficit?
"One thing I remember Coach Pashutin saying in the timeout was, 'Don't think of it as 17 points. Think of it as a short game. Let's win the next two minutes, or the next five.' Soon, we cut it to 13 and then to seven. So we got ahead of his schedule by the time we were down just 3 heading into the fourth quarter. By then, we felt it was a regular game, but we were at home, had the momentum and had to take advantage of the opportunity."
Everyone saw confidence in your team's eyes playing against Panathinaikos. Where does that come from?
"I go back to the same thing: experience. Everyone calls us old, but I think experience helps a lot. We know that we're a defensive team. We know that if we focus on defense and get stops, it'll help us get back in the game. Plus, we are relaxed because no one was expecting anything from us anyway. We like playing with that underdog mentality."
Against Panathinaikos, you scored against the best defender of the last decade, Dimitris Diamantidis. Was that experience working for you again?
"Of course, he's a great player and a great defender. But playing against him, I treat him as someone trying to stop me from doing whatever it takes for my team to win. I know that I am one of the statistical leaders offensively for my team and that the team needs me to produce in a game like that. So whoever they put in front of me, I am going to try to attack him the best I can."
Is it time to call Unics a contender?
"I'll leave that up to others. It's not my job. I'll just say that we're confident in what we do, and confident that if we play together, we can beat anyone. We're starting to show that now. As the Euroleague season goes on, and we get more and more experience playing together, not to mention more as a team in this competition, I am expecting even bigger things from us."