Alexey Shved, CSKA Moscow
May 1, 2012
The name Alexey Shved has long been tossed around basketball circles as Russia's next great talent. This season Shved put it all together with a breakout campaign in which he has played a pivotal role leading CSKA Moscow to the 2012 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four. Shved, 23 in age and uniform number, has provided instant offense off the bench for the Russian champs as he commanded a prominent role for the first time in six Euroleague seasons. Now comes his next great challenge – helping CSKA to another Euroleague title. Shved watched from the sidelines as a teenage reserve when CSKA won its last crown in 2008, but now he is due a much greater role. Before travelling to Istanbul, Shved opened up about his season in the Euroleague.net interview, in which he touched upon past teammates, his mindset coming into games and his biggest strengths (hint: it's not his Euroleague record three-point shooting). What is certain is that despite his lack of Final Four experience, Shved knows how to approach these games. "The Final Four games are completely different," Shved told Euroleague.net. "If you lose just once, you don't fight for the trophy. So we will be 100% focused. Or even more."
Congratulations on reaching the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four! This has certainly been your finest season to date. What do you attribute your breakthrough to?
"Thank you, first of all. I started the season well and the coach trusts me, my teammates too. Everything has gone well so far. Now we have to take the two last steps… We want to win the Euroleague title."
Obviously, Coach Kazlauskas has a lot of trust in you. How much of that trust did he give you freely and how much trust did you have to earn from him?
"From the very beginning coach Kazlauskas trusted me and gave me playing time. So I just played, sometimes better and sometimes less, but the trust was there and I cherish that. I don't want coach to feel bad about me."
When did you realize that this Euroleague season was becoming a breakthrough of sorts for you? Was there any particular game or moment?
"I can't single out any game. I just played… And I played well mostly. And I am trying to improve."
You are currently the Euroleague career leader in three-point shooting percentage at an even 50%. Do you think of yourself as a three-point shooter first?
"I don't think that the shot is my strongest asset! I like best to be in pick-and-roll situations; I like to pass the ball. It just happened that I have good shooting percentages in the Euroleague. If you look at my stats in other tournaments, I am not shooting as well. I can just say that it's great that I am making 50% of my shots."
This season, you've had the job of leading CSKA's very successful bench. What thoughts do you have in mind when you walk onto the court?
"I started for the junior team when I first came to CSKA, but at the next level I was moved to the bench and I've already become used to this role. I feel comfortable to be the first or second player off the bench and I try to to do the things coach asks me to do."
You've been to Final Fours before without playing in any. Now, you can expect significant responsibility. How are you preparing yourself for this major moment in your career?
"I never think about anything negative when I step on the floor. I never think that I can miss, turn the ball over or something. It can go deep into you and get you in trouble. I think you have to have your mind free when you enter the game, to try to do the same things you have done in previous games, in previous stages of competition."
Looking ahead to the semifinal, what are your thoughts on matching up against Panathinaikos star Dimitris Diamantidis?
"He is excellent; a very strong point guard and very smart. We know him well. We played against him this season and we will try to do our best to stop him and get the win."
What confidence do two regular season victories over Panathinaikos give you and your team?
"It adds some confidence, but not too much. It is better to have two wins than two losses. Because when you play the third game, you will be bothered with the thoughts about the losses. Still I think that the Final Four games are completely different. You have to stay focused for every game because you don't have a chance if you lose. It is not like in the Top 16 or regular season. If you lose just once, you don't fight for the trophy. So we will be 100% focused. Or even more."
You have played alongside some great point guards, including Theo Papaloukas, J.R. Holden and now Milos Teodosic. What have you learned from each of them?
"Everything. I learned how to play in different game situations, how to behave off the court. They were always ready to give advice, to teach me. They are great guys and it's a pity we can't all play together."
CSKA plays very exciting basketball and you've been part of many spectacular highlights this season. Does the team need to be true to that style in order to win the Final Four?
"First, we have to play reliably. Surely, if we will have the situations where we can go for an alley-oop pass or something like that, we'll do it, but that should not be a risk. If you're 100% sure that you can score, then yes; if it is 50-50, you better slow down."