Zalgiris Kaunas has not had an easy schedule to start the season with five of its first seven games on the road, but comes into Round 7 with a 3-3 record. One of the reasons for the strong play by the Lithuanian champs is playmaker Vasilije Micic. The 23-year-old Micic is considered one of the best young point guards in European basketball and is in the right environment, with Sarunas Jasikevicius as head coach, to carry on growing. Micic is delighted to work for 'Saras' as he said in this interview. "He is always prepared for every practice and every game. He never lets things happen by accident and is always prepared, ready for every player, in every game. He puts a lot of attention into details, on offense and defense," Micic told EuroLeague.net. "He demands a lot of concentration from his players."
Hello, Vasilije. Zalgiris registered a 32-point win in Milan, the biggest on the road for your club this century. How does it feel to make history the way you just did?
"Yes, it was a really nice win because all of us played really well, everybody contributed to this win. To be honest, I didn't know until the end of the game; we were playing well and focused on the game. We tried to play great defense and when we checked, we were up by 30. I can say we played very well and it is nice to be a small part of history in this club."
You also beat FC Barcelona Lassa at Palau Blaugrana and were close to beating CSKA in Moscow. What is allowing you to play so well on the road?
"Well, we may be a little bit underrated or underestimated by other teams, especially at the beginning of the season. We knew that some teams may relax against us, so we tried to surprise them. We know our weaknesses and strengths and are trying to use our strengths as much as we can. We had a good start in all these road games, and it is very important for us to start the games well. We played great defense against Milan and Barcelona, and this is also why we played so well."
How important was it for you to play for Coach Jasikevicius, one of the best point guards in European basketball history, when you decided to join Zalgiris?
"I spoke with him a little bit before I came here, we just shared some opinions, especially because I was really considering other teams. I didn't know anything about Zalgiris until Leo [Westermann] made his decision to go to CSKA. It happened very fast and in these two days when I made my decision, I spoke to him and I can say that he was really right. He has a good relationship with the coach and he helped him a lot, not only because he moved to CSKA, but also because he improved his game, which is very important for a point guard. It is not easy to handle coming into a new team right after a championship. I didn't know any of my teammates and especially the coach. So far, things are going in a good way and I can use my connection with coach to get many advantages in my career."
What is the best thing about 'Saras' as a coach? What makes him special?
"I can say that I worked with some of the best coaches in Serbia, Pesic and Duda Ivkovic, and I can see some things he does are similar, because he also worked with Pesic in Barcelona. He is always prepared for every practice and every game. He never lets things happen by accident and is always prepared, ready for every player, in every game. He puts a lot of attention into details, on offense and defense. We are always prepared defensively to play against every opponent, which is very difficult for them. He demands a lot of concentration from his players. I never played for Zeljko Obradovic, but he did and I believe they see basketball the same way."
A lot of point guards end up being coaches. Is that a coincidence? Do you see yourself as a coach one day?
"Well, it is pretty far for me to think about that. I love playing basketball and I don't know if I can see myself out of the sport, but I definitely look at basketball in a way that I don't just think about making money or anything like that. I had the opportunity to work for some of the greatest coaches in Europe and took something good from all of them, lessons that I can use on the floor, so maybe one day I will be a coach, but I am not sure now. I still have some good years ahead of me as a player. As for coaches being former point guards, I believe this is not a coincidence. Point guards are coaches on the court and have more feel for basketball than other players. You have to get everybody involved on offense and build relationships with everyone. This is very important and a good start for coaches."
You are 23 and this is already your third EuroLeague season. Is your previous EuroLeague experience paying off?
"I had a one-year break last season and played in Turkey, for Tofas Bursa. That is maybe not the most famous team that I played for so far, but I played against very good opponents in the Turkish League. I believe this year gave me so much confidence and in the playing style that I wanted. My previous EuroLeague experience with Bayern and Zvezda was very important for me, to see how it is to play against some of the best guards in Europe. Having opponents like Juan Carlos Navarro, Marcelinho Huertas, Thomas Heurtel... the best players in my position was very important for me. Experience is one of the most important things for a point guard."
You now live in Lithuania, a basketball country like few others, if any. How special is it for you, knowing basketball is also huge in Serbia, your country?
"I knew what to expect before I came here. I knew the kind of atmosphere fans can create because we have the same mentality. I was ready for that and more or less thought about it - with so many games, you have to carry on and do the best that you can. I am happy that we have such great fans here. They are giving us great support in this game. I know how important this is for every home game and we can use it for an advantage."
You grew up skiing a lot. What did you learn skiing that you can use in basketball? For instance, are slalom and crossovers related?
"Skiing was the first sport that I ever played. The most important thing is that it helped me coordinate my body with my brain. When I started playing basketball, I had to coordinate my body with the ball, which is also very important. I realized I quickly learned some of the things my basketball coaches told me to do, like changing the rhythm or using my shoulder to protect the ball. All these details were natural to me because I already did that skiing. When I grew – one summer I grew 25 centimeters – I didn't lose my coordination, so I started to play point guard even though I was almost 2.00 meters tall. That is one of the advantages I have from skiing."
It is absolutely forbidden for basketball players to ski, though. Do you miss it?
"Yes, it is really sad for me, I can say, because I have great passion for it. It is a very beautiful sport, especially for amateurs, because it gives you the chance to enjoy nature. If you have skills, you can really enjoy a lot. Anyway, it is part of my job and I am waiting to go skiing again when I finish my career – and to enjoy it again!"
The Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four will be in Belgrade and everybody is looking forward to it. How important is this for the Serbian basketball family?
"It is definitely a great opportunity to represent Belgrade in the best way. I am sure everyone will follow it and the gym will be full. Some of my friends are already asking me about tickets and where to find them, if I have any connection to help them. I am very happy about it, it will be a great Final Four. Belgrade is a beautiful city, with great places to go. Basketball is everywhere and people love it. Some people will be surprised about how much Serbians love basketball."