Ádám Hanga on the EuroLeague basketball: We are going to win it!

Ádám Hanga will take on the Final Four court for the third time in Belgrade for the most prestigious European club trophy. After Laboral Kutxa and Barcelona, who are also Spanish, this time he will represent Real Madrid. Hanga is outspoken: he thinks his team will be the winner.

Ádám Hanga wants to win the EuroLeague with Real Madrid (Photo: Getty Images)


How are you? In what condition are you awaiting the tournament in Belgrade?
– I'm a bit snotty. I've been struggling with this for a week, it's kind of a cold – Ádám Hanga, the 33-year-old Hungarian national team star of Real Madrid, who is preparing for the EuroLeague Final Four in Belgrade, told Nemzeti Sport. – The evenings are worse, but I'm fine during the day. The sickness did not hinder my preparation.

Kornél Dávid, former EuroLeague runner-up
I was particularly pleased when the EuroLeague management's decision in March to move the Final Four from Berlin to Belgrade due to the coronavirus, because I have been to many events in Serbia, and the people there are fans of basketball, and they will definitely organize the tournament well. Regarding the odds, I think, based on the season's performance, all the teams deserve to win. It is difficult to declare a favorite as two games decide the winner, it also depends on what side of the bed players get up from on the given day and how much they feel the burden. Where more players have previously made the Final Four, the excitement of the team will be less. I think Barcelona has a bit more chance than all the others, but I'm rooting for Ádám and Real. If they have a good day and get past Barca, they'll have a big chance. It's going to be exciting, that's for sure. I expect Hanga to do what has characterized him all season, and I'm sure he won't get messed with again like he was last year when he only played seven seconds in the final. He's not going to invent anything new either, Ádi is a great team player, he's balanced, and he's going to bring what he can when he plays. I am lucky because I was able to play in two Final Fours and play four games in the elite series. It is weird to think that it was already seventeen years ago when I was a finalist with Tau Cerámica at the Moscow tournament where we beat the hosts. And that's how we got into the final. Unfortunately, our coach at the time, Duško Ivanović of Montenegro, overdid the training sessions, we were tired when we should have won the battle against Maccabi for the gold. The day after the semifinal against CSKA, we went to training in the morning, we ran a lot, and when we came back from training, the Israelis had only just woken up... I am going to be at the tournament, and I hope that Ádi will surpass my achievement, too."

What about your leg? You mentioned after the quarterfinals that you were struggling with a stubborn hamstring muscle injury.
– I'm feeling much better, I haven't had another problem since the playoffs. Of course, sometimes I can barely walk down the stairs because everything hurts... I'm not alone in that, though. My teammates have similar problems, but it's almost natural at this time of the season.

How are you feeling mentally?
– I look forward to the Final Four surprisingly in a calm manner. It's a great achievement to be here in my first year at Real, especially when we've had quite a bit of up and downs around February and March. After that, no one really expected us to be anywhere near the final four at all. And yet here we are!

What condition is the team in?
– We can say that we are in a good mood. We have played eight games since the EuroLeague quarterfinals, three against Maccabi of Israel, and five league matches of which we won all. I believe that our fate is predetermined, but our conscience is clear because we prepared for the final four to the best of our ability. We are in the mood for the semifinal against Barcelona, we played with them six times this season, therefore, the two teams can hardly surprise each other.

How Barca-specific was the team's preparation?
– Very much. We were only preparing for them because we don't know who we're going to play against in the next game, whether it's the bronze game or the final. both teams can come up with minor tactical variations at the beginning of the match, but there will be no shocking changes.

Last year you fought with the Catalans for the victory, now you are competing against your former team in the semifinals. What does it feel like?
– I have said many times that I want to play against Barcelona in the Final Four, but not because I am driven by revenge. I'm not unforgiving, but I think that if we want to win the EuroLeague, we have to beat Barcelona.

What is the atmosphere in the locker room in general?
– I see that everyone experiences this situation differently. There are players for whom this will be the first final four, but there are also those for whom it's the eighth... No one should play under pressure, we should enjoy the tournament and give it our all. Of course, Real Madrid is a club that is always under a lot of pressure, that's what it takes when you play here. You have to give the maximum when it matters.

Do you remember the tournament last year when, as Barcelona's player, head coach Sarunas Jasikevicius of Lithuania made you play for seven seconds only in the final lost to Efes?
– Yes, of course. The reason why it's good what happened to me last year is because I'm prepared for a situation like this, too. I've already lived through the fact that I played forty-four minutes in my first Final Four with Laboral Kutxa, and yes, there was a time when I only got seven seconds in the final. If I need to play 48 minutes to win now, that's what I'll do. If I'm needed for two minutes, I'll play that much. If the team needs it, I'll make five personal mistakes in five minutes and foul out. The point is that I am two games away from becoming the first Hungarian male basketball player to win the EuroLeague. If I could do that, I'd retire peacefully in a few years. 

Ádám Hanga lived through two completely different Final Fours as he was a key player for Baskonia - then known as Laboral Kutxa - in 2016 and spent the most time of his team on the court in the clashes. Last year, he played in the final with Barcelona in Istanbul, but due to the decision of his coach, he could have even gone shopping in the bazaar because in the golden battle against Anadolu Efes, he only had seven seconds of playing time. Barca lost to the Turkish, only heavens know what would've happened if the Hungarian shooting guard had been given more minutes.
The Final Four experience with Baskonia may be bitter because Fenerbahçe prevailed in the semifinal extra time – Hanga added 10 points and five rebounds – and in the match for third place, the Russian Lokomotiv Kubany won easily. Ádám Hanga traveled to Belgrade this year to become the first Hungarian basketball player to win the EuroLeague. Apart from Hanga, only Kornél Dávid had a chance to win the most prestigious European series as he reached the Final Four with Baskonia in 2005 and 2006, which was then called Tau Cerámica. The Basques won silver for the first time, Dávid scored 11 points and 12 rebounds in the semifinals against CSKA, then in the final, Maccabi Tel Aviv proved to be better. A year later, the Israeli star team stopped the Hungarian power forward's team in the semifinals, but Tau won the bronze match against Barcelona, so Kornél Dávid's EuroLeague medal collection lacks only gold.

Do you have a hunch of what the outcome of the tournament in Belgrade will be?
– Yes, it's to win it! But it's one thing. One tends to make dreams and desires his intuitions.

On the other side, the defending champion, Turkish club Efes and Olympiacos of Greece will clash. Which team do you think will win?
– A tough battle is expected. The Greeks are also massive, they have fought many great battles. In the end, individual performances will decide the winner, but I do not know in whose favor.

In the previous 20 years of the European men's elite series, which has been considered a continuation of the European Champions' Cup since 2001, a number of exciting finals have been held. (Note: the two most prestigious series of the current season, the EuroLeague and the European Cup, have been removed from the control of the international federation, FIBA, and are now organized by the ULEB...) The first official EuroLeague winner was Greece's Panathinaikos in 2002 after beating Kinder in Bologna on the final day of the Final Four. The Italians, who started the tournament with two teams (the home side defeated Benetton in the semifinals), remained on the line and, unbelievably as it is, they have not been able to reach the top since. At the end of the following season, Barcelona of Spain beat Treviso in the finals, after which the Italian team reached gold only once in 2004, but Skipper Bologna lost to Maccabi of Israel in the final match of the Final Four in Tel Aviv. In these 20 years, there were only two matches with extra time: in Milan in 2014, Maccabi won the trophy against Real Madrid in Spain while in 2016 in Berlin, CSKA Moscow of Russia won the trophy against Turkish club, Fenerbahçe. The 2012 final, when Greek Olympiacos won 62-61 against CSKA in Istanbul, was the closest in terms of numbers. Cologne hosted the mini-tournament last year, and at the end of the Final Four (played without spectators due to the coronavirus), Turkish club Anadolu Efes was happy. Under the leadership of Vasilije Micić of Serbia, the club won 86-81 against Barcelona with Ádám Hanga – although for only seven seconds. It was the Turkish club's first EuroLeague success in its history.

Serbians love basketball, so it is likely that not only the fans of the four clubs involved but the locals will also show their best on the stands.
– I'm sure the atmosphere is going to be fantastic! I heard that about 40 percent of the tickets distributed among the participants went to the Greeks and Turkish, and ten and six percent went to Barca and Real fans, respectively. Either way, if two or three thousand fans are cheering for a team, it will matter a lot.

Real last won the EuroLeague in 2018, and Facundo Campazzo of Argentina was sitting on the rim celebrating… (Photo by AFP)

Where will your wife and daughters be?
– They're coming to Belgrade, the whole family. Real Madrid will provide a private airplane for the relatives and even pay for the trip. Almost all of our players will have their family in the hall, which may be a subplot, but it is important to us. Knowing that they're there, they're cheering us on, is extra motivation. If we win, the experience, the memory of a lifetime, will be shared. But if we lose and become sad, the family will help us forget the grief more easily.


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