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Hanga credits team spirit for ending Hungary’s 17-year wait
SZOLNOK (FIBA EuroBasket 2017 Qualifiers) – Adam Hanga is well-know for his amiable personality, in addition of course to his explosive talent, but the smile on the 27-year-old Hungarian wingman’s face was even wider than usual as his national team returned home from their 68-65 win at Luxembourg the previous night.
"We came together from the first moment, everybody sacrificed aspects of his own game in order to achieve the bigger goal, to finally make it to EuroBasket." - Hanga
Hungary have improved to 5-0 to secure first place in Group G with a day to spare in the FIBA EuroBasket 2017 Qualifiers and have consequently earned the right to take part in the showcase European event for the first time since the 1999 edition.
Eurobasket here we come 👏🏾👏🏾💪🏾💪🏾🇭🇺🇭🇺🇭🇺 fiba @ Luxembourg City https://t.co/DnSL8uFIxW— Hanga Ádám (@HangaAdamOnline) 14 September 2016
Hanga spearheaded Hungary’s milestone campaign by averaging 19.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists and a fantastic efficiency rating of 20.2 through these five games.
"It is an amazing feeling, achieving the trip to EuroBasket was my goal this summer when I came to play for the national team," Hanga told FIBA.com. "Unfortunately the previous years I could not come because of my injuries and this was finally the chance for me to play and help Hungary make it, so I have really enjoyed this summer enormously."
"On paper, both Great Britain and MKD are better teams than we are and they have played at the last EuroBaskets, but we went into each game determined to beat them." - Hanga
Hanga entered the Qualifiers as one of the established top players in Europe and Hungary were confident he would deliver stellar performances. So the team chose to focus on their current potential with him in the line-up, rather than allow the 17-year wait to weigh heavily on their shoulders.
"At the beginning of preparations, we told the media in Hungary that our goal was to make it to EuroBasket," the Baskonia winger explained. "We remembered how close we came two years ago (in the 2nd Qualifying Round for FIBA EuroBasket 2015), when we won the game against the Czech Republic by 15 points (83-68) and we needed a 17-point margin, so we did not make it only because of one basket."
"But we were really good back then and we knew that we want to make it and we have to make it this summer. That’s the mindset we had since the start.
"So even before the qualification started, we looked at us, we looked at our group and we thought that we had a really good chance. When the games started we played together, we showed our character and our strength as a team."
Hungary started off with a clear declaration of intentions, as they breezed past Great Britain 96-77 in the Group G opener, behind an inspirational 32-point, 7-rebound showing by Hanga.
"What made the difference was that we came together from the first moment, everybody sacrificed aspects of his own game in order to achieve the bigger goal, to finally make it to EuroBasket," was how the always modest swingman described it.
"It is for sure a big success for Hungarian basketball and it is part of the process of these last years." - Hanga
"On paper, both Great Britain and MKD are better teams than we are and they have played at the last EuroBaskets, but we went into each game determined to beat them and we made it happen."
Hungary’s big star has obviously not had the time yet to reflect on the entire range of positive influence that fulfilling the dream of an entire generation will have on Hungarian basketball, but he is a certain that this milestone is another symptom of its rebirth rather than an isolated incident.
"It is for sure a big success for Hungarian basketball and it is part of the process of these last years," he said.
"Hungarian clubs have been playing in European competitions in the past seasons and I think this experience helped younger guys to develop and all players have got better.
"Obviously achieving this qualification will now lift basketball in Hungary even higher and more people will take note."