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Shengelia: ''My first dream was to represent the national team''
TBILISI (Georgia) - Tornike Shengelia continues to prove his unwavering dedication to his national team after another inspired performance for Georgia.
The 30-year-old was on the court in Tbilisi on Friday less than 24 hours after fulfilling club duties in Moscow with 65 minutes played across the two games - once again putting the love for his country at the forefront to open the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 European Qualifiers.
"MY FIRST DREAM - BEFORE THE NBA - WAS TO PLAY FOR THE NATIONAL TEAM AND PLAY HERE FOR MY COUNTRY."
For Shengelia, it's about giving absolutely everything to the cause of the national team, no matter what.
"My motivation is the same motivation as I had since I was a young kid," he declared. "The first time I saw the national team play, I was on the court in this gym. My first dream - before it was to go to the NBA - was to play for the national team and play here for my country. This is the motivation I've had since that day and nothing changed since. 100-percent there and it’s not going to change until I can’t play."
Dreams achieved on both fronts with Shengelia taken as a second round selection in the 2012 NBA Draft as well as becoming a staple of Georgia's national team with appearances at three separate FIBA EuroBasket tournaments in 2011, 2015 and 2017 with another pending next summer.
One thing missing from an impressive international resume is competing at the FIBA Basketball World Cup, and that is something Georgia are hoping to put right with Shengelia at the helm on the path to the 2023 edition in Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines.
Shengelia overcame an early injury scare in Georgia's opening game to finish with a double-double of 16 points and 13 rebounds along with 3 assists as they defeated Ukraine 88-83. There were also vital contributions from Thad McFadden - who hit seven threes in a 27-point haul with 9 assists - with Giorgi Shermadini posting 23 points.
And, Georgia head coach Ilias Zouros highlighted the dedication and commitment of Shengelia amongst the key contingent as a major factor in helping spur on the team to be able to succeed.
"When one of the best players is coming it is important psychologically - it gives a boost to all the rest of the team. Many of our players are in the domestic leagues and don't have experience of the big games so they need the push from our players coming from abroad," Zouros said.
"The presence of our key players helps our team a lot to perform and fight for the win. Toko gave his heart on the court. Yesterday [Thursday] he played 32 minutes and played in back-to-back games."
Shengelia and Georgia could round out a perfect window when they travel to face Spain in Jaen on Monday with a chance to move to 2-0 in Group G.