With Keravnos safely into Second Round, Michail switches attention to Cyprus duties
NICOSIA (FIBA Europe Cup/FIBA EuroBasket 2021 Pre-Qualifiers) – With his team's spot in the next stage of the FIBA Europe Cup safely secured, Cypriot national team player Simon Michail has been free to turn his attention to next week’s FIBA EuroBasket 2021 Pre-Qualifiers.
Keravnos, who are based in the Nicosia suburb of Strovolos, were one of two teams to already secure their spot in the Second Round, following just four game days, something that Michail puts down to familiarity.
"I believe that having most of the team together for three years now, and having the same players in the group, with the same fundamentals, philosophy and coach has really helped to give a chemistry to our team."
This has all been achieved, despite Keravnos only returning to Europe this year following a lengthy sabbatical. This meant testing the waters anew as the club entered the unchartered territory of the Basketball Champions League Qualifiers, where a poor first-leg game against Russian club Avtodor saw the club resigned to playing FIBA Europe Cup.
"This was our first year back in Europe following a number of years away as a club and we didn't know what to expect or what we are capable of doing," expressed the point guard. "After we gave up too many points at home, and then went and won by four on Avtodor's court, that showed us that we only didn't qualify because of our own mistakes."
However, rather than looking at this as a setback, Michail is only focusing on the positives of what has been achieved in the FIBA Europe Cup.
"It is our first time back in Europe after many years as I said, so we just want to show a good face and try establish ourselves as a good FIBA Europe Cup team. [FIBA Europe Cup] is a great competition. Seeing so many different teams from different leagues and clubs for home and away games and seeing the environment they live in and vice versa, it is a great experience."
Playing FIBA Europe Cup has also allowed Michail, who is averaging just shy of 25 minutes a night in Europe, improve his own game.
"In the last three years, I think year-by-year I have been exposed to jobs within the team and a growing status and more court time.
"Playing FIBA Europe Cup, and with the national team, it is a great chance for me to adapt, to see new things, to see other players, how they react, how they play and adjust that to my routine, which will hopefully see me get better and better."
Earlier this summer, a number of European nations who missed out on playing at FIBA EuroBasket 2017 took the chance to try and qualify for the FIBA Basketball World Cup via the European Pre-Qualifiers. Interestingly, Cyprus forewent this opportunity, playing in the 2017 Games of the Small States of Europe in late May, before giving their players the summer off.
"We just tried to regroup," offered Michail. "We tried two summers ago to make it to FIBA EuroBasket, but we lost to Iceland twice and we didn't make the final cut. I think we just needed to reset our minds and strategize what we could do better. We took that time to readjust a few things, regroup and set new goals and targets and try again this year."
Cyprus faced two losses to Iceland in FIBA EuroBasket 2017 Qualifiers, ultimately costing them a position in the Final Round
Having off the summer, something which the new FIBA windows allow, is something that Michail is particularly fond of.
"I like the idea because it gives you the opportunity to individually work during the summer. That was one of the main issues of why people did not want to participate in the national team.
"In summer, you either want to rest, be with your family or work on your individual skills. Having a national team, being in the team and the group, you could not really do that – you had to focus on the task ahead. But now, having these games in between, you get a change of environment during the season and that is pretty good because it releases your mind."
Cyprus tip off their campaign when they host Portugal on Thursday, November 23. Portugal will be out with a point to prove, having been one of the unluckier teams not to make it out of the World Cup European Pre-Qualifiers. Regardless of the challenge ahead, Michail knows that the Cyprus national team is doing everything it can within its powers to be ready.
"The one thing I can say is that the environment is great. In the national team it has to feel like home, and that is what it feels like in our group. The skills are there and we just need to execute the coach's plan and see how it goes."
After their Portugal challenge, Cyprus will then enjoy a bye on Sunday, before resuming their campaign on Thursday, February 22, on the road to Luxembourg, a game the Cypriots will already be targeting as a must-win.
As for Keravnos, they conclude the FIBA Europe Cup Regular Season by hosting Egis Kormend in a top-of-the-table clash, on December 6.