19 September, 2017
02 May, 2018
44 Peter Lorant | Photo: Erika Simon
19/02/2018
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Lorant leading the charge for on-fire Alba Fehervar

SZEKESFEHERVAR (FIBA Europe Cup) - From nearly meeting their end in the Regular Season to finishing atop the Group J standings in the Second Round, Alba Fehervar and the club's captain Peter Lorant have seen both ends of the coin in the FIBA Europe Cup this season.

Having been forced to watch the team's early struggles from the sidelines in October, the 32-year-old Hungarian power forward managed to put his injury issues aside, breathing life into the team's campaign with a stellar comeback.

"When we started to play with our full team, everyone found their space and place in the team and we just started to play a lot better, with more confidence."Peter LorantPeter Lorant

Alba Fehervar have gone 8-2 in the competition since Lorant returned to action and he has looked nothing short of fantastic, leading the charge with averages of 14.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game.

FIBA.basketball spoke to the player about their rollercoaster ride in the FIBA Europe Cup, the ever-improving state of Hungarian basketball and what awaits in the Round of 16.

Last season, you missed out on a Play-Off spot by nothing more than a whisker. How good does it feel to have a ticket to the Round of 16 in your pocket before the international break?
It's great because we had a tough group and we won it. We didn't start the Regular Season well, losing the first two home games, so we weren't very optimistic in the first group stage. Somehow we managed to get to the Second Round and there we had a full team, nobody was injured and I'm very happy that the team was playing very good and hard basketball.

You missed the first couple of FIBA Europe Cup games on the sidelines and the team took some time to get rolling. One could even say an element of luck was involved to advance from the Regular Season. What clicked for you in the Second Round or was it just the case of getting everyone healthy?
We needed some luck too, of course. But we got big wins away wins. We won by 22 points against Proximus Spirou and by 25 against Bnei Rav-Bariach Herzliya. In the end, we needed some luck for the Israeli team to win over Charleroi to help us get to the second phase. We started the Second Round with an overtime loss in Lithuania. That was kind of unlucky, because at the end of that game, I think, we had better possibilities to win.

In the beginning of the season, we had a lot of injuries. As you said, I was out, Trevis Simpson was injured. After that, we started to play with our full team, everyone found their space and place in the team and we just started to play a lot better, with more confidence. Now, as you can see in the results, the team is playing much better.

"I'm very happy that both us and Kormend advanced to the next stage. I also wish them good luck."Peter LorantPeter Lorant

Those five wins in a row were, indeed, quite impressive. What do you think is your main strength as a team, how would you describe the style that coach Dzunic is trying implement?
The coach, he gives a lot of freedom to his players. We play fast basketball and we have a lot of possessions. With that, when we start to feel each other, we can play quick basketball. That's the reason why we can pass other teams on the scoreboard. The other thing is that we are a team that never gives up. In the game against Demir Insaat, we were down by 22 points in the first half and we managed to win; in Lithuania we were down by 18 and got it to overtime and almost won. That's also a very big strength of our team.

You had a chance to play against your former club Egis Kormend in Group J; both of the Hungarian teams qualified to the next phase, beating a powerful team like Demir Insaat. Is it a solid achievement for Hungarian basketball?
I'm very happy that both us and Kormend advanced to the next stage. I also wish them good luck. They have a tougher team to play, because I think Umana Reyer Venezia is one of the toughest teams from what is left in the Round of 16. But, of course, it's a good achievement for Hungarian basketball. Year by year, we are getting better and better.

"It's also very important that some Hungarian players try to play outside of Hungary. They need to try to live in another country, because you can learn so many things as a person and as a player when you play in some other country."Peter LorantPeter Lorant

The situation in Hungary is quite unique with most of the country's top players playing in the Hungarian championship. Yourself, Akos Keller, David Vojvoda, Zoltan Perl…and I'm sure many more could consider playing abroad in some top European leagues talent-wise. How would you explain this phenomenon?
I played almost nine years outside of Hungary, so I have a lot of experience. Besides Hungary, I've played in three different countries, so my story is a little bit different. Some players just don't want to go because they are more comfortable at home and now maybe they're also making more money or the same sort of money that they'd make outside of Hungary and they just don't want to risk that and they don't want to get out of their comfort zone. As you see, Hungarian basketball is getting better and better. Also, the league is getting better and better and for that you need those Hungarian players to play back home in Hungary.

Do you think it has contributed to the rise of Hungarian basketball, with the clubs doing well and the national team returning to the big stage in FIBA EuroBasket 2017 after a decade-long absence?
Yeah, I think that's very important, for sure. [While it is important some players stay at home], it's also very important that some Hungarian players try to play outside of Hungary. They need to try to live in another country, because you can learn so many things as a person and as a player when you play in some other country.

You won the Hungarian title last season, you won the cup. Is there something you still strive to accomplish on the basketball court?
I have the same motivation. Perhaps even more of it, year by year, because I love what I'm doing. And once you start getting closer to that point of — I'm not thinking about retirement yet — but you can't cheat the years, I'm getting older. I'm enjoying basketball more and more every year. For me personally, I am as motivated as last year or the years before.

Going into the season, what were your expectations for the FIBA Europe Cup? Did you have any specific goals in mind? Is it maybe time to re-adjust them?
First of all, we wanted to reach the Basketball Champions League group stage. We had won the first game here against Pinar Karsiyaka and, sadly, I got injured. I played two-three games with a knee injury, but I couldn't play the last game in Turkey. That was our first objective, to try to go to the Regular Season. After that in FIBA Europe Cup, our goal was to go as far as possible. At the beginning of the season, we had many injuries and had to rethink our objectives. But I'm very happy that through those difficult days, we managed to pass the first group stage and win the second group stage.

You will play Juventus Utena from Lithuania in the Round of 16; how would you evaluate the results of the draw and the opponent you received?
I think we could have got a team a lot stronger, but also a weaker team too. I think that team, Juventus, is quite a strong team; they are mid-table in the Lithuanian Championship. We have already played Nevezis this season and they played very hard basketball, as the teams in the north usually do. Very hard and organized basketball, so for sure it's going to be very difficult. I'd say that they have a little bit more of a chance to go through, probably like 60-40 for them, but in two games anything can happen.

There are a lot of strong teams left in the FIBA Europe Cup…if you had to pick one team, which team looks like the early bird favorite in your mind? 
It's difficult to say, because we got six teams from the Basketball Champions League. For sure, a team like Venezia is very dangerous, they are third in the Italian league. There are other tough teams [from the Basketball Champions League] and for sure they have the best chance to win it all. But there are some decent teams also in the FIBA Europe Cup, many of them I don't know yet, I just know the results. I think after the Round of 16, when we are down to the Top 8, we are going to have a clearer picture.

FIBA