Virtus, San Lorenzo hope trophy awaits at the end of long road
TENERIFE (Spain) - Segafredo Virtus Bologna and San Lorenzo de Almagro have travelled a long way - metaphorically in the case of the former, literally as far as the latter is concerned - to step out in the first Semi-Final of the FIBA Intercontinental Cup on Friday.
Virtus were in action on Wednesday night and consequently were the last of the four contenders to arrive on Tenerife. Lifting the 2018-19 Basketball Champions League trophy last May however has injected Virtus with a powerful desire to add more titles and revive the glory days of Italy's 'Basket City'.
"For us the FIBA Intercontinental Cup is a big opportunity because our club has never won this trophy in its history," said Virtus captain Filippo Baldi Rossi.
"We have seen enough of these guys [San Lorenzo] to know that they are tough. We are a little bit tired, but we are focused on our job, we are only thinking about the first game and we will be ready for it."
The Italian side's head coach, Sasha Djordjevic, a man who has won almost everything in his career as a player and a coach, seconded his captain's views.
"It's a great honor for me to be here and it's a great honor to represent Virtus Bologna in this tournament," said Djordjevic.
"We will try to honor it and try to give our best. We know it's a tough one, it's going to be tough to compete, but I know my guys will be ready to compete."
The 2019 DIRECTV Liga de las Americas champions on the other hand traveled to the Spanish island all the way from Buenos Aires.
"We come from very far and we had a long trip, but my players are all very motivated for this tournament," said San Lorenzo head coach Nestor Garcia.
"We are very happy to be here, competing with these big teams and coaches on this big stage. We know that we play against Virtus, a team with great players and a great coach.
"I admire Sasha very much and I am not saying this because he is my friend, but because I truly believe he is one of the best coaches in the world."
Garcia took charge of San Lorenzo last month, so he was not at the helm in February 2019 when the Argentinian team fell in the Semi-Finals of the FIBA Intercontinental Cup in Brazil.
The Buenos Aires side are the only among the four participants in Tenerife to be making back-to-back appearances in the competition. Those who went through the 2019 experience hope that redemption awaits at the end of the long road that brought them to the 2020 edition.
"It's my second year in the FIBA Intercontinental Cup with San Lorenzo and my expectation is to win, just as every other team here," said the Argentinian champions shooting guard Dar Tucker.
"We work hard and we practice hard to come out and win. Hopefully we can pull it off, and I know we are up against great competition, but my hope is that we can win and take the cup.
"I think we are well prepared to face a European team, of course we know it's going to be tough, we have watched film and know that Bologna's pace of game is just amazing and they have outstanding players.
"But we're up for the challenge."