Andrey Kirilenko: ''Basketball world cup is the third important competition in the world. It would be cool to host it in Kazan''

Legendary basketball players NBA star about American and Russian basketball, talk with Minnikhanov and pity for UNICS

Andrey Kirilenko: ''Basketball world cup is the third important competition in the world. It would be cool to host it in Kazan'' Photo: Aleksandr Aleksandrov (unics.ru)

Russian Basketball Federation President and famous player who was the image of Russian basketball in NBA for many years Andrey Kirilenko visited the capital of Tatarstan with a lofty task to show young basketball players what they need to do to repeat his road. But we were interested in other hot topics in Russian basketball. Realnoe Vremya tells what stopped UNICS and other Russian clubs in European competitions, which teams the Russian national squad will host in Kazan in summer and whether the Tatarstan capital is a candidate to host the FIBA Basketball World Cup.

''I came to pass different knowledge that was gained by by the sweat of his brow''

''Good afternoon, how are you?'' Andrey Kirilenko started the talk in a pure American manner when he appeared on the Basket Hall court. About 1,500 sports school pupils of the city, students of the Volga Sports Academy and UNICS players gathered there. Players of the first team of the Kazan club joined them later in the hall. He told almost immediately why the Russian Basketball Federation president suddenly visited Kazan. Apart from Kirilenko's beautiful and lofty mission to pass his experience to young players, he also had tasks of the head of Russian basketball.

I would like to invite all basketball fans to Kazan on 11-13 August. An international tournament with national teams of Iceland, Hungary and Germany will take place here. We invite everyone. We will wait. And, of course, we invite everybody to the European Championship, which will be in Turkey from 31 August.

Did you discuss this small tournament with the Tatarstan president?

Yes, including a potential application. I won't talk ahead of time. This is why, it is only a potential application to host the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup because the plan is under creation.

And today we will share basketball mastery with the boys who came here and the boys who play at UNICS.

Realnoe Vremya: Kazan will be one of the candidates to host this cup, am I right?

We are going ahead of time again. The application has not been sent, we are working on it. It is a long process. It needs to be discussed with the government. This is why today we are just thinking of the readiness of cities to host it and the desire. Naturally, we will discuss it with the government.

Russian Basketball Federation president told almost immediately why he suddenly visited Kazan

Could you tell more about the project you visited our city with?

At the beginning of the last season, we talked we needed to share our experience, visit different regions, pass different knowledge that was gained by the sweat of his brow during many years of my career. 10,000 km of basketball and School 2.0 enabled one of such numerous visits to Kazan. And I am very glad that we succeed. Perm is waiting for us next week, we will be in Samara in a week. We move across our country. And I am very glad that so many people gathered here today.

''I feel pity for UNICS a bit''

A masterclass for kids is a lofty goal. But Kazan journalists who gathered to meet with the basketball functionary and famous basketball player were no less interested in professional basketball problems. Many questions have accumulated in this season.

Is Russia a basketball country?

Of course, why not?

Is one NBA representative who is not playing any more an indicator?

No, of course. Why do we judge by NBA only? I think it is wrong. I think our national team is an indicator. Look at the results of the national team, they are great. We reached the European Championship first. Indeed, now we will have a good test. As for clubs, I think both men and women won the Euroleague. Everything is fine at the moment, touch wood. As you know, our two women's teams are in the Final Four. Dynamo-Kursk and UMMC are such old representatives of our league. We will support our clubs. We will hope it will be so.

CSKA and the level of Russian basketball. Is there any connection?

Undoubtedly, CSKA is the leader today as well as UMMC, though not individually now. As for CSKA, it is a leading club not only in Russia but Europe. Probably this is why it is not very correct to compare the level of CSKA and all Russian basketball.

I would like to feel pity for the club. They lacked a bit. If the result were different, I would be following a team preparing for the play-off

Mr Kirilenko, could you comment the performance of UNICS in Euroleague?

I feel pity for UNICS a bit. Three or give Euroleague games could have ended with another result. There is a difference of 2-3 points. You understand it is almost nothing in basketball, an attack. In this respect, I would like to feel pity for the club. They lacked a bit. If the result were different, I would be following a team preparing for the play-off.

Could you comment the logic of the Russian Basketball Federation on the seventh foreign player for UNICS?

Indeed, there was an injury during the season. VTB League talked to us about the application for transfer. As I understand, there were not any problems in the league's council. So, why not?

Realnoe Vremya correspondent did not want to switch from the hot topic: Could you assess the performance of our other teams in Europe. All were eliminated from the European competitions.

Anyway, CSKA is the leader today. We don't put it in brackets. Khimki, Lokomotiv and UNICS. I am saying this season has not been very successful in terms of European competitions, though all team's game corresponded, they showed good games from time to time. I mean they demonstrated good basketball. But, unfortunately, Zenit coincided with Lokomotiv, and somebody had to move. And other teams played some games when 2-3 points decided the outcome. It is sport, unfortunately, there are moments when they lack just a bit. It is luck.

''Russian basketball can't grow without our young guys, no matter who they are: foreigners or Russians''

The main goal of your visit here to give a masterclass with young basketball players. What do you think about the appearance of young talents in Russian basketball?

I firmly believe that we won't achieve anything without our young guys. We can speak about foreigners and Russians. Unless we have a qualitative growth in kid and junior basketball, there is no sense in speaking about it. So, if we pay attention to our young talents, we will be able to build a good basketball level. The more you submerge, the more you know. Guys in the centre – Moscow, Saint Petersburg – have always been leaders in this respect. Regions really have many talented players, guys who need training and attention. In fact, it is one of the goals of our project we are accomplishing today. To look, to know, infect with basketball on a great scale, so that guys will have goals.

I firmly believe that we won't achieve anything without our young guys. We can speak about foreigners and Russians. Unless we have a qualitative growth in kid and junior basketball, there is no sense in speaking about it.

Is there a problem that clubs are aimed at results more and don't want to spend time with their pupils?

Not all clubs. There are clubs that want to win very much and forget about their young at times. We always talked to coaches that attention must be paid to the guys in the club. Probably they are a bit raw. But a bit of attention and a chance are what they need. A chance to prove. To give them an opportunity to play, to show themselves. More clubs that pay attention to their young have appeared if you look. Parma's example two years ago – even if the nowadays the team is a bit raw, anyway, 9-10 people who graduated from the Perm basketball school is very cool. There are many clubs in our country that go up and reach the highest level.

''I liked the All-Star Game in Sochi much more than the All-Star Game in New Orleans''

You played in North America and here. Can you compare basketball?

What for? We can't compare the system that has been existing for 100 years with a 15 or 20-year old system. It is wrong. The economic systems are different, preparation is different. We have our own road. We can't compare. We have our own road how we want or can. We need to work on the basis of this economic and sports field. We need to pay attention to basketball to have it at the highest level.

Is the All Star Game in Sochi an indicator of our basketball? Can you compare that All Star Game in NBA where you participated and ours?

I understand everyone is sceptical about it a bit. To tell the truth, I liked the All-Star Game in Sochi much more than All-Star Game in New Orleans. Not because I am a patriot. I watched both games. The match in New Orleans was child's play, there was not a fight. Everything around basketball was simply super. The fact that the action takes place here, people who support basketball are Russians creates a positive disposition. This is why I put the highest mark for that match. I hope all next star games will have the same atmosphere.

''There was a fight in Russia. Everything around basketball was simply super. The fact that the action takes place here, people who support basketball are Russians creates a positive disposition.'' Photo: vk.com

Sochi is trying to join the battle to become the sports capital of Russia.

Kazan is the leader at the moment, of course. We hope we will bring more and more events to Kazan, that international tournament I spoke about. I hope we will be able to hold the world cup in 2023. In my opinion, the basketball world cup is the third important competition in the world after WC and Olympics. It would be cool to host it. And the level of Kazan's infrastructure completely corresponds to these tasks.

By Erik Dobrolyubov. Photo: Aleksandr Aleksandrov (unics.ru)