Ante Tomic comes off a historic week in which he made EuroLeague history with his 950th two-point basket, which made him the competition’s career leader in that category. At 31 years of age, the FC Barcelona Lassa center is aging well. The club appointed him team captain this season after the retirement of EuroLeague Legend Juan Carlos Navarro and he has responded by averaging a career-best 14.2 points per game. He has excelled as Barcelona has won three games in a row, but is now gearing up for a test with the team’s next three games coming against teams that reached the playoffs last season, Khimki Moscow Region, Zalgiris Kaunas and Panathinaikos OPAP Athens. “I am not that young, but I am not old enough to break a record like that in EuroLeague history,” Tomic told EuroLeague.net of the two-pointer record he snatched from Panathinaikos hero Mike Batiste. “It means a lot and I hope I can play some more years to improve the record.”
Hello, Ante. Congratulations on the big win against Maccabi. A great third quarter put you on the path to victory. What did you change at halftime to play so well after that?
“Thank you. Yes, the third quarter was the key. In previous games, we had a lot of problems in the third quarters and received a lot of points, especially in transition. In this game, we managed to control that with good offense, with good shooting percentages. We managed to control the score and build a 20-point lead, so we deserved the win.”
Barcelona won its last three EuroLeague games. It has a winning record in the competition for the first time in over one year. Could it be the start of something good?
“Well, I hope so! We are off to a good start. We lost two games, but they were tough ones on the road. So far, I think we are doing well and I hope we will continue like this. The thing is that the schedule is not really good for us. We need to try to win the most possible games on the road, which is very important, and stay solid at home.”
“There is no time to think about happened. You have to look forward and prepare the next game.”
This is the third year under the new format. From your own experience, what is the key to being competitive in the new EuroLeague?
“Like I said before, winning on the road is very important, that is the key, and being very solid at home. If we do that, with some victories away, we will be in the playoffs. That is the key; stay solid at home and get wins on the road. There is not much time to think about losses, especially when you play a strong domestic league like the ACB, too. There is no time to think about happened. You have to look forward and prepare the next game. On the other hand, not having time to think about what happened is a good thing. You focus on the next game and play it.”
You have officially landed in the EuroLeague record books. Noone has made more two-point shots than you. How does it feel and how honored are you?
“It is great! Honestly, I had no idea about it! The thing is… unreal! I mean, I am not that young, but I am not old enough to break a record like that in EuroLeague history. It means a lot and I hope I can play some more years to improve the record.”
You were chosen as Barcelona’s team captain. How do you like the extra responsibility?
“I like it. It is a little bit more responsibility, but not a lot more than in previous years because I was also the teammate many times when [Juan Carlos] Navarro was not playing. It didn’t change much, the role is the same… try to help the new guys adjust, try to make the team stay together. It hasn’t changed much.”
This is your seventh season with the club. How important is the club and the city of Barcelona in your life?
“It is a big part of my life, for sure. Most of my grown life, I have been living in Barcelona, playing for FC Barcelona. My child was born here and the biggest things in my career happened here. I can say that Barcelona is a big part of my life and not just for me, for my family, too.”
How much does Barcelona miss Juan Carlos Navarro, on and off the court? His #11 number will be retired this month.
“Well, it is difficult to replace a player like that; he is one-of-a-kind, but at the same time, life goes on, right? He is retired now and we have to keep playing, keep living without him on the court. It is very difficult to replace him, but we have a solid team this year and players who can help us the way Navarro did. It is a big loss, but like I said, life goes on. We need to play without him, right?”
“[Navaro] is a big loss, but like I said, life goes on. We need to play without him, right?”
You will play against Khimki this week. Alexey Shved is a great scorer, but they also have athletic big men to guard you. What will be the key to overcome them?
“As always, our game is based on our defense and it is going to be very important to control the boards and the defensive transition. If we can not only control those two things, but dominate them, we will be able to beat anyone. The same goes for the game against Khimki. There are many athletic teams in the EuroLeague that run a lot and play in transition. More or less, the recipe to beat all of these teams is to control the boards, that is the most important thing.”
Your next three games, against Khimki, Zalgiris and Panathinaikos – are on the road. Is it a good test to see where Barcelona stands, after three consecutive wins?
“Yes, it is going to be a great test for us. Playing three games in a row in the EuroLeague is going to tell us a lot about ourselves. We will see if we are capable of winning on the road, especially tough games like this. I think we can do it. It is a tough schedule, but it is what it is. It is better to play against them on the road now and receive them at Palau Blaugrana later on.”
Barcelona has not showed its full potential, with many new players and Adam Hanga coming back from injury. How dangerous can your team be going forward?
“We can be tough. I think we already saw it in the beginning of the season; we can play great basketball even without Hanga, we did well, especially on defense. Hanga now gives us extra options on defense and offense. He is a very important player for us. We all saw it last year – in some cases, he was even playing point guard. He is going to be a big plus for us.”