While basketball is a team sport, it is sometimes the actions and effort of an individual that makes the difference. These are four men that could have a massive impact on the outcome of the 2013/14 Euroleague Final Four.
Sofoklis Schortsanitis (Maccabi Tel Aviv)
With a fourth place and a runner-up at the Final Four, Sofoklis Schortsanitis is a player who is well accustomed to heartache at this event and he will be determined to finally clinch this prestigious title. The Greek centre has been around the heart of European basketball for a number of years and while he has had his problems at various times, he is a figure that is much loved by the fans and appreciated by many coaches. The fact that Schortsanitis plays in a manner which has been described as “old school” ensures that there will always be plenty of people roaring him on and if he was to finally clinch a Final Four triumph, there would be a lot of people lining up to congratulate him. If Maccabi Tel Aviv are to have any hope of winning this season, Schortsanitis needs to deliver two massive performances at the Final Four.
Juan Carlos Navarro (FC Barcelona)
One of the things you can say about Navarro is that he has experience of the big time. A season in the NBA, two Silver medals from the Olympics and two Euroleague triumphs indicates that this is a player that knows what it takes to go as far as you possibly can in a tournament. The experience of Navarro, at 33 years old and as a player that has captained the Spanish national side, could be crucial when it comes to the crunch in the Final Four. Navarro has been selected in the All-Euroleague First Team on 5 occasions with 2010 being a particular stand-out. He was named the MVP of the Final Four and the European Player of the Year, amongst other personal accolades. He has tasted Euroleague success with Barcelona in 2003 (the team’s Triple Crown year) and in 2010, so he will be a player that could have a large outcome in the Final Four.
Rudy Fernandez (Real Madrid)
Hailing from Majorca, Fernandez has travelled extensively in his career and has reached the heights that many players would spend all night dreaming of reaching. Fernandez began his career with DKV Joventut and played in the NBA with the Portland Trailblazers and the Denver Nuggets. In 2009, he was named in the NBA All-Rookie Second Team and in the same year he picked up a Gold medal at the FIBA EuroBasket with the Spanish national team. When Fernandez returned to Europe from the NBA, he signed for Real Madrid, with a contract that was worth close to €3m for a single season. At the time, this was the highest value of a contract in Spanish basketball, indicating the esteem the player was held in. Fernandez, like Navarro, holds two Silver medals from the Olympics with the Spanish national side, but he is unable to call on any previous Euroleague triumphs. However, this is clearly a player with huge experience and his performances as the shooting guard for Real Madrid may go a long way in determining the outcome of the 2013/14 Final Four.
Ettore Messina (Coach, CSKA Moscow)
While the performance of individual players can have an impact on who emerges at the Final Four, sometimes it is the actions of the coach that makes the difference. The Italian has shown himself to be one of the best coaches in European basketball and has triumphed in the Euroleague 4 times over the years. Few people would bet against Ettore making it 5 with CSKA Moscow this summer, placing him even higher up the rankings of the greatest Euroleague Contributors, where he was hailed as being in the Top 50 back in 2008. Messina’s haul of four Euroleague wins include two at Virtus Bologna (in 1998 and 2001) and two with CSKA Moscow (in 2006 and 2008). In 2006 and 2008 he was named the Coach of the Year in the Euroleague and the 2013/14 season provides Messina with the opportunity to clinch his third Euroleague triumph with CSKA Moscow. When you look at the Final Four era of Euroleague, only Panathinaikos, with 6 titles, can beat the trophy haul of Messina and a win here would place him directly on the tail of the Greek giant. A CSKA Moscow win would also place the Russian side equal second with respect to the number of Euroleague wins in the Final Four era. These four men know that a lot rests on their shoulders in Milan but the thought of Euroleague Final Four glory will be enough to spur them on.
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