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Romania's Nicoara ecstatic about opportunity to play in FIBA EuroBasket 2017
SIBIU (FIBA EuroBasket 2017) - Having come so close on previous occasions, Titus Nicoara will finally get the chance to play at a FIBA EuroBasket this summer. Even better, it will come on home territory.
Romania is gearing up to host some of the biggest games in any sport in the country's history. Cluj-Napoca's Polyvalent Hall will be the venue for Group C at FIBA EuroBasket 2017, giving fans an opportunity to see the national teams of Spain, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Montenegro, Hungary and Romania.
Bearing in mind that Spain and Croatia, in particular, have played at FIBA Basketball World Cups and Olympic Games in recent times, Romanian fans will have a chance to see the international game played at the highest level.
Nicoara, a long-time member of the Romania team who experienced the frustration of the near miss of qualification for EuroBasket 2015, has talked to FIBA.com.
Titus, this is potentially a great moment for Romanian basketball. The prospect of taking part in a EuroBasket must be really exciting for you.
I think it's a big point because after 15 years on the national team, junior national team, the senior national team, every player dreams of being able to play in this kind of competition. Romania haven't qualified for many years so it's a great challenge for every player to participate in that.
What do you anticipate the atmosphere to be like?
I think we're going to play in a full gym, honestly. I think every game is going to be played in a full gym because people more and more love basketball in Romania. The TV shows more games every round of the championship, every round of the European Cup, so I think when the European Championship starts, there will be no more tickets available for our games.
Romanian legend Gheorghe Muresan attended the FIBA EuroBasket Draw
Just looking at the group, you've got a real chance to advance as one of the top four teams.
We didn't go into the European Championship before but I think we've got our chances and especially in front of our home crowd. I think we've got a good chance to qualify (for the knockout round). It's going to be tough but in the end, nobody knows. It's open, I think. In front of 10,000 people, you never know what can happen.
Romania will face Croatia and Spain, a couple of fantastic teams, in two of the first three games. How do you keep the spirits up if the results don't go your way early because you'll still be in the hunt for a top-four spot and a place in the knockout round.
We can expect a tough game with Spain. They have such a great team and have a chance to win the European Championship so if we lose, it's not the end of the world. We have to prepare for every game as if it's decisive and who knows, maybe we'll have our chances. They're all going to consider us the underdog but maybe it's better to be in that situation.
Does the hair on the back of your neck stand up knowing you could face Pau Gasol of Spain and both Bojan Bogdanovic and Dario Saric of Croatia?
You watch these players in the NBA or the Euroleague on TV and then you get a chance to play them. It's going to be a challenge for each one of us. It's going to be a great experience but at the end of the day, it's a basketball game. How can I put this? We are amazed at what they can do but we are going to fight for every ball and I think we'll have our chances if we play the right way.
You very nearly made it to FIBA EuroBasket 2015 after four wins - sweeps of Sweden and the Slovak Republic - and two losses to Latvia, but Lady Luck didn't smile on you.
We had really bad luck. We were the only second-place team that did not qualify. We were really close to a great performance. We were one game away from qualifying. Normally, we should qualify with four wins out of six. In the end, basket difference mattered. Nobody expected us to get four wins and not qualify but it was a good result for us because we went into the last game fighting for a chance to qualify.
Romania almost qualified for FIBA EuroBasket 2015
When do you expect coach Marcel Tenter to start the preparations?
The Romanian league will finish the end of May, first week of June so after a short break, I think we'll begin. We need to prepare better than the others because we are not the favorites (laughs).
You play for a CSM CSU Oradea team that is right now in Sibiu for the Romanian Cup Final 8. Your team had some big moments in the Basketball Champions League this season. What was that competition like?
It was great because in the beginning, we didn't have too many chances to win many games and in the end, we went into the last game with a chance to qualify (for the Play-Off Qualifiers). Even though we didn't qualify, we had some great results for the first year.
What has it meant for your confidence as a national team player to take part in the Basketball Champions League?
I think every European competition gives you a chance to fight against good international players and you can challenge yourself against them. If you play only in Romania, you don't have a real image of the level of basketball in Europe.