|Final of the 2006 FIBA World Championship, Saitama, Japan. Spain vs Greece. (03.09.2006)|
04/09/2006ESP- Jimenez: "This is a great moment for Spanish basketball"
SAITAMA (FIBA World Championship) - Carlos Jimenez held the Nasmith Cup with pride after Spain claimed their first FIBA World Championship title.
The emphatic 70-47 triumph over Greece in Sunday's final is the biggest team sporting achievement in the country's history.
Pepu Hernandez's men had warned this was going to be their summer and they kept their word.
Once the undefeated Spaniards had beaten Argentina to reach the title game against Greece, there was no stopping them - even without injured superstar Pau Gasol.
Jimenez was terrific in the final, battling the Greek frontline and finishing with 11 rebounds.
The veteran forward, along with Felipe Reyes and Marc Gasol, were awesome on defense and made up for the absence of Pau, who watched from the bench.
The Spanish captain spoke to PA Sport's Cindy Garcia-Bennett after his team's famous win.
FIBA: Congratulations Carlos, what's the trophy like?
Jimenez: "It's beautiful and heavy, but I don't mind, I don't want to let go of it. Finally, I can enjoy it."
FIBA: Without Pau Gasol for the final, few people gave Spain a chance to win the tournament. There was no better stage to prove that Spain is not a one-man team than in this final.
Jimenez: "I'm really proud to be the captain of this national team, it's one of the biggest satisfactions of my life and no-one can take this away from me. We knew we had to do something great.We had gone into the final with a bittersweet taste after Pau's injury (against Argentina). We knew that what happened had benefited us as we went into the game as the underdogs and this passed the pressure onto Greece. Greece had everything going for them, they are the European champions, they beat Team USA in the semi-final and they were playing against a Spain side without their reference player. But from the start, we made things difficult for them."
FIBA: What were your tactics for this game?
Jimenez: "It wasn't any different from our previous games in the sense that Pepu gave us the same talk prior to walking out on the court. He tried to take a little bit of the tension away from us, he told us that the good news was that on Monday we could finally rest. It was important to be calm because if you think about the fact that you are playing in a final that can really block you."
FIBA: Pepu has certainly done a great job since taking over the national team after last year's EuroBasket bronze medal game defeat with Spain yet to lose a game. What is he like?
Jimenez: "Pepu expects his players to do what they are best at, he doesn't expect anything else from you. I think this has been the key to our success. We have all contributed, every player has brought out his best and if you achieve this in a team, then there's no way your rivals can counter it. We had several alternatives practiced but at times we had situations we had not prepared but people responded well."
FIBA: It's been a great summer for you, Carlos. You became a father and you recently signed a contract to play for Spanish champions Unicaja Malaga and you now won the greatest honour in international basketball.
Jimenez: "I dedicate it to my son Pablo and my wife and for those who respected the decision to come here despite the situation (traveling to Japan after just becoming a father) but fortunately, everything went okay."
FIBA: When did it sink in that you were going to be world champions?
Jimenez: "I have always been very realistic, I'm not a big dreamer, so I have never believed in things until I haven't got them. That's the kind of person I am. It wasn't until two or three minutes before the end of this game that it began to sink in."
FIBA: What next for you and Spain? Next year will be a big one since Spain is staging the EuroBasket.
Jimenez: "I hope that I can continue to play with this national team. We will go step by step. I hope that we don't go mad. This is a very important achievement but we have to be cautious of how we've gotten here. We cannot relax, we have to continue to work. A lot more can be achieved but we have to keep our feet firmly on the ground. We have to enjoy things but not go overboard. We have a great moment for basketball and we must now know how to take advantage of it."
By Cindy Garcia-Bennett