Lokomotiv Kuban lost in the final series to UNICS, but for many it remained the main sensation of the last season of the VTB United League. The sharp slip at the start did not seem to bode well for head coach Alexander Sekulich, and the increased attention to young players often became an additional obstacle.
But thanks to the decisive change of almost the entire foreign legion, the Kuban team became much better and rolled to the finish line of the regular league, stopping on the fifth line. Even in the quarterfinal series against Nizhny Novgorod, the Krasnodar team was not the favorite. But it was against the tough defense of Zoran Lukic’s name that the character of the future finalist was tempered, who defeated the great and mighty CSKA in seven matches!
However, the first question to the president of Loko, Andrey Vedischev, was asked not even about the last season, but about the next one.
Andrey Vedishchev, Chairman of PBC Lokomotiv-Kuban
Photo: VTB United League
— Andrey Vladimirovich, the final seems to have ended recently, and the first transfer news has already appeared: Loko re-signed contracts with Andriy Martyuk and Jaylen Burford. How would you comment? — These signings are an important part of the team for next season. Burford and Martyuk are our leaders. This season they have shown that they can play at the highest level. I think it is a success and lucky that we have managed to keep them in the squad. I am glad for this fact.
– Before the season, the team had the task of performing better than last season. Turns out it worked. But it seems that now he is quite disappointed with the loss in the final. – Probably, while the disappointment from the defeat in the final is really greater. As usual: if you play in the final, you want to win it. Also, these matches are still very fresh in my memory. But the season, in my opinion, is very successful. We have made a great start for the future. And they realized for themselves that they were on the right path. I think the foundations for great results have been laid, and the silver from the VTB United League is more than we expected. Especially considering how he performed in the regular season and the difficulties there were in signing players. Taking all this into account, reaching the final is a success.
– Loko demonstrated by his example that it is possible to achieve high results by trusting his students. How will this affect the club? How important is it in terms of image? – It’s very important. Today we have shown and continue to show that it is possible and necessary to bet on Russian players. And for young people too. Or maybe in the first place. I’m glad the guys stood up to the pressure and showed the will to win. They realized for themselves that they are capable of much. I think this team is capable of winning the championship in the next few years.
– In your opinion, how did you manage to beat CSKA? Throughout the series and specifically in the seventh game. – By team game. Due to character. It was a very difficult series, of seven games. We calculate that we play 12 games in a month. Considering our logistics, the freight is serious. Of course, somewhere they had a little more luck. We were able to break stereotypes. Basically, there are no teams you can’t beat. It all depends on your preparation and mentality.
– What did the team lack against UNICS? “Of course, we made several mistakes…tactical, maybe even somewhere. In the second game it was “+10” in the middle of the last quarter. He almost wins the match. The defeat turned out to be sensitive, it broke us a bit. But the main factor, I personally think, was the injury to Okaro White. At this time, we were in the course of the last quarter. He does not play the decisive four minutes and completely misses the next game. After that, we mentally break down somewhere.
Loko players Chris Horton and Dmitry Uzinsky vs. Casper Ware
Photo: VTB United League
– In this playoff, it seems that all Loko players suffered some type of injury. White and Uzinsky had their teeth pulled out, Shcherbenev’s cheek was sewn up. Did this also affect the “chemistry” of the team? – It’s very important. This speaks of the nature of the guys, their desire to win in any case.
– How do you assess the first part of the season, when the team was unstable in terms of results and two legionnaires had to be changed? – I assumed that the young players should have realized and felt that they would have to take responsibility for the result, and not just play with the legionnaires, as it was before. Instability was associated with gaining this experience and understanding your role on the site.
As for the legionnaires, we considered that they did not help us enough to achieve our goals, they did not meet our requirements.
– How much, in your opinion, can the current formation be preserved? We want to keep all the squad we have today. Whether it works or not will become clear in the coming weeks. But, in principle, the coach and the club are willing to keep the squad, incorporating the odd novelty to strengthen the team.
– How would you rate the job of the head coach? – Evaluate the work of the head coach is easy, looking at the scoreboard. If your team plays in the final and has chances in all matches until the last seconds, this indicates that the work was of a very high quality. I rate the coach’s work as excellent.
Head coach of PBC Lokomotiv-Kuban Alexander Sekulich
Photo: VTB United League
— Why did you choose Alexander Sekulich? What are his strengths? Every trainer has a set of strengths. If a coach is of a high level, then he must be a psychologist, a tactician and a communicator to some extent. Sasha has many strengths. He interacts well with the boys. Lots of personal communication. She is a young coach with talent and perspective.
— The new format of the regular season of the VTB United League was spectacular for representatives of the media and fans. Do you share this point of view? “I think it’s a great format. The championship was even and interesting. The only thing – maybe somewhere there was not enough number of games. But overall it turned out to be a great championship with intrigue and uncertainty. The only club without defeat to some extent was CSKA. The format with two circles and two sixes is probably ideal for the current situation.
– Have you considered moving (at least for a few games) the club to a city with more accessible logistics? Still, getting to Krasnodar is very difficult. — Such options were not considered. We play for the fans, the club is loved in Krasnodar, thousands of fans come to our games. Complex logistics and difficult travel tempered the team’s spirit and encouraged the players. The children had the opportunity to get to know each other better. There is no evil without good.
Loko players during the playoff match with CSKA
Photo: VTB United League
– When Shcherbenev, Martyuk, Vedishchev, Yemchenko all play at the same time on the court in the final series of the VTB League, can this be called your dream come true? – Unfortunately, they did not hang out together as much as I would like, yes, you can say that this is a dream. I believe in boys. I hope that next season they will come out in this lineup and not get lost on the field. I think they have potential and character, I hope they just develop, add up and we can be champions.
– Very soon there will be a league council, where doubts about the extension of the tournament will be discussed. How do you see the increase in the number of teams in the VTB United League? – It will be justified in any case. Such a decision will definitely add the number of matches. The main thing is that these teams are endowed according to the level of the league. So that these were not passing games with much difference. As for 13 or 14 teams, I’m generally in favor of 16 teams participating in the league. I repeat once again: the main thing is that they are well equipped.
– Was the strong progress of the young players a surprise for you? Yemchenko and Shcherbenev really blossomed in the playoffs. “It was not a surprise to me. I believed in the boys and I think they are capable of more. The fact that they have not yet been able to play exactly always is probably due to inexperience to some extent and great desire.
— Another big event for your club is the opening of a large training center for youth teams. It is symbolic that the first VTB Youth League championship was won in the new arena. What does this mean for you? – The opening of the center and your work helped a lot in preparing the teams for the season. Recovery, nutrition – now we have the opportunity to do it on a different level. The ITC is one of the best facilities in the country in terms of preparation of reserves. I think this is just the first step.