KRASNODAR (EuroBasket/FIBA Basketball World Cup) - Nick Calathes is making the most of his opportunity at Lokomotiv Kuban.
After three years of experience with Panathinaikos, the Florida native joined the Russian team last summer and in the second leg of their Eurocup Semi-Final with Valencia Basket last week, he showed tremendous leadership.
The Spaniards won, 68-63, but Lokomotiv claimed a five-point aggregate victory.
Calathes, a Greece international, had 19 points in the second leg.
The 24-year-old has spoken to FIBA.com.
FIBA.com: Has this been a very different year for you at Lokomotiv in terms of league set-ups?
Calathes: Definitely. The Greek League wasn't as strong. It's us (Panathinaikos) and Olympiacos and here, every game counts, the VTB (United League) and the PBL. We have to do well in both since they combine the results. It's tougher competition. Obviously the Eurocup is not the Euroleague, which I miss, but hopefully we can win the title and make it to the Euroleague next year.
FIBA.com: How is the relationship with your coach, Evgeny Pashutin, a former point guard of Russia's national side?
Calathes: It's good. He teaches me a lot. He's a very, very good coach. We talk a lot and I'm able to share my opinions. I've had a fun year playing for him. Hopefully we can keep building our relationship and keep winning.
FIBA.com: Are you developing as a player?
Calathes: I think this year has really helped me. I learned so much playing for (Panathinaikos) Coach (Zeljko) Obradovic, one of the best coaches in the world. But I'm asked to do more here, so I can show what I can do and the team needs me to be a leader and this is what I think I've been doing this year. Hopefully, I can keep it up. We'll see where it takes me. I think I've played better and I hope to keep getting better.
FIBA.com: Tell us about being a part of Greece's national team.
Calathes: I'd like to spend more time with my family in the summers but the Greek national team has helped (my development). I've played with (Nikos) Zisis, (Vassilis) Spanoulis and I played with (Dimitris) Diamantidis one year. It's always great to play with those guys. I'm very close with all of them and it's fun to represent the country where my family comes from. I'm getting better and it's fun to play in these competitions. It's disappointing that we missed the Olympics, but I think we have a lot of young guys, a good team and I think we'll keep getting better. We'll have a good chance this summer (at the EuroBasket in Slovenia).
FIBA.com: What happened to Greece at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament?
Calathes: We didn't play well as a team. We didn't mesh. We didn't move the ball that well. It was definitely a rough summer, but I think with a new coach (Andrea Trinchieri), I look forward to it. I've spoken to him a lot and I've watched some of his games with Cantu, so I'm excited to see what he has to bring. I think he's a great coach and look forward to it.
FIBA.com: Are you a perfect fit for the Greek team?
Calathes: I think so. Greek basketball is pick-and-roll and I had played a lot of pick-and-roll. But getting used to it some more, and spacing-wise, this has also helped me, and reading the situations.
FIBA.com: Is playing in the NBA still in your thoughts?
Calathes: I just take each year at a time. I know that I can play in the NBA. I believe it's my style. When the opportunity comes, and hopefully it will, I'll take it. But if it never comes, I love playing in Europe. I've had a great year so far, a great career. I'm very blessed. My main goal is one day to play in the NBA. I know as a player I believe I can play and I'm getting better and better. But hopefully, we can win this year and that's the main thing.
FIBA.com: Are you under contract next year?
Calathes: I'm under contract, but there is a buyout for whoever. But like I said, I'm focused on this year and hopefully we can win (Eurocup title) and get to the Euroleague. This team has never been there but it has invested a lot of money and time and we have a very good team. I think we have a great opportunity.