After a three-game losing streak, KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz bounced back with rock-solid homes win against Panathinaikos OPAP Athens and CSKA Moscow. Second-year center Vincent Poirier played a decisive role against CSKA, leading the way with 18 points, 8 rebounds and a PIR of 25. He barely missed a double-double while recording 10 points and 9 rebounds against Panathinaikos, too. Poirier is seeing extended playing time this season – 24 minutes on average – and is making the most out of it. He is tied for third among all EuroLeague players in total rebounds, with 7.1 per game, ranks fourth in offensive rebounds (3.0) and is tied for 10th in performance index rating (16.3 PIR). He also averages 11.7 points, second on Baskonia, trailing only All-EuroLeague forward Toko Shengelia (13.4). Poirier recorded three double-doubles already this season and missed two others by a single rebound each. In this EuroLeague.net interview, Poirier talks about Baskonia's trademark character, some of his teammates, French players in the competition and of course, how Baskonia fans and bring the best out of the players. "It is a great way to stay motivated, because you are always asked to give your best – 100 percent, no less," Poirier said. "It is a good kind of pressure. I like it."
Hello, Vince. Congratulations on a great win against CSKA Moscow. How important was that victory to the team in terms of self-confidence?
"Thanks a lot. I think that the key was to give 100 percent during all 40 minutes. We played at home and put a lot of pressure on them. We didn't make them feel comfortable, and that was important. This win proved that we can beat anybody in the EuroLeague. It is really great to get a win like this before a road trip [Baskonia will play 5 of the next 6 games away from Vitoria-Gasteiz]. It is important for our self-confidence."
You personally seem confident this season, with more playing time and better numbers. How comfortable are you?
"I feel great! All my teammates have confidence in me and give me the ball. I know I can be dominant and help the team. I have all I need here, I feel perfect. I am always trying to do everything better than the previous year. I try to be aggressive at any moment on both sides of the court. With confidence, everything is possible. Right now, everything is good for me and I hope it will stay like that for the rest of the season."
"Baskonia fans know everything about basketball, so you cannot lie to them."
One great thing about Baskonia is the club's very knowledgeable fans. How great is it to play for them?
"As you said, Baskonia fans know everything about basketball, so you cannot lie to them. Winning for them is great, amazing. And when we lose, they immediately know what the team needs. We have to give 100 percent, stay together, trust each other and play basketball. We are aware that everyone wants the team to be in the Final Four and everything. It is a long season and we are focused on our goals. We have a lot of good basketball to show."
How would you define the "Baskonia Character" that everyone talks about?
"I remember that when I first came here, everybody talked about the team's character. I think that the best example in the team right now is Toko [Shengelia]. He has shown us what Baskonia Character is all about. He is always giving 100 percent, not just in games, but in practice. He always wants more and shows us the way. We all want to be successful, so we will need this character."
Baskonia fans can forgive a bad game but will be upset if someone doesn't give 100 percent. Is that part of Baskonia Character, too?
"Yes, absolutely. Nobody is cheating in this team or giving 50 percent. Our fans are ambitious and want to see all of us giving everything we have on the court. It is a great way to stay motivated, because you are always asked to give your best – 100 percent, no less. It is a good kind of pressure. I like it."
How much do you enjoy playing against the best centers in Europe and who has been the toughest to face?
"First of all, I have to say I really enjoy a lot to play against the best in Europe. I love it because I can show what I can do every week, and I always want to be better than my opponent. As for the best player I played against... It was really hard for me to play against Ante Tomic, especially in the Spanish League last season. He is big, has a lot of good moves, and can do a lot of good things on the court. Being honest, though, I am not scared of anybody. It is hard to play against [Edy] Tavares because he is huge, but I try to play a lot of pick-and-roll, so I am not always against him. Again, I am not scared of anybody."
You seem to have a great connection with Toko Shengelia. What do you like about Toko, as a player and off the court?
"Off the court, he is the best guy ever. A nice teammate and a nice person. On the court, as I said, he has the 'Caracter Baskonia' and is showing us the right way. He is really the player you want to be because everybody loves him. In my opinion, he is the best power forward in Europe."
After your next game, against Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv, you visit Herbalife Gran Canaria and two players taller than you, Ondrej Balvin and Anzejs Pasecniks. What can Baskonia fans expect in those games?
"As I said, this win against CSKA will help us play against Maccabi with more confidence, trusting in what we do. We already beat Gran Canaria at home [in the Spanish League] and it was a tough game. We know it is really tough to play in both arenas. We just have to stay focused, play our basketball and play good defense. When our defense is very good, we can beat anybody. Our defense will be the biggest key, not allowing open shots. As for playing against taller guys than me, they are not that much taller! It is something you don't really feel on the court. We are more or less the same size."
"Everybody can beat everybody in this competition."
More French players are doing well in the EuroLeague. plus ASVEL Villeurbanne will rejoin the competition next season. How important has the EuroLeague been for French players?
"It is very, very important. It is something that we need to have if we want to improve basketball in our country – have access to the best basketball in Europe. As you said, we have a lot of French guys playing on the best EuroLeague teams. It shows that French basketball has the potential to be even better. ASVEL is going to be a great addition to the EuroLeague because they will show that French teams can be competitive in Europe. It will improve basketball in France, too."
Last season, Baskonia started 0-4 and made the playoffs. Can that experience help you bounce back again this season?
"Yes, for sure. I think we all know that the season is very long and we have a lot of games. As you said, we were 0-4 and made it to the playoffs last season so being 4-7, we definitely have to keep fighting. It is clearly our goal. We have to focus on each game, try to win it and get extra confidence for the next one. Everybody can beat everybody in this competition. We have just to stay focused on our goal and work for that."