Ivan Paunich: “Our fans deserved Loko to take medals”

The Serbian defender of Lokomotiv Kuban shared his expectations for the upcoming match against Pari Nizhny Novgorod.
- How was your weekend?
- They flew by unnoticed. Training is in full swing – tomorrow is a very important match. We are playing against a direct competitor, who, like us, is fighting for the fifth place according to the results of the first part of the championship. The opponent has a good squad, an experienced coach, the match will definitely be difficult. But we are determined only to win – we will show our maximum, we will defend our site with all our might. I would like to take this opportunity to invite the fans to come and support us, because we are facing the most important matches from a tournament point of view. Your help is very much needed!
- Do you think the fact that the opposing team has a mentor – the head coach of the Russian national team - will add motivation to the Russian players of Loko?
- I'm sure of it. I have known Zoran Lukic since 2010, since I joined his team in Nizhny Novgorod. He is an experienced, hardworking coach. I had a great season under him then, showed great statistics and was invited to the All-Star Match. So I know what it means to work under him. Zoran has been in Russia for 12 years. He deserved recognition and it was not by chance that he was invited to be the coach of the national team. I think that for all Russians, not only young ones, there will be a double motivation to show their best basketball in a face-to-face confrontation with the team of this specialist in order to prove the right to a place in the national team.
- Who will you single out as part of the opponent?
- Jeremain Love gave us a lot of trouble in the first match – he was extremely active and eventually scored 28 points. Dragan Apic plays against Loko with increased motivation, just like anyone against his former club. We must not forget about their most experienced captain, Yevgeny Baburin. In general, the squad is fairly even and strong – they have 5-6 key players who make the main weather - but the reserves also make an important contribution. With them, you can not lose concentration for a second. You will need to get involved in the game from the first minute and play at the maximum until the final siren. This match will not be easy, both teams really need a victory.
- You can only be called a foreigner with a stretch. Considering how much time you spent in Russia, in Krasnodar, does this not impose certain obligations on you, as a person whose efforts should be aimed at uniting American and Russian players in Loko?
- We have a kind, respectful atmosphere in the team. Everyone supports each other. Considering that I am kind of at the "junction", I see where and how I can help partners. And considering that I am also the oldest member, this definitely imposes certain obligations on me. I don't see anything difficult in this, I just try to be myself – I help and prompt. We are a team united by a high goal – to win medals of the VTB United League. We are all working to the maximum of our capabilities for this purpose. We were joined by two newcomers – Chris Horton and Joshiah Gray. They immediately demonstrated a high level. We are waiting for Devon Akun-Purcell to join us. We are going to have a great squad, the potential for growth as a team is very high.
- What do you wish the fans in the New Year?
- First of all, health. Taking this opportunity, I will send my wishes to Stanislav Ilnitsky in Kazan. I learned with great regret about his injury. He is a great guy and a good friend of mine, who helped me a lot in Krasnodar when I moved here... of course, I will say thank you to our fans for the support they give us. We are waiting for you at the matches – we will thank you with our game and results. There is a special atmosphere here in the Basket Hall, in Krasnodar they cheer for their club very much, and the fans definitely deserve that we win awards for them this season. We will make every effort to do this!
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