“I’m expecting a tough game” Barcelona’s Adam Hanga readies for Maccabi

Maccabi Tel Aviv faces Barcelona in Euroleague action on Friday night (22:00) as the Yellow & Blue look to get back onto the winning track after falling to ASVEL Villeurbanne 84-81 on Wednesday. Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad heads into battle with a 5-9 record good for 13th place while Saras Jasikevičius’s team sit in first place at 11-3.

Barca are loaded with stars from Nikola MItrovic, Nick Calathes and Cory Higgins but one of the unsung heroes happens to be Hungarian forward Adam Hanga. The 31-year old who can also bring up the ball and play point guard was selected by the San Antonio Spurs in the 2011 NBA Draft with the 59th pick. Hanga, who isn’t known for his scoring prowess but his hard nosed intelligent court play, is in his 4th season with Barcelona while having featured prior to that for Baskonia for three and Manresa for two years for ten straight seasons in Spain.

In a season that will experience many ups and downs due to the Coronavirus, Hanga knows that it will be difficult to continue their fine play throughout two challenging competitions in the Euroleague and the ACB Liga Endesa.

“First of all we have to win games. We have to keep learning and building our team and that is our first objective. We started the season well and then we had a couple of games where we lost our rhythm. We have to keep working hard until the end of the season.”

The Hungarian, who took home the Euroleague Best Defender Award in 2017 is a rarity for his home country that hasn’t seen many players reach the highest of levels around the basketball world. The only player to have ever played in the NBA from Hungary was Kornel David, “The Hungarian Michael Jordan” who graced the courts across North America for the Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors and Detroit Pistons between 1999-2001. 

David, a power forward who averaged 5 points and 2.8 rebounds per game will always be someone that Hanga emulated after having gone to his Academy which was founded in 2000, knowing that his countryman has been the only player to have ever played in the world’s greatest league. But for right now, he’s got another former NBA and Euroleague legend in Saras Jasikevičius coaching him after taking over from Svetislav Pesic.

“He is a demanding coach so the focus is to give 100 percent. With every coach it’s pretty much the same but with Saras there are rules on defense and offense and we had to adapt to. Concentration and discipline are the two key things he asks for and they are mental not physical. He is demanding a lot more on the mental aspect.”

Staying fresh will be extreme important in a season that will see very different circumstances than the past and Barcelona will pay special attention to this aspect of the game so that the players can physically make it through a grueling season.

“We have somebody who watches our stats so that we don’t overplay or underplay the players trying tot keep everyone playing 20 minutes or less. This will be key around May or June when things go down to the wire in both competitions in order to stay fresh. Mentally it’s a bit different but physically our coaches are managing our minutes well.”

As for Hungarian ties to Maccabi Tel Aviv, legendary player and coach Ralph Klein who led the team to their first ever European Championship in 1977 was a Hungarian citizen and lived in Budapest at the onset of World War II returning to the city with his parents as a youngster after having been born in Berlin, Germany. 

In addition, former lockdown defender DeAndre Kane was granted Hungarian citizenship without having ever played in the country back in 2017 in order to play in the Eurobasket. However, he actually never appeared for the team and then joined the Yellow & Blue for two seasons.

As for the current edition of Maccabi, Hanga knows that they will be a difficult opponent, I expect a really tough game. I’ve been watching them since the start of the season and they lost some games but very tight games. They have a very good very good coach and I expect a very tough game. We saw that at the start of the Euroleague season Real Madrid lost a number of games and they are now near the top, so I’m expecting a tough game.”

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