Enisey's Zakharov Wants Krasnoyarsk To Remember
It is often assumed that young people have little interest in history, but this is certainly not an accusation that can be thrown lightly at Denis Zakharov, the talented 23-year-old playmaker of Enisey Krasnoyarsk.
On Friday 29 April, Enisey will step out on the court of Le Colisée in Chalon-sur-Saône to take on Fraport Skyliners in the second FIBA Europe Cup Semi-Final.
It is arguably the biggest game ever for the Russian club and the young guard is eager to point out the importance of the night.
"It's an historic moment for both the club and the city," Zakharov told the official website of the FIBA Europe Cup.
"The club has never played before in the finals of a European competition.
"I want us to finish as high as possible.
"Because, in a couple of years' time, no one will remember you for playing in the Final Four and finishing fourth.
"I can't say much about the opponents, but in general German basketball has always been at a good level.
"Hopefully we'll go to the Final and then we'll see, let's hope for the best."
Unlike Skyliners, who were always considered favourites to reach the Final Four and won 16 of their 17 FIBA Europe Cup games so far, Enisey's ride to Chalon was rather bumpy and uncertain at times.
"Sure there were some bitter defeats, but we were still trying to find our game," Zakharov said.
"We proved that we deserve to be in the Final Four.
"There were two crucial moments, the first game of the Play-Offs against Turk Telekom Ankara and the last (Quarter-Final) game against Cibona Zagreb.
"In those games we really fought for each other, for the city and the country.
"Everybody has the same goal, to progress to the Finals" - Zakharov
"Everybody had the same goal, to progress to the Finals.
"Those games were the most emotional for me."
The way Zakharov talks about Krasnoyarsk hints at a strong personal bond with the city, despite the fact he was born close to the border with Ukraine, more than 4,000km away.
He joined the Siberian team only last autumn, arriving from Superleague side Dynamo Moscow and hitting the ground running in the first VTB United League and European campaign of his career.
"I think that my quick adaptation was largely down to the coach [Oleg Okulov]," the young Russian international said.
"He knew my strong points, my style of play and managed to integrate them into the team.
"I felt that I was ready go to another level in my career, but without my coach and team-mates' trust it would have been difficult to prove it.
"Of course I watch the games over again, I try to analyse and improve. I think my biggest improvement this season was on defence."
"Previously, I didn't get to defend so much against physically stronger players before, but now not a game goes by without it, so I'm sure I've improved in this regard.
"Something else I work on a lot is definitely shooting.
"I want to have lots of attacking options, to be able to both shoot from long-range shot as well as penetrate."
Zakharov did so well indeed that in his rookie season at this level that he carved out a permanent spot in Enisey's rotation.
He is averaging 8.2 points and 1.5 assists in 24 minutes of play in the FIBA Europe Cup while in the VTB United League those figures surged to 9.8 points and 1.8 assists per game.
"I'm a confident person and if I have a chance to take initiative, I don't see why not," Zakharov explained.
"This is basketball, this is how the game is played, and fans love unpredictability.
"My first coach and my parents always cultivated that in me.
"I think this is the most important aspect for a successful sportsman: you need to keep this confidence, because if it isn't you, then it will be somebody else.
"Coach Okulov always says that we have to take our chances, when the situation requires it.
"I'm just trying to do my best in every game and I leave it to specialists to judge me."
The perfect way for Zakharov to cap off an
excellent first season at the top level would of course be a success at the FIBA Europe Cup Final Four.
It would also boost his chances of catching the eye of Russia senior national team head coach Sergey Bazarevich.
"I believe that playing for the national team has to be one of the main goals of every professional athlete," said Zakharov, who last suited up for Russia in the 2013 U20 European Championship and helped his nation reach fourth place.
"So I'd be delighted to get a call-up to the national team.
"I'd love to play at the highest level against the best European players and I'll do everything I can to make, but in the end it's down to the coach."