The flag bearer of "Baskonia character" is arguably versatile forward Andres Nocioni, who answered questions about his past, present and future in our latest Fan Mail on Euroleague.net. Nocioni first arrived to Vitoria from his native Argentina as a teenager and came back again in 2012 to lead a younger Laboral Kutxa team with his aggressive, intense and physical style of play.
Universally loved by all fans in Vitoria, Nocioni has helped Laboral win Spanish League and Spanish Copa del Rey titles. He also reached the All-Euroleague second team twice during his first stint with the club, in 2002-03 and 2003-04. Now in his eighth season with Laboral and playing fulltime power forward for the first time, Nocioni is leading his team in scoring (13 ppg.), rebounds (7.3 rpg., 4th overall), blocks (1 bpg.) and performance index rating (16.9 per game, 9th overall). Nocioni has also helped the Argentinian national team win the Olympic gold medal in Athens 2004, a silver at the World Championships in 2002 and Olympic bronze in Beijing 2008. In answering the fans' questions, Nocioni unveiled the reason that brought him back to Vitoria. "I decided to come back to Vitoria because I had a great time in my first years with the club and my family loved the city," Nocioni told Jorge, a fan from Vitoria. "I like living in Vitoria and the team, the basketball tradition that we have here."
Hello Andrés. This summer will be ten years since you won the gold medal in Athens 2004. What is the most valuable experience you have gained by playing at the Argentinian national team and how has this influenced your game? Good luck and keep up the hard work!
Chrisa Tzotzi, Kastoria
"The experience that we had with the Argentinian national team is one of the most wonderful ones we could live. Above all, because we were able to win an Olympic gold medal, which is something that every sportsman dreams about. Luckily, I am fortunate enough to have won that Olympic medal with the Argentinian national team. It is a great honor and an unbelievable privilege to see that I have an Olympic gold medal hanging in my house."
Andres, after all the injuries Laboral is going through this season, what do you try to do as team leader to keep motivating the guys until the team can get healthy again? Good luck,
Ronald Broome, London
"Well, it has a been a tough season when it comes to injuries. Obviously, keeping the team in good spirits is the most important thing. I am trying to think and make everyone feel that we have to bounce back. We will get better at some point and cannot think too much about our injured list, but on the players who are present and can help on the court. To keep everyone motivated, we have to think about how great it is to play basketball, win games and enjoy being on a basketball court."
Hey Andres, who is the trickiest player you have ever had to guard or play against? Gracias!
Vincent — Merrillville, Indiana USA
"I have to say it is Kobe Bryant. He is the most all-around player I have faced. He can do a lot of things — shoot, fake, run to the basket, is an athlete and a great outside shooter. So, Kobe Bryant is possibly the toughest player I ever had to guard. LeBron James plays a little bit more physical than Kobe."
Andres, I would like to know how was your experience with the Chicago Bulls, who you got along better with and to hear a good story form your time in there. Yes, I am a Bulls fans and it still hurts not to see you there. Thanks!
Adrian Pazos, Spain
"Well, truth to be told, I had a great time in Chicago. Being honest, those were my best years in the NBA. It was great to live in Chicago and to play for a team with such great tradition as the Bulls. I got along well with the whole team — I didn't have problems with anyone. I got along well with Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, Joakim Noah, Thabo Sefolosha... as for stories in Chicago, I can tell you I didn't get to meet Michael Jordan in my five years in Chicago. I met him when I was playing in Sacramento, when Charlotte came to play against us. It was a little bit strange because Jordan came to a lot of our games in Chicago but rarely went down to meet the players."
Hello Andres! How many years more you think you can compete at Euroleague level? What would you like to do after retiring? Will you keep linked to basketball in some way?
Dani Aizkorreta, Vitoria, Spain
"I will try to stay at the Euroleague level as long as I can. There is not a 'best before' date for a basketball player. I can play a different role, seeing less minutes on court but helping in a different way this or another team. When I retire, I will try yo stay around basketball, thinking on young players and telling them all about the wonderful experiences that I had in basketball. I will try to work with young players to help them down the road. Nobody really explains to you or gives you the idea of what to expect. It wouldn't be bad to advise young players and help them to find their own way in the best possible conditions."
Tau Ceramica, 2003-2004: Calderon, Macijauskas, Scola, Splitter, Prigioni and yourself, among others. How special was that team?
Andoni Soto, Vitoria, Spain
"This is an easy one! If you think about that team and the names in that roster, you realize that it was a special team. A really talented lineup with young players — because we were all very young, all at age 23 or 24. We played with a lot of strength and intensity. It was really hard to play against us because not only did we have basketball skills, but also a winning mentality and the will to compete. It was a privilege and a pleasure to play for Baskonia that season. It is one of the best rosters we ever had in this team's history. I really enjoyed it a lot and have great memories."
Hello Andres, this is Dmitry from Russia. I am a CSKA fan but always admired you for your character and intensity. Laboral Kutxa is also a tough opponent, always. How special is it for you to play against CSKA?
Dmitry Nanoniov, Moscow, Russia
"CSKA is always a very talented team, always deep and powerful. It is one of the most powerful teams in Europe — if not the most powerful. I believe that, obviously, the team means a lot to Russia and the fans give them plenty of support. They have the luck to put together really high-level rosters. It is one of the toughest teams to face. It is very difficult to compete at their place and when they come to play against you, it is very tough to beat them, too."
Hey Andres. Which hobbies do you have outside basketball? I heard you like fishing, is that true? Thanks!
Andrea Podesta, Rome, Italy
"Yes, I like fishing and hunting. This is what I do when I have a little time off. I also like to relax and enjoy spending time with my family. I try to do that because that is ground zero for me, it helps me to rest and refresh my thoughts."
Hola Andres. What brought you back to Vitoria? What do you like so much about Vitoria and Baskonia to bring you back. I am sure you had other offers! We are so happy to have you back! Dale Chapu!
Jorge Teran, Vitoria, Spain
"I was a little bit tired of the NBA. Honestlly, I could have stayed there and kept playing for different teams but with a smaller role and above all, without stepping that much on court. I decided to come back to Vitoria because I had a great time in my first years with the club and my family loved the city. I like living in Vitoria and the team, the basketball tradition that we have here. So, I wanted to get my career back on track. I had lost track because I saw limited playing time in my last two years in the NBA. I thought about coming back to Vitoria to feel basketball again and being able to be part of a team. I decided to stay because I feel comfortable and it is a great city to play basketball."
Hello Andres all the way from Buenos Aires. What do you miss most about Argentina when you are in Spain... and what do you miss most about Spain when you are in Argentina? Good luck!
Federico Avalle, Buenos Aires, Argentina
"Well, when I am in Spain I miss my friends and eating a good 'asado'. That's what I miss the most, seeing friends and family who cannot make it to Spain. I like life in Argentina because, as I told you before, I like fishing and hunting and I can do that more often over there. You can fish and hunt in Spain but there are only certain seasons to do it. What I miss about Spain when I am in Argentina is the people and its way of living. Even when Spain is undergoing an economic crisis right now, there is always a good standard of living. It is always a great country to enjoy — its culture, the way of living and its food. There is wonderful food in the Basque Country to enjoy — and I miss that when I am in Argentina."