Altinci Adam interview: Petteri Koponen 24  february  2015
Petteri Koponen is one of the best guards in Europe. The Finnish star talked to our site and told about his past, present and future. Hopefully you will like our interview with Khimki guard…
Altıncı Adam: How did you start playing basketball and what are the turning points in your basketball career?

I started to play when I was 7 years old. My mom played basketball and I think that had a big influence why I started. I was playing soccer too, and I always thought I would be a soccer player but in the end basketball took my heart and I quit soccer when I was 13.

I was playing in this junior club Masu-Basket in the North of Helsinki. When I was 16 the head coach of Espoon Honka, Mihailo Pavicevic, saw me and said he wanted to take me to their men´s team for the top league. So, I accepted the challenge and joined the team.

First year I didn´t play much but step by step got more playing time and resposibility. We won two championships in my last 2 years in Finland before going to Italy. Without Mihailo Pavicevic I wouldn’t be the same player. He saw something in me and we did a lot of individual practices and watched videos etc. He gave me opportunity to play and really wanted to make me better. I will always be thankful about that. We still stay in touch and talk. He is now an assistant coach in China.

I was also invited to be part of the Menś National team from the early age and had chance to work and learn from one of our legends Teemu Rannikko. It was very important time for me to be part of the National team every summer and learn from the older guys. Then in 2007 I got drafted and that opened a lot of doors for me, too!

In italy I stayed for 4 years with Virtus Bologna. Bologna will always be in my heart. Great city and real fans who love basketball. After Italy I signed with Khimki and this my 3rd year with the team. Everything is going well for us at the moment. And we are fighting to reach our goals both in Eurocup and Vtb-league. Try to win something and reach Euroleague for the next season!!!

Altıncı Adam: Basketball is developing in Finland. Does it make jobs for the young kids easier?

Koponen: Yeah, basketball is taking steps forward in Finland. I think a big part of that is the success we have had with our National team in the past years. People are more interested about the sport and more kids are starting to play basketball. I think itś important. There are no shortcuts and the progress takes time but things are improving. More young guys are going either European teams or to the Universities in the States. It means more people are following Finnish players and see that there are some potential players, too.

Altıncı Adam: Can you tell us a bit about development of basketball in Finland?

Koponen: Well, I think overall things are just done better. The league is getting better, the teams are doing things professionally. Some teams play in the European leagues. More people come to the games. Don´t get me wrong, there are still a lot of room for improvement but step by step getting better.

Our National team has improved a lot and now we have more players playing abroad. You have to give a lot of credit to our coach Henrik Dettmann. He has done great things on the court but also off the court he has changed a lot of things.

For example there is a sports high school system in Helsinki, where they try to get the most talented young guys around the country to practice and play together under good coaching. For example one of our greatest players Hanno Möttölä is now also there, teaching and helping the kids and telling what is needed in order to become a professional basketball player. They play in the second highest league in Finland and practice throughout the week together during the school days. There are many potential players coming up, and I think many of them will have good future ahead if they just keep on working hard.

Altıncı Adam: You play PG in national team. But in Khimki you always play like a combo guard. Which position and role makes you feel more comfortable on the court?

Koponen: Well, I feel I can play both positions. It just depends on the coach and the system. I feel I can make plays. Anyway I think basketball has become so much faster nowadays, and that in modern basketball it’s important to have 2, or even 3 players who can create and make plays. So, in the end it’s just about what the team and coach needs. The system in our National Team and in Khimki are different.
Overall, I feel that I have developed as a player because I have been put in different situations and positions. For instance, I have learned to be more effective without the ball as a shooting guard, and that has enhanced me as a player – given me more options on the court.

Altıncı Adam: In the last 15 years of European basketball, combo guards are trendy. What kind of advantages it adds your game, to be able to play in both guard positions?

Koponen: I think it gives different opportunities for the coach and the team. That, if there are players on the court who can do different things: handling the ball, running the offense, using pick and roll, coming off the screens to shoot and etc. It takes pressure away from the other players too, knowing that there are others players on the court who can make plays and do different things. This makes the team harder to be guarded since there are more players who can punish you in different ways. And, of course it means also you need to be able to defend both positions, too.

Altıncı Adam: Khimki performs well in both Eurocup and VTB League so far. What are your goals?

Koponen: Well, I think we have a good team with good players, and the coaching staff is doing also good job. I think we have pretty balanced team with a lot of talent in each position. And, we play as a team! Both leagues are important for us, because we are trying to fight to get the Euroleague ticket. It’s not gonna be easy because there are many great teams in both leagues, but I feel we have our chances. The spring is coming and so are all the important games. Let’s hope we will see the best Khimki in the spring.

Altıncı Adam: Did you get an offer from Fenerbahçe last summer? There are rumors that Khimki asked a high amount of buyout, that’s why the deal didn’t come true?

Koponen: (Laughes) Well, there are rumors every summer. I was under contract last summer and nothing happened and I was happy to stay in Khimki.

Altıncı Adam: You will be a free agent at the end of season. There are some NBA rumors about you. What are your future goals at all?

Koponen: Honestly, I don´t know yet what is going to happen. Like you said it’s my last year of contract. Now I will just try to play as good as possible and help the team to win games – trying to win something with Khimki!! We will see later what is going to happen!

As Altıncı Adam, we wish huge success to Petteri Koponen in his future…