In the lead up to the Champions League quarterfinals taking place in Elxleben this weekend, Rollt’s English-speaking Content Producer Dylan Cummings spoke with UnipolSai Briantea84 Cantu’s captain and former GB international, Ian Sagar about his Champions League predictions and a potential GB comeback.
First off, Sagar gave us his predictions for the Champions League…
“The Champions League is too difficult to predict. Every team in the quarterfinals is capable of making the finals. There has never been a stronger pool of teams competing for the title, this can only make the tournament and wheelchair basketball on a whole stronger.”
What are your thoughts on Cantu’s quarterfinal opponents?
“Albacete are going to be a strong test for us. They have a good number of GB players so I am reasonably familiar with them, hopefully this knowledge will come in useful when we play against them. Lee Manning and Gaz Choudry being of particular importance to nullify if we have any chance of beating them.”
“Besiktas I envision being a very physical team to play against, with a number of big strong mid-point players along with the giant Cem. With no obvious weak point in their line-up, this one must be a clever tactical battle for us to come out on top.”
“The reigning champions Thuringia Bulls are obviously one of the favorites to hold onto their title, with talent and strength in every position. In last year’s quarterfinals Cantu got a good win against them to qualify for the finals, so we know it can be done! We just know that to repeat that feat we must play a near perfect game to challenge them for a top spot in the group.”
The Bulls haven’t got Matt Scott playing this year, how much of a difference do you think this will make?
“Unfortunately, Matt has been ill and I’m sure I’m with everyone in world basketball is wishing him a speedy and full recovery. For sure his presence on court is missed but Thuringia have a great squad and have more than adequate cover in an ex-teammate of mine Andre Bienek; who’s physicality, speed and shooting ability is going to difficult to stop. Cantu are up for the challenge.”
How far do you think Cantu can go in the Champions League?
“The Champions Cup still remains elusive for us, but with two semi-finals and a final in the last three years, we are up there with the best teams in Europe. I hope that this year could be our year.”
Cantu have been known as the top team in Italy for many years now, how are you getting on in the Italian league?
“Cantu are having a good season domestically, so far going undefeated and on course to remain the treble that we did exceptionally well to win last year.”
After Rio you took a break from the GB team, is a GB comeback on the horizon?
“I have taken some time out from International duty to commit to my family and plan for life after basketball. Now with my wife pregnant and plans in motion for a career after basketball maybe the time is right to come back?”
Finally, what are your thoughts on GB’s World Championship-winning performance, did you miss being a part of the team?
“During the World Championships I was glued to my computer screen watching the guys going all the way to the title. Sure, I felt a little twinge of the heart strings because I wasn’t there with them during that fantastic journey. I have nothing but admiration for every one of them, they played like champions and deserved to become World Champions.”
“Now, if/when I do want to return to the GB setup, I’ve got my work cut out for me to get back into the team. GB don’t just the 12 players in Hamburg, but a wider group of almost 20 athletes who are all capable of performing at that level. Haj Bhania has created a program that rewards hard work and commitment which shows with the turnover of new and young player making their international debuts over the last few years; but when have I ever shied away from a challenge.”
Rollt. would like to thank Ian Sagar for this interview, see you this weekend!
Ian Sagar Profile
DOB: 29/03/1982 (aged 36)
Hometown: Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England
Started playing: 2006
Disability: Sustained a spinal cord injury after a motorcycle accident in 1999.
GB debut: 2009 European Championships
Current club: UnipolSai Briantea84 Cantu, Italy (2012-present)
Sheffield Steelers, UK (2006/07), The OWLS, UK (2007/09, 2011/12), Fuhnpain Perdula Toledo, Spain (2009/11)
- 2009 European Championships – Adana, Turkey – Bronze
- 2010 World Championships – Birmingham, UK – 5th
- 2011 European Championships – Nazareth, Israel – Gold
- 2012 Paralympic Games – London, UK – 4th
- 2013 European Championships – Frankfurt, Germany – Gold
- 2014 World Championships – Incheon, South Korea – 7th
- 2015 European Championships – Worcester, UK – Gold
- 2016 Paralympic Games – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Bronze
- Reaching the semi-finals twice (2016, 2018) and final (2017) of the IWBF Champions League with Cantu
- Winning the Copa Italia and FIPIC Italian league multiple times with Cantu
- Runners up of the British Wheelchair Basketball RGK Super League 2011/12 with The OWLS.
Interview: Dylan Cummings | Photo: Uli Gasper