A broken dream: Shengelia on his presence in locker room and looming decision

Edvinas Jablonskis
Daily Editor
2022-09-04 06:16

Tornike Shengelia talked to BasketNews about his shattered dream of playing in EuroBasket, his presence in Georgia NT locker room, and his club basketball future.

Credit: FIBA

It was still a close game in the third quarter between Bulgaria and Turkey, and everyone's eyes were stuffed to the court until the man showed up.

That man was local Georgia's hero Tornike Shengelia. Everyone, who sat next to the tunnel where Shengelia was standing, crowded the area in an attempt to receive the autograph or a picture with the 30-year-old.

Toko was smiling and giving pictures left and right, but the shoulder brace Shengelia wore was a painful reminder of a heartbreaking injury that ruled him out of the EuroBasket.

Player of the Game
Willy  Hernangomez
Willy Hernangomez
Points 14
Accuracy 7-11
Rebounds 7
Assists 1

Shengelia hurt his shoulder in the FIBA World Cup 2023 qualifiers game against the Netherlands. With Georgia leading 49-35, Shengelia tried to catch the ball, but went out of balance, slipped, and fell on his right shoulder, breaking his and the whole nation's hopes.

"I was dreaming about this moment for pretty much last three years since we found out that Georgia will host EuroBasket," Shengelia told BasketNews. "But what can I say… There's no time for grief. It is what it is, I need to go through this and support my teammates as much as I can."

Throughout the whole game against Spain, Shengelia was rooting for his teammates by standing up on every possible occasion. However, as Shengelia admits himself, being a spectator isn't easy. 

"It's tough. To be outside the court and see so many things and situations, [where] you feel like you could've helped here and there. It's really tough," Shengelia said.

Despite his injury, Shengelia is still a big presence in the locker room, the best team player and its captain. So, is there still a way how he contributes to the whole squad?

"[I'm trying] to be the voice and encourage the players," Shengelia revealed to BasketNews. "For many of them, it's their first EuroBasket, especially at home. For many of them, it could add pressure, and I try to turn this pressure into motivation for them. I try to help in the mental aspect of the game."

Meanwhile, Georgia's head coach Ilias Zouros also emphasized Shengelia's influence in the locker room, but at the same time, he was very disappointed by how everything turned out.

"First of all, we are extremely happy because Toko won't require surgery," Zouros said in the press conference. "It's great news for us that he will come back soon and won't lose the season or many months. On the other hand, he's a leader and a captain of the team. He knows how to talk with the players, we need him, and it's very important that he's here supporting the team."

"Unfortunately, he's not and the court, and he's something we're missing. It's different how you prepare the team, and you [must] prepare a different style of the team. 

We prepared a different style of play. With more motion, Toko being point forward, creating from outside and inside. Everybody was functioning excellently. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury, and we miss him in the EuroBasket," Zouros added.

Credit FIBA Media

After suffering two losses in both games, Georgia put itself in a dangerous situation in terms of qualifying for the playoffs.

To make things worse, Georgia will face one of the Group A leaders Turkey, while Goga Bitadze's status remains questionable.

Despite that, Shengelia doesn't rush to push the panic button and says that he believes in the team.

"We've been there," Shengelia told BasketNews. "Fortunately, we did qualify a couple of times, but unfortunately, it was the situation when we were dependent on the other teams, which kinda sucks. You always want to be in control and create your own path."

"But there's no time for grief, we have another game on Sunday. We'll need to come out and try to play our best to win this because we know it's probably our most important game," added the 30-year-old.

Another hot topic is Shengelia's future in club basketball. Ever since Shengelia signed with Virtus Bologna, talks about his possible departure or a new extension didn't go quiet.

However, the Georgian star revealed that his decision is coming.

"I think I'll make my decision soon," Shengelia said in a conversation with BasketNews. "Of course, this injury intervenes my future a little bit. We'll see. I still need to see the doctors and do some checkups. Teams that were interested in me were also concerned about this injury. Thank God, the doctor said it's not as serious as it was thought."

"I will avoid the surgery, and my most likely return time will be 40-50 days. Hopefully, it will be even sooner than that," Shengelia concluded.


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