By Antonis Stroggylakis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
They say the murderer always returns to the scene of the crime and apparently that is also the case with Errick McCollum.
After finishing the season in China with the Beikong Fly Dragons, the American combo guard signed a contract with Galatasaray and is back in Istanbul. The place where he flourished last year, writing a glorious page of basketball history with the Turkish team by leading them to the 2016 EuroCup title while winning season MVP honors in the process.
McCollum is eligible to play only in Turkey and not in EuroLeague since the deal he penned for the remainder of the season was finalized after the transfer deadline.
Still, that didn’t stop him from following the squad to Athens for the game against Olympiacos. He gave a helping hand during warm-up and then sat next to the bench witnessing one of the most stunning victories of the “Cimbom” in this season’s EuroLeague.
“It was enjoyable seeing that,” he told Eurohoops after the match. “I like to see the team having success. It’s good for boosting our confidence for the Turkish League and the rest of the EuroLeague.”
The door of the locker rooms was shut, but you could hear the loud, celebratory laughs coming from inside. McCollum had been the first to come out and our conversation about general Galatasaray related material, personal goals and more, proceeded as follows.
– So how did you feel stepping on the floor of “Abdi Ipekci” once again and hearing the fans welcoming you by chanting your name?
– “I felt special! It was definitely a special moment for me. It just shows the appreciation of the fans for the success we had last year. They also liked that I play hard and to the best of my abilities every night. They see that.”
– What are your goals in your return to Galatasaray?
– “I just want to win. We had some success last year winning the EuroCup title and I hope I can build on that. Generally, the goal is doing everything I can do to help the team. Not only scoring. Helping defensively, creating for others. And as I said… winning. I define myself from winning. And I think that’s what makes the best players.”
– How long where you pondering coming back before actually agreeing with the club?
– “I was thinking it was a possibility. But you never know just based on how their guards are doing. They already had guards so then I was like ‘Maybe it can’t work’…”
– … but then they didn’t have guards. At least not enough.
– “Yes, exactly. There was an opening. And that’s when I thought… ‘hey now this would be interesting’. It would be something I’ll enjoy being a part of. If they were interested in me, I’d definitely take the call. Luckily they gave me said call and here we are now. I like Galatasaray. Hopefully we can win some games and be a contender in the Turkish league.”
– After finishing the season in China on February, there were rumors connecting you to many other teams. Like Darussafaka Dogus. Were you close to them?
– “I had some offers from other teams, yes. Some in the EuroLeague, some in Eurocup and others in FIBA Champions League. We were talking with some other Turkish teams and Darussafaka as well. I just felt that Galatasaray was the best fit for me.”
– What made you feel like that?
– “You know it’s difficult coming to a team late in the season. You have the learn the offense, the system and you don’t know how you are going to fit. From my cooperation with coach Ergin Ataman last year, I know that I fit his offensive system and I know I can thrive in it and have success. I’m not saying that I can’t play well in other places. But this is something I’m comfortable with because I’m familiar with how things work here.”
– During the All-Star weekend, your brother CJ told Eurohoops that you are good enough to play in the NBA. Do you agree with him?
– “I work hard. I think I have the talent. Sometimes it’s just about the right situations and the proper fit. I’ve had some interesting talks with NBA teams the summer before first arriving to Galatasaray. But I wasn’t offered a fully guaranteed contract and I didn’t want to go for a partial deal. So here I am. You know, I enjoy Europe. The basketball is of high level and I enjoy other cultures.”
– Some think that the pressure here in Europe is bigger, considering how every game can be really important.
– “I definitely like that feel. Knowing that every night you have to bring it. Every single game matters. You have to be 100% focused and ready. It’s a nice kind of pressure to have because it brings out the best in you.”
– And what do you think about CJ’s progress? Most improved player last season in the NBA and doing excellent this year as well.
– “Because he’s a great player. The sky’s the limit for him. He’s young, he works hard. He’s talented. He can play the ‘1’, the ‘2’, score inside, outside, shoot the ball. He can run the pick n’ roll and create. I think he’s going to be the best shooting guard in the NBA. At least one of the best, if he’s not already. And right now for sure he’s among the top 5 shooting guards of the league in my opinion.”