By Cesare Milanti / firstname.lastname@example.org
Bologna, Italy – When Kyle Weems joined Virtus Bologna in 2019, the only players who he can call teammates even today were Alessandro Pajola and Milos Teodosic. Since when he arrived in Italy, everything has changed: the team came back to its former glory, step by step, trophy by trophy.
The American forward was acquired a few weeks after the triumph in the Basketball Champions League. Still, then on they managed to win the Italian championship and the EuroCup, reaching the EuroLeague for the first time in 15 years. And now he can’t wait to enjoy it. “I’m excited. It’s my first year in the EuroLeague with this format, the last time I played it there was still the group stage, with the Top 16 and that type of format. It was seven years ago. I’m excited to finally be back, it has been one of my own individual goals as well as this club’s goals since I’ve been here in 2019. I’m excited not only for our club and for the city, but myself as well”, he said in an exclusive interview with Eurohoops.
Kyle Weems has been probably the most consistent element of Virtus Bologna’s growing process, and now he finds himself on the biggest European stage. “I think it’s kinda a surreal moment. I understand when I’m coming here for practice every day and I see the pictures and the banners of what we’ve been able to accomplish since I’ve been here, so it’s special. But for me, it’s just all about putting the work behind and letting it come to the light whenever it’s time for the games”, he commented.
But he doesn’t take anything for granted. “I take a lot of pride and working hard each and every day in the summer, working hard each and every day here in practice and just trying to be consistent. I feel like I’ve done a good job on that. I have a great wife, great kids, great support system. So for me, the easy part is to come here and do my job having fun. Just be consistent”, he said about his attitude, which allowed him to become a better player as time passes. “I feel like I’m not a big stats guy, but my stats have been consistent no matter the competition and also no matter the coach. My stats have gone up since Sergio has been here. A lot more responsibilities with injuries and so on. Again, my focus is just to come here and work hard. Be a leader, lead my work example first and then speak second. Be consistent for my family, for the guys on this team, and the club”, he added.
During these years, Virtus Bologna has been part of probably one of the current greatest European rivalries, at least for the amount of talent that these two teams have been showing on the court: in the 2022/2023 season, they could potentially face EA7 Emporio Armani Milan in four competitions. “I think that this rivalry is great. It’s great for our city, for our club, their city, and their club. But also for Italian basketball and European basketball in general. We’ve been trying to get Virtus back to a major competition like the EuroLeague since Ginobili was able to have them at the top of Europe, around twenty years ago”, he said, underlining how much pride he feels.
“It’s definitely a big rivalry and I’m blessed to be a part of it. I have a lot of respect for this rivalry and Milan, their program and organization because they’ve been able to do some big things in the time that I’ve been in Bologna. Everyone knows we’ve come back and forth. We beat them, they beat us last season. They’ve also won the Italian Cup, we haven’t been able to do that. We each won a Supercup. Each team has been able to kinda get the better hand of the other one, and I think it’s only gonna keep getting better with time”, he added.
The first clash between the two Italian powerhouses came in the semifinal of the Italian Supercup, where Virtus defeated Milan 64-72 in a very low-scoring game that ended in OT. “I’m blessed to be a part of it and I don’t take it for granted. It’s a fun challenge to be a part of and I’m looking forward to facing them a bunch of times this season”, he added about the great games that are about to be witnessed not only in the Italian league and in the EuroLeague, but eventually in the mid-season Italian Cup as well.
Kyle Weems has won his first trophy with Virtus Bologna under Sasha Djordjevic, but he tasted the European gold also thanks to Sergio Scariolo‘s arrival. Now, he can proudly say to be coached by the reigning World Cup and EuroBasket champion. “It’s a blessing. He makes everyone’s job feel easier. He’s very detail-oriented, he’s very well-prepared and we have a lot of meetings and video sessions. While that isn’t the funniest thing to do, it always makes the games easier: you’re always prepared and you always know what’s coming, you know how to react to certain defenses and the way the other team is trying to play you”, he remarked about the coach.
His words of esteem for the Spanish national team head coach don’t stop here. “I give a lot of credit to him and I already told him on his first day here with us that it was no small thing what he was able to accomplish with the Spanish national team. He deserves all the credit in the world. I’ve definitely been blessed to be able to play for a year under him. I was able to play well, obviously not so much in the Finals, but I’m grateful that he put me in a position to be successful and be myself more or less. I’m looking forward to being able to do that this year as well. A blessing to be able to play for such a great basketball mind and such a guy that prepares us really well”, he added about Sergio Scariolo.
PHOTO CREDIT: EuroLeague Basketball