By Semih Tuna & Bilal Baran Yardımcı / firstname.lastname@example.org
Starting a new adventure with Anadolu Efes as part of the rebuilding process the Turkish team has been through recently, Derek Willis will debut in the EuroLeague under coach Erdem Can.
Talking exclusively with Eurohoops – full interview here – in the EuroLeague Media Day of the back-to-back champions in the competition, the former Joventut Badalona and Reyer Venice forward touched on several topics, including his young early days spent in the Wind River Indian Reservation.
“It was difficult because people live in poverty there. Almost everyone alive is poor, earning less than the average American citizen. Besides, there isn’t much to do. There aren’t many opportunities for self-discovery. But apart from these, nature and the environment are magnificent. A great place to wander around and go hiking. In my family’s case, we needed something different. My parents thought it would be best for us to move back to Kentucky”, he first said.
There, he had the opportunity to grow as a basketball player, representing the Wildcats in the NCAA. “I don’t like to brag, but I’m very happy to have come from that point and played at Kentucky with many NBA stars under John Calipari. I learned so much from them. When I came to Europe, my goal was to play in the EuroLeague. I’m finally here. I am very happy and grateful for this opportunity”, Derek Willis added.
Spending time with the white-and-blue famous university side, the 28-year-old American player got particularly in touch with Karl-Anthony Towns. “Players often change their numbers after joining the NBA. There was only one name that did not change his number: Karl-Anthony Towns. He is a very friendly person. You can send him a message whenever you want”, the former Venice forward commented on the Dominican Republic and Minnesota Timberwolves center.
A new EuroLeague life with Anadolu Efes
After another season where in shone at the EuroCup level, Derek Willis got the call from Erdem Can and Anadolu Efes, moving to Turkey to debut in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague.
In Istanbul, he will share the court with Darius Thompson, with whom he already played. “It’s always nice to have someone you already know when you go to a new place. We had a great season together in Brindisi. It was good to have him here too. When I went on Twitter and saw that Efes was interested in him, I was like “Dude, I just signed too”. It was around the beginning of June and I saw that Efes was interested. I kept asking him what he was going to do. And he said: “I really like Efes.” He came here at the end of the day. It was beautiful”, he said on the American playmaker.
Asked if he believes he will be one of the best playmakers in the EuroLeague, he had no doubts. “Honestly yes. There is no doubt that he is very talented. Of course, I didn’t expect him to play badly, but he had a great season in Baskonia. He really shone in the Spanish League. I never expected him to have such a good season. Now we need it to show the same performance here too”, he added before finally touching on what to expect from them this season.
“The coach has serious goals this year. They didn’t have a good season in the EuroLeague last year, finishing 10th or 11th. After two championships, expectations are to at least make the playoffs. The new coach came in and when we talked to him at the beginning of the summer, I saw that we were in the same mindset. It will be my first time playing in the EuroLeague. He too wanted to fight and achieve something. When you look at the transfers, you see names like Tyrique Jones and Erkan Yılmaz. Players who want to compete and fight for something”, Derek Willis stated in the end.
PHOTO CREDIT: anadoluefessk.org