By Mete Budak/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Justin Dentmon is expected to be a leader in Galatasaray and Eurohoops had the chance to talk with him in Istanbul before he joined the team.
After having this role in Zalgiris Kaunas, the American guard returns to Europe as the Euroleague transforms into a real league and he has a mission. To make his new team a contender in the higher European level. Can he do it? Read this exclusive interview and you will understand.
-You had a great season at Zalgiris and turned out to be one of the most exciting point guards in Euroleague. Did you receive any offers from top-level clubs in Euroleague after that season? If so, why didn’t you stay in Europe?
“I received offers from CSKA, Maccabi, of course from Zalgiris and from Galatasaray. I just thought that I belonged to the NBA and I tried to get to the NBA but it did not work out. So China was like the only option I had at that time of period”.
-What about this summer? Why did you choose to sign with Galatasaray, did you have other offers in Europe?
“I saw this as a great opportunity to come back to Europe. Euroleague is the second best league next to the NBA. I really wanted to go to the NBA but none of the NBA teams considered giving me a guaranteed contract for pre-season. So it was between going to the NBA, going back to China or coming to Europe. I looked at the teams and their coaching staff and then decided to just come over here and try to win”.
-Were you not really satisfied with the competition level in China?
“I can’t really say that. China has some good players, I respect the league, it’s an uprising league but just not as good as Europe”.
-Ergin Ataman and Galatasaray won the Eurocup last season. What do you think about your new coach, did you get to hear about him?
“I know he is really a laidback coach. He gets out and lets his players play their game, he doesn’t really control over his players much, instead he lets them control the game. I think that’s good. That goes a long way for players trying to win championships. Just look at all the champion teams and their coaches. They let their players just be themselves and this is a good thing I heard about the coach”.
-Euroleague will have quite a different format next season than the last time you played in Europe. What do you think about it?
“I think it’s going to be tough for some players to adjust. I am already used to it from my experiences in NBA season and D-League season where you play everybody twice. We have got to focus on every game, try to win those games and try to make it to the Top 8”.
-Turkish league has emerged as one of the best leagues in Europe over the last few years. What do you think about the competition you will have in Turkey?
“I always knew that Turkish league is one of the best leagues in Europe, I have just never been a part of it. I have seen a lot of good players coming from Turkey throughout the season I played in Europe. I am just going to try to see how it is and how I can go against the competition”.
-I know that you worked too hard to get yourself a place in the NBA but it eventually didn’t come off. How does it feel coming back to Europe, do you have any disappointments, do you consider coming back to Europe a stepdown?
“No, I don’t think that’s a stepdown at all. I think I’m staying at the same level as the NBA, it’s just that the NBA is a bigger stage with a bigger schedule. I think the level of play over here is just as good as the level of play in the NBA”.
-What are your expectations from this season? Ergin Ataman recently said that the club will be aiming for Euroleague Final Four and he is looking confident over the team Galatasaray has.
“I think it’s good that the coach has confidence. Once he has confidence, he can put confidence in us. I think we need to take baby steps. We need to win our first game. First game of the season is always the most important. After that, we need to focus winning more games than last year, then Turkish League and then focus on the Euroleague. With the team we have, we can do it. But we can’t have egos, we all have to be on the same page and go for the win”.
-Which players do you know from the team?
“I just know few of them. I know Alex Tyus. I played against him in the high school. I played against him in Euroleague. I know some Turkish players. Because I played against Galatasaray. I know about Russ Smtih, Austin Daye but not personally. I think strong fan support helps. It reminds me of college. Our home court advantage is big. After I see the videos of fans, I am really excited. I got goose bumps when I thought how much they can support us as the 6th man. I really look forward to it”.
-Galatasaray is famous of its fans and they are already showing so much enthusiasm towards the new signings. How do you feel about the fact that the team will be backed by such big support throughout the season?
“I think strong fan support helps. It reminds me of college. Our home court advantage is big. After I see the videos of fans, I am really excited. I got goose bumps when I thought how much they can support us as the 6th man. I really look forward to it. The fans are already showing their excitement to watch the new signings on court. Yeah, that’s really great. It’s really important to have support like that”.
-I want to ask you about your trademark “one leg shot”. How did this actually develop, are you working specifically on this and what sort of advantages do you think this shot brings to your game?
“Yeah, I practice it a lot. It just came to me when I was in Puerto Rico. I started using it and realized it can be really effective. Once I start doing it, I tried to trademark it. I put out videos to make people notice my shot. I think it’s really effective. Most guys don’t like it but…”
-What sort of advantage do you think it brings to your game?
“It brings great advantage. Defenders don’t know what I am going to do next. Most of the guys who shoot with their right hand, shoot off the left foot. I shoot off with my right foot and I am right handed. It puts me on a awkward balance but I usually get a good shot off”.
-Who is the best European player you’ve ever played against?
“Sergio Rodriguez was good but I have someone in my mind… I can’t remember his name and his team. It is really tough to answer this question. Because there are a lot of very good players, it is really hard to pick someone to beat them all and be the best. To me, if you are the best player, you have to go out and dominate me whole time. I haven’t seen someone like that”.
-The player you most enjoyed playing with and against?
“Brandon Roy was the most enjoyable player to play with. I played with him in college. There has been a lot of enjoyable teammates in my professional career. In Europe, I enjoyed playing with Martynas Pocius. In China, I enjoyed playing with Mike Harris. In NBA, I enjoyed playing with Dirk Nowitzki.”
-The best starting lineup?
“Me, James Harden at 2, Lebron James at small forward, Dirk Nowitzki at 4 and DeMarcus Cousins is my center”.
-Your childhood idol?
“I used to say Iverson is my model but we are nothing alike. Jason Williams is one of my favorite players, that’s why I wear number 55 but we are not alike. I don’t think I play like somebody. Everybody says my style is like Dwayne Wade but I don’t think so”.