Jayson Granger has arguably been one of the most unlucky players in Europe in the last few years. Back in 2018, the Uruguayan guard had been dealing with chronic pain in his ankle, which resulted in surgery. He missed the second half of the 2018-19 season and returned to the courts for the start of the 2019-20 season.
After a successful pre-season, Granger was set up for his season debut in the Spanish League with Baskonia. He was in the starting line-up, but ultimately played no more than two minutes. With 08:15 in the first quarter, Granger picked up his opponent half-court, while running back on defense. In the blink of an eye, he slipped and suffered a complete rupture of his left Achilles tendon.
Granger began his rehab after successful surgery in October and managed to return to action for the Spanish League tournament. Ultimately, he helped Baskonia win the 2020 ACB title. In the summer, Granger signed a one-year deal with ALBA Berlin and moved to Germany.
The 31-year old is back playing in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague competition after almost two years, and he talked to Eurohoops about his new team, new challenges, as well as this year’s strange EuroLeague season. Besides, he shares what he felt during his Achilles injury, how he almost quit basketball twice, and the mental aspect of the game.
The EuroLeague season is back. How has this whole situation been for you so far, in terms of the coronavirus pandemic?
Jayson Granger: This situation is kind of weird for everybody. For us, we played a big game in Moscow against CSKA, it seemed as everything was rolling, and when we came back, we had six positive tests for coronavirus. We were stuck at home for 14 days without doing anything, and after that, you only have one practice and then have to face Barcelona. We lost by 30 and it seems like it’s the end of the world. It’s kind of hard to see what level we are right now, but our goal is to compete against everybody.
We’ve seen positive coronavirus tests in staff members and players, with many games getting postponed this season. Olimpia Milan’s head coach Ettore Messina recently said that the best way for the season to end is to put the European competitions on hold, finish the domestic leagues within the next 3-4 months and then start up again the European competitions. EuroLeague, however, doesn’t plan on making any sort of changes for this season. How should EuroLeague proceed in your opinion?
JG: Coach Ettore Messina has a point with what he said, but we also got to think about the rest of the teams. The teams that play in only one domestic competition. Who’s going to pay the rest of the contracts of the other players if the domestic leagues finish in March? Most of the guys have contracts until June. It’s weird. I don’t really have much of a voice on that matter. We all want to play. We don’t want to postpone games, but our number one priority is our health. We need to take care of the situation and follow the health protocols.
Besides the coronavirus pandemic, how different has this season been for you? After all, you changed teams in the summer and moved to Germany.
JG: It was a big change. After not playing almost all of last season with the Achilles injury, many people were doubting me, cause they weren’t sure of whether I can keep playing, practicing every single week at a high level. I don’t blame them, I respect them. I know how the business of basketball works. One of my main goals was to keep playing in the EuroLeague and ALBA gave me the chance. It was the perfect situation for me and my family to continue playing at the highest level, get my confidence back, and feel comfortable again on the basketball court. Playing for coach Aito [Reneses], for someone who teaches you so much about the game every single day… was a great choice for me.
Was there a particular reason you agreed on only a one-year deal?
JG: No, not really. One of my main goals was to get my confidence back. Trying to feel like a basketball player again. Trying to enjoy this beautiful game again. In the last few years, I couldn’t enjoy it. I want to take it day-by-day. In the beginning, of course, I felt a little bit rusty cause it’s been almost two seasons that I haven’t played back-to-back games. That’s a long time, especially when you come back from an Achilles injury and you’re a guard. A one-year deal was the perfect fit for me and my family. It was the first time they moved away from Spain.
What goals have you set as a team for this season?
JG: Aito is a kind of coach who sets daily goals. The one thing he always repeats is ‘let’s get better every single day.’ Doesn’t matter if it’s a practice or a game. We need to be better, and at the end of the season, we need to be better than we were on the first day of the pre-season.’ And I really respect that. It’s a great mentality. All the guys are working very hard to keep getting better. We all want to win.