Mike Tobey on Olympic dream come true, chemistry with Doncic and his Slovenian family

13/Jul/21 16:56 July 23, 2021

Antonis Stroggylakis

13/Jul/21 16:56


Mike Tobey feels excited ahead of the Olympic Games, loves playing with Luka Doncic and has fun with the Slovenian national team.

By Antonis Stroggylakis / AStroggylakis@eurohoops.net

If there’s a person that’s maybe even more excited than Mike Tobey for his first-ever participation in the Olympic Games, that’s Mrs. and Mr. Tobey back in the States. His parents, who are now also fully geared up with the proper equipment to cheer for their son.

“I FaceTimed my family and my mom showed me that they already bought a Slovenian flag,” Tobey told Eurohoops while traveling back to Slovenia and the national team camp following a short trip to Spain. “A Slovenian flag and the Olympic flag. They are ready to go.”

“They are going to hang the Slovenian flag outside the house during the whole Olympic tournament. Our neighbors are going to be confused but it’s great. They will hear yelling and all in a weird time because of the time difference, but they’ll figure it out,” Tobey added with a chuckle.

Enthusiasm, anticipation and other similar emotions run rampant with the Tobeys, less than two weeks before Mike parades around the Japan National Stadium as an Olympian. The 26-year-old center of Valencia is heading to Tokyo as the naturalized player of the Slovenian national team following a triumphant run in the Kaunas Qualifying Tournament that was capped with an upset over host Lithuania in the Final.

Tobey averaged 15.0 points (shooting 6-9 3-pointers in the semifinal and final) and 7.5 rebounds for 20.5 PIR in Kaunas to help Slovenia reach the Olympics for the first time ever. He ranked second in these categories for his squad, behind only the phenomenon that is Luka Doncic.

Despite being together for just a few weeks, the two of them clicked to instant perfection and their combined forces created a pick n’ roll juggernaut that pulverized opposing defenses. In an extremely humble tone, Tobey attributed this dynamic solely to the two-time NBA All-Star. “I give him [Doncic] all the credit for all the chemistry that we were able to get right away,” he said.

Mavericks fans took notice and began flooding Mark Cuban’s Twitter notifications with pleas to sign Tobey. “I wasn’t aware at first and then people were sending me that stuff. It’s definitely funny to see,” Tobey said.

In his conversation with Eurohoops, Tobey talked about realizing the dream of participating in the Olympics, the “family” that is the Slovenian team, playing alongside Doncic, his experience in Kaunas, the expectations he has from this adventure, and the new version of his name that’s now adapted.

Eurohoops: First of all shall I call you Mike or Miha?

Mike Tobey: The guys on the [Slovenian] team call me Miha more now, to be honest. Miha is my Slovenian name.

EH: Your tweet where you first introduced yourself as Miha was your first in a year. It must’ve meant a lot for you to do that and break this “Twitter silence.” 

M.T.: I was very happy after the game (vs. Lithuania) and for us making the Olympics. I hadn’t been on Twitter for a year. And I just felt I wanted to show some appreciation to the Slovenian fans. It was kind of my way of saying thank you for accepting me and giving me this opportunity.

EH: If I told you in 2017 that you would be playing in the Olympic Games four years later, how would you react?

M.T.: I probably would’ve laughed. Four years ago, I probably wouldn’t believe you if you told me that. Because I definitely didn’t think that playing for Team USA (editor’s note: the senior team – Mike Tobey was a world champion with the U19 Team USA in 2013) would be a possibility. So I definitely wouldn’t have believed it.

To be honest, it’s something I never thought it would be possible. As a kid you grow up and you watch the Olympics and you think it’s awesome and that you would love to be there. But for me, I knew that my love was basketball and I don’t know if there was ever a realistic goal to be able to play basketball at the Olympics. For me, it was always a dream to be part of the Olympics but I never thought it was realistic.

Growing up in the States I didn’t even really think I would even be in Europe and living here for so many years. It’s not something I didn’t even think as a kid. So now … why not? Why wouldn’t I be with another country’s national team? I’m going with the flow. Enjoying the ride. It would definitely look bit strange a long time ago. But for me now in this moment, I’m like “Why not?” So I’m enjoying it.

EH: Did you watch the EuroBasket 2017 where Slovenia won the gold medal?

M.T.: I was watching it. I had just got to preseason with Tenerife and that was what everyone was talking about. Everyone was watching the games. It was my first real introduction to what was going on in the summer with the national teams and these tournaments.

EH: You are succeeding Anthony Randolph as Slovenia’s naturalized player. He was important for the team in the 2017 EuroBasket, so do you feel that you have some big shoes to fill?

M.T.: I know Anthony and I’ve played against him a lot of years now in both the EuroLeague and the Spanish League (ACB). He’s obviously a great player. I’m here to do my job and do what I can do to help the team win.

EH: “Bring Tobey home.” “Sign Tobey.” “Hey Mark Cuban, find a way to sign this Tobey fella from Slovenia.” “Cuban and Jason Kidd find a way to bring Tobey to Dallas to play with Luka”.

Did you notice all this noise that was made by Mavericks fans after they saw how well you connected with Luka on the court?

M.T.: (Chuckles) I think my friends were telling me some of these stuff and what was going on. As you saw from my Twitter, I’m not really on social media, Instagram or anything like that. So I went on to send the “Miha” tweet and then I logged back out. I wasn’t aware at first and then people were sending me that stuff. It’s definitely funny to see.

But you know, everything that involves Luka gets a lot of attention. I guess just being on the floor with him and all that… I get some of that attention as well as something secondary.

I guess people saw that we were playing well together.

EH: Slovenia had remarkable chemistry in the Qualifiers. The guys who have already been there know each other and Luka is… well… Luka but you just joined the team some weeks before the tournament in Kaunas. And you clicked so well and so quickly, it looked like you have been playing together for ages.

How did that happen?

M.T.: Honestly, I think it just speaks of the volumes of how great of a player he [Luka Doncic] is. He’s one of the best players in the world. Me? I just kind of came in and played the pick n roll with him. I just tried to do whatever they need me to do in every offensive situation. Roll, go through the pop and just try to play through there. Make the read out of what he’s doing. I give him all the credit for all the chemistry that we were able to get right away.

For me, it was like some of the most fun I’ve had playing basketball. Running around, just trying to read off his greatness. The chemistry was there and, again, I give him all the credit for that one.

The team in general is a bunch of great guys. Everyone is really close and really open. We were having fun. Everyone is competitive and everyone wants to win but at the same time everyone is having a good time. It’s a lot of fun playing for this team for sure.