By M. Bahadır Akgün/ firstname.lastname@example.org
QJ Peterson welcomed several Eurohoops inquiries about his amazing Basketball Champions League performances and the Bakken Bears battling teams superior on paper to the point of extending their playoffs hopes into the final game of the Regular Season. The Danish club has been indeed turning heads but recent results have not surprised the 26-year-old American point guard coming out of VMI to launch his pro career in Europe four years ago.
“Thank you of course but this whole underdogs thing… I think that’s great and it feels like, me, personally, I’ve been the underdog all my life, just in terms of not going to a number one high school, not always playing in the highest leagues, things like that,” he noted on the Bears considered the Group A underdog right from the start, “The whole underdog thing is an outside mentality. That’s for people, who aren’t in the organization or locker room. It all starts with us and believing in ourselves. When we beat Sassari by 22 points, there were still people thinking like ‘Oh it was a fluke’ or whatever. We turned around and in the next Basketball Champions League game, we beat Galatasaray by 18. Okay, maybe it is not a fluke?”
The Bears improved to 2-3 with the convincing displays versus Dinamo Sassari on the road and Galatasaray at home. They will host Iberostar Tenerife next Wednesday, January 20. A win paired with Galatasaray defeating Sassari will advance them to the playoffs consisting of four new groups of four teams each.
“We look at it as, like, we can compete with them,” added Peterson, “So I wouldn’t view us as underdogs because I feel like we can compete with anybody. In one of the toughest brackets, we potentially have the chance of going to the playoffs. It just shows the resilience and the fight in our team that we are not going away without a fight. We did everything in terms of what we had to do after starting with three losses and we put ourselves in a position that we can go to the playoffs, and that’s all you can ask for.”
It is not completely up to the Bears themselves, but just being in a position to advance this late in the Regular Season would be a bold prediction after the draw with teams stemming from countries like Spain, Italy, and Turkey, especially after those first three losses. Denmark basketball may be on the rise, but very few really expected the team based in Aarhus to shine at this level of competition.
The Regular Season schedule was reduced to six games for every participating team aiming to produce the quality anticipated by the BCL fans through the adversities stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, such as travel issues and contests being postponed due to positive COVID-19 cases. Peterson applauds the adjustments.
“They have been great, honestly,” he told Eurohoops, “You are playing pretty much top teams from all over, which makes it super competitive. This makes it extremely competitive, which is really good. Given COVID, they’ve actually controlled the situation really well in terms of limiting spectators, and if something happened with the teams they pushed the games back as much as they possibly can. They also did a good job of getting great teams and organizations into the Champions League to compete. A huge, great job and kudos go out to them for being organized under pandemic.”
His effort in the Regular Season translates to 22 points, 5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.6 steals per match over his first five appearances. He leads the entire Champions League field in scoring. However, the overall energy he provides to his team on both ends of the court carries way over the impressive stats turning the team coached by Steffen Wich into a force to be reckoned with and himself potentially ready for an upgrade with his ultimate goal of playing in the NBA on his radar.
“I think the future is bright, but at the same time, I am just trying to focus on living in now. That’s the big part, not getting ahead of myself,” he explained replying to a question about his career goals, “I am just trying to keep my head down and work hard day in and day out, and just continue to get better. Of course winning championships and all that stuff here are among my goals, but playing in the NBA is the goal, that’s my ultimate goal, that’s what I wanna do. I just have to keep going, keep on working, keep improving myself day-in and day-out. Whatever happens, I am happy with the result because I’ll know I’ll have given my whole and my best every day and that’s all I can ask for.”
Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League