By Bilal Baran Yardımcı/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Diving into several topics, James Gist shared his views on debuting in the Basketball Champions League, a couple of his former teams seeking success, and former teammate Victor Wembanyama presenting a bid to dominate the NBA.
Gist, 36, in his first Champions League appearance helped Bahcesehir Koleji defeat ERA Nymburk Tuesday. “It was very exciting playing in front of that audience. The fans were loud. So, they really helped us, especially as the game got tough in the third quarter. Nymburk, you got to give them credit, they shot the ball very well in the second half. They showed why they are in the Champions League, for sure. We were able to stay tough and pull out a big win for us,” was his immediate reaction talking to Eurohoops following the Gameday 4 fixture.
Going into the exclusive interview, he tallied nine points, six rebounds, two assists, and one steal over 26 minutes against Nymburk, the reigning champions of the Czech Republic’s NBL since 2004 and also among the lasting BCL originals. The win lifted the team based in Istanbul to 2-2 in Group D of the Regular Season. Currently tied with Igokea m:tel, also one win behind Surne Bilbao and one ahead of Nymburk, it can go from a direct ticket to the Round of 16 to settling in the Play-Ins or even getting eliminated, depending on the last two games of the double-legged round-robin schedule.
“It’s hard to say what the first impressions are. The game is still fresh. I will try to give it a minute, go into next week, and see how that is. Then I might have a better idea,” Gist replied to a question about debuting in the BCL. Coming up for last season’s FIBA Europe Cup champions is another challenge at home with Bilbao making the trip to Turkey. The finale will be in Bosnia-Herzegovina against Igokea.
“We got a good team. They built the team pretty well. Unfortunately, we had some injuries. So, it’s hard to see what the team looks like when we are at full strength. But I know that the guys missing have a lot of experience and a lot of energy that can really help us. Right now, we are playing at a high level. I know they will help us take it to another level when they come back. It will be interesting to see,” he mentioned, “It’s a long season. It’s only December. So, we got a lot of work to do. But I think we have a very talented basketball team.”
The Champions League is new for the well-traveled big man but not Turkey’s BSL. The Turkey-born forward/center played for Fenerbahce Ulker in 2011-12. A decade later, he is back in Istanbul.
“I have always felt like the Turkish league has been one of the toughest leagues in Europe, behind Spain,” he ranked the BSL among the remaining top European domestic competitions, “Turkey and the Adriatic league [ABA], kind of neck to neck. The French league is not bad either. The French league is pretty good. But the Turkish league has always been competitive.”
“It has been good. They made the transition easy for me. My family will be here soon. They are really helping out with that. I know a few players that I played against over the years and a couple of teammates I played with back in Fenerbahce. And it feels good to be back in Istanbul,” he added regarding the adjustment to Bahcesehir.
At LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne last season, he played and practiced alongside the NBA prospect, the frontrunner to be selected first overall in the 2023 draft, Wembanyama. Using his own experience, he advised the youngster to stay humble.
“It’s hard to say right now. He’s young. He’s 18,” he rejected adding to the hype surrounding his former teammate, “He’s playing very good basketball. He’s playing at a high level. And the biggest thing about Victor is that he is humble and that he works hard. I talked to him a lot of times and I told him ‘just keep your head down, don’t listen to the noise, enjoy the process, but continue to work,’. No matter what, if you stay humble, the doors are open that you never knew were possible.”
Coming out of Maryland in 2008, he was selected by the San Antonio Spurs with the 57th overall pick of the draft. But did not play in the NBA, instead became a household name in Europe through a successful career stretching all around the continent over the next decade and change, including 297 games played in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. Gist committed a large chunk of those appearances to Panathinaikos, quickly emerging as a fan favorite. Keeping tabs with the Greens, he gave his approval to the team built and head coach Dejan Radonjic.
“Panathinaikos has a good team this year. They have a good coach. I like the way that they built the team. The team this year, the way they built the team, is perfect and content with anybody, especially when they get to playing at a high level. They showed the other night that they can score the basketball. When they become a lot stronger defensively, it is going to help them tremendously,” he pointed out, “I really like the team that they have this year.”
In another part of the discussion, he opened up about the 2022-23 squad of Fener. “Fenerbahce has a good coach and a well-built team as well. But it’s early. It’s a long season,” he said, “Right now they are winning and everybody is talking about them. It won’t be easy for Fenerbahce to continue playing at this level for the rest of the season.”
“It is EuroLeague and they will be playing against tough teams, especially come February and March. That’s when you really understand who has a legit chance to contend. Right now, I think it’s too early to make that call,” Gist continued on Fenerbahce and the season in general, “It’s about who is playing best at the right time. Right now, they are playing well but it’s not going to win them the championship.”
Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League