By Semih Tuna / firstname.lastname@example.org
On a market starving for point guards, Darius Thompson emerged as one of the top free agents in Europe, getting one of the top contracts in the EuroLeague.
Anadolu Efes considered him the best possible replacement for Vasilije Micic, however Thompson himself, while speaking to Eurohoops, presented his own goals and ambitions with his new clubs.
And of course, when you are moving to the former back-t0-back champions, then you obviously aim for the top.
Q: You were in the Netherlands five years ago. Now, you are in a team that has won two straight titles. Does it make you proud that you are in this stage of your career?
A: I think it just shows that wherever you start, you just have to work hard. Anything can happen after that.
Q: You’ve been one of the best talents in Europe for a while now. For a talent like you, transferring to EuroLeague took more time than expected. What do you think is the reason for that?
A: After my second or third season, I felt like I was ready to be in the EuroLeague. Maybe the teams weren’t convinced, owners weren’t convinced, I don’t know. I thought I was able to play. I think I did pretty well while playing against some EuroLeague teams. But who knows? Everybody has their right moment. Maybe it wasn’t the right time for me. I just had to continue to work my way up the ladder. Going from FIBA Europe Cup to Champions League, to EuroCup, to EuroLeague… I think Europe made me work from the bottom to the top.
Q: This summer, you’ve been linked to every team that lacks a player in the point guard position. You were one of the most popular names in the transfer market. How does it feel to have interest from almost every top team in Europe?
A: It feels good. I think it shows that I had a pretty good season, so the teams want me, I’m valuable. This not being only one team but all of the differences is good.
Q: You will be playing with high-quality players such as Shane Larkin, and Will Clyburn in a team that has so many expectations. Can you say that this is the biggest challenge so far in your career?
A: I just try to go on and be myself every day. I don’t look too much into it. We have a talented team. Some of the top players in the EuroLeague in the past five or six years are here. The team has players who won the championship. It is a good opportunity to go out there and compete together. Hopefully, we can balance all the talent, and come to the same goals of competing every day and getting the best out of us. Then, we will have a chance to be pretty good.
Q: There were some rumors about some NBA teams having an interest in you. Were there any serious offers?
A: There was interest, but it wasn’t the perfect situation. It was just better for me to stay in Europe.
A: There were interests and offers from many different teams across the EuroLeague. But when the Efes situation happened, it was just a great opportunity for me. Also, when I looked at other players who have gone from Baskonia to different teams, I tried to follow those who were the ones who did good, how they did there, etc. To see players like Tibor, Larkin, Beaubois… All these guys came from Baskonia. When they came to Efes, they continued to grow. For me, the biggest thing was to continue to grow, continue to develop, and be myself. I think Efes was a great situation for me. Similar to the Baskonia style, they could allow me to continue to be myself.
Q: You replaced one of the great players in Europe, Vasilije Micic. Does it kind of add pressure, or extra motivation source for you?
A: I don’t look at it as pressure because I don’t look at the situation as me replacing him. He played for a different coach, he had a different style of play, and there were different systems. We are different players. So, I don’t think it is me trying to be him in a way. I’m going to be myself. He was a great player. I loved his game, I loved watching him. But I think we bring two different things to the table. I just want to be the best for my team and get all my teammates involved. Like you said, we have a lot of talent. I want to help these kinds of players to show even more of themselves. Or from the guys who you don’t expect to see much of, maybe they do better than they did before. Me as a playmaker, I want to get everybody involved and bring out the best in all my teammates.
Q: Markus Howard in Baskonia, Shane Larkin in here… Two similar players as far as scoring the ball. What are the similarities and differences between those two names? Do you think that this situation will help you and Larkin adapt to each other quicker than expected?
A: Both of those guards are electric scoring guards. They are probably two of the hardest guys to guard in the EuroLeague. Being so short but being able to make those shots, create, make plays out of nowhere… They are two of the top guys for sure. It is good that I played with Markus. Now, adjusting to playing with Shane is a little bit easier because I’m used to playing with this style. It is a good situation to transfer from Markus being my partner to now playing with Shane. I think it will help a lot.
Q: You played with Derek Willis a couple of years ago. Him being here makes the adaption process even easier I guess?
A: For sure. When you know a guy that you’ve played with, you are comfortable with, it makes it a lot easier. When I first signed here and he found out, he immediately reached out to me and said ‘Man, I’m really excited to have you here’. Knowing that and having a guy that you are already comfortable with makes the situation a lot easier. Also, our families already having a bond together makes everything a lot easier too.
Q: There was a lot of drama this summer about nationalized players. You could be in Italy too for the World Cup, but there were problems with the documents as far as the public knows. What’s your perspective on naturalized players?
A: This is a situation where it is hard to say anything. Some countries can hate the situation, and some countries are small, they might need someone out there. I don’t really like voicing my opinion about it. Everybody has their own thoughts. Whatever happens… If you are against it, I think it is okay; if you like it, that’s okay too.
Q: There are a lot of new faces in Efes. What do you think about the new environment here?
A: I’m enjoying it so far. It has been great. The guys have been great, the team, the coaches, everybody have been great. I’m still trying to adjust to Istanbul because we’ve only been here for five or six days. Our preseason has been away. We’ve been in Slovenia, we’ve been in Italy for almost two weeks. I was telling someone earlier, that maybe Italy feels more like home than Istanbul now. We are here for a few days, getting more comfortable with the situation, trying to go around and see everything, see the environment, and slowly getting adjusted to Istanbul.