Interview: Barış Cevahir
Editing: Kemal Rutkay Özcan
Defending Spanish League champion Valencia Basket traveled to Turkey to go up against defending Turkish League and Turkish Airlines EuroLeague champion, Fenerbahçe Doğuş, on the fifth matchday of EuroLeague. Before the game, Valencia’s German big man Tibor Pleiß gave an exclusive interview to TrendBasket.
First of all, welcome to Turkey. How does it feel to be here again?
It’s really good. I really like Turkey, especially İstanbul, so this is kind of a special situation for me. Of course, tomorrow will be tough. I lost some games here and I hope we’ll win tomorrow.
Last year, you were here, playing for Galatasaray Odeabank. It wasn’t really a good season for anyone… How do you remember your experience in İstanbul?
From my personal perspective, I think I had a good season but team-wise we had a lot of problems from the beginning and we have problems on point guard position. That cost us a lot of wins during the season. For me, I had a good time but of course, I wish we could give something back to the fans because they gave us a lot energy.
What can you say about your experience with the coach, Ergin Ataman?
He gave me the freedom to do some new stuff on the court, like letting me shoot. He gave me a lot of plays where I can score. So it was good for me to get better at some things.
In the last few years, you have played for different teams and different coaches each year. Do you think this creates a challenge for you to adapt to a new coach’s system every year? Or does it give a broader basketball perspective?
I think I learned new things from every team and every coach and all these situations made me the player I am right now; not only as a player, but also as a person. I’ve played in so many different countries, cultures, places, style of basketball. I’m really thankful for these opportunities.
You’re playing for Valencia now. How’s your experience here so far? What do you feel about the team you guys have?
Our team is a fighting team. All of us give everything on the court. Nobody gives up, if the other team is up by a few points. This makes our team really special. In general, we have a really good team and chemistry. I think this is why we’re on a good run right now.
You have played in Spain before under Baskonia and Barcelona jerseys. Since those days, a lot of things have changed in Spanish basketball and now, the country has five EuroLeague teams. What would you say about Spanish basketball?
Of course, they have some new rules now but I’d say Spanish basketball is really, really good. Even the lower level teams are still good enough to beat the top teams. Quality of players and basketball is really high.
You guys started off the season very well: one loss in the league and one loss in the EuroLeague. Did you expect this kind of start as a team?
It’s always tough to expect something because we have a lot of players who have played for Spanish National Team this summer so they joined the team a little bit later. We got together as a whole team right before the season started. I didn’t really expect something but I was sure that every players gave their best in preseason. That’s a good quality.
Valencia managed to keep its important players from last season and became one of the darkhorses of the EuroLeague. How’s the team’s approach to this? Do you already think about May?
It’s tough to say right now. Valencia played in EuroCup last year and plays in EuroLeague now. And EuroLeague has the best teams in Europe. It’s always tough to say where we’ll be in a few weeks or months. I think we cannot say Final Four is easy for us but I’m sure that we will fight.
What about this week? You’re going to play against Fenerbahçe Doğuş and you’re the only player in the team who knows so much about them. What would you like to say about Fenerbahçe and tomorrow’s game?
Fenerbahçe is a tough team. They won the EuroLeague last year, have one of the best coaches in Europe. It’s always tough to win here because the crowd is crazy and all the players are really motivated here. But we didn’t come here to lose. I hope it will be a great game.
What about you? Your matchups are Jan Vesely and Jason Thompson. What are your thoughts about this one-on-one matchups?
It’s tough to say right now. I’ve played against Vesely many times and I respect him as a player. He’s a really good player. We’ll see what’s going on tomorrow.
What are your career and future plans?
I don’t think so much about the future. I try to stay in the present moment and be concentrated on each game.
How can you describe coach Vidorreta?
He’s really good. He knows how to bring the team together. He’s relaxed after a loss and really good at motivating us for the next games. He’s professional. The communication between the players and the coaches are good as well.
Pleiß also revealed his preferences in our segment called “This or That”. You can check it out below.