Interview: Kemal Rutkay Özcan, TrendBasket


In the fifteenth match day of Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, Anadolu Efes hosted Real Madrid in a highly important encounter. Before the game, we did an exclusive interview via email, with Madrid’s star forward Anthony Randolph.

Lots of teams showed interest to you after a great season in Kuban, including Barcelona. Why did you choose Real Madrid? Did you receive any offers from NBA teams during the summer?

I chose Madrid because I thought it was the best fit to compete for the championship and get back to the Final Four. Considering I’ve been to the Final Four in my first year playing in the EuroLeague, it was an important decision for me. They have a lot of great players, great coach and staff. I thought it would be the best fit for me. I had offers from the NBA teams but I felt like it was the best decision for me to come and continue to develop my game. We’ll see what happens after the season.

Kemal Rutkay Özcan/TrendBasket

Kemal Rutkay Özcan/TrendBasket

You were together with Dontaye Draper last year in Kuban, and he had already played in Real Madrid before. How is your relationship with him, and did he help you during the adaptation period?

My relationship with Draper is great. He’s been huge for me in my transition period, coming from the NBA. Him and other people around me helped me with this transition. It hasn’t changed here in Madrid. Just like in Kuban, Draper is someone I can talk to. When I have problems and I didn’t understand anything, he always gives me his honest opinion.

Last year you were the key player of Kuban, but now you are a part of a bigger team, and your responsibilities are a little bit different. What were Coach Laso’s expectations from you during your adaptation period?

Just after coming in, Coach just told me what I have to do to try to help the team win. I think that is the main goal.

You are competing with lots of strong teams in EuroLeague organization. Would you please compare these situations in the context of pressure on the players: Being an underdog and “trying” to reach the Final Four and -like in Real Madrid- going into the Final Four no matter what.

It’s all the same to me. I personally enjoy the pressure, so that’s not a bad thing. Everybody in here has a target on their backs. You’re expected to make the Final Four. And this is the goal I put on myself from day 1. I made my decision to come here, so pressure is something that I will handle.

Lots of players are complaining about the fixture of EuroLeague. What do you think about the new format and the fixture?

I like it. There are no complaints like a team not playing against another team. Being in the play-offs or in the Final Four will be really deserving. The fixture also means a better basketball.

Can Keyder/TrendBasket

Can Keyder/TrendBasket

Evolution of the basketball in the NBA and Europe changed the responsibilities of the big men on the court. Now you have to play more with the ball and create more opportunities to your teammates. You are a player who can adapt to this kind of game with great athleticism and fundamental. Does Coach Laso give you a more different role than other bigs?

No, it’s all the same. I think we have a lot of great players; everybody can do a little bit of everything. So, everybody’s role is pretty much the same. Everybody is doing what they have, setting up guys, setting screens and trying to make the right plays without turning the ball over.

You’ve played in the NBA and EuroLeague. What is the difference between these two important organizations?

NBA is, as you know, one of the best leagues in the world. They have great, great athletes, great coaches. Atmosphere is amazing. EuroLeague is also amazing. Fans come to the game and support their teams. It’s pretty amazing to see.

Kemal Rutkay Özcan/TrendBasket

Kemal Rutkay Özcan/TrendBasket

What do you want to say about your outstanding block against Dorsey? It was a difficult position, and there was a risk to be injured. How did you feel during and after the position, and of course when you see it on television?

After seeing the video and the reaction I got, I figured it was an amazing block. You cannot think about an injury during the game. It was just something that I saw happening in less than a second. I reacted and it worked out for me. I think that is one of the plays I probably remember, once I retired.

What do you want to say about your team’s youngster Luka Dončić?

I got only one word for him: AMAZING.

Kemal Rutkay Özcan

İletişim: kemalrutkayozcan@gmail.com Twitter: krutkayozcan

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