TB EXCLUSIVE | Sympathetic and Outspoken: Nigel Hayes #EuroLeague

Nigel Hayes, who carried his success to the EuroLeague arena with his great performance in Galatasaray Doga Sigorta last season, continues to enjoy this game with Zalgiris jersey in Lithuania.

We met with Nigel Hayes at the hotel where Zalgiris team stayed in Istanbul on evening when the cold days of autumn started. Also talked about his social responsibility projects in Wisconsin, his new life and the social media problem. Let’s give the floor to Nigel, who is sympathetic and outspoken.

  • Interview: Baris Cevahir
  • Translation and Editing: Baris Cevahir – Kemal Rutkay Ozcan

Welcome back. How does it feel coming back?

“It’s okay. It’s familiar. I did a good job learning the language so it’s different from when I first came here. In the first time, everything looked different, ridiculous to me. I couldn’t read anything. Coming back, I can understand signs, billboards; I can speak to the people. I was telling some of the guys on the team about the places around Istanbul that I’ve been in, things I’ve done and how fun it is [to be here] and how nice the people are. It’s nice to be back.”

How is your new life in Lithuania? As we know, you were able to speak Turkish in your first day here. Did you learn any Lithuanian during your adaptation process?

“Yeah, I did. It’s a lot colder in Lithuania. And Lithuanian is harder than Turkish so I’ve gotten a tutor and started classes to learn the language. So, I’m doing pretty good with that. Kaunas is the exact opposite of Istanbul. Istanbul has like 20 million people, maybe more. There is like 200.000 people in Kaunas, maybe. It’s super small but that’s alright. Great team, great staff, great coaches, teammates are great, facilities and everything is good. I’m just enjoying basketball and the next step in the journey.”

In Turkey, you showed a very quick improvement with Coach Ertuğrul Erdoğan. We know that he can work with talented guys and his players – like yourself – can move to bigger leagues quickly. How was working with him?

“It’s great, I love him. I love him a lot. I told him how great he was. He’s a great coach. He knows exactly what he’s talking about. He’s always right. As a player, you would think, ‘Ah, the coach is always right’. And he is. Now that I am a year ahead of where he was at, I can just look back at the conversations we’ve had, some of the things he was saying and see where he was right. And then also, I think he has coached Saras, that’s what he said. Listening to my new coach talk, I can hear some of the things that he used to say in the same way. He did a great job helping me prepare me to be better.”

Your new coach, Saras Jasikevicius, is a legend. And we know that he’s also known for developing players. Can we say that under Jasikevicius, you’re going to the NBA?

“That’s the goal. Going to the NBA is what a lot of guys are doing and I know what I’m doing is to try the same but you should use the talent given. You know, this is a business we’re playing in. Coaches pick the players that can help them win and players pick coaches that can help them get better and go to where they want to. It’s a good exchange. Like I said, Coach Ertuğrul was fantastic. I definitely appreciate him and only have good things to say about him. Now [I’m] with Coach Saras, again, another great coach. He has all the respect. He’s truly good, in the same way Ertugrul was at picking out the fine details and making sure you do all the small things right. That’s what makes you a great player overall. Any great player you look at, whether in the NBA or EuroLeague, they’re always good at fundamentals and doing all the right details. And this is what both these coaches preach. So, like you said, the plan is to come here and exchange my talents and at the same time he exchanges his to help me get better and carry on my basketball career journey, wherever it goes.”

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TB EXCLUSIVE | Sympathetic and Outspoken: Nigel Hayes #EuroLeague


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