TJ DiLeo is a 23 year old 190cm guard from New Jersey that also has the German citizenship is a rookie playing for the Giessen 46ers this season. He played at Temple from 2008-2013 playing a total of 126 NCAA games. In 2010, he played for the German U20 National Team in 2010 and played for the European Championships U20 in Croatia playing 9 games: 10.7ppg, 2.9rpg, 1.8apg, 1.1spg, FGP. He spoke to German Hoops about basketball.
TJ thanks for talking to eurobasket.com. Congrats on the 75-74 win in game one against Science City Jena. How was it playing in your first playoff game as a professional? You played in many big NCAA games, but how does Pro a basketball playoff time feel?
This was an awesome first game to have. This is the first time that I have played in a series. In the NCAA it was always just a game that was important. The atmosphere and fans were great. Science City Jena is a great team that you can never count out.
It was a very interesting game and game of two halves. Giessen dominated in the first half, while Science City Jena fought back in the second half and lost the game on the last possession. Talk a little about the 40 minutes.
We were awaiting a surprise from Jena and they played a zone challenging us to hit shots. We rans our plays and got in a flow. In the past when we played against zone and didn´t hit shots, we would panic and struggle. However Steven Bennett started to hit shots early which got us going and we all fed off that. In the third quarter, Jena mixed up their defense which we kind of expected and did a lot of trapping which has worked all year for them and it worked against us. We weren´t as poised with the ball. In the fourth quarter I remember joking with Thierno Agne telling him how he hit his first three pointer of the game at the most important time. We kept our composure at the end, made plays and came out with the win.
TJ let us talk about your season. You got off to a slow start, but you have found your rhythm in the second half. How happy have you been with your rookie season?
I feel more comfortable now than at the start. My goal is always to guard the other teams best player and be a good team player on offense. I like the style in the German Pro A as there is more spacing. Players read the pick and role very much better in Europe and it is all about making the right decision and knowing what to do then. If you watch Euroleague, you see players making the right decision on the pick and role and then its over.
How important has Giessen head coach Dennis Wucherer been for your development as a rookie. What is the most important thing that you have learned from him this season?
I have learned from him that he demands toughness from his players. He was a tough player and expects that from his players. He wants you too always make the right decision. I played for him for the German U-20 team and I feel very comfortable playing for him. He is a players coach and knows what us players go through. The whole team has connected with him.
What is a hidden strength in your game that doesn´t get noticed right away?
I think my ability to anticipate. I am able to get in passing lanes, picking off easy passing and making deflections.
Your teammate Myles Hesson once made 7 dunks in a game and you see him dunk each day. In game one he made a nice ally-op dunk. In Frankfurt we call Quantez Robertson a freak athletic player. Would you describe Hesson like that also?
Yes Myles is freaky athletic. We just throw up the ball and he always gets it up on the rim. The defenders usually know it and try to get up with him with their body. His best dunk was against Paderborn. He got an inbounds pass thrown up at the rim and he dunked over a Paderborn player. We know in practice not to get up and jump up to him and challenge him.
What is your goal as a player. Would you like to have a long career in Germany or explore your options in the future?
My goal is too move up a level. I already signed on for next season with Giessen. I talked with coach and he thought it be better that I stay one more year and develop further and then be ready. I feel very comfortable in Germany and plan to take German classes next year. I understand it pretty well. I want to get even more aggressive on offense. Sometimes I tend not to be as aggressive as I would like to be. I feel I get passive at times. I like to create for others as myself.
Steven Bennett is another guy that could move up a level. How impressed have you been with his development this season?
He is like a bull dog and is such a competitor. He always wants to win. He is taking more big games now and I feel he has really developed well in the last 7-8 games.
You played at Temple(NCAA) with ex Fraport Skyliner Ryan Brooks. What is your fondest memory with him on the court?
I see him a lot in the summer and we work out together in Philadelphia. He is such a competitor. When I was a freshman, I was injured and he was a junior. I remember we played Arizona State and he pretty much shut down James Harden. He held him to like nine points. he only had 4-5 points near the end until Harden made a three pointer. He did a really great job on harden. We lost the game to Arizona State.
Who was the best player that you played against in the NCAA that is in the NBA now?
There are many players that I played against in my time at Temple. As a freshman I played against Kansas and Thomas Robinson. In my second year I played against Kawhi Leonard. As a junior I played against Austin Rivers and Ben Mcelmore and as a senior against Michael Carter Williams.
What do you like most about Germany?
I think that there is no real transition here. It is all so Americanized. I have friends playing in other countries where the culture is so much different and harder to get used to.
Who will reach the 2014 NCAA final and win it?
I have UConn vs Kentucky with UConn winning it.
What was the last DVD movie that you saw?
All my American teammates went to see Captain America and I saw A long way down in German.
Thanks TJ for the chat.