TJ DiLeo is a 26 year old 190cm guard playing his fourth professional season and first with the Telekom Baskets Bonn (Germany-BBL). He played the first three professional seasons with the Giessen 46ers playing 76 Pro A games from 2013-2015 and helping the team move to the BBL in 2015. Last season for GHiessen he played 19 games averaging 5.7ppg, 2.4rpg, 2.3apg, FGP: 38.7%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 73.3%. . 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 before the Fiba Europe Cup game against Nanterre in Bonn.
TJ congrats on the 77-76 win against Nanterre in the Fiba Europe Cup competition. How did this win really feel considering your only half way to the Fiba Europe Cup top 4?
I think this win was really good for us mentally. We realize that we still have the second leg to play, but our goal was to go to Nanterre and get a win. Nanterre is a strong team that has played very well at home, so we are happy to be heading back to Bonn next week with a one point advantage.
Nanterre were in front for the most part of the first half, but shortly before the break you took the lead and would hang on to the end. How nerve-wracking was the second half for you personally?
It wasn’t too bad. During the game you forget about the nerves. Also, I knew we have some guys that really step up in important late game situations, so I had confidence.
When looking at the team stats, they couldn´t have been more even. Nanterre did have 4 turnovers more. Do you feel like you would have lost the game if they would have had those extra possessions?
In such a close game you can point to a lot of different things that could have changed the outcome. Yes, I guess the extra possessions could have helped them, but that is part of the way we play. We want to play aggressive defense and force turnovers.
You have been in Germany for 4 years now and played against German national player Heiko Schaffartzik for the first time who played in Giessen as a kid 12 years ago. He only scored 9 points and had a below average shooting night, but how dangerous was his presence on the floor whenever Nanterre was on offense?
Heiko is a great player. He’s a great shooter that can make really tough shots. He has good court vision, and can really pass the ball too. It will be important to try and control him in the second game.
You started the game for the injured Ryan Thompson. When did you know that you would be starting and how did you mentally get ready on game day in Nantere, France?
I found out the morning of game day. I didn’t think about it much. I just approached it like any other game, and knew I just had to go out there and play my game.
You played 32 minutes which was the most since you logged 31 minutes against Mons Hainaut this season and 32 minutes against Wurzburg last season. You scored 10 points on 4/6 shooting dished out four assists, grabbed two rebounds and had two steals. You also had very good shot selection. Was this performance by you another example that you can play with the best in Europe?
Thank you. I’m just happy that we came out with the win, and I was able to contribute in my minutes. I feel comfortable with my team and my role so it has been easier for me to go out and play, no matter the opponent.
The Telekom Baskets Bonn now have the home court advantage against Nanterre. How confident is the club that it will advance to the Fiba Europe Cup Top 4 and what will be key to making it there?
We like the position we are in, heading home with an advantage, but we definitely are not looking ahead. The lead is only one point, so simply stated, next game is a must win. We know how dangerous Nanterre can be, and we saw what they did in the second leg last round. The key will be to control their shooters and execute offensively.
The Telekom Baskets Bonn are having a very good season and back on track to reaching the playoffs which they missed last season only the second time in 20 years. What has been the secret of the coaching style of Predrag Krunic that has allowed the team to perform so well under him?
I think Coach gets us to go out each game and play hard, play aggressive, and attack. When you start with that, things generally tend to go in your favor. He also has a good relationship with all of his players, and we know what is expected of us on the court individually each game.
The Telekom Baskets Bonn achieved a good team chemistry early despite having added many new pieces. Is this a club that genuinely has the right bunch of character guys that have sacrificed team before self?
Yes, I think you are 100% right with that. We not only have great players, but great people on this team. We have a lot of guys that have been around Europe for a number of years now, many having played on very successful teams. So the guys all have good attitudes, and know the sacrifices it requires to be a successful team.
One never really wants to talk about one guy, but how much did the Ryan Thompson situation of coming back from a serious injury and finding back to his old self infect the team to becoming a unit and being able to play hard and well consistently?
Ryan has been really important for us. He’s one of our vocal leaders. He can do everything on the floor, and has been especially important in attacking the basket and making plays for himself and others.
In your 4 years as a professional you went from 29 minutes to 30 minutes to 21 minutes with the Giessen 46ers and this season averaging only 14 minutes. How tough of an adjustment has it been having a more limited role with Bonn this season?
It hasn’t been too tough actually. We’ve had team success so far this season, and I’m happy that I’ve been able to contribute. Also, we’ve got one of the best starting backcourts in the league with Ryan and Josh Mayo. I just try to come in and do my job knowing that some games it will be more minutes than others.
How tough is it in general to put up solid consistent stats when you are surrounded by a team of many scorers? Is focusing on making the right play on every possession a big key in your game this season?
I don’t worry about the stats really. Yes, like you said, I just focus on making the right plays when I’m out there. I’ve been playing more point guard this year than I have at any time in my professional career, so a big focus of mine has been controlling the game, and leading the team. It’s been nice because we have so many weapons out there on the court, and that makes it easier. A big focus of mine has been to try and read the situations. I try to know what plays have been working, know when its time to get different guys touches on offense, and also know when its time for me to be a playmaker.
You have always been a team player, but how do you feel has your game developed this season in Bonn where you surrounded by more talent than you were with Giessen?
I think we had quite a lot of talent on the Giessen team last year. The majority of the players moved on to some of the better teams in Europe this season, and we know how well Cam Wells and Benni Lischka have been playing for Giessen this year. So I wouldn’t say its talent differential that has made my game develop, but more the fact that I’ve been playing Point Guard. It has helped my game to have the ball in my hands more and play a lot of pick and roll, because I feel that’s my strength. It has also helped me to realize that my true position is probably a little more of a point guard than a shooting guard.
A big strength in your game is your defense. How has playing daily against guys like Josh Mayo, Ryan Thompson and Yorman Polas helped you mature further on the defensive end?
It has helped. They all have different types of offensive games, so it has been good for me to guard different styles in practice.
Your ex coach Denis Wucherer will coach the Giessen 46ers until the end of this season and then go elsewhere. What is your gut feeling of where he will go? Do you see him staying in Germany or going to another country?
I don’t really have a gut feeling, although I would love to see him stay in Germany. I just know that any team that hires him will be extremely fortunate because Denis will do great things wherever he is at. He’s got a great eye for talent, really knows the game, and players love him.
Klay Thompson recently hit 60 points in 29 minutes touching the ball for only 90 seconds. Where does this performance rank with you?
It would have been nice to see what would happen if he had played more minutes. I guess I would have to rank this as the hottest shooting night a player has ever had.
One always talks about Lebron and Curry, but one has to mention Russell Westbrook. He is averaging triple double stats at the moment. Is he stat wise the best player in the world right now?
Stat wise, I think you can make that argument for sure. I’m just not ready to say someone other than Lebron is the best player in the world right now.
Draymond Greene recently had a triple double without scoring 10 points or more. Why do you believe has it taken long for someone to do this?
It has taken so long because it is really hard to get 10 steals (or blocks) in an NBA game.
How special was the run of South Carolina at the 2017 NCAA tournament? Do you feel like this was the story of March Madness 2017`?
The run has been great, and it is awesome to see things like this happen every March. I’m really happy that this run has changed the perception of Frank Martin a little bit. The guy can really coach, and I’ve heard his players love him. So its nice to see that the more focused media attention has led to people realizing that he’s not the crazy-screaming coach that he was portrayed as for many years, but rather a guy that truly wants the best for his players.
Is Lonzo Ball the real thing? Do you feel like he will be able to develop further despite the antics of his father on social media?
I think Lonzo Ball can be a really good player. His shot is a bit unorthodox, but it goes in. He’s got really good court vision, and a feel for the game. Those things are the making of a good point guard in the NBA. I know a lot of people are sick of his dad’s antics, but I think he is just doing what he thinks is best for his son’s brand. I actually think it is kind of cool to see a father so confident in his son, and so invested in his journey from college to NBA. If Lonzo is ok with it, who am I to judge? But he isn’t beating MJ one on one.
There has been criticism of Russell Westbrook to be focusing more on rebounding to help inflate his stats and possibilities of getting triple doubles instead of focusing on his defensive assignments. Do you feel that this is a fair assessment to the player Russell Westbrook?
Going to quote my college coach Fran Dunphy here. “I’ve coached players that shoot too much, players that dribble too much, and even players that pass too much. But I’ve never coached a player that rebounds too much.”
What was the last movie that you saw?
Thanks TJ for the chat.