Will Thomas is a 31 year old 203 cm forward from Baltimore, Maryland playing his 10th professional season and second with Valencia Basket (Spain-ACB). Last season with Valencia he won the ACB title and averaged 6.7ppg, 4.3rpg, FGP: 57.5%, 3PT: 39.8%, FT: 92.3%. In the Eurocup, he played 23 games averaging 6.3ppg, 4.4rpg, FGP: 56.3%, 3PT: 23.9%, FT: 65.6%. He started his professional basketball career in 2008 with Belgacom Liege Basket (Belgium-D1) and on the Belgium Super Cup in 2009. He then played with Ostende and in the 2011-2012 season played with Army Sport Klub Tbilisi (Georgia-Superleague) with the Georgian league title in 2012. He then played the next two seasons with Pinar Karsiyaka SK Izmir (Turkey-TBL) and with Sidigas Avellino (Italy-SerieA). In 2014 after 6 professional seasons and at the age of 28 finally made the jump to the Spanish ACB playing two seasons for Unicaja Malaga (Spain-ACB). He played at George Mason from 2004-2008 playing a total of 131 NCAA games reaching the NCAA Final 4 in 2006. As a senior he played 34 games averaging 16.1ppg, 10.4rpg, 2.0apg, FGP: 64.2%, FT: 67.2%. Finished career ranked 1st all-time at Mason in games played (131), games started (118) and minutes played (4,144). Also ranks 1st all-time at Mason in field-goal percentage (.616) and 3rd all-time in the CAA as well as 3rd all-time in rebounding (993) and 6th all-time20in the CAA. He spoke to German Hoops before the Euroleague game against Brose Bamberg in Bamberg.
Will thanks for talking to German Hoops. Welcome back to Germany. In your long career you have played against German teams 15 times scoring in double figures in 8 of 15 games. Could you guess what your record is vs German teams?
It might be negative.
It is 8/7. Your over 500. What are your fondest memories of playing German teams? Possibly sweeping Alba Berlin last season in Europe Cup or BG Goettingen in the 2011-2012 Eurochallenge?
I remember that German teams have always been really good over the years. All the teams are always competitive and they play really well.
You are back in Bamberg. You split with them in the 15-16 Euroleague season. With Unicaja Malaga (Spain ACB). With what kind of feelings are you returning back to Bamberg and what memories do you have of then?
I remember the games against Bamberg as always being very tough. The atmosphere in Bamberg is great and their fans are unbelievable.
What do you know in general about the country Germany and it´s basketball? You played three years in Belgium early in your career. Did you ever come to visit and do you have friends playing here?
I had one friend who played in Germany years ago with Folaran Campbell. We were teammates at George Mason. When I was playing at Liege early in my career, I was in Germany almost every weekend in Cologne or Duesseldorf.
Your playing your second season for Valencia Basket (Spain ACB) and won your third professional title last season with the ACB title. What stood out most for you in being able to win this title?
Winning that title meant everything to me. Winning the ACB would mean a lot to any player. It is good for the resume and just stands out.
Does the club feel a lot of pressure defending the ACB title and having a good Euroleague season?
We plan on having a very good season in the ACB. We also plan on competing every night in the Euroleague and trying our best to win. We have new players and a new coach and we plan on taking it one game at a time.
Your playing with very many talented and experienced players that are stacked up front. What kind of role do you have and is it any different from last season?
My role isn´t any different from last season. I am doing what I have been doing my whole career which is rebounding, playing defense, bringing energy and scoring when I can. I want to continue to be a good teammate and help lead with my experience.
How thankful are you to be playing Euroleague again? Do you appreciate it more simply because you played your first game in your seventh season at age 28?
I am very thankful to be playing Euroleague again and am very grateful. When you look over Europe at how many players there are and there are only 16 Euroleague teams, you notice that only a select can play Euroleague. I am happy I can show my talent against the best.
You have been a consistent scorer and rebounder your whole professional career. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player to who would you pick?
I don´t know. I wouldn´t compare myself to anyone. When I was young, I was trying to be Michael Jordan, but that didn´t work out too well.
What kind of experience has it been playing with the talented veteran Bojan Dubljevic. How do you feel have you both profited from each other on and off the court?
I think that we compliment each other very well. He can space the floor like a stretch four and be a tough guy in the post. I do sort of the same. We bring a certain toughness to the front court that helps us win.
After six seasons as a professional having played in Belgium, Georgia and Turkey, you reached the ACB in 2014 joining Malaga. Do you feel like you developed later than others or did people just recognize your talent later?
It really depends on being on the right teams and getting the right exposure. Early in my career I played in Belgium and Georgia that weren´t top leagues, so top teams didn´t see you play. When you are playing in leagues that have less exposure, it´s hard to move up. You have to play Euroleague and Eurocup for top teams to see you play. Euroleague teams want experienced players. I had to wait my turn to reach the Euroleague.
You had some very good Euroleague games, but was your 20 point game win against Maccabii Tel Aviv one of your most memorable games?
I remember that game in Malaga. I got in the zone and there was nothing that they could do about it. It was a very nice memory.
You played two seasons with Mindaugas Kuzminskas who reached the NBA last season. Did you have a feeling in your two seasons with Malaga that he could make it there?
Yes I did for sure. He was still young then and was very talented. He might not have shown his talent as much in Europe, but he had a game that he could use in the NBA. There was more space and 1-1 opportunities in the NBA which suited his game. It didn´t surprise me when he signed in the NBA.
After playing in Belgium, Georgia and Turkey, you moved to Sidigas Avellino (Italy-SerieA) in the 2013-2014 season playing 30 games averaging 15.3ppg, 7.4rpg, 1.3apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 58.5%, 3PT: 41.5%, FT: 70.7%. Do you feel this was your real breakthrough season in a real top league?
I never have looked at it like that, but I guess it was. That got me to where I am today. Italy was considered one of the top leagues then and I worked myself up and showed what I could do. Some NBA Summer league teams took notice of me then as did top teams in Europe.
In the 2012-2013 season you played with Pinar Karsiyaka SK Izmir (Turkey-TBL) playing 30 games averaging 11.2ppg, 4.8rpg, 1.2apg, FGP: 56.7%, 3PT: 19.0%, FT: 67.5%; In the EuroChallenge, you played 17 games averaging 14.3ppg, 7.4rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 58.3%, 3PT: 26.1%, FT: 72.2%. What memories do you have playing in Turkey in a league that was slowly developing into one of the top 5 in Europe?
I really didn´t know what to expect when I came to Turkey, but after a few months I really could see how competitive the league was. The style was slower than other places, but there were good players there, the league was well organized and was good coaching. Every game was a battle there. You had to play very well 90% of the season to make the playoffs. I knew then that Turkey would become a top league in a short time.
In the 2011-2012 season you played with Army Sport Klub Tbilisi (Georgia-Superleague) winning the league title playing 6 EuroChallenge games averaging 15.0ppg, 11.3rpg, 1.5apg, 1.5spg, FGP: 50.7%, 3PT: 21.4%, FT: 68.4%; In the Georgian League, you played 25 games averaging 16.5ppg, 7.4rpg, 1.9apg, FGP: 60.4%, 3PT: 27.6%, FT: 71.4%. How much of a privilege was it playing briefly with NBA player Sundiate Gaines who was there because of the NBA lockout?
He was a really good point guard. He really understood the game and knew how to get everyone involved in the offense and played very good defense. He wasn´t there long, but he helped me get off to a good start.
You played in Belgium with Ostende and in Spain with Malaga with American power forward Caleb Green. How vital was his presence for your game over the years?
He was a great guy and great teammate. We played against each other in Belgium and Italy and were teammates in Belgium and Spain. We played the same position and there was a mutual respect for each other. We battled each day against each other in practice. We made each other better and we also played together at the same time on the court an we played well together, because we knew each other so well from our daily battles in practice.
You played your first two seasons with Belgacom Liege Basket (Belgium-D1). What was your wake up call to being a rookie in Europe where you knew that you were very far away from home in Baltimore?
I had a lot of them, but they were off the court. On the court basketball is basketball. You shoot, pass and run up and down the court. The basketball part wasn´t much of an adjustment. Off the court, I had to learn to adjust to everything. I had to learn how to cook and drive a stick. In college you were never far from home so if you needed something from home your parents would bring it. It was also tough talking to people on the phone, but not seeing them for 3-4 months.
You have won three professional titles, but how special was winning the 2009 Supercup with Belgacom Liege Basket (Belgium-D1). What memories do you have of it?
That was so early in my career. I didn´t know at that point how important the cup competition is in Europe. No one expected us to win. We were a very young team and we beat the defending champs. It was great starting the season like that winning a title. Our season then really took off for us.
After playing at George Mason(NCAA) you took part at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament (Pre-NBA Draft): averaging 17.0ppg, 7.3rpg, 1.7apg, FGP: 64.7%, FT: 58.3%. You also played with the Washington Wizards NBA Summer league team. Are you disappointed that after your good showing at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament that you didn´t get more of a look from NBA teams?
I came out of college undersized. There was little interest. But then I had a good showing at the Portsmouth Invitational tournament. I showed there that I had a lot of talent. I got interest from European teams and some from Asia. I had no agent at that time. I remember that if you had one good game, then there would be hundreds of agents wanting to talk to you after the game with each one flinging their business card at you. It was crazy. I tried out for the Washington Wizards Summer League team, but got cut after 4-5 days.
You played at George Mason(NCAA) from 2004-2008. You reached the NCAA final 4 in 2006. What made the run so special? The club had no future NBA players, but how vital were Tony Skinn and Folaran Campbell?
We had a great run in 2006 at the tournament. No one expected to go that far. We just went out and had fun. We lost in the Final 4 to Florida who would win it all. It was a very tough game. I remember playing in Indianapolis in front of 65,000-70,000 people. I had never played in front of so many people. I´ll never forget that.
How did head coach Jim Larranaga groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
He didn´t really prepare me for a professional career. I think that if you never experienced how it is in Europe then you can´t really prepare someone for it. Coach prepared me for college to be the best that I could be. He knew I was smart enough to learn to become a professional player.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Darryl Monroe?
We never played then. I would win today. I would kill him.
Who was the toughest player that you battled in the NCAA that is in the NBA now?
I would say Michael Beasley. He was a very tough guard. He had an NBA game already in college. He could do it all. There was a reason why he was the #2 overall pick in the NBA draft.
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you chose?
Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Lebron James
Lebron James failed to win his fourth NBA title and is still three away from Michael Jordan. Where does Lebron stand right now in your opinion in the never ending debate of who is the best of all-time?
Jordan is the best. He is the best because of the way he always was able to perform in the moment. Lebron shrunk too much in the moment.
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?
I believe it´s not a fair assessment of the player Russell Westbrook. He always tries to do the most for his team to win.
How do you summarize the 2017 NBA Draft. What sleepers do you see playing a role in the NBA?
I like Jayson Tatum and Kyle Kuzma
Where will the journey of the Houston Rockets go this season with Chris Paul and James Harden in the back court. Do they have enough to make a serious run at the title or is something missing?
I don´t think so. They have pretty much the same team from last season adding Chris Paul. Nobody can beat the Golden State Warriors.
How do you rate the Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas trade? Who got the better deal and which team will profit better in the long run?
Right now the Celtics. I think that the Cavs will turn it on at some point of the season. The Cavs won´t win the NBA title, but beat the Celtics in the Eastern Conference title.
Where will the journey of the Oklahoma Thunder go this season with Westbrook, George and Anthony? Can they make a serious run in the west?
They can´t get past the Golden State Warriors. None of the stars on that team have been in a final except Westbrook.
What was the last movie that you saw?
John Wick 2.
Thanks Will for the chat.