Mike Tobey is a 23 year old 213cm center from Monroe, New York playing his second professional season and first with Iberostar Tenerife CB Canarias (Spain-ACB). Last season as a rookie he played with the Charlotte Hornets (NBA) playing 2 games averaging 1.0ppg, 1.5rpg, He also played also at Greensboro Swarm (D-League) playing 35 games: averaging 2.0ppg, 9.0rpg, 1.0apg, 1.3bpg, FGP: 58.1%, 3PT: 19.6%, FT: 72.9%, in Mar.’17 moved to Valencia Basket (Spain-ACB) playing 3 games averaging 5.3ppg, 4.7rpg: He played at Virginia(NCAA) from 2012-2016 playing a total of 136 games and as a senior played 35 games averaging 7.2ppg, 4.4rpg, FGP: 61.7%, 3PT: 22.2%, FT: 61.7%. He spoke to German Hoops before the Basketball Champions League game against the MHP Riesen in Ludwigsburg.
Mike thanks for talking to German Hoops. Welcome to Germany. Is this your first time in Germany? What do you know in general about the country Germany and its basketball?
This is my first time in Germany. I have only heard good things about Germany from teammates and former teammates. My ex teammate Luke Sikma is playing here at the moment with Alba Berlin.
Before we really get into the basketball interview who has the nicer campus Avon Old Farms school or Hotchkiss? Did you ever play Avon in basketball in your one season there and what memories do you have?
Wow that was a long time ago. I will have to go with Hotchkiss, but I was only there one year. I have no memory, but I am sure we played them. There are so many beautiful campuses in Connecticut.
After playing in the NBA, D-league and ACB last season how confident are you that you won´t be bouncing around as much this season in your second professional season?
I am confident that I will stay the whole season with Tenerife. That is my plan.
Your playing your first season with Iberostar Tenerife CB Canarias(ACB). AS a guy coming from the cold New York winters how close to paradise has your new home been in December?
It has been amazing. There is so nice weather there it´s unbelievable and it´s all year round. Wearing sweat pants and a tee shirt is a cold day there.
Iberostar Tenerife CB Canarias is playing up and down in the ACB, but are at the top of their group in the Basketball Champions League. What has been the secret for having more success in the international club play?
I don´t really know. We have been playing better recently in the ACB and want to continue to do so.
You battle the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg who are clashing you with the top spot and belong to the top teams in Germany. What kind of game can we await and what will be key to getting the victory?
This is a big game. We beat them at our place. They play a unique style with their pressing the entire game. We have to take care of the ball and match their energy.
Your playing with two ex BBL players with Tim Abromaitis and Davin White. is Abromaitis possibly the guy with the best IQ on the team and is White still playing with a chip on his shoulder after toiling many years in Mexico before making the jump to Germany in 2012 and then reaching the ACB?
Tim has a great basketball IQ and has been shooting the ball really well recently. White is a very tough player and still has a chip on his shoulder. He has been clutch in the fourth quarter of games.
Let´s talk about your game. You’re a 213cm center that never averaged in double figures in scoring at Virginia, but did it last season with the Greensboro Swarm (D-League). Do you feel like you can always be that scorer if put into the right situation?
Yes I think. I feel that being able to score the ball is a strength of mine. I will keep working hard to get better
You’re a guy that can haul down rebounds with ease, but also set the tone in the paint on the defensive end. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player right now who would you pick?
That is a tough question. I would like to play like Pau Gasol.
What do you feel is still an area in your game now that doesn´t get the credit it should and is just a hidden part of your game?
I didn´t get the opportunity to shoot the ball much at Virginia. I have been working a lot on my shooting since turning professional and implementing it better into my game.
ow valuable has Spanish legend center Fran Vazqeuz been for you. He has won so many Spanish titles as well as the Euroleague. What has been the most important thing that he has helped you most with your game in practice?
Fran has been great. It is great having him around with all his experience. He has won so much. You can only call him a winner. The biggest thing that he has helped me most with is getting accumulated to the European game and just showing me how the game works here. He has been a great leader for me.
Last season before getting your first minutes in the NBA, you had to prove yourself with the Greensboro Swarm (D-League) playing 35 games averaging 12.0ppg, 9.0rpg, 1.0apg, 1.3bpg, FGP: 58.1%, 3PT: 19.6%, FT: 72.9%. What was the most challenging thing about the D-League and would you go that route again if asked?
The biggest challenge was the travel. Sometimes we had back to back games in different cities. The whole experience is a real grind where every player is trying to make a name night in and night out. It was very competitive. I would take the route again. That path depends on what situation is best for me.
You got two 10 day contracts with the Charlotte Hornets (NBA) playing two games against Toronto and Detroit. Against Toronto you battled NBA veteran Jonas Valanciunas and Austrian rookie Jakob Poeltl. When you look back at that game and remember the play of Poelti how far do you feel from being in the NBA again?
I think that every player is different. My game is different to Poeltl. He is a good athlete and defender. I think that I have to get stronger and just get overall better in my game.
Was there one prime example in your year in the D-League and NBA where you noticed that the NBA will always be a business first before anything else?
There was no prime example. I think no matter where you are be it in the NBA, G-League or Europe, it is a business everywhere. When you’re a professional you need to understand that it is a business
You saw Kemba Walker at a daily basis. Where would you rank him in the top 5 point guards in the NBA right now. Does he have the game to become a top 3 point guard?
I´m sure he could. In the short time that I was around him, I could see how much of a hardworker he was. He is very talented and produced a lot for the team. Anything is possible for him.
You played ended your rookie season with Valencia Basket(ACB) playing only three games. What kind of experience was it being around for the title run and what was your wake up call to your first Europe experience where you knew that you were very far away from home?
I was hurt and it was an awesome experience being there for the title even if I didn´t play. My wake up call was that first visit to the grocery store and language barrier, but you got used to it after a while. I love Spain.
How much did you gain from your short time with Valencia picking up on the stellar play of Luke Sikma? He has really stepped up in Germany this season with Alba Berlin?
Luke is a great guy and it was cool being around him. I was fresh in Europe and he was very nice to me. He took me under his wing and showed me the ropes. He speaks fluent Spanish. I can´t say enough nice things about him.
You played at Virginia (NCAA) from 2012—2016. You had many big moments like winning the ACC tournament and reaching the NCAA Sweet 16 and Elite 8. What was your fondest moment at Virginia in your four year career?
Winning the ACC tournament was the biggest. The Elite 8 was a great run, but I still have a sour taste not reaching the NCAA Final 4.
You played three seasons with Malcolm Brogdon before he reached the NBA and Milwaukee Bucks. What impressed you most about his game? Was he one of those guys where you always knew his sheer talent would get him to the highest level or was his hardwork infectious?
He was an unbelievable hard worker. The first time I met him he had a broken foot. He worked so hard in the time that he was injured and continued so when he was healthy again. I am happy he is where he is today.
How did head coach Tony Bennett groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
We played hard defense at Virginia. I didn´t really like to play defense before college. I feel I was able to improve my defense there and I knew how to play team basketball when I left.
You played at the 2013 FIBA Under-19 World Championship winning it. What kind of experience was this for you and what European player do you remember standing out that became a household name over the years?
That was a cool experience. I played with and against many guys that are in the NBA today. I remember playing against guys like Dario Saric and Nikola Jokic. It is cool looking back at that experience and seeing who made it to the NBA.
Who was the toughest player that you battled in the NCAA that is in the NBA now?
Jahlil Okafor. I remember him being very talented in the post.
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you chose?
Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Kareem Abduhl Jabbar, Larry Bird
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?
Both are amazing players, but different. Jordan was the pure scorer and competitor while Lebron is that physical specimen and team player that makes his team better. I can´t chose.
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?
It is isn´t a fair assessment to him. He is always trying to do what is best for his team.
How do you summarize the 2017 NBA Draft. What sleepers do you see playing a role in the NBA?
Kyle Kuzma and Donovan Mitchell.
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 think they can. They have been playing really well as of late.
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?
We will see when Thomas returns. Then the jury will be out.
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?
I think they can once they find their chemistry.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Thanks Mike for the chat.