Ilian Evtimov (35) is a 201cm forward that has the French/Bulgarian citizenship and recently completed his 12th professional season and second with Cholet Basket (France-ProA) averaging 4,3ppg,1,7rpg and 1,4apg. He started his basketball career at North Carolina State in 2001 and as a senior played 31 games averaging 10.4ppg, 3.7rpg, 2.5apg, 1.2spg, FG: 45.3%, 3PT: 40.8%, FT: 89.5%. He started his professional career in 2006 which took him to Italy, Germany and Cyprus in his first four seasons. In 2010 he moved to France and has been there ever since. His most successful time was between 2010-2016 where he played with ES Chalon-Sur-Saone (France-ProA) winning four titles. German Hoops has chatted numerous times with Illian Evtimov in the last 10 years about basketball and did it again. He spoke to German Hoops on his 35th birthday recently.
Evti, thanks for talking to GermanHoops.com. Happy Birthday! You turned 35 today. Is there something you would rather get for a birthday present now more than you would 10 years ago?
A nice family vacation. 10 years ago, I didn’t have a wife and children. Time away is always appreciated when with the family these days.
The last interview we did was before the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup Final 4 in Chalon. It has been 2 years since then. Has time flown by for you since then?
It has gone by very fast. Since then I have had a new child, Iliana, who was born in September 2016. Now the house is full with children. I don’t realize how fast the time goes by.
Chalon lost in the semi Finals to the Italian club Varese. What memories do you have of that weekend and was it in the end a bit of a consolation that your ex team Frankfurt won the title?
I wished we would of played against Frankfurt. In 2007, during the final 4 of the Eurochallenge, I played with Bologna against my old team of Estudiantes. I thought history would repeat itself. I am very happy for Frankfurt that they won the title. They were my 2nd pick after my own team of course.
After 6 glorious years with Chalon where you racked up 4 titles, you moved to Cholet. Why did you make this move and were there no thoughts of ending your career with Chalon?
The Chalon experience was fantastic. We won the first titles of the club, but also put the club on the map of the top teams in France. The program has made a huge step forward and is considered as one of the best in France today. There were no hard feelings. Chalon was on a new cycle, and sometimes separation is the best for both sides. I have great relationships still with all the management and staff there. I did finish as the player with the most games in the club history to wear the Chalon jersey.
How has it been living in a totally different part of France? Cholet is bigger than Chalon and is near to the Atlantic ocean. Is the French culture a bit different to what you experienced in Chalon.
Chalon and Cholet are very similar in size. The location of Cholet is more attractive to families because we have the beach an hour away, Nantes is close by, the Puy du Fou which is classified as the best attraction park in Europe is 20 minutes from my house, many castles in this region and lots of things to do for the kids. The people are different in Cholet than in Chalon, but I have no problem adjusting to any environment.
You also have the Bulgarian citizenship, but have played and lived 8 years in France. Would you say after living so long there now that you have become more French than Bulgarian?
I lived in France for 9 years as a kid, and 8 years since I came back to play ball here. I do think I am more French than Bulgarian. However, in my home we speak Bulgarian. My kids speak all three languages: Bulgarian at home, French in school, and English with me.
After winning the France Pro A title in 2010 and reaching the final in 2011, the club has missed the playoffs the last 4 seasons and will do so again this season. What kind of an experience has it been playing for a non playoff team?
This is the first time in my career that I have not attained the playoffs. It is frustrating, but we have done better than what the means are given and have improved from the previous years. We have not made the playoffs but we have improved the direction in which the club was going. Before my coming, the club was dropping each year in ranks to the point to put themselves in danger to drop from the Pro A. I am glad I have participated in improving and turning around a club that has great traditions and a big history in Pro A.
Do you feel that Cholet is a club with the guidance of experienced French coach Phiilippe Herve that it will be able to make strides? Herve guided Limoges to the Pro A title in 2015.
Coach Herve is the reason why I came to the club. He has a very structured and intelligent way of playing basketball. I have always admired his concept. When I arrived here, I learned so much my first months. It was a great feeling to continue to learn key fundamentals at this time in my career.
Let´s talk about some of your teammates. You are reunited again with David Michineau. He was drafted in 2016 by the New Orleans Pelicans (NBA,2rd(39). Is he one of those classical examples of a very raw talent that will be a late bloomer?
I have known David since he was 16 years old. I have seen him grow up, work hard, and make great improvements. I am very happy that he was drafted as he deserved this. He has learned a lot this year playing for Coach Herve. Unfortunately he broke his finger and will not finish the season with us.
You’re more the shooter at the forward position and Ryan Evans is the inside presence. He averaged double double stats in his last 2 seasons at top basketball school Wisconsin(NCAA) and tore up the second divisions in Israel and France. He hasn´t been that total beast in France Pro A yet. Is he also a type of late bloomer guy?
Ryan is a great player. I think the Pro A is a great league, and he is adapted to it because he knows how to beat his man in 1 on 1 as this league is very athletic. He is also versatile as he can play the 3 and the 4. I have no doubts he will become a great presence in the Pro A.
Besides your experience, what do you feel have been your biggest attributes you have been able to give the club the last 2 seasons?
You know, teams do not guard us the same way when I am on the court as they do not help off of me and this gives a lot of room for the post players and the guards to penetrate. I believe I have been a great guidance for some of the young players this year like Abdou N’Doye and David Michineau. I have always had a role in every team that I played for, to be the bridge between the French players and the import players.
Let´s talk about your game. Your averaging your lowest scoring and minutes since your rookie season in Italy with Vidi Vici Bologna. Has this been a tough adjustment for you?
Up to this year, I have always been the top scoring French player in each team and season that I played. When your minutes decrease it is normal that your stats decrease as well. Believe me when I tell you, I still have some basketball in me. I plan to prove this next year. This year has been frustrating as much on a personal level than a team level as we are on the bottom of the Pro A.
How valuable has efficiency become for you this season? Is this something that you never noticed as much before when you were getting big minutes?
When you are a shooter, it is obviously easier to shoot when you play more minutes as you have time to find your rhythm. It is not the same thing when you come in on the court after being 15 minutes on the bench. It is an adjustment I had to make this year. My 3 point percentage is not reflecting it so much, but my attempts are as I don’t shoot as many shots as I used to.
When your playing less and putting up less shots, does the accuracy of your shooting become a lot more valuable?
Not really, at the end of the day, you can only split a minute into so many possessions, and a possession into so many shots. You are valued as a better shooter when you make more threes, but to make more threes, you have to take more shots, which in return means more opportunities to do so which comes with more playing time.
Will this be your last season? I know you have other business ventures and have a big family. Will we see Ilian Evtimov again next season?
You will see me! I am excited about this summer as I have planned a great plan to work out and come back in the best shape yet.
You stated this about your ex teammate at Chalon Devin Booker two years ago. “He is NBA level, no questions about it. He has the TOTAL PACKAGE. Inside game, outside shooting, athletic, strong. I have rarely seen someone who is as gifted, and on top of that who understand the game. Don’t be surprised by the career he will make”. He belongs to the best centers in the BBL. Will his NBA chance possibly come next season?
I am not sure, but I know he belongs there. He has everything that is looked for. Sometimes it is out of the control of the player. It has to be the right situation, the right agent, the right team, and more importantly the right timing. He has had a great career in Germany.
There are still a handful of guys playing that were your teammates in Frankfurt from 2006-2008 like Rudy Mbemba, Jimmie Hunt, Konrad Wysocki and of course Derrick Allen. I don´t remember asking you something about Konrad Wysocki. What are your memories of him and did you sometimes get on him about being that Princeton scholar?
Konrad and I got along very well. We both liked Mercedes. Ahahaha. I got along with everyone on that team and have great memories. I still exchange with Derrick sometimes on social media.
A day after your birthday three BBL legends entered the Fraport arena in Frankfurt again to do battle with Frankfurt. 38 year old Immanuel Mcelroy and 37 year olds Julius Jenkins and Derrick Allen. These guys just don´t quit. I have asked you enough times about D.A, but what memories do you have of Jenkins and Mcelroy from your battles with them?
They were playing in Berlin, and had a great team and were very hard to beat. I remember these battles that we often lost. They have had amazing careers.
Who of the three legends, Allen, Jenkins and Mcelroy will play the longest? My bet is Allen and yours?
Of course Allen. He is a cyborg. He is the most professional player I have ever met.
What is your personal opinion on the never ending debate concerning Jordan and Lebron about who is the best of all-time?
People like to get philosophical about this debate. It seems very simple to me. Which player’s team has dominated a whole decade in the NBA?
Lebron is almost there but still so far. Jordan had an edge that no-one can match. He made the players around him better. Lebron does the same, but has not been able to dominate the league in the way Jordan did. There is a hall of fame of people who never got a title with over 15 years of playing because of Jordan. And lastly I will say that Jordan dominated on both ends of the court.
How did you experience the 2018 NCAA March Madness? What was the most spectacular upset in the tournament?
Arizona losing in the first round was unexpected.
Deandre Ayton seems lie he could be the #1 NBA draft pick in 2018. But having been in Europe this season you must of seen some highlights of Real Madrid´s 19 year old stand out Luca Doncic who belonged to the best players in the Euroleague. Should a guy like that be the automatic #1 pick just from sheer experience and talent? No question Doncic should be number 1.
He has proved already he can dominate pro players. But it also has to do with what a team needs who is choosing the first pick.
Lebron James makes amazing passes in every game, but really showcased it in a game this season against the Los Angeles Lakers. He already is like a point guard, but if he played just point guard and concentrated only on playmaking how many assists do you feel would he average per game?
The reason why he has so many assists is precisely because he is such a scoring machine that players have to help off on him. If he just passed, he would actually have a harder time getting assists.
What was the last movie that you saw? It can´t be Black Panther, because that is some months old already.
I cannot remember. Having 3 kids in the house all the time makes you put some hobbies like movies to the side. But I am looking forward to some movies that came out not so long ago like Den of Thieves. As soon as I get 2 hours of free time, I will watch it.
Thanks Evti for the chat.