Dmitri Thompson is a 23 year old 196cm guard from Orlando, Florida playing his second professional season and first with Cytavision Apoel Nicosia (Cyprus-OPAP Basket League. Last season as a rookie he played with Atlas Ferzol (Lebanon-LBL) playing 7 games averaging 12.7ppg, 3.1rpg, 1.0apg, FGP: 52.3%, 3PT: 36.4%, FT: 82.6%. He began his basketball career with Orlando Christian Prep and then played at Elon (NCAA) from 2014-2018 playing a total of 129 NCAA games. In his senior year he played 31 games averaging 12.0ppg, 5.2rpg, 2.3apg, FGP: 50.3%, 3PT: 37.4%, FT: 75.0%. He spoke to germanhoops.com before the Fiba Europe Cup game against medi Bayreuth in Bayreuth.
Dimitri thanks for talking to germanhoops.com Welcome to Germany. Before we start with your basketball career how did you receive the nickname Meech?
That is actually a funny story. My family called me that as a baby. I hated it. In high school my coach called me Big Meech. Later Rick Ross made a song called Big Meech. But it had nothing to do with me.
This this your first time to Germany? What has been your impression of the country from what you have seen so far?
I love Germany. It has a homey feeling. I feel like I’m in the states. It’s so Americanized. I had been to Germany before. My college did a tour here some years ago.
What do you know in general about the country and it’s basketball? You have friends that are playing here at the moment with Sheldon Eberhardt, Jackson Trapp and Michael Gilmore. Have there been other guys that you have followed make their way through Germany like an Orlando Parker?
I know that Germany is one of the better places to play in. All my friends who have played here have said excellent things about Germany. I played together with Orlando Parker in high school. He loves Germany and always kept coming back. Hearing that is a great thing. Maybe one day I can play in Germany. Germany is really a lovely place.
Your playing your second professional season with Cytavision Apoel Nicosia (Cyprus-OPAP Basket League) What kind of experience has it been playing with a club so rich in tradition?
It has been amazing. Last season I played for a team that was the complete opposite. It had no tradition. Now I’m in a very good situation. The club has treated me well and I love the country. We are just getting started now.
As a guy coming from Orlando, you probably have had nothing against the climate, but what is like been living in Cyprus? What have you learned to appreciate most about the culture so far?
The climate is beautiful. It is a vacation place. The people have been welcoming and have made it very comfortable to live there. It jumped out at me with the people being so friendly.
The team last won the league title in 2014 and the cup in 2016. How much do you feel the need to win a title again? How high are the expectations this season?
We talk about it as a team. Our time is now. Last season’s team played with a high budget, but fell below expectations. We need to bring that winning tradition back. We feel that we can do it. We need to click and put things together. Our goal is to compete for the title.
How valuable has it been for your second professional season to have an abundance of Americans on the team? How has the chemistry developed further with the guys?
I really enjoy the fact that we have more than 2 Americans on the club. I don’t feel so much pressure to have to do so much. I feel very comfortable. We are just starting to find our rhythm and getting a flow and figuring each other out.
How vital has Michael Cufee not only been for the success of the team, but for your you? Is he a guy that you see that mentor in? He is a guy that could tell you unending stories about the European game?
When I found out that Mike was on the team, I was very ecstatic. He has seen so much and played for top teams. Where he has been is where I want to be. He has seen everything and knows everything. Whenever he decides to teach me, I will always follow his lead.
How has it been playing with point guard Jarvis Garrett? He like you is a second year man that had a superb rookie season in Cyprus. What have you learned to appreciate most about his game in the early going?
Jarvis has a great feel for the game. He knows where his spots are and where our spots are. I appreciate his game. He tries to do all that he can on offense and defense to make the team successful.
Let’s talk about your game. You’re a 193cm shooting guard. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would best fit the description?
I would say Bradley Beal. I’m a combo guard that can score, make plays and play defense.
You have shot the ball well the last two years, but started slowly this season in the Cyprus league. What kind of strategy have you taken to improve your shot? Do you watch videos of other players to add to your shot?
Right now my favorite player is CJ Mccollum. I watched all his highlight film from last season. I did that to get a better feel of the game. I try not to put pressure on me. I think that the more you think about your shot during a slump the harder it is. I let the game come to me naturally and take less shots.
You’re a guy that can fill the stat sheet with ease, but what is a hidden strength in our game that doesn’t get noticed right away on the court?
A hidden strength of my game are the little things on defense. If I have to guard the other’s team best player than I want to take him out of his rhythm and make it hard for him. I do the little things not seen on the stat sheet.
As a rookie you played with Atlas Ferzol (Lebanon-LBL) playing 7 games averaging 12.7ppg, 3.1rpg, 1.0apg, FGP: 52.3%, 3PT: 36.4%, FT: 82.6%. How challenging was it playing here as a rookie?
Playing in Lebanon as a rookie was a huge challenge. It kind of broke me down. There were high expectations put upon me. You could only have one American. I felt like all was hanging on my shoulder. The league was very competitive and it was a struggle for me. I started the season strong, but then a new guy came in taking my minutes. Then it all got weird. It was difficult having a load on my shoulders.
What was your wake up call to being a rookie in Lebanon where you knew that you were very far away from home in Florida?
It happened quickly. I was pushed over the edge. We were in the mountains and a huge snow storm came. Our game was at Beirut city. We were supposed to have a bus, but there was none. I had to drive there. It was a mess.
You had 22 points in your first game against Beirut club in a win. What memories do you have of that game?
That was a good game. It was my first professional game. I made a fast break dunk over a Lebanon national player. I saw it in all the faces of the people in the arena and how crazy they all went. It was an unbelievable moment.
You were teammates with Taylor Brown who I covered when he was a rookie in Germany. The guy has played for big time European teams in Turkey and Lithuania. What do you remember about the day to day interaction with him? What kind of things did you soak up from him?
Taylor was one of my fastest growing friends. Lebanon was a hard experience, but he eased it. When things weren’t going well for me, he would always reassure me that things would get better. He always told me to keep playing and I will end up in a better place. He helped me very much with my self-confidence.
You played at Elon (NCAA) from 2014-2018.You played a lot of games, but the team didn’t have much success. Besides not winning as much what did you cherish most about the experience?
I cherished growing as a player at Elon and also going through the hard times. I loved Elon. Coming from high school where I won titles to not winning any at Elon wasn’t the best experience. Having hard times brings more out of you. When your on the brink, so much goes through your head. The whole experience helped me grow as a player.
A player can call themselves lucky to have played against a top team like Duke once in their career, but you played against them each season. Explain how your mentality was on game day? I can imagine it was your favorite game of the season?
Playing Duke was my favorite game of the season. I was nervous in my first game as a freshman. I was an 18 year old out of high school and suddenly I was playing on the biggest stage. After that first game, it wasn’t so bad anymore. I felt bad my sophomore year as we were beat badly. In my junior season we had a really good team and were up at half-time, but ended up losing by 10 points. By my senior year having played them three times, my confidence had really grown.
Elon played Duke tough your junior season, but you scored 13 points in your senior year. Was one of these games the most memorable in your battles against Duke?
We lost badly at Duke. The Duke crowd is a real game changer. I battled Grayson Allen in that game. That is what I will always remember.
You battled against NBA player Grayson Allen. When you look at a guy like that, does his exceptional shooting motivate you to grind harder every new day in the lab?
Yes for sure. Playing against a talented guy and seeing his success like that, you have to believe that you can get to the next level. You feel like if he can do it, so can I. If I put in the work maybe I can get to where he is. Maybe my efforts will be recognized.
As a freshman you lost to Duke 75-62 scoring 8 points and getting 5 rebounds in 9 minutes. What memories do you have of that game. Were you in serious awe before the game?
Yes I was in serious awe. I usually don’t get nervous, but I was shocked in that game. Just seeing Duke’s pre game ritual was shocking. It was a special night as many ex NBA alumni were there. Then when Coach K came out, I was really shocked.
That team had 8 future NBA players on the roster. Do remember who stuck out the most to you as a young kid from high school?
The one guy that really stood out form the others with his skill set was Justine Winslow. After that game I knew that he would have an amazing NBA career. His frame and skill set and everything he did on the court was special.
You played three seasons with German Sheldon Eberhardt who is a professional rookie in Germany with MBC. He developed nicely as a senior. What part of his game will prosper most as a rookie this season?
I believe his ability to control the game will prosper. He is one of the best fluent scorers that I ever played with. He never really was able to show that in school. His ability to play point guard will help him develop and become more polished. His scoring ability will shine and he will have an amazing career.
You had Northeastern’s number scoring 17 points in a win and 23 in an exciting 105-104 victory. Was the latter one of your nicest memories? But then again you beat S Florida 79-78 with 23 points. It must be hard to choose?
My best game was my last game against Delaware. That was an amazing game. My favorite games were those two wins over Northeastern.
How did head coach Matt Matheny groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
He groomed me best by helping me polish up the little things in my game. Without polishing up the little things in my game, I wouldn’t have gotten away with as a professional. He also helped me with my shooting.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Dainan Swoope?
I wish we would of played more. He is a great competitor. I would take myself. But I will say playing against Sheldon Eberhardt would have been difficult to beat.
Who was the toughest player you battled in the NCAA that is in the NBA?
The toughest player that I played against was Caris Levert. When he was at Michigan, he was a top 5 player in the country. He didn’t score much, but when I was defending him, every little things that he did was so polished. Even times when I thought that I had him, he still made plays. He played very hard on offense and defense.
Where will the journey of the Golden State Warriors go now with the injury to Steph Curry? Is the Dynasty now over?
The Warriors aren’t over yet. I think that even if they have a sub par season, they could get a top 5 NBA Draft Pick. Then they will start over. Trade a Deangello Russell. Then Klay and Steph will return. Then they can start again.
What is your choice of your own personal NBA Rushmore? Which 4 heads would you pick?
Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Michael Jordan, Steph Curry
What is your personal opinion of who is the best of all-time Michael Jordan or Lebron James?
That is tough. All that I know about Michael Jordan is what I have seen on the highlight films. I have just seen the good side of Jordan. I haven’t seen if there was any bad side. It is just hard to go against Lebron. I will go with Lebron.
What was the last movie that you saw?
The Joker. I loved it. It is one of my favorite movies.
Thanks Dmitri for the chat.