Elias Valtonen is a 21 year old 201cm forward from Finland that is playing his first season in Germany with the Tigers Tuebingen currently averaging 12,0ppg, 2,2rpg, 1,5apg and 1,0bs. He played the last 2 seasons in the States with Arizona State University (NCAA) playing 38 games. He began his basketball career with UU-Korihait Uusikaupunki (Korisliiga). He then played He then played 3 seasons and 71 games for HBA-Marsky Helsinki (1st Division) and in his last season played 31 games averaging: 14.6ppg, 5.4rpg, 2.8apg, 1.8spg, FGP: 52.1%, 3PT: 38.5%, FT: 74.7%. He spoke to germanhoops.com late in the summer about basketball.
Elias thanks for talking to germanhoops.com. Where are you at the moment and how has your summer been despite the whole COVID-19 effecting the world
I have been in Tuebingen for 2 days now. My summer has been actually almost normal. In Finland COVID-19 is not the worst so we were able to practice the whole summer with National team. So it’s been pretty good.
How have you experienced the whole COVID-19 crisis in Finland the last months How much did the last 6 months change your life and how much of a challenge was it finding the time and places to be able to stay in shape and be able to work on your game?
Like I previously mentioned, it wasn’t that hard for me since June. From March till June I was just in my hometown Eura and practiced in outside gym and courts. Basically I did a lot of other stuff as well during that time.
How do you feel did COVID-19 make you stronger as a man?
I feel like it helps me and others respect more little things like access to the gym. Gratefulness.
You played your last game on Feb 20 against Oregon. How difficult was it for you personally not playing competitively for so long. Was there anything special you did from time to time to stay mentally active with basketball?
In our Open Gym practices in Finland we had pick-up games twice a week and in the end of the summer we had National team camps where we prepared for two games against Estonia.
Congrats on signing with the Tigers Tuebingen. What do you know in general about the country Germany and it’s basketball?
Thank you! About Germany I know that it is one of the biggest countries in Europe and has very deep culture of football and basketball. Of course, Nowitzki comes to my mind every time we talk about German basketball.
Head coach Danny Jansson has known you for a while. How was he able to sell you best about joining this organization?
Yea we have known each other a few years. I know how good a coach he is to develop players and he just said that here would be a good place to take a next step as a player.
After 2 very tough seasons in the NCAA with Arizona State, you are very hungry to show your game in Germany. With what kind of expectations are you going into your first season in Germany with?
My expectations for the upcoming season is just to keep improving every day and keep progressing towards bigger leagues. I am hungry to show what the best Elias is capable of.
Let’s talk about your game. You’re a 201cm guard that can play the positions 1-4. Your favorite players are Kevin Durant and Gordon Hayward but if you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would best fit the description?
It’s hard for me to say any player who I remind. I just like versatile players who can play in both ends.
It is no secret that your biggest strength is your versatility, but what other strengths does your game possess?
I think I can read different situations well like attack close-outs and push the ball in transition. On defense I think my size helps me to guard multiple positions.
Even though you didn’t play much in the NCAA, you shot the ball very well from outside. How vital was being efficient and shot selection in your 2 years at Arizona State University?
I think ot was very vital. I think that’s one factor why I started couple games last season. Maybe I should have taken few more shots as well.
You’re a very good defender. How much pride do you take on the defensive end and how do you feel will you help the Tigers most on defense?
I take pride on my mach-ups. Basketball is a game of small matches and I feel like if you win those small battles more you have good chance to win. I think when I am active on defense I can force people to take tough shots and get steals.
On what things did you work on this summer the most on your game so you will be best prepared for the Pro A?
I worked most on my shooting this summer. To being able to get to the next level I think I have to be more consistent on that.
You played 2 seasons with Arizona State. You went from 4-13 minutes per game in your second season. What were the biggest positives that you got out of this experience?
I played with a couple NBA guys during that time and I know the level of their daily work. I also learned about competiiveness and more individual style of game. Now I feel it’s good to come back to more familiar team ball for me and come back to Europe.
You scored once in double figures with 10 points in a win over ST Johns. What was your most memorable game in the NCAA?
I would say that game against St. Johns, I had couple good looks in that game and was able to deliver.
How did head coach Bobby Hurley groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
We didn’t talk a lot individually, but I learnt toughness from him and feel like he helped me to understand that basketball could be played in a lot of different ways.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Lugentz Dort
Me of course, Lu is known to be bad defender. Just kidding. I think Lu got couple more 1 on 1 wins than me but I also got couple.
At the U-17 World Championships in 2015, you beat Germany 92-63. In that game NBA player Isaiah Hartenstein scored 9 points. What memories do you have of him and did he look like a future NBA player?
I remember him to be very tall and athletic during that time. I heard he was a NBA prospect during that time and thought that he would make it there.
In that game you also played against a young Oscar Da Silva. 2 years later you played against him and Stanford going 1-1 while Da Silva scored 20 and 15 points. He had a tough injury last season, but how good did he get and could you see him reaching the NBA?
I think if eveything goes right he has chance to make it but he will definitely be a good European player because of the understanding of the game and feel.
Who was the toughest player that you battled in the NCCA or anywhere that went to the NBA?
I think Anthony Edwards, potential top-3 pick in the upcoming draft. I had the chance to start against him against Georgia and I think I did pretty good job with him in that game.
Please list your 5 best teammates of all-time?
Lauri Markkanen, Luguentz Dort, Zylan Cheatham, Remy Martin and Shawn Huff
Please construct your personal NBA Mount Rushmore of past or present players?
Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant
What is your personal opinion between the never ending debate between Michael Jordan and Lebron James concerning who is the greatest of all-time?
No explanations, but I will say Michael Jordan
What was the last movie that you saw?
I think I watched movie ‘Escape from Alcatraz’ on Netflix
Thanks Elias for the chat.