Elias Valtonen (200-SF-1999, college: Arizona St., agency: Blacktop Management) is a 22 year old 201cm forward from Finland that is playing his first season in Spain with Baxi Manresa (ACB Spain) currently averaging 7.1ppg, 2.7rpg, FGP: 54.0%, 3PT: 35.9%, FT: 72.4% in the ACB. Last season he played in Germany with the Tigers Tuebingen and averaged 15.8ppg, 4.8rpg, 2.5apg, 1.1spg, 1.0bpg, FGP: 61.0%, 3PT: 37.0%, FT: 80.2%. He played with Arizona State University (NCAA) playing 38 games from 2019-2021. 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 before the Basketball Champions League Final 4 game against the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg.
Thanks Elias for talking to germanhoops.com. Where are you at the moment and how is basketball life treating you?
Currently I am in Manresa and preparing for this weekends Final Four in Bilbao. Basketball life is treating me very well
Your playing your first season in Spain in the ACB with BAXI Manresa. How much is it like night and day the difference between the German Pro A and ACB?
I think the difference is big like it should be as well. I think the biggest difference is playing styles. Like in Germany Pro A it was more physical, almost felt like wrestling some days, here in Spain the game is more fast paced and tactical, which for me makes it one of the best domestic leagues in Europe.
Manresa is playing an incredible season in the ACB. What has been the secret to the success? It seems like even though the team allows many points, they often are able to score even more points consistently.
There is not one ‘secret’. I think its just our playing style in where all the players have bought into since the beginning. We are a well coached team where we have established very clear roles and work hard every day.
The team only have two Americans and many guys from other countries. How key has the many nationalities been for the success of the team?
For us it doesn’t matter where people comes from as long as we all play for each other. And we do. We have great chemistry in the locker room.
You have much experience and have seen much in your early basketball life, but still I doubt nothing tops beating FC Barcelona and Real Madrid in a season. How quickly were you able to understand what the team had done?
Yeah I am not going to lie that those wins were very big for me and this whole club. But during the season we have understood that playing our game we have chance to do it.
What memories will you always have from the exciting 96-95 win over FC Barcelona? What were you thinking being in the starting 5 and getting ready for the jump ball?
I didn’t have much in my mind. I just prepared like in every other game. In Finland we have a saying that ‘everybody eats same porridge’ so I just kept saying that to myself and tried to challenge the opponent the best way I could.
You had a super 14/7 game in the big win over Real Madrid. What kind of an experience was it being aware of defensive stopper Walter Tavares in the paint area?
Playing against guys like him is an honor and I just try to take advantage of those opportunities. Luckily the game started to go well for us and we kept playing without extra pressure.
What kind of experience has it been being teammates with American Luke Maye? He was at North Carolina and you at Arizona State. Have you guys shared some NCAA stories?
Its been awesome experience. He is such a cool dude and I love hanging out with him also outside of the basketball court. We do talk a lot about college ball and life in the States in general as well. So I think that’s something what connects us.
Your averaging 7/2 stats in 22 minutes in the ACB. What was the biggest adjustment for you coming from the German Pro A?
I think it’s been the pace of the game. Also decision making in different situations
Your continuing to shoot the ball really well from outside. You stated once you need to be more consistent in order to reach the next level. How have you seen the development of your shot this season playing against stiffer competition and the best players in the world?
You are right and I still have to keep having focus on that. I have done it fairly well in the ACB but Champions League I could have been better behind the arc. Overall I think I am going to the right direction as a shooter
Your biggest strength is your versatility. How have you been able to use this asset best in the ACB especially on your team where you have so many talented players?
I think so. I try to help the team in different aspects. Sometimes being a threat on offense, playing solid defense or doing those things is what we need in different games.
You once said this about your 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’. How have you seen your defense progress in the ACB? What has been the biggest challenge coming from the Pro A?
I have developed as a defender here as well. For example positioning, pick and roll defense etc. Here players are more skilled to draw fouls on you and sometimes in Pro A officials didn’t whistle hand checks or body fouls that easy.
How excited are you to be playing at the 2022 Euro championships? Finland beat Slovenia recently that had strong players for the game. What can we await from Finland at the tournament?
Yeah we showed that our younger generation can play in that level and now it’s just time to compete there again and do those same things in the European Championships. We have good combo of more experienced and younger player
Finland has a lot of experience, but how is the state of the younger generation? What young player should we keep an eye on?
Miro Little is one of those players who got playing time in the last window with the National Team already at very young age. I think he has a bright future and I am looking forward to play with him again
You have the opportunity to win the Basketball Champions League this weekend. First you have to get by the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg. Tuebingen isn’t to far away from Tuebingen. Were you able to visit games last season?
Yeah I had the chance to play against them once last year in preseason as we played a friendly match in Ludwigsburg.
What is your impression of the MHP Riesen? They have a real fox as coach with John Patrick, Have a loaded roster and play very aggressive defense for 40 minutes. What will be key to advancing to the final?
You said it. Its about that. They have an aggressive and physical playing style and we have to be ready to answer to that. But it’s about small things like always and playing the basketball we have played all season.
How proud are you of your ex team Tigers Tuebingen? They have been the big surprise of the season. Head coach Danny Jansson has formed an incredible team with great chemistry. What caught your eye most last season concerning his coaching abilities?
I have been following them actually quite a lot this year and I am very happy for the whole team and how they are doing. Danny has just kept going with his project we started last year and the results are already showing. He has continued to develop young players very well.
Ryan Mikesell only played 2 games last season, but this season has exploded in the Pro A. Could he be the second Tiger within two years to make the jump to the ACB?
I know Ryan from last year and talked to him this year few times. I hope he is the next. He is a great fundamentally sounded player and leader and his ambitions are also very clear.
You live in a very beautiful place with Manresa. What have you appreciated most about living in Spain?
I like Manresa a lot. Its not too big but not too small either. Barcelona is very close and here is everything you need. Its about the same size of Tubingen. But the most I have appreciated are the people here. Our fans are amazing.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Thanks Elias for the chat.