Kyle Weems needed just three years of European basketball experience to play in both the Euroleague and the Eurocup, and is making the most of this opportunity. In just his second Turkish Airlines Euroleague game, Kyle Weems impressed everyone with a 22-point effort to lead Strasbourg to a 91-70 home win over Fenerbahce Istanbul. Now fresh off a 35-point performance, which led Strasbourg to the semifinals, Weems will blog for Eurocupbasketball.com until Strasbourg finishes its Eurocup season - maybe with a new trophy in his hands!
We are in the Eurocup Finals, and we see this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If we want our dream to come true, we cannot missed out on opportunities like this one, which, like I said, comes once in a blue moon. We really need to focus on what is about to take place and hopefully we can be competitive, try to get the job done and make history! It was not easy to arrive to the finals. Our series against Trento went down to the wire. We got started out kind of slow defensively. I gave up a couple of offensive rebounds that I am not really happy about, some other guys made mistakes, but this is what a team is all about. We fought hard, played defense and forced them to take outside shots, keeping them out of the lane. We limited our turnovers, which was key. More importantly, we kept the togetherness and unity that we had all season and this is why we came out on top. Hopefully, we will be able to do again against Galatasaray.
I don't know if you saw Romain Duport's three-point shot late in the second game. We were up by one in the series with 15 seconds left, but he decided to take the shot, and made it! We joke around even to this day about what the hell was he thinking. Obviously, I am glad that he made it. I could not even imagine if he were to have missed it and something terrible happened. But hey, what's done is done. You can say it was a big, gutsy shot, but it was crazy and almost unheard of in that kind of situation. Most players would look to get fouled under those circumstances - the time, the score - but he took the shot and made it! You have to give him credit for that, because Julian Wright went down and made another three for Trento. Thank god for Romain Duport!
Galatasaray is a great opponent. I know some of their players, like Stephane Lasme and Errick McCollum, who is one of the best scorers in Europe and did great in China last year. I think he was the Eurocup's top scorer two years ago. He is a great all-around player: he can score, rebound, pass the ball, play the point. Chuck Davis is the third scorer in Eurocup history and Vladimir Micov is also a great player at the three and four positions. Yes, they are more experienced, but coming into the game, they tie their shoes the same way we tie ours. We just want to compete and try not to get too high or too low. If we get down by a bunch of points, we have to realize it is not a 40-minute game, but an 80-minute one. We want to try to keep things close. We are looking forward to it!
Controlling the game tempo has been critical for us the whole season and it won't be any different this time against such an experienced team that can score in crazy bunches, in a hostile environment. We have to play at our pace and not make it a shooting contest. We want to get to the basket, start the game off by getting some layups. Hopefully, we can shoot well from the outside, too! We just want to make sure that we limit our turnovers, our mistakes, not allow easy baskets and if we do, anything can happen.
Our fans have been great all season and have been waiting for something like this to happen for a long time. Obviously, from a European competition standpoint, they have had much more success in the French League. It is good to see the city so alive and focused into basketball right now. They even met us at the airport when we came back from Trento! It is good to have this buzz in the city. I am pretty sure it is going to be sold out on Friday and hopefully we can give them a good show and a good game against Galatasaray.
We have not been able to win at home in the Eurocup lately, even when we are doing well on the road. It has been a little bit weird because we won three games at home in the Euroleague and are doing well in the French League, too. It is kind of the contrary in the Eurocup, but we just want to put that behind us as far as Eurocup games at home. We have to make sure we play like we did against Avtodor, Jerusalem or before that, Real Madrid and Fenerbahce. We have to put a complete game together and have a good start so that we don't have to fight our way back. We just have to start off cool and maintain it, finish the game strong and not shoot ourselves in the foot early. If we get a good lead, we must try to keep it. Points differential is what matters in this type of series.
I was speaking with my wife about this. Honestly, this is what every player in Europe dreams about. I know people don't really look highly on the EuroChallenge but I was able to win that European title. That was a good experience and now, to be playing in the highest level, the Euroleague, and get to experience a little taste of that earlier in the season, and dropping to the second-highest level, the Eurocup, with some absolutely great players, and making it to the finals... is amazing! Hopefully we can finish off this great story, come out on top and make history. It would be great!
Like I said, we tie our shoes the same way that Galatasaray players tie theirs. Anything is possible when you play together as one and when you fight. Our coach has done a great job building this team, as well as our management. We are just looking forward to ending the story the right way now, because it has been a long time coming ever since that bad loss in Madrid, when we were very disappointed not to advance to the Top 16. This is kind of an even better reward, because we are excited to make some history! We want to be competitive as heck and give it our all in these last two games!
First things first: we have to take care of business at home. One of the best practices that we can have are the games we will play before Friday. We have to compete and play well together on offense and defense to prepare against Galatasaray. We will play against Pau-Orthez on Monday, our last game before the finals. It is a very important game to stay crisp and sharp. I like to play games like this in 10-minute spurts - you want to try to win every quarter. If you win every quarter, then you win the game! We are just going to try to take 10 minutes by 10 minutes and hopefully we will be leading after the first 40, which would give us a cushion. We know they are a great team at home and they are going to play well. They are going to go on runs with their fans behind them and it is our job to try to get that cushion, that lead going over there and weather the storm in Istanbul.
Strasbourg fans, see you in Rhenus Sport on Friday!