Kyle Weems, Tofas: "Reaching the Top 16 is one of our goals"

Oct 16, 2018 by Kyle Weems - Bursa, Turkey Print
Kyle Weems, Tofas: "Reaching the Top 16 is one of our goals"

Tofas Bursa's versatile forward Kyle Weems is in his second 7DAYS EuroCup season. His first was a brief experience in 2015-16 when he and Strasbourg joined the competition in the second group stage for just 10 games after starting the season in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. Weems helped Strasbourg reach the EuroCup Finals and take a 4-point lead after the first leg of the two-game, total-points series before losing against Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul. Weems has been close to EuroCup glory and is now hoping to give himself another chance to lift the trophy, this time with Tofas. A seasoned vet, Weems has played in Germany (Bonn, Bayreuth), Turkey (Besiktas) and France (Nanterre, Strasbourg). He is an all-around player and a great competitor as well as a family guy who enjoys life with his wife Jacque and his sons Kyrie and CJ. Weems is expecting to have a great season and is eager to tell us all about it in this blog!

We are right at the start of the season and 1-1 in our EuroCup group right now. We are still kind of getting the feel for each other, learning new systems and each and everyone's characteristics, so it takes time. ALBA Berlin played very well against us in our first game, especially on offense; we gave them some easy baskets, which didn't help because they were really confident playing at home. They played well, shot the ball extremely well and it was an eye-opener for us. We changed some things on defense and played a little bit more physical against Arka Gdynia.

Something unusual happened in our game. Robert Upshaw was without basketball shoes and borrowed a pair from one of my teammates, Muhsin Yasar. I only found out about that after the game and think it's cool. Freak accidents and weird things can happen to anyone and they lost his bag. It was a nice gesture from Muhsin to loan him a pair... And he ended up playing well! When something like that happens, you don't want to not help someone out and make it the reason why you won the game. Not like that. It was a nice gesture. I always take my shoes on the plane with me, especially when I played the EuroLeague and the EuroCup with Strasbourg. We always travel with our shoes in our backpack, so that something like that doesn't happen.

"It is not about how well you are playing right now; you cannot play at your best right now, but still, you have to find the best way to win games."

We will play against Lokomotiv Kuban in Krasnodar this week. They are one of the best teams in the competition, for sure. They are very well-coached by Sasa Obradovic and have one of the best rosters not just in the EuroCup, but in all of Europe, top to bottom. They have bigs, shooters, defenders, great point guards and are a well-rounded team. Everybody knows how well they played last year until they slipped up in the finals. It will be a tough test, but we have to go out there, play with confidence, be free and not play too tense and just see what happens. We are playing pretty good and it is still very early. We still have to tweak some things on the fly, Jeff [Withey] is still new to the European game and he is adapting well and then Kenny Nadji left to play for his national team for 8-9 days in the middle of training camp. We still have some things that we can do better out there. It is not about how well you are playing right now; you cannot play at your best right now, but still, you have to find the best way to win games. You want to play your best right at the end of the season, but even if you are not doing things quite the way you want individually, or not the way Coach wants you to, but still, you have to find the way win those games.

We are lucky to have Sammy Mejia with us. It was tough to play against him the last couple of years when I was with Besiktas; I played against him three times because I also faced Tofas in the Turkish Cup. He is such a smart, savvy player, a veteran who has been around and knows a lot of in-game scenarios. Sammy is great for our locker room. He keeps everybody together no matter what is going wrong on the court. He is the kind of player that you want to have on your team, to get through the good times and the bad times during the season.

I have to say I missed the EuroCup. It is a great organization and obviously a great competition. Sometimes the travel can get to you, but it is also part of it. I enjoyed our EuroCup run in 2016 after we got bounced out of the EuroLeague when I was in Strasbourg. As I said, it is a great competition from top to bottom and you have to compete each and every night. It is great to be back. I played the EuroCup Finals with Strasbourg and it is definitely something I think about a lot.

I brought it up to my wife the other day, it is probably one of those things I will never, ever forget. It was hard to be on the losing side, but it was a blessing to be a part of a great championship series. We had a great showing and a great crowd. Our fans were awesome in Game 1 and we played well. We should have won by 8-9 points instead of 4. Still, you have to give Galatasaray credit. They had a good team that year and the crowd in Game 2 was probably the best that I have ever seen in my life. They beat us to the gym, it was sold out - as a player, you want to be a part of that, especially in the biggest stage. It is something I will never forget! I could hear the Galatasaray crowd over my Beats headphones - chanting, screaming. I had noise-canceling headphones, but I could definitely hear them.

"I have to say I missed the EuroCup. It is a great organization and obviously a great competition."

There are a bunch of tough teams in the EuroCup this season and our group is one of the toughest with Loko, Limoges, Arka... tough teams to beat on the road... and you better bring your best version at home. It was really tough for us against Arka for 32-35 minutes of the game, until we were able to get our lead to 14-15 points. There are not going to be easy games in any group, especially ours. Cedevita is a strong team on paper and ALBA already beat us in Berlin. If you don't come out with a defensive mindset against them, you see what happens: they scored 107 points on us. You can say that we maybe have the toughest group, but I think that each and every group has different types of teams, some more defensive-minded, some more offensive-minded, some with better isolation players... it is a great competition, top to bottom.

Bursa is a nice city - there are a lot of places to see and things to do, arcades for my oldest son Kyrie, as well as a good school for him to go to for half the day. It is not too big, not too small, it has everything I need. We live in a nice part of the neighborhood and they have a nice fan base. I am not the kind of person that goes around in town, goes out at night or things like that. I am more of a family guy; I stay at home with the family and get out and about, eat some good food and stuff like that. It has been great, kind of a step back from our crazy life in Istanbul in the last two years. That can be overwhelming at times, especially because of the traffic, but Bursa has been good.

The club is very ambitious, too. I remember talking to Sammy in summer, before I signed, as well as to Coach and Tolga, our GM. That was obviously one of the focuses, but the main thing is that you have to be competitive at the highest level, not only for you as an individual, but for the club. This is why they have been so competitive in the last few years in any competition that they play. Last year, Tofas should have advanced to the Top 16, but lost a couple of tough games, so making it to the Top 16 was one of our goals coming into the season. Hopefully, we can get back to the Turkish League finals and win the Turkish Cup. We have some big shoes to fill compared to last year's team. We are still trying to find our own identity, but reaching the Top 16 is one of our goals, and we are going for it.