Mornar Bar point guard Derek Needham has tied himself to his adopted homeland ever since he received a Montenegrin passport and began playing for its national team in 2017. He first played for Mornar in 2017-18 before moving north to play for AS Monaco the next season during which he made his 7DAYS EuroCup debut. Needham returned to Bar in 2019 and now feels at home in the coastal city as one of the team's leaders. This season, he'll share his thoughts on Mornar's journey in the EuroCup as they aim to make history.
Hello, basketball fans. My name is Derek Needham and I’m in my third season playing for Mornar Bar. Allow me to introduce myself and tell you a little about our team and our city.
This team was built in the summer for the EuroCup without even knowing if we were gonna get in or not. We kind of felt like we were supposed to be in and we built it that way. So we were really excited when we got that last call that another team had dropped about and we were offered a last-minute entry.
Every year this team gets better and better. They've tried to keep the core and bring new guys to help boost the team. I think management does a good job each year bringing us higher and higher.
I've been here for a while now, so Bar is basically home now. I already received a Montenegrin passport before I got here. Once I joined the national team, those guys took me in like family right away.
"Every year this team gets better and better."
Bar is on the coast of Montenegro, so we're right by the water. I'm 5 minutes away from the water where I live. It's a very small city. Very relaxed and that's what I like most about it. It's not too busy with nightlife or anything. It's more kid-friendly, so it's really good for me.
I’m like a Montenegrin on the team, so once I come back after the summer, I don't have to readjust or get to know any domestic players because I've been around them at least a few years. Usually, when new guys are considering coming to come to the team, they call me in the summertime. I tell them about the team. I tell them about the city so that there aren’t any surprises for them. And when they come here and get adjusted, if they need anything, they call me and I can tell them local spots where they need to get stuff for their apartments. It's basically like I'm like the main connection for the American guys.
I love living here. It's relaxing, it's cool. Now my kids are used to it now so I know a lot of places to go to. For me, it's almost like home. The seaside is always very busy in the summertime. Right now, it's kind of dying down a little bit. Not as many people came for the tourist season and now that season is kind of over so it's more relaxed. I love it.
There's a great restaurant by the beach. Our team owner owns that as well. I think it’s closed down right now because winter is coming, but I would go there the first couple of weeks I was here to sit out there after practice, relax, get in the water a little bit, stretch out. Now I basically head to the playground with the kids and let them run around with some of their friends from over the years.
We have a bunch of scorers on this team as well as a bunch of unselfish guys. Everybody can score and I think that's what makes us dangerous because you really can't focus on one guy each night because we all could put the ball in the basket. If you focus on one player, we have other guys and other shooters who can get hot as well. It's kind of like pick your poison: who do you want to score that night?
We try to always defend our home-court no matter who we play. Playing Unicaja was a great challenge for us knowing their history in the ACB and EuroCup. They presented a real good test, but I like to say that there's a lot of pride for us, so we always try that. No matter who comes here, we try to defend our home court.
We've been really focused in practice and film sessions recently, so we kind of know our game plan coming into these games. I know our good start is kind of surprising to some because we are the new team to the EuroCup. But it's not surprising to us.
"No matter who comes here, we try to defend our home court."
Our focus has been on defense the past couple of games. Even if we're not scoring the ball or someone has an off night, we want to make sure we can hang our hats on defense. We’ll make sure we have at least two guys that can fly around the court at all times. Our main goal for each game is to come in and defend. Especially going on the road, you're gonna have to play defense. You can't just outscore people on the road.
In two games, we will face our local rival, Buducnost. Any time we play them, it's a big game no matter what league or competition it's in, so that should be a good one. And they’re playing really well right now as well. They're the historically better team, but we’re on the rise and we’ve been catching their attention the past couple of years to let them know that we're a serious club.
Getting to the Top 16 is our goal this season. It would be another historic step for the club to make it to the next round. That's our focus right now, trying to get closer and closer to advancing to the next round.