Kyle Weems, Virtus: 'We're hanging in there'

Nov 23, 2021 by Kyle Weems - Bologna, Italy Print
Kyle Weems, Virtus: 'We're hanging in there'

Virtus Segafredo Bologna is in its third consecutive EuroCup season and Kyle Weems has been with the club for that entire run. This season is Weems’s fifth in the competition. He reached the EuroCup Finals with Strasbourg in 2016 and made it to the semifinals with Virtus last season. The versatile forward has agreed to continue sharing his thoughts with his EuroCupbasketball.com blog. Weems will let fans peek behind the scenes to learn more about Virtus as it strives to meet its high expectations in the 2021-22 EuroCup; it is no secret that the goal is to lift the trophy at the end of the season!

There are no undefeated teams in the EuroCup. I think this shows that it is a hard competition for all teams. Obviously, everybody knows about some of the teams with the bigger budgets and big names and the big rosters, but I think the competition in total has shown its true face and on any given night, you need to bring your A-game because you can lose whether it's at home or on the road. So I've been very surprised from the competitiveness and the competition in the EuroCup so far. The product has to come to fruition on the court and it comes down to getting stops and making shots.

I know Valencia lost a couple of tough ones early. Obviously, we have lost a couple of tough ones early; one on the road after kind of a nice lead at halftime against Buducnost and then another one here at home after being up 21 against Valencia. Both of those are very disappointing, but it's a long year. Another thing and another factor that kind of plays a part is when you have that those bigger names and those ambitious goals, teams like us, Partizan, Valencia... You are going to get everybody's best shot on any given night so that makes you have to concentrate and focus and lock in even more as a team.

"I've been very surprised from the competitiveness and the competition in the EuroCup so far."

In our last game, Reyer came back from a big deficit, but we pulled out the win down the stretch. We have been in that situation a handful of times, sometimes being down late, coming back, winning... or maybe not losing, but just being in a close game. But we have lost leads before. Against Buducnost, I believe we were up 11 or 12 at halftime. Against Valencia, we were up 21 at one point in the second quarter and up 12 at halftime, and we weren't able to close out either one of those games. Against Reyer, we were up 20 points. I believe it was 59-39 after a pair of my free throws and for whatever reason, we let the lead slip and that's something that we have to pay attention to. But first thing’s first, when you win, that's pretty much the only thing that matters. But in this competition, like the Valencia game that we learned, sometimes those leads will slip completely and not just make it a close game. So again, it's something that we need to pay attention to, just learn from it and try and close out games better.

We have played against Reyer in three different competitions: the Italian SuperCup, Italian League and EuroCup and it is only mid-November! Is it different to play in the EuroCup? I think it's exactly the same. What's crazy about Reyer is we've played so much in the past and like I said, in three different competitions already this year. Last year, we played them twice in the Italian championship and also in the Italian Cup, as well as the year before, before the pandemic hit, we played them in the Italian Cup as well. It is always a close game every time. So they know us, we know them, they have a great coach, they have a great core of guys like Tonut, Mitchell Watt, Austin Daye, De Nicolao and have added guys like Jeff Brooks and key role players, Sanders and Phillips, guys who have EuroCup experience, definitely made them a little better. So again, they know us, we know them. It just came down to, honestly, who made a few more plays and who made a few more shots and more stops. And I'm just glad that we were able to close that out after kind of letting the 20-point lead slip and also having a couple of guys banged up and injured.

One of the keys was stopping Tonut, who was the Italian League MVP last year. He is a great player. I have a ton of respect for him. I'm not going to take all the credit for him having zero points. We all know that in the game of basketball, some days it’s your night, some days it's not, whether it is another guy in your team's night and he's more of a focal point, or maybe you had an off-night shooting. But whatever the case, it doesn't take anything away from him. Tonut is a great player. I've had to guard him pretty much every time we play them, so that's over 10 times already in the last three seasons. I think that was definitely a big part of our game plan. It's just kind of making things tough and difficult on him and making somebody else beat us than their best player. It worked this time. The next time that we play them in the EuroCup and also the Italian Championship, I think it's going to be another focal point to just kind of make his life a little bit more difficult and not let them get anything easy. But he is definitely a great player. He can do it all, and he's kind of the motor to their team as well as Mitchell Watt.

"We understand that it's not a sprint, it's a marathon. The full chemistry is going to take some time."

It has not been an easy season for us. It never is, but we had some important injuries. We're hanging in there. Losing Ekpe Udoh was tough. Everybody knows how important of a player he is, but even more important as a person, as a part of your organization, being in your locker room, just the way that no matter whether he scores or he gets a lot of minutes or not so many minutes, just being with him during the preseason, showed us a lot of how to be a professional. And I think that was very important for guys like myself, who've been over here for a while and this is my 10th year, to rip a little page out of his book and add it to mine. I saw the way he carried himself and his demeanor. He was never too high. He was never too low. He was always consistent and always ready to work, and just losing him was really tough.

And also Abass, he's the same way. He works extremely hard. He's such a humble guy. He doesn't care about the points, he doesn't care about the shine and can really defend. That was another major loss for us. But getting two guys like Jakarr Sampson and Isaia Cordinier was, in my opinion, great. We were able to get two quality players to come help us like that, especially on such short notice at that point of the season, once training camp was over. Our captain Marco Belinelli just had an operation on his elbow just to kind of clean it up a little bit. We are excited that he can stop dealing with that and be back, I believe, before our first game after the break. We are trying to get Nico Mannion up to speed after dealing with the virus that he had - not coronavirus, stomach intestinal virus. He is trying to bring his body and his legs along. We understand that it's not a sprint, it's a marathon. The full chemistry is going to take some time, just like getting guys healthy.

Personally, I look at this first as a little form of a reset to gather my basketball thoughts, get my legs under me a little bit more and get ready to hit this thing running as hard as I can for my team and for my club. So I am excited! My oldest son, Kyrie's birthday was on Monday and we had that day off. I spent the entire day with him, taking him to school, picking him up and doing a little bowling in the evening, which is one of his favorite things to do, and just spending time with my family. We are extremely blessed to live a great and comfortable lifestyle, but obviously, everybody knows you travel a lot. There's a lot of time spent in the gym and traveling away from the family with games and all this and that. But any chance that we get to have off, I definitely want to take advantage of.