Despite playing in its maiden 7DAYS EuroCup campaign, Tofas Bursa is tied for first place in Group D through three games. One player at the heart of the team’s success has been power forward Raymar Morgan, who leads the team in scoring (17.7 ppg.).
After finishing his college career at Michigan State University, Morgan spent three years in Israel and another three in Germany – the last two in the EuroCup with ratiopharm Ulm, where he was chosen as the German League MVP last season. Morgan now has a new team that matches his ambition, which he talked about in this EuroCupbasketball.com interview. “We are a very talented team and I think we have to focus on the defensive part, but other than that, I think the sky is the limit,” Morgan said. “We have athletic players, guys who can shoot the three and pass-first guards. Like I said, the sky is the limit and I am looking forward to being as successful as we can actually be.”
Tofas has been around for a while, but is one of three EuroCup newcomers this season? How ambitious is Tofas and why did you choose this club over other options?
“I just thought it was the right fit for me. I saw how the roster was taking form and knew the history behind Tofas and its organization. I heard nothing but great things and I love how our coach is. Everything seems to be a perfect fit for me. It was a great opportunity.”
You returned to Germany to play against your former team, ratiopharm Ulm, in your team’s EuroCup opener. How was the experience?
“Man, it was great! Ulm is definitely like a second home and Germany, just period, is a great country. I enjoyed myself, but we didn’t get the win, which upset me a little bit, but just being back there and seeing old faces, guys I played with for three years, it was a great feeling. Ulm fans are great, like a big family.”
Moving on to one of your teammates, Yigit Arslan has been flying under the radar for a long time and is shining in his first EuroCup season. What do you like about him, on and off the court?
“Yigit is a hard worker and like you said, a lot of people don’t know about him. He is always in the gym, getting some extra shots, and works hard on the defensive end. He is one of the young guys that I really like and enjoy playing with. He is a very humble guy who wants to get better. It is going to be very interesting to see how he develops as a player and as a person when he grows up a little bit.”
Tony Crocker played his first game against Trento and did very well with 17 points and 4 assists. What does he bring to the table?
“He can help us in a lot of ways. Tony is a very versatile guy and he can stick them out there as a ‘2’ and ‘3’, maybe play a little bit of point guard if we need him to. He is a great three-point shooter who can really knock down shots. He brings a lot on the defensive end and can find a lot of guys while driving due to his versatility. He does so much on the floor for us, and he is a creator. Tony coming back was just huge for us, we were anxious to get him back. I think he gave us a small preview of what he can do in his first game. I am very excited to play with this kind of guy.”
Checking your social media, anyone can tell you are a basketball junkie. You watch a lot of games. Do you do it to follow your friends or for the love of the game?
“A little bit of both! Like you said, I love the game. This is the competitive side of me and then I always get to follow friends. Twitter is the social network that gives you the opportunity to follow different people and different sports, and I am definitely a sports junkie. Whenever I get the chance, if I can follow different people, I will.”
This is your seventh season in Europe after three years in Israel and another three in Germany. What did you learn in these two countries? How did it change your mind, growing up?
“It helped me grow up as a person. Being in those two countries, which are a little bit different from each other, it definitely helped me with my growth. It opened up my eyes to not only just seeing the world, it was a great experience. I was just blessed to play in these two countries. I loved the Israeli weather, it can be like springtime all throughout the year, and I have to say I loved the travel as well. It is so small that you can always come back home that same night, sleep in your own bed. For Germany, I really just appreciate the organization and how professional it was. Everything is written down, everything is marked down and they go by the book, which was great. I also like Turkey so far; it is a great country. Bursa is a great city, but I have not been all over the country yet. It is going to be fun, I think, especially with the guys I am playing with. I am looking forward to it.”
You made it to a couple of NCAA Final Fours with Michigan State. A lot of players from your college have done well in European basketball: Charlie Bell, Andre Hutson, Paul Davis and much more. How does Michigan State bring out so many good players?
“I think it is just that Michigan State is a household name. If you think about all the players that came out of Michigan State and what they represent, the program itself is one of the best in America. I think they do a great job in shaping their players and preparing them for life after Michigan State and life after basketball, that is why you will see so many players successful in other areas other than basketball. This is a family environment and everybody just loves being there.”
Did you get any valuable advice from any former Michigan State player before heading to Europe?
“Definitely! I talked to Alan Anderson before I got overseas. At the time, I think he was in Tel Aviv, playing for Maccabi. I was not sure if I was going to make it to the NBA or not, but I asked him. He told me to stay focused and always prepare myself for whatever, always be ready to put up extra work, try to get better each day, even if you don’t feel like it. That is what I have been trying to do.”
You turn 30 in 2018 and this is your third EuroCup season. What can we expect from you, personally, and from Tofas, from now on?
“I think we can expect big things. We had injury problems a little early, so hopefully, if we stay healthy, you can expect big things. We are a very talented team and I think we have to focus on the defensive part, but other than that, I think the sky is the limit. We have athletic players, guys who can shoot the three and pass-first guards. Like I said, the sky is the limit and I am looking forward to being as successful as we can actually be.”
By Javier Gancedo