Scottie Wilbekin helped the Turkish National Team get the third place at the Acropolis Tournament, held in Athens for the 29th time in the last 33 years. The American-born, naturalized Turkish player averaged 7.3 points, 3.7 assists and 1.3 steals in the three games of Ufuk Sarica’s squad against Serbia, Greece and Italy.
The 26-year-old Maccabi Tel Aviv guard will play his first major international tournament with his new team, after the 12 Dev Adam (12 Giants) had the chance to size up their present condition in Greece. Taking the place occupied by Bobby Dixon-Ali Muhammed since 2015, the 2018 Eurocup champion and MVP (with Darussafaka) will be the main floor general for the Turkish NT in the FIBA World Cup. A group phase including the Czech Republic, Japan and Scottie’ s native USA is the first barrier to be crossed.
Wilbekin is also keen to get the Euroleague season with Maccabi started, as the Florida graduate acknowledges in his interview with TalkBasket.net.
Q: How was the Acropolis tournament for you?
A: It was good. I was feeling a bit under the weather today (August 18). I was a little sick. We had a tough third quarter, but fought back to win. We wanted to win after our first two losses in the tournament.
Q: What does it mean for Turkey?
A: It’s a good step forward to come out here with the win, but at the end of the day this tournament doesn’t really matter. We are just working on ourselves, trying to get better as a team. We know some things that we need to work on now and, moving forward, we are going to try to work on those in order to be ready for China.
Q: How did you make the decision to join the Turkish National Team?
A: They asked me. I had been playing in Turkey for three years and I didn’t have to think too hard on that. It was an easy decision.
Q: Facing Team USA in the group phase of the World Cup seems a little bit peculiar though, doesn’t it?
A: No, it’s just basketball. You can play on a number of different teams. The jerseys change, but it’s just basketball. It doesn’t matter to me. Most of the time I don’t live in the States, anyway. I spend only two months of the year there.
Q: What’s your take on many players leaving Team USA?
A: I just think that they have other things they’re most worried about: their body, keeping themselves healthy for the team that pays them. That’s pretty important.
Q: Would you do the same, if you played in the NBA?
A: I don’t know. I’ve never been there, so I can’t tell you. For a Euroleague player, I can say that this is my second season and it’s pretty tiring going from nothing into playing all summer long. It’s a twelve-month process and it’s tough.
Q: Who would you stand out from the signings that Maccabi made in the summer?
A: We have a lot of good players. I’m looking forward to what we can do this year. I’m excited about it.
Q: Maccabi signed many NBA players, as lots of other Euroleague teams did.
A: I feel like Maccabi is always doing that. But hopefully this can be the year that we find the right group of guys to take us to the play-offs.
Q: Did you know that 2014 was the year that marked both Maccabi’s last Euroleague title and your only participation in the NCAA Final Four?
A: They talk about it a lot and we’re trying to get back to that. The Euroleague is getting stronger every year and this is the strongest I’ve seen it in my five years in Europe. It’s going to be fun.
Q: Have you looked at the rosters of Euroleague teams other than Maccabi?
A: I haven’t looked at the rosters, but I’m aware of the schedule and the more games we’re going to play. It’s definitely going to be tough. We have to manage our rest, our rehab and make sure that we try to stay healthy for the whole season.
Q: Kendrick Ray, your teammate last year at Maccabi, recently signed with AEK Athens, your ex-team. What do you think of him? Did you get to discuss his decision?
A: We didn’t talk before or after he signed. He’s a good player. Young talent, very athletic, very quick and he has good potential.