Photo: EuroLeague Basketball

Being a Euroleague champion at the age of 24 was the best possible scenario when Alec Peters decided to leave the United States in order to pursue a career overseas.

With CSKA Moscow, the Washington-born forward made a name for himself in Europe, after having played only 20 games and 11.3 minutes on average for the Phoenix Suns in the 2017-18 season. It was in the NBA G-League where Peters had his best games, save for his career night in the NBA (36 points, including a franchise record-high 8 three-pointers for rookies, on April 10, 2018, when the Suns beat the Dallas Mavericks).

Last summer, Euroleague finalists Anadolu Efes opted for his services and Peters is averaging 7.1 points on 40% three-pointers, plus 3.6 rebounds in ten games so far in the 2019-20 campaign, helping his new team to boast the best balance (8-2) in the competition, tied with FC Barcelona. had the chance of meeting and talking with him about his transition from the USA to Europe and from Moscow to Istanbul, the friendship that he got to develop with Mike James in Phoenix, as well as the potential of two of the best guards currently playing in Europe, Shane Larkin and Vasilije Micic.

Q: What does the current record of Anadolu Efes mean to you?

A: You’re never satisfied. There’s two losses that we still think about. It’s stuff for us to improve upon. We like to play fast, which sometimes becomes too fast. That’s the big thing. As long as we keep up the defensive effort, rotating and rebounding, we will be good moving forward.

Q: Have you adjusted to Istanbul and to the team?

A: Oh yes! The team, the players, all the guys make it really easy for me. There’s many ups and downs in the season and it’s great to have a group of guys like that to help you through it.

Q: After winning the Euroleague title with CSKA Moscow last year, what’s the objective for you this year? A back-to-back Euroleague crown with a different team?

A: I want to recreate that feeling. It was amazing. After winning the title, you want to recreate that feeling every year you can. This team has the ability to do it and that’s what we’re building towards.

Q: How was your 2017-18 season with the Suns?

A: An experience is a good word for it. It was difficult because we lost a lot of games and for me going back and forth between the NBA and the G-League was a little tiring. I gained valuable experience as I got to meet great veterans like Tyshawn Chandler and Jared Dudley, guys that gave me some really good habits to think about. I’m very thankful for having that opportunity and we’ll see what happens in the future.

Q: You and Mike James were the ones with the two-way contract that year. Do you keep in touch with him?

A: Me and Mike talk. Each time we see each other is a good chance to catch up with him. He’s obviously having great success with CSKA right now and I wish him all the best.

Q: Did the two of you use to talk back then about the Euroleague and the possibility of him returning and you coming to Europe?

A: He’d share with me a few of his experiences playing in the Euroleague and it’s no surprise to me that he’s having success. I was watching him have success in the NBA. He was the starting point guard of the Suns for a few weeks. So, I’m not surprised. He’s a great player and a great guy to be around.

Q: Were you watching the Euroleague through college and NBA?

A: I started watching it towards the end of my college career. I know it’s a little bit uncommon, but I love basketball and like watching the Euroleague. I think it’s as pure basketball as you can watch.

Q: What do you make of it, now that you are on your second year in Europe?

A: It’s different. You can notice the differences right away in the rules, in how things get covered and how things are played. In the NBA, there’s more space. You can’t be in the lane of defence. I used to score in the lane all the time, with easy lay-ups and fast breaks. Over here, the game is shorter, less possessions, hands are always pretty clogged up. So, sometimes those easy cuts and easy baskets are not there any more. For the most part, the physicality and the great players exist in both leagues.

Q: Would you say that the European game suits you better?

A: I feel like I can fit in anywhere. I’m a shooter, that’s what I am. I space the floor and knock down shots when they come to me. That’s valuable in the NBA and also in Euroleague. I always try to make the right play, I’m not going to turn the ball over and I’m going to be as solid as I can on defence and rebounding.

Q: In the middle of last season, you said that your first Euroleague campaign was tougher than expected. How is the second one for you?

A: Well, we won a championship (laughs)! So, if that’s what it takes to win, I’ll do that every year. I had a great team on my first year: Nando De Colo, “Chacho” Rodriguez, Corry Higgins, Will Clyburn, Kyle Hines. To play with a group like that in your first year is amazing. They do everything and you’re just there filling the gaps. This year, I feel like I’m able to elevate myself a little bit and be more assertive and aggressive, more of an option on offence. We’ll see what the season has in store.

Q: How is the Anadolu Efes group that you’re on, with Vasilije Micic and Shane Larkin as the starting and leading guards?

A: They are some of the best guards in Europe. When it comes to deciding for which team to play, for a guy like me who relies on such good guard play, it’s important to have both of them on my side. In Euroleague especially, having great guards is the way to succeed. That was apparent last year with CSKA and it’s going to be apparent this year also, as we continue to win.

Q: You played against them, now you are playing with them. What can you say about what they have become? Especially Larkin, who seems to have changed gear since last March.

A: The crazy thing is that he’s not a 100% ready right now. Once Shane gets a 100% healthy, it’s going to be scarier. Vasa (Micic) is as good as anybody in Euroleague right now. He’s having an MVP worthy season. Playing alongside those guys everyday in practice is a great experience for me.