After the birth of the B League, the number of players who have achieved results in Europe is increasing, so that they can keep pace with the ever-developing league. Among them, Deshaun Thomas, who joined Alvark Tokyo, has an outstanding track record. Thomas, who was active at Ohio State University, one of the most powerful players in the United States, has been the main player of Panathinaikos in Greece, one of Europe’s biggest clubs, for the past two seasons after working in Barcelona and Maccabi Tel Aviv. Literally, joining A Tokyo, a top European player, is a big shock from the perspective of the world basketball world. We asked Thomas, who will be the key man for the third consecutive league title in A Tokyo, why he decided to join the team and his impression of the B League.
Alvark Tokyo, key man for the third consecutive league title
–The B-League debut has been delayed until November due to the delay in joining the team due to the corona wreck.
No one could control the new coronavirus, so I just accepted the delay in merging. I was trying to think that this situation was not only bad, but also good. For example, last season I played many games for a long time, such as 30 minutes or 35 minutes. So I tried to positively accept that it was a period of rest for my overworked body. It’s been six months away from playing in action, but the conditions are approaching 100%.
――It was a big surprise for Thomas, who was on the top stage in Europe, to go to Japan. A Please tell us the reason why you chose Tokyo as the new world.
We received offers from the EuroLeague team, but there were some areas where negotiations did not go well due to the corona wreck. Alvark offered me a great offer, and I think I made the best decision for myself and my family.
My friends said, “I’m going to play basketball in Tokyo next time,” and everyone was happy, but some of my acquaintances in the basketball world said, “I’m going to the EuroLeague team.” There were many people who were surprised, “Why is Japan even though I can do it?” For me, it was a natural choice in the pursuit of a better environment as a professional. And I’m always looking for new experiences.
–Did you have any knowledge about the B League before joining the team?
Ohio State University teammate Evan Ravenel has been playing in Japan for years and has taught us how much the league is growing and how good foreign players are growing. Jeff Gibbs was also a teammate at TBT (America’s largest open-participation tournament). I think his continued play in Japan at the age of 40 shows how wonderful Japan is.
“Aggressive and solid play in both offense and defense”
――What is your impression of A Tokyo?
When I talked to Jeff before coming to Japan, he told me how professional and wonderful Alvark is. I am very grateful that when I actually joined the team, I realized that the team really values the players and creates an environment where they can do their best.
Luka (Pavićević) is a great coach with a passion. He has a lot of experience and is familiar with the game. Japanese players are really enthusiastic about practicing. (Alex) Kirk is familiar to me because he used to be a teammate at Efes in Turkey. I also got on a Japanese train, but I liked it because it was very accurate and fast. I like it better than a taxi. It was a very good experience.
――You have only participated in 4 games, but please tell us your impression of actually playing in the B League.
From a high level in Europe, the B League is very competitive and the 4th and 5th foreign players are of very high quality. There are some differences in levels, but I think it’s an excellent league. And the B League has speed. In Europe, some teams control the game at a very slow tempo. However, Japanese point guards are generally fast and basketball IQ is high. Europe is physically stronger, but the B League is also better in terms of agility and speed.
――The style of the league and the rules of foreign nationality are different between B League and Europe. On top of that, do you think A Tokyo needs to change its playing style?
The difference is that the players facing Europe are larger in size, but my style remains the same. We will continue to play as aggressively as ever, both offensively and defensively, and respond well to the team’s system.
――It’s still early days, but are you comfortable living in Tokyo?
It’s completely different from Europe, but I think Tokyo is one of the best cities in the world. Japanese people are very kind, there is a shopping mall for shopping, and there are various things to live in. I want to bring in my family because it is safe. I like living here.
“I’m going to step up with each match”
――Panaathinaikos, who was enrolled until last season, is famous for one of the most intense cheering fans in Europe. Compared to that, I think the atmosphere of the B League venue is completely different. How did you perceive it?
As you say, Panathinaikos has one of the most enthusiastic fans in Europe. That’s why the opponent team hates the match (laughs). In the B League, even if the away team scores, applause occurs from the venue, which is rare in Europe. Basketball is more enjoyed as entertainment in Japan. You have to get used to this difference in atmosphere, but it’s great that the fans are smiling and enjoying the game.
――Please tell us about your reflection so far and your enthusiasm for the mid-season game.
It was a tough fight in November, but I was able to finish with a series of wins at the end. The season is long and tough fights will continue, but we are becoming more united. The team knows that sometimes it takes patience to be successful.
December is another tough date, but we’re ready for a dogfight. All I have to do is lead the team to victory with my skills. I will be in good condition, always face the match in the best condition, and step up with each match. I know I can expect a lot from my background, but all I care about is winning and I will do my best to do so.
――Finally, do you have a message for A Tokyo fans?
We continue to need your support. With your support, we can play harder. Let’s have a great season again and share the joy of winning together.