Hi everyone. I'm DeMarcus Nelson from Cholet Basket, happy to be blogging for my team on the Euroleague webpage, especially since we got our first victory last week! That was nice for everyone as a reward for the hard work we've been doing to try to compete in this competition. I am especially happy to be in the Euroleague this season and join my fellow Duke University alumni Trajan Langdon and Martynas Pocius. We all know that Duke is famous on the other side of the ocean, so we would like to make sure that fame extends all the way to Europe. There's no doubt that Trajan has already done his part, with all the success he has had in the Euroleague. Of course, Martynas is already making his name known, too. We were lucky enough to run into each other at a friendly game in the preseason. Martynas didn't play because he just came back from his national team, but we got to talk about the Euroleague season ahead of us. We played two years together at Duke, and we all knew he was a good player there and would do well. So his performances last year, in the summer with Lithuania and so far this year have been no surprise to me. In all our cases, our coming to play here is a testament to the kind of competitors we are. Trajan of course has had opportunities to play in the NBA and I could have been in a camp this fall. But none of us wanted to sit on somebody's bench. We preferred to play at the highest level possible. My decision to come to Europe last year and this year was a choice. Last year, I wanted to take the opportunity to play in Europe, and this year I wanted to come back because I feel I have something to prove here. I felt I didn't do enough last year, some of which is on me and my play, some on things that happened with my former team in-house. To show the player I am expected to be and the competitor I want to be, I came back. I wanted to be here.
Before this, I had only watched Euroleague games on TV, where I saw the best players in Europe. As a competitor, I always aspire to do just that, compete with the best and say I belong with those guys, too. That's what is so exciting about playing in the Euroleague for me. Joining Cholet, the champions of France, gave me that opportunity and I jumped at it. Some people might look at my stats with Avellino in Italy last year and say I had a good year or an OK year, but to me it felt like a subpar season for a lot of reasons, some under my control and some that were not. Part of the decision to come to Cholet was to show everyone the player I feel myself to be and expect myself to be. And this was the best opportunity to show that.
Especially for a team like ours with almost no Euroleague experience, I don't know if they could have given us a tougher schedule to start: Montepaschi on the road to open and Barcelona at home in the second game. I had played against Siena last year twice, so knew we were facing a great team there. We came out and played them strong in the first half and were tied after 18 minutes. But in the last couple before halftime, they scored 5 points and used that as a launch pad for the third quarter. After the break, they played Siena ball, hitting shots and playing great defense, and really ran away with the game. We know very well going into these games that we are underdogs with Barcelona, the defending champs, with Siena, which is always among the top eight teams, and with Fenerbahce, considering all the experience they bring. We feel we have a good chance to battle Cibona and Lietuvos Rytas, however. We feel we match up good with them. But even against the top bracket in this group, although we might be out-matched on paper, out main thing is just playing the game strong. By that I mean look the opponent eye-to-eye, stand there chest-to-chest, and say 'Let's play'. Against Siena, that's how we played the first half, but I think we relaxed after that, assuming that can-do attitude was going to carry over naturally into the second half. And in that assumption, that brief minute of relaxing our attitude, Siena turned it up and it cost us a lot. We weren't able to match their intensity. In the end, though, we needed that type of loss to learn how to come out intense, come out strong, and then sustain it the whole game. So in many ways, that loss to Siena helped us.
We learned a little more the next week against Barcelona, at home. It felt totally different. We were down a lot at the beginning in that game, but we played them tough the rest of the way and had a chance to win in the fourth quarter. The difference in that one was their experience down the stretch. They made the right plays to win, and that shows their togetherness. We are a new team, with new guys being introduced, and we got our attitude right that night. We had a chance against the champs. It was just the last 2 minutes that was the difference in that one.
Against Lietuvos Rytas, we knew our crowd could help because they have been showing up all season for French League games, cheering the team on, giving us a lot of energy. On that night, it seemed there wasn't an empty seat. It was a very physical game, something we are getting used to in the Euroleague. I had 3 fouls in my first 3 minutes on the floor, so I was close to fouling out and it really limited my playing time, but I was able to help some. We felt it was going to come down to whatever team fought hardest and hustled hardest, not so much Xs and Os or talent, but more just a game of will. And that's how it played out. There was strategy here and there, but it was about two teams trying to win. They made some plays, but we made the final ones, and that helps us going forward. We keep learning. This time it was Lietuvos Rytas, but no matter who our opponent is, the one thing they can expect is that at home, Cholet is going to be tough to beat. Just getting that first win speaks for itself. It was the first Euroleague win in 10 years for the people here in Cholet, but I don't think it'll be the last one for us.
DeMARCUS NELSON - FRANCE
Tuesday, November 09, 2010