|He may be one of the shortest players with one of the shortest names in the competition, but nobody stands as tall in the eyes of fans and professionals around the continent as Euroleague Basketball's MVP for February, point guard Tyus Edney of Olympiacos. A model professional who has been a leader throughout his career, Edney has outdone himself lately as the point man in getting a young Olympiacos team to become a group co-leader after one week of the Top 16. If the rebuilding process at Olympiacos is ahead of schedule, Edney is a major reason for it, and as he makes clear in this Euroleague.net interview, he and the Reds are ready to make more noise. "From the beginning of the season, we knew we had a long way to go, but also a large margin for improvement," Edney told Euroleague.net. "I think we've come along pretty well. I thought we had the potential to do something if the young guys could get experience. Now, they have some."
Hello, Tyus, and congratulations on being the MVP for February. It's great to have you back in the competition after a one-year absence. Did you miss the Euroleague as much as we missed you?
"I did, and actually, that was one of the reasons I came to play at Olympiacos. I wanted the chance to play again in the Euroleague. I enjoy the Euroleague a lot. It's a good league, a tough league, and as soon as I saw an opportunity to come back, I took it."
Let's talk about this February run, three games in which Olympiacos went from survival mode to first place in a Top 16 group. How did everything come together at the right time?
"I think it was just that everybody knew this was the most important time for us to play well, basically. Everybody stepped up his game a little bit, and as a team, we started playing a lot better together. We started doing things better that our coach wanted us to do, and we got the results."
Are we seeing the signs of a new and mostly young team coming together for good?
"It's a good sign, no doubt. From the beginning of the season, we knew it would take some time, but I think that now we're coming together. The young guys are getting more confidence. And they are adding some important experience, too. If we continue to play well, we can still improve, too."
You are reunited this year with your first European coach, Jonas Kazlauskas, with whom you won the Euroleague title for Zalgiris in 1999. How has it been getting back together with him?
"It's been good playing for him again. We're just trying to get back to winning again like we did when I was in Zalgiris with him in my first season here. Hopefully, we can continue to play well and give ourselves a chance to do more as the season goes along."
Do you ever look back and realize how special that Zalgiris team was, not just for winning the title, but for signaling an era of offensive-minded basketball that has transformed the European game?
"For sure, and even more so now that I am dealing with Kazlauskas again. We get the chance to talk over some memories, and for us that was a special season and a special year. In particular, it was a special group of guys. Everybody really jelled together on and off the court."
Besides the same coach and his playing philosophy, does anything about this Olympiacos team remind you of Zalgiris in 1999?
"I think so, yeah, especially in the fact that young guys playing well are making it a deep team. That Zalgiris team was deep, with 10 guys who could come on the court at anytime to help and contribute. And that's the same thing about our team now. Everybody plays and even the young guys can make important contributions and help us get over the hump sometimes."
You've always been a team leader, but as you turn 33 this year, do you have more of a teaching role than ever with all these young teammates?
"Yes, for sure. I try to help them out in every way possible. Mostly I try to keep them positive. Young guys can get really down when things go wrong. So mentally, I try to give them help and support, besides talking with them about what I see when we're playing."
Olympiacos has surprised some people already. From your experience, do you see this as a surprise team or one that had big potential all along?
"From the beginning of the season, we knew we had a long way to go, but also a large margin for improvement. And I think we've come along pretty well. I thought we had the potential to do something if the young guys could get experience. Now, they have some and they are helping even more, and that's why we're coming together like we are."
There is a big psychological factor to the Top 16, where every game can change momentum. After one victory, what are you telling your young teammates to keep them focused?
"Everybody knows that in the Top 16 every game is like a final game. You have to have full concentration all the time. You can't have any letdowns. And being a young team, I know that we can't afford to relax at all. We've got to be at our maximum in every game now."
Finally, at your age, you chose a team that was considered at least a two-year project when the season started. How does it feel to see that project really coming along ahead of schedule these days?
"Things are going well, because I thought for sure that it was going to take time. It's good that we are already seeing things coming together, and what's also positive is that everyone is improving. For me, that's really good to be part of after coming to a new team like this."