| Entering the lion's den of Pionir Arena in Belgrade is not the easiest way to start the Turkish Airlines Euroleague season, but last week Anadolu Efes aced that test, defeating Partizan mt:s by double digits for its first season-opening road victory in six years. Among those who turned heads with his performance was swingman Tarence Kinsey, who led Efes with 18 points and 4 blocked shots while focusing on the job of ball hawk, guarding Partizan's ballhandlers all night. Kinsey, who spent last summer working at his own foundation to help the youth in his hometown of Tampa, Florida, returned to a different Euroleague team in Istanbul, but his experience in that city tells him exactly where he wants to be next spring. "I don't know the history of how many Final Four teams came from Turkey. I just know that it's being held here, and to be part of it would be huge for the city and for us," Kinsey told Euroleague.net. "So that's what our intention is, to do everything possible to get there. Even if it comes down to a buzzer-beater, hopefully we'll get to the Final Four."
Tarence, everyone is talking about how serious Anadolu Efes looked in Week 1. How serious is this team?
"We're very serious. We have a goal, but our whole thing right now is to take one game at a time and win as much as possible. In the future, our main goal is to make it to the Final Four being held here in Istanbul, Turkey. We think we can get to the Final Four with the crowd here behind us and they can take us all the way. For now, our focus is definitely on the level it has to be at, but we still have a lot of room to improve."
You played Partizan once before but never in Belgrade. Is there anything that compares to what you experienced last week walking into Pionir Arena for the first game of the Euroleague season?
"Actually, their fans are amazing, the atmosphere they create. I am sure that players there love play for that club. I couldn't get over the fact of smoke hanging in the air during game, but other than that, it's a great club to play against and a difficult place to play."
How did you and your teammates deal with that atmosphere?
"Easily. It's true that we don't play in that atmosphere every night, but during the playoffs here in Turkey, the crowds put on a great atmosphere, so we're kind of used to it. We only focused on our game plan and were not focused on the fans. We took the energy they gave us when we needed it. When we were able to quiet them down, that was good, but when they were loud, we used it as motivation. It wasn't a big deal to us."
The first thing people noticed was Tarence Kinsey defending the point. Did you enjoy that responsibility as much as you seemed to be?
"I love guarding point guards. My goal is to shut down every point guard I play against this year. I have that as an individual goal. When I guard the point, I can defensive rebound easily and get out on the break more because a lot of times you are already on the perimeter, and if long rebounds come, you can go."
Did you expect to be guarding point guards this season?
"Whoever is the best player on the opposing team and does the most creating for them, that's my assignment. My role is to slow that player down and create some tempo for us. If it's the point guard who we need to focus upon, then I take the point guard. If it's a shooting guard, I'll take him. By my main goal individually is to get a turnover against every point guard I go against this season, especially in the Euroleague."
You never had more than one block in a Euroleague game before last week. Then you had four against Partizan. Was that a sign of how pumped up you were?
"Actually, positioned where I am on defense makes it possible to read the situation and how a play is designed. With that advantage, I got the opportunity to get those blocks. I try to do anything to help my team. I knew we needed defensive stops, so when I saw them driving the lane, I just went for it. Luckily, I was able to go up and get the blocks. I'll do anything to help my team get a W."
Over the summer, you moved across town from Fenerbache Ulker to Anadolu Efes. What went into that decision for you?
"Truthfully, without going into my decision, I am just glad to play for Efes, and when play we play Fenerbahce in the Turkish League or wherever, I'll be very excited to play against them."
Also over the summer, your Tarence Kinsey Foundation helps young people from your hometown, Tampa, Florida. What is your foundation all about?
"It's basically about creating opportunity and instilling in the youth of the neighborhood that they can be whatever they want to be. We help get them tutors to pass their university entrance exams. We let them know, if they want to be a doctor, what that's like, by shadowing a doctor for a day, or a teacher or any professional, so they can see the work that has to be put in for them to become what they want to become. If that's a pro football or basketball player, they go to a training session to see those kind of professionals. That's what the foundation does, shows these young people what they have to do before they can become what they want to become."
How do you manage something this big spending much of the year so far away in Istanbul?
"That's where my family helping me comes in. My mother, my sister and my brother-in-law run it when I am not there. They are running it now, in fact. When I go home, there's a full schedule of things for me to do. But when I am gone, they are busy putting together different events, getting tutors for the kids, setting up mentors for them, doing these shadowing programs, things like that. They do a great job and I am proud of their participation."
Back to Istanbul. As someone who always played against Efes and now is on the inside, do you sense a new attitude as people talked about last week?
"That's a hard question. All I know about our attitude is that we are focused on winning one game at a time. Everyone thinks we're playing with a chip on our shoulder or whatever. They can think what they want, but we are just trying to win as many games as possible. I'm an aggressive player and I will do anything to win. If people say I'm a tough guy or whatever, that doesn't float my boat. What we're structured around is that one-game-at-a-time attitude. We want to keep winning until, hopefully, we're one of the last teams standing."
Few people outside Turkey know about Ufuk Sarica as a coach. What have been your first impressions under him?
"Our coach is a hard worker. He's a players' coach. To me, that means he understands the game as a player and a coach. He understands the importance of being focused at every moment during practice. I take my hat off to him, because he's doing a good job. We lost a game we really wanted in a preseason tournament, and I liked the way he responded. He said 'Let's get back to it. We have more games to play. We can't dwell on one tough loss or one big win. We need to get ready for the next game.'"
You've played all of your Euroleague career so far in Istanbul. What would it mean to you to take part in the next Final Four here?
"It would be huge. I don't know the history of how many Final Four teams came from Turkey. I just know that it's being held here, and to be part of it would be huge for the city and for us. It would be a stepping stone, as well, for any player to add to his career, something to be proud of in years to come. So that's what our intention is, to do everything possible to get there. Even if it comes down to a buzzer-beater, hopefully we'll get to the Final Four."