Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul is one of two teams – along with Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade – in the race for the last spot in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs. Darussafaka comes into this week’s road game in Bamberg knowing that only a win will keep its destiny in its hands, with the team set to host Zvezda in the regular season finale. Swingman Will Clyburn, who is having a big impact in his first EuroLeague season, is among the players Coach David Blatt will be counting on to lead Darussafaka to what would be its maiden playoff berth. Clyburn has averaged 12.9 points and 5.4 rebounds, while playing in all 28 of his team’s EuroLeague games this season, but has been even better lately by taking his numbers to 15 points and 5.8 rebounds over his team's last five games. Clyburn played a couple of seasons for ratiopharm Ulm in Germany and knows how tough it will be for Darussafaka to play in Bamberg, as he explained in this interview. "We have to come in defensive-minded, for sure. Offense will come, but defense, we have to be there from the start," Clyburn told EuroLeague.net. "You cannot let them get going in that arena because the crowd, their fans, are great there. They have always been.”
Hello, Will. Congratulations on your key win against Galatasaray. A great start of the third quarter put you on the right track. What did you talk about at halftime to change the game?
"Mostly, we had to start getting stops and not only worry about the offensive part. [Coach Blatt] just wanted us to play defense like we know we can, and we did that when we came out in the second half. We held them to 28 points in the second half, and that was key for us."
It was Darussafaka's fourth consecutive home win. How important is it to be solid in front of your fans in such a demanding competition as the EuroLeague?
"It is a very big thing. Our fans really give us our rhythm in that gym. It is not the biggest arena, but you can fill it up, the atmosphere is great, our fans are really close to the action. They are great and it is great to win at home like we are."
You have scored in double digits in the last five games. Did you need an adjustment period to a more difficult league and new teammates?
"I wouldn't say adjust. I came from a situation where I needed to score the ball at all times. Now, I am on a team with a bunch of different players who can do that. It makes things easier when you have to guard Brad [Wanamaker] or Scottie [Wilbekin], and I don't need to have the ball all the time. That was a big adjustment. At the same time, my teammates made it so much easier, because teams have to guard them as well."
Speaking of the EuroLeague, how do you like the competition. What is it the best part about it?
"I would say it is the games. The new format is pretty cool, sometimes playing two games a week. For any basketball player, this is good; less practice, of course! You get to go up and down a lot, and the more games, the better, of course!"
Darussafaka will reach the playoffs if it wins its last two games. How focused is the team on reaching this goal, now that it is within reach?
"You know, this is the first time in a while, like you said, that we don't have to worry about the standings. We just have to worry about us winning, and all we have to do is win two games, and then we are in. That is a big plus and all of our focus is on just winning, instead of worrying about anybody else."
You will play a do-or-die game against Brose Bamberg, a team you know very well after your two years in Germany. What will it take to win in Bamberg, knowing they share the ball really well?
"We have to come in defensive-minded, for sure. Offense will come, but defense, we have to be there from the start. You cannot let them get going in that arena because the crowd, their fans, are great there. They have always been. We have to kind of keep the fans out of it and try to focus on having a great defensive game."
After that, you will host Crvena Zvezda, in a game that could be a make-or-break one for both teams. As a professional athlete, how exciting are these kind of games, with a full season at stake?
"I think everybody wants to be in that situation in which we have to worry about winning the game. It will be a win-or-go-home situation; it cannot get better than that. I guarantee you that the atmosphere is going to great."
How exciting is it for you to be in Istanbul, right at the center of European basketball, with four EuroLeague teams and the Final Four coming up in less than two months?
"It is good, man. Being in Istanbul, even when you are not in the EuroLeague, you play against EuroLeague teams in the Turkish League - Galatasaray, Efes, Fenerbahce. It is one of the reasons why it is great; you get to face a lot of great teams. And the Final Four is going to be even better."
David Blatt is highly regarded as one of the best coaches in basketball. What is the best thing about working for him?
"You know what? I would say there is a lot of it. He is a good guy that knows the game, and he is always trying to put you in situations in which you can succeed. The time he puts into his craft is crazy. Every game, we can have a new thing to get better, and he lets his players play. He gives us the freedom to go out there, make plays and make mistakes. It is always good for a player to have a coach like that."
If you make it, how dangerous will Darussafaka Dogus be in the playoffs?
"We have shown throughout the season that we can beat anybody. We have already knocked down some of the best teams in the playoffs already. Any given night, we can step up and beat anyone."