Pursuing basketball dreams far from home
Table Talk: Playing Overseas, the latest documentary produced by Euroleague Basketball, examines the experiences of basketball pros who pursue their careers all over the world, often far from friends and family. The film dives into the topic from multiple angles, offering perspectives from both players and coaches going from the United States to Europe and vice-versa.
Head coach Dimitris Itoudis of CSKA Moscow, his former players Alec Peters of TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz and Kyle Hines of AX Armani Exchange Milan, FC Barcelona boss Sarunas Jasikevicius and his current players Nick Calathes and Alex Abrines, plus EuroLeague veteran Malcolm Thomas, former EuroLeague Women champs Marta Xargay and Sonja Vasic, and two-time WNBA champion Breanna Stewart all share stories and weigh in on the topics addressed in the documentary.
Listen in as Coach Itoudis and Peters chat about their initial conversations to join forces at CSKA in 2018 – a season that ended with them raising the EuroLeague trophy.
"I was sitting in my hotel room in Vegas and get a call from you. And, man, that was a call that completely changed, obviously, my career path," Peters says. "All of a sudden, I have an opportunity with a coach of a European powerhouse that's telling me, you know, we're going to win the championship if you come and play for CSKA."
Itoudis details his recruiting pitch to players, using Mike Batiste as an example. The two won the EuroLeague together three times with Panathinaikos Athens with Itoudis as the right-hand man to coach Zeljko Obradovic and Batiste dominating in the paint.
"Do you really want to have a role in a winning team that is going to go and hit hard in each and every game?" Itoudis recalled telling Batiste. "That was a huge motivation for him, to understand that it's not all about money or what's written on the paper. It's about how much you want it."
A veteran of 11 EuroLeague seasons, Hines shared his secret to finding success off the court in a career that has seen him play for clubs in Italy, Germany, Greece and Russia.
"Obviously you're not home, you're not in your comfortable surroundings, but sometimes in order for you to grow as a person, you have to kind of step out of your comfort zone," Hines explains. "I think the reason why I've been able to have success on the basketball court here overseas is because I've been able to kind of embrace the culture, have an opportunity to learn so much. Every city I've gone, every place, every country I've gone, I've had an opportunity to learn so much."
Xargay and Vasic, who were teammates on both sides of the Atlantic, dove into many topics, among them their experiences together in the WNBA and how being a pro creates difficulties in family life.
"I want a boyfriend and then either he can follow me around, but that means basically that he doesn't have anything to do in his life, which is like…do I want a person who doesn't do anything in his life?" Vasic says. "Having kids, having couples, like it's all a little bit kind of either-either. There is never an in-between."
Jasikevicius told the story of adjusting to life and basketball overseas when he left his native Lithuania to play high school and college basketball in the United States and how that impacts the types of players he wants to play for him now as a head coach. His current players, Abrines and Calathes, discussed their respective experiences when they left home for the first time, too.
The film is the fourth Table Talk documentary produced by Euroleague Basketball. Past features include Women in Sports, Athletes' Retirement and Mental Health in Sports. These films add to Euroleague Basketball's commitment to premium, long-form content by taking the discussion beyond the court to encompass all aspects of the sport and its protagonists.