By Antonis Stroggylakis/ email@example.com
Of all the ingredients that synthesize the Darussafaka Dogus team recipe, none is more predominant than Brad Wanamaker.
In his second EuroLeague season, the 27-year-old American guard handles more than successfully the task of carrying out David Blatt’s strategies on the floor. His plethoric presence, illustrated in the 15.8 points, 4.8 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.5 steals he averages per game, shows the level of influence he brings to his team on both ends.
“Individually it’s a good season. I’ve been working on my game and it just shows,” he told Eurohoops. “But I’m also a team guy. I would like to see my team make it to the playoffs. That would make everything better.”
Darussafaka is currently ninth in the EuroLeague standings with a 12 – 13 record and one victory less than eighth Anadolu Efes. With five games remaining in the regular season, Wanamaker and the rest of the squad can still catch up with the clubs that have already covered more ground on the path towards postseason.
“There’s still a chance but we have to change our approach,” says Wanamaker. “Otherwise we might just forget about the playoffs to be honest”
The on-court behavior that the 27-year-old guard from Philadelphia wants to see from his band of brothers was absent during most part of Friday’s (10/1) EuroLeague match vs Olympiacos in Piraeus. Coach Blatt’s players had a fair start in the game, then began losing sight of their opponents until they found themselves trailing by 21 points in the mid of the third period.
“We let them pushing us around,” he confessed. “They are good on their way to the playoffs and reaching higher. We don’t. Yet they came out as the most hungry team tonight. Not us. We didn’t If we want to make it to the playoffs we cant allow this kind of stuff.”
(Wanamaker guarding three-time EuroLeague champion and Final Four MVP Vassilis Spanoulis of Olympiacos)
Along with Will Clyburn, Wanamaker pumped up the volume of aggressiveness, particularly on offense, making the most out of his potent slashing abilities to get his squad back on its feet. Indeed, his leadership, portrayed in 23 points plus 6 assists he notched, rewrote the script almost from scratch. Instead of a possible blowout finale we now had a two-possession matter, 73 – 69, with five minutes left.
However Dacka didn’t get any closer, ultimately losing 81 – 73 to the Reds. Things could’ve turned out differently, according to Wanamaker, if they had entered this battle with a harder attitude.
“Playing soft, especially against a top team like Olympiacos that is now among the Top Four in EuroLeague, won’t cut it. If we come out like that we might forget about it.”
From his pro career beginnings with minor division teams (Teramo, Forli) in Italy to being one of the protagonists in a club with aspirations of becoming a European powerhouse, Wanamaker has certainly come quite a long way in his travels.
“It’s been good to have the chance to play at the highest level in Europe. I’ve put a lot of work and effort dedicated in the game. Coaches have picked me in the right situations, given me the right opportunities and making the most of my strengths. What I did is trying to take advantage of all these to the best of my abilities”
During the last two years the American guard began attracting some serious attention with his performances in Brose Bamberg, under the guidance of Andrea Trinchieri. Especially last year, when he finished his rookie EuroLeague venture averaging 12.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4 assists per game.
Perhaps more importantly, he became a big-time winner. When he left the picturesque Bavarian town last summer, he carried back-to-back German League titles (2015, 2016), and numerous individual distinctions (2015 Finals MVP, 2016 German League MVP, 2016 Best Offensive Player, 2015 & 2016 All-German League First Team) in his bags.
“In my two years with Andrea I learned so much. He told me how to bring my A’ game each and every night. And we won. Because in the end it’s all about winning. That’s the attitude I try to bring here in Darussafaka Dogus.”
After David Blatt assumed the helm of the Turkish team, he picked the now two-time German League champion to be his main guy on the floor as the basic executor of the plans he draws on his board. Receiving this kind of responsibilities n a team that desires to be a protagonist in European basketball and by someone who was coaching Lebron James few months before, can be a bit overwhelming.
For Wanamaker, it’s just a challenge ripe enough for feeding his hunger to show that he can deliver in demanding situations.
“I’m excited to trying to prove myself. When the season first began I had to prove I belong here and he made the right choice by picking me. He’s someone who won the EuroLeague (2014 with Maccabi Tel Aviv), has coached Lebron James, the best player in the world! When I got to know him I saw that he’s a great guy too. He just wants you to come out and play had every night.”
Given his prowess in both scoring and facilitating for his teammates, it’s not an exaggeration to dub him as the “ultimate combo guard” in this season’s EuroLeague. Couldn’t help thinking to myself how his impact in Dacka’s game reminds me of what Malcolm Delaney provided last year in Lokomotiv Kuban’s historic run towards the Final Four in Berlin.
“It’s crazy,” says Wanamaker. “In an interview I did early in the season I was asked about it and his progress. How he got better and better every season in Europe. He went to the Final Four and now… you know… he’s in the NBA with the Atlanta Hawks. Something that is my dream as well. To eventually play there. I’t s a similar story. Not exactly the same but there some similarities.”
Pursuing the NBA dream doesn’t mean straying from the goals Brad Wanamaker sets with the team he’s a part of. After all, he knows that he’ll attract the overseas attention he desires and possibly gain entrance in the best league in the planet, by continuing shaping and improving his game to prime winning material.
The lucrative contract he signed with Darussafaka Dogus last summer keeps him Istanbul bound for one more season. But with the completion of 2017-2018? Who knows…
“Every year I think about the NBA. Of course, at the same time, I’m also playing with the mindset of winning as much as possible and reaching the highest level possible with the team I’m with. But the ultimate goal is making it to the NBA.”