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Interview: Thabo Sefolosha

Interview: Thabo Sefolosha
Jun 23, 2006, 12:58 am
Jonathan Givony: How have your workouts been going so far?

Thabo Sefolosha: I feel ok. I was a little tired because I just had a lot of workouts in a row, but they’ve been good I think. So things are going well.

Jonathan Givony: Which teams have you worked out for so far?

Thabo Sefolosha: I worked out for: Golden State, Phoenix, Orlando, Chicago, Minnesota, and Indiana.

Jonathan Givony: What workouts do you have coming up?

Thabo Sefolosha: New Orleans, Houston, Seattle, Utah…I’ve got a couple more.

Jonathan Givony: Which workout did you think was your best so far?

Thabo Sefolosha: The best one? It was either Chicago or Minnesota, I did pretty good there. I didn’t do too good in Indiana, but I was real tired then.

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Jonathan Givony: What are the differences between your good workouts and your bad ones?

Thabo Sefolosha: Well, all the workouts I’ve shot fairly well except Indiana and Golden State, which was my first one. The rest of the workouts I shot well and in all of the exercises I did really well.

Jonathan Givony: What type of feedback have you been getting after the workouts? What have they told you?

Thabo Sefolosha: They tell me they like the intensity that I put into it. But, they don’t tell me much. I think they’ve liked what they’ve seen so far though.

Jonathan Givony: Which players have impressed you out of those you worked out with?

Thabo Sefolosha: Brandon Roy. I like his game. I think he’s really good. Cedric Simmons. He’s very big, he can run, jump, he’s very athletic. Also, Louis Amundson.

Jonathan Givony: It seems like you’re one of the hottest names in the draft right now…Most draft experts besides DraftExpress had you in the 2nd round or undrafted up until just 2 weeks ago. What have you done to change people’s minds?

Thabo Sefolosha: I just don’t think people really saw me that much, especially with the differences in the game coming from Europe. But, I think I’ve competed very well against the players who I’ve gone up against, players like Rudy Gay and Brandon Roy. So, those players can go top 10 and I think I can compete with that type of player, so….

Jonathan Givony: What do you think are the differences between the skills you use the most in Europe and the skills they test you on in these NBA workouts?

Thabo Sefolosha: Well, the main thing is that most of these other players have had two months to prepare for the draft. Coming over from Europe, I just finished the season and have only had one week to prepare for the workouts. During the season I don’t really have time to work on my own game. With practice and the games there is really no time to prepare.

Jonathan Givony: Do you think there is more of a focus on individual skills in the NBA as opposed to Europe?

Thabo Sefolosha: I think that in the NBA it is more based off one-on-one skills, where in Europe it is more based off of the team. So, I think in these workouts the teams are really looking at how you do with those things; how you dribble the ball, one-on-one, two-on-two, how you beat other people…so for me its very different, but it’s still basketball.

Jonathan Givony: So do you think you are able to show what you’re really good at in these type of workout situations?

Thabo Sefolosha: Not really. I’m good at the five-on-five, reading the defense and the offense and all that. I think I can show my athleticism and my ability to dribble the ball and things like that. But, I think I’ll do much better in the five-on-five.

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Eric Weiss: Earlier you were talking about the differences between the NBA and Europe as far as team play. Do you think there are some teams in the NBA who are playing more of a team game?

Thabo Sefolosha: Yes. You’ve got teams like Dallas with Dirk Nowitzki and the other players who move the ball around a lot. Phoenix that runs and moves the ball a lot. There’s more and more of that type of game I think.

Jonathan Givony: Coming off such a grueling season in Italy with the playoffs, is it really tough coming straight into the pre draft workouts? How are your legs?

Thabo Sefolosha: Well, I try to do my best and prepare myself, but to be honest I am a bit tired. I haven’t had a chance to rest in months, but hopefully I’ll have a chance to rest afterward.

Jonathan Givony: How do you feel about Summer League? There’s not much of a break between the draft and the start of games there.

Thabo Sefolosha: I’ll be ready for that for sure.

Jonathan Givony: It seems you’ve really improved over the last two years, what happened over the last two years?

Thabo Sefolosha: I think it’s just more exposure. I also just improved a lot. I got a lot of experience going from 1st division France to Italy. I also work hard and that comes with it. As long as I work, I improve.

Jonathan Givony: Is the plan to come over right away or wait a year?

Thabo Sefolosha: Depends on the team and the situation, but I think I’m ready next year.

Jonathan Givony: Is there a big difference shooting the NBA 3 as opposed to shooting it from International distance?

Thabo Sefolosha: It’s a little bit difficult because of the distance, but with some work it should be ok. That’s not what I’m worried about right now.

Eric Weiss: Talking about your daily routine, what have you been working on specifically and how long do you work at it?

Thabo Sefolosha: Shooting mostly. Coming over from the season in Italy I only had one week to prepare. So I’ve mostly worked on my shot, spotting up and from the NBA 3 point line.

Eric Weiss: When you say you are working on you’re shot, what are you doing? Are you putting up 600 shots a day, are you working on technique? What goes into that?

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Thabo Sefolosha: With such a short time to prepare it’s not good for me to change anything right now. So, I’ve just been putting up a lot of shots, working on catch-and-shoot and off the dribble.

Jonathan Givony: Watching the NBA growing up, is there any player you’ve tried to pattern your game after. Maybe some of the European players who made it, like Boris Diaw or Manu Ginobilli.

Thabo Sefolosha: Not really. I watch a lot of games and I try to take something from many different players, not one or two specifically.

Eric Weiss: Looking at yourself right now, what do you think you bring to the table immediately? What are you best at?

Thabo Sefolosha: Just giving my best effort every game and helping the team anyway I can. If it’s rebounding, I’ll rebound. If it’s pushing the ball up the floor than I’ll do that. I just play with the team. Defense, I can help with that. Hit open jump shots.

Eric Weiss: Do you feel you can play multiple positions defensively?

Thabo Sefolosha: Oh yeah. I think I can guard a lot of different positions on the court. One, two, or three.

Eric Weiss: What areas do you think you can improve in?

Thabo Sefolosha: Everything. My shot. My body: I’ve got to work a lot on that. My dribble. I mean, every aspect of my game can be worked on.

Jonathan Givony: What are some of the main differences you’ve seen in the workouts between European and American players?

Thabo Sefolosha: More athletic. But mainly, there are a lot of 19 and 20 year old kids that have a man’s body. In Europe, if you’re young they say “he’s got to work on this”, but here there are a lot of guys that come ready to play physically.

Jonathan Givony: What do you think of the Italian prospects Bargnani and Belinelli?

Thabo Sefolosha: Bargnani is good, he can play. He can shoot the ball and do a lot of other things real good. I think he’s got a chance to be a really good player over here in time. Belinelli is a great shooter, that’s what he does. But, he needs to work on other areas of his game because he’s mainly just a shooter.

Eric Weiss: Personally, coming so far away from home and going through all of this, do you plan to bring anyone with you to help you make the adjustment? Are you going to live alone?

Thabo Sefolosha: Right now it is a little difficult because I haven’t gotten to see my family due to the season ending and me having to come here right away. But, next year I plan to bring my girlfriend with me to stay. My mother will probably come over and help me move, she’ll stay for a few weeks.

Jonathan Givony: Isn’t your mom an artist or something like that?

Thabo Sefolosha: Yes, she paints and she has some galleries in the States, including New York.

Jonathan Givony: Your background has got to be one of the most interesting of all the players in this years draft. Tell us something about that. Doesn’t your father play music?

Thabo Sefolosha: Yes, African music. He plays saxophone and drums.

Jonathan Givony: His band is pretty famous, no?

Thabo Sefolosha: He used to have a well know band in South Africa. But now he plays with some blues musicians, he’s got a CD coming out.

Eric Weiss: Coming from a family of artists, how did you find basketball to be your avenue of expression?

Thabo Sefolosha: One day my neighbor was going to play basketball and he asked me and my brother to come along. We ended up playing all day until the sun went down and just loved it. I’ve been playing ever since.

Jonathan Givony: How old were you?

Thabo Sefolosha: I was 11 at the time.

Jonathan Givony: Do you have a following in Switzerland?

Thabo Sefolosha: Yes, basketball isn’t the main sport in Switzerland, but they’re interested to see the first Swiss-born player make it in the NBA.

Jonathan Givony: Well, good luck the rest of the way. We look forward to seeing your success and we’ll speak again in the future.

Thabo Sefolosha: Thank you.
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