Valencia will be visiting Real Madrid on Thursday night in an all-Spanish battle at the Wiznick Center (20:45 local time) for Los Blancos they’ll just look to keep on winning and build on their 18-2 record after a win at Bayern Munich while the visitors will try and move into a playoff spot and get back over the .500 mark after falling to Zalgiris at La Fonteta.
Real certainly has its fair share of stars and players who have played in the NBA as does Valencia with Justin Anderson joining the ranks of the Euroleague in December after beginning the season with Rio Breogan which marked the forward’s first foray into Europe.
The 30-year old arrived in Spain with over 250 NBA games to his CV after having been selected 21st overall by the Dallas Mavericks at the 2015 NBA Draft. After a pair of seasons in Texas, Anderson headed to Philadelphia and then made stops in Atlanta, Brooklyn, Cleveland and Indiana while also having played close to 100 games in the G-League including. Following a pair of campaigns with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, Anderson made a decision to take head overseas and try his luck in Spain where Rio Breogan snapped him up.
Playing in both the ACB and Basketball Champions League garnered Anderson some attention very quickly and after just 12 games he was off to Valencia and Alex Mumbru’s team on a short term contract as he tries to impress and see the deal extended for the balance of the season.
Just ahead of the Real Madrid game which will no doubt be one that Anderson will want to play his trade at the highest of levels and make his mark, The Sports Rabbi spoke to the Virginia Cavaliers product in an exclusive interview to see how he is doing in his new home, thoughts about his game translating to Europe as well as his contract status.
But first off Anderson looked back at his game in a that saw Valencia fall to Zalgiris 84-79 in which he scored 6 points in 16 minutes of play with some coming in crunch time to keep his squad in the running for the victory.
“Because we didn’t win, you don’t really think about those plays. I now go home and think about the defensive plays, the turnovers, things that we could’ve controlled to allow us to win the game. In those moments, now that I’m thinking about it, those moments feel good. I know I’m very confident in my offensive ability as well. Talking to Alex [Mumbru] when I first got here, he wanted me to be a tenacious defender. He wanted me to be a tenacious team player, great in the locker room and bring what I bring. I wanted to make sure that I checked off the boxes of what this team needs, because it’s not always easy coming into a team in the middle of the season when they already have their pieces.”
“For me I think the best way to be the best teammate is to pick and choose my spots. Chris [Jones] facilitated a couple of those and put me in a great position to be aggressive and guys were telling me to continue to be aggressive. It feels good. Outside of the loss, I feel good. This team has welcomed me and we’re going to put it together and when we do it’s going to be scary, we have a great roster.”
After arriving in Spain and playing with Rio Breogan to begin the season, it was clear as day that Anderson would find his way to a bigger club in no time but who expected that to be in just a few short months as Valencia came calling very quickly.
“It’s been a really easy adjustment. From the top of the organization, my teammates are all great people. They welcomed me, we got right into trying to understand the playbook and trying to understand our defensive principles. It’s been really good for me and my family. We’re very comfortable here and now we’re in a position where we’re just trying to figure out how I can continue to check off what I need to do for this team and what Alex [Mumbru] wants me to do for this team and then also to continue to find my stride and to help our team continue to be better.”
Talking about finding his stride, Anderson played in the NBA for many as well as in the G-League and usually a move to Europe requires some sort of adjustments and changes, however, thus far the Montross, Virginia native hasn’t had any type of issues.
“It’s been really smooth, honestly. I didn’t know how it would go. I thought that there could be some bumps in the road, but one of the things that I said a lot was that my game translates. It was pretty cool to feel and pretty cool to see. There are a lot of people who had doubts because of the G-League and maybe their opinion is of that league. But over the last four or five years I’ve just continued to grow my game and get better. I feel like I’m in a great space in my game. I feel like I’m at the height of my game and I’m continuing to get better every day. So it’s been a pretty seamless adjustment for me, just always trying to pick and choose when to be aggressive, both defensively and offensively. Just trying to be what Alex [Mumbru] needs me to be and that’s a tough defensive-minded player, guarding one through whoever gets in the game and then now I’m finding my space, my pace, my rhythm with the offense as well.”
Deciding to pick up and move to Europe to continue ones career isn’t a simple one. It’s heading thousands of miles away from one’s comfort zone, friends and family and it’s not something that can be taken for granted that just anyone can do. But for Anderson, it was time to move on and try to ply his trade across the Atlantic Ocean and look for the next challenge.
“It was pretty easy for me if I’m being honest. I feel like I’ve exhausted my situation in the G-League. I feel like that went unnoticed from the NBA teams in particular. There are a lot of people who had a lot of praise for me, so I don’t want to say that it was unnoticed by everybody, but it was a pretty easy decision. I dominated that league. I had great stints in the NBA when I was in the NBA as a role player. Then I figured at this point of my career, why not go and take on the game somewhere where I know I can play at that level. I know that I can play at the highest level and the EuroLeague is obviously a high level as well. It was a pretty seamless decision for me.”
Anderson is on a short term deal with Valencia which is set to expire early in February and is doing everything in his power to continue to improve and make an impact.
“My motto has been day by day. I did that with Río Breogán and every day I’ve just made the best of the day, trying to keep getting better and I have that same mindset here. I signed a 45-day contract with the possibility of extending. I’m not exactly sure what day we’re on right now, but I want to make sure that I dominate every day and I think that I’ve done a great job doing that so far. So everything is to be determined, it’s out of my control, but I just want to make sure that I show up and that I give my best effort every day.”