“I think Euroleague is the best basketball in the world” Tyler Cavanaugh talks Zalgiris, hoops ahead of Maccabi

Oct 26, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv welcomes Zalgiris for a Euroleague Gameday 6 matchup on Tuesday night (21:05) at Yad Eliyahu. The Yellow & Blue will look to improve on their 3-2 record while the Lithuanian club are still searching for their first victory of the season and are 0-5 so far this campaign.

Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad will need to be very wary of Zalgiris who are now under the tutelage of Jure Zdovc who took over for Martin Schiller after the club’s rough start to the season.

One of the veteran players who will look to make an impact in Israel is Tyler Cavanaugh who signed with the team in the offseason after having played with Tenerife the prior year. The Sports Rabbi had the chance to catch up with the former NBA forward who is playing with his third team in Europe.

Cavanaugh joined the Zalgiris over the summer due to Schiller being behind the bench as the two were reunited from their days in the G-League with the Utah Stars. However, sometimes things don’t go exactly as planned, “It was disappointing because my of prior experience playing for him in Salt Lake City,” Cavanaugh began. “At the end of the day though this is a business and each and every member of the organization has a job to do. As a professional you continue to show up to work and try to improve each day.”

With a new coach in tow, Zalgiris is looking to get their first win of the season against Maccabi Tel Aviv and Cavanaugh described what Coach Zdovc brings to the table for the prestigious club, “Coach Zdovc is a very knowledgeable coach who from Day 1 has been preaching to us the importance of defense and intensity on every possession. He keeps the game relatively simple in terms of tactics and pushes us to play harder each day.”

Niels Giffey – Photo Credit: Euroleague.net

Despite not having been able to spend much time once again with Schiller, Cavanaugh was reunited with one of his former Alba Berlin teammates in Niels Giffey who brings a tremendous amount of veteran knowledge and experience.

“Niels is a great teammate and I was really excited to get the chance to play with him again. He’s such a well rounded player that can help a team in so many ways. It’s been great getting to reunite with him here in Kaunas.”

One of the familiar faces that Israeli basketball aficionados will welcome back to the Holy Land is center Josh Nebo who played Hapoel Eilat last season. Nebo who is only in his second professional season has already made an impression after making the jump to the Euroleague.

Josh Nebo – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

“Josh has had an unbelievable start to the season and I don’t think he’s even scratched the surface of his potential. Obviously everyone sees the amazing athletic ability which is impossible to miss but I am really impressed with how fast he has picked things up since the start of the season. He has added so much to his game already this year and that’s only going to continue. He is a very high level player and I am excited to see where his career takes him.”

Cavanaugh grew up in New York and attended Wake Forest and George Washington University. Following his time in college, the 6”9 power forward went undrafted but joined the Atlanta Hawks for training camp and ended up signing a two-way contract which was then converted to a 2-year deal.

With the move to the NBA, Cavanaugh honed his trade under coach Mike Budenholzer who just guided the Milwaukee Bucks to the NBA title. “Coach Bud is a great basketball mind with his attention to detail and unique ideas. He uses a lot of stretch bigs to be able to create spacing for his playmakers and it paid off with the championship last season. Very happy to see him and his staff accomplish that goal.”

Donovan Mitchell – Photo Credit: All-Pro Reels

After time with both Atlanta and their G-League affiliate Erie Bayhawks, Cavanaugh joined the Utah Jazz on a two-way contract along with the Salt Lake City Stars. While in Utah he had the opportunity to play with NBA all-star Donovan Mitchell, “In Utah I didn’t get to play in many games with the Jazz but being able to spend time around Donovan Mitchell was great. Just seeing his approach and how he works each and everyday to get better was inspiring. He’s a very special talent and has a lot of awards and accolades in his future.”

Next up for Cavanaugh was a Summer League stint with the New York Knicks and although it didn’t result in another NBA opportunity which he felt he had done enough to earn, it did give him some clarity on where his next stop would be as a professional.

“I thought I had a pretty solid summer league with them but it just didn’t work out. I knew it was time to take the next step in my career to Europe if I didn’t have the opportunity to get a roster spot with a team.”

Many players believe that basketball is basketball in all parts of the world and it’s played the same way whether in America, Brazil, Spain or Japan, however, it was clear to Cavanaugh very quickly that hooping across the pond in Europe was a totally different game.

Tyler Cavanaugh – Photo Credit: Zalgiris

“The jump for me from the NBA/G-League to Euroleague was eye opening. Basketball in Europe, especially at the Euroleague level is so much different in terms of spacing, defense, and intensity. Every game means so much therefore every possession is so important. I am still adjusting to the game in Europe. I think Euroleague is the best basketball in the world.”

As for a return to the NBA, Cavanaugh is satisfied with how his career is going and is looking to be the best version of himself that he can be, “As an American I would always love to be able to play at home again in the NBA, but if it never happens again I am ok with that and just want to have the best career I can possibly have in Europe.”

Finally, Cavanaugh spoke about the keys against Maccabi and how Zalgiris would be able to notch their first victory of the season, “Just continuing to learn how to play together more and more. We are so close to pushing through and we have been working hard in preparation for this week.”

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