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Interview Joël Ayayi: “European basketball is more altruistic”

After having tried his luck with the Lakers, Wizards, Jazz, Magic or recently the Grizzlies during the last summer league, Joel Ayayi has indeed decided to turn the American page, to open a new chapter in Europe.

Signed by Nanterre where he will find the current assistant of the Blues, Pascal Donnadieu (for what will be his last season in coaching), Joël Ayayi is currently enjoying a tricolor break as a training partner for the Blues in preparation for the World Cup.

The perfect opportunity for DNA of Sports to chat with the former back of Gonzaga… whom we had met for the first time at the other end of the United States, when he discovered the NCAA at only 17 years old!

“For me, it was better to come back to Europe”

Joël, how do you feel in this enlarged group of Blues? It’s been a while since you returned to the bosom of the tricolor federation?

“Yes, it’s cool, it’s a lot of experience, it allows you to be in contact with the staff of team A. Even if there is no selection yet, it’s a lot of good things to store. »

You have flirted with the NBA for the past two seasons, with back and forth in the G-League with Washington DC (11 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists) then in Florida (with the Magic, 9 points, 6 rebounds, 4 passes), what is your assessment of this beginning of your professional career after leaving Gonzaga?

“It was two very different years. Because the first year, I was on a “two-way contract” so it’s a tipping point. The second year, I only had a contract for the training camp [à l’origine]. It was two different years. It’s a question of opportunities, of windows. For me, it was better to come back to Europe to reopen another one later [vers la NBA]. »

How do you say that these two years were different: with the “two-way contract”, you had more opportunities and playing time than during the second?

“It was different because with the ‘two-way contract’ I was also playing with the first team. While the second time I was only in the G-League. Comfortable or not, it’s always the same game, the same type of basketball. But with a difference in status…”

“I don’t see it as a decline or anything at all, but more like a new beginning”

Tell us how you came to sign with Nanterre, under the thumb of the assistant of the Blues, Pascal Donnadieu?

“Contact was made like with many other teams in Europe. For me, it was mainly about finding a place where I could have fun again and find a lot of pleasure in playing basketball. I don’t see it as a rebound [pour retourner en NBA], but just the opportunity to start my career in Europe. Careers are built little by little. If the door to the NBA opens again, we will pay attention but there are also a lot of guys, like Elie [Okobo, qui était alors à l’échauffement devant nous], who have fun and have great careers in Europe too. I don’t see it as a decline or anything at all, but more like a new beginning. »

What type of player do you think you can be in the European game? What primary qualities do you think you bring to your new team?

“The creation in attack and my versatility. Whether I play in 1, 2 or 3, I can bring in different registers. Depending on how the final squad will be, we’ll see. Like Pascal [Donnadieu] pointed out, he appreciates my versatility and therefore wants me to play in different places, both in attack and in defense. That’s what makes me strong. »

Can we say that your profile as a versatile and creative player suits the European game more, more altruistic than the American one, and even more in the G-League, which is more individualistic?

“Yes, because European basketball is like that, more altruistic. My strength is above all adaptation. It’s all about situation and opportunity. »

Interview in Orléans

Photo credit : Lenoir/The Agency/FFBB

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