Lokomotiv Kuban leader, Hokies legend, and Euroleague star Malcolm Delaney shared his thoughts with The League News on his overseas basketball experience. Delaney answers some questions about his potential in the NBA and the importance of basketball in Europe. He’s played with numerous teams around the continent—from Élan Chalon to Bayern Munich—but constantly plays an instrumental role on the basketball court. Delaney became the all-time third leading scorer at Virginia Tech and proved to be one of the top rookies in the 2013–14 Euroleague. Read our interview for his ideas on making the NBA and how playing basketball abroad isn’t always a different story.
TLN: You made your appearance in last year’s edition of the Euroleague as a rookie. What can you take away from that experience and how did it raise your standard?
MD: Euroleague was fun and raised my level of play because most nights you are playing vs the best at your position in Europe and also the biggest named clubs, so not only are you winning for your team, but it could possibly be an audition for your future.
TLN: What ultimately made you sign with Lokomotiv Kuban and part ways with Bayern Munich?
MD: My agent and I had a vision of where I wanted to be if not in the NBA, and LOKO fit that vision. They were very aggressive in trying to sign me and did what I needed to help me be comfortable signing a multi-year deal. Bayern was a great place, but just didn’t fit what I wanted or need for the next step in our plan. For my career.
TLN: How different is the atmosphere of Krasnodar, where you currently play for Lokomotiv Kuban, as to Germany?
MD: It’s like night and day. Germany was more Americanized and easier to navigate, but here in Krasnodar the weather is nicer and you can just focus on basketball, which is the only reason I’m in Europe.
TLN: Soccer is obviously a big deal in Europe. How would you compare the popularity of basketball in Russia with the United States?
MD: I would compare soccer to American football more, because of the intense fans and how hard they have to play every day. The NBA to me is competitive regular season, but for the most part the playoffs is a much higher level.
TLN: You made a good impression with Bayern Munich last year, winning the Bundesliga and Finals MVP. How important would it be to see Lokomotiv make a VTB League finals appearance with your services this season? What were your expectations going into 2014–15?
MD: Everywhere I go, my priority is to win, so my only goal coming here was to get LOKO back to Euroleague and for myself to win my fourth championship in my fourth country and keep my streak going. If we stay healthy, we have a realistic chance.
TLN: What element of your game do you think you have improved the most in the time you’ve spent abroad? Any weaknesses you are working on?
MD: My pick and roll and transition game has developed since being in Europe, because it has slowed the game down a lot for me. Now I understand spacing and spots on the floor a lot more than in college. I’m still working on my defense, but I also think this has improved a lot since college.
TLN: In the years you have spent in Virginia Tech and Europe, saying that you’ve earned a lot of accolades is an understatement. What is your favorite season up to date? I personally liked that stint in Munich.
MD: I would say my first year in France. We won 3 trophies in one year and loss in the EuroChallenge Final. But Munich is close second.
TLN: Since going overseas, you have been with a number of teams from around Europe. Which city seemed the most passionate about the game of basketball?
MD: Our fans in Chalon and Munich were similar. Came to every game and showed support and when it counted in the Final, they had our backs. When I played in France our fans took around 35 buses to the Final to support us.
TLN: What would you say was your favorite moment on the court in your career?
MD: Beating Duke on College GameDay at home, or last year, beating Real Madrid in the Euroleague.
TLN: When you play your best basketball, which NBA player do you most closely resemble
MD: I honestly don’t know. I think somebody else has to answer that for me, because I feel I have my own style with the mix of some different players’ scoring abilities. I don’t really try to play like anybody in the NBA. I’ve always just done what fits me and whats comfortable for me to win.
TLN: This may be a tough one to answer, but which teammate would you put your trust in to take the game-winning shot?
MD: Blake Schilb is probably the most clutch teammate I’ve played with. He always hit the big shots when I played in France.
TLN: Undoubtedly one of the program’s most respected players, you left behind a legacy at Virginia Tech. What has gone wrong for them in their last few seasons?
MD: I’ve honestly been focused on Europe, and with the time difference, it’s been hard for me watching. But I just think Coach Greenberg had a solid foundation set up and with a unexpected firing that had to start from scratch. I think Buzz Williams will get the program back up and running though.
TLN: You haven’t really considered joining the D-League an option, so how optimistic are you that an NBA team will be ready to sign you in the near future?
MD: My childhood goal was to play in the NBA and I had a contract that I couldn’t sign last year, so I think I’m very close. If I get the right opportunity that fits what I want for my career, I won’t think twice to take it but I’m really not chasing the NBA. I’ve set a great life up for my family and I have been successful in Europe and it will take a good opportunity to leave that.
TLN: What kind of future did you expect after your years at Virginia Tech? Were you envisioning a great career in the NBA?
MD: I knew for sure I would be in the NBA, but I know how politics work, so I was realistic for myself. My agent and I came up with a plan and that’s what we are following right now and what has worked for me so far.
TLN: Have you found there to be a big difference between NCAA and overseas basketball in terms of style and pace?
MD: I feel they are similar, because it’s a strict team game with very detailed coaching. NCAA has the long shot clock, but for me it was an easy transition from college to Europe.
TLN: Has language ever been a problem for you in your pro career?
MD: No. All of my teammates and coaches have spoken English.
TLN: I’m sure there’s a lot of good money that can be made abroad, and you can get plenty of time to fine tune your skills, but what’s the biggest drawback of the process?
MD: Leaving your family, not being able to go to your favorite restaurants or places with your friends. Also, just the comfort of everybody speaking English and living in our culture. It gets tough sometimes, but you just have to remember why you are here, and in the future it will benefit you and your family.
TLN: Do you hope to return to Euroleague action next year in a Krasnodar uniform?
I definitely hope to get LOKO back to Euroleague. This summer is a big one for me, so if not the NBA, I will surely be back in Krasnodar. I actually like playing here, and this is a great club.
TLN: Who was your basketball idol when you were growing up? Were you a big fan of a certain NBA team?
MD: Growing up, I always watched Jordan, Allen Iverson, and Carmelo Anthony. Never really had a favorite NBA team and still don’t until this day.
TLN: Any final advice for aspiring basketball players?
MD: I would just tell people that the NBA isn’t the only way to provide for your family and to play on a high level, and if you put the work in and win, you can get anywhere you want.
You can follow Malcolm Delaney on Twitter @foe23 or visit his official website at malcolmd23.com.