Posted: 2:00 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013
Former Virginia Tech basketball star and third all-time leading scorer Malcolm Delaney took the time to talk with us here at Gobbler Country to update Hokie Nation on the Euroleague, answer some questions about his time at VT and discuss his Baltimore background. For a look into the life of a Hokie legend, simply read below.
Full disclosure: In my 20 years following Virginia Tech basketball, Malcolm Delaney has been my favorite player. When he was on the floor, he embodied the spirit of "Ball Don't Lie." He meant business, and his stern demeanor and stoic visage let the opponent know that they were in for a long night from the opening tip. Perhaps my favorite thing about Malcolm, was that even on nights when his shot wasn't falling, he was going to find a way to contribute. Whether that meant playing lock-down defense on the opposing ball-handler, taking advantage of the defense's extra attention to find the open man; or most importantly to me, just getting to the goal and drawing contact so that he could convert a pair of free throws, Delaney was the heart, soul and guts of the Hokies in his four years in Blacksburg.
Even though, the Hokies never made an NCAA Tournament, which according to Seth Greenberg was "certifiably insane," Delaney enjoyed as prosperous a four-year stretch as any player since Bimbo Coles in the late 1980s.The following are some of his impressive accomplishments.
He also has several professional accolades to be proud of, having played three years in the pros and having success at each stop. Among them:
Presently, his Bayern Munich team is 11-1 and at the top of the table in Germany in the Euroleague which is the top league in Europe. Malcolm graciously agreed to answer some questions for us here at Gobbler Country. The interview covered four areas: His present conditions in Munich and Euroleague experience, potential plans for the NBA, his time at Virginia Tech and some questions about his personal background coming up in Baltimore. I hope you enjoy this format, as we hope to make this a somewhat regular feature. Let us begin:
GC: So let’s talk about Munich, the team seems to be seeing a good deal of success! I saw you were off to a 7-0 start, and you are in line with your career numbers from your first two years in Europe. The European game is a different animal to us here in the United States, if you can, I’d like to do a lightning round on the European game.
You haven’t stayed in one place for more than a year so far, having moved from France to the Ukraine, and now to Germany. Is this your decision to keep moving? Do they not sign guys long(er)-term? Does the need to find a new home each year stress you out?
MD: In Europe it's rare that a young American starts off on the highest level as far as Euroleague, and a financially stable team, so taking that into consideration, my agent and I had a plan and that was to make it to the highest level and go from there. Next year my plan is to sign a multi-year deal, because I'm in the top tier, and as long as I'm comfortable spending multiple yrs in a certain city, with a good winning club, with financial stability, that decision is easy. That's not always the case though. I'm never stressed about finding a job because as long as I play good and do my job, that won't be an issue.
GC: In the past, I’m not sure if this is still the rule, do the EuroLeague teams still only allow two Americans per team? If so, does this create any social isolation for you? How long is the season, before you can return home?
MD: I'm not sure that was a rule, or if it was that was a long time ago. Most teams have around 5 foreigners, and every team I've been on everybody has spoken English, and I've had good teammates. This season because of Euroleague I won't get a break, and I won't be home until June.
GC: What are some of the differences in the Euroleague that take getting used to? Are there any strange rules and so forth that affect your game specifically?
MD: No big rules here affect my game. The only two major differences are you can goal-tend, and they have a different first step travel rule. I never had a problem adjusting though.
Who are some of the American players you've teamed up with so far? Who are the US College players you see in the Euroleague?
MD: Right now I have Deon Thompson, Bryce Taylor, Chevon Troutman, and John Bryant on my team from the states. Last year I had Leo Lyons, and my rookie year Blake Schillb and Alade Aminu. Alade and Deon were both ACC guys I played against in college.
GC: I see from the game log you have played teams from Spain and Turkey with Munich? Were those exhibitions, or do they count towards your regular season record? The way FIFA runs Soccer is confusing to me, in terms of what games count towards what. Is FIBA just as complicated in that regard? Do you only play teams in Germany for your regular season?
MD: Euroleague is teams from all over Europe. German league and Europe are separate but count towards your total record. Totally different leagues though.
GC: Bayern is the richest German team right? Are there some poor teams? I’ve heard horror stories. Do you play in unheated gyms in some places? And do you hear the stories about guys getting shorted on their checks because teams try to cheat the players?
MD: There are poor teams everywhere. And it's true about the money issues, that's a big thing in Europe now. Goes back to why you have to be cautious signing multi-year deals with any team. I dealt with getting paid late all of last season but it's not a problem in Germany. This is the most financially stable country with basketball in Europe. The unheated gym I've never played in, not sure about that.
GC: Because of my grandmother, i have always supported Bayern Munich as my soccer team. Right now is an especially good time to be a fan of theirs. Since the company owns both the football and the basketball team, do you get to go to games? Interact with any of the megastars?
MD: We haven't had time to go to a game yet, but we will. And the players come to our games often. Basti is close to one of my teammates, so he's always around in practices and after the game in the locker room.
GC: Which league do you feel has the best players in Europe?
MD: Spain, Turkey, Germany, and Italy are probably the top leagues.
GC: Which is your favorite European country to live in? To travel through?
MD: So far Munich is the best I've lived in, it's clean, the people are nice, and it has everything I need to feel comfortable living. My favorite place I've visited is probably Athens.
GC: As a food enthusiast, with a grandmother who actually grew up in Munich, I am extremely jealous of your posting up in Germany! Have you gotten acquainted with the cuisine yet in Germany? I see tweets from you about getting Subway, and I hope you’re not timid about trying the local fare! What country do you feel has the best food out of France/Ukraine/Germany? What special dish(es)have you tried over there, that you never saw over here, and might recommend to us? If you need suggestions on what to order over there to get you started, let me know!
MD: I'm honestly not big on food that doesn't look appetizing, so I will try food only if I think I will like it. I'm simple with European food, but Germany has the best food, and Ukraine had the best soup. Here the most famous I've tried is the schnitzel.
GC: Do you still get to the line like you used to? Aside from all your abilities, it was your tenacious will to make something out of every possession that I liked the most. If your J wasn’t falling you were gonna get to the line. To me, that messes the other team up more than you sinking a clean look. It makes them factor in the foul trouble and alter their substitution patterns. Who do you credit with teaching you that mentality? For a slender, shorter guy you got to the FT line with the frequency reserved for bigger players who play the more physical spots on the floor. It’s another reason I feel the NBA isn’t looking at you the right way. The Euro game is less physical, so do they call the games the same?
MD: Europe is very physical depending on the type of player you are, I've established myself as one of the top players, so I get the best defender and they always play me physical. I'm usually bigger than every point guard in height and not far off in weight. I'm 6'3" for a point guard that's big. But as far as free throws its still the same, I think I lead Euroleague in makes and attempts. Pretty sure I'm top 3 in percentage. Nobody taught me how to do it, I study the game, and being a scorer you have to learn different ways to get points instead of just taking a lot of shots.
These questions will be about your grind to get to the NBA, which of course is the dream of anybody who ever picked up a basketball.
GC:The money is of course better in Europe than in the D League, and getting paid while you can is the priority. However, do you think if you took the pay cut and rode the D-League bus that you would get a call-up?
MD: I've chosen to stay in Europe. I've had opportunities from the time I left college to stay home, and do camps but I've never entertained them because like I said before, I had a plan. I wanted to get financially stable, and the only way to play in the NBA is when they want me enough to take me out of the league minimum range, which I'm making more than league minimum now. So it would be dumb to go home for that and sit on a bench, or to play in the D-League and basically make no money. The D-League route isn't an option for me at all. I've established myself too well over here for that. With an NBA contract I would play in the D-league, but the highest paid in the D-League is maybe 10k a season after taxes. I would get a job before i did that.
GC: How did Summer League go in 2012 with the Pistons? You didn’t get a roster spot, but did it give you any insight into what was holding you back? Personally I see a ton of guys on NBA benches that you could easily swap spots with and make a contribution. Your handle was always exceptional, and you weren’t turnover prone. Is it your height as a shooting guard? Or the fact that you have a scoring mentality that scares teams away from bringing you in as a PG? Is it the size limiting you from being viewed as able to match-up defensively? I’d love to see you get a chance, because I think your attitude is what sets you apart. You always seemed capable of rising to whatever level game you compete in, even if there were questions on the "eye-test".
MD: The Pistons didn't give me a chance. They sat me on the bench in summer league, and I think it held me back that summer. I had a lot of Euroleague teams watching me, and they didn't play me, so I honestly didn't learn or gain anything from that summer. That's why I didn't waste my time with summer league last summer.
GC: If money were equal in the end, would you trade a full career in Europe for two years in the NBA at minimum salary? Personally to me, I love the game, so if someone told me I could play it for a decade or more, I’d do that. But that’s just me.
MD: If you're talking as a whole, being money made over both time periods being equal at the end I would do the NBA. Because Europe is tougher to do than just basketball, and I would stay home if it were equal. The season is long, and in some cases very demanding. And nobody would chose to stay away from their family for equal money.
GC: Will you be back this summer to give the NBA Summer League another try? When do the inquiries start being made to you or your agent about your availability?
MD: My path is different. I'm not playing summer league to tryout. If I chose the NBA route at this point in my career, it's because a team is ready to sign me on a guaranteed deal, and they want me to play. But besides that I doubt it. I'd rather rest my body and get ready for the next season.
GC: After you declared following your junior year, what you could expect in terms of draft status? At that time did they give you pointers as to what you could improve? Are those things still issues for you after all the work? I guess what I’m getting at is: Once you get typecast as a certain type of player, can you ever overcome that initial assessment?
MD: The feedback I got was very positive. The NBA survey I did came out a lot better than I expected. Out of 17 teams who responded the (San Antonio) Spurs were the only ones who said they had no interest. The people I talked to said I was a 2nd round pick, but I didn't want to settle for that because the lockout was coming the following year. And if you can look into statistics, a lot of the guys who took minimum deals or were 2nd round picks found themselves in trouble, even if they played the lockout year. Also I was still fighting my ankle injury which after the Portland workout I had, I could barely even walk. And I was shut down two months before my Senior season because of it. I came back too early to play vs Carolina that season, and it is one of my biggest regrets because it killed my ankle,
These are some questions about your career at Virginia Tech:
GC: What was your favorite season in a Hokie uniform? What made it special? If I look back at your career I really liked your junior year.
MD: My junior year of course, for statistics and getting the honors I received, and leading the ACC in scoring. It was a special season for me, but we never made the tourney so I'm still not happy with my overall career there. I wish I could have done more.
GC: Of all the Hokie players I’ve seen in 20 years watching the program closely, you are the one that deserved to go to the NCAA the most. For four years, there was nobody more reliable, and that includes the guys who actually went to the tournament in 2007. How unfair were those selection committee snubs? Did the snub your junior year upset you to the point it made you feel unhappy to come back to VT for your senior year? I ask this because in your website bio, there isn’t a paragraph detailing your accomplishments for your senior season.
MD: I'm still trying to figure out how we didn't get in, and the ESPN guys can give all the BS answers they wanted but we deserved it. And yeah the biggest disappointment was junior year, but that made me doubt the senior year. I didn't think we were in when we met at coach's house and I was right. Something just told me history would repeat itself.
GC: Jim Weaver is leaving as Athletic Director at the end of the year, and though I sympathize with the circumstances, nobody has been more objectively critical of him than me. I felt he never scheduled you guys tough enough games to get the respect from the committee. The RPI for Strength of Schedule was always weak. What are your thoughts on that?
MD: I'm not sure how that went, but I know for sure sometimes we beat teams who were supposed to be good but ended up falling off towards the end of the season. I do wish we played more big games, but we aren't UNC or Duke. We weren't a premier college name that everybody wanted to get on their schedule.
GC: What made you choose Tech over your other offers? Rapport with the coaches? The ACC? Coach Greenberg?
MD: I wanted to play in the ACC against Duke, UNC, and Maryland, because I'm a very competitive person and wanted to play the best. Coach did a good hands on job recruiting me, and he made it clear that I was the guy he really wanted to go after; and with the graduating class basically losing everybody, I felt it was the best opportunity for me.
GC: What were your favorite on-court moments at Virginia Tech?
GC: What was your favorite class at VT? In your major and not in your major please.
MD: Not in my major was Women's Studies, just because it was something new for me, and it was a class full of girls. And in my major, I think stat and econ because it helped me get a better understanding of how to build, save and manage my money before I even made a dollar.
GC: What were a couple of things you enjoyed about VT and Blacksburg that weren’t basketball related?
MD: The college town experience, the parties of course, and just being able to go from the inner city to what we consider the country. And to be successful with a different type of environment and people was a big thing for me.
Now I'd like to ask a few questions about your Baltimore background.
GC: I love Baltimore. I’ve spent a good deal of time up there. I find it preferable to DC in fact. I used to play a little ball on the West side up off North Avenue near Coppin/Mondawmin. Your bio states that you are from the East Side. As a fan of the best TV show ever to grace the airwaves, 'The Wire', I’m asking if have you ever been involved in a Westside-Eastside basketball game like the one Avon and Prop Joe put on? Is this a real thing? I know in DC they got Berry Farms down in SE , where are the best games in Baltimore in your opinion?
MD: When I was younger the West side/East side thing was bigger, but I've played in some All-Star games like that. The most famous court in Baltimore is "The Dome" which is on the East side and where I started playing basketball, but basketball evolved as I got older, and there were people from both sides on my team.
GC: When I grew up in the early to mid 1980s, Dunbar (Baltimore) and Baltimore in general were feeder schools for the University of Maryland and Georgetown. But the Baltimore coaches had a problem with Maryland for a while there, during the Lefty Driesell/Bob Wade eras. Did you find the AAU circuit was against MD and Gary Williams when you were coming out of high school because Gary didn’t kiss any ass? Maryland was on your list of offers. What turned you off?
MD: Nobody really talks about MD in Baltimore because they really weren't giving the top kids proper looks. They didn't do a good job recruiting me, and that's why I didn't want to go there. They offered me and that basically was it. I guess they expected me to just sign, but it's not that easy. That's not the dream school for Baltimore city kids in my personal opinion.
GC: OK, I would be remiss if i didn't ask you some pressing questions here. Lake Trout? True delicacy? Yes or No?
MD: Lake Trout, yes.
GC: Did you take time out to watch The Wire, or are you already like been there-done that? If you did watch the show, who you got if it came down to it? Omar or Mouzone? Did a little bit of you die along with String? I know part of me did.
MD: I've watched every season, a few times and my favorite character was Snoop. Omar would win.
(Author's note: Oh indeed)
GC: If someone is coming up to Baltimore, what is the secret eating spot that you would refer them to?
MD: Jimmy's seafood. Best seafood in Maryland, hands down.
GC: Crabs: Worth your time to eat, or too much work?
MD: Eat them all the time, but if I don't feel like it I get crab cakes.
GC: Favorite drink. Every man's got a favorite drink. What do you favor?
MD: Half lemonade/iced tea.
GC: What do you want to do when the game is done with you? Since we all know you’ll never be done with the game.
MD: Hopefully I make enough money to franchise some of my ideas, and I won't have to do anything but enjoy life, and be my own boss. But if there was something else I would want to do, I think coaching would be an option.
GC: How often do you get back to Blacksburg? As a kid from Baltimore did SW VA grow on you, or were you happy to get back to city life?
MD: I've only been this past summer for a week since I graduated. I haven't had the time. And SW VA was good to me, but I prefer living in the city more.
GC: Whips: What are you driving in Germany? What do you keep at home? Dream car? I remember when a buddy of mine at VT went to Iceland they got him a loaded Explorer. Is the club hooking you up?
MD: We are sponsored by Audi, so everybody had an Audi a4. They take care of us well, and back home I have a Porsche Panamera. My dream car is probably a Lambo Aventador.
GC: Have you gotten out on the Autobahn? What's the fastest you've gotten up to?
MD: I've driven on it but no crazy speed. It's not that important to me
GC: Favorite NBA team? Favorite current NBA player? Favorite historical NBA player besides Jordan? Please explain briefly why for each. Me, I like KD. Doctor J was my favorite player from word go.
MD: I don't have a favorite team, I barely even watch NBA basketball. But 'Melo (Carmelo Anthony) is still my favorite current player because I've known him almost my whole life, and he's a humble superstar. And historical I would go with Pistol Pete because of how his style of play was so ahead of his time when he played, and he wore the #23 before he wore #44 .One of the reasons I wear it. Also Jordan but Pistol Pete as well.
GC: Favorite basketball movie? Me personally, I can’t choose. I think it’s either Semi-Pro or White Men Can’t Jump. On the serious tip, maybe Above the Rim with Tupac, or He Got Game.
MD: He Got Game is definitely my favorite, but Above the Rm and Sunset Park are also my favorites.
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Malcolm for being so thoughtful, and taking the time out of his busy schedule to participate. It is with good reason he is the first in this series.
If you want to follow Malcolm he has a new(ish) website that is really sleek, and as you can tell he's very accessible.
Thanks for following along. I'm not sure who will be next, but stay with us at Gobbler Country for more Hokie Basketball.
Mi Cassell es su Cassell.