Chris Thomas: "I love being part of the game"
Chris Thomas: It's been great so far. I love the food, I love my teammates... I just love being part of the game. The fans are great here.
Why did you choose to sign a contract early in the summer instead of waiting till training camp and give the NBA thing a try?
CT: I thought it was the best thing to do. I thought it was a good situation in Fabriano. I spoke with (former player) Chandler Thompson, who had played here, and he recommended me this team. And anyway, the NBA is always going to be there. It's not a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
How was the summer experience with the Pacers?
CT: Oh, it was great. I enjoyed it. It was a good experience. They've always been good to me. Unfortunately, they didn't have room for me. But I still love the team. I have a lot of friends that are fans of the team. I learned a lot during my time there and I hope I can now use what I learned there as a player.
During your college career, did you envision at any point the possibility of playing in Europe?
CT: I've always been realistic. I knew if the NBA didn't work out, I could get an opportunity here. I mean, the goal for every player in college is to go to the NBA. But there's a lot of good guys around here. There are players with five or six years of experience in the NBA here. And there's a lot of people making good money. But the fact that you have to come to Europe and play here makes you appreciate what you have back home. I'm enjoying this, but at the same time I'm looking forward to going home.
How would you rate your college career at Notre Dame?
CT: I'm not going to lie... I had great expectations for myself in college. My first game was a triple-double and my freshman year I averaged 15 points and 8 assists. But then I had problems with the knee. I had the knee injury and I couldn't play that well my junior and senior years. Anyway, I think I did a lot of good for the program and the program did a lot of good for me.
So you blame the knee for the dropoff in your production late in your college career?
CT: There was also a lot of pressure. But it was my knee. I struggled with my knee and I really never had too much time to rehab. It was never a big, big thing, but it was always bothering. And I didn't take time off because I had to be there for the team. 95 percent of it, it was physical. I never lacked confidence in me, but I lacked confidence on what my knee would enable me to do.
Are you still experiencing any knee problems?
CT: No, no, no. I mean, every once in a while there's some swelling. But as far as me being able to compete, me feeling comfortable on the court or running my team, it's not a big issue. Now I'm really excited with my team and the way we are playing together. When your team is playing well and your team is winning, you don't worry about how your knee is doing, your body, or if you are tired or anything.
Do you feel like you took too much criticism during your time at Notre Dame?
CT: There was a lot of criticism. But there was a lot of criticism due to high expectations. Anyway, you know that's going to come. And criticism comes with positive remarks, too. You don't have to put too much stock on that. I'm a person that uses criticism as a motivation to improve. I'm not going to say that all the criticism I took was a negative for me, but, yeah, maybe sometimes it was a little bit too much.
How was draft night for you? How disappointing was not to get drafted?
CT: Draft night was tough. I was watching the whole thing on TV with family and friends. They all knew of my potential, but they didn't understand the business part of the NBA. Me and my agent stayed connected during the whole night of the draft. We knew there was a chance I might not be drafted, but we also knew opportunities could come after the draft in the form of invitations to training camps and things like that. At the end of the day, what I wanted is to be on a roster. Unfortunately, it didn't happen and the best-case scenario for me was playing here. And it's been working out well so far. I feel this was a good opportunity for me. It was definitely better than staying in the States waiting for a call from the NBA.
What do you think are the main areas you have to work on the most to play in the NBA?
CT: I can always get stronger. Play better defense, make better decisions... I'm taking care of the ball here. I'm averaging just two turnovers per game. The main thing is getting more aggressive on defense. Maybe I have to focus on stopping my player instead of outscore him. And I think all that comes with growth, with your growth as a player. I can do that here because the point guards in our league are very good. You can always learn from watching the players on other teams. I'm going to stay around here and do just that.
Jorge Sierra is the editor of HoopsHype.com
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