Former BYU big man, Brandon Davies is in the middle one of his most impressive seasons in pro basketball, despite the fact that he is playing against the toughest competition he has faced since leaving the NBA.
Davies, who is in his first season with Lithuanian powerhouse Zalgiris Kaunas, has been one of the main contributors on the No. 1 seed in the LKL playoffs and one of the teams to advance to the EuroLeague Final Four.
His play in both leagues has turned some heads and earned him plenty of recognition along the way.
He earned LKL Player of the Week honors on numerous occasions and was one of eight players in consideration for the league’s MVP award after leading Zalgiris to a 32-4 record while pacing the team in both scoring and rebounding.
He also took home some honors on the EuroLeague level, including the Player of the Month for April along with being named the Co-Rookie of the Year by Eurohoops.net.
We caught up with the former Provo High School and BYU star to find out about how his time has been in his first year in Lithuania.
JMoney Sports: How did you end up in Zalgiris in the first place?
Brandon Davies: After my last season in Monaco, I hired a new agent and agency (BeoBasket). They’re the top agency in Europe. They were able to get me the deal with Zalgiris and I was able to make the jump to EuroLeague.
JM: What is it like playing for such a proud organization and one that is so beloved?
BD: It’s awesome. The fans here are amazing and are so passionate about basketball. It’s a basketball country. They really show us a lot of love.
JM: What is it been like playing for coach Jasikevicius?
DB: It’s been surreal. He’s a legend all over Europe. Everywhere we go he has fans. Even in hostile environments, they have respect for him. He gets standing ovations in most gyms.
JM: Is it a big step up in competition from Champions League to EuroLeague?
BD: Champions League is great league full of good competition, but EuroLeague is the highest league and level of competition that you can play at after the NBA.
JM: Did you get any added satisfaction from beating a Ute (former University of Utah forward Kim Tillie) while taken care of Olympiacos to advance to the Final Four?
BD: Absolutely!! I got a little extra boost when he was on me.
JM: How would you compare the play in the EuroLeague to your time in the NBA?
BD: It’s hard to compare because both are at such high levels. The NBA is full of the best athletes in world and games are like track meets on steroids with the best scorers trying to out score each other. EuroLeague is like a fast paced chess match where most of the focus is on strategic planning and attacking. It’s a different beast. There are a lot of people who can’t play in the NBA for whatever reason, but there’s also a lot of NBA players who couldn’t play EuroLeague either.
JM: What are some of the differences playing internationally as compared to playing in the NBA?
BD: Playing overseas in general is a grind. I definitely didn’t hit the ground running. It’s a process that I had to learn and am continuing to learn.
JM: How has this season progressed for you considering that you have been really good recently?
BD: I’ve just been fortunate that things have been coming together for me at the right time. I’ve been playing confident and at a high level recently and hope I can continue it. Every season around this time things usually start clicking better and start playing more confident. I’ve been pretty consistent with that.
JM: What kind of salaries can players in Europe make?
BD: A lot of factors play into how much you can make. League, your agent, how you played, and team budget. I’ve been very fortunate to have gotten better every year, and made more money every year so far. I’ve always played in good leagues and have played for teams that have always paid their players all that they have owed. Some people haven’t been so lucky. Biggest jump so far has been in EuroLeague both financially and competitively.
JM: How did the contract extension play out and what made you decide to stay in Lithuania for two more years?
BD: The contract negotiations started between my agent and team after the regular season of EuroLeague ended. My previous deal was 1 +1 which means after first year, both me and the team had an option of staying of leaving for the second season. I guess they liked how I was playing because instead of the +1 for next season, they offered me the two-year deal that I couldn’t pass up. I love it here. It’s an amazing place to play. Top to bottom from the fans to the facilities, there’s no other places like this.
JM: How has the transition been socially living in Lithuania?
BD: Lithuania is a great place to live, as I mentioned before. It reminds me a lot of Utah actually. Feels like home in a sense. Weather is pretty similar. People are great and friendly. Most everyone speaks English or at least knows enough. They have plenty of variety of restaurants, huge malls, movie theaters in English, its great. Teammates are great as well. We’ve been fortunate to live in places like Italy, France, and Monaco, and those places are pretty much the hot spots when you think about heading to Europe. But Lithuania is a hidden gem. Not the first place people think of vacationing too when your from the states, but now that I’ve lived here and experienced some of the culture and history here, its become a second home. I love it here.
Photo credit: By Ksnow (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons