Derek Needham: 'This is history for Mornar'

Dec 08, 2020 by Print
Derek Needham: 'This is history for Mornar'

We knew coming into this season that it was going to be a different one for sure with COVID, but we could have never imagined losing a staff number [team caretaker Luka Macanovic]. It is weird; he was always healthy, always a happy guy. He helped us a lot. It was just a horrible time, especially from my side because I never got back to see him in the hospital or anything before he left, because I myself had COVID when I was in Paris. So I was quarantining there when everything happened. Just a rough season all around, but especially for us.

Since we got hit with COVID, we haven't had a full team since those early wins we had, so coming off this break we'll finally get our full team back for a home game that's very important for us. Metropolitans is playing well, but we always try to protect our home court. That's one of our goals to try to get to the Top 16.

"EuroLeague TV saved my life!"

Like I said, Metropolitans is playing well. They started off slow, but they picked up momentum. I think after beating us they picked up a lot of momentum. They are a team that likes to play defense and run a lot, so if we can control our turnovers and control the glass, I think we'll be in for a win.

Our Round 10 opponent, Buducnost, is our rivalry team and those are always close games, even overtime games. But the last one was the first matchup in EuroCup history between us two. It was a big win for us, especially being down, I think, three players. It was just a huge win. Anytime we play them it's a rivalry. Everyone wants bragging rights. For them to try to knock us out of the Top 16, I'm pretty sure that they would love to do that over there. There's never an easy game when we play them. Ever.

I really didn't have my legs or anything after quarantining in a hotel room for two weeks, so this schedule break has really given me a chance to build my body back up and get into that great shape I was in right before I got sick. COVID for me wasn't that bad. I was nervous in the beginning just like everyone else. I just tried to stay positive and rest my body as much as I could. I was in Paris for 13 days, away from everybody, just by myself in a hotel room, while our team had game after game after game. It was challenging mentally because I was watching all the games and wanting to be there, wanting to get back to my family, even though I would have to quarantine away from them. Just being in a different country by yourself for that long is mentally draining, but we got through it.

EuroLeague TV saved my life! I was watching every single game, every EuroCup game. Between Tuesday and Friday, I was like, "Yes, come on. At least I have something to watch!" That kind of saved me. I think, especially after watching them play on the road, Unicaja is such a tough team. I watched UNICS; they always look good, no matter home or away. I watched them play against Reyer. That was a great game. And I think Virtis. They are so solid. They actually probably have a EuroLeague team. Those I think are the frontrunners right now, with Lokomotiv as well. Those four teams to me are ahead of everyone. And the rich get richer with Virtus signing Marco Belinelli. That's the guy to add! With Teodosic throwing the ball everywhere, if he can catch it and shoot it, that's an unbelievable team already. Now I think they're at the top of the EuroCup for sure.

My favorite in the EuroLeague right now is Bayern Munich. One of my friends, Jalen Reynolds, is the center on that team and they were hot when I was in Paris. They were beating everybody. So they are my underdog favorite. And I think Real Madrid is coming on strong as usual, even though they just lost Campazzo, which I think is a huge blow to them.

Right now, I think the most steady team is CSKA. Mike James is starting to play unbelievable again, back to his old self. I think they have the momentum right now over everybody. They still have to let Shengelia figure out where he's going to play, because he was at Baskonia for a long time with a main role. But I think Mike James was giving him a lot of leeway early in the season, passing the ball more. Now, I think it's Mike James's time to turn it up and get them a higher seed going into the playoffs.

"We're an unselfish team."

As point guard, during the preseason, I kind of figured out where everyone needs the ball, where everyone likes the ball, so I know if a guy hasn't touched it in three or four possessions, I can sense when they can get back involved. Even if I'm not on the floor, I can tell who needs a shot just to keep everyone involved. We're an unselfish team, so it's not like too many guys complain if they don't get a shot for three or four possessions. But as the point guard, I know they need to touch the ball, because I'm always touching the ball, dribbling up the floor. So I know how to get them the ball and keep everybody engaged.

Our experience is huge for us heading into these final games in the regular season. It's going to keep us steady and make sure we don't have highs and lows during the games. We have two tough opponents and what we are really focused on is getting a home win first and carrying that momentum into Podgorica.

This is history for Mornar. The more we win, each game is another step in the history of this club. Making the Top 16 is a milestone for us. If we get there, that'll be huge.