November MVP van der Mars: Netherlands would finish second in a group with Baltics

Thomas van der Mars has been making waves in Baltic basketball this year, as he's already racked up three Player of the Week awards and was recently named MVP for the month of November.

 

The 26-year-old averaged 18.7 points this month, while also notching a double-double in every single game to put him at 12.3 rebounds per game. Van der Mars also contributed with 1.7 steals, 1.3 assists and 1.0 block a game. BBL.net talked to Thomas all about his experience in the Baltics.

First of all, let me congratulate you on your award. Was it a surprise for you?

I’m not a guy who plays for individual awards or stuff like that, but I can’t deny it is pleasing to receive such recognition also for yourself. So yeah, it was a nice surprise.

Four of five members of the Triobet BBL jury gave their votes for you. Would you call this award the biggest in your career?

I think so. I’ve had few individual awards during my time in college but this is definetely the biggest one while I am playing professionally.

Your team AVIS Rapla also seems on very nice course – five wins in seven matches in the BBL, nine out of 12 in Estonian league. Is it fair to say that this year Rapla is much stronger than the year before?

Well, I can speak only about the second half of the previous season, because I joined the team only in January. But yes, I would agree with you – most of our guys stayed in the team and became more experienced. We try to get better each and every day, and I don't think we are already at the level as we can be. That’s the fun part – to try figure a way how to develop yourself. For now we are mostly using a rotation of 7-8 guys and trying to get the best out of it.

Does AVIS Rapla have specific goals for this season or you are just trying to take game by game?

Yes, we are preparing for each game with such approach, and I think that’s the best way. Sure there are goals and achievements the team wants to reach, but I like how we are doing now – thinking only about the next game and trying to win it. I think that’s the best approach.

You already mentioned your arrival in Estonian and Baltic basketball – it will soon be a full year spent here. What are your impressions about Baltic basketball? Is it much different from what you experienced in NCAA and your home country?

Sure it is. The guys here need to play together much more, there is an emphasis on teamplay. Only trough passing and good positioning you can hope for long-term success. Also in the NCAA we needed to be all on the same page and avoid from really individual one-on-one plays, but here – at least for me – it seems much more important. Everybody needs to be moving, team defense is very important. I also see that lot of teams offer really good defensive schemes and to get past them you need to share the ball, and that is what our team is trying to do – passing on a good shot to get a great shot.

Which team would you rather in the Triobet BBL Play-Offs first round? Let’s not forget to take into consideration that the Play-Offs will consist of eight of the best teams from the regular season and eight seeded teams playing in other European competitions.

I absolutely understand that the strongest BBL teams are not playing in regular season. So, I guess, we just need to try and get as high a place as possible to be seeded higher.

After finishing your studies last summer your name was mentioned in NBA draft rumors several times. What were your thoughts – do you think you had a chance to get drafted?

Well, I knew I wouldn’t be chosen, it just wasn’t a realistic possibility. But yes, I did have a workout with the Portland Trail Blazers. My agent arranged it and it was a really nice experience. I was a bit surprised about their invitation, to be honest, but I really dont regret it.

Lastly, tell me about your national team. Netherlands is not considered a basketball country as much as it with football, but in the last EuroBasket you guys were making quite some noise, and almost reached the TOP 16 stage.

It’s true, we might not be on top of the list when you mention best European teams, but we are slowly growing. Unfortunately, we didn’t qualify for Eurobasket 2017. We had a good run and it all came down to the last game with Germany and unfortunately, we lost it badly.

Fantasy and perhaps not an entirely serious question – if the Dutch national team would compete in one group with the three Baltic states, which position would you finish?

Oh, yes, this is an interesting one (laughs). I remember our game against Lithuania, and they have a really strong team, so... I would say we would be in second place behind Lithuania.