World champion Domingo sees Donar as perfect place to begin pro journey
GRONINGEN (FIBA Europe Cup) - All the way from sunny California, 22-year-old Donar Groningen forward Stephen Domingo has been enjoying a solid rookie campaign in the Netherlands in his first season as a professional.
A member of the gold medal-winning Team USA side in the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2012 in Lithuania, the San Francisco native began his European adventure on the right foot with Groningen turning out to be a great landing spot.
Averaging solid numbers across the board with 9.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.6 steals in 23.3 minutes of action per game, he has quietly been one of the best young players in the FIBA Europe Cup.
"Donar is a great organization for me to start my career. I have teammates who have been teaching me the ways of professional basketball."
Domingo sat down with FIBA.basketball to talk about his first season in Europe, his memories from Team USA and an upcoming do-or-die fixture against Telenet Giants Antwerp in the FIBA Europe Cup.
It is your first season in Europe as a professional. How has that experience been for you so far?
I think it's going well. Donar is a great organization for me to start my career. I have teammates who have been teaching me the ways of professional basketball. I think it's a great spot for me to start and I've already learned a lot of valuable lessons this year.
There are a number of experienced American players on the team like Jason Dourisseau, Teddy Gipson and then the younger guys such as Evan Bruinsma and Brandyn Curry. Has their presence made the process of adjusting any easier?
It's nice to have Americans on the team. I think they are really knowledgeable about European basketball and have taught me some of the things you have to learn over the years about the differences from American basketball and also helped me transition. Also, a lot of people here in the Netherlands speak really good English, so there hasn't really been a language barrier. I think that's also made the transition easier.
There was a break of action over the national team break a short while back. Did you get any time off and what have you generally been up to during this time?
We had two-and-a-half days off and I went to Spain with my girlfriend. But we've been training, had a couple of scrimmages. We have some big games after the break, one in the FIBA Europe Cup in the first week back, so we've been back here in Holland training and staying in the gym.
As you said, the last remaining game against Telenet Giants Antwerp is going to a big one, with the winner going through to the Second Round. How important is that game going to be for you?
We have important Dutch Basketball League games as well, but obviously advancing in the FIBA Europe Cup is a big deal for us and it all comes down to this one game. We have been focusing on the things they like to do as a team, breaking down a lot of film. We watched our last game against them and looked at the things we could have done better and things we could have capitalized on, as well as the different changes that we can make in terms of our execution to make sure that we a have different outcome in the game.
You lost the first game against them in Belgium by a single point in a game decided in the last seconds. What is your focus now and how important is it continue playing in a European competition, not just domestically?
After you lose to a team, it's important to make adjustments, so I think we've really been focused on that. I think it's very important for us to advance. It's a big deal because playing in the FIBA Europe Cup keeps us very sharp for the domestic competition. That will be a key for us. It keeps our level high, so when it's time for the Dutch Basketball League, we can be at the top of our game. I think that's one of the reasons why it's very important for us to move on to the Second Round.
There are a lot of teams with excellent fans in Group A. Did any atmosphere stand out for you in particular, like the crowd in Le Portel for example?
It felt like a big college game in America where a lot of fans are being loud, drums are being played and it's hard to hear the coach, so it's up to the players on the court to make good decisions. I think Le Portel's fans have been a big advantage for them and it was a good experience for us to play there. Hopefully our fans can give Antwerp that sort of tough atmosphere for our next game.
"I have had a lot of great experiences over my career but I think that was one of the better ones. I really enjoyed playing in that tournament and winning gold."
You have been a wing player throughout your career, but you have primarily played as a stretch-four for Groningen. Is it fair to say you have transitioned into being a power forward?
I'd say this is a role that I have to fill on this team based on our personnel, but I'm still a small forward. I'm a wing player. Because of our personnel, I have to play at the stretch four and that's perfectly fine. I'm versatile enough to do that, but I'm still a wing.
If the other team is playing with a traditional big man against me, I usually have an advantage of speed or quickness. I usually force a lot of close-outs because of my shooting ability in the pop situation. A lot of the time our team plays with four perimeter players and that gives a lot of space for cuts and different kinds of offensive actions.
Stephen Domingo (left) with Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones after winning the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2012 title in Kaunas, Lithuania
Let's go back a couple of years. You had a great run with Team USA in the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup in 2012, smashing everyone by 30 points en route to gold and playing a big role on that team. Where does that experience rank in your still young athletic career?
It was a great experience. We learned a lot about international basketball. It's always great to represent the country that you're born in and I really had a lot of fun playing in that tournament with some great players. I have had a lot of great experiences over my career but I think that was one of the better ones. I really enjoyed playing in that tournament and winning gold.
There were some big names on that team like Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow, Stanley Johnson, Dakari Johnson, all of whom are now in the NBA. Do you still keep in touch with those guys?
Yeah, of course. The basketball world is small, so we always keep in touch and I keep an eye on how everyone's doing in the NBA, so it's really great. I think they all have bright futures ahead and can keep doing well in the NBA.
"Our goal is to move further than they did last year in the FIBA Europe Cup. I'm hoping we are able to do that as well."
Coming after that strong performance from that FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup, where you averaged 7.8 points and 3.6 rebounds, was your NCAA career not exactly what you expected, finding minutes hard to come by both in Georgetown and later in California after transferring?
Yeah, I wish I maybe would have had some more opportunities in college to show my abilities, but everything was a good learning experience. I learned a lot of valuable tools at both of my universities and I think they have allowed me to keep my career going and play well at the level that I'm playing now and build on that in my career, wherever my next landing spot is going to be. I have the mentality to use everything that God has given me and that I've learned and keep building on that to help my career out.
What are you hoping to achieve this year?
I obviously want to go as far as we can in the FIBA Europe Cup and win another championship in Holland. Donar have won the championship for the past two years, so I think it's important that we go and get a third. Our other goal is to move further than they did last year in the FIBA Europe Cup. I'm hoping we are able to do that as well.
Domingo has made an impact on both ends of the floor for Donar
Do you have anything mapped out in terms of your own career or are you just going to take it as it comes along?
I think you are supposed to take it as it goes along and handle everything that is in front of you, but my sights are set on the highest prizes and the highest goals. In whatever situation I am in, I'm always trying to get to the best possible landing spot, wherever that is. I think I have one thing in mind – it's just to be the best player I can be and to get to the best landing spot, whether it's in America or over here. My goal is to be in the best possible spot every year of my career.
Football is obviously a big thing in the Netherlands and you are a big fan of the sport and even played goalie in the past. Have you had a chance to check out any Eredivisie action yet?
I haven't had the chance to watch too many games since I've been here but a lot of the guys on our team are Ajax supporters so I plan on catching a game while I'm here. I'm a big Liverpool fan, so I follow a lot of Liverpool action, a lot of Champions League action. That's what I've been following recently.