19 September, 2017
02 May, 2018
9 Austin Daye | Photo: Sergio Mazza
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Life after NBA: Daye embracing go-to role in Italy

VENICE (FIBA Europe Cup) - Once touted as a top NBA prospect, Umana Reyer Venezia forward Austin Daye has fully embraced his go-to role in Europe and is living the good life in Italy.

The 29-year-old player has spearheaded the team's domestic and international campaigns since joining Venice mid-season in January and is a big reason why they lead the Serie A standings and have reached the Final in the FIBA Europe Cup, the first one for the club in 37 years.

FIBA.basketball sat down with Daye to talk about his post-NBA career in Europe, following his father's footsteps and playing Sidigas Scandone Avellino for the first trophy of the season.

I was born to make mistakes, not fake perfection.

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You came out on top 77-69 against Avellino in the first leg of the FIBA Europe Cup title series. What were the keys to winning Game 1?
I think just the defensive effort we had. After the first half, I think we did a good job of slowing down Kyrylo Fesenko. We did a good job on Jason Rich, he's a tough guard for many guys. I think we did a good job, overall. There are a few things that we can adjust and do better, so I'm now looking forward to the second leg.

This was a bit of a different matchup in the FIBA Europe Cup, as you were playing against an Italian team. Was the approach for the first leg of the Final any different than in previous games?
I don't really think the approach was all that different. We still had pretty much the same game plan, but it was definitely more intense. Guys that aren't really great dunkers doing great dunks during warmups, because everyone is amped up to play (laughs). I think we were really focused on the game and we did a good job of executing it. That's why the result was what it was.

‪Squad 🏀💪 #GameTime #FIBAEuropeCup #finale #LaStoriaContinua ‬

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You had it going in the first quarter and in the first half in general with 14 points. What went right for you?
The shots were falling. It was a big game and I wanted to play well. I was able to play really efficiently and it was kind of unfortunate that I got a technical and then my fourth foul early in the third quarter. I'll make sure not to get into foul trouble in the next game. I'll do my job and stay out there with the guys. But it just shows how deep of a team we are and how well we can play as a whole unit, when I was on the bench.

Reyer Venezia have not made a continental Final since the 1980-81 season. You already are an NBA champion, so how important for you would it be to win a European title?
Any type of title is important. Any type of title is great, just to have some bragging rights when I go home and see my dad, tell him I won the FIBA Europe Cup (smiles). Hopefully, we can do the same thing and continue with the same momentum and try to win the scudetto too.

What is it like for someone drafted pretty high in the NBA Draft to come and play in Europe? Did it require a change of mindset? Here you are one of the top players in the competition…
When I went to Pesaro and played for my dad's old team, it was a blessing. I had my opportunities in the NBA but I wasn't really there for very long, because I was always backing up Tyshaun Prince. So even when I was traded, I was traded with him and I was backing him up, again. I went to some other teams, but I went to Play-Off teams, so it was kind of hard for me to find an opportunity for myself. I think if I had gone to a lower bowl team I could have gotten some minutes here and there. I definitely could have played myself into a role in the NBA.

Coming to Europe, here I am the main guy, the main focus. It's back to college and high school days. It's very comfortable for me and I wouldn't trade this for anything. If we won the scudetto, it would be a high in my career. I would not consider it something less than an NBA championship. It might even be more, because I contributed more.

"I'm happy that Venice called me and they wanted me to come here."Austin DayeAustin Daye

You talked about playing for your dad's old team, Pesaro. How was that for you? It's quite symbolic, isn't it?
It was amazing, I loved it. It really was symbolic. I've taken his number; I wear number nine now because of him. Pesaro is a great basketball city and it's a second home to me and my dad. We are probably going to go there in summer time. We have so many close friends and family there. When I got there, my job was helping them stay up in Serie A. Now they are in a similar situation and I hope they will be able to stay up in the first division.

Venice is your second team in Italy. Comparing to your other stops in Turkey and Israel, is playing in Italy special for you?
For me, Israel and Turkey were both great. I got injured in Turkey which is really unfortunate. I had a really bad injury and it really hurt my numbers, my performance. I was able to come back from that in the Play-Offs in Turkey and play well. Coming to Jerusalem was good but I was put in a bad position once the head coach left. The new coach wanted to go a different direction and play more Israelis. He got fired after six games, so it didn't really work out too great for him.

I'm happy that Venice called me and they wanted me to come here I was able to pick up where I left off in the EuroCup this year where I was playing really well. My confidence is higher and when my confidence is high – and my team's confidence is high – I think we are playing at a high level.

You joined the team mid-season, replacing the injured Gediminas Orelik, how was the adjustment process for you and how fast did you find yourself comfortable?
I struggled for a couple games, just because you don't want to step on too many toes on a championship level team. You don't want to overtake things. But the way I am, I am an aggressive player, I score, I rebound and push the break, do guard-like things at the four position. You don't want to take over and do your thing. But the coach talked to me after the Italian Cup and he told me to just play my game, be ultra-aggressive and do what I do. It all just kind of came together for me after that. Things have been excelling since then.

Coming back to FIBA Europe Cup, what's going to be the most important thing for you against Avellino in that second leg?
The defense. I think the defense that we are playing is great. Defense wins championships. The main thing is the defensive end. And I think our offense is really good because we move the ball, we get a lot of assists on good shots. Against Avellino, we are trying to figure out how they play defense. The second game is going to come down to heart and effort, coming and barreling down on the defensive end.