Over the past couple of season Dontaye Draper has established himself in Europe as a pass-first type Euroleague point guard with excellent scoring skills.
After two successful years in Croatia and winning the 2010-11 season Eurocup MVP award, Draper unsurprisingly was been ranked seventh in RealGM's Top 10 Euroleague Point Guards list.
However, the 5-foot-10 Croatian passport holder, had to adjust to a new role with his new team, Real Madrid, as his playing time has been limited as never before. Draper averages only 13.8 minutes per game in Euroleague and in the ACB but he remains positive. Real has been a winning team so far this season and Draper is willing to do whatever it takes to help win championships.
RealGM caught up with Draper for a one-on-one interview to discuss his Euroleague debut, Real Madrid, Croatia and more.
RealGM: First of all, Real won eight out of 11 games in the Euroleague and remained undefeated in Spanish championship until last weekend. What are the main causes for the team success?
Draper: I think our main reason for success is that we are a very deep team and everyone is unselfish. We play really well together and work hard in practice.
RealGM: How would you evaluate your debut in Euroleague? How is it different from Eurocup?
Draper: Well, it is pretty different. When I played in Eurocup, I played more than 30 minutes per game and I had the ball in my hands a lot, so it is really hard for me to compare. But our group was very tough, it was great to finish in first place.
RealGM: Obviously, Real is an elite European team that always has high standards. Have you ever felt the pressure in Madrid?
Draper: At the beginning when I came here, I put a lot pressure on myself because I didn't know what to expect. So in the preseason I was struggling trying to find my role in the team. But as the season went on, it got easier.
RealGM: Overall, how does it feel to be a part of an organization like Real Madrid, which is well-known all over the world?
Draper: It feels really great playing for this organization. I can't explain to you the feeling. Everything they do is first class. They really treat you well. It's like a big family.
RealGM: Throughout your career in Europe, you've always been one of key players on your team. With so much talent on Real, your playing time so far has been very limited. Is that a thing that concerns you?
Draper: Yes, this is the first time in my career I have had to take on a role like this. It is a adjustment for me but I am cool with it. We have a total of three point guards. Me, Sergio Llull and Sergio Rodriguez. They are great players and having a great season too. They been here for some years and they are both established. So when I play, I try to bring defense, intensity, leadership and run the team. There are some games where I don't even take a shot, but in that game I made my presence felt on defensive end and running the team. I try to do whatever the team needs on that night. I'm very happy though, we are winning.
RealGM: What is like to be playing and training day-in and day-out alongside great Euroleague players like Rudy Fernandez, Nikola Mirotic, Marcus Slaughter, Jaycee Carroll and many others?
Draper: Our practices are actually fun. We really compete and go after it. Like I said before, we have a deep team and all of us are matched up in practice. We do a lot of four-on-four and five-on-five. We go hard (laughing)!
RealGM: Do you believe this Real team has what it takes to go all the way to the Euroleague finals or is there something that needs to be improved?
I think we got what it takes to go to the Final Four and win the championship. Everybody on our team knows their role and if we continue to play like we have been playing, I think we have a good shot at it.
RealGM: Talking international hoops, how did you end up with the decision to acquire the Croatian citizenship and later join the Croatian national team?
Draper: Well, after my first year in Croatia, I played pretty well in the Eurocup and Adriatic league. They came to me and asked if I would like to play. I said yes, it was a honor for me to play (for Croatia).
RealGM: Did you have any other offers than playing for Croatia?
Draper: No, I didn't have any other offers.
RealGM: In your opinion, how did playing for Croatia influence your career?
Draper: Playing in Croatia was huge for me. Aco Petrovic gave me a big opportunity to show my game. He came to me in Vegas during summer league and told me, if I don't make the NBA, come play for him and have some fun. I loved playing for him and in his system, similar to Pablo Laso. They both give you freedom to play as you feel. Aco told me I need to do everything. Score, rebound, assist and defend and that's how I became MVP of Eurocup and runner up MVP of the Adriatic League. That season was fun.
RealGM: Before you joined the Croatian national team, did you know anything about their basketball history (Drazen Petrovic, Toni Kukoc, Zan Tabak, Dino Radja and etc)?
Draper: Yes, I knew about Drazen Pertrovic, Tony Kukoc and Dino Ragja. They are legends.
RealGM: You been taking a part of NBA summer leagues for many years. Do you see yourself attempting to make it to the NBA in the future?
Draper: Well, the NBA is always a dream, but now I'm playing for Real and have a nice contract and I'm happy here. But after I'm finish playing here, if a team wants to sign me, I would look into it but I won't be doing summer league or anything like that anymore. I'm getting old (laughing).