Blake Schilb's underdog teams in 2012-13 and 2013-14 surprisingly won seven Euroleague regular season games, but neither Elan Chalon-Sur-Saone (three wins) or Crvena Zvezda (four wins) advanced to the next round.
Schilb, who was named to RealGM’s All-Rookie 1st Team in 2012-13, was a key contributor in most of those seven victories, averaging 13.8 points, 3.8 assists and 3.9 rebounds in 20 Euroleague games played in first two seasons.
RealGM caught up with Schilb, who after four years with Elan Chalon-Sur-Saone, signed a three-year deal with Crvena Zvezda, to talk about the transition from France to Serbia, Crvena Zvezda’s performance in the Euroleague, rivalry with Partizan and much more.
RealGM: How would you evaluate your first season with Crvena Zvezda and the performance in the Euroleague?
Schilb: It was a new experience for me, especially with this team. They haven’t been in the Euroleague for quite some time, and it’s also been a change for me as I was coming to this team as a new player. We showed spurts and we proved that we could compete at this level for sure. We slipped a couple times, we would like to have it back, but I think our group was one of the toughest groups. It’s hard to accept the fact that we’re not going to the Top 16 with four wins when you see some teams with three wins and they go.
RealGM: In many losses, Crvena Zvezda managed to stay close until the end of the game and was very close in turning games around. In your opinion, what were those small details that prevented Crvenza Zvezda from achieving better results?
Schilb: We needed to stay more focused at the end of the games. If you look at every game we played, we were winning, and we were there. We felt the pressure and we just needed to be more relaxed. In the last game against Lietuvos Rytas, all Crvena Zvezda players were still focused, but a bit more relaxed, understanding that first round for us is over. I think we all learned from this experience and I think we will continue to grow.
RealGM: This year was a bit different for you, as you were the biggest star on Elan Chalon-sur-Saone, while this season you had a lot of ups and downs. Did everything work out this year the way you wanted?
Schilb: I’m still adjusting. Unfortunately, we didn’t go to the Top 16. Sometimes I felt I could do things, sometimes I felt like I couldn’t. It’s tough to go to a new team after playing for four years for one club. I’m still getting to know some of these guys and coaching staff. But as long as I can contribute in some way and be a leader and one of the oldest guys, I’ll be doing my part.
RealGM: France and Serbia, both basketball and culture wise, are very different countries. How did the adjustment period go for you so far?
Schilb: Coming out of France, where I lived in a small village, and going to Belgrade, where millions of people live and it’s always fast, it’s a big difference for me. As far as basketball, there have been many great games, great teams and players. The Adriatic league is much better than the French league, but it’s also a lot slower. It’s not as athletic as French league and we don’t run as much, we take the game through. It’s been tough.
RealGM: You likely heard about the Partizan-Crvena Zvezda rivalry before you moved to Serbia. How did it feel to be a part of it?
Schilb: I’m glad I’m 1-0 against Partizan right now. It’s tough to see them going to the next round with three wins, but they are part of Adriatic league and it’s good for the strength of the organization. As far as the rivalry goes, it’s been great and I’m sure we’ll see them a lot more times. We want to be the best team in Belgrade and it’s going to be a battle.
RealGM: Having a look from inside, did you feel that Crvena Zvezda’s players care more about winning against Partizan compared with the other games, or is it more of a historical thing and nowadays it doesn’t relate too much to players?
Schilb: I think both. Even in the first game I felt a bit different. I wanted to hit somebody a little bit harder. It was territorial and everybody wanted to be the best. Even though it was my first game, I felt this mentality. It feels great to be a part of this rivalry as everybody talks a lot about it and you’re able to be there and contribute.
RealGM: Of course, your thoughts were concentrated on group D, but did you follow the action in other groups as well? Did you keep in touch with other Euroleague players and who do you think will go all the way to the final?
Schilb: Sure, I’ve played with Malcom Delaney in France, he’s playing for Bayern Munich now. I’ve been following him since he left Chalon. Also I follow Marquez Haynes, he played for Milan. Boris Savovic was here and he moved to Bayern as well. I follow the guys that I keep up with either in the States or here in Europe. The basketball world is small. You know somebody that probably knows somebody that you know too. Basketball is a global game now.
Who do I think will play in the final? Real Madrid and Olympiakos Piraeus, these two were undefeated in the first round and they are the favorites until somebody beat them. Real and Olympiakos, sounds like a final.
RealGM: Talking about Eurocup, how far you think your team could go there?
Schilb: It’s less games and it’s going to be quicker. We’ll know fast if we go to the next round or not, but I think we should be all right there.