23 Temmuz 2024, Salı

INTERVIEW: Zavian McLean

Zavian McLean, who played for the Columbia Lions in the NCAA for the last 3 seasons, answered the questions of one of our editors, Ata Toprak Koşal. McLean talked about both his life and his relationship with basketball in our interview. Our interview with Zavian Mclean as is follows:

(This interview was conducted on April 4, 2024)

Toprak: First of all, how was the season? 

ZAVIAN: It was okay. We won more games this year than we won in my entire time here. So, we’ve gotten better and better every year. We had a really good chance to make a deep run into the Ivy League tournament. We thought we were going to qualify for it. Unfortunately, we didn’t qualify. We lost crucial games at the end, but in terms of just our progression and our growth, I would say we had a pretty solid season. We didn’t get what we wanted to in the end. But, you know, I’m proud of our efforts. 

Toprak: That was your third year with the Columbia Lions, and I checked out your stats before the interview. This season looks the best of them in terms of points and efficiency. How do you evaluate your performance this season?

ZAVIAN: Yeah, I thought it was well. I definitely think I could have done a little bit better. I had some goals that I didn’t exactly achieve. So that’s something I look to improve on as I continue to play. But, I think from an analytical standpoint, from an efficiency standpoint. I think I played really, really well. I think I produced at a very high level and performed at a very high level when I was on the court. And like I said, I can do even more and better. But if you look at it, it was my best season I’ve had in college yet. So I just look to continue to build. But, you know, I like my progression. We’re not satisfied, but I was pretty, I was pretty glad about that. 

Toprak: I think you are good with the ball but also good in off-ball movement. So how do you summarize your game style?

ZAVIAN: Yeah, I think that’s a really good question. I think I’m a scoring guard, a strong physical guard who definitely plays to be physically imposing on the basketball court. I like to get downhill, be able to get in the paint, whether I’m finishing or drawing a defender, to make a read and kick out for an open three or a dump down for the big. I just like to put a lot of pressure on the defense getting downhill and off the dribble. I’ve become a better shooter as I’ve been in college. So that’s something that I think is very essential to my game and something that kind of stands out on the stats. I shot about 40% from 3 and about 60-70% from 2 this past year. Like 57% overall, so I’m a very efficient player. I don’t need too many shots to get a lot of points. And, you know, I’m just a tenacious leader as well. I want to bring my teammates up if they’re down and raise their level even higher if they’re up. You know, I always bring intensity as well. So, to summarize that in a one sentence description, you know, big physical guard capable of a lot of things and always doing whatever I have to do to win. 

Toprak: Was there any matchup that surprised you in the March Madness?

ZAVIAN: I think that obviously if you look at NC State right now, the run that they’re on is extremely crazy. Being an 11 seed and making it to the Final Four, that’s something that a lot of teams don’t do and I’m sure they messed up a lot of people’s brackets. But yeah, if you look across the entire tournament, you see a lot of like the mid-major schools, the lesser-known schools, beating top teams. And I think it’s been something that has always occurred. But I think that in recent years because of people transferring to different levels, you have like a different mix of players in different areas, like all the best players aren’t exactly just at Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and stuff like that. And then you’re having older groups as well in the mid-majors. You still have the touted freshman who are going to the NBA. But, you know, when you’re playing the tournament, it’s all about experience and knowing how to win games in crazy environments. So I think there’s a lot of parity and balance in that sense. And yeah, it’s been great, but I don’t think it’s something that I would say is anything I’m surprised about. But you know is something that definitely should be highlighted. 

Toprak: Do you have favorites in the Final Four this week?

ZAVIAN: That’s tough. UConn is hard to beat. They’re a really, really good team, & champions. But I would love to see NC State go all the way, like I’m from North Carolina. So, that’s I would love to see somebody from North Carolina take it home again. 

Toprak: How do you evaluate the Ivy League teams and their success? What would you like to say about that?

ZAVIAN: Yeah, well, I think the Ivy is as good a league as any league in the country. I think the Ivy League has shown that it’s been a premier league in college basketball, especially over the last five years. This year, we probably had the most notoriety because we’ve had some really good players like Malik Mack, Danny Wolf, and then Pierce and Lee from Princeton. All of those guys really took their games to a level where it was known on a national stage. But, you know, if you go to any team, you can go to Dartmouth, you could go to Columbia, you can go to Yale. I mean, obviously, you saw Yale make it to the tournament and they beat Auburn. But if you look at the league from top to bottom, it’s pretty evened out. Everybody has a good guard, everybody has a good wing, everybody has a solid big. And when you’re playing those types of teams on a schedule and you have a week to prepare for these teams, you really get to see some of the best basketball in college. Because not only is the scout and the development at an all-time high, but all these kids come from universities where they do work all day. So you’re playing against really smart basketball players and talented kids and elite coaching staff. So I think if you can play in the Ivy, you can play anywhere in the country because it’s just how cerebral you have to be and how smart and attention to detail you have to be with everything. It’s super crazy. So yeah, if you can play in the Ivy League, you can play anywhere.

Toprak: I know you were born in Izmir, Turkey. Can you tell us your story?

ZAVIAN: Yeah, of course. So I’m a product of a military family. Both of my parents were in the US military, the US Army. So, yeah, I was an army kid from a young age, and my parents were stationed in Izmir around 2000. They met there, ended up getting together, and I was their first child, born in Izmir. We lived there for a little bit, lived in a small local village, I think, and it was nice. Obviously, there’s not too much I remember. But, you know, from what my parents could tell me, Turkey is like paradise basically on earth, a super pretty place. Especially its marina, it’s just very, very beautiful. Turkey’s just a beautiful, beautiful country. I hadn’t been back since I left, and I left around when I wasn’t even one year old yet. I definitely want to go back. But yeah, if it wasn’t for my parents being stationed there for their military duties, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to say I was a Turkish born, you know, human. So that is cool. 

Toprak: Do you remember anything from Turkey or do you have any connections from there?

ZAVIAN: I mean, I was like a baby baby. So I don’t remember anything too much. But my mom definitely has friends from Turkey. I remember there was a lady, you know, that was really close to my mom named Pinar, when she actually came to visit us one time in the US. So yeah, no, I definitely, you know, remember people from there. My parents stay in contact with some of their friends that they met from there, thanks to social media now. So yeah, it’s been dope. 

Toprak: As I see playing overseas is not a common desire in the USA ’cause everyone dreams of the NBA. But have you ever thought of playing in Europe maybe or overseas? 

ZAVIAN: Yeah, of course. I guess contrary to most kids growing up in America, for me, I’ve always kind of looked at playing overseas as a beautiful thing. I know a lot of people who play basketball kind of look at it as more of like a secondary path if you don’t make it to the NBA. But you know, for me, I’ve always considered it a blessing to be able to go play in another country and experience that culture and just that whole energy and atmosphere. And then obviously, you know, basketball is going more towards the European style. Now if you look at how people play in the Euro League, if you look at how people play in the NBA, you see a lot of similarities, especially with some of the better players coming from Europe. Now, you know, these systems are kind of being implemented and actually preparing guys better for the NBA than, you know, the American game that’s a little bit more isolation, dribble penetration, stuff like that. So yeah, playing overseas would be an extreme blessing for me and an extreme honor because you know, the dream is to be a professional basketball player and to be able to provide for your family doing what you love. And if you can do that in any type of way, whether that’s in the NBA, whether that’s in Turkey or that’s in France or if that’s on planet Mars, wherever you can do that, like you want to be able to do that. So yeah, I would love to play overseas for sure if that is an opportunity given to me.

Toprak: Do you follow EuroLeague or do you know any players from Europe?

ZAVIAN: I follow quite a bit obviously. You know, I’ve been able to pay attention to a lot of the, you know, soccer clubs that we all know have basketball clubs as well. So, you know, that’s something that you know a lot of people who don’t necessarily know. It’s funny because you know a lot of my teammates, you know, they’re big like FIFA guys, so they’ll play FIFA and they’ll know like Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, they know all these different teams but don’t exactly understand that they have basketball teams as well. So it’s a funny thing to think about but yeah, like I like to catch up with that stuff all the time. You know, I don’t really have any favorite players. Like when you’re watching it’s less about the players and more so just about the teams. And I think that other countries do a really good job of keeping the team- like system and focus intact. You know here in America, you know, the NBA is more focused on stars rather than teams kind of. And it’s a more star-dominated league and it’s the players you know better than the history of teams, especially, you know, from people in my generation. So yeah, I definitely, definitely catch up with the EuroLeague obviously, as well as the NBL, you know, down in Australia, that’s nice as well. So, you know, that’s just another one of those things where it’s just kind of getting that overseas feel and just, you know, the potential opportunity to go play there. So yeah, it’s all nice.”



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