Istanbul - Brad Wanamaker and Malcolm Delaney were two of the most exciting guards in Europe for years. Now, Wanamaker hopes NBA teams see him as the next Delaney and gives him a spot in the NBA - with a bit of help from David Blatt.
Watching the 27-year-old Wanamaker play for Darussafaka Dogus and other clubs around Europe for years, it's not hard to see the Philadelphia toughness in his game. You can see the grit, edge and win-by-all means characteristics.
You can see he grew up a die-hard Sixers and Allen Iverson fan. And you can see he spent years admiring fellow Philadelphia native Kyle Lowry and followed him closely all the way through high school and college since the NBA All-Star went to Villanova in the city.
Of course there is also his "North Philly" tattoo professing his love for his home.
"It's the place where I come from. It wasn't always the best but I made it out and it showed me how to survive and how to make it in this world," he said.
Wanamaker has definitely made it. His will to fight got him through five teams in Italy and the United States during his rookie season out of Pitt, where he was named All-Big East 2nd Team but went undrafted in 2011. The 2011-12 season ended with Wanamaker actually winning the D-League title with the Austin Toros.
Wanamaker used his aggressive playmaking and grinding defense mentality to go to Limoges in the French top league before landing at Brose Bamberg in southern Germany.
It was in the sleepy town of Bamberg with about 75,000 people where European basketball really took notice of Wanamaker once and for all.
In his first season there, he was the leader and go-to guy who returned the storied club Bamberg to the top of German basketball. The Bamberg fans, who call themselves Freak City, fell for Wanamaker and his game and his cute children and he had a twin brother Brian running around town and playing for one of the the club’s lower level team.
The international acclaim followed in 2015-16 when Bamberg returned to Europe's elite competition EuroLeague and Wanamaker helped Freak City celebrate historic upsets of some of the biggest clubs on the continent. In addition to winning the German league - with Wanamaker as the MVP - Bamberg were on the doorstep of reaching the final eight, which would have been the first time in the history of German basketball.
All the while Malcolm Delaney was just winning titles everywhere he went - from France to Ukraine to Germany year after year from 2013 to 2015. Delaney faced off against Wanamaker in the AAU circuit when Wanamaker would play in the Baltimore area. But the two never really crossed paths in Europe - playing in different countries and in different groups in the same European competitions.
Last season, while Wanamaker's European season stalled at the Last 16 stage, Delaney carried his Russian club Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnador to the EuroLeague Final Four. And he parlayed that into a two-year contract with the Atlanta Hawks, where he has played quite well.
Delaney's good performances for Atlanta also represent major hope for Wanamaker.
"Him doing this is opening it up for guys like myself and others who are over here grinding," Wanamaker said of Delaney. "He opened the door for a lot of American basketball players over here."
One positive for Wanamaker throughout his European adventure has been that his coaches have allowed him to thrive in his style of game - attacking, creating and passing. In other words … just being the man.
And that is the case once again with Darussafaka in Turkey. This time the stakes are higher as the club has high expectation and made a major financial investment in the team - including winning a bidding war for Wanamaker over many clubs in Europe and hiring a big-time coach in David Blatt, who won the EuroLeague with Maccabi Tel Aviv before heading to the NBA and coaching LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in his rookie season.
Still, Blatt has asked his Philly bulldog to lead the team.
"He is just telling me to be myself, be aggressive and do what got me here. Everything else will fall into place," Wanamaker says of his interaction with Blatt.
"He knows the game. He coached LeBron James, the best player in the world. He won the EuroLeague with Maccabi Tel Aviv. He lets you know what you can do to better yourself and the team. His knowledge is unbelievable. You just pick his brain."
Wanamaker just hopes him picking Coach Blatt's brain and Delaney impressing NBA teams lands him a spot in the NBA next season.
“Oh man, I want to get there for sure,” Wanamaker said. “It’s time. I’m just still working hard and trying to make that dream come true.”