Despite the progress that the NBA D-League has been making over the last few years, there are still some American-born players that call Europe their basketball homes. One player that fits that bill is former Rider guard Ryan Thompson, who has spent most of his pro career playing for some of the elite European clubs. Since going undrafted in 2010, Thompson only spent one season away from Europe. That occurred in 2010-11 when he spent time in the D-League with the Utah Flash. Just last season, Thompson played alongside former NBA prospects Gal Mekel and Quincy Miller with KK Crvena Zvezda in the Euroleague.
Transitioning into this season, Thompson finds himself as one of the main cogs in a Telekom Baskets squad that currently stands as the top team in the FIBA Europe Cup. So far this season, Thompson has averaged 14.9 points, 3.6 assists on 58% from the field and 42% from beyond the arc. Luckily, Thompson was able to take a break from his domination with KK Crvena Zvezda to talk to Ridiculous Upside about why he prefers staying in Europe rather than returning to the NBA D-League.
Ridiculous Upside: After growing up watching the NBA, as well as living in the US during your entire upbringing, what is it like to play overseas in an entirely different environment and culture than you were accustom to?
Ryan Thompson: It definitely took me a while to adjust to the lifestyle in the game. From the moment I stepped off the plane, it was a huge culture shock for me since I’ve never been in Europe. It was a struggle to walk around and see that none of the signs were in English. As far as the game goes, it's different as far as some of the rules like traveling that are not the same from the NBA or the D-League. Another difference is European players being able to smack the ball off the rim which is something you don’t see in American hoops.
RU: How difficult was it to go different ways with each of your basketball careers when you decided to play in Europe while your brother played in the association?
Thompson: After a couple years you kind of just get used to the situation that you’re in. Heading into my 3rd season, I kinda embraced it and stopped doing NBA summer league and focused on trying to play at a high European level.
RU: What valuable experience did you gain during your time at Rider experience?
Thompson: I learned that it doesn't matter what school or division or level of basketball you play in college that if your good you will get noticed by NBA or European teams.
RU: How does that experience [from Rider] shape the way you play today?
Thompson: It shaped me because I learned how to be a role player and also learned how to be a go-to scorer. My first 2 years my older brother was the main target so the plays mainly went through him and when he left the torch was passed on to me.
RU: With me being a huge advocate for D-League players—in support of higher wages, better broadcasting, and proper promotion, I believe that the poor traits of the league sometimes pushes players away, motivating them to play overseas instead. In your current situation playing for Telekom Baskets Bonn, how do you think European basketball is better development for you over the NBA D-League.
Thompson: I had the opportunity to play in the D-League for a half- season and I did not like it at all. Not all the situations there are bad but most are and I feel like there’s more that needs to be done with the D-League so that it is popular and makes players want to come home and play in the states versus going to Europe. Nothing would be better then to have the D-League increase the play and make it very competitive.