Credit: Turkish Basketball Federation
Credit Turkish Basketball Federation

Marial Shayok did not have to ride the wave that brought a lot of players with NBA experience to Europe last summer.

The 54th overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft had his breakout year in the Old Continent with Bursaspor of the Turkish Super League, averaging 18.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 4.2 assists in 12 games.

Marial Shayok

Marial   Shayok
Marial   Shayok
MIN: 24.32
PTS: 4 (40%)
REB: 1
As: 3
ST: 2
BL: 0
TO: 2
GM: 1

Following his solid finish to the season, Shayok signed a two (1+1) year deal with the 2017 EuroLeague champions Fenerbahce Istanbul last June.

His offensive and defensive presence helped Bursaspor move up the bottom half of the standings to finish ninth in the 16-team loop, with a record of 13-17.

He only played in a dozen regular-season games, but he had a definite impact. His all-around game and enthusiasm could be a missing link for the team coached by Aleksandar Djordjevic.

After all, Fenerbahce had a disappointing season, missing out on their first Final Four since 2014 and the Turkish League title, where they got swept by Anadolu Efes.

Shayok’s trajectory began at the University of Virginia and continued at Iowa State. He was transferred for his senior season because he wanted to be a primary scorer and reached its pinnacle with the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA.

Alas, the franchise that selected him in the 2019 Draft signed him to a two-way contract, meaning he would split time between the 76ers and their G League affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats.

Even if the Ontario native did manage to make his debut in the league, his presence there didn’t last more than four games and 28 minutes overall.

Despite his well-rounded offensive game that allowed him to score in a variety of ways both at Iowa State (where he averaged 18.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game) and the G League (his impressive turnup amounted to 23 points, 6 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per contest), the now 25-year-old never got another call-up.

2-pointers this season

Points made: 20,0
Accuracy: 50,0%
Place in standings: 6
Record max: 20
Record min: 20
Most made 2FGs: Jan Vesely

When the Sixers put him on waivers, he joined Bursaspor, and the rest is history.

Shayok’s ability to shine as a mid-range shooter, on-ball driver and perimeter threat attracted the interest of Fenerbahce, who put him next to Nando De Colo, Pierria Henry, and Marko Guduric.

A few hours before the Turkish powerhouse locks horns with Panathinaikos in Athens, Marial Shayok spoke to BasketNews about his new team, coach Djordjevic, his short-lived NBA stint, and the goals he has set for himself in Europe.

A good start, as he reveals, would be to get himself accustomed to the ins and outs of the way the game is played on this side of the ocean.

Marial, welcome to Athens. How does it feel to be in the EuroLeague?

It feels good. Obviously, it’s my first time playing at this level. I’m looking forward to some new challenges with my new team, embracing this year with open arms. I am excited.

The other day, I asked another EuroLeague newcomer, Baskonia’s Steven Enoch, if reaching the EuroLeague level is what he expected when he first came to Europe. To what extent did your great season with Bursaspor prepare you for this one?

The European style of basketball is very different than back home in the NBA in terms of pace, some different rules, spacing. It’s like a different game. So, I still need an adjustment.

So far, what’s your general impression of basketball in Europe? Can you see yourself staying here long-term?

I really don’t know. I try to take it a day at a time or a season at a time. All this is new to me. I just want to continue to get better. I’m still adjusting to being on this side of the world, playing with different teams.  

Credit NBA

How did Turkey come up for you, anyway?

My agent told me that Bursa were interested in me, mid-year last season. I thought that the team fit my style of play, and I decided to sign with them. So, when the opportunity with Fenerbahce came, it was something I was interested in because of the familiarity with the country.

As of late, Fenerbahce seem to be struggling offensively. 61 points against Red Star in the EuroLeague opener, 71 against Petkimspor in the Turkish League. Even in the game vs. Darussafaka, your team didn’t get past the 75-point mark. How would you explain that?

We’ve been playing with a bunch of different players; guys are coming in and out. It’s an adjustment because everyone is learning how to play with one another. Our focus has been on our defense, which has been pretty solid.

Our offense is going to come. I don’t think any of us is playing at the offensive level we are all going to play once we are all in rhythm and familiar with each other. It’s going to come, but it’s going to take time. As long as we’re staying and playing together, finding our spots, we’ll be fine.

What is the general philosophy of Sasa Djordjevic? What kind of coach is he?

From what I’ve seen so far, he really wants us to play hard, play together and share the ball. He’s always passionate. He has played the game before, and I try to learn from him as much as possible and just play hard for him along with my teammates.

What’s your role with Fenerbahce, and to what extent is it any different than the one you had with Bursaspor?

Right now, I am just trying to be one of the best defenders on the floor, use my capabilities and my strengths defensively. Typically, I’ve been one of the main offensive players on my previous teams, and I think I will be able to do some of that again once we learn how to play with one another. I try to play as hard as I can and help my team win as many games as possible.

Your next opponent, Panathinaikos, are coming off after a very bad week and two consecutive losses. How can Fener double their wins in the competition?

We have to stick to who we are; come out and play some great defense, share the ball and get a win on the road. It’s always going to be tough on the road. As long as we stay together, we have a good chance.

How broad was your EuroLeague knowledge before becoming a part of it?

I didn’t watch too many EuroLeague games before this year. But I do know a few players that play EuroLeague and know how the extreme high-level competition is. I came in expecting that, and that’s how it is. I had some childhood friends, like Olivier Hanlan or Devin Hall - guys that I’ve known through my time playing basketball.

I guess you must be very proud of Hanlan, who scored 35 points against Panathinaikos in a recent Greek League game.

Yeah, he had a really good game right there. I didn’t see the game, but I saw the highlights. I haven’t talked to him lately. Our schedule has been pretty crazy. Obviously, I will see him soon.

Anadolu Efes is the team to beat in Europe and Turkey. You got a glimpse of them last year, and this season you have undertaken the task of taking them down. What makes you optimistic that Fener will make it the next time you play against them?

Just from what we’ve been doing since day one, how hard we’ve been competing in practice, once we build chemistry on and off the court, I think we can play with the best. I think they’re a great team. They won the EuroLeague, and you got to give them respect for that. They’re considered the best team right now.

One thing that definitely stands out in your game is your versatility. How did you develop into that kind of player? How did you cultivate your skills to become a multi-purpose player?

Just being a student of the game, watching many different players and a lot of basketball, improving on my weaknesses, and trying to get better on all aspects of the game.

You had an excellent senior season with Iowa State. How did you deal with being drafted at No.54? Did you look at it as a chance to break into the NBA, or did you aspire to be a first-round pick and maybe get something more than a two-way contract?

I was trying to do the best I could at the time and see where it would land me. You never know where you’re going to get picked and how it goes. I tried to compete at the highest level whenever I got the chance, whether it was the Summer League or a Draft Combine. I was trying to do my best at all the workouts.

The same goes more or less with your G League performances. The Sixers let you go after averaging 23 points, 6 rebounds, and 3.8 assists with their affiliate team, the Delaware Blue Coats. Under normal circumstances, one would think that those numbers would be enough for an NBA comeback. Why do you think that never happened to you?

I really don’t have an explanation. You never know. The pandemic set back a lot of things, as far as contracts of many different players. There’s nothing to put my finger on. I am where I need to be. If I come back to the NBA, that’s where I belong. Right now, I’m trying to focus on playing for Fenerbahce.

On paper, your shooting skills could match Joel Embiid’s and Ben Simmons’ strong interior play, around which the Philly squad was built. What was the Sixers’ plan concerning your role? Did they communicate it to you?

It was to come in and play as hard as you can. They want you to continue to improve on their system. But we had a coaching change, a lot of things going on, and there was no time for me.

To what extent do you think you can become a better player in Europe?

I’m still learning the game, the way it’s played out here. With time and more games under my belt, I will get more comfortable.

I am learning from experienced players, my teammates, and my coach. I think the coach has helped me the most so far. His experience as a player and a coach, stuff he’s been preaching in practice. I’m trying to be like a sponge and learn from him.

Credit Fenerbahce Istanbul

Your friendship with Tyrese Haliburton is well-known. The two of you played together during the 2018-19 season before you were selected in the 2019 NBA Draft. He actually followed your workout regimen, doing a lot of extra work after practice. He has repeatedly stated that you have been a big influence on his game. My question is, what have you picked up from him?

I picked up his charismatic energy. That type of stuff rubbed off on me when I was a senior. He came in with positive energy every day, which was contagious. It’s something that I have been trying to bring to every team I’ve been on.

What are you looking forward most to in your rookie EuroLeague season?

I want to be my best self, leave the season with no regrets, and I hope to get better. By the time I get to my ceiling out here, I think I’m going to do very good things to help this team. This means being versatile, being a good defender, getting myself and others involved offensively.

If you could name the one thing that you’d like to improve, which would it be?

Right now, I would say my catch-and-shoot. I started the season off struggling a bit from the three. I’ve been a good shooter for the past few seasons. But I think that will come again with rhythm and adjusting to the style of play.

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Panathinaikos Athens
Fenerbahce Istanbul
15 Position
Field goals
12 Position
3 Position
12 Position
18 Position
4 Position
18 Position
1 Position

Teams leaders

Ioannis  Papapetrou
16,0 PTS
54% 2P%
0% 3P%
Dyshawn  Pierre
13,0 PTS
67% 2P%
50% 3P%
Georgios  Papagiannis
11,0 REB
7,0 DREB
4,0 OREB
Devin   Booker
9,0 REB
5,0 DREB
4,0 OREB
Daryl  Macon
3,0 As
1,0 TO
19 MIN
Pierria  Henry
6,0 As
1,0 TO
26 MIN