Credit: AFP-Scanpix
Credit AFP-Scanpix

Guerschon Yabusele has been extremely busy lately. After a great Summer Olympics with the French national team, which ended up winning the silver medal at Tokyo, the 25-year-old forward decided to spend at least another season in Europe, signing with Real Madrid.

Despite the fact that the deal is for one year, the French international doesn’t seem to be bothered one bit.

In fact, he has been of the protagonists so far for the Spanish powerhouse, who has started the season on a high note: a perfect ACB record (4-0), a Spanish SuperCup comeback win against FC Barcelona, plus a convincing EuroLeague premiere (82-69) against reigning champions Anadolu Efes.

The next stop for the ten-time European champions will be Greece and the Peace and Friendship Stadium, residence of Olympiacos Piraeus.

The hosts’ coach, Giorgos Bartzokas, commented that Real Madrid are at the moment the team with the highest level of readiness in Europe.

“This is because they kept the same very good coach for many years and a core of players. They have added some very experienced players that give them more depth and help them keep the pace up, without ever getting tired,” Bartzokas said.

“We’ve been having a pretty good start so far,” Yabusele admits talking to BasketNews. “We’ve been winning games, we haven’t lost yet, so for sure, our confidence is high.”

However, it seems that there’s still some room for improvement, even for a team with an immaculate balance.

“We are still making some mistakes on the court; things we can learn from in order to get better game after game. We don’t really worry about what happened before because we just focus on the next thing. We got to move game by game,” he adds.

3-pointers this season

34%
12,0
Points made: 12,0
Accuracy: 34,3%
Place in standings: 1
Record max: 12
Record min: 12
Most made 3FGs: Thomas Heurtel

Born in Dreux, northern France, Yabusele made his EuroLeague debut with ASVEL Villeurbanne last year. He also got to play against Real Madrid. This means that he can point to the difference-maker in this version of the team that he is now a part of.

“I feel like we have a lot of talented guys on the team,” he responds. “We were talking with Thomas (Heurtel) about that: Every time there is a substitution, and a player goes to the bench, the level keeps going up. The guy who’s going to step on the court is always ready, and this is really the strength of this team: We can count on everybody.”

In the 2020-21 campaign, he played two back-to-back games against Olympiacos. On January 15, ASVEL prevailed 69-63 in Piraeus, while Bartzokas’s squad returned the favor four days later with an overtime win by 101-93 in Lyon.

Yabusele, French champion and Cup winner with ASVEL, believes that the current version of the Reds has little to do with what the Greek club presented last year. Besides, this time around, he will be going up against some familiar faces in Livio Jean-Charles and Moustapha Fall.

“I think they’ve got different types of players there. Mustapha Fall, who I played with in ASVEL, is now with them. So, I know that every time I will be entering the paint, it’s going to be a little bit different compared to last season.

I’m just trying to adjust to their game. We’re going to watch some videos to see how we can hurt them and spot their weaknesses. I know it’s going to be way different from last year when we went there to play with ASVEL,” Yabusele explained.

At Real Madrid, the 2,01 m. forward teamed up with fellow countrymen Thomas Heurtel, Vincent Poirier, and Fabien Causeur. The mentioned names suggest that the number of French players excelling at the highest level is increasing.

At the same time, ASVEL and AS Monaco have the biggest budgets in French club basketball history.

Having recently returned to France after two years in China and as many in the United States, Yabusele cannot help but notice that basketball in France is really different now.

“Monaco came this year with a big roster - and a big budget also. They want to make a statement that was really what they were looking for,” he goes on to say, before turning the focus on his motivation ahead of the games against the two French squads - and especially his former team.

“We got to be ready for those games. Every time I play against my old teammates, I want to win. Those two games we are going to play against ASVEL, I definitely want to win them both,” he warns.

“But in general, basketball is again on the rise in France. A lot of French players get in the EuroLeague or in the NBA now. That’s very good for young kids because it makes them work harder, it makes them want to succeed,” he maintains.

The resilient Olympian was selected with the 16th overall pick by the Boston Celtics in 2016, but his willingness to play overseas until a space opened for him didn’t end the way either had hoped. The “Dancing Bear” - as he came to be known while in the NBA - quickly won over Boston fans on arrival with the franchise.

He was given his chances in Boston, where he appeared in 74 games from 2017 through 2019, but when he didn’t dominate the Las Vegas Summer League in his third try, the team decided to move on.

So, if one were to ask why he didn’t stay longer or play more in the NBA, Yabusele would simply answer: “I’m just a player. I don’t decide. Unfortunately, when I was there, I wasn’t playing with the team. I had all those big stars in front of me, so it was different, but I still managed to learn a lot in terms of experience.

Of course, I got better after that. It was just a different situation. I feel like if I was on another team, in another situation, it would be different.”

Credit AP-Scanpix



No matter how little playing time (only 7 minutes per game, on average) he was allocated, the French international will forever cherish the experience.

“I will always remember that the Boston Celtics picked me 16th in the draft. It was incredible. My whole life changed from that moment on,” he recalls.

“So, even going there, seeing how they play defense and everything, was important. They showed me so much love! I was just happy to be part of it, and if one day I go back to the NBA, I hope the situation will be different, and I can play a little bit more.”

“But I can play right now in the EuroLeague,” he points out.

When the current Real Madrid player was waived by the Celtics, no other NBA team called.

He then moved to China, where many former NBA players head for a payday and career reclamation. Upon returning to Europe for ASVEL in 2020, he had to work on several aspects of his game, adding some elements that were missing while improving on others.

“I really tried to work a lot on my three-point shot because I know this is going to be the key,” he stresses. “If I shoot threes, my guy is going to come closer to me, and then I can drive to the basket.”

But the list does not end here.

“I just try to work on my dribble a lot, too, to be able to bring the ball up sometimes. I also worked on my post-up, something that I really think that I improved on this past summer.

I did a lot of work on the post-move, taking advantage of my body and weight so that when I go to the low post, I get to score every time,” Yabusele adds.

In a recent interview with the Boston Globe, Yabusele admitted to not knowing much about the EuroLeague before his rookie season with ASVEL.

“I was just being honest,” he says. “Growing up, my dream, like for a lot of kids, was to play in the EuroLeague. Watching a EuroLeague game in France was so complicated back in the day. You had many things to attend to, and I didn’t pay attention,” he remembers.

“So, when I came back to Europe and played with ASVEL, I was actually taking a look at the EuroLeague. It was then when I started to realize that it’s a high-level basketball.”

Credit AFP-Scanpix

The advantages of playing at the highest European level have outweighed by far any hesitation or lack of knowledge:

“I thought to myself: “It’s in Europe, it’s good. I’m from France, plus my family could be around.” I just love it today. I’m having so much fun playing in the EuroLeague!

I’m really happy to be part of it and to be playing for Real Madrid. So, for me and my family, it’s something really big,” he concludes.

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Olympiacos Piraeus
Real Madrid
45%
8 Position
Field goals
48%
5 Position
36,00
8 Position
Rebounds
47,00
1 Position
20,00
2 Position
Assists
19,00
4 Position
11,00
1 Position
Steals
4,00
15 Position

Teams leaders

Aleksandr  Vezenkov
16,0 PTS
63% 2P%
33% 3P%
Thomas  Heurtel
15,0 PTS
67% 2P%
60% 3P%
Livio  Jean-Charles
7,0 REB
5,0 DREB
2,0 OREB
Walter  Tavares
12,0 REB
6,0 DREB
6,0 OREB
Konstantinos  Sloukas
5,0 As
1,0 TO
26 MIN
Guerschon  Yabusele
4,0 As
1,0 TO
28 MIN