Credit: Seskim Photo/MB Media/ Tobias Hase/picture alliance/Getty Images
Credit Seskim Photo/MB Media/ Tobias Hase/picture alliance/Getty Images

After a long and highly eventful season in Europe, Jehyve Floyd is back in the United States, testing the NBA waters with the Phoenix Suns Summer League team in Las Vegas. 

3-pointers this season

Points made: 7,5
Accuracy: 32,7%
Place in standings: 16
Record max: 15
Record min: 3
Most made 3FGs: Marko Guduric

The 25-year-old center has joined a roster featuring familiar faces to European fans. He plays along such players as former Strasbourg forward Ishmail Wainright and Zenit Saint Petersburg's guard Tyson Carter.

If Wainright comes off his rookie NBA season and Carter attends his second Summer League, Floyd had never had the chance to wear the jersey of an NBA team. 

"Obviously, the NBA is the next step after the EuroLeague," he tells BasketNews in an interview from Las Vegas.

"So, I was looking for an opportunity. Throughout the last part of the season, I didn't know if I could find the right situation, but the Phoenix Suns were looking at overseas guys. They had signed two of them (Ishmail Wainright and Gabriel Lundberg) during the season, and my agent told me that it would be a good opportunity to get my foot in the door, get the experience and see how I can compete against high-level guys," he explains.

Floyd was allocated almost nine minutes of playing time as the Suns suffered their first defeat in the tournament, a 72-97 blowout loss at the hands of the Wizards.

The big man from Parlin, New Jersey, scored 2 points, grabbed 3 rebounds, and dished out 2 assists in his debut and then went on to record two points, two rebounds, one assist and one block in a comfortable 105-78 win over the Dallas Mavericks. That was a welcome shift from the DNP he had registered in the Suns' premiere against the Lakers. 

"I'm trying to learn as much as I can and see what it takes to be at this level," he admits.

Jehyve Floyd

Jehyve  Floyd
Team: Fenerbahce Istanbul
Panathinaikos Athens
Position: PF, C
Age: 25
Height: 202 cm
Weight: 102 kg
Birth place: United States of America

"You never know what can happen. Nowadays, NBA teams are looking for guys who can come off the bench and impact the game right away with their toughness. I think playing overseas prepared me a lot, both mentally and IQ-wise. It's a win-win situation for me."

After a full EuroLeague season, in which he played for two teams (Panathinaikos OPAP Athens and Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul), the next campaign will most likely find Jehyve Floyd in Istanbul again, albeit with a different squad.

Galatasaray NEF have already announced him, but Floyd thinks that if he manages to draw the attention of an NBA franchise, "it would be awesome."

The 2021-22 campaign closure could hardly have been any better for Floyd since he won his first-ever championship title with Fenerbahce.

He averaged 3.4 points and 2 rebounds across 14 EuroLeague games, while in 12 Turkish BSL contests with the Turkish champs, he had an average of 4.8 points and 3.3 rebounds.

Credit Giuseppe Cottini/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

Choosing to stay in Turkey to join Fenerbahce's sworn enemies, Galatasaray, is something that fans of his former team will not particularly appreciate.

"I know a little bit about the history. I've been able to experience the derbies. It was a basketball decision for me. I also know Istanbul pretty well," Floyd says.

"At the end of the day, it's business. Fenerbahce understood that I wanted to go somewhere where I can play right away and have a bigger impact on the team. I haven't been able to see any player on the team, but I'm really close with Kerry Blackshear. He told me about the club and what to expect," the former Holly Cross player continues.

One of the factors that played into his decision to sign with Galatasaray was coach Andreas Pistiolis. In his first-ever head coaching gig, the Greek tactician took over the Turkish squad in March and turned into a real title contender, racking up ten straight wins between the regular season and the playoffs. In the end, Galatasaray fell to Anadolu Efes after a fierce five-game series. 

"It was the right situation with our coach since we both are on the upward in our careers. He's straightforward, very competitive, and a players' coach. I know I can thrive having a connection with him. We can talk about basketball and life outside of the court.

Based on our conversations so far, I think we're going to have a good year. He knows what it takes for me to get back to the EuroLeague level when the time comes again. We feed off each other," Floyd maintains, talking about Pistiolis, who left his assistant coaching job at CSKA Moscow next to current Fenerbahce play-caller Dimitris Itoudis to guide Galatasaray into a new era. 

Floyd kicked off his European experience with Larissa in Greece during the 2019-20 season. He played in 20 games with the team that ended up 4th in the league last season, averaging 5.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks. His defensive prowess gave him a promotion to Greek and EuroCup side Promitheas Patras, where he didn't stay more than a couple of months. 

"I got COVID, that was the major thing. I had a great training camp, and then everything started going downhill. I had to stay quarantined for 21 days. When I got back, I couldn't get in shape quick enough to help the team out," Floyd remembers.

"In Greece, if they think you're not helping the team, they're going to find different options. They wanted to put me on loan, and I was like, 'No, I'd rather find somewhere where I can play right away.'"

In October 2020, he moved to Israel for Hapoel Gilboa, where he registered a breakout season, averaging 11.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.

He was second in the Israel Basketball Premier League in blocked shots per game (1.7) and led the league in 2-point shot percentage (74.2%). 

Panathinaikos OPAP Athens were quick to bring him back to Greece for his third overall stint in the country, but it was a short-lived relationship that lasted only four months and ended by mutual consent. 

Over the course of eleven months, Floyd has signed with three teams in two countries in what can be labeled as the most eventful season in his career. 

"After a great season in Israel, I wanted to take the leap and have that EuroLeague experience. I had a couple of teams interested, but PAO was the first one to say, 'We want this guy. We believe in his abilities, and we want to have him on our team,'" Floyd recounts.

"It was a great experience at the beginning, playing at that level. But as the season went on, with injuries and not having enough time for development, it wasn't the right fit for me. I wasn't getting enough playing time, and I wasn't playing in the Greek league either. So, I didn't have the time to develop by playing," he notes. 

With a Panathinaikos team struggling in the EuroLeague, Floyd appeared in ten games, producing 2.5 points and 2.1 rebounds per contest. As Giorgos Papagiannis was the starting center, the American big man's playing time was gradually reduced to less than his average ten minutes. 

"It was crazy because I was playing a lot at the beginning of the season," Floyd recalls. "Once they wanted to get Papagiannis - who's a double-double machine - going, he started playing like 34 minutes. Things just switched off gradually, and there was not much conversation."

Credit Sebnem Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Floyd believes that a club like PAO is not good for young guys.

"It's tough to maneuver the fanbase, the pressure... I think I handled it pretty well in the time I had, but as time went on, we definitely had to go in different directions," he says.

That's why the undersized (2.03 m.) center started looking for other options. Fenerbahce were dealing with injuries at the time and were looking for a big man to fill in.

"It was a great match for both sides so that I can prove I can play at the EuroLeague level and also help the team out," Floyd holds.

"When I got there, we won five games in a row. Then, the thing with Russia happened, and things went south in terms of the EuroLeague. We were able to regroup and set our minds on winning the championship. We got 'hot' at the right time."

In joining Fenerbahce, Floyd says he could immediately tell the differences from his previous situation in Greece. 

"In certain aspects, there was a way calmer environment, very professional. They get things done and take care of you. I don't want to say that PAO didn't, but Fenerbahce are really top-notch when it comes to that. You only had to worry about basketball," he points out.

Sasa Djordjevic, Floyd's second non-Greek coach in Europe, knew how to boost his new recruit's morale. 

"The best thing for me was that I was able to get along with the coach very early. The first day he met me, he was like, 'I don't care about what you can't do, I just only care about what you can do.' He gave me the ultimate confidence that he believed in my abilities. I was able to produce in the time I had on the court. I felt like I did belong at this level."

Credit Srdjan Stevanovic/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

Overall, it's been a season for the books for a player who hadn't even played in European competition before. In addition to making his first EuroLeague appearance, Floyd also won the Greek SuperCup and the Turkish BSL championship title. 

"It was a great and very eventful season. I learned a lot just by being around two organizations. It was two different experiences, but both were necessary. It's a blessing to be able to play for two historical clubs in one season. So, I feel like I got two years out of one just being a part of that. It was definitely a growth year for me."

A couple of seasons with low-tier teams, like Larissa and Gilboa, can hardly provide the springboard for any player to reach the EuroLeague. Still, Jehyve Floyd did something that other players - like Will Cummings, for instance - haven't done, regardless of how decorated their overseas career has been. 

Credit Vangelis Stolis

Two years after graduating from Holy Cross in 2019, Floyd made Europe's top flight. Was it too early? 

"I don't think so. I learned a lot this year, and I had some great spurts of showing that I can contribute at this level. For me, it was more about having the confidence."

Despite being the back-up for dominant bigs, like Giorgos Papagiannis or Jan Vesely, Floyd doesn't hide his ambitions to become a starting center one day. 

"In the long-term, I feel like I don't want to be a back-up for the rest of my life. I want to be a Jan Vesely, a Devin Booker, a Kyle Hines, or Bryant Dunston.

Going somewhere I can play and being able to show that I can be a full-time guy is going to help my stock. When the time comes for me to get back over there, I will already have two teams (Panathinaikos, Fenerbahce) I've been on that know what it takes to win," he says with confidence.  

As mentioned above, three out of Floyd's five coaches overseas - and shortly four out of six - have been and will be from Greece.

However, the two-time Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year had his best season under Avishay Gordon at Hapoel Gilboa. Floyd explains both facts, which are no coincidence.

"I guess Greek guys like my game. They like my toughness and the glue-type energy that I bring.

My best season was in Israel based on the style of play. I was able to get up and down the court. It allowed me to grow within that system. I think my next season will be similar - I'll have a big role, and I'll be able to show people what I can do," he stresses.

Credit Tolga Adanali/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

In a lesser-known and darker stage of his short professional career, Floyd had to deal with rejection not once but several times. The first hit came in 2019 when MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg signed him out of college.

Being cut by the team was a difficult and very reflective time for Floyd, who has suffered from self-doubt much of his life. His thoughts about the disappointment he experienced became one of the driving forces behind a book titled 'Godfidence', which came out in early 2021. 

In the introduction to the book, Floyd writes about the impact of his parents' divorce when he was 11 and its aftermath, leaving home at age 17 and living at friends' houses before heading off to Holy Cross. He also confesses to having suicidal thoughts.

"I questioned my existence, tried to find my purpose in life. Having confidence in God's plan for me has always pushed me to keep going. Holding on to my beliefs really steered me to where I am now," he writes.

We usually see athletes publish their autobiographies or memoirs either after they're done playing or at an advanced stage of their careers. But Floyd was only 23 at the time. 

"I felt like the only person who believed in me back then was myself. So, writing a book and not knowing if I can reach the level I've reached now will be a testament for people to look back and see the faith and the confidence I had in myself when no one knew me," he says.

"People can read the book now and see the mindset I was in a couple of years ago when things could have fallen apart. I got cut in Germany, in Promitheas, in PAO. Those were situations where I could have easily quit on myself, but instead, I kept going. So, I invited people along that journey."

A couple of years ago, Floyd had a discussion with student-athletes at Washington College in Maryland about the issues and struggles of being a black athlete at a predominantly white college. The feeling of being an American in Europe is comparable to how a black player might feel in an all-white environment. 

Floyd thinks that "being an athlete shields away from a lot of the racism that you can experience overseas. The club is doing a good work of making sure you're OK, but back in the States, racism is very overt and clear."

"On the other hand, it can be very subtle overseas, but you're traveling a lot, and you're not as much into the community as you are back home," Floyd adds.

Floyd says that coming back to the States, he feels very un-American.

"I'm so used to being in Europe. We only have two months to transition, but this is the lifestyle we chose," he adds. 

For an overseas athlete, those two months can be both a refreshing interval and a reminder of the things he has to give up on to make a living away from home. Apart from missing the obvious proximity to one's family, Floyd thinks the main issue of any American export is the feeling of being an outsider. 

"There's a language barrier, while it's easier for me to talk to people over here in the States - the mannerisms, the slang, everything makes you feel at home," he argues.

His return to the USA for the Summer League gave him the chance to sense that feeling of belonging to a community again and realize that a sporting life in Europe requires putting on a facade that matches the expectations of a demanding majority. The clubs, the fanbase, and the media often create an emotionally intense mix which can be very tough for a player to handle. 

"In Europe, you're just going from practice to your apartment. You're not feeling like you're a part of the community. Being in this environment with the Phoenix Suns right now, it's easier to connect with your teammate.

It's almost like a brotherhood. Things over here are more laid-back, while everything overseas is amped-up. It's night and day. Over here, you do your job, and everything will be right," Floyd maintains. 

Galatasaray's center points to the most palpable differences between basketball in Europe as opposed to the US.

"Overseas, there's a schedule; it's more strict. Maybe I miss the freedom to be myself because I have to let teams know that I'm a positive person. At times, I'm a high-energy guy, and some teams think you're not taking things seriously because you're laughing.

I remember posting something on TikTok on game day, and fans were like, 'Oh, he's not taking the game seriously.' They expect you to be someone else." 

Credit imago images/PanoramiC-Scanpix

For Floyd, the most rewarding element in his overseas basketball life is inextricably linked to the fact that "you can do whatever you put your mind to because there were multiple times when I could have thrown in the towel and gone home."

Living and working outside of the USA is another factor that has helped Floyd grasp the grand scheme of things in the world. 

"When we grow up and learn about history, we think the US is the center of everything. Then, you come overseas and realize that's not the case. The US isn't just the main country that they teach us while growing up," he underlines. 

Well, when it comes to basketball, American players still dominate the globe in terms of numbers and quality.

If Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic have won the last three NBA MVP Awards, Jehyve Floyd's case proves that US-born athletes can overcome any type of adversity while being thousands of miles away from home. 

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Jehyve Floyd

Jehyve  Floyd
Jehyve  Floyd
MIN: 11.48
PTS: 2.92 (56.58%)
REB: 1.96
As: 0.4
ST: 0.36
BL: 0.36
TO: 0.6
GM: 25