Thomas Walkup reacted to Vezenkov's game-winner vs. Zalgiris: "Every shot is an easy shot for Sasha."

Credit: Erikas Ovčarenko/BNS
Credit Erikas Ovčarenko/BNS

Thomas Walkup came back to Zalgirio Arena for the second time as an Olympiacos Piraeus member and set up a game-winning play for unofficial EuroLeague MVP Sasha Vezenkov.

Player of the Game
Aleksandr  Vezenkov
Aleksandr Vezenkov
Points 25
Accuracy 11-16
Rebounds 8
Assists 2

After Walkup's pass to the high post, Vezenkov got rid of Zalgiris Kaunas guard Tomas Dimsa with a step back and silenced the packed gym by draining a fadeaway jumper.

"We were running the play to get a mismatch," Walkup explained the last offensive possession. "We put the ball in our best player's hands, and he made a great shot."

Shaquielle McKissic could not believe Vezenkov converted the shot, but it was not even a difficult one for Sasha, as Walkup revealed post-game.

"Every shot is an easy shot for Sasha," he told BasketNews following a narrow 74-72 win. "He is playing with such confidence.

"It's fun to share the court with him at this moment," Walkup added. "I am really happy for him because all these shots, he works on them, he shoots them. To me, it seems like every single shot for Sasha is a really good shot."

On Thursday night, Vezenkov dropped 25 points on a perfect 9 of 9 two-point shooting record and raised his season average to a league-leading 18.2 points per game to hunt his first Alphonso Ford Trophy.

Clearly, Zalgiris was not the only EuroLeague team this season that failed the mission to limit Vezenkov.

"To be honest, teams have tried everything. They are putting bigger guys on him, smaller guys on him, faster, stronger, but it seems like nothing is working," Walkup underlined.

A Texas-born guard might know a trick or two about individual defense against Sasha, as he is up for the EuroLeague Best Defender award alongside Alessandro Pajola, Rodrigue Beaubois, Nikola Kalinic, Walter Tavares, and Kevarrius Hayes.

2-pointers this season

Points made: 18,7
Accuracy: 50,9%
Place in standings: 13
Record max: 28
Record min: 12
Most made 2FGs: Ignas Brazdeikis

The latter big man made a big-time rejection of Moustapha Fall's two-point shot that could have extended Olympiacos' lead to a game-high 16 points.

The block inspired Zalgiris to a strong comeback effort and significant praise words by Thomas Walkup.

"[Kevarrius] Hayes is one of my favorites, for sure," Walkup responded when asked about the league's top defenders. "He is fearless blocking shots, he is very active and a really good rebounder. He is actually one of my favorite guys to watch."

Credit Olympiacos BC

Meanwhile, Walkup himself begins Olympiacos' defensive pressure and leads the league in steals with 1.8 per game. That number is among the top 10 single-season averages in the league over the last 10 years and the most by an Olympiacos player in over two decades.

Arguably best EuroLeague's two-way guard boasts a total defensive package with experience, basketball IQ and all the necessary physical tools.

Who he finds most difficult to defend against?

"(After 5 seconds of thinking) I can't name. There is still someone on our list to play, so I can't give any praise. Sorry (laughs)," Walkup answered.

It was not the only light-hearted moment during the interview. Lukas Lekavicius, Edgaras Ulanovas, and many others walked past and stopped to shake hands and exchange a few words with Walkup.

Probably the most special individual, who stepped in, was European basketball legend Arvydas Sabonis.

"Hello! How are you, big man? It's really great to see you. All good?" Walkup reacted to Sabonis coming from behind and then responded to Sabas' remark:

"Everything is really good, feels good to be back here. We even got blessed by sunshine today," Walkup referred to the perfect weather condition in Kaunas, which is not so casual for an early spring.

"We are ready for everything (smiles)," Sabonis uttered and gave Walkup a friendly tap on the shoulder.

Since the interview took place in Kaunas, a EuroLeague Final Four host city and former Thomas Walkup's place of living, it could not be released without question about one of the most passionate basketball markets.

The magnificent Zalgirio Arena will host the four best teams on the continent, who will play EuroLeague semis on Friday, May 19, and finals on Sunday, May 21.

"It [the city] is perfect," Walkup pointed out. "Obviously, could use a little more living but, as far as the arena, it's the best one in Europe, so no place could be better."


The 30-year-old spent three years in the heart of Lithuania, winning two King Mindaugas Cups (2020, 2021) and three Lithuanian championships (2019–21).

No surprise, one of the title lifts was the most memorable moment from his tenure in Kaunas, surpassing a famous steal from current teammate Kostas Sloukas and a game-winning bucket against his present team in the 2020-21 season.

"That was a big one," Walkup responded when reminded about his huge play.

"But I think our championship in the third year," he distinguished the unforgettable moment. "It was something really special about it, my last game here. I feel by that time, the fans and I, the club and I, had a really built-up relationship. That made it really really hard to leave but, at the same time, it made a special moment."

His second Olympiacos return to Lithuania was not the shiniest. But squad goals are above scoring or doing flashy stuff on the court.

Walkup finished Thursday's game with 3 points, 3 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, and, of course, enormous effort on the defensive end.

All Olympiacos players know and execute their roles very well, and that sounds like a recipe for the EuroLeague championship run this campaign.

Thomas Walkup gave his winning formula, too, after being asked to finish the "Olympiacos wins the EuroLeague if..." sentence.

"...we stay focused," he completed the sentence. "Only this. We are the team that is playing well, and we are focused on team goals. Everybody is happy being in this system and in this club. So, yeah, staying focused and staying on track, taking one day at a time."

With five games to go in the regular season, Olympiacos improved to a league-best 21-8 record and became the first team to qualify for the 2022-23 EuroLeague Playoffs.

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Zalgiris Kaunas
Olympiacos Piraeus
Field goals

Best players

Rolands  Smits
18 PTS
7/12 FG
0/0 FT
Aleksandr  Vezenkov
25 PTS
11/16 FG
1/1 FT
Achille  Polonara
Aleksandr  Vezenkov
Edgaras  Ulanovas
6 As
3 TO
35 MIN
Olympiacos Piraeus
Few players
7 As
Rolands  Smits
14 EFF
50% 2P%
67% 3P%
Aleksandr  Vezenkov
32 EFF
100% 2P%
29% 3P%