Will Clyburn refers to the reasons of Efes' poor EuroLeague run last year, the rumors linking him to Olympiacos and his much-discussed rapport with Ergin Ataman. He also discusses his main priorities in the coming years. 

Credit: Anadolu Efes
Credit Anadolu Efes

When the reports about Anadolu Efes Istanbul agreeing to terms Will Clyburn came out during the 2022 Final Four, it looked like the back-to-back champs were eager to create a dynasty. Adding a third offensive dynamite next to Shane Larkin and Vasilije Micic was seemingly the element that could render the Turkish squad almost unbeatable.

Will Clyburn

Will  Clyburn
Team: Anadolu Efes Istanbul
Position: SF
Age: 33
Height: 201 cm
Weight: 95 kg
Birth place: United States of America

But things didn't go as planned. Efes missed the EuroLeague playoffs and rumors about the future of the roster and coach Ergin Ataman started to surface. In the end, they managed to bounce back for good in the Turkish BSL playoffs and recapture the domestic title they lost to Fenerbahce in 2022. 

Looking back at the past campaign, Will Clyburn thinks it was a matter of bad timing that kept the members of Efes' 'Holy Trinity' away from each other. 

"The chances of us all playing together didn't happen for a long time," he told Sportal's Achilleas Mavrodontis.

"Shane (Larkin) was out most of the year. Me and Vasa (Micic) were playing and then we tried to add Shane as well. We were trying to find a way to play all together, but it's difficult when you don't do it in preseason," the American forward explained.

"You don't have time to bond. Obviously Vasa and Shane knew how to play together, with me in the equation but it was a completely different dynamic. I think if we had more time to prepare, as we have this year, we would have done a lot better."

At 33, Clyburn had his most productive season offensively, averaging 16.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists over 33 EuroLeague contests. Still, for the first time in his career at the top level and since he debuted with Darussafaka in 2016, his team had an even record (17-17).

To make things worse, outgoing coach Ergin Ataman told BeIn Sports: "There was a friendship in our team that came from playing together for 5 years. However, when another dominant player came to this group from outside, we experienced a shake-up."

That statement didn't go down well with Clyburn, who thought that he was the player Ataman was pointing the finger on. 

Ataman was heading to the exit door, but the player reacted to the statement before the two cleared up the misunderstanding

"It's not about relationships," Clyburn told Sportal.

"Some coaches prefer to distance themselves from the players sometimes and form a wall. If you see him off the court, he's smiling, happy and normal. But some coaches keep that wall up, so you don't want to cross that line. That's from my perspective," the 2019 EuroLeague champion said.

"He must be a good guy, but I couldn't know that. That's all I can say. When I see him off the court, there are only good things and laughs," he said of his ex-coach.

Clyburn thinks Ataman's tenure with Panathinaikos will depend on how his system will be assimilated by the players. 

"I know he will give them a lot of freedom in their game. It's all going to be about whether that click happens. If they do, then they'll be fine," he predicted. 

Clyburn is currently on a three-year deal with Efes and the chances of him moving to the NBA are slim. However, for many years, he was considered, if not the best, one of the best small forwards in the EuroLeague. 

"When you have opportunities and you have to choose between a league minimum or a guaranteed three-year deal somewhere they really want you and you know how you're going to play. It all depends on the circumstances and the timing of whether it's the right choice for you," he reflected.

"In my opinion, I may have missed something, but I am exactly where I need to be."

And it seems that Clyburn intends to stay in Istanbul at least until his current contract with Efes expires. 

"To be honest, my main priority is to stay here," he said.

"Obviously I've been in the EuroLeague for 7-8 years and I've spent most of my time on one team. I'm not the type to go from team to team. When I settle down and get used to somewhere, I want to stay in one place and accomplish as much as I can in that one place. If I can stay here, it will be the best option for me. If not, then…" he remarked. 

This past summer, even though he had a contract, there were some rumors and reports about him and Olympiacos. Clyburn no offer or interest was communicated to him. 

"I don't know. My agent never called me. I heard it from some other people," he replied.

"But I had a contract with Efes and I had no intention of leaving and going somewhere else. I have stuff to do here. After the year we had last season, I wanted to come back and achieve something here. So, I wasn't going to leave.

I don't know how all those rumors started, but according to the rumors I would go to three other teams," he joked. "I don't know what's going on."

Full interview:

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