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A hoops journey: Eilat to Toronto to Spain

It’s not every day that a current NBA champion visits Israel, but that’s what happened when Jordan Loyd – a member of the 2019 Toronto Raptors – came to town.

Loyd joined Valencia over the summer and will be playing Euroleague basketball this coming season after plying his trade for one year in the “association”.

Basketball aficionados, especially those in Israel, may be familiar with Loyd as the guard played for Hapoel Eilat two years ago before joining the Raptors in the summer of 2018. This week The Jerusalem Post had the opportunity to sit down with the 26-year-old guard while he was in Tel Aviv with his new Spanish squad to talk about his role in helping win the Larry O’Brien Trophy, along with the challenges ahead with his new team and much more.

“So far the return to Europe is going well,” Loyd began. “Our record may not show that and we’re in a rough patch right now, but as far as the team and the coaching staff everyone is really positive and they are all helping me adjust. It has been a big adjustment for me but it’s been fun and it’s been great to play some Euroleague, ACB Spanish League games. Although we’re not winning right now, we’re trying to change that. Everyone is staying positive and we all know that it’s a long season. So we don’t want to get too low right now, as they say never too high and never too low. All in all, I’m enjoying it.”

 The Atlanta, Georgia, native also spent time reminiscing about his memorable season in the NBA.

“It’s still hard to believe that we had a season like that and I was fortunate enough to be there for it and get a ring. It was amazing to work out with guys like Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry day in and day out, it doesn’t get much better than that. Just to be in Toronto and see how awesome the fans were and how they embraced you was fabulous. The team’s culture was really family oriented and it was a lot of fun. It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me and something I will always cherish.”

Loyd, who played 12 games with the Raptors, was not only able to win a ring, but was able to learn a tremendous amount from the veteran leaders and stars.

“I learned some really good habits like coming early and staying late, as well as working on my body. I saw how big a deal the small things can mean. Whether it’s putting up a lot of shots at practice or the habits of being with the guys and seeing how they work every day together with their mentality. That’s what I will take away the most.”

After playing with Hapoel Eilat in the 2017/18 season, Loyd signed a two-way contract with Toronto Raptors, which also saw him feature for the club’s G-League team in Toronto, the 905, where he averaged over 22 points a game.

“It was amazing playing with the 905. I understood the transition where I would have a lot of minutes with the G-League squad which would allow me to work on things that would take me to the next level. Working on my vision, getting assists and being a more complete player. I knew that playing with the 905, I’d be able to showcase what I could do. When I would be up with the Raptors, whether it was practice or scout team, I would do what I could help the team there. It was night and day between the experiences with both teams, but it worked well.”

Part of Loyd’s role during the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors was to play the part of Steph Curry in practice to help his teammates prepare for their defensive assignments.

“It was cool to trying to reenact Steph Curry, where you have the ultimate green light. What player wouldn’t want that? All of the attention is on you, but you want to give a good look to the guys for what it would be like in the actual game. Of course Steph Curry is Steph Curry, but it was fun to simulate what he does on the court.”

Loyd gained international fame when he was seen kneeling next to Kawhi Leonard after the latter hit his Game 7 series-sealing basket against the Philadelphia 76ers.

“It didn’t really hit home until a week after the game. Sure, I knew it was a big deal right after the game but it just wouldn’t go away. I would turn on the TV and there it would be, it was just crazy. It was pretty cool and I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time.”

After a successful season in North America, Loyd explained why he returned to Europe.

“It was all about moving forward. I had another year on my contract with the Raptors as a two-way player, but I felt that I proved as much as I could in the G-League so the only thing left was having an opportunity in the NBA. It was how can I raise my mark and how can I show NBA and Euroleague teams my game. I hadn’t played Euroleague yet so I felt that it would help my stock and my market and make me more of an attractive player.

“I know a lot guys may say that, explaining that going back overseas is all about the NBA. But there are hoopers everywhere and playing in the Euroleague is something I always wanted to do. I didn’t want to stick around as a two-way player. Euroleague is the second best league in the world and if you have solid season it can open more doors the next year. I thought about it for a while and I could have stayed in Toronto, but I thought this would work out better.”

With former players of small colleges, such as Furman and Indianapolis, it’s definitely not the norm to play at the highest levels, but Loyd has been able to exactly that and buck the trend.

“I have been blessed and have been had some good people in my circle – coaches and people that really care and that have taken a chance on me. There are a lot of great hoopers out there, but all it takes is one team to give you a shot. I don’t think I am anything special, but I was fortunate that someone gave me that chance and I capitalized on it.”

Loyd really enjoyed his season in Eilat and feel in love with the country.

“I’m excited to come back to Israel and I loved playing in there. I still have a lot of friends and I am looking forward to seeing them as well. I love Israel and any time I can get back to Tel Aviv, it’s a good time.”

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Article source: https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/A-hoops-journey-Eilat-to-Toronto-to-Spain-607157

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