If you're a Temple fan, there's no way you can forget the scrappy and lovable guard, TJ DiLeo. The Temple graduate never did get a chance to consistently start, but he was also a fantastic role player with teams that included standout players such as Khalif Wyatt and Juan Fernandez. DiLeo averaged 2.3 points in his career along with nearly 1 steal per game. However, DiLeo was more than effective, averaging nearly 15 minutes per game in his career, and 19 in his senior season. He was a primary on-ball defender, and provided energy filled minutes off the bench in his time at Temple.
He also played in four NCAA tournaments and along with 126 career games. Unfortunately it was not enough to earn him a ticket to the NBA. Instead, DiLeo transitioned to Europe, playing for the Giessen 46ers in the Pro A league. He has continued his effective career with substantial averages of 10.1 points per game, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists.
The Empire caught up with DiLeo to ask him questions about his career at Temple and the new life he has found in Europe:
Benjamin Simon: How would you summarize your career at Temple? What were you proud of? What weren't you proud of?
TJ DiLeo: My career at Temple was great. I'm most proud of winning a few A-10 championships, both [in the] regular season and tournament. Also, making it to the NCAA tournament every year was an awesome accomplishment. There's not a lot that I'm not proud of except maybe the losses in the NCAA tournament. The Indiana loss is one that's still on my mind.
B: What skills have you improved on since then?
T: I think I've really improved my feel for the game. Overseas you really have to become a smart basketball player because the game is different. It's more team basketball oriented. There's not so much one on one in the game, and if you don't learn to adapt, it will be difficult. Decisions on the court have to be made faster. You need to know all the different options in any situation, be able to read the defense, then be able to make the decision quickly. There's no holding onto the ball for too long because of the shortened shot clock. If you miss an open man or dribble too many times, the next thing you know the shot clock is at 5 seconds and you have to force up a bad shot. I think I've been able to improve my decision making and feel for the game a lot in my two years here.
B: Tell us a little bit about your basketball experience since Temple.
T: After Temple I signed in the German Pro A with the Giessen 46ers. My first year we made it to the semi finals and lost. I like my experience in Giessen, so I re-signed with them for this season. We finished the season in 3rd place, and we are currently playing in the [finals].
B: What has playing in Germany been like?
T: Playing in Germany has been a good experience for me. First of all, I'm happy to still be able to play basketball for a living. But, Germany has been a pretty easy adjustment for me. The quality of life is great. For the most part, everyone speaks English. The food is similar. Basketball wise, there's not as much travel as in college. Giessen is in the center of Germany so commutes are never too long. For away games, we travel the morning of the game.
B: How is the culture different? How is the basketball different?
T: The culture is not too different here. Like I said above, people speak English and the food is similar. People like American movies, shows, and music. There are a few little things you have to get used to. NOTHING is open on Sundays except fast food and gas stations. At restaurants, you never get free refills. Small stuff like that.
With basketball, obviously there are a few different rules overseas than in college. The shot clock is 24 seconds. The 3 point line is further. You can tip the ball off the rim once it touches the rim. You can't inbound the ball into the backcourt if you're in the front court. The refs call traveling differently. And like I said earlier, the style of play is different. It's more team oriented. There is a focus on spacing, quick passing, and decision making. You see a lot of more skilled big men over here. There aren't those 18-21 year olds that you see in college. These guys are older, more experienced, and more skilled.
B: What is the next step in your career?
T: The next step in my career is to hopefully stay in Germany, and find a good situation where I can get a better contract and continue to make a living.
Picture courtesy of www.giessen46ers.de