Mark Lyons is a 26 year old 185cm guard from Schenectady, New York playing his second season in Israel and first with Maccabi Rischon Le-Zion (Israel-Winner League). He started his basketball career at Xavier (NCAA) in 2009 playing three seasons there playing a total of 68 NCAA games. As a senior he moved to Arizona (NCAA) playing 36 games: 15.8ppg, 2.0rpg, 2.8apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 53.7%, 3PT: 33.7%, FT: 85.4%. In the 2013-2014 he started his professional basketball career with Chorale de Roanne Basket (France-ProA): 14 games: 10.1ppg, 1.2rpg, 1.6apg, 2FGP: 50.0%, 3FGP: 40.0%, FT: 61.1%, in Feb.’14 moved to KK Zadar (Croatia-A1) Adriatic League: 7 games: 13.7ppg, 2.0rpg, 3.4apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 41.7%, 3PT: 27.9%, FT: 66.7%; Croatian League: 14 games: Score-4(17.1ppg), 2.6rpg, 2.9apg, FGP: 44.6%, 3PT: 49.4%, FT: 75.5%. Last season he played for Ironi Nahariya (Israel-Winner League) playing 33 games: Score-2(18.4ppg), 2.8rpg, 4.7apg, Steals-5(1.9spg), FGP: 47.4%, 3PT: 32.0%, FT: 81.2%. He spoke to German Hoops before game two against the Fraport Skyliners in Fiba Europe Cup play.
Mark thanks for talking to German Hoops.You are playing Europe Cup play against the Fraport Skyliners in quarterfinal play. Was this your first time in Germany?
Yes it was my first time, thanks for having me.
What do you know in general about the country of Germany and it´s basketball? Your ex Xavier teammate Kenny Frease is in Germany at the moment playing ball.
I know it’s a good league, a few of my old teammates played in that league and they told me it was a great experience for them.
Before we talk about the Europe Cup match up against the Fraport Skyliners, let us talk about your current season in the Israel-Winner League with Maccabi Rishon Le-Zion. The club is currently in sixth place with a record of 12-12 and holding their own. The club scores 80 points per game, but also gives up 80 points per game. Is the defense an ongoing work in progress?
Yeah, you always can get better on offense. We just want to have great momentum leading up to the playoffs and make a deep run.
This is your second season in Israel. For many years it was Maccabi Tel Aviv that dominated, but this season they aren’t as the league has become more balanced as Hapoel Jerusalem also is struggling. What have you noticed in your time in Israel that has made the league more balanced?
Every team has balanced Israelis which makes the league more equal. They have a rule that only 3 Americans can play at the same time so that’s a big key.
You were second in scoring last season and had never averaged so many points per game in your career and this season you are averaging your highest assist average ever. What makes the Israel Winter League so appealing to your game?
The league is fast paced but at the same time it’s about the maturity that comes with getting older and understanding the game.
You’re a scoring point guard that can fill up the stat sheet as well are an incredible defender. However what do you feel is a hidden strength in your game that doesn´t always get noticed right away in your game?
My leadership, because I have the type of mentality that can rub off on other players to give it their all.
Your one of the leaders on the team with American veterans Darryl Monroe and Chris Wright. Are you more a vocal leader or do you lead more by example?
It depends on the situation. Sometimes you have to talk to your teammates and get them on the right page but at the same time you have to show them that you practice what you preach.
You scored 22 points and 19 points last season against Maccabi Tel Aviv with Ironi Nahariya. Do you think it was still a bit early for top European teams to really notice you?
No, not at all. I always had confidence in my game and feel like I belong at the highest level.
This season you had a 29 point 11 assist game against Macabi Tel Aviv. Was that the final confirmation that you have arrived in Europe and where does that rank in your best professional games?
Yeah, it definitely was a game that helped me realize that I can play anywhere in Europe. Statistically it was my best game but I wouldn’t say that it was my best game as a pro.
Your teammate Shawn Dawson is a raw talent and a huge part of the team. What do you really appreciate about his game and how much potential does he have at age 22?
I really appreciate his confidence and energy that he brings to the team. He has a lot of potential and I believe he’ll fulfill it.
You have never won a professional title and are now 4 wins away. How hungry are you and the team for a title?
Very hungry! Because I know that it can set me and my teammates up for bigger things in the future.
You now face the Fraport Skyliners who are the top team in the Europe Cup with a 15-0 record. What kind of series can we await?
It should be a tough series for both teams because we’re both very talented.
The Fraport Skyliners go in as the big favorite having a deeper rotation and are the best defensive team in the competition. What will be key to getting the win?
Being aggressive and locking in on defense.
Guys from the New York area usually know each other. What dealings have you had with Jordan Theodore and how excited are you to be dueling against him in this series at the guard position?
Jordan is one of my friends and he’s a good player so it should be a good match up.
As a rookie you played for Chorale de Roanne Basket (France-ProA) and KK Zadar (Croatia-A1). What was your wake up call to be a professional in Europe where you knew that you were very far away from home?
It was tough being away from home but I was always good with adjusting myself to different situations.
Why was your stay as a rookie so short in France? Was the coaching style of Luka Pavicevic difficult to get accustomed to?
No, not at all. The team never got my Visa after the all-star break and when I tried to get back into the country they denied my access. So once that happened my agent felt like it was time for me to go somewhere else.
With KK Zadar everything seemed to move smoothly. Was the fact that you were the only American and a guy that had freedom a reason that you were successful?
No I wouldn’t say that because I was playing well in France. Statistically I was shooting well and leading my team when I was in the game.
How was the transition going from a coach like Luka Pacvicevic to Ivan Sunara? Sunara coached the Frankfurt Skyliners in 2005-2006 and lasted only a few months?
It was kind of the same, it wasn’t much of a difference.
You had a great career at Xavier reaching three NCAA tournaments. Which NCAA Sweet 16 was sweeter in 2010 or 2012?
2010 because I started my career at Xavier and I was playing with guys that I call my brothers.
What do you remember being able to pick up from Jordan Crawford´s game at Xavier that helped you as a player?
The way he approached every game and wanted to be the best player on the court.
You played an additional season at Arizona. How did head coach Sean Miller help give you that little extra that season that helped you make the transition from school to pro?
He helped me become a true point guard and believed in me so it carried over to my professional career.
What do you remember from your last college game against Ohio State that kicked you out of the NCAA tournament 73-70 and where you scored 23 points?
The last shot that LaQuinton Ross hit.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Nick Johnson?
We never played one-on-one but I would’ve won because I was a vet. He’s great though.
At George Mason Darryl Monroe was known as being the funny police in that if he didn´t laugh, the joke wasn´t funny. Has he carried on that school tradition this season?
We all have a good time and make each other laugh.
Some of the older NBA players that played at different times are having a hard time giving Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors credit for their success saying they might not have had that success 20-30 years ago. Are these former players just jealous or why can´t they just give credit where it´s due?
It’s just a different era of basketball so everyone is going to have their opinions.
Recently ESPN made a top 100 greatest NBA players of alltime poll putting Lebron at #3 before legends Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and BIll Russell. Do you see that as being justified?
I wouldn’t say that he’s better than Magic, that’s a toss up, but I could see him being better than Larry and Russell in my opinion.
What was the last movie that you saw?
The last movie I saw at the movie theater was Deadpool but the last movie that I watched on my own time was Sunset Park.
Thanks Mark for the chat.