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BBasket Torrejón


Thomas Billinger: "Winning is always fun and we have dominated the league since December".

Prensa TBS -

, Basket Torrejón

We are as always happy to be back with the Interview of the Month on the website, getting to know the protagonists that enlist for Torrejón Basketball Academy, their stories and origins, and more.

This time, we are switching to English, or should I say German, to get a feel for Thomas Billinger, the Senior Nacional guard and import from Germany, his background and basketball career so far as well as life in the city and competing for EBA promotion in the VIPS League.

Thomas, so you are originally from Germany:

Talk to us about your background, family origins and locale, and being brought up in a country that is largely dominated by soccer — like Spain.

I was born and raised in Landshut, a town of about 70.000 people which is an hour away from Munich. My parents both grew up in that region as well, and I have a younger brother, Michael, who is currently living in Australia. Like in Spain, soccer or football is very popular and almost every kid starts playing at a very young age, but unlike most of my friends I never joined a football club.

Through my dad, both my brother and I got into karate when we were kids and that was my first passion in sports. I competed and was pretty successful regionally & nationally, but I eventually stopped because of basketball. My parents were always very supportive, driving us to countless practices, games & tournaments.

When do you come across basketball and talk to us about that passion for the sport.

I first came in touch with basketball in 5th grade when I signed up for a basketball class in school that was taught by a Canadian pro player who played for the local club, Baskets Vilsbiburg. The next year, that club had their first basketball camp. I went and was asked to play my first game with the U-12 team the next day. From there basketball quickly became a big part of my life and I went through all the youth teams in Vilsbiburg, debuting for the men’s semi-pro team at 16 and playing there until I left for the US.

My passion for basketball is very deep and my 12 years of playing are connected with a lot of hard work and emotions. It has been a way for me to pursue my dreams of going to college in the U.S and living & playing in different countries, and I have met many amazing people along the way.

When did you feel like you had a future playing basketball and talk to us about life in the United States?

When I was 14, 15 I started playing for a club in Munich in the U-16 BBL, making the one hour train ride to Munich for practice every day after school. Around this time I was getting more serious about basketball and potentially playing pro in the future. I was still playing in Vilsbiburg as well and when I eventually started to practice with the first mens team the next season, I learned more about college basketball through the American pro players on the team. Playing in the U.S became my dream and goal for the next years and despite some setbacks with COVID, I got the chance to play at Santa Ana College and move to Southern California in 2021.

Living in California was very surreal for me at first. It is very wealthy and has beautiful parts, and I loved the beaches, sceneries and warm weather. There is always something to do. Coming from a small city the huge amount of people everywhere was a new experience and there are people from many different countries and backgrounds. American people and the way of life are very different from Europe and while I am not sure if I would want to spend the rest of my life there, I am very grateful for my time.

What did you know about Spanish basketball and how is the season so far with the Senior Nacional?

Spanish basketball is of course one of the best in Europe, with the National Team, in the Euroleague, the ACB, and in youth basketball as well. I always enjoyed watching the National Team play with the Gasol brothers, Ricky Rubio and Rudy Fernández. Playing in Spain with the Senior Nacional has been an adjustment for me from the style in college, but I prefer the team oriented style here. I really like how we play together and the chemistry & intensity we have on the court together. We have a very talented team and it has been cool to see the development throughout the season, with different players stepping up every game. Winning is always fun and we have dominated the league since December.

For those that do not know you or have not seen you play, how would you describe your game?

I am a big versatile guard that can play the 2-4. I would say that I am a very technically and fundamentally sound player and can do a bit of everything on the court. I play physical on both sides of the ball and can defend multiple positions. On offense, I attack the basket hard to score or find open teammates and can also step outside and shoot the 3, even though I have not been shooting the ball well this season. I can handle the ball and create shots for myself and others. 

Basketball in Germany has been the talk as of late, with the senior national team winning the World Cup and nowadays so many German players reaching and shining in the NBA.

What is the current state of affairs of basketball in the country and how would you gauge the growth?

Basketball in Germany has been growing in recent years and is heading in the right direction. The national team is the best it has ever been, the BBL is improving, and the level in youth basketball continues to get better as well.

There is a lot of talent and the structure across the country to develop it is becoming more professional. American basketball culture has become more popular in Germany, especially among younger people and I think that will play a big role for future growth.

Going back to you, are you fond of any team in the BBL? Which goals in pro basketball are on your mind?

My favorite BBL teams are Alba Berlin and Ratiopharm Ulm. I am not a big fan of Bayern, but I root for them in the Euroleague as well. I went to play professionally into my thirties and reach the highest levels I possibly can.

One of my dreams is to play in the BBL one day and I want to play in different countries, continuing to experience the world through basketball. I want to become the best player I can be and inspire other people who have the same passion for basketball.

How do you see this final stretch with TBS and what are the expectations like, when a Final Four is right around the corner?

I am very excited for the rest of our Playoffs run. I think we have shown that we were the number one team in our group for a reason and that we are a strong contender for the championship. We have won 17 of our last 19 games, most of them in dominant fashion, and expectations are to reach the final and get promoted. I think the most important thing for us is to stay focused and finish the job. It has been a long season and we are very close to achieving our goal, but now we need to win the deciding games.

Who are your closest friends and what do you think about the work of Colo Zuttion as a head coach?

The older guys on the team, Roberto, Carlos and Jorge were very open and welcoming from the beginning and made me feel like I was part of the team. We have a lot of great guys on the team and everybody made an effort to speak English with me making it easier for me to become a part of the Torrejón family.

I think Colo has done a very good job of keeping us locked in and improving continuously over the course of the season. Everything we do is very structured, he knows a lot about the game and has great attention to detail. I have learned a lot from him this season despite some difficulties in communication.

That last game against C.B Tres Cantos at home was pretty much a party. Could you imagine a full arena for the Final Four if we qualify and get to be the host city?

The Playoffs atmosphere at Limones has been amazing, and last game was really something special. We are very hard to beat at home and having the Final Four in Torrejon would be exciting and a big boost for us. Playing at Limones has been fun and I can only imagine what it would look like for the Final Four.

A word of advice for foreign players that would like to come to Torrejón.

My piece of advice would be to be buy in to the style of play and try to be a part of the team both on and off the court. In Europe, the Team and club are bigger than a single player because of all the people involved and invested. It can be difficult because of the language barrier, but there is a very familiar atmosphere and good people in Torrejón.