Former University of Richmond basketball player TJ Cline is now playing in Israel on the club team, Hapoel Holon, after playing for the Turkish team, Galatasaray. While playing at UR, he was named Atlantic 10 Player of the Year as a senior and finished his Spider career ranked eighth in points and seventh in assists. Cline took some time out from his busy schedule while visiting Richmond to catch up with The Collegian.
Q: What made you initially decide to play in Turkey?
TJ: It’s a really good organization and a great opportunity to start off. It’s really rare that a rookie gets that spot in Turkey. It was a huge honor and it was a good opportunity for me at the time.
Q: Then you decided to play in Israel. How is that different from Turkey and how have you been adapting to that?
TJ: It’s been awesome playing in Israel. The outside culture is a lot more Americanized and they can relate a lot more. The beach is right there, it’s really nice. The level of play keeps up. Maybe Turkey was a little bit better of a league overall. But the amenities that come with it, I really enjoy. They speak English there a little bit so it’s really cool.
Q: How is that different from UR?
TJ: It’s a huge adjustment from Richmond. Just in the fact that you’re not used to knowing everybody, you don’t know everywhere to go like you do on campus. The game is way more physical, it’s quicker. It’s a whole adjustment. But Tel Aviv is definitely an easier transition than Turkey is. So it’s been a lot more fun to see the culture and take in your surroundings.
Q: Do you miss playing at UR?
TJ: Oh my gosh more than anything.There’s just the environment, the fans, the culture, it was unlike anything that I’ve ever been a part of. UR will always be my favorite place to play.
Q: Who do admire the most from the NBA?
TJ: I probably would look at [Dirk] Nowitzki. He played for the Mavericks and he’s always been my hero, my hometown guy. Probably Dirk.
Q: Who do you think most mimics your playing style from the NBA?
TJ: Probably Kevin Love because I can shoot and I try to be a good facilitator, a good passer.
Q: Do you plan on coming back to the states to play in the NBA?
TJ: I want to next and I want to do the G league. Not that that’s what I’ve decided, but I’d definitely give it consideration to do the G league next year. That could very well be in the cards.
Q: You’ve talked about your mom being a very big influence on you. What did she think about you moving outside of the U.S.?
TJ: Yeah it’s been hard for me and her. You know, we’re used to being so close and it’s been a hard adjustment not being able to talk at the same times, [because of] the time difference. But it’s been cool, we’ve really made an effort to stay in contact constantly and still talk about basketball and still have that mother-son relationship.
Q: If you could give advice to someone who is going to play outside of the U.S., what would it be?
TJ: Just trust, as cliche as it sounds. Just trust the process. Every year won’t be the greatest, one year could be completely different than the rest. Every year could be a whole new experience. So, don’t hang your head on one experience or one season but just trust the process.
Editor's note: This article has been edited for clarity.
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