The 32-year-old guard is in his fourth season at the German club and feels very comfortable as one of the team’s veteran players.
Thomas Klepeisz, Ulm: ‘I'm trying to be a leader’
ratiopharm Ulm is one of the best teams to watch in the 2023-24 BKT EuroCup due to its up-tempo style, young talents showcasing their skills and crowd-pleasing basketball. Thomas Klepeisz has been at Ulm for the last four seasons and is one of its key players, both on and off the court.
Born in Gussing, Austria, Klepeisz started his career with UBC Gussing Knights but has played in Germany since 2016, having spent four years with Basketball Lowen Braunschweig and the last three years with Ulm. Last season. Klepeisz helped Ulm lift the German League title for the first time in the club’s history. Off the court, Klepeisz won the Most Likeable Player award, as voted by fans.
Soft spoken and funny, Klepeisz is back to blog for EuroCupBasketball.com after a one-year break. Don't miss his thoughts throughout the season!
EuroCup blog: Thomas Klepeisz, Ulm
Hello again! Everything is good in Ulm right now. We’ve come off a win against Buducnost VOLI Podgorica and remain undefeated at home in the EuroCup. I think we responded the right way after the bad start we had in the U-BT Cluj-Napoca game the week before, which was a little bit frustrating for us because it was a big game. And I think already our response in the second half in Cluj was better. Then we made the next step in a German League game, and then also on Wednesday with the game against Buducnost and Brandon Paul.
It was beautiful to see Brandon again. It was really emotional. The EuroCup made it available that we could have this beautiful moment before the game where he received his [German League] ring, his championship ring. And we went out on the court as his teammates and had a really special moment together where we hugged him and we could kind of share this experience together one more time. I think he even shed some tears! And, of course, you love to see somebody get so emotional about how much it meant for him to be together with this team. And then a couple of minutes later we said, 'OK, now it's business time and now we go against each other, so it's time to fight each other now.' It was great.
As you probably know, we won the German League title last season, the club's first. I think it definitely changed the mentality of some players. I'm happy that we could keep all the German players on board, which also helped us at the beginning of the season to integrate the new guys quicker and have a better team chemistry quickly because we already had a core of players together who know the system of Anton Gavel, our head coach. So, it was easy and quick for them to adapt. And yes, I think this confidence that we gained through winning the title together also helped the new players to get this confidence. It definitely gives you an edge sometimes in some games.
The club's management did a great job, too. They are really, really good with what they wanted to be like. They told me their vision of how they envision playing basketball in Ulm with the talents, the international prospects that they want to give a chance to develop and also at the same time be competitive. It's always easier said than done, but I think with the training facilities and the Orange Campus we have and this blueprint and the idea they have to use this and still be able to win and play successful basketball like we did... this is special. I'm very happy to be able to represent ratiopharm Ulm and be a part of this organization.
Of course, I am very comfortable in the team after four seasons here. I'm trying to be a leader, helping the younger guys out and integrating the new guys. And it worked really well with the German players that we have now. We have very unselfish players who do everything for the team and then it's easier for the prospects to find their roles and play good basketball. I think it takes a little bit of the pressure away from everybody to think, 'OK, I have to score 20 points.' If you see, there are unselfish guys next to me who don't force shots or do anything, and they have been successful. That's what I'm trying to, that's the identity I'm trying to establish here. I think it's been working pretty well.
Take Juan Nunez, for instance. Playing with him is a beautiful experience for me. I think we complement each other really well because we're both pretty smart players, I think. I would say so! We understand each other and know what the other guy is thinking and what he is planning to do if it's on offense or on defense. He has made a huge step forward in this time that we have been together. The way he is controlling games this season is even better than it was in the first season. And, of course, that's what everyone expects from him. But at this young age, to carry this responsibility and be this type of leader, controlling games, controlling the pace, also getting steals and changing games with this as well, it's impressive. I really love playing alongside him, and I think we are a good backcourt duo. And with Dakota Mathias, also another great shooter. And then Georginho de Paula when he's playing well, we are very, very solid at the '1' and '2' positions.
Juan is also a very funny kid, but he's way more mature than you would think. When he came in at the beginning, he was a little shy. But I realized pretty quickly that he loves to enjoy himself and have a good time. And he's joking a lot. He loves to sing in the locker room and is the DJ playing all these John Legend and Beyonce songs. He keeps singing those and gets everybody in a good mood. He's a funny guy. I love being around him.
We will face Aris Midea Thessaloniki in Greece next week. I'm very much looking forward to this game because I saw some of their games already and the atmosphere there is amazing. And you always want to play in front of a full gym. That's what we play for! Aris is a tough team. They have really good scorers and are an athletic team, so it's not going to be easy at all. It's going to be a fight; especially at their place, it's even tougher. I'm really looking forward to the crowd and the atmosphere in Greece.
In two months’ time, the club will retire Per Guenther's jersey. He is a legend and also a great friend of mine, so these are two big reasons why I’m looking forward to this. He is exactly the type of person whose jersey you want to see hanging in your rafters. He's a great guy, a great leader. I learned a lot from him when he was the team captain. Sending this jersey up to the rafters is going to be a special day for him. And I'm really looking forward to it, because it's so deserved. He is an Ulm legend and played for this club for 14 years, helping it grow. It is amazing that we had the chance to share the court together.
I will tell you all about it when the time comes. Until then, stay safe and follow us throughout the season. It is going to be fun!