Real Madrid forward chats about life and hoops with Joe Arlauckas
Guerschon Yabusele joins The Crossover
Despite having only one full Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season under his belt, Guerschon Yabusele has emerged as a major force since signing with Real Madrid over the summer. So impressive has the French forward been that Real recently extended his contract through 2025. Shortly after agreeing to that extension, Yabusele hopped on The Crossover with Joe Arlauckas and the two shared stories of their basketball journeys.
Yabusele, who was born in France, is the son of immigrants from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. His father, who was a boxer and later a boxing coach, emigrated first, before Guerschon's mother and older sister joined him and they settled in Dreux, near Paris, where he grew up. His father would train local kids in boxing and that training would eventually help Guerschon as a basketball player.
[7:20] "I thank my dad every day because this [training] helps me even today again with my feet. That was one of the reasons why in Boston they called me the 'Dancing Bear'. It was like, 'He's like a bear and moves so quick with his feet.' So, this helped me a lot and sometimes in the summer I really try to keep on training with boxing skills because of the [footwork]. I know this has helped me a lot."
Although he first wanted to play soccer, Yabusele was advised to try basketball because of his size. Letting go of soccer and practicing basketball was not easy, but only until the basketball games began. Then, he began a love affair with the bouncing orange ball that lives on to this day.
Yabusele's road to the EuroLeague was not the path commonly taken for an elite French talent. He left to play in China when he was only 20 years of age, spent two seasons in the NBA with Boston and yet another in China before signing with LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne in February 2020.
His adjustment to basketball on the Old Continent after playing the very different styles in the NBA and China was fairly easy, in part, because Yabusele is an all-around contributor and a team player on both ends of the court. In fact, he takes extra pride in his defense.
[29:00] "Defense is important. I love scoring, for sure, but I love defense, too," Yabusele said. "It's like a game of one-on-one. I don't want you to score on me. And if you score, you're not going to score again. It's a mindset I try to get every game, not letting my opponent score on me."
Yabusele's rise to become a leading player for a perennial Final Four and EuroLeague title contender came with many hiccups along the way but was aided by his tremendous work ethic. He shared with Joe a little of how and when that started.
[37:30] "At age 15, I was going to the gym by myself and staying one hour and a half, two hours. And in my head, that's how I love the game so much. I was just going," he said. "I'd take the ball and go from the baseline to the other baseline, and in my head, I'd count 15 seconds left and try to make the game-winner and just try to enjoy doing everything, dribbling, shooting. And this made me want to go to the gym even more. Once you love going to the gym by yourself, you've won already."
The conversation touched on countless other topics, including Yabusele's seamless transition to his new club and his Hors-D'oeuvre clothing line. His passion came through again when discussing winning the silver medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo with the French national team and their loss to Team USA in the gold-medal game.
[53:00] "We still have this feeling that we could have won, we could have won. And going to 2024, in our head, it's like, hey, this is not going to happen twice. It's going to be in Paris. We're coming back for sure," Yabusele said. "It's still a good feeling. Being second in the Olympics, I would never have thought about this in my life."
With a one-hour format of exclusive one-on-one interviews, The Crossover with Joe Arlauckas goes well beyond the playing court with each podcast to delve into the life experiences that have made his guests protagonists and legends of the EuroLeague. The Crossover debuted in 2018 and has featured such current stars as Mario Hezonja, Vasilije Micic and Walter Tavares, coaching greats such as Dimitris Itoudis, Andrea Trinchieri, Pablo Laso and Zeljko Obradovic, and legends like Theo Papaloukas, Nikola Vujcic and Mike Batiste, among others.