Meet Thomas van der Mars: from unknown Dutch player to Estonian MVP

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Last Wednesday, before the game against Austria, we had an insightful interview with Thomas van der Mars. On Sunday, we decided to follow up on our interview and ask Van der Mars how he experienced the last two weeks, and especially the last few days.

“The last two weeks were somewhat of a rollercoaster. Everything seemed to go our way after the win against Austria, in Austria on August 5th. We won the next game against Albania, but it was not how we wanted to win the game, because we did not play the way we should have played.

Then, of course, we had the home game against Austria on Wednesday. We did not have any control over the game, and the fourth quarter did not turn out in our favor. At first, the defeat seemed too big to recover from. We just gave our first spot in the group away to Austria, and there was only one solution: to beat Albania with 49 points of more. We had to focus, and fight till the end. It ain’t over until it is over. It is possible! And suddenly, we can still look back to a successful campaign.”

Now that we have discussed the last couple of days, we can finally introduce Thomas van der Mars.

Why did you start playing basketball?

I have always been tall, but I did not start playing basketball until I was nine years old. I picked a ball once and started dribbling. After that, my father brought me to a basketball practice, and I was sold. My father did play basketball when he was younger, but he did not really talk to us about it. He played at quite a high level, but had to stop after he broke his leg. After that he became a referee, and did that at a high level. Besides that, my mother plays water polo. So, we have quite an athletic or sport-oriented family.

What can you tell us about your college experience?

First, I went to play at CBA in Spain. Before I went there, I went to check it out with my father, because it is a profound decision to make. I wanted to take this chance, because if I wanted to play basketball at a higher level, this was the way to go. It was an eight months long boot camp to get me ready for college. After the CBA I narrowed my choices down to three different schools, the University of Portland, Tulane University and Valpairaso, and in the end I chose to go to Portland.
Basketball provides you with great moments, but also with moment filled with frustration. I had some great moments in college. We beat Gonzaga and BYU at home, and both times fans ran onto the field after the game. And especially in the game against BYU, I played quite well myself, so that are moments I will remember forever.

Do you have a specific goal for your career?

To play at a College team was my dream, that means I lived my dream for three years. Only somewhere in the fourth year, I had to think on what to do next. First my dream was to make it to college, and I did. After that, it was to have a good college career, and I did. Then I had to choose whether to go for a social career or to pursue a career as a professional basketball player, and I chose the second. I am quite a realistic person, so the fact that I am going to be playing at Champions League level next season is still quite surreal for me. I appreciate every chance I get and I try to choose the right one.

Was Estonia on the top of your list to play basketball?

Well, the first club I played at after I finished playing at the University of Portland was in Greece, which just promoted to the first division. That was not a good experience as I had problems getting paid, we lost a lot of games, a lot of people got fired and therefore there were constantly new people coming into the club. This is not good for the reputation of a player, because teams want players who wins games, and I did not split from the club on good terms. Luckily, my assistant coach in Portland knew the assistant coach at Rapla, in Estonia, and he helped me to get a chance on the team. This was a great step for me, I got on great with the coach and my teammates, so I decided to stay there for another season.

What is the story with Jito Kok and Rapla?

It is quite funny, my mother send me a text that Jito got fired from his team in Greece, and Rapla had been searching for a big guy for quite some time. I called Jito to ask if he was interested to join our team in Estonia. And luckily, it all worked out!

Is the Dutch National Team fun to play in?

It is different from the teams we usually play in, as everyone actually wants to be there and play for the Dutch team. I think that is the ultimate motivation to play and we try to get the most out of it. And we have a lot of fun! Henk Norel and Maarten Bouwknecht are two very funny players to have in your team. They can be serious if necessary, but they are always in for some fun.
I think we grew as a team in the last two years. It is not a difference in the motivation of the team, but we try to prepare for the games as concentrated as we can. We play to win, and you play against the best names in Europe. And, as a bonus, we can cross that off our bucket list.

What can you tell us about your style?

I like tight-fitted clothes, with patterns or prints. Well fitted business clothes are a favorite of mine as well. Especially if someone is as tall as me, it is important to wear a fitting suit. I do not have the option to choose between clothes, because of my height. A lot of the clothes that I like, do not fit me. And if they fit me, and I am wearing an 2x XL, it can look like I am wearing a tent, because I am not that wide. It’s the same with shoes. Furthermore, I travel a lot, so it is not practical to have a lot of stuff to carry around with you.
At the moment, my brother is trying to launch his career as a model and he is trying to build up a portfolio. He has a good sense of style, and I try to follow him. If I go shopping, I like to bring him to choose for me.

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