Bonzie Colson: Maccabi's newcomer might become Edy Tavares' teammate

Giorgos Kyriakidis
Staff Writer
2022-10-05 16:01

Former BCL MVP Bonzie Colson talks to BasketNews about his rookie EuroLeague season with Maccabi Tel Aviv, and reveals his thoughts about joining Edy Tavares in Cape Verde's national team.

Credit: Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv
Credit Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv

In the parking area just outside the OAKA arena in Athens, Bonzie Colson was struggling to close his overstuffed travel bag.

Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv had just played against (and lost to) Anadolu Efes in the Pavlos Giannakopoulos tournament, while the Israeli team's bus driver had already turned on the engine. Colson wasn't late in leaving the locker room, but trying to squeeze one's clothes and sports gear into a bag that's already full can be an impossible mission - a task equally as challenging as guarding Vasilije Micic or Will Clyburn.

In the outing vs. Efes, Colson had gotten a good taste of what awaits him in his maiden EuroLeague season. After all, he had been assigned that task some minutes earlier. But off the court, he looked hopeless.

Walter Tavares

Walter  Tavares
Team: Real Madrid
Position: C
Age: 30
Height: 221 cm
Weight: 120 kg
Birth place: Cabo Verde

He turned all sweaty, and the bag in front of him was making him all the more anxious as time was running out. All other Maccabi players had previously placed their luggage in the compartment while the 26-year-old forward was still fighting with his.

At one point, GM Nikola Vujcic went by, approached Colson, and calmly told him, "Good game."

Maccabi had lost to the back-to-back EuroLeague champs 81-87 after erasing a 24-point deficit. Colson scored 14 points, but his performance couldn't change the game's course. 

Credit Winner League

Maccabi had a rather spectacular summer period, where signings were announced almost on a daily basis, including the team's new coach, Oded Kattash. However, the initial buzz and the fans' enthusiastic response, which translated to almost 10,000 season tickets being sold, were succeeded by a bumpy landing to reality. 

The Israeli powerhouse lost to LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne, Paris Basketball, EA7 Emporio Armani Milan, and Anadolu Efes, with a win over hosts Promitheas Patras lying in between.

In short, a 0-3 record against EuroLeague squads is hardly the best way to kick off the season. 

"It's been a process for all of us, the coaching staff and the players," Colson told BasketNews from the parking area while taking a break from his fight against his persistent bag. 

"We have a lot of new guys. We're still trying to create an identity and form chemistry on both sides of the court. We're taking it day by day, learning, watching film, and trying to get better. We have to learn each other's strengths and weaknesses," he adds. 

Apart from Colson, Maccabi added several new players: Darun Hilliard, Alex Poythress, Josh Nebo, Austin Hollins, Wade Baldwin, and - of course - Lorenzo Brown, the newly-crowned EuroBasket champion with Spain. 

Colson says he watched his new teammate carry the Spanish team all the way to the gold medal in Berlin. The Notre Dame graduate doesn't hide his wish to play in an international tournament, even with a country other than the USA.

As a matter of fact, he's currently looking at two different options coming from two different continents. 

"I've had a couple of situations, but we're still trying to work things out. Jordan offered me the chance a couple of months ago, and Cape Verde as well. We've been in the works for more than a year now. I'm just waiting to see what happens. I'm trying to stay ready," Colson reveals. 

What most people don't know is although Colson was born in Washington, his roots are to be found in Cape Verde. Ironically, his cousin and personal trainer AJ Tavares has the same surname as the country's most famous basketball player. 

The opportunity to play alongside Walter Tavares fills Bonzie Colson with excitement. 

"I know Edy, and we've talked about all that as well. We're both Cape Verdian. We're waiting for paperwork to see if it will happen and if it's the right choice. My agent and I have been communicating with them," the two-time Player of the Year at St. Andrews School in Barrington clarifies. 

Tavares confirms to BasketNews that the two of them had a discussion since Colson was first trying to figure out if he could play with the Cape Verde NT. However, Real Madrid's center also adds that the EuroLeague rookie expressed some doubts about whether that would be a good choice for him.

"His whole family is from Cape Verde, and it's up to him to decide if he wants to represent our country. I would be delighted in case he does so because he's a great player," Tavares stresses. 

Coming back from a foot injury, Colson went undrafted in the 2018 NBA Draft but was later signed by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He played for the Cavs NBA G League affiliate, the Canton Charge, before signing a two-way contract with the Milwaukee Bucks in January 2019. 

Colson made his NBA debut playing three minutes against the Bulls. His first NBA start came against the Atlanta Hawks the following month as he scored 15 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in 41 minutes.

After being released by the Bucks in July of 2019, he went overseas, starting with a productive season with Turkish side Darussafaka, where he averaged 10.8 points and 5.0 rebounds in EuroCup play.

The next two seasons only served to confirm Colson's upward path. With SIG Strasbourg, he swept a series of accolades: French league MVP, Basketball Champions League MVP, and Top Scorer.

When he returned to Turkey for Pinar Karsiyaka, he was already a star player at European basketball's mid-tier level. 

Nevertheless, Colson justified the hype, delivering 15.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per Turkish BSL contest.

Credit FIBA Media

Even if his dream is to return to the NBA, penning a 2-year deal with Maccabi can pay dividends in terms of raising his stock in the old continent. 

All the undersized (1.96 m.) and extremely athletic forward must do is translate his game into the EuroLeague level and help Maccabi reclaim some of the titles they dearly missed last season.

If he gets to develop a friendlier relationship with his travel bags, the odds are definitely in his favor. 

What will be Maccabi's basketball identity this season?
All guys want to win; that's where it starts. We know what Maccabi's name holds. We're all winners here, and we want to play hard and give it all, staying together through the ups and downs.

In early July, Maccabi looked as if they were signing one player every two days. How did things work out for you?
It worked out great. Maccabi is a great team. They like to win, and I understand the importance of that within this team. So, I want to win here. We signed guys that are winners. I think we're going to have a great group.

You've played multiple positions throughout your career, starting from the center in high school. How would you define yourself as a player?
I do a little bit of everything. Defensively, I can guard multiple positions, playing with energy. I've always played like that; since I was a young kid. And then, on offense, I'm pretty versatile. I go out there, shoot the three, post a little bit, stretch the floor, talk, and communicate.

I want to be that glue guy the coach doesn't want to get off the court. My whole life, I've played every game like it was my last.

You produced a double-double in your first game as a starter with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2019. How was the overall experience?
It was great. I learned a lot from the vets there, picking their brains. Being in that atmosphere was like a dream come true. When the opportunity presented itself, I was confident and tried just to play my game.

That's who I am as an individual. When the lights are bright, I perform, and I do my best at any level I play at. Playing in the league with guys like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Pau Gasol, George Hill, and my former teammate Pat Connaughton, I knew that it was going to be great for me.

Credit NBA

Was there anything that you picked up and later used to your best advantage while in Europe?
I'd say the work ethic. Seeing the way Giannis works, aside from practice, was top-notch. I've always tried to implement that. I've always been the last one to come to the gym and the last one to leave.

Being a professional on and off the court goes a long way. It's not only what you do as an athlete, but it's also about who you are as an individual. Europe is a little different, but you can still work while you're here and there.

You've had some great seasons in Europe after your time with the Bucks. Were you ever close to returning to the NBA after that?
That's my goal, to get back there. My season there was cut short by COVID. It's been a little different in Europe, but I'm grinding and working hard.

Going back to the NBA has always been my goal, and I'm working towards it. One day, I'm going to get there. But it's all about the journey, taking the right steps, and finding your role.

Did you get to watch the EuroBasket?
I watched it a little bit. Obviously, with Lorenzo Brown in it, I tried to see how he plays and how he works on the ball. I also watched my former teammates, like Giannis and Amath M'Baye.

I tried to learn and stay involved. Lorenzo is a really talented player, a great guy. He's a point guard who can do it all - score, pass, be a leader. We're all excited to be able to play with him. 

Many American players reacted to Willy Hernangomez being voted EuroBasket MVP instead of Lorenzo Brown. Darun Hilliard was one of those who questioned that choice. What's your take?
What he's done for Spain was top-notch. What else do you want him to do? He led the team, hit big shots, he was passing the ball well. He was a true leader.

I guess him being passed over gives him a little more chip on his shoulder to win here and be one of the candidates for EuroLeague MVP. I would use that as motivation. I bet he'll do the same.

Credit Winner League

What do you make of the EuroLeague this season?
It's tough. The competition is high-level, guys are smart, talented, and aggressive. You got to be efficient in the time that you have. The season is long, and we've got a lot of guys on our roster.

I like playing against guys on our team that can make me better as a player. It's the best league in Europe, and I'm excited to be a part of this team.

Did you have the chance to play in the EuroLeague right after your NBA stint?Some teams reached out, but they only showed interest. Maccabi was one of those teams in the past two years. I'm happy that I'm finally here.

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