At 2:00 in the afternoon and 11 p.m. in Istanbul, Blair picked up the phone to call me as his mother had promised he would. Blair, who played for the Wildcats from 1992-96 and help lead the team the 1994 Final Four, has found a home for himself playing in the Euroleague the past six seasons.
To say the least, Blair has made the rounds in his quest to make himself a better player and work his way to the NBA. He spent a year in France, three years in Italy, one in Greece and even played for the Harlem Globe Trotter before landing in Istanbul (Ulkerspor), Turkey this season.
It's not that he likes living in Turkey, but he's made a very good living playing in the Euroleague.
"It's my first year ever playing in Turkey," Blair said. "I can't say I love it but I'm getting used to it. I really liked playing in Italy. I speak fluent Italian and I have a two year old son in Italy, so I miss playing there."
The competition is not as good in Turkey as it was in Italy. Ulkerspor is 7-0 in the Turkish League and 4-2 in the Euroleague. Melvin Booker, who played for Missouri in 1994 when the Wildcats beat the Tigers in Los Angeles to advance to the Final Four, also plays for Ulkerspor.
"I remind (Booker) all the time of how bad we beat them in LA," Blair said of beating the No. 1 seeded Tigers took at the hands of No. 2 seed Arizona. "He uses the excuse that the game was played in LA. He said it was a home game for us because they had to travel all the way from Missouri. He thinks Arizona is in Los Angeles."
Last season, Blair played for Scavolini Pesaro in the Italian League where he averaged 12.0 points and 9.4 rebounds per game in 36 games. Then he averaged 15.6 points and 11.9 rebounds in 14 Euroleague games.
The Italian League is considered the best league in Europe and a number of American are making a living playing there. Former Michigan State guard Charlie Bell plays for Virtus Bologna, while former UCLA point guard Tyus Edney and Duke shooting guard Trajen Langden play for Benaton Treviso.
Blair as been making about $1 million a year bouncing around Europe, but like most every player he still has that dream of playing in the NBA.
"I want to play in the NBA," Blair said. "But the problem is I won't accept the minimum. I make so much more money playing here and I don't have to spend anything. Here the teams furnish you a house and a car, so all you have to pay for is your food, phone and gas."
Blair will return to Tucson in May after the Euroleague playoffs. He calls Tucson home and is still very much involved in the community. Each summer, Blair holds a camp for boys and girls 12-17. This summer the camp will held. at the Jewish Community Center June 23-26.
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