Brian Qvale hasn't learned to talk Turkey yet, but that hasn't stopped him from having an immediate impact in his first season as a professional basketball player.
Qvale, the former Montana Grizzly who finished his career as the Big Sky Conference's all-time shot blocker, is playing for Aliaga Petkim in Turkey.
He and fiancee Misty Atkinson, a former Montana Lady Griz basketball player, moved to Turkey in August and are enjoying their "Turkish Adventure." At least that's what Atkinson calls it in a blog that chronicles the couple's day-to-day activities.
Qvale is starting for Aliaga Petkim and starred in an upset of Efes Pilsen, a team Aliaga had never beaten before. Qvale had 19 points and 12 rebounds in that game as his team qualified for the Turkish Cup.
Qvale took the time to answer a list of questions in an interview via Facebook recently.
Q. From reading Misty's blog, it appears that you had some challenges getting settled into a place to live. Tell me about that experience.
A. Living in a hotel when you first arrive is normal, but we were in a hotel for over a month, moved to an apartment for a few weeks, then they moved us back into a different hotel for two weeks. We are now in the apartment that we should be in for the remainder of our time in Turkey. Overall, the experience has made us stronger and we are now enjoying our time in Turkey.
Q. You've adopted a dog that has faced some challenges of his own. Tell me about those challenges and how's he doing now?
A. We planned to buy a dog in America when we got back, but after seeing the local animal shelter the choice was apparent that we needed to help a dog here. He was very sick when we first got him. He spent about a week at the vet on an IV. After struggling to find the right diet for him, he is now putting on weight, and doing very well. He will be a great dog for us and travel around with us as a companion wherever future years take us. His name is Turkey, Turk for short.
Q. Have you learned any of the Turkish language and if so, what phrases have been the most useful?
A. I have only learned a few basic phrases and words. I often use phrases like thank you, how are you, what's up, good night, good morning, and I am able to successfully order food when I get to restaurants. All in all, I know a few more words and enough to get my way around, but I am by no means fluent in Turkish yet.
Q. What adjustments have you made living in a foreign country for the first time?
A. The language barrier has been the biggest adjustment we have faced coming to Turkey. We have tried to adapt to the culture and follow some of the things they do, such as getting used to driving here, going to the giant Bazaar on Saturdays to get all of our produce, and getting used to a more laid-back lifestyle where time is not really as important here.
Q. I see you have several American teammates in Ryan Toolson, Kevinn Pinkney and Paul Miller. Has that made the transition any easier?
A. Yes. It's nice to have Americans that are experienced and can help us even more with the adjustment. They help with simple things like how to watch American television abroad, what to bring with you from America, and other things that you wouldn't know without being abroad for a few years.
Q. Are there differences between how the game is played there and here?
A. Yes, there are some major differences that have taken me the first few months of the preseason to get used to. Almost every play we run I set a top screen and roll to the basket and get many of my shots while I am rolling and the guards drop the ball off. In college, I posted up almost every play but here I set a screen and roll more than I post up on the block.
Q. How would you evaluate your performance thus far?
A. I would say I am still getting used to playing in Turkey. I have had some good offensive and defensive performances, but I need to get more consistent and try to have a solid game every game. Some games I have scored and not rebounded. I want to try to rebound the ball better and keep playing defense, and let the offense come naturally instead of scoring and not getting as many rebounds as I have the potential to get.
Q. I see Aliaga Petkim beat Efes Pilsen for the first time in franchise history during the Turkish Cup. Tell me about your performance in that game and has it been the highlight of your season so far?
A. I played well that game, I believe I had a double-double. That game was during the Turkish Cup qualifying rounds and winning it allowed us to qualify for Turkish Cup later in the season. The game was on TV all across Turkey, and Efes is a team that all of Turkey respects, so winning that game gave our team some respect across Turkey. The club was very happy with the win and yes, at this point in time I would say it was the highlight of our season thus far.
Q. With no end in sight for the NBA lockout, have you faced any NBA players in Turkey?
A. Yes, I have faced a few NBA players here in Turkey. Efes Pilsen has Ersan Ilyasova, Aleksander Vujajic, and I guarded Mehmet Okur when we played Turk Telekom in that same Turkish Cup qualifying tournament.
Q. I see you've used some of your days off to see the Turkish countryside. Describe what you've seen so far.
A. We still plan to go see some more of Turkey. Recently we took a ferry from Cesme, Turkey, to Chios, Greece, to renew our visas. We hiked to a waterfall, we've gone to very nice beaches in Kusadasi and Foca, Turkey, and we plan to go see the ancient ruins from the Bible in Ephesus, Turkey.
Q. Has having your fiancée with you for this adventure made it easier for you?
A. Having Misty with me has made the transition to Turkey much easier. Going through this experience together has helped us both understand better how European basketball works, and what it is like to live overseas. I would be missing America very much if Misty was not here with me.