After taking a hiatus due to COVID last year, the 2021 Tarkanian Classic returned with 175+ teams spread across multiple gyms in Las Vegas, NV over the span of a week. Featuring elite basketball competition in prep and high school divisions, the must-see annual December high school tournament provided evaluators an opportunity to watch the prestigious NBA Academies in Africa and Latin America in addition to programs from around the U.S., Canada, and even Germany.
Pro Insight was on hand to cover the event and caught up with Dragos Lungu of the NBA Global Academy in Canberra, Australia. Born in 2004, Lungu has had plenty of basketball experience, playing professionally for U-Banca Transilvania Cluj prior to the NBA Academy as well as representing Romania at the 2021 FIBA U18 European Challengers. At this event, the 6’5'' guard averaged 17.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, and nearly 2 assists in 24.0 minutes per game. Lungu has strong positional size and toughness, excelling as a creator with a strong basketball IQ. Playing for the NBA Academy Latin America team at the Tarkanian Classic, he showcased his ability to run the team and control the pace of the game.
As part of the Pro Insight Q&A series, Lungu discussed his relationship with OTE’s Tudor Somacescu, his experience with Romania on the FIBA stage, his short term goal to play for the G League Ignite or in the NBL, and much more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present NBA Global Academy’s Dragos Lungu, from Cluj, Romania:
Pro Insight: How did you get to where you are today?
Dragos Lungu: So I started playing basketball when I was eight. My dad actually took me to a basketball game. I just kind of fell in love with the game. And yeah, that’s it.
PI: Do you remember the two teams that were playing in that first game you went to?
DL: I really can't remember, like I was small. I think I was very small. I don't remember, but I think I [picked up] the game of basketball very easily. Like after one year, I could shoot threes and dribble the ball. So, yeah.
PI: Before the NBA Academy, where were you playing?
DL: I was playing last year [on a] professional team in Romania. I started there in this academy [when] I was nine. And last year was a good year, because I played pro with this team. I developed a lot last year. I played with older guys. They [taught] me a lot of things.
PI: Talk a bit about your experience at the NBA Academy. In your opinion, what do you think is the most impressive aspect about the NBA Academy?
DL: It's very interesting 'cause you can do an awful lot. This is what I want, like to develop in these two years that I got here as much as possible, you know. And it's good, we have games. International games. We have these games in the USA and I hear that we have some games in Europe also and that’s good. We have a lot of games so I can improve my game.
PI: What are the most important things you took away playing at Tarkanian Classic here in Vegas?
DL: Yeah, it [taught] me a lot, like there's a lot of difference[s] between European basketball and the United States because this game is a lot faster than in Europe. And yeah, I got some lessons from these games.
PI: What was it like playing with different teammates?
DL: I didn’t actually get to the NBA Global [Academy], so I was supposed to go to NBA Global Academy this year, but the border was closed so I got here in Mexico and I trained with them for like two months now and I will go to Global from January this year.
PI: Are there any other athletes in your family?
DL: Yeah my brothers — my brothers are playing basketball. I got two brothers, one older and one smaller. My other brother was playing…he was really good in Romania and he came to the United States to play here in college, but he gave up. He now focuses on school and my younger brother is also balling. He's good.
PI: Did you play any other sports growing up?
DL: I played a lot of sports. I'm an athlete, you know. I can do a lot of things like I'm good at every sport, I think. I can do [a bit of] everything.
PI: What are your current measurements?
DL: Yeah, my height is like I'm 6’5”. With shoes, 6’6”. I know my weight in kilos, 83 kg (apprx. 183 lbs.). And wingspan, I don't know, really. I really don't know my wingspan, but it's like 2 meters, like 200 centimeters. I don’t know in inches and stuff like that.
PI: For those who aren’t familiar with your game, what are your greatest strengths and playstyle?
DL: Yeah, I'm mostly…I'm all-around, I can do everything. It depends on the day. When I feel like I can score, I'm just going to score. I feel like I can pass [and] create for others. But I can play defense really well. My defense is a very big point in my game. I can apply pressure and be aggressive. Also, I can shoot threes and mid-range, also layups. Yeah, I can do everything, you know.
PI: What do you feel you still need to improve on the most? What have you been working on?
DL: Yeah, my shot, range shot. I think the most [important] thing that I have is to develop my shots and also my vision and my IQ. So yeah, that’s kind of it.
PI: Who do you model your game after and try to study on film?
DL: Luka Doncic and Jayson Tatum. Jayson Tatum is my idol. I like his style, his shot, his shot selection. He's good, he's my go-to player.
PI: You played with Tudor Somacescu of OTE in Romania — how would you describe your relationship with him?
DL: We are actually very good friends. He's good. We started playing with each other like when we were young and developed like when we played a lot of one-on-one and improved our games against each other. Yeah, it's good. He's now at OTE. He's a good prospect, 2005. He's very good.
PI: Who won more often when you guys played one-on-one?
DL: I think me (smiling). Last year was when I improved a lot and I think I'm winning more.
PI: Describe your experience with Romania at European Challengers.
DL: It was nice. We had like four games. We didn't have many games, but in these four games I think…I played one year older, you know. So there were good guys there. I think we could have done better, like I think we could have won the tournament. It was a nice experience because we improved as a team and the most important is the [FIBA] European Championship this year under-18 and that’s our focus, to win the Championship Division B.
PI: What are your short term goals you have for yourself as a player?
DL: My goals are…just this next year, just go and play pro. My goals are like the G League Ignite team or the NBL Next Stars program. These are my goals, so I know I have to improve a lot like my shots, as I said, and my game. I think I can be a very good player if I improve these things.
PI: In terms of plans after the NBA Academy, are you down to the G League Ignite and NBL?
DL: Yeah, this is the plan. I dreamed when I was a kid to play pro, but college is also an option. I didn't say that, but college is also an option because there is a good competition. This year, college basketball improved a lot and it’s good, but also my first goal is G League or NBL.
PI: Have you been in touch with any particular schools?
DL: Yeah, there are some schools that contact me. I talked with some schools right now. Not getting offers, but I'm just talking with them, just trying to get some offers.
PI: What are your biggest interests outside of basketball?
DL: I play on PlayStation with my friends, hanging out with them, watching movies, shows, you know. That's it, playing other sports, like I said.
PI: What is your favorite movie?
DL: Favorite movie? I think I like Marvel movies a lot like Spiderman, all these things and shows. I watch a lot of shows. I think my favorite show is All American or Spencer.
PI: If you were stuck forever on a deserted island and had all the food, water, and shelter you needed — what three personal items would you bring?
DL: Yeah, this is a tough question. So friends, I can't live without friends and family. That’s the first thing. Next, I will go with my PlayStation and TV. Yeah, I'm not getting bored, you know. And the third, I think candies.
PI: Do you like sweet or sour candies?
DL: I like more sweet.
PI: You have one hashtag to describe yourself. What is it?
PI: If you woke up tomorrow to see a fortune in your bank account, what would be your first purchase?
DL: I think I will save it and invest in something else. I'm not trying to buy, just always trying to invest in something, to make more money off of it.
PI: If you weren’t pursuing a career as a professional hooper, what do you think you would choose to do?
DL: I think…I haven’t really thought about that…a businessman. An entrepreneur. That’s it.
PI: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
DL: Just keep my head up. Never think about what bad [will] happen and look forward to good things [that] happen will happen.
PI: How would you define the word ‘success?’
DL: Success means people loving your game. People enjoy what they see about your game and I think people think of a good impression about you.
PI: Who’s someone you really look up to?
DL: As a mentor, my father. My father and my mother also, both. They're my idols like I'm trying to look up to them and yeah, that's it.
PI: What is your biggest pet peeve?
DL: I think when people are talking trash and they're not even good, you know it's something, but they're just talking too much. Yeah, this pisses me off. If you're talking trash, just play ball and do good, you know?
PI: Where do you see yourself in five years?
DL: I think in the NBA. I see myself in the NBA. Ain’t gonna lie (laughs). Yeah, that’s it.
PI: Name four words that best describe you.
DL: Passion, hard worker, talented, and creator.
PI: At the end of the day, what do you hope to be remembered for?
DL: Like a good guy, help others in the game. Off the court, yeah, like a good guy, good mentor. Just teach other kids and other young people to [learn from the] past. Like to do good things, to not make [same] mistakes again.