By James Blackburn
1. What has your experience been like playing in Spain this season, being that this is your rookie year playing professional basketball?
My experience playing here in Spain my first year has been a blessing. It has been a great learning experience. As a team we had a lot of expectations to win and play as a solid unit. I think I did well and learned quite a bit about the European style of play.
2. You are a versatile player who can impact the game without scoring, what part of your game do you feel is the strongest?
As a player I have always been taught not to be one-dimensional, to be an all-around player and able to do other things that will benefit the team to help get the win. I think rebounding is my strongest part of my game other than scoring. When I rebound, I can not only start the fast break but also look to create for myself or get my teammates an open shot and also to put pressure on the defense. Having the speed and quickness to get up and down the floor with the ball helps put my teammates and myself in a better position to score and easy basket.
3. What are your plans for this summer, now that you have all ready played a year of professional basketball overseas and what are some of your goals in the future as a player?
My plans for this summer are to rest for a couple of weeks with my family and then get to work. I really need to focus on my shooting and ball handling more this summer. I may head to Florida to train for a few weeks doing a lot of agility and strength on my lower body to build more explosion to help finish stronger at the rim. My goals for the future have not changed since I was young which is to play at the highest level I am capable of playing whether it be the NBA or the top premier leagues here overseas. I know that I have the ability and talent to do so but with a little more work and time, I know that those opportunities will present themselves at the right time.
4. What do you feel are some of the advantages for an America player to play internationally? What is the biggest difference in your mind between the game here and overseas?
Some advantages for American players overseas is there are a lot of leagues and countries to play in. With the minor leagues in the states not holding so much weight anymore, we can bring our talents abroad and put ourselves in better positions to move up and get seen by the NBA or the Development league. I think the team philosophy versus star power is the biggest difference. Not saying the NBA isn’t team oriented but most of the attributes come from the big names on the teams there.
5. What are your thoughts on the NBA lockout and the idea that some college players will try to go overseas to play?
With the NBA lockout happening, I think it will be a great opportunity for some of the college players to come overseas to get an experience that they may not ever have. For example, I think Brandon Jennings really benefited from playing overseas for a year. The players in Europe are very fundamental and have a great basketball I.Q and I think that by Jennings coming here it helped his contribution to the game and was more than just his athletic ability and speed.
6. You and Jamal Crawford from the Atlanta Hawks have a good relationship. When did you two meet and what are some of the things you have learned from him?
I met Jamal about 3 years ago in Seattle at his summer pro am league that he has every summer at Rainier Beach high school. I played against him one game and we had a great battle. Not being from the Seattle area I was a new face and I approached him after the game to get some advice on how to improve my game. He invited me to some open runs that were filled with NBA talent like himself Brandon Roy, Will Conroy, Nate Robinson, Terrance Williams and some Euroleague players as well. From there I began to do some side training with him and we have kept in contact ever since. One thing that I’ve learned from Jamal is timing. There’s always a time for everything, his time is now that he is really blossoming in the league and has finally made it to the playoffs in consecutive seasons and he expressed to me that my time will come where I have the chance to be where he is. But in the mean [time, I need] to stay humble and hungry to get better.
7. If you could tell US basketball fans one thing about playing overseas that they probably don’t know, what would it be?
It’s not easy…It’s not easy being away from family friends and the normal life. But if you want to be successful you have to make sacrifices. God blessed me to be in the position I am in today and I’m thankful everyday. God bless!