Okaro White’s big interview to

Loko’ forward talks about his life, his NBA career, his goals in sports and his rivals in the United VTB League.

Okaro’s interview in Russian you can read here.

We also have a transcript of the conversation without translation – and proudly present it to your attention.

– How did you get into basketball?
– I was playing American football and also running track and field. My mom was track and field athlete, so she pushed me and my brother and sister to do track and field. And then the local basketball coach came and said I should try basketball. I was 13 years old, so I started late.
– What kind of track and field did you do?
– 100, 200 and 400 meters running.
– Were you successful?
– Yes, I was very successful, but I didn't like track and field. I was fast and athletic, but for me it was a lot of running. Every sport, to warm up, you run, and then you play the sport. But in track and field you warm up, you run – and then you keep running! I didn't really like that.
– What position did you play in American football?
– My first year I was quarterback in offense and safety in defense, my second year I played wide receiver and safety. And then after my third year I stopped playing.
– Why?
– Because I was getting taller, but not wider, and football is tough for thin guys. Meanwhile, I was getting better in basketball by this time, so I just said I would stop doing American football.
– As a student, why did you choose Florida State College?
– Because of the coaching staff and the environment. Maybe I'm a little biased, but to be honest, in America, if you ask people from Florida, California, New York, wherever, my school, Florida State, is known as if not number one, number two best school to go to school, have fun, be in college environment, big school. For me it's number one school in the US for sure.
– Because of education?
– Not education. Just college environment because it's big school, the city. Because the students, we have three colleges in the city, and the students are 80% of the population in the city. So, it was fun like that.
– In your first college season you played along with Chris Singleton, who played loco before. Do you keep in touch?
– I talked to Chris maybe two weeks ago. We keep in touch. I was trying to get him to come play in Russia. I don't know, he's still not playing right now. He said maybe he would come to Russia, but he said he's waiting, waiting on his job. So, yeah, I talk to Chris still, for sure.
– Did you ask him for advice before joining Lokomotiv?
– I didn't because I was also teammates with Allen Williams. So when I was coming to Loko last year, he called me and told me everything. So, I didn't have to ask Chris.
– You played a lot in NBA, but you were undrafted. What did you think after college when you became undrafted?
– I was kind of sad. I knew I wasn't a first-round guy, but I thought for sure I’m second-round. There was a team, I think it was Detroit, who told me, they had the 52nd pick or 48th or 49th, something like that. They told me before the draft, if I was still available for sure they would take me in. But they didn’t. So, I went to Bologna, and to be honest, when I went to Bologna, I wasn't happy. But now I'm glad. I'm glad I went to Bologna, and then I went to Greece after that, and then I got my shot in the NBA.
– What were your first thoughts when you the signed contract with Miami Heat?
– I was amazed. It was crazy because I'd seen it coming. I knew they were going to offer me contract. At the time, I wasn't too worried because I was just the MVP of Greece, and Panathinaikos and Olympiakos were fighting both to get me. I was going to sign to one of those teams, and I was meeting with them in Vegas, and as soon as they were going to give me the money I wanted, Miami stepped in and said, no, we're going to give him a contract, and so I went with Miami. It was good. I don't remember what I did at the moment. I think I told my friends first and called my mama. So, it felt good. Yeah, it felt good.
– In Miami, you worked along with Eric Spoelstra, who is supposed to be one of the best coaches right now. What can you tell about him as a specialist?
– That's exactly what he is. He's a specialist. For me, he’s one of the best coaches for sure I ever played for, if not the best. When he says something, he means it. The thing with Miami, they are very different than other NBA teams. Everybody is a family there. Spoelstra, he's been a coach for 15 years, but before that, he was already working with Miami. Everybody is a family there, and I like that. Spoelstra is a Hall of Fame coach, for sure.
– Is he more of a motivator, or maybe an analyst?
– More of a motivator. More of a tough guy. I used to go into the gym in the morning to prepare for the weight room. I'm young, so I would try to be there early. I go into the gym, and this guy and the whole coaching staff in the weight room, sweating, running on treadmill, every day. As a player, when you come in to work and you see the coaches already working hard, it motivates you to work hard. Definitely a motivator.
– There is another significant figure in Miami, Pat Riley. Are you acquainted with him?
– Pat was good, man. Pat is a guy who is not going to lie and he's not going to bullshit. So, what he tells you is how he feels. I like Pat. Pat was always around. He would watch practice and stuff, but he didn't really have to say much because Spoelstra learned from him. So, how Spoelstra was, is how Pat was. So Spo was running everything, but sometimes Pat would come in and talk, give his insight, and go about his business. But he didn't really have to say much because Spo was doing everything.
– Do you have friends among NBA players?
– Yeah, yeah. I have many friends. James Johnson, Josh Richardson, Rodney McGruder, though I don't even know what team he's playing for right now. The closest would be James Johnson, like an older brother.
– What can you say about Jimmy Butler’s appearance at NBA Media Day?
– He's funny, man. He's a funny guy. I wish I got to play with him. I don't play against him, but I'm glad he's in Miami because he came to Miami and he uplifted everything and everybody. But his appearances, I don't know, that's him. I wouldn't do none of that stuff, but he's trolling.
– Did you watch the finals of the previous season?
– I did watch. Yes, of course. I should have went to a game, but I didn't go. But yes, I watched and nobody could play with Denver.
– Is Denver that great right now?
– Yes, I think they are the favorite to win again. Jokic. There's nobody on this earth that can stop him, to be honest.
– Do you still think of returning to NBA?
– Now? No not really. If I was maybe I would go be playing Euroleague or something like this to try to be closer. But now I'm okay. I did four years. So now I qualify for my NBA pension, my retirement. So, I'm cool. Fine.
– What were your first impressions of Russia?
– Like UNIX? Oh man, when we were about to land Kazan is different you know. If you watch on the plane, it looked like it was just land and some small villages. But I love Kazan. Kazan was good. At first you know I was like Russia cold and it was very cold. But I end up liking it. It was during COVID too and there wasn't as many rules in Russia as there was in America. So, I liked that. It was more open. You could go eat in restaurants. I liked it. It was good.
– How did you decide to move to Russia?
– I only came to Russia because of my coach in Greece, Demetrius Priftis. I always told him if I ever come back to play overseas, I'm gonna play for you. And so, after my ankle surgery, after Washington Wizards and I messed up my ankle and I rehabbed, Priftis was the first person my agent called. And he said, come to UNIX. So, I said find a way and I will come.
– How do you like it in Krasnodar?
– I like it in Krasnodar. I like the weather. I don't like the traffic. I don't like the traffic at all. This is why I'm always staying inside the house. But I like the city. Krasnodar has good restaurants and normally good people. But I like where I live and the only thing I wish the airport was open. I would like Krasnodar much better if the airport was open.
– Do you have time to go sightseeing?
– Sometimes I have time but to be honest when I have day off I'm in the house laying down watching TV all day or sometimes American football come on. I really like American football. I like it more than basketball to be honest. To watch, I rather watch football than basketball. So sometimes if we have a day off maybe that day hopefully Sunday I will stay up late and watch these football games.
– What's your favorite team?
– New York Giants.
– Are they successful?
– Right now, no. But the last 15 years yes two Super Bowls are successful but the last three years not so good.
– Did you watch them live?
– Yeah, I've seen the Giants live two times but never in New York. In Tampa when they would go play the bucket heads. Only in Tampa because now I live in Tampa so only in Florida you can take this one.
– Tampa is a hockey city, isn’t it?
– It's not a hockey city because the football team is good and the baseball team is good. All three teams are good. Yes, Lightning are great. I've been to maybe like five Lightning’ games too but to be honest I was not really a big fan until last couple of years.
– Do you like watching baseball?
– Only live. My neighbor plays for the Yankees actually but only live. On TV only in the championship World Series but if I want to watch baseball, I'm gonna go to the game.
– What is the biggest rival of Loko in the VTB united league for you?
– Biggest rival? To be honest I don't think we really have a rival. The only thing I could say I mean we played CSKA so many times but I would say because UNIX more just because of it's almost like the same almost same colors basketball so I would say it should be UNIX.
– Louis Labery punched some of your teeth off during the last finals. Did he said sorry for that?
– No, But I don't have too much with him because to be honest if we were on the street I would beat him up. You know where I come from you only fight if the other person wants to fight you. I don't look at him as a man like me. I look at him as like a kid so I wouldn't punch him but I would slap him on the street.
– Do you think he did his intentionally?
– Yes, but it's okay.
– Why did Lokomotiv start so badly this season?
– I don't know to be honest. No idea. I think we are very good and but you have to prove you are good every year. This year the VTB league is way better competition. We just need to figure out how to play well together.
– That was a huge contrast between how Loko played against Astana and CSKA. What have changed in between?
– I don't know because we started off good with Astana and then something that has never happened to me before ever happened in Astana. I don't know.
– You mean only four points in the quarter?
– Yes. I don't know how this happened. I don't know how we let Astana beat us but I'm looking forward to play Astana again at home and but yeah I don't know. I can't even say hey hats off to Astana because I feel like we lost that game not Astana didn't beat us. We lost it.
– Did you feel nervous in the fourth quarter of the recent game against CSKA?
– Never. Because to be honest I think CSKA is always nervous when you know maybe when they play us. I didn't feel nervous because we beat them in the seven-game series last year. And the third time in a row. So, no against them no. Not nervous never.
– Does Aleksandar Sekulich have a potential to work in NBA?
– Yeah I think he does. The NBA is you know to be honest the NBA is a player's league. Sekulic is a player's coach you know.
– What does this mean?
– This means a lot of coaches you know which I don't like. A lot of normally older coaches. They think they know everything because they coach for 30 years. They think they know everything and it's everything is done my way. This is how they coach. But you know when you have a player's coach, player's coach they listen you know okay. Yes, they are the coach but they can listen to some of their players like okay maybe we can try this. You know they would listen and then you know they will make their own decision. But a player's coach or normally coaches are easier to go and talk to. Some of these older coaches you go talk to them and they are stubborn and they're stuck in their old ways. He's not like this. And the NBA to be honest is most of the coaches are player coaches. One because the players make so much more money the players make so much more money than the coaches that the players can get the coach fired like this. So, the NBA is a player's league.
– How is it to play along with such a lot of young players as you do in Loko?
– As it should be. It's a gift and a curse because I've never played with younger players like that to be honest especially professional. I like to have experienced players. Now you are one of the most experienced and oldest players. The last team I played for in Greece Panathinaikos I was you know before even the middle there were maybe six guys older than me. So, you know I'm not used to it. But it's good because they're young and then they can learn and you can watch them grow but they also you know it's a curse because they are young and they don't know the game as well. You know you can't read the game as well. So it's a gift and a curse but hey I was young one time before but I also think I was a fast learner. But you know you just have to understand people need to grow.
– What should they do to grow faster?
– Listen to me. I'm joking. They should when you're young I think you got to watch film. Don't try to be like anybody in your position but you should watch film or watch games you know and learn. And listen to what the older guys are saying to you and I think that's how you learn.
– Okay what should Loko do to get the championship?
– We need to play hard every game. The main thing is we got to be focused and we got to play as a team. We can't worry about I have to average this amount of points or this amount of rebounds or assists. We should be thinking about how do we defend the team with our plan and how do we you know run which is our best our best ability is running up and down.
– What about national teams? Did you ever think of playing for Russian national team?
– To be honest, no. I'm Jamaican, my mom and dad is Jamaican, so if I ever played for a national team to be honest I would go play for Jamaican national team that's the only team I would play for.
– Do you feel that you’re loved and respected by local audience?
– I think, yes. I think, people respect how hard I play. To be honest I think mostly every team I've been on respects how hard I play and normally loves me except for maybe Panathinaikos but I think that’s because we were not so good in Euroleague. But if you know how basketball is supposed to be played then I think it's hard not to love me.
Share with Friends: