Shcherbenev’s big interview to The Whistle

The railway workers' newspaper Gudok (The Whistle) published an interview with Alexander Shcherbenev, Loko's point guard, winner of the "Best Athlete of Kuban 2023" award.

In Russian, you can read the interview on the newspaper’s website. Here’s the translation.

– What special things will you remember about 2023?
– If we talk about my career, of course, this is a winning of semi-final series with CSKA and silver medals in the VTB United League. As for personal life, I got married last year.
– What changed in your life after the marriage?
– Some say that a responsibility comes, a more serious stage in the relationship begins... But Camilla and I have known each other for a long time, from the time I played on loan in Yekaterinburg. In fact, everything was decided much earlier, and the stamp in the passport just became an official confirmation. Though, our wedding was awesome.
– What does Camilla think of basketball?
– She is my support. She even travels to our away games often.
– What about the team chemistry inside Loko? How do foreigners and Russians do together?
– We have a friendly team, where there is room for both jokes and serious conversations. There is no language barrier – everyone knows English at least tolerably.
– Who is the most humorous person in the team?
– Obviously, it's Jaylen Barford. He is a real firebrand. Also, our captain Dima Uzinsky can raise morale both with a joke and with swear words. He creates the right atmosphere with his example, dedication, pressure and composure.
– You have been at Lokomotiv-Kuban for quite a long time. What has changed with the arrival of Alexander Sekulić as a coach?
– He is a subtle psychologist and a great basketball specialist. Probably, no one has any doubts about how he and his staff know how to work with young players, because Loko is now the leader in the league in terms of playing time for its own youngsters.
– Let's remember last year's semi-final against CSKA. In overtime of the decisive match, several Loko players left the court with too many fouls. You took over the game – and the team ended up in the finals. What happened in the locker room?
– The emotions were fantastic, it will stay with each of us for the rest of our lives. Experiencing such moments is worth a lot. This was our common success, because basketball is a team game, but I also got some personal gratitude. When we went to the press conference with Sekulić, he said: “Sasha, good job.” Well, the media, of course, did not leave it without attention. I lost count of how many interviews I gave out in those days.
– You are playing in one of the strongest European championships. What is it like to step on the floor against top point guards?
– Playing against good point guards is always a great challenge and an opportunity to learn something new about basketball and your potential. I'm still continuing to study. Playing against such professionals you can always learn something useful.
– Who is the toughest opponent in the league?
– Casper Ware from CSKA. We've studied him well, but every time he causes a lot of trouble. He is a physically strong player, and I try to offset this with other aspects of the game that I can influence.
– What's the most important about playing at this level?
– To be stable – both personally and in terms of team play. And focusing on details. At this level, all players perform the basic elements at the highest level. Therefore, it is details that separate a good player from an outstanding one. The task of a professional athlete is to maximize his strengths and to minimize weaknesses.
– By playing for the club you have earned a place in the national team. Do you remember with what feelings you first listened to the anthem and entered the court in the uniform of the Russian national team?
– Playing for the national team is a great honor and pride. Defending national colors is what every athlete dreams of. I was born here, I love my homeland and really appreciate the opportunity to represent my club, city and region at the national team level. Yes, for now we are without official international competitions, but I am sure that it will all come back. When this moment comes, we will be ready. Thanks to the Russian Basketball Federation that we regularly hold training camps and have the opportunity to play friendly games. In general, playing for the national team is the emotion for which you come to training and work hard every day. No one sees your work except the player himself. And when you are called up to the national team, you understand that everything was not in vain, that you are moving towards the right direction. Well, this is also a big experience at a new level. And when you help the team win, this is simply priceless.
– What emotions did you experience at the moment when you received a call to the national team?
– I moved step by step: I was a player in national youth teams, where I rose to become a captain. And I always thought about whether the day would come when I would get into the main team. And when I saw myself on the lists, I felt incredible. My parents immediately called to congratulate me. They were probably even more pleased. They saw how much effort I put in and were always there when I grew and developed.
– When you started your journey in basketball, did you think that this would become your life’s work?
– I am very happy that my childhood hobby has become my profession. People recognize me on the streets, and that’s also very nice. But this is just the tip of the iceberg, and you need to understand that everything comes with hard, persistent daily work. You need total discipline and consistency: regimen, nutrition, loads. It doesn’t matter what’s wrong with you – you go and work hard, no one is interested in your problems. Every day you must show more and prove that you are the best – today, tomorrow and always. Big sport is a competitive environment in which there is a mental side that needs a lot of internal strength. After defeats, you need to be able to tune back in, and not let difficulties take over your thoughts. You need to understand that you go out and play for your team, for your city, for the fans. Some kid may be looking at you, and how you play may determine whether he chooses a sport.
– You won the Kuban Athlete 2023 award and donated the cup to the sports boarding school where you studied. How did the meeting with its current students go on?
– I told them about my, albeit not so extensive, experience in professional sports. About the fact that I know how they live, that quite recently I myself was in their place and went through all the steps of preparation. From a pupil of the Lokomotiv-Kuban reserve system, I grew to become a first-team player for Loko and the Russian national team. They must understand that this path will not be easy, but everything is real. I hope they learned something useful.
– These guys are now studying at the Lokomotiv Kuban Academy. How do you like the current training conditions, considering that you started playing in completely different gyms?
– Basketball in Krasnodar is moving forward by leaps and bounds. Honestly, it touches the soul to see the conditions created for the guys now. In my opinion, Loko has the best youth training base in the country. Everybody wants to study here, it’s a great honor to represent our club. I am sure that soon even more Academy students will represent our club in the national team and play for the main team. This, of course, is the merit of the president of Lokomotiv-Kuban, Andrei Vedishchev. Many thanks to him for this powerful project. Such conditions for the development of young Russian talents, the sports results demonstrated by the main and reserve teams – everything evokes immense respect for him, as a person who devoted himself entirely to the development of our favorite sport.
– You have already won the Russian Cup and silver medals in the VTB United League. What emotions does this evoke?
– I am very happy to achieve success here, in my hometown. But the main thing is not to stop. Both this season and in my future career. We have an open gestalt from last year – we need to win the championship. I appreciate that hopes are placed on me in Krasnodar, and I will try to justify this trust by winning together with the team.
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