Interview

Sam Dekker: “I fully believe in our team”

Forward Loko gave an interview to EuroCup before the match against Partizan. We are sure you will be interested!
This is your first professional experience outside the United States. What do you think about the EuroCup playing level and about Krasnodar fans?
Obviously, it is different. The playing style is different and some of the rules, too. Guys don't need to go out and score 30 points. In the NBA, you have at least one or two guys scoring 30 or 40 points every night. Here is much more ball movement and physicality. You drive in the paint, you have three or four guys who are ready to stop you. That took some adjusting, and the pace is a little slower, but I think I am transitioning well. I think I only had one game when I felt like I didn't play well. Otherwise, I feel like my teammates and the coaches got me ready to play at this level, and at the end of the day, it is still basketball. You have to grow up, play your game and try to help your team. And the Krasnodar fans, they have been great! Even when we went through our losing streak, they were still there, excited for us, and when we travel on the road, we always see some Loko fans even in cities far away. This is fun to see; when you have good fans and they come to every game, it is much more fun. It is a good experience and Krasnodar is a good city compared to other places in Russia in terms of basketball interest. We are trying to get the championship this year, so that they can be excited.
How is it off the court? Was it difficult to move? Did your family come to see you in Russia?
It has definitely been an adjustment, living in a new country, especially a country like Russia and in a city like Krasnodar, where not many people speak English. That has been the hardest part: communicating with people when there is a problem or when you need something. If you go to a restaurant, it is usually pretty easy because you can either point at stuff or there is someone speaking English, but if your car breaks down, or you need to pay something, you are lost in the street, you cannot communicate and that has been the hardest part. One of my best friends from back home has been with me the past couple of months and my wife will be here in two months, after her work is finished for the year. I haven't been alone, which has been good. Having a friend here has been great to be able to get around and try new things. My parents came here for a couple of weeks last month, so that was great. I have been able to have people and friends here, so that makes it much easier, having people here who speak English and can help you get around the city.
How did your teammates help you adjust?
The guys have been great. The Russian guys have been really welcoming. We are a team that gets along really well... Very nice guys who have tried to help me and tried to teach me some Russian and stuff like that. We also have Johnny O'Bryant and Will Cummings, who are American but have played overseas the last few years. They have European experience and have been able to help me about the team and how to cope with being homesick, how to stay positive through everything. I am a rookie in Europe, so I don't know the ins and outs of the structure here all the time, so they helped me a lot and it has been great, having guys like that, Americans who have been through the European experience. I go a lot of times to them for advice, or if I have any questions, and they have been awesome about it.
Lokomotiv recently signed Mindaugas Kuzminskas. How can he help the team from now on?
First of all, he is an awesome person, just a very nice guy. I played against him a few times when he was with the New York Knicks in the NBA. I knew his game. I knew he is a great shooter and a smart basketball player. He just gives us another dimension; he gives us shooting, experience and skills, and with the team that we have, that is going to help us a ton. He has played in big games, internationally and in the NBA, and has been a pro for 12 or 13 years. And it is easy to communicate with. He speaks great English, so if I have questions, I can go to him. He has been a great addition for us. It has been fun to play with him and get to know him.
You've got to know some cities in Europe, including Venice. How was that experience?
Venice was great. My wife came for that game, so we got to see the city. Unfortunately, that was when the flooding happened so we didn't get as much time inside as we would like. We hope that everybody has been OK there, recovering from those floods. Venice is a beautiful city with great basketball fans, and they have a good team there. They put themselves in a great position to be first or second in our group, and they have played great. It is another well-coached team. Venice is beautiful and it was a place I had never been to. I had been to Italy before, but never to Venice. It was fun to be able to do that with my wife, see a place we had never seen and a very, very beautiful part of the world.
How challenging is the EuroCup, knowing that eight good teams will be out by the end of 2019? How much pressure is there?
The pressure is fun; that is why we play the game. Pressure can show you who you really are. And I would put our team, our guys, against anyone. I fully believe in our team and I think, for sure, we can contend and win the championship. The losses that we had were uncharacteristic. We were embarrassed by those losses. We want to show we are a better team than that, so I think the pressure is going to be good for us. We are going to come out, be very aggressive, play with great energy and play team basketball. We are a positive team, excited for these two opportunities to show how good we are, that we can make some noise right here in the EuroCup. The competition is fun. We like that pressure and are ready for it.
If you make it to the Top 16, how dangerous will Lokomotiv be with a fresh start?
I can that we can be very dangerous. Like I said, we fully expect to make it to the Top 16, and I think we have the most talent in all of the EuroCup. That is going to do big things for us, because had some growing pains together and were hurt by those losses. We want to have control in the next two games and once those losses are wiped clean, I think we can breathe in some fresh air, kind of exhale and go on from there. Mentally, that would be great for us and I think we will be really proud to come together and win the next two. We would be very proud to make it to the Top 16, and I think that will help us have a lot of momentum. I think that having that clean slate would be good for us and we fully expect to be there. We want to stay in the EuroCup and prove that we are a good team.

The text was written by Javier Gancedo. The full version is available on the EuroCup website.

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