7DAYS EuroCup Top 16 MVP Kyle Kuric was a major factor in Zenit St. Petersburg advancing to the EuroCup playoffs. Kuric was lethal all Top 16 along, coming off the bench to average 22.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in six games. He led the Top 16 in scoring and performance index rating (23.7), while shooting the ball at excellent percentages., Kuric sank 24 of 42 three-point shots (57.1%) and shot 31 of 33 on free throws (93.9%), all in less than 26 minutes per night. A two-time All-EuroCup Second Team selection, Kuric almost doubled his regular season scoring average (11.7 ppg.) to lead Zenit to the next round. It took him just three and a half seasons to rank fourth all-time in three-point shots made (168) and 26th in scoring (867 points). Most remarkably, Kuric recovered from a brain tumor three years ago to play even better than before. The experience changed his life. "Professionally, I wanted to get back as quick as possible and when I came back, I wanted to be better than I was before. Personally, I enjoyed things a lot more - especially, the biggest one is little things, certain things I could be mad or upset about, I don't care about," Kuric told EuroCupbasketball.com. "I don't stress about a lot of things because I see what it can do to you. Now, whatever situation comes up, I deal with it, move on and get past it. It made me a better person and a better man."
Hello, Kyle. Congratulations on being chosen as the 7DAYS EuroCup Top 16 MVP!
"Thank you. Definitely, being the Top 16 MVP means a lot to me because of all the hard work and all the dedication that we put in, but for me, it is more important that we advanced. If I play well, great and if I don't, okay, great, as long as we keep winning and advancing. That is what matters to me."
How much credit do your teammates and especially your coach, Vasily Karasev, deserve for this award?
"Of course, it is for our coach and definitely my teammates. Coach gave me the playing time and the freedom and I am very thankful for that. He is definitely a player's coach. He understands what it is like to be a player and kind of knows what we are going through. It is definitely a change from previous coaches that I played for and I like him a lot as a coach. I like playing here."
It has been three years since you had your brain tumor removed. How did your life change, your perspective, after what happened?
"Initially, it completely changed everything - personally, professionally, everything got altered really quickly. Getting through it, I had a lot of support and afterward, everything... changes. Professionally, I wanted to get back as quick as possible and when I came back, I wanted to be better than I was before. Personally, I enjoyed things a lot more - especially, the biggest one is little things, certain things I could be mad or upset about, I don't care about. I don't stress about a lot of things because I see what it can do to you. Now, whatever situation comes up, I deal with it, move on and get past it. It made me a better person and a better man."
How blessed do you feel after that, not only being able to play basketball again, but do it at such a high level?
"Definitely blessed, but basketball, for sure, accelerated my return and it definitely gave me something to look forward to, as far as having a goal and setting plans to push myself every day and get back quickly. I think that the best thing that happened was my mentality: if I ever got to play again, it was always to win and how quick. So that was the main factor that got me back, and I think it is because of the basketball and all the situations that have been in the past."
You will play against Reggio Emilia in the quarterfinals next month. How much can both teams change from now until you face each other?
"I don't know too much about them. I watched just highlights, but saw they are playing very well. They beat a lot of good teams in the last round and that shows they are very, very good. I think it will be a good series and am looking forward to getting back to the EuroCup in a month. They play very well as a team, Della Valle is a really good scorer. We will see what happens."
How important is the home-court advantage from now on? Unicaja won the EuroCup last season without any kind of home-court advantage.
"I mean, having the home-court advantage always, you know, is an advantage, but you just have to take it one game at a time. We have to go there and try to get a road win first, then get back home and get a win and then try to sneak one at the end. It will definitely be an advantage for whoever has it, but you can't see it like that; we have to move forward and one game at a time."
I have to ask you about your former team, Gran Canaria. They will face Lokomotiv, a team that you know really well. What's your take on the series? Do you stay in touch with your former teammates in Gran Canaria?
"I am definitely following them in the Spanish League and of course in the EuroCup. I played there for three years and still have a lot of friends on the team and of course, on the island. They had a pretty good year and are playing a lot better now moving forward. But Loko is a very good team. They play very, very tough defense. I played against them last year in the EuroCup and they were very physical, very tough, same as this year. It is definitely not an easy team to beat, but they are capable. It will come down to Loko's defense and how they can match up."
You didn't play against Darussafaka or Buducnost, so I won't ask you about that series, but you played against both Bayern and UNICS. What's your take on that one?
"This is going to be a very, very good series. It is a tough matchup for both teams. Both are very good teams; they both play systems and don't really have a main guy, but a very good, deep team. Bayern is very tough at home and they have the home-court advantage, so it is going to be tough for UNICS to steal one there. But I want to see what happens there. I hope I can watch the games!"
How much of a change was it to move from warm Gran Canaria to cold St. Petersburg?
"Complete change! We went from Spain and warm weather on the beach to Russia, cold weather and snow. Different leagues and different continents. It was a big change, but I think we are dealing with it pretty well. It is just a new adventure and a new place where we have to go. It is a lot better here than I thought it would be; St. Petersburg is a great city. I have only been to one museum - of course, I have been busy. My wife has been to museums, palaces... We did go to two ballets, which was great, but she has definitely seen more of the city than I have."
Knowing the talent level Zenit has, how dangerous can your team be in the playoffs?
"We are a very good team with a lot of individual talent. We just need to play together. We have to stay focused on defense and when we do that, I think we are a very difficult team to beat. As long as we stay focused, on defense especially, get on transition, run and play our game, I think we have good chances to make it to the next round. We had problems with injuries since the first game of pre-season. It took us a while to be together and show what we can do on the court, but I think things are finally coming together and we are understanding how to play with each other. Adding Malcolm Griffin helped us a lot; he played very, very well in his first game against Rytas, he was able to push the ball and give a lot of assists. We have two very good point guards that pass the ball really well, push the tempo and are really good defenders. Like I said, everything is coming together at the right time for us."