Akeem Vargas, Skyliners: 'We have a great competitive spirit'

Jan 14, 2019 by Akeem Vargas - Frankfurt, Germany Print
Akeem Vargas, Skyliners: 'We have a great competitive spirit'

Well, we are having a lot of bad luck with injuries lately. We have six players out and all of them are a big part of the rotation. Right now, we just hope to start the new year a lot better than we did in the last two months. I am currently injured; I tore different muscles. It started off with a torn muscle in my calf, then my right hamstring and now my left quad, all this within seven weeks. Since I kind of attracted bad luck at the end of last year, I hope I can be back soon and help the guys on the court. Everyone is working hard and I hope some of our injured players will be back soon.

We started the Top 16 with a narrow loss against ratiopharm Ulm. We have a great competitive spirit and a lot of young guys willing to take responsibilities. If you look at the game against Ulm, you will see a great fight within us, but at the end of the day, you have to give them credit because they showed their experience and made the big plays when it mattered most. Then we played against Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar at home and they are a great team with great quality. Our young guys had the chance to learn from players like Jamel McLean, who I played with in Berlin. He is a great player and showed it in Frankfurt.

"If you watch great players in Europe, you will understand the game better."

Erik Murphy has been playing really well in the EuroCup. Did you notice that he is shooting almost 70% from three-point range this season? First of all, he is a great shooter and spends a lot of time shooting the ball. We have the great benefit of stretching the floor when he is on the court at the "four" and "five" positions. He creates a lot of mismatches out of these situations, especially in pick-and-rolls, where he can pop and shoot the ball mostly open, because most "five" men are not used to guarding a guy like him. Off the court, he is a funny, quiet guy who barely talks much, but when he does, he is a funny dude. He is always complaining that he is old and his body hurts, but he is only 28! It shouldn't be too bad! He is hanging out a lot with Brady Heslip, I think they live close to each other, and of course, he has known Shawn Huff for many years. He always sits close to the Germans during lunch and dinnertime, and I really appreciate that because I have been a pro for a long time and not all Americans do that. Erik is interacting a lot with the domestic player community.

If you follow the EuroCup Top 10, you probably noticed Elijah Clarance, too. I think he is half Swedish, half Trinity and Tobago. Elijah is a great talent; his athleticism is unique, I would say. I haven't seen anyone like him, either here or in the States, but he has a lot of work to do. He wants to play at the guard position in Europe and has the potential to be good, but need to work on his game a lot. Elijah should watch a little bit more EuroLeague and look at guys like Vassilis Spanoulis and how he creates situations for his teammates. Other than that, he is a great dunker, an unbelievable athlete with great body control. He had a huge dunk against Lokomotiv, a very powerful one. He makes it to the Top 10 often both in the EuroCup and the German League. He is a highlight reel player but it takes a little bit more to be a great basketball player.

A player can work on his basketball IQ throughout his career. I believe you can improve in every aspect of the game. Every player has a certain amount of talent but a big part of your game comes with hard work. I remember that Sasa Obradovic told me when I came to Berlin a couple of years back to watch EuroLeague because if you watch great players in Europe, you will understand the game better because you see their decision-making and the way they read situations. Not only you do have to watch games, but also scout games, picking out one or two players in each team that you like.

"It is something that young players should add to their homework – watch more EuroLeague!"

For instance, if you are a point guard and you look at Sergio Llull, how he organizes the game, I think it is a tremendous help for your own game, no matter at what level you are playing. If you watch guys like him and scout them, you will get better. It is important to do your homework. It is actually one of the most important things. I wish someone would have told me this when I was 13 or 14 years old! I would have started back then, and this certainly helps you develop your game to a much higher level, much faster. I think there are a lot of young players who don't watch enough EuroLeague, dreaming of the NBA. I don't think that is the right way. If you want to be a great all-around player in Europe, the EuroLeague guys are the ones to be studied to bring your game to the next level – especially now with the new EuroLeague. It is great to watch the game during the week and I am thrilled to watch them because it is guaranteed that I will watch great basketball and two teams competing for the win. Then in the playoffs, you see the top teams competing at the higher level. I like the EuroLeague and I am glad that I had the opportunity to play it in the past, and that I am playing in the EuroCup now. It is something that young players should add to their homework – watch more EuroLeague!"

Our next two games against ASVEL will be critical for us. With the situation as it is in our group right now, we have the benefit that we can go without any pressure into these games. Right now, after their win in Krasnodar, ASVEL is the clear favorite in this group right now. For us, it is important to show the same competitiveness we had against Ulm and in some parts of the game against Lokomotiv. The good thing is that we play at home first, so maybe that is an advantage to get the first win. If we do, the second game will be completely different.