Former EuroCup champ Richard Hendrix comes off a big game against his former team, which may be a turning point for his new one. The Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul big man posted a EuroCup career-high 13 rebounds to lead Galatasaray to a 76-87 road win over Herbalife Gran Canaria, which was the former’s first win in the Top 16 and kept it alive in the race for a quarterfinals berth. After a poor start to the 7DAYS EuroCup Regular Season, Galatasaray won four in a row to reach the next stage, and now the team is rejuvenated after a coaching change and adding a new piece to its backcourt. Hendrix, who won the EuroCup and was title game MVP with Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in 2013 is in great form and ranks fifth in the competition in performance index rating per 40 minutes (29.3). A young veteran at age 31, Hendrix has played five years in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague and four more in the EuroCup. He joked about that in this EuroCupbasketball.com interview. "Everywhere I go, everyone talks to me like I am old," Hendrix told EuroCupbasketball.com. "People have been seeing me for the last eight years and now think that I am old, but I just turned 31! I don't feel like I am old."
Hello, Richard. Congratulations on the win in Gran Canaria. It was a close game, but you pulled away in the final three minutes. Could it be a turning point in your season, beating such a strong opponent on the road?
"I hope so. Our season has been full of ups and downs, especially after starting the regular season 0-4 and making a comeback to finish second in the group. I think that, unfortunately, we have dug ourselves quite a bit of a hole during the Top 16. We have had some injuries at the start of the Top 16 and went 0-3, but getting our first win in this group, in such a tough environment, in a place that I know not too many teams win, is a good start. Hopefully we will fight and positive things will happen."
You grabbed 13 rebounds, a new EuroCup career-high for you. You rank fourth in the competition in rebounding. You have always been a great rebounder, but what is helping you do so well this season?
"I don't know, I think I have been working to get my body stronger and in the best condition, which is helping this year and plays a great role: when I’m healthy, strong and fit, I can rebound at the best level. Fortunately for me, it has been working out very well."
At age 31, you have a lot of experience after five years in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague and four more in the EuroCup. How comfortable do you feel in this team as one of its experienced leaders?
"I feel the same as I do in every team. I do what I do, and I think we have a talented roster which is coming together and finding a little bit of a spark. But I try to contribute the way that I always done in my career."
Galatasaray just signed Adas Juskevicius. In what ways has he improved the team?
"I think he can definitely bring us his shooting ability, and an extra ball-handler on the court is also going to help us. He has experience in European basketball and in this competition. You know, just having another threat in the perimeter is always good and he can bring us a lot of energy, too."
You also signed an experienced coach who knows Galatasaray well, Oktay Mahmuti. How has it been to play for him?
"Last week, we played our first EuroCup game with him and we won in Gran Canaria, which is very good. I played against him many times. He is a very experienced coach and I have a lot of respect for him, as I would for anyone. For me, I hope I can help him out, whatever he needs, to help the team be successful."
After so much time in the competition, do you think that the EuroCup is even more difficult than before?
"I definitely think that the competition is much better across the board in this EuroCup format. The EuroLeague going from 24 to 16 teams makes both competitions stronger. Obviously, there are good teams in the EuroCup and also good players who could be in the EuroLeague, but I think that, top to bottom, the EuroCup is definitely a very strong league with the format that it has now."
If there is a special club in your career, that is Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar. How are you enjoying their current success? Do you feel part of that success, in a way?
"We definitely had a lot of success while I was there, but the credit cannot all go to me. The first credit has to go to the organization; they are a really good organization and right now, they are the number one ranked team in the competition, being undefeated. I definitely think that myself, as well as other guys who were in some of their teams earlier on, made a role into kind of pushing the organization to where they are now. But the credit has to go to them, to what these people have done in Krasnodar to put the organization together."
You are a well-known chef. Where did you learn to cook? Do you still cook for teammates on special occasions?
"Oh, man! I haven't done too much cooking for teammates! I kind of got a little bit older... The funny thing is, I am NOT old! Everywhere I go, everyone talks to me like I am old. I have been in Europe now for nine years, and 10 years professionally overall, and I have been in EuroLeague and EuroCup teams since 2010. People have been seeing me for the last eight years and now think that I am old, but I just turned 31! I don't feel like I am old. When it comes to cooking, my teammates are giving me a hard time about the food that I eat now. I am not old, but am getting a little bit older. I just try to be a little bit more aware of what I eat. I don't think that my teammates would necessarily eat what I make now."
As every proud Alabamian, I am sure you claim your barbecue is the best in the world. Do you keep family recipes?
"When you make barbecues and you are from the South, recipes are not something that you share. That is a secret! You just have to cook from the soul and that is always the way I did it when I cook my own food. I don't have any types of recipes, but I know how to make a tasty barbecue, that's for sure. Absolutely!"
You will play against Darussafaka next week, one of the best teams in the EuroCup. What makes them so strong and what will be needed to beat them?
"I think that, obviously, what makes them strong is that they are coached very well. I played for Coach Blatt for a couple of years and he always had the team motivated, putting everyone in position to be successful. We know it will be a very difficult match, but hopefully we will be able to be healthy, with our full strength, and have a chance to win the game."