By Antonis Stroggylakis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
He began the season in Australia, but right before the second leg of the Euroleague Top 16, he received an offer to return to Europe and show his skills in the top level of basketball in the continent.
Jerome Randle came to Lithuania to assume an important role in a historic club such Zalgiris Kaunas and jumped right in at the deep end, competing in the toughest Top 16 Group in the history of Euroleague.
The American point guard talked to Eurohoops about this new challenge of his career, his desire for improvement, being coached by no other than Sarunas Jasikevicius, while he also described what playing for Ukraine in the Eurobasket 2015 meant for him.
You have played three games with Zalgiris Kaunas in Euroleague. What do you think of this experience so far?
It’s cool! But at the same time it’s difficult. Especially from me who came from all the way from the other side of the world, since I was playing in Australia. Also, since I was also returning from an injury that kept me sidelined for more than two weeks, I still try to find my way on the floor. I am struggling a little bit, but I am trying to get back in my usual game and get the shots that I want. They have fallen short, so far and that’s something I really want to fix it. I came here to help these guys and I have to do a better job. Even though Ι have not adapted 100%, it’s all about working hard to get there.
So how tough is this adjustment to the top level of basketball in Europe?
It won’t be tough as long as I can get where I want with my game and especially make the necessary shots in each match. It’s all about being in the right situation to bring out your best self on court. Individually I think I can play at any level of basketball, but I have to be able to run the show for my team as well, as a point guard. It’s not only about me, this is a team effort. I have to find a way to help my team make baskets and excel.
Zalgiris Kaunas has lost all chances of advancing to the next stage in Euroleague. How difficult is it to find the needed motivation in the three remaining games?
You always have motivation and if you don’t, you need to make your best in order to find it. It doesn’t matter if a basketball game belongs in the lowest level, or in the highest in Europe, like Euroleague is, it’s still a game. So you should come out to play as hard as you can. And Zalgiris Kaunas? This is a big name man. One that holds a lot of weight and carries lots of respect. So you have to win. If you don’t win, people look at you differently. You must go out there, jump on court find the needed motivation and win your games. No matter what. It is a tough Group, but we must get the job done.
Your coach is nothing less than a basketball legend. What do you think about Sarunas Jasikevicius?
I consider it an honor to be able to play for him. He is a great coach who had an illustrious career as a player. Generally, I like being here. I wish I had come in the beginning of the season. I think that if this happened, I would have been a different player. But i know that I can show coach Jasikevicius more than what I am showing him right now.
Last year you played for Ukraine in the Eurobasket 2015. How was that experience?
It was a wonderful experience for me. Really special as well considering what the people of Ukraine have gone through with the civil war. I felt for their country and the people who went through something like that. I felt like one of them. I felt their pain just being there and be with them. A couple of guys in the team had lost family members in the war. So what did it mean to me representing this country? It was an honor. I really wanted to go out for them and fight on court for their country. I know we came up short in the Eurobasket but overall it was a great experience for me to play basketball for them.
Would you play for Ukraine again?
I don’t know! It was a one-year contract. If they called me back then that’s something I would talk with my agent about. Who knows…