By Antonis Stroggylakis/ email@example.com
“I have a new fetish: Gabriel Iffe Lundberg.” Unexpectedly positive for a debut.” “Not spaced out at all.” “Here’s the guy who says, here I am.”
These are just some of the comments that were appearing on Twitter in various languages while CSKA Moscow guard Gabriel Iffe Lundberg was making his EuroLeague debut Thursday (25/2) against Olympiacos Piraeus. The Danish guard played 26:26 minutes (more than every CSKA player not named Mike James) and finished the game with a fine outing of 13 points (3-6 triples) four rebounds, three assists and two steals, being a positive force on the floor as his team escaped with a dramatic win in the very last seconds.
“I played OK,” Lunderg told Eurohoops. “I’ve been wanting to play in a EuroLeague game for quite some time now. It’s fun to be able to compete on this platform.”
“Obviously the CSKA fans have seen me play against CSKA,” Lundberg said. The 26-year-old player had 26 points, six assists and five rebounds in a Zielona Gora win over CSKA in early February. “Maybe the fans in EuroLeague don’t know that well, I’m sure they will soon enough,” he added on the social media reactions about his performance. “It’s always nice when people recognize your game and applaud you for it.”
By joining CSKA, Lundberg experienced something that he never knew what is like before in his professional career: Switching teams midseason. “It’s new for me. Coming into a new situation of a fully established team. It’s kind of difficult, just to be put in a situation where you have to know all the plays, multiple positions, the coach’s philosophy and the concept. Where different guys want the ball, where they thrive on offense. All the schemes, defensively and offensively. That’s up to the individual to figure out.”
“But I think I’ve adjusted very quickly and as every day goes by I’m going to get more adjusted to the situation here. But I feel very comfortable, I’ve been here only 10 days and so far so good.”
With Zielona Gora, Lundberg established himself as an elite player in VTB League, being ranked third in scoring with 20.4 points and sixth in assists with 5.4 dimes. Inevitably, his performances attracted the attention of several European clubs.
When he learned that a EuroLeague contender like CSKA made an appealing, concrete offer for him to Zielona Gora (one that the Polish club could not refuse), he initially just didn’t believe it.
“I was like ‘What?’,” Lundberg said. “At first I didn’t believe it because we had experienced so many things going into that situation. So I was like ‘OK’. That it’s one of those situations when a team did want me but at the end of the day for some reason it’s not going to go through. But then my agent told me that the two clubs have already been talking for several weeks and have already reached a verbal agreement. So I was like ‘OK, but we’ll still see what happens.” When finally everything was done and I was able to sign the contract that was when it really hit me: I’m a CSKA player, that’s awesome.”
Lundberg sat down with Antonis Stroggylakis and Bugra Uzar on the Eurohoops Live Show to discuss several topics, that also included Danish basketball and his national team, his ultimate dreams and goals and the… fantasy match-up with Lebron James.
Here’s some of the things Lundberg said on:
Denmark missing the EuroBasket in the last play vs. Lithuania:
“I’m not gonna lie: It was tough. It was tough for sure to watch those games. Especially the last one against Lithuania, because that was the one that was the most significant. And as you said, the fact that it was one possession that determined the outcome of the future… that stinks. But at the same time, I’m extremely proud of my teammates and Danish basketball because the growth we’ve had over the past couple of months has been incredible. I don’t think that there are many people who look down on Danish basketball right now, given the fact that we really showed what we’re capable of doing.
Of course I would’ve wanted to play. Under those circumstances, I couldn’t. I’m just really proud of my guys.”
Being the face of Danish basketball and the progress his national team has been making:
“I feel good. I don’t feel any pressure at all. This is just who I am. I like to compete at the highest level and the biggest stage. I thrive on these situations. I think our future looks really really positive. We had such a tremendous growth over the past months, these past years in general. Not only for our national team but also in the domestic league with the Bakken Bears. They managed beat all those teams in the Basketball Champions League. Especially this season, the Basketball Champions League is probably as good as it has ever been. For Bakken Bears to beat all three teams in the Group, it’s amazing. That tells you all about how Danish basketball is going. We just going to keep building and keep being motivated. I think we will reach one of the bigger tournaments in the near future for sure.”
Basketball inspirations while growing up in a non-traditional basketball country:
“All basketball players all over world have the same inspirations and goals. At least the biggest ones. It’s just different in terms of how old you are. For me, I’ve been playing basketball for 21 years now. My oldest brother introduced me to the game and I fell in love for it at a very young age. I’m still very passionate about it. I don’t play basketball because it’s my job, I do it because I love the sport. Once I figured out that I can actually play the game more or less on a high level, I became even more movitated to push myself to get better. It depends on who you are as an individual. Once I set my goals I do everything I can to accomplish them.”
His goal and dreams and the difference between them:
“The dream is to play in the NBA one day. That’s the dream I still have. I want to be the first Danish basketball player who ever played an NBA game (editor’s note: Danish-born Lars Hansen played in NBA in the 1970s but was registered as a Canadian after growing up in Canada. He also represented the Canadian national team on an international level). That’s my ultimate dream.
My goal is to play well here with CSKA, win as many games as we can and ultimate compete for the EuroLeague title. But my dream is one day down the road to play in the NBA. I don’t know when that’s going to be if that’s going to be a reality somehow, but my goal is for sure to win many games with CSKA.”
A dream matchup:
“Lebron James (laughs). Now I’m here so I have the mindset for everyone, anyone who’s guarding me, anyone I’m guarding, just to prove I belong. I’m ready to take the matchup against anyone.”
“There’s a reason he’s one of the best players in EuroLeague, let me just say that. He’s really really good.”