Exclusive interview with Jordan Mickey, key player of Zenit St. Petersburg in the EuroLeague. We talked about EuroLeague, the NBA, the most difficult opponents to face and also a particular NCAA record that he shares with Shaquille O’Neal.
Zenit St. Petersburg. What’s your first impact in this first part of the season with the team, with your teammates and with the city?
“I love the city, with great fans, great restaurants, everything is very good. I love my teammates, we’re just having so much fun when we’re on the court, and also outside the court!”
You are an American, almost Russian now! Do you like food and lifestyle in Russia?
“I love to taste different food and lifestyle. Russia it’s a great place to live, I’m having fun.”
Is there a teammate who has impressed you a lot?
“Conner Frankamp it’s been pretty impressive. You know, he’s showing a lot of good things in his first EuroLeague year, and I hope he will continue to play like this.”
Where can this Zenit go? Last year, the Final Four were one step away. It’s still a concrete goal this year?
“The goal is every year the same… win the Championship. We are a very good team and we have to keep playing well together. I’m excited to see what happen in this season.”
You have a great coach like Xavi Pascual. What kind of coach is he?
“Xavi Pascual is a great Coach. He wants the best from us and he pushes us to work hard everyday. I’m happy, because a better Coach than him could not have happened to us. He thinks at every detail of the game, he’s always on our side and the most important thing is that he wants to win.”
Talking about great coaches, you also worked with Pablo Laso at Real Madrid, another great Coach in EuroLeague. What similarities and what differences do these two great coaches have?
“You know, Xavi Pascual and Pablo Laso are a little bit different. Xavi is pretty intense, Pablo is often more cautious, also thanks to his immense experience at Madrid. They are undoubtedly two great coaches.“
Talking about Real Madrid. It didn’t go as you imagined, and also as many expected. Why do you think? Did you also find any positive side of that experience?
“I love Real Madrid. Everything was great, from management to all the people who work there. Everything was so professional, a great organization. I wish them all the best, no bad things.”
You played in the NBA, then the EuroLeague. There are people who are divided into two extreme parts, on one side or the other. As a player, what differences do you see between the two types of basketball? Is it really easier to score in the NBA like Doncic, Lillard or Mike James said?
“I believe it’s easier to score in the NBA, thanks to the spacing on the floor in particular. I agree with Luka Doncic and the others. Defenders can play differently in Europe and this is an advantage you don’t have in the EuroLeague.“
In your career, who has been the hardest player to guard?
“LaMarcus Aldridge. It was my second year in the NBA, I guarded him and he’s so skilled in offense. He is able to make any move on offense, a great player. In EuroLeague, Nikola Mirotic. He’s a great shooter, he’s also very good on the post and it’s very tough to guard him.”
Do you still think about the NBA? Would you like to return or do you feel more important here in the EuroLeague?
“I am very focused on the present, my goal is to play well and have fun. I don’t want to be distracted by any other thoughts.”
Your next opponent will be Olimpia Milano.
“They’re playing very well right now. Of course, It would be a tough game. We have to stay very focused and be prepared for an important game like this.”
“Yes, we talked. There were contacts, but then nothing was done.”
You come from an important university like LSU Tigers Basketball (Louisiana State University). Legendary players have played there, from Bob Pettit to Pistol Pete Maravich, passing through Shaquille O’Neal. You and Shaq also shared a record of 100 blocks in a season. What did that time in college mean to you?
“Honestly, I didn’t know about the record and it’s a huge honor to share this with a legend like Shaquille O’Neal. He’s the most dominating player ever played the game of basketball. LSU is a great University and It helped me a lot.”
Where do you see Jordan Mickey in the next few years of your career?
“Hopefully, still having fun playing basketball at high levels. I don’t know where!”
Italian version of the interview with Jordan Mickey, out on Friday.