Halil Kancevic is a 23 year old 203cm forward from Staten Island, New York that is playing his rookie season for Union Olimpija Ljubljana. He started his basketball career at Hofstra(NCAA) and then played his last three years of college at St.Joseph’s (NCAA) playing a total of 96 NCAA games and as a senior played 34 games averaging 10.8ppg, 8.8rpg, 4.4apg, 1.5bpg, FGP: 53.5%, 3PT: 36%, FT: 58.1%. At the end of last season he helped Virtus Roma (Italy-SerieA) playing 11 games averaging 5.1ppg, 3.3rpg, FGP: 64.0%, 3PT: 50.0%, FT: 75.0%. Last summer he played NBA Pro Summer League in Las Vegas (Denver Nuggets) playing 4 games averaging 3.8ppg, 2.0rpg, FGP: 75%, 3PT: 50%, FT: 50%. Currently in Eurocup play he is averaging 10,9ppg, 5,3rpg and 1,6apg. He spoke to German Hoops before the Eurocup game against the Brose Baskets Bamberg.
Thanks Halil for talking to German Hoops. You are preparing for the Eurocup game against the Brose Baskets Bamberg. Is this your second time in Germany? What ´do you know about the country and its basketball?
This will be my second time playing in Germany. I am only a rookie, but I have heard good things about basketball in Germany. Basketball is growing here and it is becoming one of the top leagues in Europe.
Union Olimpija Ljubljana (Slovenia-Telemach League) have a 1-3 record in Eurocup play and the Brose Baskets Bamberg have a record of 2-2. You lost the first meeting against Bamberg 71-65. How bitter was this loss. You outrebounded Bamberg and had seven turnovers less and Bamberg nailed only one three pointer more.
Every game is different. Bamberg is a very good team and stats don´t always tell the whole story. We let Bamberg get the lead early and then we had to fight back. We can´t let that happen tonight again otherwise it will be hard to come back.
With the current standings in Eurocup and having lost the first game, what kind of game can we await and could it be low scoring again?
That is hard to say as it is never easy to predict how the second game against that team will go. Seeing a team for a second time, you then get a better idea of the players and what the team wants to do. We will want to stop at what Bamberg does best.
Will it be reaching half the rent controlling Brad Wanamaker who is the catalyst that gets Bamberg going?
Wanamaker is a big part in what they do that brings them success. But we can´t forget that they have many other great pieces like Ryan Thompson, Trevor Mbakwe or Josh Duncan. They also recently got a new player with Dawan Robinson who is a very good player. We have to keep our eyes open for every guy on that team.
Union Olimpija Ljubljana (Slovenia-Telemach League) lost both games to FC Bayern Munich. Are they one of the favorites to win the Eurocup?
FC Bayern Munich is a good sound team. They showed in both games against us that they have a good idea of what they want to do on the court. I don´t know if they are the favorite as there are still many teams that I haven´t seen yet. However from what I saw them do against us, I wouldn´t be surprised if they were at the top at the end. The quality of Eurocup teams and players has risen from last season.
You are playing your first season for Union Olimpija Ljubljana (Slovenia-Telemach League). After playing NBA Pro Summer League in Las Vegas (Denver Nuggets) you decided to come to play in Slovenia. In an article you stated you could of made more money in other places? Is that in countries in Asia where there is an abundance of money, but the level of play is lower?
I had no interest from teams in Asia, but from Israel and Turkey. I chose to play for Union Olimpija Ljubljana mainly because I had the chance to play Eurocup.
How has the adjustment period been for you getting used to basketball and the country Slovenia? Your dad Hido served there in the Montenegro military.
Basketball is basketball and the level here is different than in the States. The toughest thing that I have had to get used to is the foul call. I haven´t really gotten used to it yet. I have found that it has been easier for me to play Eurocup than Adriatic league play. I have been here six months now and I think that I have done a decent job adjusting to the level and style of play in Europe.
You are a complete player at the forward position, but can also play the center position and do many things well. What is a hidden strength in your game that doesn´t always get noticed right away?
I would say my passing. We have a very good point guard on the team with Marko Marinovic who does all the creating. I don´t have the ball as much to create as I did in college, but I just do what coach wants me to do.
You started your basketball career at Hofstra, but decided to transfer to St Joseph. What were the main reasons for going. Taking a ´step like that is huge since you lose a year and one has to be content of making the right choice?
My coach at Hofstra left after my freshman year to coach at Fordham. I wanted to follow him from Hofstra to there, but Hofstra restricted me from doing that. I chose ST Joseph because it was closest to New York and it was the best fit for me.
You played three years at St Joseph for Phil Martelli. How did he get you prepared best for a professional basketball career?
I had many people around me over the years that helped me with basketball, but coach Martelli helped me most preparing for life. He taught me to be a professional in how I represent myself. He taught me how to interact best with people and just show respect and never to burn any bridges along the way.
You won the Atlantic Ten tournament and was the MVP in 2014. When you look back at this experience, how much did you grow as a player in your last months as a college player?
I grew tremendously as a player at the end, because I just didn´t want to hold back. I showed what I could do on the court in a big time setting. I didn´t worry about making mistakes, but just had confidence and believed in myself. I never doubted myself and just played the game and knew everything would be good.
What was the most amazing thing that you saw Langston Galloway do in a game or practice in your three years at ST Joseph?
I played with him for three years in games and practiced with him for four years including the year where I transferred and had to sit out. I remember that he hit 10 three pointers in a game against Fordham. He is a fantastic shooter and that is just what he does and knows how to do. After a while nothing amazed me anymore because I knew what to expect.
After a great ending to a college career a player might like to relax a bit before getting ready to train in the summer looking for that next job, but you played 11 games for Virtus Roma (Italy-SerieA). You seemed to have no trouble going overseas right away to get your first taste of being a professional and then in a classic city like Rome.
I finished the regular season and we reached the semi´s in the playoffs in my two and a half month stay. The whole experience was great as I got a good taste of what high level basketball was in Europe. I saw many ex NBA players and guys playing in the NBA now as well as high quality teams like a Siena who played Euroleague. We had some older guys on the team that helped me giving me advice and showing me the ropes.
How important was it having Bobby Jones on the team who has seen it all and has much experience on and off the court?
Jones was a good guy. He was drafted by the NBA, played some years there and then went on to have a good career in Europe. He taught me how to act as a professional and told me about the mistakes he made and how he got through it.
Who was the best player that you battled against in the NCAA that is in the NBA now?
The Morris brothers Markieff and Marcus when they played at Kansas(NCAA). I had to play them in my first NCAA game and I remember being very excited. The atmosphere was amazing in Kansas and I did ok getting a double double.
What was your favorite spot in Rome to chill out?
That is difficult as Rome is such a beautiful city. I liked being at the Spanish steps and visiting the Vatican. I liked to chill out at Campo Di Fiore enjoying the many cafes.
What was the last DVD movie that you saw?
Thanks Halil for the chat.