Eric Kibi is a 25 year old 198cm forward from Ontario, Canada that recently played for the the Hertener Loewen Basketball (Germany-ProB) playing 3 games: 4.7ppg, 8.0rpg, 1.3apg, 1.3spg, left in Oct.’15, moved briefly to Luxemburg then played for KK Strsljen Gusinje (Montenegro-Erste Liga) and finished with the London Lightning (Canada-NBL Canada). Last season he completed his second season in Germany and first with Basketball Club Rendsburg (Germany-Regionalliga) averaging 20,5ppg and 15,0rpg. He started his basketball career in 2008 with Jacksonville College (NJCAA) where he played until 2010. He then played a season with UALR (NCAA) playing 29 games: 4.4ppg, 4.2rpg. He finished his college career in 2012 with Abil.Christian (NCAA2) playing 20 games: 8.2ppg, 5.7rpg, FGP: 60.0%. In 2012 he started his professional basketball career with Abil.Christian (NCAA2) playing 20 games: 8.2ppg, 5.7rpg, FGP: 60.0% He then played with Ottawa SkyHawks (NBL Canada): 29 games: 4.4ppg, 4.7rpg. The Canadian spoke to eurobasket about basketball and his run to the Canadian NBL final with the London Lightning.
Eric thanks for talking to German Hoops. Where are you at the moment and are you still digesting the Canadian NBL final loss to Halifax?
Hey Miles, I’m currently back in London, preparing to head back to my hometown to start my summer. As far as the Game 7 loss, it’s still very tough to digest it’s something that will be with me for a long time.
After a stellar season in 2014-15 where you averaged 20.5 ppg and 15 rpg in Germany you joined the London Lightning in late March after difficult stints in Germany and Montenegro to begin your 2015-16 season. Did the very spectacular and exciting playoff season kind of hide your miseries?
I´m not ashamed of the miseries I had in those countries, it made me a better basketball player. I feel like I hit a wall this season but it doesn’t take away from the player I am and how hard I’m going to work this summer to make sure it never happens again. The playoffs were a great experience the fan support in London is tremendous.
The London Lightening cruised into the NBL final disposing of Orangeville 3-0, Windsor 4-2 and then met Halifax in the final losing 4-3. Going into the final did you expect it to be such an exciting series?
Halifax is a great team and they had the best record in the league but our team was always confident in our chances at winning that series if we played up to our capabilities. Unfortunately it didn’t happen how we envisioned it but it’s not for lack of effort.
With Halifax leading 3-1 in games and London on the brink of elimination, you fought back winning game five and game 6. Was there any doubt this time that the team couldn´t pull back?
I wouldn’t say there was any doubt but I feel like it was a wake-up call for our team. Guys locked in more than ever and we saw great results with us being able to reach game 7.
With the series tied 3-3, Halifax won the game seven shoot out 125-117. What do you believe was missing in this do or die game to get over the hump and win the title?
I think we kind of just ran out of Gas at the end. We had a lead going into the fourth quarter but down the stretch they made some key plays that eventually game them the title.
Did the team not notice early that Justin Johnson was in the zone and somehow make adjustments against him?
He’s a great player and he made some tough shots early that helped him get in a rhythm. It also doesn’t hurt when you shoot 20 or so free throws. He had a great game, kudos to him.
You didn’t have spectacular numbers, but you were an instant spark plug off the bench full of aggressiveness and athleticism in limited minutes you saw. Were you able to get adjusted to this role or was it nipping at your ego the three months that you were with the club?
Honestly at first it was very tough but it’s hard to come in with 10 games left in a season to a team who at the moment had the best record in the league and expect to crack the lineup. Instead of complaining I adjusted to my role and embraced it in the minutes I did get. My role here was not really to score but more to rebound and play aggressive defense, I often had to guard the opponents best forwards and I took pride in battling with guys like Mike Glover and Chris Commons, who are high-level veteran players. As far as ego sometimes winning a championship means buying into your role and being part of something greater than yourself.
What was your game able to gain in the NBL a second time around and how valuable was the practice time for your game?
Our team was so talented we were 10 guys deep, all Division 1 guys who have played all over the world so practices were always very competitive. Going up every day against a guy like Akeem Wright who has played in the Spanish ACB is the only way you can get better. In my time here I feel like my knowledge of the game really increased, I was around a lot of veteran guys in their 30s and I just picked their brains every day.
Despite your limited role, how thrilling was it ending the season on a positive note reaching the NBL final and what will you never forget from this short experience?
I can never forget this experience because it was truly a beautiful thing to see 11 guys who went through so much adversity together sacrifice their egos and battle together for 48 minutes every game. By the end of the season our tallest player was 6’7 and Halifax started two 6’10 guys and brought another two off the bench. So just to see how all of us fought this series and won most of the rebounding battles gives me great pleasure. I’ll go to war with any of those guys again, it was a special group.
The NBL has been on the rise for years and continues to get good feedback. You played in the NBL three years ago with the Ottawa SkyHawks. How do you feel has the league developed in this time?
The talent level has risen for sure, now you have guys who have played in some of the Top leagues in Europe or high level division 1 playing in this league. From Guys like Billy White who played with Kawhi Leonard at San Diego State to guys like my teammate Warren Ward who played in the German BBL. Even the Halifax head Coach Hugo Lopez is a former Spanish ACB coach.
Do you feel that there are future NBA players playing in this league? If you had to name some candidates in your mind who would they be?
Most definitely, I could name you a few just on my team even. Stephen Maxwell, Ryan Anderson and Warren Ward or even guys like Dominic Cheek and Kyle Hunt from Orangeville and Halifax.
You were teammates with two Players Garrett Williamson and Warren Ward that also once played in Germany. What do you remember being the most spectacular thing you saw high flyer Warren Ward do in a game or practice?
Warren is more of a shooter, I’ve seen him get really hot in games and practice and knock down 5 or 6 threes in a row. He’s a high level player and he’s still only 26 so you’ll definitely be hearing about him.
What is the next step for Eric Kibi? You obviously had misfortune in Europe, but would you want to return and find a club where you will play more or make a career out in a rising league like Canada?
For next season I would definitely love to get back to Europe and get another chance to rise to a top league. I feel like I have some unfinished business left in Europe. As far as Canada, it’s home so it’s special to play at home especially in London where we had crowds of up to 10,000 people on some nights. The organization in London was top notch, it was very professional our owner Vito Frija really took care of us. It’s something I will look into with my agent this summer and make the best decision possible for my career.
How will a 2016 summer work out day look like for Eric Kibi on and off the basketball court?
I will probably start with an individual skill development session in the morning followed by weights, explosive training and swimming. Then in the evening come back to get more shots up or play some pick up at Carleton with guys like Phil and Tommy Scrubb, Will Manigat and Tyson Hinz.
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore, which 4 NBA legends would you choose?
I would say Jordan, Magic, Hakeem and Lebron.
What was the last movie that you saw?
The last movie I saw was Race. It’s a movie based on the true story of Jesse Owens winning four Olympic gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics during The Adolf Hitler times. Great movie.
Thanks Eric for the chat.