Rashid Mahalbasic is a 27 year old 211cm center that was born in Jesenice (Slovenia), but also has the Austrian citizenship and plays for the Austrian national team and is playing his first season with the EWE Baskets Oldenburg. Mahalbasic started his basketball career in 2006 for the Worthersee Piraten (A Bundesliga) where he played until 2009. In the 2009-2010 season he played for Bosna ASA BH Telecom Sarajevo (Bosnia-D1, starting five): DNP, in Oct.’09 moved back to kelag Worthersee Piraten (Austria-A Bundesliga, starting five): 27 games: 18.4ppg, Reb-2(8.6rpg), 1.1apg, FGP: 54.7%, 3PT: 31.4%, FT: 64.4%. In the 2010-2011 season he played for Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul (Turkey-TBL), in Dec.’10 loaned to Tofas Bursa (Turkey-TBL) playing 10 games averaging 3.7ppg, 3.0rpg, in Mar.’11 signed at KK Split (Croatia-A1) playing 13 games averaging 5.0ppg, 2.3rpg. In the 2011-2012 season he played for Zlatorog Lasko (Slovenia-Telemach League) playing 2 Slovenian League games averaging 4.0ppg, 1.0spg, 1.5bpg; IN the Adriatic League he played 3 games averaging 4.7ppg, 6.7rpg, 1.7apg, 1.0bpg. In the 2012-2013 season he played for Asseco Prokom Gdynia (Poland-TBL) playing 36 games averaging 11.0ppg, 6.8rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 58.0%, FT: 68.7%; In the Euroleague he played 10 games averaging 9.1ppg, Reb-5(6.8rpg), 1.3apg, FGP: 58.2%, FT: 59.1%. In the 2013-2014 season he played for CEZ Basketball Nymburk (Czech Republic-NBL) playing 18 VTB United League games averaging 11.1ppg, 4.9rpg, 2.3apg, FGP: 63.5%, FT: 72.2%. In the NBLleague he played 29 games averaging 10.1ppg, 6.3rpg, 2.0apg, FGP-2(68.8%), 3PT-1(66.7%), FT: 62.2%; In the Eurocup, he played 18 games averaging 11.3ppg, 6.2rpg, 1.4apg, FGP: 60.6%, FT: 69.0%. In the 2014-2015 season he played for BC Astana (Kazakhstan-D1) playing 33 VTB United League: 33 games averaging 14.6ppg, 6.6rpg, 2.2apg, FGP: 61.3%, 3PT: 40.0%, FT: 77.8%. In the EuroChallenge he played 12 games averaging 13.1ppg, 5.7rpg, 1.6apg, FGP: 62.8%, FT: 73.6%; Kazakhstani D1 playing 11 games averaging 8.2ppg, Reb-2(6.5rpg), 2.4apg, Steals-2(2.0spg), FGP: 53.7%, FT: 51.4%. In the 2015-2016 season he played for BC Nizhny Novgorod (Russia-VTB) playing 27 games averaging 12.6ppg, 5.5rpg, 2.4apg, FGP: 58.3%, 3PT: 15.4%, FT: 73.1%; In the Eurocup, he played 20 games averaging 11.2ppg, 5.2rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 61.6%, 3PT: 8.3%, FT: 58.1%. Last season he played with Yesilgiresun Belediye (Turkey-BSL, starting five)playing 9 games averaging 11.2ppg, 5.9rpg, 1.2spg, 2FGP: 71.4%, 3FGP: 33.3%, FT: 78.3%, in Dec.’16 moved to Betis Energia Plus Sevilla (Spain-ACB) playing 22 games averaging 10.1ppg, Reb-4(6.6rpg), 1.8apg, FGP: 57.5%, FT: 71.2%. He spoke to German Hoops the day after the brutal 90-49 loss against Germany in a 2019 World Cup qualifying game.
Rasid thanks for talking to German Hoops-. Normally this week you would be preparing for a Basketball Champions League game with the EWE Baskets Oldenburg, but instead are with the Austrian national team preparing for 2019 World Cup qualifying games against Serbia and Germany. What is your general opinion about having the qualifying games during the regular season?
At first I thought it would be an advantage not seeing the best players playing, but I was wrong. We showed that we were one of the worst teams. We weren´t prepared. We simply don´t have the quality of players to prepare for three days and then be ready.
Before we talk about the national team let´s briefly talk about your current season with the EWE Baskets Oldenburg. The club is 6-4 in the BBL and 4-2 in the Basketball Champions League. How content have you been with the start of the club?
I am very happy how we have started this season. There were some games though that we gave away. I think that we have a lot of potential to get better and we can be a very good team when all is said and done. It is still to early to say as there are 10 teams very close to each other in the BBL, but you can see a certain direction in the Basketball champions League. We are on a good way there. Now it will be interesting to see how the break effects the players. We will be traveling a lot in December and there will be many important games. If we aren´t focused then we could be moving in a wrong direction.
From my view the club is more talented and deeper than last season and made the upgrade with you and Mickey Mcconnell for Brian Qvale and Chris Kramer. How much potential does the team have to win at least one title and on what things does the club still need to work on?
If Mickey and I are an upgrade I don´t know. Qvale and Kramer are very good players and showed they could play well with Oldenburg and now have moved to good teams. We have many new faces and a lot has to fit right in order to win a title. If you look back on last season Oldenburg didn´t have best season, but peaked in the playoffs while Ulm had a great season and lost too early in the playoffs. We need to have a pulse of 120-180 and get better and peak in the playoffs.
You have played with many great teams and players in your career and this season playing with the living legend Rickey Paulding, playing with pure scorer Bryon Allen and top point guard Mickey Mcconnell. Is this some of the best talent that you have played with at the club competition?
Oldenburg is in my top three teams with the best talent that I have ever played with. It is always easier for a player when he has very good teammates. When a game is close and I am doubled then I always have many options because we have many very good three point shooters. Eight of 12 players arev shooting 35% or better. We score very many points and can get 100 points with ease which isn´t typical in European basketball. I have a very good relationship with guys like Phiillipp Schwethelm and Maxi De Zeeuw. This season has been a lot better than in previous seasons.
What has it been playing together with Rickey Paulding? He is one of the identity figures not only of the EWE Baskets Oldenburg, but also of the entire BBL. What has impressed you most about Rickey Paulding?
His calmness. He never demands or commands something on the court. He is a leader and never makes any stress. He is an unbelievable professional and everyone follows him. The EWE Baskets Oldenburg wouldn´t be where they are now without him. He is irreplaceable.
Do you feel a lot of pressure having to fill the shoes of the departed Brian Qvale? You have put very strong stats and doing a little bit of everything on the court at the big man position. Do you feel like you will continue to raise your game as the season progresses?
I always feel that I can play better. It is hard to say if I will be able to raise my game more. I think that my game can only get worse. I will continue to try to play my best in every game. Teams also know me better now so I will have to change my game a bit more. My mid range and three pointer will become more of an option now. I will continue to work hard on my shot in practice.
Now let´s talk about the Austrian national team. Austria is in a very interesting group with Germany, Serbia and Georgia. How do you rate this group? What will be key to advancing to the 2019 World Cup?
It was very disappointing losing to Germany. We didn´t await to get blown away so badly against Germany. We have a chance against Georgia. We didn´t play our best basketball against Serbia and Germany. There is still some time before the next qualifying games in February. The question now is how well will the players develop within their teams and how well they continue to play. I am a real Austrian and won´t end with this disgrace against Germany.
Austria continues to bring many of the veterans with Thomas Schreiner, Enis Murati and yourself along with many other players that continue to develop like Moritz Lanegger and Thomas Klepeisz. Even if it is without NBA player Jakob Poeiti, it has most of it´s team intact. Is the team chemistry one of the team´s biggest strengths?
We have good team chemistry. We know each other so well and then we lose like that to Germany. We played so well against Germany in the past and then lose so badly against Germany. Germany played with mostly bench players while their only real scorer Robin Benzing wasn´t even needed much against us. It´s very disappointing.
Thomas Schreiner, Enis Murati and you are the heart and soul of the team. Do you feel like the three of you understand the urgency now of qualifying more than other years simply that it could be your last big tournament in the Austrian dress?
I took the loss to Germany very hard. It wasn´t the loss so much, but how we lost. We have been developing well as a country and then come and play Germany and lose so badly at home was difficult. We had never experienced something like that before. I have worked hard the last 3-4 months trying to make a name in Germany and then lose to mostly bench players by 41 points. How do you think I feel? It´s unbelievable.
I have bold enough to call you and Thomas Schreiner the two best Austrian players in the last 10 years. What kind of special relationship do you have on and off the court and despite playing different positions who deserves the crown as best Austrian in the last 10 years?
I have a good relationship to Thomas. We know each other since so long. It Is hard to say who is the best player.
There are many interesting young players and one is Marvin Ogunsipe who plays in Germany for FC Bayern 2 and also has a license with the BBL team. How raw is he and where do you see his basketball journey going in the next years?
Marvin is big, athletic and can shoot. There is a reason why FC Bayern Munich signed him. We will see in the next 1-2 years where his journey will. He has the potential to be a dominating BBL player. It will be interesting to see if he will get a chance in the BBL with FC Bayern Munich being that young German players don´t see many minutes there. It also will be interesting to see how he deals with pressure, but I see a very rosy future with him.
Is your role pretty much the same as it always is which is too score a lot and rebound a lot or has something been added to it?
My role never changes with the Austrian national team. I try to control everything on the court for the team and see that everyone has something from it. I have to admit that my game works better with Oldenburg than with the national team at the moment.
You have always led the Austrian team in scoring and belonged to the top players in the competition. In our last interview you stated that “I do feel a little pressure, I know that if I score 20 points and we don´t win that I didn´t do my job. The pressure keep building each time you put up great numbers in a qualification?
I always try to give my best for the national team and get the most success possible. I think having more success with the national team would give me a little push to make the next step in my career to possibly a Euroleague team. It would look better in my resume if it read participant at the 2019 World Cup for Austria than losing by 41 points to Germany.
What has been your impression of German basketball? It has the most Germans ever in the NBA and many Euroleague players. Is Germany at it´s all-time best at the moment?
The BBL has developed well. I think that the German players are underrated. There are many good players around the league. Look at Karsten Tadda. He is a very good player and only gets a few minutes. Andreas Obst and Bastian Doreth are the only guys getting good minutes besides a Robin Benzing or Danilo Barthel. It seems like the guys that go to the NBA always get better and guys that stay in the BBL don´t. Frankfurt does a very good job with their youth program.
Austria came out to a quick 4-0 lead and then gave up a 16-0 run and never recovered. Did you guys get out of bed quickly and then return back after leading 4-0?
There wasn´t much to say to last night´s game. We had 3-4 plays that Germany scouted well and always knew what we were doing. We couldn´t find a way to adjust and they scored many easy points.
What was your impression of Isaiah Hartenstein? He scored eight points and hauled down 5 rebounds in 13 minutes, but also fouled out. Can he develop into a NBA player?
I have no idea. He was very athletic. Tim Ohlbrecht was very focused and made it to the NBA. If Hartenstein has the will then he could. If Ohlbrecht can make it so can Hartenstein.
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you chose?
Shaq, Lebron James, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson
Lebron James failed to win his fourth NBA title and is still three away from Michael Jordan. Where does Lebron stand right now in your opinion in the never ending debate of who is the best of all-time?
Lebron is the better business man. Jordan played in an era when the game was real. Now it´s all show. You can´t compare the two, because they played in different era´s. Jordan played in an era where there was more heart in the game.
There has been criticism of Russell Westbrook to be focusing more on rebounding to help inflate his stats and possibilities of getting triple doubles instead of focusing on his defensive assignments. Do you feel that this is a fair assessment to the player Russell Westbrook?
Maybe he was stacking his stats last season, but this season we will see him doing all for his team to win. He will be better than last season and so will the team.
How do you summarize the 2017 NBA Draft. What sleepers do you see playing a role in the NBA?
I didn´t see it.
Where will the journey of the Houston Rockets go this season with Chris Paul and James Harden in the back court. Do they have enough to make a serious run at the title or is something missing?
No chance. They might win a few playoff games.
How do you rate the Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas trade? Who got the better deal and which team will profit better in the long run?
The Celtics got the better deal as Irving will do more than Thomas will.
Where will the journey of the Oklahoma Thunder go this season with Westbrook, George and Anthony? Can they make a serious run in the west?
They might have just lost to Sacramento, but they will be present in the playoffs, but won´t get past the Golden State Warriors.
What was the last movie that you saw?
The series Lucifer.
Thanks Rashid for the chat.