Cory Higgins is a 27 year old 196cm forward from California that is playing his seventh professional season and third with CSKA Moscow (Russia-VTB). He played at Colorado (NCAA) from 2007-2011 playing a total of 132 NCAA games and as a senior he played 38 games averaging 16.1ppg, 3.3rpg, 2.5apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 43.4%, 3PT: 34.0%, FT: 86.6%. He played his first two professional seasons with the Charlotte Bobcats (NBA) playing a total of 45 games and also played with the Erie Bay Hawks(G-League. He came to Europe in 2013 playing with Triumph Lyubertsy (Russia-VTB) playing 22 games: Score-2(20.3ppg), 4.0rpg, 3.5apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 48.9%, 3PT: 37.9%, FT: 85.9%;In the EuroChallenge, he played 15 games: Score-2(17.9ppg), 2.5rpg, 2.4apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 46.5%, 3PT: 46.5%, FT: 80.2%. In the 2014-2015 season he got further European experience with Royal Hali Gaziantep (Turkey-TBL) playing 29 games averaging 16.0ppg, 3.4rpg, 2.6apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 49.6%, 3PT: 38.8%, FT: 78.7%. With CSKA Moscow he won two VTB League titles and the 2016 Euroleague title. He spoke to German Hoops before the Euroleague game against Brose Bamberg in Bamberg.
Cory thanks for talking to German Hoops. Before we start I have to tell you a interesting story. In 1983 I was a kid. I was a big autograpth collector and along with Orlando Woolridge, Quintin Dailey and Reggie Theus I also got the signature of a Mr Rod Higgins. Is this the first time that someone has told you a story of them getting an autograph of your dad?
You aren´t the first that has told me that. When I was growing up in the Bay area, he was very popular there and had fans.
Welcome back to Germany. You have a lifetime 4-1 record against Brose Bamberg? With what kind of feeling are you heading back to Bamberg?
It is always exciting to play in Bamberg. The fans and atmosphere is amazing. As a player you always want to play in an atmosphere like that in Bamberg.
What stories have you heard over the years about the city Bamberg and organization from your teammate Kyle Hines?
He hasn´t told me too much. But the main one is just how passionate the fans are there. They are very knowledgeable fans and appreciate the game.
What do you know in general about the country Germany and it´s basketball? Do you have any friends playing here?
I don´t know too much about the history of German basketball and have no friends playing there at the moment.
What kind of game can we await and what will be key to winning?
We know that it will be a very physical game. Bamberg play great defense and press well. Key for us will be handling their pressure and the environment.
Head coach Dimitris Itoudis has been on board since 2014. Does anything ever change in the team goals besides wanting to win the Euroleague, VTB and cup each seasons? Are there any other teams goals besides that?
Pretty much winning titles with CSKA is the only goals there are. Winning titles is the team motto and that always stays the same.
The club has started off well again leading the VTB and being near the top of the Euroleague standings. How content are you with the start?
We are headed in the right direction. We have many new players and it is taking time to get to full strength with the chemistry. We need to focus more on defense and then we will be great.
The club added many new faces and seem like always very deep at every position. How strong and talented would you rate this years roster in comparison to other years?
I think that the biggest difference this season apposed to other seasons is that we are more balanced this season. In the past we relied on a few playmakers to make our game go. Our team is more spread out this season and we ae better on both sides of the ball.
How would you describe the CSKA Moscow style this season? You have added many dynamic new players and it seems like they have been the right fit?
That is difficult to describe, because it changes from game to game. We are a fast paced team and versatile. When we force the tempo, we are hard to compete with.
Anytime you lose Milos Teodosic it hurts, but you have filled his gap well with ex NBA player and Spanish legend in the making Sergio Rodriguez. What dimension does he give the team that it didn´t have before?
I think that Sergio pushes the pace like Teodosic, but a little different. Sergio plays a bit faster, but they are similar in their playmaking. Sergio brings a different passion of fire. He is more emotional and gets the team going.
Will Clyburn has made to top team CSKA Moscow via Germany, Israel and Turkey where he played already Euroleague last season. How have you seen his development progress in the first few months?
He has been great for us. He can guard almost any position and is a big help on defense while on offense he creates a lot of mismatches.
I see French man Leo Westermann as one of the most interesting new signings. He is only 25 years old, but playing his sixth season of Euroleague with many different teams and has been confronted with many different styles. He still has much development upside in his game. Could he be that added guard punch that the club was missing in the last years from the bench?
He will be great for us when he is back from injury. He was just getting into groove before he got injured. He is a big guard that will be useful posting up and with matchups. He will give us a big boost.
Let´s talk about your game? Your playing your third season with CSKA Moscow. Has that unending hunger from Kyle Hines rubbed off on you? How important is he for the success of this team?
Kyle is very important, because, he brings that championship mentality to the team. It rubs off on me. He never takes a day off and always comes to work. He is invaluable to have on the team and just need him to win championships.
There are few players as professional as Kyle Hines. Where do you rank him with your all-time best teammates?
He is at the top. If I think real hard there might be a couple more with him. He is up there because of his professionalism and intelligence.
You have played with many exceptional point guards in your life, but how often do you get those moments of astonishment when Milos Teodosic has made the seemingly impossible pass once again get too you?
For sure there were some times of astonishment. There were many times where I couldn´t figure out what he saw to make the pass until after he made it. You appreciated having the opportunity to play with him.
You have been a scorer in college as well as in Turkey and Triumph Lyubertsy. What is your role with CSKA Moscow? Are you a type of glue guy or more a guy that does a bit of all on the court?
I think that I am a guy that does a bit of all. I play great defense and give my all at both ends. When you play for a great team like CSKA that has so many great scorers, you need to be able to do a lot more to leave a mark.
How do you feel has your game developed in the last two years with CSKA Moscow? Where in your game has been the biggest satisfaction for you?
I think I have gotten a lot smarter because of having so many great teammates. You always have to make the correct play that is best for the team.
After two seasons in the NBA, you came to Europe and had a huge season with Triumph Lyubertsy (Russia-VTB) playing 22 games: Score-2(20.3ppg), 4.0rpg, 3.5apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 48.9%, 3PT: 37.9%, FT: 85.9%; In the EuroChallenge, you played 15 games: Score-2(17.9ppg), 2.5rpg, 2.4apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 46.5%, 3PT: 46.5%, FT: 80.2%. When you look back now how your career has gone are you surprised that you didn´t land with a Euroleague team in 2014? Do you feel like they might have felt you needed a another season of grooming?
I was surprised that I didn´t land earlier with a Euroleague team. At the time, I didn´t have a good situation with my agency. I wasn´t able to take a bigger step. But either way it was all good, because this way I was able to play for a great coach in Turkey. I wouldn´t change anything.
What was your wake up call to being your first season overseas with Triumph Lyubertsy (Russia-VTB) where you knew that you were very far away from home?
On the court, I thought that I adapted very well. My wake up call off the court was my first grocery store visit.
How refreshing was it having ex NBA player Jawad Williams as a teammate with Royal Hali Gaziantep (Turkey-TBL) He has that friendly smooth swagger. What about his game and personality is still in your mind today?
Jawad was great. He is still one of my good friends today. He provided me with big brother leadership. He showed me how to be a professional and helped my basketball IQ and kept me focused. It was really so easy to play with him because he opened so much up with his good shooting. We had very good chemistry that season.
As a rookie you played with the Charlotte Bobcats (NBA) playing 38 games averaging 3.9ppg. What did you learn to appreciate most about the NBA life on and off the court?
Just how much they spoiled you. In Europe though it is more of an honor to play for an organization.
Is your 22 point effort in 24 minutes against the Atlanta Hawks your favorite personal effort in the NBA?
Yes it was. At the time I was playing for a bad team. That was my big highlight.
In your second season in the NBA with Charlotte your stay was a lot shorter as you played only six games. When you look back on your NBA time, why do you feel did you not get more of a chance with this organization?
It was an unfortunate situation. To be honest I don´t really know why I didn´t get a bigger chance. At the end of the day I knew I had done all I could. I then knew it was time to move on.
You played in the NBA Summer League in 2013 for the last time. Did you learn then fully that the NBA is a business first and everything else is long behind. Did you pretty much close your NBA chapter then?
Yes I closed my NBA chapter then. I noticed the NBA is just a business. Even if you do all you can, it won´t mean you will get that situation you want. I played a good NBA Summer League and had played better than other guys that got signed by NBA teams and had come off a good G-League season. After I didn´t get a contract, I knew I had to try something else.
You played at Colorado(NCAA) from 2007-2011 and played for two coaches Tad Boyle and Jeff Bzedelik. How significant were they for your development there into a professional player?
They were huge especially Jeff Bzedelik who coached me for three years. We had a young team and I was developed into becoming a leader and being a scoring option.
You played a season at Colorado with Andre Roberson who really came on the scene in the NCAA after you left. Did you see his talent and potential when he was a freshman that he would be a #1 NBA Draft pick and be in the NBA?
I noticed his talent right away the first time I saw him in practice. He was difficult to score on and today he is one of the best defenders in the NBA. He is an amazing rebounder.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Alec Burks?
I don´t know how many times we played, but when we did we battled. He was one of the most talented teammates I ever played with. I would ilke to say I hope I won those battles.
Your God father is the one and only Michael Jordan. What has been his most important piece of advice that he has given you?
His confidence in general. I spent a lot of time around him growing up.
What kind of impact did your father Rod have who had a 12 year NBA career?
He had everything to do with my game and the main reason why I am the player I am today. He taught me 80% of what I know today. He is the number one guy who developed my game mentally and physically.
Who was the toughest player that you battled in the NCAA that is in the NBA now?
The toughest guy I played was Sherron Collins who played at Kansas. He was a great guard who had a better college career than in the NBA.
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you chose?
Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, Lebron James.
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?
If Lebron wins one more title then he is legitimate in that discussion. Jordan is still first now.
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?
I don´t see how you could criticize him. He did all he needed to do last season so his team could win. It is amazing that he could do that night in and night out. I am still amazed that that is possible in today´s game.
How do you summarize the 2017 NBA Draft. What sleepers do you see playing a role in the NBA?
Kyle Kuzma. I think that he can be special.
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?
The Golden State Warriors are to good for them to do anything.
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?
That is a big debate. At the time of the trade, it looked like the Cavs had the better deal because of getting more pieces and role players. But now both got a good deal out of it.
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?
Anything is possible when you have three superstars like that. I think that they will be difficult to beat at playoff time. It is a process. They just have to figure things out, because they have three guys that need the ball
What was the last movie that you saw?
Justice League. It wasn´t that good.
Thanks Cory for the chat.