Elmedin Kikanovic is a 29 year old 211cm center from Bosnia playing his first season with AS Monaco Basket (France-ProA). He played the last 2 years with Alba Berlin and last season played 36 BBL games averaging 15.5ppg, 4.5rpg, 1.5apg, FGP: 56.1%, FT: 78.1%; In the Eurocup, he played 13 games: Score-2(19.6ppg), 3.8rpg, 1.0apg, FGP: 58.4%, 3PT: 50.0%, FT: 78.8%. Previously he played four years with Enisey Krasnoyarsk (Russia-PBL) and three seasons with KK Crvena Zvezda Beograd (Serbia-A League). He won the 2016 BBL cup with Alba Berlin and played at the 2011, 2013 and 2015 European championships with Bosnia. He spoke to German Hoops after the Basketball Champions League win in Oldenburg.
Elmedin thanks for talking to German Hoops. Welcome back to Germany. With Alba Berlin you never won in Oldenburg. With what kind of feelings did you return back to Oldenburg?
Oldenburg is known as having sa trong home court with great fans and it is always hard to play there. We are having a great season so far and we prepared well and I think our win is well deserved. Oldenburg is a tough team especially on their home court. They have great shooters and play very aggressive defense. In the Bundesliga it is even harder to play them than in the Champions league because their gym is sold out and you know that 6000 fans will be against you.
You beat the EWE Baskets Oldenburg in Monaco and returned back to Oldenburg with an undefeated Basketball Champions League record. Congrats on a hard fought 84-78 win. The game was back and forth in the second half, but what was key for taking command of game in fourth quarter and winning the game?
Thank you. Key was our great energy and aggressive defense. All the teams have special motivation against us because they want to stop our winning series but we don’t want to stop. We were missing Craft and Sy but we found additional energy to win this game.
You played against Rickey Paulding the last years and he hit you for 23 points. It seems like every player can tell some kind of story about him. How did you get to learn about Paulding the player? He will retire from the BBL as one of it´s absolute legends?
He is an absolute legend playing ten years for Oldenburg. He showed a million times what kind of player he is. At the age of 35 he looks like a youngster playing with so much energy putting so much effort pushing Oldenburg in key moments. He is a great leader and I don’t think he will retire soon. Watching him now he could play a couple of years on this level. Big respect for him.
You are playing your first season for AS Monaco Basket (France-ProA) after playing the last two years with Alba Berlin. Alba Berlin has a lot of tradition, but explain what it´s like playing for AS Monaco Basket (France-ProA). Even though the team is only in it´s third Pro A season does the fact that it´s home is in Monaco and Monte Carlo make it feel a lot different than you would if you played for another team in France?
Monaco made great success in a very short time. When our president Sergey Dyadechko took over the team they were in the third division I think after three years you see where Monaco is. In the last two seasons they won the regular season twice, they won Leaders cup twice and in their first Champions league season they reached the final four. A great success and I hope this season will be also successful for us. Monaco is a great place to live and to play basketball. Living there is a privilege and playing for a great organization like Monaco basket is an honor.
What is life like in Monte Caro? Is it at times difficult to always concentrate on basketball? Have you met Prince Albert yet?
Prince Albert comes t to our games. I still didn’t meet him. The weather is great here, a lot of sunny days. But we are all professionals and we know how to focus on our job. We are trying to find new energy and new motivation with this beautiful weather. It is easier to go to practice when there is no rain, We are trying to use all benefits of Monaco in a good way.
The club is having a great season in the France Pro A and in the Basketball Champions League. Usually a good record can be credited to team chemistry and continuity, but the club hauled in 7 new players. How much of the success can be credited to head coach Zvezdan Mitrovic?
Coach had a tough job and he did it great together with his assistants. Comparing last season there are only 3 players from that team(Gladyr,Sy and Fofana who is injured).We did a good preseason and we built chemistry very fast. All the players were working very hard to accept a new system and so far it’s going great for us. Coach has big experience in France and knows the league. The players and our coaching staff does a great job in game preparation. We have a group of good guys with a high basketball IQ and we are all trying to help the team as much as possible.
AS Monaco Basket (France-ProA) is top 2 in scoring in both competitions and top 5 in points allowed. Does the discipline show that this team is on it´s way to being a potential title team?
Everything starts from our defense, I would say that we are trying to follow the game plan and put a lot of defensive effort in order to get some easy points after good defense. It’s too early to talk about titles, The most important games are still in front of us, but I can say we are on a good way. We must continue to work hard and I hope we will all be healthy and available for the most important part of the season.
The guard rotation of Gerald Robinson and Aaron Craft is strong, but talk about the acquisition of DJ Cooper? He is more the genuine playmaker opposed to scorer.
We have different guys at the guard position and all of them bring their qualities to the team in the right way. Coop is a great player, great point guard and one of the best passers in Europe for sure. We played together in Krasnoyarsk. He was the best passer of the VTB league, and after that he was MVP of Pro A. I played with Gerald with Alba. He is a great scorer and brings a lot of energy to the team. He can change the rhythm of the game. Aaron was the best defender of the NBDL and he led Trento to the finals of the Italian championship, He is a great guy that is always giving 100% in order to help the team.
You played with DJ Cooper three years ago with Enisey Krasnoyarsk (Russia-VTB). I always thought he had an NBA game. Do you feel like he never got a real chance from NBA teams?
He could play NBA for sure and I think it´s still not too late for him. He is 27 and he has gained a lot international experience and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a chance to play in the NBA.
Let´s talk about your game? This season your getting just a little less minutes than with Alba Berlin, but your just as consistent. How would you classify your role this season with AS Monaco?
Normally I don’t like to talk about myself. But if you insist I will say a few words. I like playing for Monaco and I like our system. We have a lot of pick and roll options. I already played together with Cooper and Robinson so we know each other very well. I’m trying to help the team in both ways offensively and defensively using my size and skills.
You are a big man that can score and rebound and have a very good basketball IQ. To what NBA player could you say resembles your play most?
When I was young I enjoyed watching Tim Duncan and Paul Gasol and I was trying to steal some of their moves. I like those types of big men who can run the floor attack from the low post, face up, use IQ, and smartness in order to make the best decisions on the court.
What do you feel is a hidden strength in your game that still doesn´t get noticed right away on the court?
I’m trying to show all my strengths and hide my weaknesses.
You are a guy that has always put up consistent stats and played in Serbia, Russia and Germany. Do you feel this season with a title and consistent stats, you could become a Euroleague player still in your 30´s?
My job is to perform and give my best with every practice and every game. Euroleague is a big challenge and probably a goal of many players. Of course on a daily basis I’m focused on good practices and playing good games, This is how it should be. I don’t go too far thinking what will happen in the future.
Last season was a season to forget with Alba Berlin. Many put the blame on young head coach Ahmet Caki. Do you feel like that is an unfair assessment?
When something goes wrong everybody will put the finger on the coach first. He can´t be the only one who is guilty. All of us were responsible because we did not achieve the goals(players,coaching staff and managment). We had a lot of ups and downs during the season and a lot of injuries. A key moment was the injury of Peyton Siva our starting point guard. We were without him for three months and we couldn’t find our rhythm.
In your first season with Alba Berlin you were rudely kicked out by the Fraport Skyliners in the playoffs, but the season was saved with the Cup win in Munich. What memories do you have of that weekend especially with the two Jordan´s battling in the semi-finals?
That was a great experience. An amazing weekend in Munich and cup title. We were underdogs. Everybody expected Bamberg or Munich to win the cup. In the end we showed big character beating Munich in their house in the finals.
You have played for many coaches, but where does Sasa Obradovic rank with your all-time best? Was there ever a moment where you really hated him? He can be a very hard coach or does a Balkan player have a little more plus points when times are tough?
Sasha is great coach and I am very happy that I worked with him. He is tough and his expectations are very high and you must be focused 100% when you play for him. As a player you must understand that everything he does, everything he says to you is in order to get the best from every player. He can be nervous, he can scream, but at the end of day that is the coaching job. He is a great professional, very dedicated to his job, pays attention to millions of details. I learned a lot from him.
Kresimir Loncar is one of the more physical players in the BBL. Did you learn any added tricks in the paint with his presence on the court?
Kreso is great guy with great experience. He played in Russia for years and had a great career. From those type of guys there is always something to learn. Practicing and playing with him one season really helped my development.
You played four years with Enisey Krasnoyarsk (Russia-PBL) from 2011-2015. You came into your own in your second season. Do you ever wonder if you might be an Euroleague player had you left earlier say after two years?
I don’t like to analyze my career in that way. What would happen if. I never regret my decisions. I played four years in Krasnoyarsk because Enisey is a serious club with a good budget and ambitions and I was playing in one of the strongest competitions in Europe such as the VTB league. It was big challenge for me. The VTB league at that time was much stronger than now. There were Lithuanian teams like Rytas and Zalgiris,Ukrainian teams like Azovmash and Donetsk,Czech champion Nymburk. Even Russian teams had much bigger budgets and stronger rosters(Nizny,Samara,Krasny October,Enisey),Astana also had bigger budgets .And of course you had top teams like now:Cska,Khimki,Unics,Loko, and Zenit.It was very strong competition.
The travel is very tough when you play for Enisey Krasnoyarsk (Russia-PBL). What was the worst road trip that you encountered in that time that you will never forget?
That’s true long travel and changing time zones was very tough. Probably the trips to Usak(Turkey) was one of the toughest. It was a 23 hour trip with all stops 3 flights(Krasnoyarsk-Moscow-Istanbul-Izmir)and 3 hours bus ride in the end. Somehow we won that game.
The date was March 17th, 2015 and you were leading 44-25 at halftime in a do or die Eurochallenge game with Enisey thanks to 31 second quarter points. However the Fraport Skyliners came back winning 85-80 having one of their greatest comebacks in club history. What memories do you have of this game? Did the team already think it had the win at the break?
Yes that was a tough loss. We should of won that game We were not relaxed, but we lost our energy. Frankfurt made some tough shots, forced our turnovers and we lost the game. We had plus 15 in first game in Frankfurt and plus 20 in second and decisive game. We missed a big chance.
You had 21 points and German national player Johannes Voigtmann had 26 points. He is a second year Euroleague player. What is missing for him to be an NBA player?
Jo is a great player. He has great size and runs great. He is very mobile, a great passer, and can shoot threes. For the NBA he should probably add more toughness and work on his body more.
KK Crvena Zvezda Beograd was the first known team you played with from 2007-2010. You played for 3 different coaches in that time including Alba Berlin legend Svetislav Pesic. How important were these three years in your early basketball development?
It was a very important period for me. I was a young player and I needed playing time to develop. I got that at Red Star. We played strong competitions like Adriatic league, Eurocup, and I really enjoyed it. Belgrade.Red Star has great fans, the best in Europe. I had luck to work with great coaches like Stevan Karadzic,who brought me to the team, Svetislav Pesic, Aco Petrovic and Aleksandar Trifunovic. They all helped me to develop.
Are you surprised that your ex teammate Omar Cook is still playing? He is turning 36 soon and playing for Estudiantes, Madrid. What memories do you have of him from your 2007-2008 season with KK Crvena Zvezda Beograd?
Omar is great professional. He takes care of his body. He is feeling ok and still playing good. I’m happy for him. He is one of the best passers who played in Europe. I was very young and it was very simple to play with him at that time for me. I improved a lot my pick and roll game playing with him. He had a great season with Red Star probably the best in his career.
You also played two seasons with Nemanja Bjelica who made it to the NBA and is playing with the Minnesota Timberwolves. What do you remember from your battles in practice and did you know he would reach the NBA one day?
Nemanja was really talented and he was a hard worker. I remember him when he came to Red Star from Austrian team Arkadia. Coach was Svetislav Pesic and Nemanja was playing point guard. Imagine a guy who is 209cm playing point guard. But he was extremely talented with great ball control, court vision, and long arms. In that time he played all positions from 1 to 4. We knew he would have a big career. He was working hard, especially on his body and I’m very happy for him. His success is well deserved.
You have played at three European championships with Bosnia. What memories do you have of them and is it just an influx of missing talent that is missing for Bosnia to be as successful as a Serbia or Lithuania?
We missed our chances and we didn’t advance to the second stage in all three Eurobaskest I played. We were very close in Slovenia. We had 3 wins but in the end we were out on point difference. We beat Lithuania who won the silver medal. Serbia and Lithuania are in front of us because they invest a lot in basketball. We don’t have strong teams like they do(Zalgiris Rytas,Red Star,Partizan). We have only one solid team in the Adriatic league. The financial situation in our country is ba., We don’t invest in our sport, and our youth selections don’t have good conditions to develop their talent. We are a small country and there is a lot of talented guys. Looking through history we had some great players. I hope the situation will be better in Bosnian basketball and the Bosnian sport generally.
Who was the toughest player that you battled in Europe that is in the NBA right now?
Nikola Pekovic. He is retired, but still was playing in the NBA for years.
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you chose?
Michael Jordan,Kobe Bryant,Lebron James,Shaq O’Neil.
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 James is great competitor and he is still able to win titles. But for me at the moment Michael Jordan is number 1. Kobe and Lebron are behind him.
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?
What Russell Westbrook is doing is absolutely amazing. You must respect that coming out almost every second night and making triple doubles is unique.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Thanks Elmedin for the chat