Eric Kibi is a 27 year old 198cm forward from Ontario, Canada that is playing his sixth professional season and first with C.B. Torrons Vicens L’Hospitalet (Spain-LEB Silver). Last season he played with Randers Cimbria Basketball (Denmark-Ligaen) playing 31 games averaging 10.5ppg, 5.5rpg, 1.0apg, FGP: 45.6%, 3PT: 27.8%, FT: 70.2%. Two seasons ago h eplayed in Germany with the Hertener Loewen Basketball (Germany-ProB) playing 3 games averaging 4.7ppg, 8.0rpg, 1.3apg, 1.3spg, left in Oct.’15, in Jan.’16 moved to KK Strsljen Gusinje (Montenegro-Erste Liga) playing 4 games averaging 3.8ppg, 5.5rpg, in Mar.’16 signed at London Lightning (Canada-NBL Canada) playing 23 games averaging 1.7ppg, 2.5rpg. He also played with Basketball Club Rendsburg (Germany-Regionalliga), Ottawa SkyHawks (NBL Canada) and BG Halstenbek/Pinneberg (Germany-Regionalliga). 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%. He spoke to German Hoops about his season in Spain.
Eric thanks for talking to German Hoops. Since the last time we spoke eight months ago you have had an exciting time playing with the Congolese national team and now are in Spain. How good is basketball life for you at the moment?
It’s definitely been a blessing these last few months, opportunities like this to represent a whole nation don’t come too often.
Before we talk about your newest and current challenge in Spain let´s talk about last summer and you playing with the Congolese national team at the Afrobasket Championships. What kind of experience was this for you and what did you appreciate most about having this opportunity?
It really was one of the most unique experiences I have ever been a part of. Being a kid born in Canada with parents from Congo I had never imagined that basketball would be the thing that allows me to return home to see my roots and origin. Also just like I said representing a nation of 80 million people with all the support was just amazing, I still get chills thinking about it.
The club went 2-2 and didn´t have the NBA players. Do you believe that this played a big role in how the team did?
Honestly we are proud of those Congolese guys who represent us In The NBA But We went through most of training camp without Bismack Biyombo(Orlando Magic) and Emmanuel Mudiay (New York Knicks). They still came into practice a few times to support us and encourage us but I think their NBA insurance was an issue. So all of training camp we knew we were going to the AfroBasket as underdogs, we were picked to finish 15th out of the 16 teams and the fact that we reached the quarter finals and defeated the defending champions Nigeria was a huge step in the right direction for basketball in our country I’m proud of what we achieved NBA guys or not.
You played four games averaging 4,4ppg and 3,5rpg in 10 minutes per game. You started one game and came from the bench in three games. How content were you with your play?
I was happy with my defense. I was asked to guard the best perimeter player most games and I think I responded well. Offensively I think I could have done much better but I think as the tournament went on I didn’t force the issue and just tried to be the star of my defensive role on the team. Going forward I now know what it takes to be successful at the international level and I look forward to my next opportunity with my national team in June.
How did you see your own development during your time with the Congolese national team? What strides were you able to make during the summer?
I think my confidence improved a lot because of the high level intensity of our practices. Everyday our guys competed in practice. I mean 5 of the guys on our team are all playing high level basketball in Spain as well so just that hunger from everyone helped me improve this summer.
When looking at the competition during the Afrobasket Championships how do you see the state of African basketball at the moment? What are some strengths and what things still need to get better with basketball in Africa?
There was so much talent at the tournament the best guys I saw were two NBA guys in Gorgui dieng and Ike Diogu, they both had great tournaments. I can also say that the next generation coming up was phenomenal as well, personally I had to guard Ike Iroegbu full court for 25 minutes against Nigeria. He’s Nigeria’s 22 year old point guard who l think is one of the best young prospects in Africa, he was in training camp with the Clippers. As far things to improve first in foremost in Congo we need a stadium. We don´t have an indoor stadium in our country which is sad but makes guys even hungrier. As far as Africa as a whole I think guys just need opportunities, there’s so much talent amongst that poverty in Africa, guys just need a chance.
You have started a new adventure with C.B. Torrons Vicens L’Hospitalet (Spain-LEB Silver). How did this transfer come about and was it the best offer you had over the summer?
It was something that came up while I was in Congo actually. I had some other offers in other countries but I really connected with the staff. It was also Serge Ibakas old team so I got to speak to him a little bit about it and I felt more comfortable about it.
The team started off slow with two loses and now have a 12-8 record and are in sixth place. Where do you see the journey of this team going in the stretch run?
We had a good first half of the season and finished the first round in 3rd position. Unfortunately these last 4 or 5 games we’ve been hit with injuries to some key guys. We are still in a good position heading into our playoff push and we just have to recover our old form.
You have a talented rookie in Devin Schmidt as well as talented players from Spain and from Mexico, Georgia and Cameron. Last season the club finished in 13th place. What has been the secret of the success?
Yes Devin is definitely a young killer as I always call him. He’s a young guy who led NCAA D2 in scoring his last two years. Our other guys are very talented as well, I think we have the best 5 man duo in the league with Shota(Georgia) and Johan(Cameroon). Overall we are a team that goes 10 deep, even with our Spanish guys like Epi and Ivan those are veterans who have High level ACB experience with FC Barcelona and Valencia so I try to learn from them everyday. They have been our main engine as to why we’ve been much better than last seasons 13th position so far.
You have seen many styles in Germany with the Pro B and Regionaliga as well as Denmark, Montenegro and Canada. Where would you rate the Spanish Leb Silver in talent and difficulty in comparison to the other places where you have played?
I really compare the level in this league to Pro A Germany but it’s much more tactical. The Spanish are really students of the game and small details are very important. I’ve definitely have found myself needing to step up my IQ level of the game here, this will help me a lot going forward.
Currently your averaging 5ppg and 3,2rpg in 14 minutes similar to what you saw with the Congolese national team. You have been averaging these stats and minutes the whole season. What exactly is your role?
I came in late to the squad because of the Afrobasket, so I didn’t have a training camp with my team. I got here one week before the first season game so the first half of the season was difficult to adjust and find my role but at the same time we were winning. I’ve been told Spain is always difficult for Americans at first because of the tactical aspect of the game so once I figured that out I’ve been better . Since the start of 2018 I’ve been playing much better and averaging double figures and fitting better into on the Spanish system. I can say I’ve finally hit a nice stride and I think this will carry on into the end of the season and hopefully into a long playoff run.
How important is being efficient for you? Your playing less minutes and need to do as much as possible. How challenging is this role for you and do you see your decision making having improved?
It can be very challenging at times. Spain is very different than other countries I’ve played in. They are big on efficiency, no guy is playing 30 minutes every night so the minutes you do get you got to give everything you have but in a controlled and smart effort. This has helped me become more efficient and make smarter decisions because all my decisions are magnified.
You are 27 years old now. What steps do you want to make in your basketball career this season with C.B. Torrons Vicens L’Hospitalet (Spain-LEB Silver)?
Every season the goal is a championship. This is now my 6th year and I haven’t won one yet. I’ve gotten to a final but lost in game 7 so my goal is to win a championship here first and foremost. After that of course I want to improve everyday as a basketball player so I can reach my individual goals. Being in this environment has made me even hungrier to reach the highest levels such as ACB so every day and every week I’m trying to win the week and get a little better every day.
You saw your first FC Barcelona football game recently. Have you met Lionel Messi yet or do those privileges only stand with FC Barcelona?
Yes I’ve been to a Barcelona game, we were right up close to Messi it was incredible to see his talent in person, he’s definitely a legend. I’m still a Christiano Ronaldo guy and he’s always been my favourite soccer player but Messi has grown on me in these last 6 months in Barcelona. I haven’t met him in person but I’ve interacted with some of the African guys like Dembele on the team.
How cool is it living in Barcelona? I can imagine this is the most amazing place you have ever played in?
Man, Barcelona is the best city I’ve played in so far for sure. It’s so beautiful and There’s so much to see and every day I’m learning something new about the city or the Spanish culture. There’s so much diversity here and different types of people from all over the world I’ve definitely fallen in love with this city.
How did you experience the wild trading day of the Cavs last week. What is your take on what they did and where they want to go?
I was with my teammate Devin and we were following all the trades via twitter and we were in shock just like everyone else. I think the trades definitely helped them get younger and more athletic it should really help them. My problem is I’m a huge Toronto Raptors fan but also a huge Lebron fan so I have a big dilemma. I’m sorry to say that this year is our year to go to the finals in Toronto.
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?
I always said from the beginning the Celtics destroyed the Cavs in that trade and obviously this was confirmed when Thomas was traded after 15 games.
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 have an interesting team but the west is tough. I’m curious to see how that core group will react in the playoffs it should be an exciting playoffs in the west.
What was the last movie that you saw?
London has fallen.
Thanks Eric for the chat.