Martin Zeno is a 33 year old 193cm forward from Sulphur, Louisiana playing his 11th professional season and first with Alba Fehervar (Hungary-A Division). He has found a lot of experience having played in countries like Cyprus, Venezuela, Finland, France, and Romania. He played for legendary coach Bobby Knight at Texas Tech. He spoke to germanhoops.com before a Fiba Europe Cup game in Bonn.
Martin thanks for talking to germanhoops.com Welcome to Germany. Is this your first time in Germany and what do you know in general about the country and it´s basketball?
I haven’t played in Germany but I have friends and heard good things about the league. Plus I visited a few times too.
Your in your 11th professional season and not until the last two seasons had your first experience with international club play. Do you appreciate being able to play Fiba Europe Cup games a bit more as you get older?
Well I’ve played in the VTB league few years also Champions league then finally Fiba Europe Cup so I have some years with international play. I can say it has been a grind and challenge playing in those leagues because of the talent and travel.
You have spent most of your professional career and had your most success in Finland and Romania. What kind of experience has it been this season playing with Alba Fehervar (Hungary-A Division)?
It’s been a different path this season because I was bought in to help the younger players and help to turn around the season so that’s been my focus since I have been here.
Alba Fehervar (Hungary-A Division) won the double in 2017 in Hungary, but have struggled this season in Hungary and in the Fiba Europe Cup. How tough has this season been for you being a player that has 5 titles on his resume?
In league play we have struggled but I think we have a good team here. We had some coaches changes so we are working to head in the right path now. In Fiba we in the final 16 teams so we been doing alright in there.
How tough is it to swallow the fact that Alba Fehervar (Hungary-A Division) belong to the best defensive teams in the Hungary A-Division, but are struggling in the standings?
Its very hard to swallow that because we all want to win so bad but we as players just have to get out there and get it done. We are right there but just have to compete and finish.
In the Fiba Europe Cup Alba Fehervar (Hungary-A Division) now meet the Telekom Baskets Bonn. The German team are the slight favorite on paper. What kind of game can we await and what will be key to getting the win?
We know it’s going to be hard fought game but we just have focus and stick with our game plan. We know they have a lot of talent and are well coached.
Let´s talk about your teammates. How key was the pick up of Spanish player Carlos Cabezas who has won just about everything with team Spain. Will his added leadership give the team an extra spark in the stretch run?
The experience and knowledge of the game has helped with our team. It’s been a pleasure to have a player like that.
How much of a pleasure has it been playing with American Allerik Freeman? The ex North Carolina State guard has needed no adjustment period as a rookie and come into his own. What have you really appreciated most about his game?
The way he is always on attack mode and his ability to get to the rim and finish with contact. Plus he can shoot it a high percent from the three.
Let´s talk about your game. You have been a scorer your whole life. Could one say that scoring has always been in your blood?
Well I can say I could score it but I cherish having been able to do other things too in order to help my teams I have played on.
You will be turning 34 this year. How would you describe Martin Zeno today in comparison to when you played in Finland from 2011-2013?
I’m not as athletic as I once was. I can still get to my spots that I like. I can see my knowledge for the game I use it more now than when I was athletic.
Every player that is in his thirties has their own routine when it comes to how they keep staying motivated and keep improving their game. What have you been doing the most in the last few years to keep your game growing as you grow older?
I can say more improvement on the little things in my game which has helped it grow. Plus working to get to certain spots that I know I’m going to get too.
You had a three year break between winning your last two titles in Finland and winning your last two in Romania. What kind of feeling was it for you winning two titles in your 30´s?
I cherish every title because they are hard to get and I have been be blessed to have 5.
How unique were winning the 2016 and 2018 Romanian titles for you? For both runs you came in mid season. Could one say that you made a special difference in the club getting the titles each time?
In 2016 I did come in the middle of the season after I left Finland but it was great feeling to be the missing piece for a team that won the title. In 2018 I was there the whole season but I had an injury and came back right when the team needed me so that also was a great feeling.
Did you build a special bond with guys like Sean Denison and William Franklin in Romania who both made their mark early in their professional career in Germany and then went on to have success in other parts of the world.
Yes, I have a great bond with them still. I talk and communicate still today with them. Some great teammates.
In Finland you were teammates with Oklahoma native Jacob Burtschi. What did you appreciate most about him when separating character and his playing abilities?
Jacob was very cool. He was very smart and knowledgeable that could shoot it.
You played a season with Denain ASC Voltaire (France-ProB) playing 40 games averaging 12.9ppg, 3.8rpg, 1.9apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 50.3%, 3PT: 24.2%, FT: 77.4%. What kind of experience was it playing in France and seeing a different culture and basketball?
That’s the one season I wish I could repeat because we had a great team that just never came together. It was a season that I have learned from a lot. It was great to play in France.
You played with Nilan Bisons Loimaa (Finland-Korisliiga) from 2011-2013 winning two titles and being second and first in league scoring. How much fun was this time early in your career?
It was great years because we were winning a lot plus I had some great teammates. They pushed me to go out there and play the way I did.
How vital were character guys Jeb Ivey and Kimmo Muurinen for securing that second title? Both guys are players any coach would die to have on their side.
I have great bond with Jeb still. We talk often and are checking on each other. But having both was key to our success that year because of their knowledge.
After being a rookie in Cyprus and playing in the D-League in your second season, you fell off the radar a bit in your third professional season playing in the ABA. How tough was this season for you and did you ever lose faith in the process?
I had to switch agents so we know how that goes so I had to get things back together but I never played in the ABA. I never lost faith but I know what I can do but it was just getting the right opportunity to show it.
You had a short stint with the Erie Bay Hawks (D-League). What memories do you have of the D-League then and how do you feel would you have developed had you arrived in the G-League in 2019 for the first time?
Well it was a learned lesson there too. I learned the business of the basketball playing in the D-League. You can see that G-League is different now because the way the game is played.
As a rookie you played with Seastar Apoel Nicosia (Cyprus-Division). What kind of experience was that for you and what was your wake up call to being in Europe where you knew that you were very far away from home?
The wake up call there was seeing things that I had never seen and still haven’t until this day.
You played at Texas Tech(NCAA) from 2004-2008 playing a total of 130 NCAA games. You had a great career there. Was reaching the 2005 NCAA Sweet 16 your biggest accomplishment there?
Well I had a lot of accomplishment that I achieved at Tech but that was one of my biggest ones. Just being in the history of school makes me feel very proud today.
Not many players have the luxury to say that they were able to learn under the guidance of legendary Bobby Knight. How did you learn to appreciate him as a mentor, coach, friend? Do you have a favorite Knight story?
I learned after I graduated was things he was telling us was more about life than basketball and helping you in the world today. Just being prepared for the unexpected. I have a lot of stories but it would take long time to tell it.
What memories do you have of Ron Ross? He had a long professional career and recently retired. How do you remember being influenced best from him as a freshman?
Ron had a heart of gold and was a very tough player. Freshmen year just watching him work and work and then being a captain so having to deal with that was something I can say I appreciate.
You had a great junior season where you shot 43% from outside, but also a stellar senior year at Texas tech(NCAA). When you look back at your career are you a bit disappointed that a guy like you or Ron Ross weren´t noticed more by the NBA coming out as well as teams from higher leagues
Well I can say that but you learn it´s a part of life so you just got to take it and learn from things like that. Everything in life happens for a reason.
How do you remember freshman John Roberson at Texas Tech(NCAA) when you were a senior? He also has had a great professional career. Do you remember being able to help him as he was learning the ropes?
I knew he would be great shooter from day one but just tried to help him with being prepared for each game and just having a focus because he had the talent already.
How did head coach Bobby Knight groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
Just had me prepared for any situation I got put in and being able to understand each situation that I would be put in.
Who won a one on one back in the day you or Ron Ross and you against John Roberson?
I think Ron and me played just a few times but can’t remember who won them. I never played John.
Who was the toughest player that you battled in the NCAA that is in the NBA
That is an easy question. It was Kevin Durant.
If you had to pick your personal favorite starting five of teammates over the years which players would you chose?
You came with an easy question and now a hard one. I have been blessed to play with a lot of great great teammates so that would hard to just pick 5.
If you had to construct your very own NBA mount Rushmore which 4 heads would you pick?
Hmmm….Kareem, Jordan, Russell, Wilt
What is your personal opinion about the never ending debate of who is the greatest between Michael Jordan and Lebron James?
They never played against each other or in the same era so to me they are both the greatest in the era they played in.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Thanks Martin for the chat.