Eric Kibi Experienced Culture Shock In The Very Restricted Iraq Which Gave Him Time To Focus On Himself

Eric Kibi is a 28 year old 198cm forward from Ontario, Canada that completed his seventh professional season which took him to three countries starting with Golbey Epinal Thaon Vosges (France-NM1) where he played 5 games averaging 6.8ppg, 6.0rpg, 2.4apg, 1.4spg, 2FGP: 29.2%, 3FGP: 27.3%, FT: 73.3%, in Dec.’18 moved to MBK Handlova (Slovakia-SBL) playing 3 games and then in January 2019 signed at Al Mina (Iraq-IBL) where he averaged 22,0ppg, 15rpg and 2,0apg. Last season he played with C.B. Torrons Vicens L’Hospitalet (Spain-LEB Silver) where he played 33 games averaging 4.5ppg, 3.2rpg In 2016-2017 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%. In 2015-2016 he played 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 about his 2018-2019 season.

Eric thanks for talking to Where are you at the moment and how is basketball life treating you at the moment?

Hey Miles, for the moment I’m taking a vacation in Dubai after a long season. The basketball life is always good, it’s always a blessing, you take the good with the bad.

After playing the last two seasons in Denmark and Spain, this season you have had another busy season moving around from France to Slovakia and to Iraq. Has this season been more stressful with everything involved or was your 2015-2016 season where you played in Germany, Montenegro and Canada more stressful?

I won’t say stressful because like I said this is a blessing, I’ll say more like eventful. I wasn’t able to find the correct fit until I got to Iraq, as strange as that sounds.

What did you miss the most from the last two seasons where you balled in Denmark and Spain? Were you used to that normal routine of being in one place?

Of course it’s nice to spend a whole season in one place. I really enjoyed my time in Denmark and Barcelona, had successful seasons in both places but things happen in this business just like in the NBA, there’s always player movement.Through it all though you have to remain professional and keep faith.

Let’s begin with your first team Golbey Epinal Thaon Vosges (France-NM1). You last only five games and averaged 8.2 ppg , 6.0rpg, 2.4apg, 1.4spg. The stats remined me a bit on Herten. What kind of experience was it playing in France? 

It was overall a learning experience, I had a great pre-season, but unfortunately that didn’t translate to the first five games. We had a lot of injuries to start the season. I accepted the role of playing out of position at point guard for the better of the team and never complained. Some clubs aren’t patient and rather play Russian roulette which is fine, but at the end of the day the teams who won in that league weren’t the most talented teams but the teams who had the most cohesion and continuity.

How would you compare the NM 1 league to what you have seen elsewhere like the German Pro B and Leb Silver and other leagues in terms of style and talent?

Loved the competition there, every game was a dog fight. Every practice was intense, very different than Germany and Spain as far as intensity.
It’s more comparable to German Pro A and Leb Gold. The Spanish style is based more on IQ and less on athleticism, France is a track meet for 40 minutes.

You lived in a small town called Golbey about 100 kilometers from Germany. What were you able to take from the French culture and from the court in the short time that you were there?

I was actually able drive to Cologne once even to visit some old friends. As far as the French culture I loved it, it’s very similar to where I was born in Quebec City and of course being as French is my first language it was nice to understand the language for once.Last season in Spain it was difficult because my coach didn’t speak English, but it was still amazing to see how his passion still translated to the 5 foreigners.

You were a starter and averaged 28 minutes per game. Why was your stay so short? Were they expecting more scoring from you?

– Honestly, I’m 28 years old now, the coach saw my tape before I came, he saw me for 3 months in practice and pre-season. I can score 16, 9 rebounds and 6 assists against a Pro B team and the next game give you 8 points and 15 rebounds but chase around the point guard for 38 minutes and hold him to 3 points. Of course I could of scored a bit more but that’s never been my full impact, scoring is not what’s kept me in Europe for 7 seasons. I’m a two way guy who impacts the game with more than just scoring. But all that gets lost in the equation when you lose 5 games to start the season and the organization is in full turmoil, the foreigner will always take the blame. I take full responsibility and know I could of played better, but everyone has to be held accountable eventually from top to bottom.

You landed in Slovakia (SBL) after France and played with American KC Ross-Miller who also came from another team, but was integrated well and playing well. You have seen so many talented guards in your career, but is he a good example of a guy having talent, but just having problems of moving up the basketball ladder because of the huge influx of guards that are around the world?

Oh for sure KC is my guy. He’s definitely an NBA talent and you have to be to play at schools like Kentucky and Auburn. I think with KC his year off from basketball kind of hurt him but he’s been making up for it his last 3 seasons. I have no doubt you’ll see him in a top league in Europe very soon.

You made another move in January to Al Mina (Iraq-IBL). This seems to have been a better fit as you are still there now. How long does one have to think about going to play and live in a country like Iraq? How did you make this decision?

After I did my research and spoke to a lot of Americans who played there in the past I was confident and comfortable enough to go play there. A guy there who previously played in Germany, Isaiah Sykes, really helped me a lot in my time there. He’s a veteran of that league and really helped my decision.

Obviously the money must have been good. What other reasons did you see benefit for moving to Al Mina (Iraq-IBL)

Of course to go to a country like that the money has to be good but it was also a chance to get out of my comfort zone and try a new experience. I had never played in the Middle East before. You only grow as a person and player when your put in difficult situations and I think I accomplished that there.

Talk a little about the IBL league in Iraq. It is a very small league with few teams. How is the style and talent level in this league compared to other leagues that you have seen?

Actually not as small as you would think, there’s 12 teams there. Each team is allowed to have only two foreigners but only one can be on the court. Each American is a very high level American and is expected to score a lot. Every game it’s a lot of pressure, they expect you to score 20-25 points every game. The local players were also better than I expected, many of them have played for their national team.

How much different is the culture and life style in Iraq compared to other countries? How does a normal day look like for you?

That’s one thing I can say about Iraq is that for the first time I really felt a culture shock. I’m usually very good at adapting to different cultures with now having played in 10 different countries. Iraq is very restricted, they really respect their religion. No women at the games, no alcohol, no pork, no coffee shops to grab a coffee so you really can’t do as much as you would like, but it gives you time to focus on yourself. A regular day is pretty simple, I would wake up eat breakfast then go get a workout in the weight room at about 10 come back to the apartment. They always deliver lunch and dinner do the apartment, so I would eat lunch then get ready for practice at 5, come home eat, watch a show, sleep and repeat the next day.

I saw you finished the season averaging 30 ppg, 15.3 rpg and 4 apg in 8 games. Please talk a little about how you have been playing and how beneficial is the whole basketball experience for the continued development of your game?

Like I said when you go there they give you a lot of responsibilities which is exactly what I wanted. I was expected to score every game and rebound while also guarding the other American for 40 minutes. For me it was great, I went there and we went 6-2 in my time there, we were able to finish in the top 5 in the league which was their goal. It helped me regain the aggressiveness I had in pre-season in France.

What was your coolest experience in Iraq? One thinks of all the palaces and the luxuries that are present. Have you seen anything there that you will be able to tell over and over when you are back home?

Honestly in the time there I didn’t see too much, but I will say that seeing Baghdad was pretty cool. It’s nothing like what they show you on TV. I was in a city called Basrah, about 5 hours away from Baghdad which is the capital. For me I’m all about experiencing things for myself. I’ve never been ignorant and pre judged a place and that’s the correct thing to do when you go to a place like Iraq you got to go there with an open mind. The fans and the people there were amazing, my teammates as well. One of my teammates really marked me, we called him Jimmy ( Mohamed Diab). He’s a veteran, played national team for Iraq, he’s probably 38,39 years old and still giving you 15-17 per game but the thing about him he’s so professional and so positive through everything. He was always in my ear during the game talking and pushing me, so shoutout Jimmy.

Talk a little about the Congolese national team. You last played with them at Afro Basket 2017. What is your future with the national team?

I’m still involved with the National team, if everything goes as planned I should be going to Congo this summer and playing in the AfroCAN this summer which is similar to the Afrobasket.

How do you believe has your game grown this season having been able to see new leagues and gaining added experience?

Every year I like to look back and see what I added to my game. This year I can say that starting the season in France and playing point guard there is something that helped me see the game in a different way. I’ve always been versatile able to guard 1-5 but going up against P ro B and NM1 teams and having high level athletic guards like Marquis Addison and Javier Forcada pressure you full court the whole game and having to learn on the fly can only benefit my game for the future.

Please name your five all-time best teammates in college and pro’s

– Damn that’s tough, I’ll go with:

PG: Akeem Scott, 12 year Pro (Europe, Asia, Latin America) 
played with him in Canada with the London Lightning, that’s my big brother. Plays 100% at all times. Will never forget being down 3-1 in the NBL Canada finals, he was dealing with the death of his mother and he willed us to a game 7.

SG: DeAndre Lansdowne, good friend of mine since I was 16, my high school teammate and teammate in Germany at Herten. Having a great season in Germany again.

SF: Darryl Ashford, My college teammate in JUCO my freshman year at Jacksonville College in Texas.
This guy man, was a killer, baby T-Mac. Had some pro years in Belgium.

PF: Akeem Wright, another guy I played with in Canada in London. Was my roommate, played the same position. We played one on one every day after practice, after talking smack for a whole 2 hour practice, almost came to blows many times lol. But that my big bro, a lot of respect for his game and his career, 10 + year vet. Baby Melo.

C: Herve Kabasele, played with him in the Congolese national team. Now playing in the Spanish ACB. This guy is a like a monkey with NBA athleticism. Still 
young so you could possibly see him in the NBA.

It’s still so early, but when all is said and done could Luka Doncic be one of the greatest Europeans that ever played in the NBA?

Yes it’s definitely still early, but I saw him play live last season in Spain and he’s definitely special. I warned people back home about underestimating him and they still did. This season he proved a lot of doubters wrong so he’s definitely on the right trajectory to become one of the best Europeans ever. People don’t understand how difficult it is to win Euroleague and ACB MVP as an 18 year old is, might be harder than winning rookie of the year. 

What was your reaction when you heard that Lebron James named himself the greatest of all-time?

Lebron is my favourite player and that’s the mindset you have to have, I believe him but I think Jordan is untouchable because of everything he accomplished. I think you can say Lebron is the most complete and greatest physical specimen we’ve ever seen in the NBA though. 

Charles Barkley recently proclaimed that Tom Brady Is more of a GOAT than Michael Jordan. Do you share his opinion?

Hmm it’s close, but it’s difficult to compare different sports but Jordan I’d say is more of an icon he’s had a huge impact off court as well.

Tom Brady won sixth Super Bowl. Where will he be if he wins a seventh next season?

I think he’s already the greatest of all time in the sport. A seventh would just be icing on the cake.

What was the last movie that you saw?

Collateral Beauty with Will Smith.

Thanks Eric for the chat.

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