Yasin Kolo is a 28 year old 208cm center that is completed his fourth professional season and first with the wiha Panthers Villingen-Schwenningen (ProA) playing 15 games averaging 8.7ppg, 4.3rpg, FGP: 53.7%, 3PT: 29.6%, FT: 81.0%. Last season he played with the Rhein Stars Koeln (ProB) playing 11 games averaging 16.8ppg, 9.0rpg, 1.3apg, FGP: 50.5%, 3PT: 50.0%, FT: 74.3%. AS a rookie he played 17 BBL games with Tuebingen and also boats professional experience with Ehingen and the Artland Dragons. He began his basketball career with ASC 46 Goettingen (2.Regionalliga) and then spent six years in the States getting valuable experience with the Fayetteville Christian School and palyed 15 NCAA games in total with East Carolina and Hartford. He finished his college career with Bellarmine (NCAA2) playing 29 games averaging11.0ppg, 5.8rpg, FGP: 49.6%, 3PT: 46.6%, FT: 66.3%. He spoke to germanhoops.com during the COVID-19 crisis.
Hi Yasin where are you at the moment and how is your current mood despite the world turmoil at the moment because of the out break of the Corona Virus?
I am in Niedersachsen with my family at the moment. Of course it’s a frustrating situation for all the people that have to go through the changes and new rules we all have to obey to stay safe.
When you first heard about the Corona Virus did you ever think that it could have such an effect on the world?
I respected it but never thought that it would have such an effect worldwide. The Corona Virus is definitely something that we should take seriously. Especially to protect our older family members.
How have you experienced the day to day life in Schwenningen during the Corona Virus outbreak? Did you see that corona effect on the culture there or was it not so much different happening in your day to day dealings?
Shops and restaurants started to close. Hand sanitizer was hard to get, and shelves with pasta or toilet paper were empty. Luckily, there was basketball still during that time to kind of get away from this worldwide problem.
Did you become more aware about how you handle yourself in public in terms of shaking hands and not being in the line of fire with somebody coughing
Yes, for sure. I started to wash my hands more often and longer than I used to. I kept distance between me and other people and made sure to not shake hands. I was also making sure that I am not close to huge crowds of people.
Basketball leagues have shut down all over Europe including the Pro A. How disappointed were you about this and not being able to finish the season?
Of course it was tough to stop playing. The team had a great run and we were still having a chance to make the playoffs. But everything happens for a reason and it was the right choice to stop the leagues from playing. At this point, the health of the people is more of a priority than basketball.
Before leagues were shut down there was a BCL game in Bonn against AEK Athens and a Fiba Europe Cup game in Bayreuth without spectators. What is your overall opinion of playing a game without fans?
Well, it limits the chances of people being infected by Covid-19 which is a good thing. Of course it is not the same for players to not have fans at the games. But again, it is more important to keep people safe since it could spread even more with fans sitting close to each other.
What have you learned about these tough times that has made you stronger as a person?
I learned that your health should always be the highest priority and that it is important to keep others safe as well. During times like these it is important for people to really do what they are supposed to do and obey rules for the greater good.
Wil it be a big adjustment having to start 3 months earlier with workouts and basketball skill development? What will be the advantages and disadvantages of this?
Well, it just gives you more time to get your body right and prepared skill wise for the next season. If you had some nagging injuries, time is your best friend because you can find ways to make sure to work on those problems. Covid 19 makes it a little difficult because there are still rules that are present where you have to improvise your workouts. Some gyms are closed, so you have to work out on a basketball court in the park or wherever you can find one. However, you learn to find many different ways and tools to get better which is great.
The whole world economy is going to be affected including German basketball. How worried are you about the future of professional basketball. The next season will have many changes. How are you handling this mentally now not knowing what to expect?
German basketball is definitely going to be affected like many other countries in Europe. But those are things that I can’t control. I think that good things come to those who work hard and stay patient. Therefore, I am just focusing on what I can control and the rest is going to run its course.
If you had to name another player besides guys from the Panthers that you have been in most contact via Social Media who would it be?
I am talking to a lot of guys here and there to catch up and talk about this offseason and next season. The basketball world is small so you really interact with a lot of different players, especially during the offseason. Hard to pick out specific one.
Congrats on a fine season in the Pro A. For most the wiha Panthers Schwenningen were able to exceed expectations of reaching the playoffs except for maybe head coach Alen Velcic who always saw you guys as a playoff team. Did you share his optimism when the team was struggling in November?
I think that the team had a lot of talent. I think we all knew that the stretch where we lost a lot of games was just because we weren’t on the same page mentally. But as we figured it out we started winning. I definitely think that we could have been even better with the talent there was.
Sometimes it is that one player that can change a whole season. When David Dennis left and Drew Brandon came on board you started to win as he led the team to a 10-3 record. How much credit does he deserve for the success of the team?
Drew Brandon definitely deserves credit. He came in and fit in pretty well and did his thing. He is a great player and knows how to be effective.
Obviously Drew Brandon is a very good point guard, but what else changed when he came and the team started to play a lot better?
I guess that it was kind of a step in another direction. Obviously changes were made and we had to go from there. David and Drew are great players, but both are two different kind of point guards. Drew openend up the paint more offensively so that other players had more chances to be creative. And on the defensive end, he played hard and gave a different impulse as well.
How much did it hurt that the season ended and you never got to see how far the team would get? Is this something that will affect you in the next months just never knowing what would have happened?
I try to stay away from thoughts like ‘What could’ve been?’ I just try to focus on what is ahead and learn from things I could have done better. Last season should be motivation enough to get even better and work harder when we are finally allowed to play again.
The club won 6 of their last 7 games. Had the team reached it’s peak in the season or did you still see enough energy with the team to make a run in the playoffs?
I think we definitely reached our peak. There’s no way of telling if we would have made the playoffs. But I am sure that we were talented enough to make a run in the playoffs.
Let’s talk about your teammates. How much of a pleasure was it being teammates with Jaren Lewis. Did you see early on in the season that he would be able to keep his consistency until the end?
Jaren Lewis is a great player and did a lot of good things during the season. He improved a lot during the year and got better and better every game. Especially towards the end of the year he truly showed his potential and couldn’t be stopped. He is also a great teammate that is fun to play with. Off the court he is a great person and friend. It was a pleasure teaming up with him. My guy for life.
What was it like having Marco Bacak as your big man teammate. How did you guys compliment each other best and what did you appreciate most about his game?
Marco is a great player. We complement each other very well. Our high low actions in some games were hard to guard for other teams. He is a good passer for a big man and very unselfish. Marko is also a smart player and great team player. A lot of things to appreciate him for.
How proud are you of teammate Leon Friedrici who was named most improved player by eurobasket.com. In what part of his game did he improve the most?
He definitely deserved this award. Hardly ever met a guy that worked so hard to get better. I think his confidence improved the most, the reason why he started to take off. Very proud of him and the award was well deserved.
Let’s talk about your game. You played 15 games averaging 8.7ppg, 4.3rpg, FGP: 53.7%, 3PT: 29.6%, FT: 81.0%. How content were you with your personal season despite also being injured?
After a long time being hurt I was just thankful to be able to play again. I knew, that it would take me some time to get back to 100%.
It was your second Pro A season after playing with Ehingen back in 2017-2018. You have had the misfortune to be plagued by injuries the last years. How tough has this been for you and the further development of your game?
Injuries are part of the game. It’s not fun. But after a while you learn to take better care of your body even more and to prevent injuries. I definitely lost some time playing the game, but I always take the positive out of everything. And I learned a lot about myself during the time I was hurt.
Do you sometimes wonder where you might be today as a player in your development had you been more healthy?
Of course. But like I said, I try to focus on what’s ahead.
You stated this season you wanted to improve on your lateral quickness as well as explosiveness. That was a big goal of mine to improve in those areas, especially after my injury. Were you able to do that this season?
Since my last surgery was a month before preseason started, I had to learn how to do the basic things again. I am proud of how fast I recovered but now is the time for me to really focus on improving my weaknesses. My goal then changed from improving these things to how I can play basketball and be the best teammate possible after being away from the game for that long.
You finished the season strong on the court. On what things will you be focusing on this summer so you can continue to improve and grow as a player?
So far I lost 26 pounds (12kg) since the season got shut down and I feel much better. I had two surgeries last summer and didn’t really have an offseason, so this time gives me even more time to prepare and catch up on what I missed.
Who was the toughest player that you battled in the Pro A this season?
There were a lot of good players this season. But I think that Kendale McCullum from Paderborn gave us the most problems.
Luka Doncic had an amazing sophomore campaign. Is he a top 3 NBA player now?
That is a tough call. Luka is amazing. Maybe not right now, but soon.
Where were you when you heard about the death of Kobe Bryant. What kind of influence did he have on you during adolescence?
(I was 4 when he began in the NBA) I was at a Spa with my teammate Jaren Lewis for our recovery day when he told me the news afterwards. At first I thought it was a bad joke. He was a reason why I even started to play basketball. Kobe was the closest thing to Michael Jordan that ever stepped on a court and I loved watching him play. One of my favorite players of all time. Him and his daughters death shook up the whole world and he will never be forgotten. Motivates me to go even harder now.
How bitter was it that the NCAA March Madness has been canceled? This tournament for some kids is the greatest time of their lives. What advice would you give that senior who worked hard for 4 years and would have had his one and only chance now?
It is very heartbreaking for the players and fans. Many people live for college sports, especially march madness. I know a few guys that missed that opportunity to play during March Madness and I am very sorry for them. It’s hard to find words to make them feel better because that is what many guys worked so hard for.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Thanks Yasin for the chat.