Seeing Kobe Bryant On The Court Three And A Half Hours Before A Game Sweating And Back At 4Am Was Unforgettable For Charles Jenkins(V Olympiacos S.F.P. Pireus)

 Charles Jenkins is a 31 year old 189cm guard from New York that is playing his 10th professional season and first with Olympiacos S.F.P. Pireus (Greece-Euroleague) He is in his eighth Euroleague season and 176 Euroleague games under his belt. He has played for top European teams like KK Crvena Zvezda Telekom Beograd (Serbia-KLS), EA7 Emporio Armani Milano (Italy-Serie A) and BC Khimki Moscow Region (Russia-VTB. He laos played two seasons in the NBA playing 110 games for the Golden State Warriors and Philadelphia 76ers. He began his basketball career at Springfield Gardens High School and then had an illustrious career at Hofstra (NCAA) from 2007-2011 playing a total of 126 games. In his last two NCAA seasons he averaged 20.6ppg, 4.5rpg, 3.9apg, 1.8spg, FGP: 44.3%, 3PT: 40.9%, FT: 80.5% and 22.6ppg, 3.4rpg, 4.8apg, 1.7spg, FGP: 51.7%, 3PT: 42.0%, FT: 82.4%. He spoke to before a Euroleague game against FC Bayern Munich. 

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

I’m in Athens Greece at the moment. Life is good despite the circumstances. I still have a place to work. It’s a real blessing.

There is a young German player Alvin Onyia in Frankfurt that I asked a few years ago after which player he models his game and he said you? How does that make you feel?

I’m very flattered. If this was coming from a Serbian kid it would make more sense though. When I was playing in Serbia, I had relationships with all the young Serbians. I would watch their games and give them advice. Knowing that this German kid said that means a lot to me. You never know who is watching.

Before we get to your illustrious basketball career let’s talk about COVID-19. Your 2019-2020 season ended in March 2002. How did you experience COVID-19 and what was the most challenging thing that you experienced?

It was weird. I remember we were in Madrid. We were supposed to play at 9.00pm. Then the news that Trey Thompkins had tested positive came. We went back to Belgrad. My mind wasn’t thinking that there would be a long delay in the season. In the next 72 hours everything went so fast. I remember my teammate Kevin Punter and I checking this COVID website seeing how quickly it was spreading. We worried about our families and wanted to return back home as soon as possible. I thought that COVID would pass quickly and I would be back to Europe. The whole thing changed my perspective. The most challenging thing for me was seeing how I lost relatives. In a way the whole thing was also a blessing in disguise in that I could be home with my family. I made the best out of the situation. Finding the time to train in the mornings and then spend time with the family and help them get food. My girlfriend helped my mom lose 14 pounds with a special diet. I couldn’t work on my game from March to August because there were no gyms open in New York. They took out all the rims in the park. We did a lot of running and bike riding.

With everything that you have experienced off the court with COVID-19 how do you feel did you grow as a man?

It taught me to cherish each day. My best friend lost relatives and it was scary and brought me down to earth. Living in Europe, it is like a bubble for me and I live a different life. At home it felt real. It was a very humbling experience. My girlfriend was very supportive. My family and friends were all going through the same thing. Buying hundreds of dollars of groceries not knowing if you could go the next day was a totally new experience for me.

You played in the NBA and have won 9 professional titles. What goals do you still have as a player? I guess it’s all about the titles isn’t it

It’s all about the titles. I have only reached the Euroleague playoffs once. Playing in the Euroleague Final 4 is always on my mind. I’m always jealous of the guys who get to play in it. I remember leaving a team and then seeing the guys make it the year after was tough. It’s all about winning. I also want to get Euroleague defensive player of the year, but it will be tough against a guy like Tavares from Real Madrid.

Your playing your seventh Euroleague season and first with Olympiacos S.F.P. Pireus (Greece-Euroleague). What is the biggest kick that you still get playing in the Euroleague?

I love to compete against the top guards in Europe.I have had a reputation of being one of the best all ball defenders in Europe. I take a lot of pride on the defensive end and always have to be ready. I watch a lot of highlights of the best guards so I can be ready and stop those amazing highlights.

What kind of an adjustment is it only playing Euroleague and having the weekends off? Is the pressure bigger to win games with only one competition?

The pressure is really big in Greece. The club is really respected and your always getting messages from fans. There is only one game per week and you always have that game of the week feeling. If you lose, then the next week is like a war zone. The coach gets on you. He is really emotional and gets on you. The practices become more intense. If you win then it feels great.

Your playing with some very good Greek players and some legends with Printezis and Vassillis Spanoulis. How much of a joy is it being able to play with a legend like Spanoulis at your age. What still amazes you about his game?

I played against Spannoulis since many years. He prepares his game so well and cares so much about winning. He is one of the best vocal leaders I have been around. He can also be hard on guys if they aren’t doing their jobs, but overal he is great to be around. He is one of the most respected guys and it great to see how his mind works. 

Last season you played : KK Crvena Zvezda MTS Beograd (KLS) playing 10 Adriatic League: games averaging 6.4ppg, 2.1rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 66.7%, 3PT-1 (52.8%), FT: 75.0%; and 23 Euroleague:games averaging 3.4ppg, 2.2rpg, 1.8apg. It was your third tour of duty with them. This organization must be like your second home.

They love me there. Whenever I played somewhere else and I became a free agent then they were usually one of the first teams that contacted me I won a lot there. It was the first club that I played for when I came overseas. I have a lot of respect for that organization and friends there. One of the main reasons I came back again was the coach. He gave me more freedom. It was more about the coach this time then the club. 

You have played with so many head coaches including Dejan Radanovic. What has it been having played so long under him?

When I first got there I didn’t like him. He was tough on me at first. He cared most about my personal life. He wanted to know when I went to bed and when I was tired on the court, he thought I had been out at night. On the court he was always on me about not being aggressive enough or not denying the ball. I really didn’t like that. I remember calling my agent and asking why he was so hard on me. Then somewhere around Feb in my first year things changed. He was still hard on me, but gave me more freedom. That made me become more comfortable to want to return. He encouraged me to do more and in my second year we won our first title together. Later I signed with Milan, but he still kept contact to me. I would return back in 2016. We then became like two friends that work for each other.

You played 2 seasons with BC Khimki Moscow Region (Russia-VTB). You have played with so many teammates, but what were you thinking in the summer of 2018 when you heard of the sad passing of Tyler Honeycut?

I was very hurt. When I signed at BC Khimki, Tyler was the first guy that reached out to me. We were roommates and always went out to dinner. We spent a lot of time together. I didn’t pay attention to what he was going through, but he never told me. His death was very tough. I had seen him only a few weeks before his death.

Everyone says that Mike James and Shane Larkin are the best Euroleague players, but why does a guy like Alexy Sheved get lost in the discussion?

I don’t think that he gets lost in the discussion. You have to remember that Mike and Shane play for more successful teams. That is really the only thing that separates them. I think talent wise Alexy is one of the best in Europe. He is tall and always plays free and doesn’t think of mistakes. He passes very well and is one of the best shooters.

You have had amazing three point percentages in the last 5-6 seasons in the Euroleague and other leagues shooting over 50%.Do you sometimes wonder where your career may have gone without your deadly three pointer?

No I haven’t. In my first season with Red Star I remember we shot a lot of three’s in practice. I gained a lot of self confidence during that time. We did a lot of shooting drills like make one plus one but if you miss then minus two. After a while I felt more comfortable. My role was to play defense and space the floor. It was like a gift from God. Having the freedom to shoot and always taking the three when I was open.

In the 2015-2016 season you played with EA7 Emporio Armani Milano (Italy-Serie A) playing 29 Serie A games averaging 5.1ppg, 2.0rpg, 1.3spg, FGP: 45.1%, 3PT: 35.6%, FT: 83.3%; 10 Euroleague: games averaging 6.7ppg, 1.6rpg, 1.8apg, Steals-4 (1.5spg), FGP: 37.9%, 3PT-3 (58.3%), FT: 50.0%; and 8 Eurocup games averaging 4.3ppg, 1.6rpg, 1.1apg, 1.0spg. How proud were you of winning 2 titles including the Serie A? The team only had 2 Americans.

No we actually had more Americans. Jamel Mclean, Rakim Sanders and Oliver Lafayette were also on the team. My favorite title was winning the Italian Cup. It was the first time that my mom and dad were overseas together and could watch me play. I won the title in front of them which felt great.

What kind of an experience was it playing for coaching legend Ettore Messina? What was the most worthwhile thing that you could soak up from him that season?

To be honest our relationship wasn’t that great in Milan. It was the first time in my career that I had that three and D role. I remember playing 35 minutes against Trento and not taking a shot. It was a real adjustment. The team didn’t rely on me as we had many good players. I wasn’t happy about the role and it affected me mentally. I just didn’t know what to expect that season.

You had a massive 31 point explosion in the 86-84 win over Openjobmetis. Can you remember a game like this with so many games that you have played in your career?

I actually do remember that game. We didn’t have many guys that game. We only had three guards and a young Italian who wasn’t going to play. I knew going into the game that I had to be more aggressive. After I hit my first three shots my confidence grew. I didn’t miss much that night.

You played your first two professional seasons in Europe with KK Crvena Zvezda Telekom Beograd (Serbia-KLS). What example will you never forget concerning the wild fan base with Red Star?

I remember playing Unics in the Eurocup Final 4. I remember that I couldn’t breathe in the arena. I remember putting ice on my neck during time outs. It also was very difficult to hear anything. There were 24,000 Serbians in the arena, but it was more like 30,000. There were so many people sitting on each other. I remember practicing with signals leading up to the game because it would be so difficult to hear the plays. I remember the Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic being at the game.

What was your wake up call to being your first time in Europe as a professional where you knew that you were very far away from home?

My wake up call was the practices in Serbia. If anyone knows how the traditional Serbian coaches are then they will know that they have very hard practices. I remember having a hard morning practice from 11.00-1.30 and then thinking ok I can go back to my room and chill, but no. We had a second practice at 7.00pm. That was when I knew I was in a different place.

What kind of early career relationship did you have with Marcus Williams? He went kind of the same route you did playing a few years in the NBA and then carving out a nice career in Europe.

Marcus is a really good friend of mine. I remember that at the beginning he was a bit difficult to be around. He is a Sagittarius. They are usually tough people that are very protective of their own feelings. We felt each other out before opening up to each other. When that happened we became good friends. It was nice being around him. We had experienced so many similar things. We were roommates. We would criticize each other, but it never led to more. We gained a lot of respect for each other. Once he trusted me, our friendship worked out.

How important was it having veteran Demarcus Nelson as a rookie? Was he a guy that took you under his wing?

Yes he took me under his wing. When I met him, he was a great guy to me right away. He told me everything that I needed to know. He cut my hair at his place, told me about the best restaurants and told me which players and what teams to look out for. Now we talk about investments. I remember one time he ordered burger and fries, but there was a delay with the order and it arrived at 6.00pm. We had practice at 7.00pm. He was so stuffed that he couldn’t move. He kept saying I can’t do anything because I just ate. His jersey was full.

You played against NBA superstar Luka Doncic in many stages of his development in Europe. Is there a memory that you had with him on the court that you will never forget?

Not really. I played against him like 4 times. It wasn’t really the best experience playing against him. I remember the first time I played against him was in Belgrad. We were playing him very physical. His coach took him out, because they didn’t want him to get hurt. The next time we lost like by 40 points in Madrid. The third time, I played against him in Khimky. He had the chance to win the game, but missed. I remember him being so pissed that he almost ripped off his jersey. I remember how much his game grew each game. You could see with how much confidence he was playing with. It also helped that his teammate Sergio Lull allowed him to play his game.

You played your rookie season with the Golden State Warriors being Steph Curry’s back up and also started games when he was injured. What kind of a guy was Curry pre superstar status?

Steph was great He supported me. I actually knew him from high school. I remember the first time I saw him in the locker room, I said do you remember me and he said yes. We both went to small schools and understood what each other went through. I remember during the summer, he got the team to book me a flight to North Carolina so I could train with him. I remember then he could go out shopping, but I think now with him being so famous it isn’t possible. He is a good guy.

In your rookie season you had the Timberwolves’s number twice. Were those 2 games that you look back on fondly?

I actually watch the Portland game more than anything. I had 27 points against them. I played really well against Minnesota. I had the game winner in the first game. I remember we had many injuries and I played something like 48 minutes. I remember the coach saying that we didn’t have enough guards and he wanted me to be aggressive. I remember in the second game we were tanking. I had a game winning steal. After the game my Twitter account was lighting up with so many messages. Fans were writing me that I had to play with my brain and lose the games. Fans were already looking to next season for that #1 draft pick

It seems like now adays there are less older veterans on NBA teams as they continue to get younger. You had some real vets with guys like Brandon Rush, Monta Ellis, Richard Jefferson, David Lee, Nate Robinson and Kwame Brown. Did it at times feel like you were a kid in a candy store?

Yes it did. I grew up watching these guys. But It was also nice to see guys that I grew up with in the NBA like Dorell Wright. That was just as eye popping as seeing the others guys. I was in summer school with Dorell Wright. Dorell was super helpful. He was my vet. I remember running a lot of errands. 

You played together with a young Klay Thompson and a Steph Curry that would have his break out season then. Did you see that championship flair as something that was coming or had it not have happened without Draymond Green?

I did notice a change from the first season to the second season. I remember the club having a different approach to defense during NBA Summer League. I remember coach sending a letter telling us to come to training camp a month early. We watched more film. I knew that something would change, but I never thought that they would win a title. I did know that Steph Curry would become one of the best guards in the league.

You finished the season with the Philadelphia 76ers together with Kwame Brown and had had Doc Rivers as head coach. Did you know that your NBA run was ending?

Yes when I got there I knew my NBA career was coming to an end. I was playing less. I was just trying to finish out the season. I was still working on my game to get better. This was the point where I wanted to see what could come next in my career. I remember Jeremy Pargo was always watching Maccabi Tel Aviv games on the plane. He told me that I didn’t have to settle with being here, but that I could make a good living in Europe and build my resume. He told me that he would show me saying he was done with the NBA. He then signed with CSKA Moscow. He sent me his contract and said that I could also do this. 

You played against legends Lebron and Kobe. What specific memories will you always have about them in your memories when you were on the court with them?

I don’t have any real memories with Lebron, because I was never on the court when he was. I remember beating him once at Golden State. I have a memory with Kobe that I will never forget. It was shortly before the playoffs and it was known that Kobe wouldn’t play. I was usually on the court at 3,30 for a 7.00pm game. Kobe was already there when I arrived and had a good sweat going. He shot 50 fade aways on the left side always attacking a coach. Then he ran 17 teen times sideline to sideline. In between breaks he shot free throws. He then showered and watched the game. Then I heard he was back at the gym at 4.00am. I never had the courage to talk to him. I heard he only spoke to accomplished guys.

Your NBA run ended after 2 years. The NBA is a lot different today than back in 2013. What do you believe needed to have happened in your 2 year run to have allowed you to remain?

I believe what kept me from a longer NBA career was having a position. I wasn’t a pure point guard and wasn’t tall enough to be a shooting guard. I was never one or the other, but was a tweener. In the NBA you need a position. I was just a basketball player. There weren’t many guys my size except guys like Rodney Stucky and ben Gordon.

You have seen so much of the business side happen in the NBA. What was the best example you remember seeing where you saw that the NBA will always be a business first before anything else?

When I got traded. It was a tax thing. It was a money dump issue. Jeremy Tyler and I were traded for money.

You played at Hofstra University (NCAA) from 2007-2011. How important was it being able to play at home instead of somewhere at the other end of the country?

I didn’t have a lot of offers coming out of high school. My mom was sick my senior year and I wanted to play close to home. Hofstra was 20 minutes from my home so it was a no brainer. They recruited me and I had the opportunity for a lot of playing time.

You have won so many awards, but what did it mean to win the Haggerty award 3 times winning it as much as NBA legend Chris Mullin?

It meant a lot to me. At first I didn’t know much about it. The next season I won it and I saw who had won it and I took more pride in my game and winning. It gave me motivation to work more. I stayed in school all year and took no time off. I worked very hard to win it.

How did head coach Tom Pecora groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?

He was tough. He always spoke about my image and told me I had to be a leader. He told me it would be rare to turn professional, so I always had to be prepared. I stayed late in the gym and watched a lot of film to help my game. He always told me even if you don’t score a lot, if you play hard then good things will happen. He told me to live life in the middle. Never be too high or low, but be even.

Who won a one on one in practice you or Mike Moore?

We never played. I played against Nat Lester. I beat him. He is a close friend. He is a police officer now.

Who was the toughest player that you battled in the NCAA that reached the NBA?

I played against so many. Kent Bazemore, Xavier Henry, Malcom Delaney, Trevor Booker and KC Rivers.

Please name your 5 best teammates of all-time?

Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Boban Marjanovic, Georgis Printezis, Shaquielle Mckissic

Please list your personal NBA Mount Rushmore of past or present heads?

Kobe, Jordan, Lebron, Iverson

What is your personal opinion of the neverending debate of who is the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan or Lebron James?

You can’t compare era’s. I think that both would have had success in each other’s era’s. They are two different players. 

What was the last movie that you saw?

Don’t fuuk with cats. It was pretty weird.

Thanks Charles for the chat.

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