Darol Hernandez-Zinenko is a 32 year old 207cm forward from Cuba that is playing his fourth season in Belarus and first with Tsmoki-Minsk (Belarus-Premier League). Previously he played for BK Grodno-93 (Belarus-Premier League) and COR-Borisfen Mogilev (Belarus-Premier League) in Belarus. He began his career in Cuba and also played 5 seasons in Ecuador and briefly in Mexico. He spoke to germanhoops.com before a Fiba Europe Cup game in Crailsheim
Thanks Darol for talking to germanhoops.com. Where are you at the moment and how is basketball life treating you?
I am currently in Belarus, and life thank God well, struggling every day to get ahead
When you hear the word Germany, how quickly do you think about your ex teammate Yorman Polas Bartolo?
Of course I remember my friend Yorman, although we don’t talk very often, I am always proud of the growth he has had in European basketball. I wish him the best and I hope to see him soon
Your Cuban and since 2010 you have played in only 2 countries Belarus and Ecuador. A very untypical career route. Would it be fair to say that you haven´t had the usual basketball career of a Cuban player?
The truth is that since I left Cuba my professional career has been very difficult and even more so when you don’t have an agent to represent me.
Your nickname is the Russian. How did you get it? Does it have something to do with having played in Belarus?
My nickname was born since I was in Cuba in the National team, so my mother is Russian and they nicknamed me Russian
After starting your career at home in Cuba you then ventured to Ecuador as a 21 year old and played there four years for four different clubs. Why did you make this move?
Well, my years in Ecuador served me a lot, since it was my first professional experience, the difficult thing is that I only play there for 4 months. Also at that time there was not the ease that exists now of being able to sign a contract outside the country of Cuba and at that time Ecuador was the only door that was opened to start my professional career
You then made the jump to Europe to BGU Minsk (Belarus-Premier League) playing 22 games averaging 17.6ppg, Reb-2(10.8rpg), 2.6apg, Steals-4(2.7spg), FGP: 41.8%, 3PT: 29.6%, FT: 61.0%. What do you remember being your wake up call where you knew that you were far away form the warm climate of Cuba? I can imagine that the winter was tough for you?
At first when I arrived in Belarus it was difficult since nobody knew me and I had to make myself known, and thank God the possibility of playing for Bgu came out. The weather also shocked me hard, since one was used to a bit of heat and suddenly you are in a country where the temperature is at -20
You showed that you had no problems adjusting to overseas ball. What really stands out is your versatility? Is that something that you always had or something that grew with time?
I think I always played so versatile although I confess that I love European basketball and it makes you grow more as a player and in the way of understanding basketball
You also have very high assist numbers. Are you one of those guys that would love to play point guard for a game if given the opportunity?
I like to pass the ball. I don’t see myself playing the pg position
In your second season in Belarus you played with BK Grodno-93 (Belarus-Premier League) averaging 5.8ppg, 5.8rpg, 1.9apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 53.2%, 3PT: 18.4%, FT: 70.1%. Your stats really dipped. What do you remember from this season and was this a reason why you returned back to Ecuador?
My season in Grodno was a bit strange, since I could never adapt to the coach’s philosophy and no, I returned to Ecuador because my daughter had just been born and also that I live there
How tough was it usually being the only import that wasn´t from Belarus? Was it difficult remembering every player´s name on the team?
Well in Grodno it was a bit difficult, all because communication with my colleagues was difficult and it was also the first time that this team had hired an import.
You then returned back to Ecuador for two seasons playing with Club Iccan de Macas (ECU-National League). How important was it returning to a favorable environment and just having fun again?
Returning to Ecuador and starting a new project with the Iccan club was special, since I met players and people who helped me to mature as a player. In addition to participating in the South American league of clubs, which is a high level in South America, was something for me super special and exciting
You then came back to Belarus and played parts of three seasons with COR-Borisfen Mogilev (Belarus-Premier League). That first season was great stat wise, but in the second you weren´t as dominant and also fled to Mexico to finish the season and then returned back to Belarus after Mexico. Talk a little about this time about your highs and lows?
After 2 seasons in Ecuador, the Borisfen club called me from Belarus, the first year went well for me personally and also collectively. The second season my intention was to participate in the Fiba Eurocup and after the tournament I got the opportunity from going to play in Mexico, which at that time was the best league in South America. Then the pandemic happened that paralyzed everything that is sport in all of South America and where the only job was in Europe and the opportunity came to return to Borisfen. As I told you at the beginning my entire career without an agent
In this time you also lost two finals to Tsmoki-Minsk (Belarus-Premier League). I guess moving to Tsmoki-Minsk (Belarus-Premier League) this season was the most obvious choice to make. Winning that chip is what it is all about.
Losing two finals against Tsmoki was difficult and even more so the second final. Now the club gave me the opportunity and I will do everything I can to help the team reach some goals this year
Your turning 32 in November and are playing in the best league in your career with the VTB League. What kind of an experience was it starting against top Euroleague team CSKA Moscow and seeing all those ex NBA players?
Starting the first game of the season against CSKA was something very hard. I think that in general the VTB league has a very high level and every game is difficult
What was it like battling that beast Tornike Shengelia? How do you feel did you hold up in this game?
Shengelia is a great player and for me a good experience to face him.
What is your biggest goal with Tsmoki-Minsk (Belarus-Premier League) besides winning titles? Your one of the older guys. Is being a mentor type to the younger guys a thing you like to do?
Well, my goal this season is to adapt to this league and do it well and to help the team win games and also to be able to give that energy that characterizes me and to give some advice to the younger players
What is your personal opinion of the neverending debate of who is the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan or Lebron James?
In my opinion they are both great players and the two best in history along with Kobe
Did you see the sequel to the classic movie Coming To America? Shouldn´t they just have left it alone?
I did not see the movie.
Thanks Darol for the chat.