Yasin Kolo (208-C-92, college: Bellarmine) is a 29 year old 208cm center that is playing his sixth professional season and second with the Itzehoe Eagles (ProB). He has needed no adjustment to the Pro A as currently he is averaging13,0ppg, 9,3rpg and 1,0apg. Last season in the Pro B with Itzehoe he played 29 games averaging 15.5ppg, 7.7rpg, 2.0apg, FGP: 55.7%, 3PT: 34.4%, FT: 81.3%. The season before he played with the wiha Panthers Villingen-Schwenningen (ProA) playing 15 games averaging 8.7ppg, 4.3rpg, FGP: 53.7%, 3PT: 29.6%, FT: 81.0%. In 2018-2019 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 following his Pro B season with Itzehoe.
Yasin thanks for talking to germanhoops.com. What goals do you remember head coach Pat Elzie telling you when you arrived in Itzehoe in August 2020? Did they come true?
His Goal was for me to be in the best shape possible heading into the playoffs, after my past injury. He wanted me to be a key part in us moving up to Pro A, and I tried to do just that. The Gameplan was successful.
Before we talk about basketball, I have to ask you about COVID. What was the most challenging thing for you in your second season with COVID?
We had to be in quarantine for a couple weeks, right before playoffs. That was very tough. Being out for two weeks and then prepare for do or die games was a very difficult task. But this season was another chance to grow as an athlete. There’s always beauty in the struggle.
How can one honestly rate this season with all the drama that went on with COVID? Every team had their problems.
That’s a good question. There were a few times that had to quarantine multiple times. I felt really bad for them. Some teams had really bad luck and it’s crazy to imagine how it would’ve been for some teams without covid being around. However, I’d rate my teams season as a straight A, because we got our job done.
Congrats on an amazing season and winning the pro B title. What was special about this seasons team?
Thank you very much. I feel like we had a dog mentality and were at our best when things didn’t look good for us. And we showed that until the very end!
The Itzehoe Eagles didn’t start the season well beginning with a 0-3 record. What were your personal thoughts after 5 games? Possibly that our team was way better than this?
It took a little longer for us to really click as a unit. I wasn’t really worried, but I know that things had to change real quick. I knew that it wasn’t about how we start, it’s always about how you finish.
You then had a solid 14-4 season in the regular season. What do you believe was so special with this years club?
We worked very hard every single practice. You could tell that we really wanted to be Champs. There were a bunch of practices where coach would say “Today, I watched a championship team practice.”
Then you lost two tough games against Schwelm. The team obviously took this as a wake up call and then beat a tough Giessen team 75-74. What important lesson do you feel did the Eagles learn in the Schwelm loses?
We learned that we have to bring more energy to beat them, which we ultimately did twice at the end to become Pro B Champs.
Itzehoe had a strong playoff series and then got revenge on Schwelm. What do you believe was key for getting the finals games won and winning the title?
We really improved our defense and just played very hard and with lots of emotions. We really figured each other out at the right time.
How proud are you of Pat Elzie? The Eagles are his baby and he has helped them reach the Pro A. What do you believe was his strongest quality this season as head coach that helped you overcome all odds?
Pat is a great guy for sure. So I really am proud of him and how he was leading us as a head coach. Right before the playoffs, he was gone for about 3 weeks for personal reasons where we really missed him. It wasn’t the same without him. He believed in us at all times and set the bar high. That’s what helped us succeed. He’d trust every single player on the roster.
Let’s talk about your teammates. You played your first season with the versatile Marko Boksic. How much fun was it being his teammate and in what part of the success was he most instrumental in?
It was fun playing with Marko. Coming from the Regionalliga, I was really impressed with him. He made some very important and big shots for us and his mental strength was a key for our success.
How enjoyable was it having big man Chris Hooper besides you. How did he make your game so much easier?
We complemented each other very well. We grew very close and we said to ourselves that we wanted to be the best big man duo in Pro B. Which we were. His confidence and energy really translated into me trying to add to it, which made me better at the end.
Can Chris Hooper be an impact player in the Pro A?
Pro A is definitely different from Pro B, but I support him at all times and believe that he can become whatever he wants to be and be successful at it. So yes.
How valuable were the two German guards Niclas Sperber and Erik Nyberg? They didn’t put up massive stats, but played their roles perfectly
They did a lot of things that wouldn’t show up on the stat sheet. There were a few games where they were difference makers and got us important wins. Niclas and Erik were crucial in us winning the championship.
How valuable was experienced German Flavio Stuckemann for helping everyone stay together in tough times? He didn’t have a big scoring role, but his presence was huge.
He was a great leader for us, making sure that we got out head on straight when things didn’t go as planned. He was one of our best defenders and energizers. He would always step up when we really needed him.
Let’s talk about your game. You averaged 15.5ppg, 7.7rpg, 2.0apg, FGP: 55.7%, 3PT: 34.4%, FT: 81.3%. How content were you with your season?
I felt that I became my old self again towards the end of the season where I was really able to show up for my teammates. We won the championship so I am very happy about the season.
You took a step back to go to the pro B after two tough season where you were injured. How blessed do you feel haven done this?
I’m just blessed to play the game I love after 3 surgeries in two years. I came back in a way that no one expected it. Gods Plan.
How much do you feel did your game benefit from having Chris Hooper by your side? He was the work horse, but you also did your share for the good of the team.
Like I said, Chris and I always talked about being the best big man duo in the league. So we pushed each other during practice, and games. After my injuries, I kind of lost the dog mentality inside of me. He helped me to wake up the beast inside of me.
In what part of your game did you see yourself taking another step under the guidance of Pat Elzie?
Definitely my leadership. Coach gave me lots of confidence, but also responsibilities. I grew from that.
ON what area’s of your game will you be working on most this summer so you will be prepared to make the next step as a player
I’ll especially work on my body to make sure that I stay healthy long term. I did it the past season so I keep on working towards that goal. There are many areas that I’m working on. Also expanding my bag of tricks. It’s the first time in 3 years that I’m healthy going into the offseason. Stay tuned.
Who was the toughest player that you battled in the Pro B this season?
My teammates in practice.
Chris Paul recently passed Magic Johnson for fifth all-time in assists. Where do you rank him with the best point guards all-time despite never having won a ring?
Where do you see the journey going with Jayson Tatum who recently scored 60 points? Is he a top 10 player in the NBA now?
Not at the moment, but he’ll be there soon. He’s a special talent that you won’t find often.
Dino Radja recently said he couldn’t see Russell Westbrook leading a team in Europe to success. Do you agree?
I guess we are not talking about the same guy then that led the Wizards from the worst team record in the NBA to a playoff spot. He’s an amazing leader I think. Couldn’t disagree more.
Draymond Green recently said that he is the best defender on the planet. Do you agree?
I’d say he’s one of the smartest defenders, but not the best. But I respect his confidence.
Have you seen the Coming to America sequel? It has had mixed reviews. Shouldn’t they just have left it alone?
I didn’t. But I think Coming to America is such an iconic movie that you just enjoy and leave as it is. But that’s just my opinion.
Thanks Yasin for the chat.