Karel Guzman (188-SG-1995, agency: Pro Sports) is a 27 year old 188cm shooting guard from Cuba playing his second professional season with U-Banca Transilvania Cluj Napoca (Romania-Liga Nationala) averaging 10.8ppg, 3.5rpg, 1.7apg, 1.5spg, FGP: 81.4%, 3PT: 40.0%, FT: 78.4% and in the Basketball Champions League is averaging 7,9ppg, 3,9rpg and 1,6apg. Last season with U-Banca Transilvania Cluj Napoca (Romania-Liga Nationala) he averaged 9.8ppg, 4.5rpg, 2.0apg, 1.7spg, FGP: 64.7%, 3PT: 35.2%, FT: 75.3%. He began his professional career in Cuba with Capitalonos Azules de La Habana (TNA). He then sampled experience in Argentina with Ciclista Juninense (Argentina-TNA) and played three seasons with Ciclista Olimpico de La Banda (Argentina-Liga A). He spoke to germanhoops.com before a Basketball Champions League game in Ludwigsburg.
Karel thanks for talking to germanhoops.com. Where are you at the moment and how is basketball life treating you?
The pleasure is mine to be able to speak with you. Well, nothing right now I’m in Germany preparing for the second game.
The truth is that he treats me very well. I feel comfortable doing what I like and meeting many people and places.
Last week you played against Yorman Polas. Talk a little about your relationship to him. Your both Cubans and play for the national team.
Actually it is the first time that we played against each other when I started playing the Cuban league and he was not there but after he joined the team we were able to have some talks and the truth is that he is a good person, he likes to share his experiences to the new generations, and our friendship is growing day by day.
You’re an incredible high energy player that is an excellent defender. Has some of Yorman Polas’s defensive game rubbed off on you?
Actually, since I started playing basketball I always liked defense and over the years I liked it much more until it became my fundamental weapon and in reality I always try to perfect it every day in training and games. But I like to watch good defenders and add things to my defense
Your playing your second season overseas in Romania with U-Banca Transilvania Cluj Napoca (Romania-Liga Nationala). Before that you played in Cuba and Argentina. How difficult is it getting overseas as a Cuban player?
Brother from my heart, I tell you that the work and sacrifice that we go through is incomparable. I am where I am thanks to my representative and along with all the effort that I and my family have made. We have nowhere to train in Cuba. water in the gym, well, a lot of things that personally hurt me to tell them but remembering them motivates me to keep going to be a great player.
U-Banca Transilvania Cluj Napoca (Romania-Liga Nationala) is having an incredible season in Romania and the Basketball Champions League. What is the secret to the success of the team?
One of the reasons and I think it is the most important why we are where we are is that we are not a team, we are a family since the season began and we help and protect each other, we train super hard to improve ourselves same and thanks to all that the results are coming out.
Elijah Stewart said this about you. ‘Karel can really go. His defense definitely gets disregarded in the BCL. He is a real menace. We put him on the other team’s best player. We put him on Troy Caupain and he scored something like only 6 points in two games. He scored 32 points in another game. He really gets underestimated. He has made me better because we guard each other every day in practice. He gets me ready for tough games’. What have you appreciated most about his game?
He is a young player with a lot of talent on offense, I have seen him do incredible things on the court, I think he has a great future if he believes it and if he continues to show it as he is doing so far.
Let’s talk a little about your game. You’re a 188cm shooting guard. If you had to compare your game to a NBA player who would best fit the description?
Like Marcus Smart, I like his game, the energy he puts into it on and off the court, and I think it’s the best reflection I see of myself.
You’re a very high energy player. What are your biggest strengths as a player?
My physique helps me a lot in addition to my disposition and my dedication when I am on the field I like to fill all the empty spaces left by my teammates, in reality I feel like a link filling the basic spaces on the field, whether in defense or on offense.
What is your biggest focus as a defensive player now? To what level do you want to take your defensive game to?
My main focus is to be a perfect player in defense hahaha and to the level that I would like to take my defense is to a level where I will be remembered for life as the best basketball defender in Cuba and in the European leagues at all levels.
You began your career in Cuba with Capitalonos. How did your game grow there under head coach Reinaldo Tellez?
Well actually I am very grateful to him and to all the coaches who contributed their grain of sand so that I was a better player but in reality the one I owe everything to is Reiniel Panfet this coach made me a better person and a better player It helped me believe more in myself and in what we did every day. With that I tell you that I have played three leagues and the last two were with him as coach where we obtained a championship and a record in the regular stage without losing a game (undefeated)
You then made the next step and played in Argentina from 2017-2020. How did your game mature in Argentina?
The first year it cost me a lot of work to adapt to the game system and many other things, but I did my part and I improved little by little with a lot of work and sacrifice, things turned out the way we wanted and I trusted myself more
In Argentina you were teammates with ex Euroleague player Jermiah Massey for two seasons. How important was it for you to be learning from a guy like him that had unending experience?
I want you to know that today we are still in contact and we are friends personally, I learned a lot from him as a person and as a player, he was one of the first to tell me that I could get to play in Europe, I just had to believe it and work a lot every day
You have been a member of the Cuban national team for many years. Last year you beat team USA: What kind of state is Cuban basketball at the moment?
Last year we were very close to beating them but well these are things that happen and that motivates us to continue working and believe that if we can. Cuban basketball three or four years ago began to improve little by little after we were released to playing in foreign leagues , there is a lot of talent in Cuba. We just need a little freedom and to be taught current basketball .
Last year you lost to team USA 95-90. What memories do you have from that game? USA had many NBA guys like Isaiah Thomas, Luke Kornet, Chasson Randle and Shaquille Harrison.
It was a great game, from the beginning to the end we never gave up and we fought every possession of the ball but unfortunately things went in their favor, it was an unforgettable experience sharing a shell with those great players with Isaiah Thomas, I am proud and I hope it repeats itself.
What kind of battles did you have with Isaiah Thomas? Did you have any trash talk with him during the game?
hahaha I had them, they were things and situations from the game, the truth is that I am grateful to him because he gave me a lot of advice for life and basketball, we wrote to each other and he told me things that motivated me to continue working and continue to trust in myself and in what I do
You played very well against Team USA. Does one get thoughts about the NBA after a game like that? There are simply too many great guards on earth and too little NBA spots.
I always think big so I have a good or bad game, but before those big goals there are small goals that are still important just because they are small for me everything in life is important you just have to go step by step.
What future goals do you have? Have you ever thought about playing in Germany? Is the Euroleague a goal
I have thought I wanted to play in many leagues, I think it will be a nice experience. Obviously I would like to play in the Euroleague.
Who is the best player that you ever faced that was in the NBA?
Well actually I had the joy of facing a few for me they are all good for a reason they are in the NBA like Isaiah Thomas, Luke Kornet, Chasson Randle and Shaquille Harrison, Andrew Wiggins, Juan Toscano, Gustavo Ayon, Kelly Olynyk, Dwight Powell, Luis Scola, Facundo Campazzo, Jose Juan Barea, Gabriel Deck, Noccioni, as you can see there are many and for me they are all good players, I am proud to have shared the field with them.
Please name your 5 best teammates of all-time?
Pedro Luis, Nahuel Paciotti, Lucho Ortiz, Jermiah Massey, Andrija Stipanovi
What is your personal opinion of the neverending debate of who is the greatest of all-time Jordan or Lebron?
for me both are good and should not be compared, each one played in different stages
What was the last movie that you saw?
Hotel Transylvania 3
Thanks Karel for the chat.