Xavier Munford(Hapoel SP Tel Aviv) Will Never Forget Getting The Assignment To Guard Kris Middleton In His NBA Debut

Xavier Munford (193-G-1992, college: URI) is a 30 year old 193cm guard from Newark, New Jersey playing his 9th professional season and first with Hapoel SP Tel-Aviv (Israel-Winner League). He began his basketball career at St Benedict’s Preparatory school and then played at Iowa Western Community College (JUCO): He then played 2 seasons and 61 NCAA games for the University of Rhode Island. He turned professional in 2015 and spent parts of 6 seasons in the G-League and NBA. He played a total of 24 NBA games for Memphis and Milwaukee. He also played in Turkey, Spain with FC Barcelona and in Australia. He spoke to germanhoops.com about basketball.

Thanks Xavier for talking to germanhoops.com. Where are you at the moment and how is basketball life treating you?

Thanks for having me. I am currently in Tel Aviv, Israel playing with Hapoel Tel Aviv in the Israeli league and Eurocup. Basketball life is treating me well right now. I am healthy, we have a good group and I love playing in front of the fans and the crowd we have here.

Your playing your first season with Hapoel SP Tel-Aviv (Israel-Winner League) which is your 5th team overseas. What kind of an experience has it been playing for this organization?

It’s been a great experience playing here so far. This is my first time playing in Israel in my career. The organization has been very welcoming since day 1 from the front office, to the coaching staff, to the amazing fans. This has made my transition here very easy. The coaching staff believes in me, which gives me the confidence to go out there and play my game.

Your still seeking your first pro title. Is the hunger to win that first chip as big as the chip on your shoulder something you must have had since playing JUCO back in the day?

I would definitely say the hunger is there to win my first title. It’s a huge goal of mine. Even throughout the summer I was speaking with my agent and one of our main focuses was to get somewhere wherel I have a real chance of winning a title. I believe that we can do that here.

Last season you played with South East Melbourne Phoenix (Australia-NBL) averaging 16.6ppg, 4.1rpg, 4.2apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 49.8%, 3PT: 33.0%, FT: 81.1%. What kind of an experience was it playing and living in Australia? The NBL is a league on the rise isn’t it?

Australia was a great experience. I’ve always heard about Australia and how for many people it’s a dream destination of theirs. It was an amazing quality to living. The weather, food, and people were amazing. As far as basketball and the NBL, it is very much still on the rise. It’s a face pace league and you have to come there ready to play every night. It’s a short season and only a few teams make the playoffs making every game very competitive.

2 years ago you played with Frutti Extra Bursaspor (Turkey-BSL) averaging 13.4ppg, 2.6rpg, 3.4apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 54.1%, 3PT: 35.3%, FT: 85.9%; and in the Eurocup averaged 13.4ppg, 3.1rpg, 3.3apg, FGP: 56.0%, 3PT: 34.1%, FT: 90.0%. That was your first full season in Europe after a short stint with FC Barcelona. What do you remember having been your wake up call then to being a professional in Turkey?

Although I had played in Barcelona, playing in Turkey was my first true experience playing overseas. I got to Barcelona in the middle of the season and didn’t play much minutes then that next season I signed with the Milwaukee Bucks. So playing in Turkey I really had to still learn and understand the overseas style of play and what’s expected from a coaching standpoint. We struggled that season, but I gained a lot of experience, really worked on my game, and adapted to the style of play.

I can imagine one of your memorable wins that season was near the end against Fenerbahce and current top guard Lorenzo brown where you scored 16 points. Is that a game that you have fond memories of?

Yes this was a great game for our group. We were really starting to gel as a team but unfortunately it was toward the end of the season. But it’s always good to go out there and get a win against that caliber of an opponent.

In 2016-2017 you had a short stay with top team FC Barcelona in the second half of the season. You had seen a lot in the NBA but coming to one of the world’s greatest organizations must have been an amazing experience. What did you cherish most from that experience?

Barcelona was great. Being that it was my first overseas stint, I didn’t know what to expect. The city was amazing. One of my favorites. But on the court I had a lot to learn about the game. I hadn’t watched many Euroleague games at the time and it was a big transition for me coming from the NBA. What I cherished during that time was the learning and understanding of a different culture, expanding my basketball game competing against up in coming stars such as Luka Doncic, and soaking up the basketball knowledge of my teammates.

Did you feel that incredible vibe that Juan Carlos-Navarro had within the FC Barcelona organization. He was a living legend that had played in the NBA. How was that whole experience with him?

Juan Carlos is truly a legend and you can feel it with his presence and just being around him. Extremely skilled and confident player. He really understands the game. Amazing player and amazing person. I am grateful to having the chance to play on the team with him.

You played your rookie season with the Bakersfield Jam (D-League) averaging 11.5ppg, 3.4rpg, 2.8apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 52.3%, 3PT: 32.1%, FT: 77.9%. What do you remember being your wake up call to being a rookie in the D-League?

So my in my first season in Bakersfield I started the season very well. I think I may of had two really strong games. Coming into the next game the Phoenix Suns had sent down some players on Assignment and I may of played 2 minutes total. And this really had me frustrated but my teammate at the time who had been around for a while just told me to control what I can control. I feel like that was my wake up call to being a pro. It stuck with me ever since.

In your second season with Bakersfield you averaged 11 minutes more and obviously your stats rose. You reached the NBA in March. How do you remember getting the news?

At the time of my call up I was taking a nap because I had a game later that night in the g league. I woke up to some missed calls and text messages. Called my agent back and he tells me that I’m heading to Memphis and how fast could I get to the airport. I didn’t have time to pack much things or say bye to me team. I was on the next flight.

You scored 2 points in your debut against the Milwaukee Bucks. What memories do you have when you checked in? Was Giannis on the court?

I hadn’t spent much time with team so at the time I didn’t really know any plays or the system, but the coach threw me right in the fire. I believe Giannis was on the court but when I checked in I had the assignment of guarding Kris Middleton. I was a little nervous when I got in. Once I ran up and down a couple of times and felt the ball, the nerves calmed down. But it was a surreal moment that I will never forget.

Not many guys who played only 24 NBA games can say they played 6 times against the big 3 of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobolli and Tony Parker. Is there a vivid memory that you will always have playing against these legends?

I am grateful to being able to say I was able to do that. They were like a well oiled machine working together, like they have been playing with each other forever. These are guys that I used to watch as kid. Just an amazing experience to play in a playoff series against them.

In your third professional season you played with the Greensboro Swarm (D-League) averaging 18/4/5 stats. Did you ever feel like you were close to a NBA call up?

During the time in Greensboro I was close to a call up. There were a couple of teams that were showing strong interest or it was between me and another guy. But there was some hood traction. At the time I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to go to Barcelona because it was a guaranteed deal.

In your fourth professional season you played mostly with the Wisconsin Herd (NBA G League) averaging 24.4ppg, 5.0rpg, 5.2apg, 1.7spg, FGP: 53.8%, 3PT: 44.4%, FT: 74.7% and also played 6 NBA games with Milwaukee. How did you experience your second NBA gig. You were up and down in a span of a few months. What stood out during these games?

At this time I was still trying to break through. Playing with Milwaukee was tough at the time. Like you said I was up and down. There was also a coaching change. But any chance that I got I wanted to make the most out of the opportunity. But what stood out most was my teammates, especially Giannis. Being around him and seeing his work ethic was amazing. He really works hard. Any time I came in the gym no matter the time or day he was in there working on something. It was very motivating for me.

You were teammates with Jason Terry. It seems like those old vets are dying out in the NBA because the league is always getting younger. Did a guy like that take time for the younger guys and guys like you that were up and down between leagues?

JT was great and was a big staple in the locker room for the Bucks. But yes unfortunately that does happen. Especially going through a coaching change. For example the coach may just have more confidence in him because he’s been around and he understands the game. It’s tough sometimes to carve out minutes.

You played from 2017-2019 for the Wisconsin Herd (NBA G League) averaging 17.8ppg, 4.5rpg, 5.2apg, 1.7spg, FGP: 51.5%, 3PT: 36.4%, FT: 78.0% and for the Delaware Blue Coats (NBA G League) averaging 17.9ppg, 5.3rpg, 5.6apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 48.9%, 3PT: 37.0%, FT: 78.6%. You put up consistent stats for future call ups, but nothing came. Did you lose faith in the NBA process?

Not that I lost faith, but I just felt it was time to move on. I wanted to make a name for myself in Europe and other overseas leagues. I’m glad I was able to make my dream come true and experience the NBA.

What was the best example that you saw in 6 years in the NBA/G-League where you saw that the NBA will always be a business first before anything else?

Well in the G league I realized first that it’s a business when a player is sent down from the NBA that they will play over the G league guy no matter what because of the contract. And in the NBA I realized it was a business with the coaching changes. When I was in Memphis the coach left and took another job and when I was in Milwuakee there was another coaching change. So this really showed me the business aspect of the NBA.

You played JUCO for Iowa Western Community College (JUCO). Every American that I have spoken to has said that JUCO was very tough but an experience they would never have traded in for anything. How was it for you?

It was definitely tough. But like you said I wouldn’t trade it. It’s part of my story and it made me more hungry in achieving my goals. I embraced my JUCO journey for sure.

You then played at the University of Rhode Island (NCAA) from 2012-2014 averaging 17.4ppg, 2.8rpg, 1.9apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 43.9%, 3PT: 34.3%, FT: 71.4% and 16.9ppg, 4.0rpg, 2.4apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 45.5%, 3PT: 32.6%, FT: 70.7%. You had many great games, but was the exciting 71-69 over George Mason (NCAA) where you had 28 points one of your most fondest games in the NCAA?

That was a good game. But my biggest memory of a game at URI was a home game against Dayton, which was a big rival of ours at the time because we always had close games against them. But I hit a game winning three and my teammates rushed the floor. The shot made SportCenter Top 10. It was an amazing feeling.

How did head coach Dan Hurley groom and prepare you best for a professional career?

I think coach Hurley prepared me best mostly with off the court stuff. That the type of person you are matters most. Being a high character guy. But on the court, he prepared me with the intensity of the work, letting me be creative offensively, and understanding that I have to be already ready when stepping into that professional atmosphere.

Who won a 1-1 in practice you or EC Matthews

We would go to the gym late night and play one on one, he won sometimes, but majority of the time I was winning.

Who was the best player that you ever faced in the NCAA that reached the NBA?

I would say Aaron Gordon, he was a tough cover for us at the time.

Who are the 5 best teammates of all-time for you?

In no order: Vince Carter, Zach Randolph, Tyrese Rice, Giannis Antetokounmpo Mike Conley

Please name your personal NBA Mount Rushmore?

Allen Iverson, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Shaq

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

We just need to accept eras of greatness rather than debating who is better. It was different times. The game is always evolving.

Did you see the sequel to the classic Coming To America? Shouldn’t they have left it alone?

Hahaha I have to agree

Thanks Xavier for the chat.


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