Hi Evan, we look forward to seeing you in Israel in just a few weeks.
You came out of a big college program, Ohio State University, and played alongside NBA player Jared Sullinger. What did you learn from this experience?
ER: I learned a lot playing with those group of guys — some of the most talented guys in the country. We were ranked in the Top 10 the whole time. I learned to play with other players who are just as talented, or more talented, and putting it all together as a team for a common goal to win. We learned a lot of things — especially toughness — leaning how to play through adversity and working well with others. I was playing against the best-of-the-best, every day in practice, so learning to go hard in practice, so that when you play in the games — they’re easy.
Describe your best attributes as a player and the little things that you do to win games.
ER: I have a high basketball IQ. I play hard, I like to rebound and finish around the basket really well. I think the thing I bring best to a team is my IQ and my high experience level for my age. I’m still young as a basketball player, but I don’t play like a young player. I don’t make silly mistakes. I’m very coachable and easy to get along with. I never had a teammate that didn’t like playing with me and visa versa. I work well with others. We get the job done.
What are you looking forward to most for the upcoming season? What are your goals?
ER: My goals on a team level is to obviously to win a championship. Coming off last season, I won a championship with my team in Japan. I know Israel is a tougher league and a lot more has got to be done to get it done. I want to win as many games as possible within our league, make the playoffs and to win the championship.
What was it like playing in Bulgaria, Poland and Japan like — from the culture to the level of basketball?
ER: Bulgaria was my first experience in Europe. I knew the caliber of player I was, and felt like I was a little bit above the level, however, at the same time, my experience level of European basketball was not there. I wanted to go to a place where I could learn the game of European basketball as well as get as much exposure as I possibly could. We played Eurochallenge, so that was a place where I could do that. Learning how to be away from my family and play basketball, made me a better player. I learned a lot being in Bulgaria my first year and it propelled me to have the season I had the very next year in Poland. Playing in Poland was one of my better years. I was leading the league in scoring and then I was second or third in rebounding. Poland was a great experience and the coaches had a lot of faith in me and they helped me grow as a player. Poland is a beautiful country and I really enjoyed it.
When I got to the situation in Japan, it was new to me. The team in Japan had been asking me to play ever since I got out of college. I was reluctant at first, because I didn’t know much about Japanese basketball or even Asian basketball for that matter. I went out there and the team support was amazing. Living in Okinawa was great, I heard it’s kind of like Haifa. I also had family out there, who lived in an army base, so it was an easy adjustment. We won the championship and I earned MVP of the Finals and Center of the Year.But at the end I knew that my goal was to be a high level basketball player so I had to come back to Europe and get what I wanted done.
It seemed like you were a big celebrity in Japan. There was a picture of you on a Vodka brand. Also, we saw a video of you feeding a deer right from your hand.
ER: The Vodka was a sponsor doing a promotion and they sold them. They sold out within the day! I only have one bottle and that was a gift.
Feeding the deer was fun. We were on a road trip in a city called Nara, and its up in the mountains, so during the day the deer come into the city at this park and you can feed them.
What are your favorite hobbies and activities? How do you spend your free time?
ER: I am a people person. I like doing group things, like cooking with my teammates, playing cards and watching movies. I really like fishing. I got into golf. I’m not very good, but I do enjoy golfing.
What would be your fantasy job besides being a basketball player?
ER: A collegiate basketball coach. I just love the game of basketball. I think that’s what I’m going to do when I’m done playing professionally. I love everything about college basketball. I would say that would be my fantasy job, but I wouldn’t call it a fantasy, because I’m going to make it happen.
What’s your favorite basketball memory?
ER: Going to the Final Four in New Orleans in 2012.
Who are some of your sports heroes?
ER: Larry Johnson is my favorite player of all time. He is someone I mold my game after. They say he was a bit undersized at 6-foot-8 (laughs). He was a forward who had many dimensions to his game and was an intimidating player. He was a beast.
What’s your favorite movie?
ER: Harlem Nights with Eddie Murphy. Any Eddie Murphy movie is at the top of my list. I feel like I can watch any Eddie Murphy at any time.
What type of music do you like? Do you have a favorite artist?
ER: R &B. Slow jams. I listen to a little rap here and there. I enjoy music as a whole and appreciate everyone.
What’s one of your biggest Pet Peeve’s in general and in sports?
ER: My biggest pet peeve is unpunctual people, who can’t be on time. I’m a person who hates being late. My sports pet peeve is having an unaccountable teammate, meaning guys who blame others and not take responsibility for themselves. I’m a big team guy. That’s how I have been raised. That’s why people enjoy playing with me. Selfishness is something I don’t like.
What do you know about Israel and Haifa?
ER: I did a little research and looked online about Haifa. It’s right on the beach and third largest city in Israel. I’ve had friends and teammates who played in Israel who told me nothing but good things. Guys like Tyrese Rice, Craig Smith, Nate Miller, LaQuinton Ross and John Williamson all talked to me about Israel.
What’s your message to the Maccabi Haifa fans?
ER: I’m excited to be a part of the team. I look forward to having a great season. I’m going to play as hard as I can for you fans, each and every night. I think we have a group of guys who will play hard for you each and every night — that’s the staple of Haifa. I want to win as many games as possible and I want to make it enjoyable for you this season.