Errick McCollum celebrated his 34th birthday over the weekend as the leading scorer in the 7DAYS EuroCup this season and a three-time MVP of the Round this season. The Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar guard chatted at length with Eurocupbasketball.com. Here is Part 1 of the interview.
Errick McCollum, Lokomotiv: 'This is the best that I have played'
On Saturday, Errick McCollum celebrated his 34th birthday and he did it riding high after leading Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar to a road win at MoraBanc Andorra. He scored 20 points on 4-for-5 three-point shooting to earn MVP of the Round for the third time in his last five games. More importantly, he led his team to an important victory that kept his team on the heels of the co-leaders in Group A of the 7DAYS EuroCup. In the first half of this two-part interview, McCollum spoke mostly about his current form, his team and teammates and his role as a leader. "I just want to do whatever the team needs to win," he told Eurocupbasetball.com. "As you get more experienced you care less about individual accolades and more about the total picture, the team picture and the team success. That’s kind of how I measure myself - how my team does and how I can help other people."
Happy birthday, Errick. It seems like you've been celebrating for the whole last month. Is this as hot as you remember playing?
"I think this is the best that I have played as far as a complete game: creating, scoring, passing, doing what my team needs to win. I’ve had some hot streaks scoring-wise but for sure, this is one of the better streaks I can remember."
Three weekly EuroCup MVP awards out of the last five say a lot, too. And to get that award, your team must win in each of those rounds. What inspired you over this last month?
"I just want to do whatever the team needs to win. As you get more experienced you care less about individual accolades and more about the total picture, the team picture and the team success. That’s kind of how I measure myself – how my team does and how I can help other people. Some of the younger players, some of them are starting their careers. I want to see them have great success as well. The best way I can do that is to not just to teach them things about basketball and things off the court. I can also help them win games and put them in the position where they are able to take care of their families and have good futures if we all come together as a team and win."
Loko has had some ups and downs, including a coaching change, but sits just one win away from the leaders in a tough group. Are you where you need to be at this point?
"I expected the ups and downs, just because we have so many young players. If you look at the roster, we have only one experienced Russian who is a national team guy and playing at that level. We have four 21-year-olds on the roster who never really played significant minutes in the EuroCup or VTB. We have guys who have adjusted well, like Johnathan Motley and Darius Thompson, in their first time at this level. Stanton Kidd is experienced with the EuroCup; he’s won a title. I’m experienced. Greg Whittington has some experience, as well. But any time you have a little bit of experience and a lot of youth and inexperience you’re going to have some instability, some ups and downs. And the coaching change didn’t help it all. But I figured, with our talent, that we would be able to overcome some of those obstacles. I think we showed that last week in Andorra with the short roster of only nine players. We were missing two starters and a backup point guard and we found a way to win. And that shows maturity and growth, but we still have a long way to go."
What level of responsibility do you feel, as a veteran, for leading this team and making it a success?
"I feel completely responsible for decisions at the end of the game. I feel like I am a guy who has been there, done that – at the end of the game with big shots and the right play. The right play may be me finding an open teammate. But usually, the ball will be in my hands, trying to put us in a good situation. Also as a veteran, I’m going to try to teach the guys maturity and how to handle themselves as a professional. A lot of basketball isn’t just on the court. It’s how you conduct yourself, get proper rest, taking care of your body, treating your body. So I’m constantly preaching to them to do those things because they wonder how 12 years into the game and 34 years old I still move and play well. I try to share those secrets. I just feel like the uncle on the team or the big brother and I’m just trying to help the younger guys to get where they need to be. And anything that I have learned I try to pass on to them. I don’t want them to learn the hard way. I don’t want them to be in the situation where they said I wish somebody had told me. I try to be that bridge for them. It’s a big responsibility but it’s one that I enjoy and I look forward to the challenge."
You've got EuroCup newcomers like Jonathan Motley and Darius Thompson on the team. How are you helping them with all your experience and preparing them for what to expect as the season moves ahead?
"They’re extremely talented. I love Darius Thompson. He’s my roommate on the road. He’s highly intelligent. To me, he’s the best point guard in the EuroCup, hands down. He’s a EuroLeague player and he will be there soon, if he chooses to or not. With him, I just preach him to be aggressive. He’s a guy who can get to the paint at will, he can live there - paint touches all night. He can create, he can get people involved. He’s a triple-double threat and he’s a guy that can really shoot the ball. And a lot of Europe hasn’t seen that because he’s such a pass-first guy and he’s such a good slasher. But he’s actually a really good shooter and I’m trying to get him to the point where he fills that part of his game because we need it, especially now with all the injuries. We need his scoring ability and I think you’ll see that. He’s a guy that if he isn’t already, he’s gonna be on all the big EuroLeague teams’ radars in the summer. He’s a 6'5" true point guard, athletic, can defend but can score and take over a game if necessary.
"And as far as Motley, I think everybody already knows what he’s about. He’s that rare combination of speed, strength, athleticism that you don’t see in Europe at the four and five position. He’s a beast. I really love him on that short roll, how he finishes, how he has really good hands, he can catch everything. And he’s a really good dribbler. He can break the press similar to how you see Milan use Kyle Hines when he dribbles the ball up the court and initiates the offense. I think he has that ability. With him, I’m just trying to get him to see some of the passes. Because he’s such a good player he demands double teams and triple teams that when he can consistently be able to make those reads, it’s gonna be over. But he’s just a dynamite player. To me, he’s arguably the best big in Europe. EuroLeague, EuroCup, it doesn’t matter. There are not many like him on the basketball court. And his market will be the biggest of anyone this summer."