In the second half of his two-part interview, Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar star Errick McCollum spoke about the start of his career and reflected on what motivates him as he turned 34 years of age over the week.
Errick McCollum, Lokomotiv: 'Struggle breeds success'
Errick McCollum, who celebrated his 34th birthday on Saturday, is on pace to shatter career-highs in several statistical categories this season. In the second half of his two-part interview with Eurocupbasketball.com, McCollum was more philosophical as he discussed how he thrived at a small college, the approach that has helped him take apart defenses at such a high rate, his motivation and what birthdays mean to him. "It’s tough because as an athlete I don’t like to reflect, I don’t like to reminisce because it makes me feel like you’re living in the past or it’s over," he told Eurocupbasketball.com. "But the birthday is the one time of the year when I take that time to reflect and see how far I’ve come and how far I am as a man and family and I hope I can continue to improve."
Yours is a basketball family. You and your brother C.J. came out of smaller universities to go on to big pro careers. How were you both able to take advantage of that small-school route to major success?
"We were able to develop early. When you go to a small school maybe you don’t have the resources or all the money in the school that all those bigger universities have, but you are able to play through mistakes. They give you a chance to grow, to develop. Often times a lot of young players struggle to grow because when you don’t play you don’t respond the correct way. They don’t work as hard. Or they lose interest, or they lose confidence. But when you go to a smaller school you get to play right away. You get to learn, get your growing pain and you get to struggle. And I think struggle breeds success. Without struggles, you can never get where you want to go. And you can never be the player you’re supposed to be. I think until you find that rough patch, or you hit that difficult situation where you have to find yourself and persevere. And that’s what determines the good players from the great ones. You’re able to overcome obstacles."
Do you share C.J.'s wine enthusiasm, too? He must want you to scout the best bottles for him while you're traveling around Europe?
"I love the wine. He and my wife are in a different class than me. But my wife introduced me to the wine. That’s when my brother started to take a bigger interest in it. Fast forward many years and now he has the winery and his own production and everything. It’s something that we enjoy. Obviously, we like to taste it and pair it with different foods. And just the culture of wine - how long it’s been around. It’s just something that we’ve taken an interest in and we really enjoy. I think when I’m done playing I will have more time to check out and be more involved with. But when you’re gone overseas playing so many months you don’t really have too much time to handle those types of endeavors."
Back to basketball. You make shots all over the floor, and particularly thrive in the mid-range, which is said to be a dying art. Do you feel that way, too?
"Yeah, I think nowadays it’s pretty much three or layup. It’s what the NBA pushes. It’s what a lot of teams in Europe are starting to do. I think that if you can shoot, you can do anything if you put the time into it and work. If you have touch. A three-point shot is not a good shot unless you practice it. A mid-range shot is not a good shot unless you practice it. That goes for everything. Now the way the game is taught, there are a lot of guys who cannot shoot that shot and you can tell how they do defensively with pick-and-roll strategies. It’s a shot that I thrive on. And it’s a shot that has made me very successful and made a lot of money."
You are second all-time in EuroCup scoring and at the rate you're going, could be first in the next few weeks. What would that mean to you, especially since you are doing it in fewer games than anyone before you?
"It’s just a blessing. My gift from God is what allowed me to be in this position. I think also having good coaches, having good teammates. It just means that there are a lot of guys out there who set good screens for me and who gave me the ball in good situations where I could succeed and coaches who called plays for me. Another part of it is a lot of hard work, dedication and staying healthy. I think this is my fifth EuroCup season and probably other guys in front of me have played double the amount of time but I think if you apply yourself and work hard you remain humble, good things will happen to you. That’s been the case for me."
You've won the EuroCup title, been MVP and All-EuroCup. What is motivating you right now, on your 34th birthday, for this season in progress?
"For me, it’s just my family. Every time I go out and play I just want to represent my family in the best light, the McCollum name and make my family proud. I think at this stage I have a son - he’s 17 months - and I just kind of want to set a good example for him, whatever you do to pursue to the best of your abilities. For me, that’s being a father, being a husband, being a brother, a son and also a basketball player. So whatever you do, you have to put forth your best energy, your best effort and no matter how successful you get or how good things are going, the energy you brought into it at the beginning of your career you have to bring that same energy towards the end or the middle. That’s how I approach it. Every day I come with that enthusiasm and that hunger and drive to be better."
By the way, how have you learned to celebrate your birthdays when it always arrives during the season and so far away from home?
"It’s tough just because you try to always remain focused, you don’t want to have any distractions but you also are blessed and thankful that God has given you another year to live. I try to find a balance. I’m a family guy. I keep it simple. I go to dinner with my wife and son and just sit back and reflect. You kind of remind yourself everything that you are thankful for, that you have that you didn’t have in the past or maybe took for granted. It’s tough because as an athlete I don’t like to reflect, I don’t like to reminisce because it makes me feel like you’re living in the past or it’s over. I try to live in the moment. I try to stay focused on the moment. It allows me to not get comfortable, push myself, stay motivated, stay grounded. But the birthday is the one time of the year when I take that time to reflect and see how far I’ve come and how far I am as a man and family and I hope I can continue to improve."