Kitchen coming on at just the right time for Ironi Nahariya
NAHARIYA (FIBA Europe Cup) - Derwin Kitchen had been slow cooking in the first part of the season, but has turned up the heat now that Ironi Nahariya have transferred to the FIBA Europe Cup, stealing the spotlight with an excellent all-around performance against Gaziantep in the first leg of the Round of 16.
The 30-year-old American guard exploded for 23 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 steals in his FIBA Europe Cup debut after averaging 3.9 points on 23% shooting from the field, 7.0 rebounds and 5.1 assists in the Basketball Champions League.
Although a 96-75 victory win against Gaziantep puts them in a great position to advance to the Quarter-Finals, Kitchen is stressing that it is still too early to think about the next round.
We spoke with Kitchen about the upcoming game in Turkey, Ironi Nahariya's international campaign and him stepping up for the Israeli club at just the right time.
You wrapped up a convincing win in the first game against Gaziantep. After a relatively close first half, you ran away with the game after the break. What was the key?
They have a great team with a lot of shooters. We knew we needed to do a better job in the second half in getting stops on defense, which allowed us to run in transition and score some easy points.
What is your mindset ahead of the second game in Turkey; how do you ward off even the slightest complacency that is bound to set in when a team has a 21-point advantage?
We need to have the mindset as if it's a win or go home game. We can't think about the point spread. They're a good team who can win a game by 30 points if we allow them to. We need to remain focused during the entire game.
Ironi Nahariya transferred to the FIBA Europe Cup from the Basketball Champions League after the loss to Fraport Skyliners. It must have been a mixed bag of feelings…
Yes, as a team we wanted to continue in the Basketball Champions League, but it doesn't always work in your favor. Especially with the tough group of teams we had. We knew there was still a chance to compete in Europe and fight for a championship, which is always a good thing. So no one was too disappointed. As a team, your goal is always to win a championship.
What would you say are the strong sides of Nahariya?
I think our strength as a team is on defense. We have a good balance on offence with our post players and wing players, but overall we rely more on our defense.
For you personally, the season in the Basketball Champions League was a tough one. You can bring a lot of things to the table with your versatility, but you were in a severe shooting slump in the Basketball Champions League. How do you try to deal with such situations, when your shot is not falling?
Yes, you're right. I struggled a lot because I was mainly trying to work myself into game shape, to play the way the team needed me to. I came over in early November, when the season had already begun, so I wasn't in the best shape. Now that I'm in better shape, a lot of things are starting to come a little easier. I always considered myself a glue guy, someone who does all the dirty work. Rebounds, assists and points will come, but I like to do the little things that other guys don't like to do.
Talking about turning a new page and a fresh start...you had a spectacular FIBA Europe Cup debut. What went right in that game?
I try to do whatever the team needs. With us losing one of our main players Gilbert Brown, I knew that I needed to look to attack and score more than usual. It was a game where I was able to take advantage of some opportunities with being aggressive and I was fortunate enough to make plays for my team.
Nahariya are only ninth in the standings right now in Israel, yet, only a couple wins separate you from moving into the top half of the standings. How would you rate the team's performance so far and where do you want to finish in Winner League?
The Israeli league has always been this way. There is always a group of teams who are close in the standings. With one or two losses you can drop to ninth place, but at the same time you can climb to fourth or fifth with one or two wins. As a team, we're not where we want to be, but there's still plenty of time for us to figure things out and be in the top half of the standings by the time the season is over.