Let's talk with...Keifer Sykes: "Men before players"

Despite a complicated time zone, we contacted the former Milan, today in Melbourne in NBL, to talk about various issues such as the protection of players.

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Despite a complicated time zone, we contacted the former Milan, today in Melbourne in NBL, to talk about various issues such as the protection of players.

We can call Keifer Sykes the globetrotter, he played in 5 teams in less than a year, in 4 different countries.

He started in China, then he came back in Italy in Milan with the Olimpia Milano; when they shouted down the season he went to play in the BCL final bubble with the Turk Telecom when those final ended he was called by the Panathinaikos to play for a month and then he went to Australia to the Melbourne Phoenix.

We got the exclusive to interview him and know more on his incredible journey and his activities off the court.

You were in Milan and you played EuroLeague with coach Ettore Messina, can you talk about this experience?

My time in EuroLeague with coach Messina was a short strength it was only three months; it was the strongest time for me, playing for the best coach I’ve ever played for in my career, he was really strong, he taught so much in those three months, he raised my level of play and raised my standards. Obviously what u seeing from them they winning lot of games they’re in a good position. I could see it when I was there, coach wanted to get the team back to the playoffs after 7 years back to the standards that he wanted to being the president and the head coach.

My time in Milan was just instrumental and very pivotal for my career, first time being in the EuroLeague and understood that I can play at that level, coach Messina trusted me taking a chance on me, he always told me how grateful I needed to be and appreciative to be at that EuroLeague level. Because its hard to get to that level and with him opening that door (to play there) for me helped me then to play for Panthinaikos and now be able to be in the position were lots of teams are interested on me so that time in Milan was a huge step for my career.

Everybody knows what happened and what is going on with this covid situation, how u managed ur offseason? And how a professional player lived that situation?

My offseason was interesting I played probably at the two highest level the CBA in china and the EuroLeague in Europe so I was able to approach it in two ways: one were I just played in china where I learned how to get into that zone playing up and down style where u responsabile for a lot of the scoring law and just working on my scoring abilities. Then as I said before I could learn a lot from Milan and Coach Messina, playing with Chacho (Sergio Rodriguez) so playing EuroLeague behind a very good point guard and a really great coach helped my decision and skills as well.

I just wanted to approach the summer to continue to improve on those skills of my game and be a better decision maker.

For me expecting to make a cert amount of money and and to play at a cert level when the covid came it was a lot of disruption, and there was a lot of people interested on me but I feel they didn’t really believed in me cause I played only two short period  so I know my value and what I can bring to a team, I averaged about 16 points in the Italian league with milan and I averaged a lot when I was in Avellino and led us to the playoffs and I played in a second division and worked all the way up so I don’t want to take a step back I waited until I found something that was right for me and when this opportunity came with the Basketball Champions League and then with Panathinaikos for a month I just felt they didn’t really believed in me and my game and we couldn’t come to an agreement. So I came here to Australia, this team believed in me gave me more responsibility, I spoke about moneys but it’s not all about moneys for me is about taking the right steps in my career to get better and elevate as a player, this team gave me more responsibility and I don’t have to play behind anyone like in Milan and like I would in Panathinaikos. Here I’m able to play my game and try to lead this team to the playoffs and this os what I always want to do in my career have a big role, that’s what I worked hard for in offseason not to be limited that what I was looking for and what I got here in NBL.

When you went to turkey you experienced the BCL bubble how was it? 

The BCL bubble was very cool, it was a very interesting experience for me because I have the scoring record in the champions league, my process was playing in the second league in turkey and then I went back to play the champions league and try to win a title. It was really cool how they put it together, a lot go high level players, a lot of high level teams; it didn’t worked out for us to win but I was at the right place at the right time because for me playing there gave me the opportunity to play in the EuroLeague again with Panathinaikos so for me going there for 2 weeks ended up for me being there for 6 weeks and for me training and playing 5 or 6 games in EuroLeague it was a blessed to have that opportunity and to play again with great players like Nedovic.

We seen you have done some vlogs on your own and you have been chosen to to the vlogs for the BCL bubble how does it started and we have to expect something coming soon?

I had the movie when I was in college so I had a lot of feedbacks on people that want to see what I’m doing next. I always been vlogging but with the film putting my self in front of a camera and me going in this journey going overseas working my way up from the bottom to the EuroLeague I just felt that it would be cool for me to start capturing some of these moments. I started last year when I was in china and was a blessing cause in the team I played there we had games in the usa and in Japan. My journey has been unique and a lot of people don’t get to see a close look on what is like to play overseas.

Another reason why I started was cause the young guys can see what its like to play here cause not everyone get to the NBA and a huge percent of guys playing basketball in the states end up playing overseas so I wanted to give them a look on what its like to be overseas, cause some of them want to earn money and u can’t in college so they come here to start earning some moneys I want to give them the perspective and the information especially cause I played 5 different leagues I can tell them how it is in every league I played.

With those vlogs I want to help athletes and one day I would like to be a gm or a front office so I can give right advice to young hoopers.

Born and raised in Chicago, we seen your film and we know you have a big influence in young hoopers over there. How is growing and hooping in Chicago?

Growing up in chicago and hooping was everything for us. I was born in 1993 in the time when everyone in the world was introduce to Michael Jordan so basketball became everything for us and its the top sport in our city. For me be born in a basketball city where we won a lot of championship we was in the Mecca of basketball.
We got basketball court on every streets, I grew up playing basketball each day all day and now I have basketball camps in the places where I grew up and I go in those place to give back to the community. Right now with covid the basketball scene over there is shutdown so especially this year I was able to provide gyms, platform and security for those kids. I got a basketball program that is called “YBM youth basketball mentor” and with the high school sport being stopped with me having access to gyms I have been  able to get kids in the gym to train

How was in Panathinaikos? And how was to play in such big arena like Oaka whiteout the crowd?

That was one of the other reasons why I didn’t stay in the EuroLeague because as we all know this year isn’t the same we have covid, we have snow storms (laughs), we have no fans its not the same. When I played for Panathinaikos you can feel the prestige of the club, you see al the pictures and the trophies and you can see the level on how they train and the excellence they want to be at and it was unfortunately that there wasn’t any fans cause my first game was the greek cup against Olympiacos and everyone just wished the fans could come to the arena, everybody was texting me to play well and win the game so for me it was a blessing for me to play for such a important club but it was definitely sad that things were not the same with no fans and u can easily feel it, three games were cancelled I just feel I didn’t want to deal with that for all the season.

We want to talk about the ELPA (EuroLeague player association), you lived different leagues what you think they can do to protect and help more the players?

I think overall not every player have ELPA like when I played in Avellino I didn’t have it so there are many players that are unprotected and I think players have to be more protected from the clubs because these players leave their families, their country like 8/10 months. The situation of Heurtel is crazy and that’s why I went to play in Australia and China cause I don’t believe u not paying someone for their work but you still expect them to to do a certain type of performance and maybe they don’t pay players for months and they have to pay bills back home.

And if u get paid later u can’t pay bills and taxes but I have been blessed to play in Australia, China and Milan where they always pay on time. I don’t want to pass for the bad guy for saying this but when we were in Milan covid affect us first and they tried to schedule us to flight to play on the road when there were covid all over and if it wasn’t for Rudy Robert getting the virus and a player from Real Madrid that we played 6 days before they wouldn’t stop the season, ELPA didn’t protect us, and players from the players association didn’t protect us too cause we were the first affected and they didn’t want to take a stand when we said that we didn’t want to play we still should have payed and have no penalties.

No one standed with us and its just bad to see how it’s a rough business on how much times and energy we put on this and they don’t protect us it’s not only about moneys is about the professionalism. We should all try to get better. There has to be more a human approach cause sometimes they treat don’t treat us like humans but they treat us like basketball players, like machines and don’t care about our health, our bodies. When we had to travel with covid they don’t even think how we could feel in that situation cause we were exposed everyday to this virus and if we don’t play we don’t get paid and in our minds we feel like slaves not like humans. I don’t wanna be the negative one or the one that only said these things cause everybody know this but no one said it.

Now has we said before you choose NBL how are you doing over there? You like it so far?

I’m liking it a lot, very good people here they speak English, it’s summer time so always good weather; there’s much less covid here, we are just been relocated to an island cause they had like 10 cases and I admire the fact that they were having zero cases and as soon they got one they shut everything so they can contain it and don’t let it spread all around. It’s a good league for me has I just said cause I can have more responsibilities, EuroLeague definitely had higher level talent, its a really exciting league has we saw they got some young players that came here to skip college and then get drafted like Lamelo Ball.

I believe is gonna be a fun year for me.

Last question we know u take care a lot about your outfits in particular the shoes…what’s your favorite shoes on and off the court?

My favorite shoes off the court now has to be the Dior B22, I like those a lot as we all know Dior has been really popular this year, with the shoes, the clothes and the Jordan collaboration is dope. Dior exploded in the scene with the late Pop Smoke with his song named Dior that now is a global hit.

On the court my favorite shoes to play in all time are the Kobe 8 that now are really rare and difficult to find. But at the moment I’m playing in Kyrie’s 2 and 3, I like those cause he always add lot of color ways and for everything he is personally doing off the court with all the BLM movement and he helped the WNBA, so yeah definitely now my favorite are kyrie’s.

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