Year 2 for Usman Garuba. That’s the number of seasons the 21-year-old has spent in the NBA. The power forward has increased his prominence and performance, although he also acknowledges that while he is happy, he’s not satisfied and that his desire is to compete more. After finishing the 2022-23 NBA season, Garuba visited Spain, and was present at an event organized by Kellogg’s, a brand that promotes healthy eating and for which the Spaniard is an ambassador.
After breakfast, Garuba visited the boys and girls of the Felipe II public school in the La Ventilla neighborhood of Madrid, where Kellogg’s offers social breakfasts every morning of the school year with their program Everyone to breakfast. The player declared, before his visit, that, “For me, it is important to set an example and that when I see the school children, that I can see myself reflected in them. There are many boys and girls with limited resources or children of immigrants, just like me a few years ago, and I hope they see that with work and effort you can go a long way. My parents sacrificed many things for my brothers and for me, so that we can be where we are now”.
Between breakfast and the visit to the school, Garuba was able to sit down with AS and review his present moment and future prospects, in addition to giving a personal assessment of current basketball news, the Spanish national team and this summer’s World Cup, which will be held in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia
What is your balance of the season?
Bittersweet because of the team’s results. Obviously, we didn’t do what we wanted to do. We had a lot of ambition after last year. We wanted to have a better season, but it wasn’t to be. On an individual level, I am happy, in quotation marks, for having progressed compared to my first year, but I’m keen to give much more. I’m hungry to do better things and I know that I am capable of it.
You said happy in quotation marks. Why’s that?
Well, I’m happy but not satisfied. I’m not as happy as I could be because I think I can give much more. And that’s what we’re working on right now.
Stephen Silas is gone and the Rockets have signed Ime Udoka as coach. How do you see this change?
I don’t know much about the new coach. I still haven’t spoken to him and I imagine that in the following weeks I will find out more. It’s time to start from scratch and I have to earn playing time. The whole team really starts from scratch, a new cycle begins. All my respects to the old coach, who has always been there and is a great person. I wish him the best for the future for him and his family. He really helped me a lot to grow.
It’s going to be a long summer, at the end of it, the World Cup with Spain. How do you plan to approach these months?
We going to plan well. You need to make your intentions clear and show everyone that winning the Eurobasket was not a fluke, as some people think. We want to show that this is reality and we want to surprise people. We have to believe it a little more. The goal is again gold.
What do you expect of yourself in the near future?
I expect to be a more mature person and player. Physically, I hope to be better, better at shooting and much more athletic. I am training to improve everything, to try to reach my full potential as soon as possible. I think I can give a lot in the NBA for my conditions. There’s a long way to go, but we keep working.
We have seen some Spanish players like Juancho and Willy Hernangómez go through tough times. Do you think what they have achieved in FIBA basketball may be undervalued in the NBA?
I don’t think that what we have achieved in FIBA basketball is underestimated. There are many things and many decisions that one cannot control, like contracts and things like that. They are two great players and what they achieved in the Eurobasket is taken into account. They look out for those kind of players and they know who competes in those events. In the NBA they are aware of all that. Willy and Juancho could be on any NBA team. But teams want to complement the stars and for the stars to shine and they prioritize that. That does not mean that you are a better or worse player, but that they want to give feedback to the stars. Willy and Juancho are two players who should be in the NBA. I respect both of them a lot, they have helped me so much and given me a lot of advice before I came. The league’s like that, but I think they will be lucky and they will do well. Why not? They just need more time on court to show who they are.
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