Interview With Macabi Rishon LeZion’s Derwin Kitchen
After a standout career at Florida State, where he teamed with Knicks PG Toney Douglas and Wizards SF Chris Singleton, Kitchen signed in Israel and had to adjust to new life in the Middle East. Kitchen, a 6’4 25-year-old guard, has averaged 14.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists in the Israeli Super League. Kitchen spoke to SprungOnSports about his new life, his past experiences and what the future holds for him in basketball.
SprungOnSports- How’d you get from being Florida State’s starting point guard to playing 6,500 miles away for Macabi Rishon LeZion? How’d you find out about Israeli basketball?
Derwin Kitchen- I knew nothing about Israeli basketball before my agent told me about the offer they made. To be honest I didn’t even know where Israel was located on the map.
SOS- What do you think was the biggest adjustment to living in Israel and what do you like the most about the country? What do you miss the most about America?
DK- The biggest adjustment for me was learning to live on my own in a foreign country. I was very excited but nervous also, because I knew it would be challenging. The playing style was tough at first because I had become accustomed to doing things a certain way in college, but I have figured things out a little bit.
The thing I love most about the country is the weather. I’m from Florida, so I love the warm weather and Israel is no different. The thing I miss most about America is probably just having family and friends around me all the time. Israel is not so different from America, so it’s nothing to miss really besides some of the nice restaurants and food. Israel is a Kosher country, so they don’t eat certain things over here that we eat back home in the states.
SOS- What changes or improvements have you made to your game and what are the biggest differences between the ACC and the Israeli Super League?
DK- The biggest adjustment I’ve tried to make on my game is just being more consistent with my mid range and three-point shot. Towards the end of my senior year at FSU I started to be more aggressive, which is something that I try to do here, but also having a balance of knowing when to be aggressive and when to slow things down and run the team and get my teammates involved.
The biggest difference between the ACC and Israel I think the size difference and the intensity of the games. In the ACC, there were always at least two big men 6’8 or better on each team and out here I notice that most four-men out here are really three-men that just happen to play the four. The ACC games were more intense than here because most games are played in big arenas with more than 10,000 fans so the energy and intensity of the games are much more exciting. The competitive side of things I would say Israel is better. We all know the ACC is very competitive night in and night out and I don’t think it’s any different out here in Israel; every game is important so every team wants to win.
SOS- How would you compare the level of play in Israel to other leagues around America and Europe?
DK- I don’t know much about other teams around Europe.
SOS- Who were your biggest influences growing up in Jacksonville and who have you modeled your playing style after?
DK- My biggest influences growing up as far as sports I can’t think of anyone from Jacksonville. Besides, I was more into wanting to play football growing up until I was 12 when I started playing organized basketball. Jason Kidd has always been my favorite player, so I always tried to mold my game after him, which is hard to do but I tried my best. I always want to fill up the stat sheet with rebounds, assists, points and sometimes steals which is something J. Kidd has done his entire career.
SOS- Who was the best player your played with and against while at Florida State and why?
DK- The best player I played against while at FSU, I would probably say Tyler Hansbrough or Evan Turner. The best player I played with at FSU is either Chris Singleton or Toney Douglas. Chris did so many different things for our team the three years we played together. He defended, scored, played hard. Toney led our team the one year we played together. I would say those two.
SOS- Your former teammate Chris Singleton was picked 17th overall by the Wizards this past June, one pick after New York took your former opponent, Iman Shumpert of Georgia Tech. What are your thoughts on that decision and what would you say to the Knicks if you had the chance?
DK- I would say they made a great decision with the choice they made by selecting Iman. I played against Iman for three years and he improved every year and growed into a great player. All NBA fans know the league is becoming a point guard league and Iman can definitely become one of the top point guards in the NBA because he has all the tools, he can defend, he has the size at 6’4, he’s athletic, he can shoot a little and is a willing passer.
SOS- Do you see yourself in Israel for a long time? How do you see your career progressing and where do you see yourself five years from now?
DK- Playing my entire career in Israel would be nice but most guys never stay in the same country their whole career so we will see what happens. In five years I hope to be still playing at a high level and competing, trying to help some team win a championship. I plan to play until I’m at least 35, but that’s a while from now so we will see how that goes. In five years I want to be a much better player than I am now.
A special thanks to Kitchen and AJ Mitnick for helping set up the interview!