Hapoel Holon welcomes in Tsmoki Minsk in Basketball Champions League action on Tuesday (19:30) at the Toto Arena in Holon. Stefanos Dedas’s squad enters the contest with a 1-1 continental record after picking up a home victory last week against Cholet while Minsk also has one win and a loss.
One of Minsk’s stars is Kris Clyburn who is averaging 15 points per game in the Champions League while notching 18.8 points in the VTB League. The last name may be familiar to some as Kris is Will Clyburn’s brother, six years his junior and he’ll be coming to the play the same team in Holon that Will used to star for back in 2015-16.
With a 1-1 record in the BCL and a 1-3 record in the VTB, Clyburn feels that the team can be doing a bit better but it’s all part of growing pains for the club, “We’re off to a rough start so far and we’re still getting adjusted to everything and the coach. We are trying to get a better feel for each other and get a win.”
The 6’6 guard pointed out that one of the areas that Minsk could do a bit better is on the defensive side of the game, “Our defense at certain parts of the game has been an issue and we’re not getting the stops which has been a big part of our season so far.”
Last year, Clyburn plied his trade for Astoria Bydgoszcz in Poland where he averaged 15.4 points. This season not only is the Detroit, Michigan native playing in the Champions League but also one of the continent’s strongest competitions in the VTB League, “I have been adjusting is the physicality but at the end of the day I think of it as just basketball. The players tie their shoes like me and play basketball like me and they are regular players just like me. It’s a strong league but you have to believe in yourself to perform at any level.”
As for his brother Will’s influence, Clyburn gives him credit for helping him out but is also looking forward to their first meeting on the opposite side of the court when Minsk tips off against CSKA coming up in the first week of December, “We work out together in the summer, he shows me the ropes and gives me advice. I am really looking forward to that game as it will be the first time that we will play against each other at a professional level as brothers and we will be able to talk about that for a long time.”
While he was growing up, Clyburn looked up to the NBA and maybe, just maybe he will one be a part of the world’s best league, “I’ve been a LeBron James fan but my favorite player was Carmelo Anthony when I was growing up. I was at a Lakers and Pistons game about ten years ago and it’s always a dream of mine to play in the NBA, it’s every kids dream. When the time is right I’ll get the call but until then I will keep playing ball here in Europe.”
As for long term goals for himself, the UNLV product wants to do the best he can, “I want to win at the highest level and to be able to contribute to that, compete and show my talents.”
A trip to Holon for Clyburn will conjure up memories of his brother Will’s lone season at the club which was special for both the player and fans alike, “Will said it was one of his best seasons and he had a great year and the fans loved him. The fans have even been in touch with me. It was one of his favorite spots.”
With a 1-1 record, Clyburn and Minsk know what they need to do in order to leave Israel with a win, “Find a way to get stops when we can’t score; that’s when teams take off on us. We have to stay disciplined, we have to kick in defensively and get stops when they most count and let the offense flow.”