Like a new kid in a new school, Kwame Alexander sits patiently on the Changwon LG Sakers bench as an entire half of the game goes by without his name being called. It’s Alexander’s second game in the Korean Basketball League (KBL) and while he’s already become a fan favourite in Changwon, his coaches and teammates are still in the process of developing trust in Alexander.
“When I’m on the bench I’m looking at how the other Americans are playing,” says Alexander. “I wanted my team to gain a big lead so I could go in and do some crazy stuff.”
His team would indeed gain a big lead. The LG Sakers were up by 20 in the third quarter against the second place Seoul SK Knights. And with 2:08 to go in the third, LG Sakers coach Kim Jin called Alexander’s number. A warm applause from the Changwon fans in Seoul welcomed Alexander to the game.
Alexander was brought in as a defensive/rebounding force that will make the opposing team work extra hard on every possession. On his first defensive sequence, he showed the team exactly what he was made of as he forced a steal after playing great perimeter defense on one of the best players in the KBL Aaron Haynes.
On the very next defensive possession, Alexander gets his hand in the middle of a passing lane, whips the ball around his back and takes off for a dunk that may have caused a slight earthquake in Seoul. Two steals, two points, and one rebound in his first two minutes of the game. Alexander is a force to be reckoned with.
Where were you and what were you doing when you got the call to come play in the Korean Basketball League?
“It was a Sunday, in Cyprus. We had a game at 5 p.m., and I got a call at 3:40 p.m. from Korea saying they wanted to sign me. I was like, ‘ight, yeah, let’s do it’. So I go to the game, we don’t win (it was against one of the best teams in the league), but I just let it all hang out. So I was pretty much en route to the game, getting my stuff together, and I got the call from Korea. It was pretty cool man.”
You got the call Sunday, flew out on Tuesday, once you got to Korea what was your first reaction?
“When I got here, it was cold. It was the complete opposite of Cyprus. You know, Cyprus is an Island next to the equator where it’s nice and warm. I’ve been pretty spoiled because I was in Greece the year before so I’ve been on islands two years in a row. So when I got here and felt the cold I was like ‘Oh My God!’.”
The Super Bowl just passed and I can’t mention that without mentioning that you almost became an NFL player, right?
“Yeah, in my senior year at Cal State San Bernardino, the Chicago Bears wanted to draft me. I was about to do it, but I caught a tweak in my hamstring so I couldn’t really show them what I could do on the field. I had to rehab it and everything. The Seahawks also wanted to see what I could do. So when I got better I went to the Seahawks. I wasn’t fully healthy yet but I was good enough to show them something. So I went to tryouts and they said, ‘go back, and in the summer, train, then come back out’. But it was moving real slow, you know, and I was playing basketball everyday still. I just said, ‘you know what, I’m just going to play basketball’. Because I always knew what I can do playing basketball so that’s that.”
The NBA also had some interest. You were called by the Los Angelas Clippers and the Los Angelas Lakers, correct?
“The Clippers tried me out, and the Lakers tried me out. They just wanted to look at me for future references. And the NBA D-League (LA D-Fenders) tried me out too. They may end up calling me this summer. But I don’t know, I may want to end up coming back here (Korea) next year. It’s not bad here, it’s no bad at all [smiles].”
The Drew League in Los Angeles is a very famous summer league that features a lot of NBA talent. You were teamed up with the famous rapper ‘Game’ and his La Familia team. Then you switched teams mid-way through the season. What was the story behind that?
“Well I had made ESPN in 2011, after he came up to me when I was playing in the JBL and asked me if I wanted to play on his team and stuff. So that’s we hit that off. But this past summer, I left the team and joined hoodini’s all-stars. And we won the championship.”
Was there something that happen between you and Game’s team that caused you to leave?
“I actually played basketball. With him it’s the same story. He kept bringing in NBA players. My playing time was decreasing but I was playing like the heart of the team. So I didn’t feel like I was being appreciated. I was like ‘I’m out of here’. I went to a team that smacked us when I was on that team. So I already had it in the back of my mind. And we ended up winning it all. So that was good.”
How are you adapting to the speed of the KBL?
“These guys run all over the place. But I’m used to it because I run around really fast too. It works for me.”
You are going to have your first home game in Changwon on Friday. Are you looking forward to performing in front of the home crowd.
“Yeah of course, I mean I saw the little display the had for SK when they introduce the players so I’m pumped to see what they have in Changwon for us. But yeah, it’s really exciting.”
Finally my last question, is true that you once jumped over the length of a pool table?
“It wasn’t a pool table, it was actually a ping pong table. But where did you hear that story from? That was like 2009 (laughs). We were outside after practice. And we were in Irving, California. And you know the Asian had their ping pong tables set up outside. I bet my friends $200 that I could jump over the length of this ping pong table, and I cleared it. I jumped right over it, cleared it.”