Chris Levour Warren, latest Cedevita Zagreb addition
Following interview was counducted by CroHoops.com editor-in-chief Marjan Crnogaj in May 2006.
Back then Chris Warren was a just another promising newcomer for Cibona Zagreb…
So Chris, you grew up in Panama?
No, I didn’t grow up in Panama. I grew up in Dallas (TX), my dad is from Panama. He lived there till he was 18, then went to college in Iowa, that’s where he met my mom. I lived in Iowa for a year, and then basically my whole life in Texas.
What age did you start playing ball?
What age did I start playing ball? Uhmm..I started playing probably when I was like…seriously…like 10 years old, 10-11 years old…I played on, I guess, a little league team, nothing special, just young guys trying to throw the ball through 10 foot hoop. It was fun though, my dad coached the team, so he taught me a lot about the game.
So, while you grew up in Dallas area, you must have heard about ‘Spud Webb’, Larry Johnson…
‘Spud Webb’, Larry Johnson, there’s probably some more, I’m probably forgetting…
Also Jimmy King from Fab5…
Jimmy King! Yeah, he’s from Dallas as well. Actually the town I went to Junior College in, he’s from Plano, Texas, you know, my highschool team would play against them, you know, we heard a lot about him growing up, you know, Jimmy King, the Fab5, all that stuff in early 90-ties, that was a big thing around my area.
Then, you must be a Dallas Mavericks fan?
Sure, I’m a Mavericks fan. My dad used to take me to the games when I was little, that’s why I love basketball. Watching Rolando Blackman, Roy Tarpley, Detlef Schrempf, all those young guys. I was telling one of my teammates before, about me seeing a game with Manute Bol when I was like 12 years old. Seeing him play at Reunion Arena, old Mavericks Arena. That’s why I’m Mavericks fan, because my dad used to take me to games.
That’s great man. You played in NCAA, for one and a half years or something?
Yeah, two years, and then in my senior year I got hurt, I broke my ankle, so I missed a fourth of the season, so that’s the way it goes. If you play basketball, you’ll get injured sometimes. That was my first major injury in college, it happened in my senior year in South Carolina. You know, what don’t hurt you makes you stronger.
So you moved on to Mexico?
Yeah, I didn’t have lot of opportunities, I guess, as some other guys did, my coach really didn’t help me, it was really just..playing in the gym one day and some guy said ‘do you want to play basketball professionally?’ I was like ‘Yeah, of course’. That’s how I got down to Mexico, just things started to grow from there. I’ve always know that I wanted to play in Europe eventually, but that’s what came first, that’s why I took it.
How was your time in Mexico?
It was actually, when I first heard that I was playing in Mexico, I felt like I was going to play ‘in the worst place in the world’. Actually it was pretty cool. My American teammates there, they’ve been playing in Europe before, they kind of let me know about the situation how to be professional. Even though the league wasn’t that great, I mean the guys that I had on my team were really good about trying to help me find myself.
You went to Mexico 3 times?
Yeah, same team, 3 times. We won a championship there, so every time, it was hard for me trying to get to Europe. Every time they asked me to play, I would play for them. They were paying me on time, everything was good. We were winning, so it was a good experience. Better then I thought in beginning..
You’ve also played in Chile?
I went down there, actually after my first year after Mexico. That was also a good experience for me. Didn’t play there for about a month, I’ve came in there, replaced somebody, and we lost in play-offs. So, I didn’t spend a lot of time there.
Do you have any particular, funny or strange stories, from your trips south of Rio Grande?
You know what, not really. It was just like normal, it was really normal for me, nothing like extreme happened that wouldn’t have happened over here…or happened in college or something. It was just guys hanging out, having fun playing basketball, working hard..
Then you finally moved to Europe, reaching the shores of Portugal?
Yeah, finally. That was good opportunity for me, I had a pretty good coach there. He really helped me a lot, trying to teach me a little bit about European basketball and how to be a professional. He was pretty good coach, but then my agent told me about a better league, a better opportunity…
And that’s how you finished in Belgrade suburb, playing for Reflex Zeleznik?
Yeah. That was a tough experience for me, because from where I’ve been. Before that, in my professional career I was like one of the ‘main guys’. You know, everything was basically on my shoulders, and on that particular team they had a lot of good young talents. So I don’t think my game fit their style of play. I kind of struggled with that..
You also played with a big-time NBA talent, Nemanja Aleksandrov?
Yeah, yeah, I’ve played with him. Actually, the game he got hurt I passed him the ball, so I kind of felt bad after that.
That was last year?
Yeah, that was last season, he had a knee injury, ACL or something like that.
Do you think he really has NBA potential?
I think so. He’s young, so he’s got a lot to learn because the NBA is a whole different game than over here. I mean, I’ve played with a lot of NBA guys, in college, at the gyms, and you know, they are a lot stronger, they take things a lot seriously. That’s what he didn’t understand, some people don’t understand here in Europe. In the NBA they take their job extremely seriously. I meen they have fun as well too, but when it comes down to time to play they take that very seriously.
What areas of his game does he need to improve on in order o becoming more legit NBA potential?
Strength. I think he needs to improve his defense, ball-handling, his ability to dribble, because guys like Peja Stojakovic…he’s 6’10” but he can dribble, he can shoot, do everything, that’s the difference…
Exactly that. That’s what a big part of the NBA is, being versatile. Not just having a couple of moves to score, not just being one-dimensional in your game.
Do you like Belgrade od Zagreb more?
In general I have to say Belgrade, there was lot more to do. But professional-wise it’s better place to be in Zagreb, because there are not so many (off-the-court) distractions like in Belgrade.
Who is your favourite teammate in Cibona (Marin Rozić passes by…)?
..’Rozo’ is my favourite teammate..No, I don’t really have a favorite teammate, all of my teammates are cool.
Isn’t there somebody who likes to pass you the ball on the court or something like that?
Nobody loves to pass the ball to me. It’s pretty even. I don’t really have a favorite teammate. There’re some guys I’m hang around with, of course. Favorite teammate? I’ve never had a favorite teammate.
Who is a better leaper – Davison or Markota?
Davison. That’s easy – Davison. Markota? He can leap, he’s second, but not a close second. Davison is like from ‘NBA action’. Probably if he wes in the NBA he could easily participate in dunk contest.
Is Markota an NBA potential? Please compare him to Nemanja Aleksandrov.
Definitely. I mean he’s a little further along. He has great passing skills for a guy his age. He has to work on being stronger, being able to handle the ball a bit more, his passing skills and ability to shoot the ball that’s really gonna help him in the future. And I’ve seen on nbadraft.net that he’s projected to go to my hometown team – the Mavericks. So if it happens he’ll have to give me some tickets!!!
You’ve been known as a defensive specialist on your team. So which players in Europe/Goodyear/Croatia gave you most trouble with their offensive moves this season??
Conley (Hemofarm Vršac). I don’t know it was just that game, but he kind of surprised me with his strength and quickness. That’s the only guy that kind of surprised me.
He’s a lefty?
No, he’s right-handed. On the tape he didn’t really seem to be as quick as he is in person.
Who is your favorite NBA player?
Tracy McGrady (Houston Rockets). That’s an easy answer.
Who was your idol while growing up?
Basketball was so much better when I was growing up. Jordan & Pippen. I liked Joe Dumars, Vinnie Johnson, Magic Johnson, Clyde Drexler. I enjoyed basketball a lot more from the beginning of the 90-ties a lot more then I do now. At least watching itl.
You’re going to play for Panamian national team in Japan?
I’m supposed to. Right now I’m discussing that possibilty with a new coach and national team manager. The first year I was down there I played 25+ minutes per game, but last year I had some conflicts with the coach. We still won, which was good for our national team, but I felt he gave some other people opportunities that maybe didn’t deserve it. I actually proved myself the year before, but he didn’t take that into account. But it’s the coaches job…
The new coach, Guillermo Vecchio, looks like a good choice. He led Argentinian national team in the mid&late 90-ties.
That’s the kind of guy we need on our bench. I haven’t met him, but I hope he’s the kind of guy who’ll make us work hard in order to beat the teams in our WC bracket. We have a pretty tough bracket (Spain, Germany, New Zealand, Angola, Japan). If you ask experts how they think Panama is going to finish in that bracket, they will probably say ‘4th, 5th, 6th place..’
But you know, we just have to come in there, try to get our team gel together, and see what happens if we play hard, see what happens.
You have an (NBA) interesting player on your national team, by the (interesting) name Danilo Pinnock? He played a big role for George Washington in NCAA this season?
Yeah. He really had an opportunity to show what he can do for our national team last year. I think he’s declaring for the NBA draft, but I’m not sure if he’s gonna go.
He plays at your position?
He plays 1-2-3. He plays a little bit point-guard as well. He’s a leaper. He’s very, very athletic, and plays with lot of energy, lot of things to prove as a young guy.
And the assistant coach for Germany, is your legendary countryman Rolando Blackman?
He’s happy having Dirk Nowitzki playing for his team.
Do you have any ‘dreams’ that he could mention you to his Mavericks bosses, in his World’s scouting report?
Every night. Every night. I just can’t worry about that. I just have to take one day at the time, work hard and see what happens. I hope to have a long career in Europe.
Do you plan to play for Cibona for another year?
We’ll see. I don’t know how they feel about me coming back, you know. You just never know. If they want me to come back, of course I’ll consider it. It’s a good situation for me, it’s a small city, no distractions, they’re very professional.
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