Gabriel Iffe Lundberg has adapted to Russian giants CSKA Moscow right away. With his former team, Zielona Gora from Poland, the 26-year-old guard established himself as an elite player in VTB League, being ranked third in scoring with 20.4 points and sixth in assists with 5.4.
Inevitably, his performances caught the eye of several European clubs. In this vein, 26 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds in a win over CSKA in early February proved to be the ideal showcase for him. CSKA Moscow was the one who secured his services, when its two principal guards (Daniel Hackett and Mike James) were having injury problems or had been suspended for a period of time.
Before departing from Poland, the 6’4” Dane had won the Polish Cup as MVP with Zielona Gora. Lundberg started his professional career as a teenager with Falcon in his native Denmark and also played for Copenhagen and Horsens before heading abroad. He signed with Spanish club Manresa in 2017 and after two seasons there played one more for Tenerife.
As CSKA Moscow head to the Euroleague playoffs as the second seeded team in the regular season, the contribution of Iffe Lundberg from the perimeter has done a great deal to facilitate the Russian powerhouse. In a 93-86 win over Panathinaikos in Moscow, the Dane had his second most productive performance so far in the competition, amassing 19 points on 4 for 7 two-pointers, 3 for 4 three-pointers and 5 assists. In his previous 9 appearances, Lundberg had 9.4 points, but eventually registered 58 in the last three games and handed out 13 assists.
Iffe Lundberg discussed with TalkBasket.net his impressions from playing with CSKA, representing Danish basketball abroad and feeling like a role model for athletes who aspire to reach the top level, like he did.
Q: Do you really feel a newcomer at CSKA?
A: I do. I have a lot of confidence in myself, but it also helps that I have the confidence of my teammates and the coaching staff. It’s an extremely high level of basketball, top to bottom. They are super professional. The organization does everything they can to take care of the players. I am really happy to be here.
Q: Were you following the Euroleague before you signed with CSKA?
A: Yeah, I’ve been watching it a couple of years now. It was a goal of mine to play there. The fact that I am finally here is obviously something I am really grateful for. Everyone has those goals to win the championship, but I try to take it one game at a time. We know that you can lose or win in any game. So, you got to have that mindset.
Q: How has your trajectory been so far? You have gone a long distance from Spain to Poland and now being a part of a European powerhouse.
A: It’s been a great journey. I work hard for the goals I set out to accomplish and I am an ambitious person. I achieved one goal by coming to CSKA.
Q: Is the NBA one of your next goals?
A: Every basketball player dreams about going to the NBA. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. I don’t really care about it either. I am with CSKA and enjoying every moment of it.
Q: Before signing with CSKA, was there any chance of you joining Panathinaikos?
A: They made me an offer, but my team didn’t want to let me go because they didn’t accept the buyout.
Q: What did you pick up at Zielona Gora? Do you think that your performance in the game against CSKA was crucial in joining them?
A: I think so. It had a lot of significance in me potentially coming here. They had been following me for a couple of months now and that game really did it. I am grateful for the opportunity I got in Zielona Gora, playing for Zan Tabak and in the VTB League, so that I could showcase my game. I had a lot of fun.
Q: To what extent being a basketball player in Denmark hinders one’s chances of climbing up the ladder to the bigger clubs in Europe?
A: It is hard. There is a reason why there has been so few at the highest level in Europe. Denmark is a really small country – and basketball-wise. The basketball community is small too.
Hopefully, our last achievements during the FIBA windows, me being with CSKA and Bakken Bears playing well in the BCL can spark some fire in people’s minds in how they view Denmark as a basketball country. We have a lot of talent and I think it’s time people showed some respect towards Danish basketball. Like I said, in the FIBA windows we played our hearts out. Unfortunately, we didn’t qualify, but I think no one will disrespect us any more.
Q: Do you believe that you and Shavon Shields are the two ambassadors of Danish basketball in Europe right now?
A: Well, we are some of them, but not the only two. Anyone who has high goals for themselves and tries to motivate and inspire the younger generations has the rights to do so. For me, that’s one of my goals: to be an inspiration for any athlete to believe in themselves and think that they can achieve their goals, no matter what.
Q: If you could name only one reason that has brought you where you are today, which would it be?
A: Hard work, dedication. That’s always been my mentality: work hard and good things will come to you.
Q: How has this strange season been for you?
A: It’s always tough when you come to a team in the middle of a situation. There are so many aspects that you have to consider: Who’s playing well? How is the team’s structure? What’s the coach’s concept? How can I help the team? Do I overstep anyone’s toes? You have to look at the creation and see where your abilities can strengthen and help the team. The way we play basketball is really compatible with my style and it’s an easy transition to fit in with these guys. It’s a super-talented group of guys.
Q: In the discussions you had with Dimitris Itoudis, what did he tell you?
A: He was happy that I was able to join the team and he wanted me to come and be myself when I was on the court.