Photo: EuroLeague

Jordan Mickey has been a great addition to Khimki Moscow Region’s roster this year. His combination of uncanny athletic ability and three-point efficiency has rendered him one of the most versatile big men of the Euroleague competition.

Despite Khimki’s hands-down loss to Olympiacos at the Peace and Friendship Stadium, Mickey gave a fierce battle against Nikola Milutinov, finishing the game with 21 points on 7/10 two-pointers and 2/3 threes and grabbing 7 rebounds. Even his rookie season in the Euroleague proves to be also his last one, the 24-year-old center will have left his mark. “In truth, I wanted to sign him last year, but then I did not have that opportunity”, were the words of Giorgos Bartzokas when the Russian club made the player’s signing official.

Mickey spent the past three seasons with the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat in the NBA, averaging 4 points and 3.6 rebounds in 23 games with Miami last season. He played college basketball for Louisiana State University before being selected by the Celtics with the 33rd overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft.

In June 2012, he took an official visit to Louisville, accompanied by his father James. Both Jordan and James were reportedly impressed with Louisville coach Rick Pitino on the visit. “Coach Pitino is a phenomenal coach. Throughout most of our visit, he’s so hands on” , said the elder Mickey.

About three and a half years after that visit, in October 2015, Jordan Mickey and his then teammate, Celtics rookie Terry Rozier, saw their names being featured in an ESPN report as well as in a book by an Ohio woman, who claimed she provided strippers and prostitutes to Louisville basketball recruits from 2010 to 2014. Rozier and Mickey eventually chose LSU over Louisville and, whenever asked, they attempted to deflect questions about the allegations. Mickey went so far as to claim he doesn’t remember his Louisville recruiting visit.

However, Rozier was more eager to comment on Rick Pitino’s share of responsibility: “I will say that Coach P, as far as the dorm situations and visits, he’d go out to eat with the recruits and their parents. As far as after that, he wouldn’t know. I can say his nose is clean”. Pitino said he had no knowledge of the parties, but his reputation had already been damaged, almost beyond repair.

Jordan Mickey was asked by to comment on the issue and that’s what he said:

Q: Rick Pitino has been sitting on Panathinaikos’s bench for almost a month. What do you think of him and his decision to coach in Europe?

A: I think he’ll be fine. The truth is that he’s a Hall Οf Fame coach who led Louisville to the championship. He’s been around for many years. A lot of guys are willing to play for him because of his resume.

Q: As a prospective college player, you traveled to Louisville, but eventually ended up going to LSU. What happened exactly?

A: I did. I went on a visit to Louisville, I had fun and enjoyed it. I just felt more comfortable in LSU that year.

Q: Did you have a difficult time afterwards, with the allegations concerning the sex scandal?

A: I don’t think about what happened in the past. People moved on. It’s behind everybody. I want to believe that coach Pitino is not thinking about that any more.

Mickey took the time to answer other questions as well:

Q: What’s the reason that Khimki did not manage to be more competitive against Olympiacos?

A: It was a tough game. We ended up losing, but we played hard and they were just a better team tonight. I think that we could have scored more. Some guys just had to be more aggressive. We missed some open shots that we normally hit. It’s a matter of us getting into the gym and continue to work.

Q: Was it a matter of absences as well?

A: Yes, we’re missing Shved and Anthony (Gill) is not at 100%. That’s no excuse because guys have to play and step up. Shved is a big part of our team, but Olympiacos has one of the best defenses in the Euroleague. They are a good team. We just have to be more aggressive.

Q: How are you feeling in Khimki?

A: Pretty good. I feel I’m having a good year. I want to continue to get better to help my team get some more wins.

Q: As an ex-NBA player, do you believe that Nikola Milutinov belongs there?

A: He’s a good player and has a big body. I wouldn’t have any doubt if I saw him in the NBA. It’s his choice.

Q: Which are your ambitions, regarding this year and the ones that follow?

A: Right now, my ambition is to help my team win and try to get us to the play-offs. I just want to continue to fire up my basketball career. My focus right now is Khimki basketball.

Q: How did you make the decision to come to Europe and Khimki?

A: I just wanted to keep playing because I spent three years in the NBA and didn’t get to play a lot. I wanted to play the game I love and have some fun. That’s what drew me to come over here.

Q: Is there something you keep from your NBA years?

A: Just hard work. I always got to work hard because you never know when opportunities come. That’s what I try to do: make the most of my opportunities.

Q: What’s the reason behind players like you, Derrick Williams or Sean Kilpatrick choosing to play in Europe?

A: Guys like us just want to play. Some of us have played in the G-League and our talent was recognised there. So, we came here to play at the next highest level, right below the NBA, which is the Euroleague. Guys come here to play for a year or two and a lot of them go back to the NBA, making careers out of it.

Q: Would you compare the Euroleague to the NBA or the G-League?

A: I’d compare it to the NBA. Guys out here are talented, extremely skilled and athletic. That’s the reason why the Euroleague is right below the NBA.

Q: Who’s the most talented player and who’s the most difficult opponent you’ve met in Europe so far?

A: Truthfully, the most talented is probably Alexey Shved. He’s an exceptional talent as far as scoring the ball and creating situations for his teammates. He’s a great player. As an opponent? That’s a difficult one … Probably De Colo. He makes things happen, shooting and scoring the ball, just like Shved, helping his team win.

Q: Is it true that before starting your career you studied how Dennis Rodman became a dominant rebounder?

A: Yes, it is. When I was coming out and first started playing basketball, my father told me: “If you want to stay on the floor, you got to play defense and rebound the ball”. That’s what I started with, then. Rebounding was one of the things that helped me get noticed. I’m trying to continue to further it: grab rebounds over bigger guys and use what I have against other players.