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BRAMA, June 25, 2002, 1 am ET


Let's Go Slava!!!

... yelled Kobe Bryant as the Lakers concluded their pre-game practice session and headed into the locker room.

Some professional sportsmen's careers explode with unmitigated brilliance, continuing similarly throughout their span. No question that those of Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan are in this category. Others accumulate momentum gradually over time, acquiring abilities and tactics, developing and refining critical moves. We believe that Kyivan Stanislav (Slava) Medvedenko's falls into this latter category.

As Brama reported on 4/11/02 (see Basketball playing Ukrainians ...), prior to playing in the NBA Stanislav played for B.K. (Basketbol Klub) Kyiv where he averaged 21.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Shepherded by Aleksandr Volkov, a "basketball eminence grise" (the first player from Ukraine when it was still part of the Soviet Union to sign an NBA contract to play for the Atlanta Hawks) Stanislav signed a two-year contract in 2000 with one of the greatest NBA teams - the Los Angeles Lakers. In spite of the domination of the team's star Slava's presence is increasing moving from playing an average 5.6 minutes per game to 10.3, playing as much as 26 at a recent (4/3/02) Lakers-Nets game, and scoring a high of 18 points on 12/14/01 vs the LA Clippers.

Hanya Krill and Vasyl Lopukh - Brama's intrepid interviewers - caught up with Slava at the Continental Airlines Arena in New Jersey prior to the 4th game of NBA Finals between the Lakers and the New Jersey Nets (a game that the Lakers won, claiming their third consecutive NBA title). Here are their questions and Slava's replies translated from Ukrainian into English.

Q: Since there is dearth of information on your background could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I was born in Kyivska Oblast in a village by the name of Karapyshi. Soon after my birth we moved to Kyiv; this was in connection with my parent's respective professions. It is there where I began to play basketball; all of my childhood and youth is tied to Kyiv. I studied at the Kyiv Institute of Physical Culture.

Q: What got you interested in basketball?

When I was young I was interested in a lot of different sports. There is a coach by the name of Oleksandr Dmytrovych Kovalenko. If it wasn't for him, then definitely I would have never played the game. Currently, Oleksandr Dmytrovych lives in Kyiv; in my opinion he coached one of the best Ukrainian teams - BK - which was organized only three years ago. I also played with the team "Budivel'nyk" for 2 years.

Q: What are the critical differences between basketball in Ukraine and the U.S?

It is difficult to make comparisons. In fact it would be more correct to say that you can't compare the two. The playing styles are completely different - the NBA's is more dynamic and very technical while in Ukraine the tempo is not quite as fast.

Q: What are your impressions of your team?

Only the best, only because currently this team is the best in the world.

Q: Well then, how do you get along with the "stars" of the basketball world?

Of course, the stars are stars. However, within the team these are partners and relations with them are the best - there is no pecking order. On the contrary, mutual respectfulness.

Q: That means that you are equal - Horry with Fox with Fisher with Shaq with Kobe?

Within the team we are all equal, but the way journalists treat us, that's a different story ... (with a wry smile).

Q: When you are in Los Angeles do you all train together? The reason we ask is because today we don't see any of the starters.

That isn't quite correct. Generally, we abide by this rule: those who were less engaged in the most recent game, those now need to train and practice more while the starters are given some rest. This is with the purpose of keeping everyone more or less at the same level of readiness.

Q: What's your impression of Coach Phil Jackson?

He's a wonderful psychologist; he knows how to motivate players in those moments and times when it is necessary, especially the "stars".

Q: So we can conclude that with time you'll gain experience and with time you'll be able to be an excellent coach yourself, if not in the USA, then maybe in Ukraine?

Currently, I'm not drawn to coaching work. Maybe with time, my perspective will change, but now I love to play and that's what sustains me.

Q: One of the former Boston Celtics' coaches said that Phil Jackson never had to develop players; they were always ready made. From your experience is this true?

No question that Phil Jackson gets championship players. His goal is to get the championship title and he works only with that in mind. It may appear that on the way to getting a championship less experienced players are left in the shadows, but it makes sense given his singular perspective.

Q: Thank you. And in practice sessions does he work with less experienced players or does he pass this on to his assistants?

He spends a great deal of time with the less experienced players. And on this team with Coach Phil Jackson there is a great deal which can be learned. Being a part of a team such as this is great career booster in this sport.

Q: Looking at your NBA record we see that it is improving. To what degree are you satisfied with this?

Currently, I'm pleased with my record, but I'm not pleased with how little I play. I would like to play more minutes per game along with improving my abilities. Understandably, I also want to see my record improve.

In my first year in the NBA, I had no understanding of English. Everything was new for beginning with differences between America and my Ukraine. All aspects of personal life, training, game schedules. Absolutely in the beginning I felt myself to be a little "hidden". I needed time to adapt to American ways. For the longest time I couldn't express myself in the way I would have liked.

Q: (in English) How's your English?

(in English, with a smile) Much Better!

Q: Soon your two year contract will be up. What are your plans for the future?

Currently, while the season is still in progress, I'm contractually obligated not to say anything, other than I'll be a free agent. After the finals, things will be clearer but still I can't discuss this.

Q: Do you want to remain with the Lakers?

Of course.

Q: What are you planning to do after the finals?

At first I'll go home to Ukraine to be with my parents. More than anything there I'm planning to rest, see my family and friends and basically to be in my beloved hometown of Kyiv. And then after that I'll begin again working on continuing my career.

Q: Tomorrow it looks as though it's going to be an important game, given that the Lakers are leading the Nets 3-0 and need only one more win to get the championship. What's your prediction?

(Smiling) Sorry, but I don't make predictions, even though to some this may appear to be a given.

Q: In any of your NBA games, have you seen any Ukrainian flags and cheers from your fans?

As yet I haven't seen any Ukrainian flags at any games. However, before and after the game it's pleasant to hear greetings and well-wishing.

Q: We wish you all of the best personally and professionally. Thank you very much for this interview.

On Wednesday June 12th the New Jersey Nets presented their most serious challenge of the NBA finals. Nevertheless, the Lakers went on to win the match, the series and as a result the 2002 NBA Championship -- their third consecutive one and Slava Medvedenko's second. The Lakers have expressed desire to seek a fourth NBA title, but questions remain - contracts for seven of the thirteen players expire on July 1st, including that of Slava Medvedenko's.

Prospects for Slava Medvedenko are nothing but positive to stay in the league given his experience, whether it is with the Lakers or another NBA team. In its 6/13/02 edition, The Los Angeles Times noting the Lakers imminent player shuffle presented Slava as the Lakers' "...Ukranian [sic] secret weapon ..." someone who " ... is 6-11, with decent skills and toughness. Still learning the game as well as the language, but they hope to retain him."

Slava Slavi!

Article, interview, translation:
Max Pyziur
Vasyl Lopukh
Hanya Krill

© BRAMA 6/11/02

Stanislav Medvedenko,
standing tall at 6-10/2,08

For Slava's complete player profile, click through to the
NBA Playerfile for MEDVEDENKO

© BRAMA 6/11/02

Slava's command of English has improved, but he was more comfortable speaking his native Ukrainian during the interview.

© BRAMA 4/10/02
File: Stanislav Medvedenko practicing pre-game free throws.

© BRAMA 6/11/02

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