Former UNC Greensboro standout Kyle Hines had an incredible two-year journey from the second Italian league to Euroleague champion throne. Hines, 26, quickly found his way to the top and is looking forward to repeat as a champion with Olympiacos Piraeus.
RealGM caught up with Hines, who shared his memories from previous season, thoughts on playing for Olympiacos and much more.
RealGM: Olympiacos had a phenomenal season. Before you signed with Olympiacos, did you feel that this team was capable of winning both the Euroleague and Greek league championships?
Hines: Yes, I felt that we could have the opportunity to compete for both championships. We had a very young but also hungry and ambitions team. I knew if we continued to improve throughout the season, that our potential was unlimited.
RealGM: To win the Euroleague title, you had to win against all the best team in the league - Montepaschi, FC Barcelona Regal and CSKA. How did you manage to defeat them all, who had better records in the regular season and, at the first sight, stronger rosters?
Hines: From the beginning of the season, we continued to believe that if we worked hard and continue to get better everyday as a team, we would have possibilities to reach our goal of winning the Euroleague title. We never listen to those outside the team that doubted us, we believed that if we played together and stayed focused on our goal, we could beat anyone, no matter who it was.
RealGM: Just two years ago you were playing in the second Italian league and now you're the champion of Euroleague, Germany and Greece. What goes through your mind when you see how career progressed over the past two years?
Hines: Honestly, it is hard to believe sometimes, but I have always envisioned playing at the highest level in Europe. I just never thought it would occur this fast. I have been very fortunate to have played on teams and have had coaches that have helped me to raise me level each season.
RealGM: Is there anything specific playing for a team coached by Dusan Ivkovic, one of the most successful coaches in Europe?
Hines: Coach Ivkovic is one of the best and most decorated basketball coaches in the entire world. He just always asks his players to play hard but also play with intelligence. I am really glad I got opportunity to work and learn with him. He helped me improve my game in many levels.
RealGM: What is like to have a teammate like Vassilis Spanoulis, who had been a key player of Olympiacos this past season?
Hines: It has been amazing for me to play with Spanoulis, not only because he is one of the best players in Europe, but also because his work ethic on the court and the type of person he is off the court. I have learned a lot from playing alongside him this past year.
RealGM: Did you feel the difference between living in pretty quiet Germany, and Greece, which is known for their passionate and even aggressive fans? Have you ever been scared for your health?
Hines: Yes, for me I feel the difference because Bamberg was a small town compared to Athens. But as far as the fans are concerned, both towns has amazing and very passionate fans. I love the passion that the fans show here in Athens, it shows that they really care a lot about the team. I've never been scared for my heath, I enjoy playing in those type of atmospheres.
RealGM: Your height is just 6-foot-6. What is your secret of being so successful playing under the basket despite your height?
Hines: The "undersize" label is something that has stuck with me my entire career and will probably stay with as I continue my career. I personally like it, but it gives me motivation to continue to prove to people that even though I'm undersized, I can still compete at high level against anyone.
RealGM: In one interview few weeks ago, you said 'the biggest difference between college and international basketball is the level of "basketball IQ"'. Do you think playing in Europe have made you a smarter player? Is there anything else what you learned in Europe?
Hines: Yes, I believe that playing in Europe has helped increase my "Basketball IQ." I'm definitely a smarter and better player since I've been in Europe. I've learned how to read the game and think the game while being on the floor. In Europe, it's not only about your athletic ability but, it is more about your basketball IQ, that what separates the average players from the great players.
RealGM: As you are still just 25, what are your plans and goals for the future of your career? Do you see yourself taking part in summer leagues and trying to make it to the NBA?
Hines: My goal will always to play at the highest level possible. If there is opportunity for the NBA in the future, then I will definitely take it.