heinnews got some help this week for the Interview of the Week from Nikita Golovanov. The Russian basketball journalist sat down with talented Russian power forward Vladimir Ivlev. They discussed whether Ivlev is a power forward or center; Russia’s poor showing at the U20 European Championship; Russia’s apparent problem with intensity down the stretch of games; other talent at the tournament in Greece; passing skills for a big man; having no thoughts on the NBA; and hopes for the season with Dynamo Moscow. 

heinnews: Vladimir, as you are a big man, let me start with appropriate question – what is your current height? According to FIBA Europe, it’s 204 cm, Russian Basketball Federation lists you at 202 cm, while your club,  Dynamo Moscow, affirm you’re standing at 207cm… 

Ivlev: Well, as no pre-season measurements have been held yet, I can’t be 100-percent sure but it’s definitely closer to 207cm. 

heinnews: And weight?

Ivlev: I would say 91 kilos approximately.

heinnews: Not bad at all for a human being – but still you look really skinny for center position, even for your age group…

Ivlev: I agree with you here, but, you know, I’ve gained about 10 kilos in just the last year.  My weight was just 82 kilos last summer after all the hardships I met which were forced by stomach ulcer. That’s why I missed 2008 U-18 European Championship by the way. But now everything is perfect here and luckily I’ve had no more health issues since then.

heinnews: Good to hear. Anyway, speaking on Euro Championships – what was the main reason of the distressing ninth  place achieved by the Russia U-20 team this summer?

Ivlev: I don’t know. No mistake, we underachieved but it’s a riddle for me to point out the very reason. Maybe, it’s instability. We went through ups and downs during nearly every game struggling to hold up the exact rhythm we were searching for once it was finally found. But some things were absolutely inexplicable! I simply don’t have a clue to the game against Spain. We won all the first three quarters only to suffer that “-20” collapse in the fourth.

heinnews: Maybe, it came out of the bad shape, didn’t it? Some witnesses of the Russian team games mentioned surprising but clear signs of fatigue on almost all of your teammates’ faces even in the middle of competition. I personally saw the game against France…

Ivlev: …and it wasn’t representative at all. You see, everybody was stunned after a crunch-time defeat to Greece and this failure against France was easily our worst game. We weren’t able to restore ourselves, especially in sense of mentality. As it usually happens with no moral skills left, the physical ones weren’t here too. But again I don’t think we forced the issue during the preparation works, we didn’t overwork.

 heinnews: So, was it more of a psychological reason?

Ivlev: Most likely. You could mention we suffered three of our four defeats to the south, hot-tempered countries – Spain, Italy and Greece. They are warriors who readily get into a passion in the last minutes. And unfortunately we couldn’t stop them that time.

heinnews: You agreed with the team results being rather disappointing this year. But are you satisfied with your personal performance?

Ivlev: Well, yes, I am satisfied. Maybe some guys from the opposite teams were bigger than me in terms of body strength but I could compensate this disadvantage thanks to my quickness and agility. It was an important experience for me and I think I did quite well.  I evaluate this European Championship as my first one as I spent almost all the 2007 U-18 tournament sitting on bench.  I can’t blame my coach for that; I suppose back in 2007 I wasn’t ready enough to compete at the international level.

heinnews: Did somebody impress you here choosing from your personal opponents? I mean you faced off with many interesting prospects like Kevin Seraphin from France or Georgios Bogris from Greece for instance.

Ivlev: Oh, yes, Seraphin, he is a true beast! I can’t say he offered me anything particular from the technical standpoint but he is extremely strong physically. I could do really little defending him in the paint when he played back-to-basket. His teammate Edwin Jackson was probably the best guard out there with his very mature game and ability to shoot the lights out on the daily basis. As for others I can’t mark out many. Maybe that guy from Montenegro, Nikola Vucevic, who left me behind in the rebounding race, haha.

heinnews: Yes, you finished the tournament averaging highly impressive 10.1 rebounds per game. Do you carry a special feeling for rebounds?

Ivlev: You know, I think I‘m fairly athletic but I’m not a highflyer, I think I don’t possess any special jump. Also I’m less of a shot-blocker – maybe that’s because I’m trying too much not to be foul prone either. But rebounding was always my strength. Really I’ve been always succeeding in this component constantly collecting nearly 10 boards with the time given.

heinnews: By the way when did you begin to play basketball? Are your parents connected with sport in some way too?

Ivlev: I started at 9 and, yes, my parents were both professional sportsmen. My father was a water polo player and mother was a synchronized swimmer.

heinnews: Why didn’t you follow their steps somewhere down in the water?

Ivlev: With my height my only obvious options were volleyball and basketball.

heinnews: So, you were quite tall from your early teens, weren’t you? But your quick hands hint at your guard past…

Ivlev: You are right, as a so-called late bloomer I spent about a year and a half running the point for my sport school Kuybyshevskaya. I was about 180cm and stopped growing for more than a year. And then this growing spurt happened and when I started to play for Dynamo Moscow junior team in 2005 I’d been already considered as a big man [Ivlev was the youngest member of the group playing alongside elder and much more experienced 1988-1989 generation teammates like Dmitry Khvostov or Ilya Syrovatko].

heinnews: So, does that playmaking experience help you now? 

Ivlev: Of course, passing skills can’t hurt. It gives me more offensive options as I can easily operate with the wings sharing the ball with the open men. On the contrary, being tall doesn’t help you to dribble at all. For me it’s naturally tougher now to handle the ball in transition. 

heinnews: Getting back to your height I cannot ask you another question. As I understand you mostly played center for Dynamo junior team lately…

Ivlev: …Yes, almost exclusively for the last two seasons. I was one of the two tallest guys in the team. 

heinnews: But don’t you find yourself undersized for that position for the senior level?

Ivlev: Well, yes, I will probably be a power forward as a senior…

heinnews: …and still you shot zero three-pointers for the whole last season…

Ivlev: I have to say that was successive season for both team and me personally [playing mostly against 2-4-year elder opponents Ivlev finished the season as the third-leading rebounder of the league. His full stats – 32 games, 27mpg, 10.6ppg (fg – 58.6%, ft- 69.5%), 7.5rpg, 1.4apg, 1.5spg, 0.6bpg, 1.4t/opg, 8 double-doubles]. We finished second in the U-23 championship and would have probably won if UNICS didn’t call up its seniors [teams can bring up to 3 players with no age limits for the youth (U-23) competition which was held for the first time in history during last season; Dynamo didn’t use that option]. I just don’t understand this additional age rule; it’s killing the “youth” sense of the whole tournament. Anyway, yes, I played center and our tactical system didn’t propose me to spend much time staying beyond the arc. But, to be honest, along with the bulk I consider my jumper as my main weaknesses. I’m working on my shooting right now in the off-season.

heinnews: Do you feel you are improving in that area?

Ivlev: I can’t answer yet. Only season will answer.

heinnews: Ok, do you have role models, players you are trying to emulate?

Ivlev: No, I don’t have any.

heinnews: Is NBA a goal for you?

Ivlev: No, actually it’s not. Honestly, I don’t think about NBA at all. I’m only focused on my game, on the ways to improve it.

heinnews: Do you have an agent?

Ivlev: Yes, like most of Dynamo players I work with Vadim Mikhalevsky [U1st-sports agency]

heinnews: Finally, what are your aims for the next seasons?

Ivlev: I hope to make 12-men roster of Dynamo Moscow senior team, to make my real debut at that level [Ivlev spent insignificant 18 seconds in his first and to present day only Superleague A game against Spartak-Primorie this March]. I’ve trained with the seniors for the last three months of the season. Surely, I’d like to stick around and continue to progress as a player.

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