Cory Higgins:
"The first thing I learned in basketball was how to score"

Triumph guard Cory Higgins, named November MVP, sat down for an interview with Russian sports daily Sport-Express.

Triumph, after starting its VTB United League with three losses, picked up two wins in four attempts in November. In his best performance, against Azovmash in Mariupol, Higgins exploded for 35 points on the back of 89% shooting from inside the arc – 16-18! If we rewind a little, we’ll also see that the 24-year-old American was the hero in Triumph’s win over VEF earlier in the month, scoring on a difficult lay-up with two seconds left in overtime.

- You know what the secret to my success is? – says Cory Higgins. – It’s all because of this lady! (points at his girlfriend, who came with him to the interview). When Kristen’s with me, I’m good. She decided to move from the States to Lyubertsy because of me! We’re almost always together. And if Triumph plays on the road, we stay in touch over the internet. Kristen is my happiness.

- Do you also feel happy when it comes to basketball?
- Definitely. The second I joined Triumph, our head coach Vasily Karasev promised that the team’s offense would depend on me. The first thing I learned in basketball was how to score! In the NCAA, for example, I became the all-time leading scorer at the University of Colorado. So, even though I missed the preseason, I fit in quick with Karasev’s plays and felt comfortable here.

- Going to Lyubertsy from Charlotte – isn’t that a drop in class? Any 24-year-old American imagines himself playing in the NBA…
- Well, I didn’t end last season at Charlotte. I was with a D-League team. You can’t live on one salary there… So, financially speaking, the move to Triumph is definitely not a drop in class (smiles). Of course, I’d like to return to the NBA. But it hasn’t worked out for me with that league yet. First, I wasn’t drafted. Then, when I still ended up in Denver, they dropped me from the team so they could have space for new players.

- That was before the start of the 2011/12 lockout season. Did you get to know Timofey Mozgov, who was already playing for Denver?

- Yeah, he’s a cool guy. To be honest, we didn’t have time to get know each other any better. I didn’t ask him anything about Russia, either. I couldn’t imagine then that I would end up in your country.

- Soon after, you signed a contract with Charlotte, where you played 44 games. Be honest, did it have anything to do with the fact that your dad, former NBA player Rod Higgins, is the Bobcats president?
- All you journalists ask about the same thing (laughs). My dad works for them and does everything in the team’s interest only. I was actually invited there because of Paul Silas, who was coaching the Bobcats then. He knew me from when I played in college.

- In Charlotte, you crossed paths with current Lokomotiv forward, Derrick Brown…
- He still has a house in North Carolina and we saw each other in Charlotte last summer. Derrick talked about what it was like living and playing in Russia. He only had good things to say. His words also helped me make up my mind to move to Triumph. Although, I usually only take basketball advice from my dad.

- About him…when did you first beat your dad on the court?
- I started winning regularly when I was 15 (Rod is 29 years older than Cory). But I was getting better at that point and he was getting worse (laughs).

- As a kid, you were probably his biggest fan?
- Of course! I rooted for Golden State, where my dad ended his career (Rod Higgins played 416 games for the Warriors, averaging 10.8 points), until I became a pro.

- Do you personally know any other players in Russia?
- I’m acquainted with a lot of people. But I’m closer just with Brown and Andrew Goudelock at UNICS. Drew and I graduated the same year from college and ran into each other when he played for the Lakers and in the D-League.

- You’re battling with Goudelock right now for the VTB United League scoring title…

- There definitely isn’t any rivalry between me and Drew. At least for me, wins are a lot more important. I like the basketball here a lot more than in the D-League. Guys there forget about their teammates a lot and only think about how to make themselves look good. In Europe, it’s totally different.

- Who’s toughest to guard in the VTB United League?

- Definitely Sonny Weems and Randy Culpepper. Weems has a lot of skill – he can drive, back you down and shoot. He also knows how to use his size. Culpepper is really explosive, changes directions incredibly well, as well as his speed. He’s almost impossible to keep in front of you.

- You hit the game-winning shot against VEF in overtime in November. Was that the most important basket of your career?
- In college, I also won some games that way. But I’ll probably remember the game with VEF. It was hard scoring, the ball kept hitting the front of the rim. So, in the final seconds of overtime, I just tried to get as close to the basket as I could. When I realized that the defense had shut everything else off, I jumped and shot the ball so that it would go in (smiles).

- I’ve heard you also like soccer.
- Yeah, I played myself until I was 16. I wasn’t too bad. I still kick the ball around sometimes, but only on the computer. My favorite teams are Real and Juventus.

- Have you gone to any Russian Premier League games?
- It’s really hard to get there from Lyubertsy… Traffic jams scare me a little. Although I would like to see some Russian soccer. If you invite me, I’ll probably go along.

- Aren’t you afraid of freezing at the stadium?
- Yeah, but it’s warm out. I’m serious. Everyone’s saying the weather’s pretty nice for December. I agree. I know what I’m talking about. In Colorado right now, where I lived almost five years, it’s minus-20 celsius. So I’m already used to it.