Match TV and Viasat Sport commentator Viktor Shestopalov continues with part three of his series on the VTB League’s American imports, this time profiling Khimki guard Charles Jenkins and his new life in Russia.
There are plenty of opinions on globalization, but it’s hard to deny some of the advantages. And, to be fair, some of the disadvantages. But right now I want to focus on the positives that have become ingrained in the fabric of our lives, including sports. You might be asking, what does this have to do with basketball? For my part, I’d ask you to recall the wild 90’s, when international athletes had only begun arriving in our country for work. For those who weren’t watching sports at the time, you’ll have to take me at my word.
At that time, when the Russian league still had a limit on foreign players, there was a club named Spartak Moscow. The first American to play in Russian basketball, Tony Turner, signed with Spartak. You can only imagine the culture shock he must have experienced in the fall of 1993 when he exited Sheremetyevo-2’s airport terminal. Yes, Tony gradually adjusted to life in Moscow over two seasons, becoming a leader at Spartak and even falling in love with Russian cuisine, known to invite himself over to his teammates’ apartments for borscht and pelmeni. But I’m sure he had plenty of problems, too, beginning with the language and ending with the various daily inconveniences of living in a foreign country.
Now let’s jump to the present. Khimki’s American guard Charles Jenkins is a good example of how much easier it’s become for foreign basketball players to live and work in the Russian Federation. To begin with, Charles already had experience playing in Europe following college and the NBA with Crvena Zvezda his most recent stop before Khimki. To some extent, globalization has erased many of the differences between European cities, at least the major metro areas. If you remember the beloved Russian New Year’s movie, people used to feel so alone and lost in a new city. It’s not like that any more: Everywhere you go, there’s a movie theater, a shopping mall, even a Starbucks. Even an American quickly feel at home.
But there’s still something different about life in Moscow compared to Belgrade or other European capitals. Duh, the traffic! As Charles himself writes on his EuroLeague blog, the secret to living near the Moscow Ring Road is being able to plan ahead. According to the New York City native, you need to give yourself as much time as possible before any trip by car. For example, if Khimki has a practice at 11 am, Jenkins leaves an hour and a half early to avoid traffic jams. Of course, there’s traffic in the Big Apple, too, but generally only at rush hour or on the bridges and tunnels leading into Manhattan. As anyone who’s ever visited knows, traffic jams in Moscow can happen anywhere, anytime.
A New York native also won’t have any trouble with Moscow’s weather, certainly not the mild December weather we’ve experienced in these parts over the past few years. Of course, his teammates have already warned him that a genuine Russian winter could be on the way in January… and stick around until mid-June. But thanks to his cozy winter parka, Jenkins is ready for any weather that could come his way. It’s also interesting to note that Jenkins’ teammates told him this in English–there’s no language barrier at Khimki, according to Jenkins. Everyone speaks English, the lingua franca of the international game. Tony Turner would have been amazed…
Even more impressive, with several of his teammates, specifically, Stefan Markovic and Marko Todorovic, Jenkins doesn’t even need to use English. He’s also conversant in Serbian, thanks to four years in Belgrade with Crvena Zvezda. I’m sure he’ll pick up Russian, too, if he hangs around Khimki for a few seasons. That’s a glimpse into the healthy, productive atmosphere in Khimki’s camp in advance of the New Year’s holiday as the battle for a EuroLeague playoff spot heats up. You’ve got to enjoy life… and win on the basketball court. And I’m confident that Charles Jenkins and Khimki’s biggest wins are yet to come, as long as they plan ahead for Moscow’s traffic jams and don’t show up late to the arena in Mitishchi on game day!
Charles Jenkins’ blog on EuroLeague.net was used in researching this piece.