Diego Kapelan (190-G-87, college: McNeese St.) is a true professional at his craft, pro basketball player. He is one of the best shooting guards to represent Bosnia internationally in the last twenty years. He is a great example of what hard work and some talent can do for you if you are willing to work for your dream. He agreed to have an interview with us and we are very pleased to share it with you
Q) Were did you get your name from?
A) My father named me after soccer legend Diego Maradona.
Q) When did you start playing basketball?
A) My father Zdravko, who was a former pro soccer player in Former Yugoslavia, introduced me to the game at an outside court in Regina, Canada when I was about 5 years old. Ever since, when i was in school we would play basketball in P.E. class and also every recess and lunch time.
Q) Where did you get your start?
A) I got my start with ball just playing in school and then at the park with my friends whenever we were free. My father then started to sign me up for all of the Vancouver Grizzlies camps. At these camps is where i learned all the fundamentals of the game and how hard I needed to work to achieve my goals. After the Grizzlies left the city the coach who ran the camps, Glen Chu started the first club team in British Columbia called 3D Basketball Academy to continue to develop the talented youth that were left behind after the Grizzlies moved.
Q) How old were you when you decided this was going to be more than a hobby?
A) I do remember when i was about 10 years old is when I told myself this is something that i would like to take seriously and like many other kids that age, try my best to make NBA.
Q) Who was your favorite player from the former Yugoslavia? What about the NBA?
A) I can't pick just one favorite player..from Former Yugoslavia it's Vlade Divac, Drazen Petrovic, and Nenad Markovic. From NBA it was Allen Iverson but Kobe quickly took over...also Kobe because of his crazy work ethic and always striving for greatness.
Q) How did you end up playing basketball in college?
A) My friend that i grew up playing basketball with, Chris Shields, is the first cousin of Joe Dumars, and David Dumars. David was my assistant at McNeese State. So Chris helped me a ton with getting a look for me at from McNeese State University...the rest is history.
Q) What was the most memorable experience from this time?
A) I had a lot of memorable experiences but my top ones were: winning the Southland Conference championship, playing in the NIT, and a 39 point game in honor of my friend Ewan Mackay are some of my most memorable experiences.
Q) What do you like most about America?
A) The thing i like most about American is the great tasting food.
Q) What is your most memorable moment on a basketball court?
A) Winning Southland Conference championship. There is no better feeling than to be called a champion.
Q) What do you consider your strengths to be on the basketball court?
A) I would say my ability to put the ball in the hoop in a variety of different ways. I can catch and shoot, come off of picks, and score off the dribble. My jumper is probably my biggest strength overall. Also my ability to stay level headed..i never get too high or too low in moments of the game.
Q) What advice would you have for kids who want to be a professional?
A) My biggest advice for kids trying to be a professional would be only do this if you truly love it because that way you will always give 100%. Don't waste your time if you don't love the game and don't want to work hard because it will not pay off in the end.
Q) Many players who high level college basketball couldn't play professional in Europe, what do you think are the biggest differences playing in the US and abroad?
A) I would say the European game is much more of a team game, and the US/NBA game is much more individual. Sometimes guys get too caught up in trying to get their stats when it is better to sacrifice a few points for the team and to play a bit harder on defense or get a couple of more rebounds or assists...making the extra pass to teammate for an even better shot...things like that.
Q) Last year was your first year as a professional and you experienced the highs and lows playing for a couple of teams, what did you learn from this experience? Both good and bad?
A) I feel like last year was a blessing in disguise for me. I'm a very professional person and come to work every day, give it my all, and on top i put in lots of extra hours before/after practice. In HT Zrinjski everyone knows it was a tough season for us but I was worked into very good shape, I also learned so much about playing the pick and roll and my decision making improved very much. I feel like i have become a much more efficient basketball player in the past year.
Q) Germany has the ambitions of being the top European league in five years, what do you think of their ambitious goal?
A) I believe that they can achieve this because they have many athletic and skilled players. Also older euro veterans are starting to come to play in the Bundesliga. One of the biggest reasons i feel this way is also because of their thriving economy.
Q) You have worked hard to develop into one of the best players from Bosnia, who has helped you along the way the most?
A) There is really so many people to name...I have been so blessed to have great friends and people around me that care about me and always looking to help me. I don't want to forget anyone so first and foremost i would have to say God has always been by my side, without him nothing is possible. Then I would like to thank my family for always believing and being by my side and my future wife Elizabeth Kingham who leads the world in rebounds and assists.
Q) Were do you see yourself in 10 years?
A) In 10 years, God willing, i see myself winding down a very successful European career and people mentioning me in the same sentence as Nenad Markovic and Mirza Teletovic.
Q) Do you have any interest in coaching or being involved in basketball after you're playing days is over?
A) Not so much coaching but i have a very big interest in being a private basketball trainer. Helping guys improve in the offseason and getting them in shape.
Q) What do you think of the young platinum generation of talented Bosnian basketball players Jusuf Nurkic, Adin Vrabac, Nedim Buza, Samir Sehic, Nedim Dedovic, Sandro Gacic, Aleksandar Lazic and so many others?
A) I think this generation will be one of the best of all time. Bosnian basketball is on an amazing road right now with all the great coaches that we have at the moment. I hope these coaches are able to stay and coach these guys for a very long time. I want to congratulate them on winning the European Championship "B Division" and advancing to the "A Division"
Q) What do you think the future of Bosnian basketball?
A) I think the future is very bright for us. We have many talented players, guys that play on top level teams around Europe, and now Mirza Teletovic in the NBA.
Q) What is your favorite NBA team?
A) My favorite NBA team is the LA Lakers.
Q) Are you a fan of football? (European) What is your favorite team and player?
A) Not too big of a fan but I enjoy watching it, especially in my down time. Favorite player is Cristiano Ronaldo and team Real Madrid!!