Speaking with José Antonio Medina (Haukar)

It is not the first, not even second time on this website we talk to José Antonio Medina (El Puerto de Santa María, 1993), but it is true that we have not published a conversation with him for a long time. A few seasons ago, Medina took a turn in his career and, tired of the lack of confidence to bet on him in the higher categories and the financial straits of the minor leagues, he embarked on a new journey.

Basketball Zone – In the summer of 2019 you leave for France to play in NM2 with Rennes. After a few months there, you end up in Germany at the ProB in Münster. How was that first season out? Why did you decide to leave Spain at that time?

José Antonio Medina – The truth is that it was quite clear to me. In Spain the conditions continued, and continue, being very bad if we compare them with the rest of Europe for the demands that a player is asked of, to be the same professional as an ACB player, but both the salary remuneration and the general conditions in contracts … sometimes they are a joke. If you are a 19-year-old boy who wants to try a few years to see if he can get to ACB, I think it is perfect, but if you don’t get it, it is better that you look for an alternative, in my case going abroad was the best. So I decided either to go out in search of better conditions or to leave basketball, luckily I received offers and I was able to continue.

The first season was very good, I was in Rennes for 2 months, as I covered the loss of a player and then I went to Münster. Many changes in a very short time but that made me mature a lot as a person, quickly adapt to different cultures, and also very different styles of play, but I realized that the working conditions that were presented in Europe had nothing to do with those that I could receive in Spain in any FEB category, that also makes you get motivated again and feel professional when they treat you as such.

ZdB – In the end you play in two very different leagues, what would you highlight as the strong point of both competitions?

JAM – In France I would highlight your physical power. It is a very frenetic game, with a lot of contact, not so much technical or tactical. Germany would say that it is between French and Spanish basketball, it is not as physical as the French nor as tactical as the Spanish, but it is true that they are increasingly looking for an orderly basketball with readings that is more similar to Spain, possibly due to the arrival of Aíto in Berlin, something that has marked German basketball a lot.

ZdB – One fact that strikes us is that when a player goes abroad, they usually end up in teams from small cities, and yet you went to play no less than Rennes and Münster.

JAM – I was privileged to go abroad and end up in two cities like Rennes and Münster, two perfect cities to live in. I think that also helped me to be more comfortable, being able to live in two cities that gave you all the facilities for day-to-day life and being able to do things in your free time.

ZdB – The summer of 2020 you give a total turn to your career abroad. Admittedly, Spanish players are highly valued in Iceland, but what drives you to sign for Hamar?

JAM – Honestly that summer I did not know where it was going to end, I was about to sign in France again but due to the COVID issue the negotiations had to stop since many sponsors had backed down. So one day Hamar’s offer came to me and the truth was that it struck me that it was Iceland. He came from playing in France and Germany, which after all are cultures similar to the Spanish, but Iceland was a bit more of an adventure. I was talking with my coach and the truth is that they were very interested, in addition to the fact that the conditions were better than even France or Germany. I took it as a new challenge in my life, a new motivation to continue with my sports career and live a brutal personal experience.

ZdB – Your season is spectacular: you are the best point guard and the MVP of 20/21 and you dominate the competition as you please (averages 23.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 11.5 assists) in a category where there are good foreigners. How was the season at the group and individual level?

JAM – On an individual level, the truth is that it couldn’t have been better. From day one I worked hard to earn the trust of the team and the coach and they made it very easy for me to do the best basketball of my professional career. I felt very loved and supported by everyone, in the dressing room there was a very healthy atmosphere and we all made a great pineapple. Unfortunately there were some setbacks such as the departure of the two Americans who came to the team, something that gave us instability, especially at specific moments like the playoffs, when we had to play them without our starting center. But we still did a very good job and with a very young team and little experience we managed to reach the final.

ZdB- What do you think that confidence was due to with such good numbers?

JAM – I think my level of confidence came from the maturity that I have already reached at this point in my career, from the experience that I have gathered over all these years and from how they valued me and the trust that my colleagues and my coach as soon as I arrived in the country.

ZdB – At what level in Spain would you liken the competition?

JAM – Comparing it with Spain… it is difficult to compare. It is true that there is much more difference between the teams at the top of the table and those at the bottom. The level of the Icelandic players is obviously worse than that of the Spanish, but the foreigners who bring here have a high level, since the contracts they propose are better than those offered in other countries. I think that the general level of Icelanders would be between a lower EBA / LEB Silver and foreigners a Upper Silver LEB / Gold LEB.

ZdB – Your assists record has always been high, but in Iceland you have broken the mold, beating several in this regard with individual exhibitions of 23 and 20 assists. What do you think are the factors of this explosion?

JAM – I honestly think the style of play here suits me a lot. It is a game with a lot of rhythm, an open field and with many shooters. I take advantage of the technique and tactics learned all these years in Spain to apply it here in a totally different game, but if you know how to use your weapons you can get a lot out of it. In fact, these two seasons the clubs have asked me to do technical training with the guys from the club to teach them a little that.

ZdB – Your good season should have attracted attention this past summer: did you have options to return to Spain or to go to another country?

JAM – I honestly did not have time to look at many sites, the offers that I was going to receive from here would hardly be improved elsewhere. Several teams from Iceland quickly showed interest and everything looked like they would be coming back here.

ZdB – In the end, you don’t even make the jump to the first Icelandic and decide to go for a strong project in D1 with a newly released team like Haukar. Why this team and not another?

JAM – I received interest and offers from the first and second division, but Haukar is possibly one of the best clubs in Iceland, my coach in Hamar went to Haukar also this season and they put a lot of interest in me signing with them, and even their offer was exceeding to the first division. So there was little else to think about, it was the best offer, the best project, a coach that I already knew, in a perfect place in Iceland next to the capital. I didn’t have many doubts.

ZdB – How do you see the team? What is the initial goal of the season?

JAM – I see the team as very solid for the category, the truth is that we have started the season very well with a 5/0 balance and winning the games with solvency. The a priori rival to beat will be Höttur, another recently relegated, so we’ll see how the matches are going. The objective is promotion, I think we are working well and we are on the right track, but we cannot allow ourselves to relax, as a defeat can cost us dearly later on.

ZdB – Is there a player that catches your attention?

JAM – Well, players who call my attention can be an acquaintance in Spain that this year I have as a teammate, Deion Bute, who I think has a physique and privileged qualities and who can break the league. Another player who has surprised me is Orri Gunnarsson, who at the age of 19 is showing that he will be a key player in the country’s national team. Forward with great physique, he goes hard to the basket, a good shot from three and a good defender. A player to take into account.

ZdB – Black beaches, glaciers, incredible waterfalls, volcanoes, those little lost tracks as if it were a lost world … What is it like to live in Iceland?

JAM – It is an incredible country. A place that I think that everyone, if they have the possibility to do so, should visit at least once in their life. When you are in those waterfalls, waterfalls, glaciers, seeing the northern lights … you think that you are in another world or that the landscape you are seeing in the background is drawn. Iceland gives you a wide range of possibilities to see things that you have never seen before on a not very big island.

ZdB – And what are people like?

JAM – People are very friendly. At first they may be somewhat shy, not as open as Spaniards, but as soon as they gain confidence and see that you are a good person they totally turn to you and treat you as one of the others.

ZdB – Have you gotten used to the cold or after the Erasmus year in León you have it under control?

JAM – I’m getting used to the cold, it’s important to come with a good coat [risas], but it is true that the places are very well conditioned for the cold and if you bundle up on the street you don’t have to be cold.

ZdB – What is it like to go from living in a town of 2,000 inhabitants like Hamar’s team to a bigger place like the one in this course?

JAM – I honestly think that it was very good for me to have lived in such a small and Icelandic town, I think that that way I got to know Icelandic culture much better and become more familiar with them. Now coming to a bigger site is much easier.

ZdB – You who have played at all levels of the FEB Leagues, tell us what are the differences that you would highlight the most with respect to the conditions that you have found in the countries you have played with respect to Spain.

JAM – The biggest difference is the general conditions they offer you to do your job. They want you to work and perform like a professional, but also treat you for who you are. I think that in that sense we should learn more in Spain, stop pirating so much. If we do not want to burden Spanish basketball, we must find a solution to those inhumane conditions that are sometimes offered to players. Every time Spanish basketball is getting worse fame, and not because of its level, in that sense they hold us in very high esteem, but because of everything that is behind it, and that in the future can cost us dearly, since no one will want to come to playing our country and even the Spanish players themselves will not want to play for what is offered to them as has happened on several occasions, and the level will go down more and more until it is too late to recover the name that Spanish basketball has.

ZdB – Would you recommend to that player who has not just emerged, or who rather does not trust him to make the leap, that he seek to try the experience of playing outside of Spain?

JAM – I totally recommend it. Not only for basketball, in the end it is a personal experience that will make you grow as a person: learn languages, customs, people … things that if you do not leave your comfort zone you will not be able to experience. I know it is hard to take the step because of the fear of the language, the remoteness, the ignorance … but in the end it is to be brave and take the first step, as a result everything is much easier.

ZdB – Good luck in the season, we will follow you closely. A big hug, José.

JAM – Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to tell you about my experience and congratulations for the great work you do. A huge hug.

We wish to say thanks to the author of this article for this outstanding content

Speaking with José Antonio Medina (Haukar)