Every basketball lifer has their own unique journey. Basketball Journeys focuses on capturing and unpacking the stories of players, coaches, and lifers who have experienced the impact of their dedication to the game over time.
Our founder Martin Soaries talked with his former teammate and professional Panamanian hooper Anell Alexis.
Martin: Talk about how you made your way to Europe and who you’ve been competing with.
Anell: I made my way to Europe after my last year of college basketball. Some agents that were based in Europe reached out to me after my college career concluded and asked to represent me. My first year was a rough one, as I had difficulty securing my work visa to be able to play in Europe. The second year I was able to sign with a team in Germany named Eisbaeren Bremerhaven and now I am currently playing with a team in Panama.
Martin: How do you enjoy and compare playing overseas to the competition you’ve been accustomed to at home?
Anell: I enjoy playing the competition out here. A lot of the players that I play against are ones that a lot of people might be familiar with from having played college basketball in the United States. A healthy percentage of the players played at high major Division One schools, so chances are you saw several of them play on television at one point or another. The European players are good players as well. They all have a high level of basketball IQ and know how to play the game. They also find ways to compensate for the relative lack of athleticism by knowing how to play the game and playing the game the right way. I enjoy playing their style of basketball more, as its more a team-oriented game than what we are accustomed to seeing here in the United States. There is a lot less one on one play and a lot more passing, cutting, and reading what the defense gives you in the European style of play.
Martin: The last time we hooped together was as AAU teammates about ten years ago. Your game was still filling out, but you had great versatility with your size and length. How have you seen your game evolve, and what did you do to encourage that evolution?
Anell: It took a lot of hard work and dedication to change my game. I had to study and analyze a lot of players who resembled my body type, and try to incorporate a lot of the things that they did well into my game.
My favorite player to watch to this day is Brandon Roy. He wasn’t the best athlete, but he knew how to be creative with his ball handling to get just enough space to either get around his defender or get his shot off. He also was athletic enough to dunk on someone if he felt he had the angle to take off on them.
The biggest evolution I have seen in my game since the time we played together would have to be my ability to take people off the dribble as well as my general understanding of the game. For a long time, I was playing the game off instinct and emotion without having any thought of why I was doing what I was doing. Once I got into college, I had to study the game and understand the game at a deeper level to be effective. I think film study is a valuable tool for coaches and players alike to use, because there is always tricks to the trade that you can find when you study the game and it also gives you the ability to slow the game down.
Martin: Your dad played in the league and was a coach. He was a big part of your personal development growing up. Talk about his influence on your career.
Anell: My dad and I have an interesting relationship. I am blessed to have someone in my corner that has been through a lot of the situations that I am currently going through. Our relationship has developed and evolved dramatically over the years. The interesting thing I realized looking back on my career was that I did not become fully comfortable with myself as a player until I completely distanced myself from what he was as a player and started to play with my own individual style. At this point in time, our games do not resemble each other’s at all, mainly because he was a 6’9 face up power forward and I am a 6’7 swingman. Despite that, the advice and help that he gives me to this day is something that I never take for granted.
Martin: Basketball has changed so much even in our lifetime. How has that affected your approach in terms of your game?
Anell: I learned quickly that you must be extremely malleable and can adapt to different styles of play if you want to be a successful player overseas. Basketball in South America closely resembles the style of play that we have at home, with a lot of isolation and one on one play. In Europe, the style of play is drastically different. There’s very little dribbling and the style of play is highly tactical. It forces you to watch and observe the game from a different angle and understand what you are trying to do to be successful as a team and a player. The one universal skill that I realized that you must have no matter where you play at is that you have to be able to shoot the basketball, whether it is off the dribble, off a screen, or a catch and shoot situation. People who can shoot the ball are at a premium around the world, and even more so if you have other skills to add along with that.
Martin: Name some of the best players you’ve played with or against.
Anell: I’ve played with and against a lot of good players. The best players that I played with would have to be Kyrie Irving and Kyle Fogg. The best player I have played against was Anthony Davis.
Where can people find your game info, stats, and on social media?
All my game info can be found on eurobasket.com.