Growing Up ... Sergey Karasev

April 3, 2014
Sergey Karasev
David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images

For the youngest Cleveland Cavalier – 20-year-old Sergey Karasev – the act of growing up, at least by NBA standards, is still a work in progress.

The lefty sharpshooter from Russia has spent his first year with the Wine and Gold gaining weight and experience and getting used to the professional game. (The young swingman played 18 games with the Canton Charge this season, averaging 13.5 points and 5.0 boards per contest.) Of course, Karasev has been a pro ballplayer since his mid-teens. But now that he’s across the Atlantic, he’s literally in a whole new league.

After being tabbed with the No. 19 overall pick in the 2013 Draft, Karasev spent much of the summer playing in the World University Games, where he led his Russian team to the Gold medal – averaging 19.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists in the process.

That Russian team was coached by Sergey’s father – and he’s not just any coach. Vasily Karasev was the starting point guard of the senior men's Russian national basketball team from 1993 to 2003. He was selected to the FIBA EuroStars team from 1997 to 1999 and is widely considered to be one of the best European point guards of the decade.

So when we asked Sergey if he comes from an athletic family, the answer was pretty much a given. The rookie talks about learning the game as the sole scion of an international great and more in today’s installment of Growing Up

I have a younger … sister. She tried to play basketball when she was young. But then she bumped her head during practice and had bad headaches.

She was not … the best player, so she wants to do something else, like dancing. And now she wants to go model. So, every time, she tries to switch to something new. Why not?

My father was a very … very good player. He was on the national team a long time. He played everywhere around Europe. He didn’t play in the NBA, but back then, his mind was like, ‘I need to play with my national team and when I’m done with that, I can play in the NBA.’

So, he stayed … in Russia. And because of this, it made more pressure on me, because everybody talked, especially when I was very young, like: ‘This is the son of the good player, so he should be good.' Everyone said that when they were around me.

It was kind of tough … for me, and I just try to keep working and my dad helped me every time with this. Every time he would say to me: ‘I want my son to be better than me.’ And I hope I can be.

My father was … very good, but if you can see all the titles – I’m rated better. He don’t have a Bronze medal in the Olympics, and he don’t play in the NBA. But if I want to be a real big star like him – not just in Russia, but all around the world – I must keep working on my every skills. And that’s what I try to do.

Having my father as coach … of the team was sometimes really tough.

The other players, my teammates … when they talk to me, they are like: ‘Man, your dad is KILLING you during practices. He screams at you like crazy!’

But that was good … for me. Every time he yelled at me, every time he screamed, every time he points out my mistakes in practice. Every time he does this, I can grow up. When you come to practice and your coach doesn’t care about you, that’s when there is a problem.

He didn’t stop coaching … when we got home. At home, it was the same thing. Same thing.

If it was a bad game … it could be a long night. After good games, he’s like: ‘Here are your mistakes, here is the good, here is the bad. You must work on this.’ But after a bad game, it’s not like the 45 minutes of film with Coach Brown. It’s like two or three hours.

I played everything … growing up. Like, maybe until I was 13, it was just like, you go to school, you go to practice, and then evening, you have the day off. And your buddies want to do something, like go play soccer outside. Sometimes soccer, sometimes basketball. I play table tennis, bowling, billiards. Everything.

I’m pretty good … at bowling. Sometimes my girlfriend and I go to the Cloverleaf after practice and bowl. I’m pretty good at Russian billiards, but not so good at snooker. Russian billiards, it’s like the balls are a little bigger and the pockets are a little smaller. It’s tougher.

I have been playing … basketball my whole life, I can’t even remember when I started.

My mom … has pictures at home: I think I was probably one years old, and I was already playing with the basketball. There was a small basketball net at home and I was shooting all the time.

I started playing … with the team when I was probably seven or eight years old.

The first couple years … I played against kids my age. And then, my dad traveled everywhere. So if I go to another city in Russia, there is, like, not so good basketball, so I would practice with older guys – two or three years older than me.

When I was 14 … I came to Triumph Lyubertsy and I played on the third team. The second team plays EuroLeague, Russian Cup, that kind of stuff and that club would have guys 20, 22 years old. I played one year there.

Then the next year … when I was 15, I go to the second team. I was 15, playing against 20-year-olds.

And then when I was 16 … I started practices with the first team. Those were like the pros. A lot of guys were in the NBA, like Nenad Krstic. I didn’t play much.

But at the end of that season … we had not very good team and we will not get to the playoffs. We had four or five more games left and my average was, like, 15 points. And the last game, I scored 34 points. The next year, I signed two year deal with them and started every game. And the last two years, I played the main role on the team.

Now, my dream … comes true – I’m here in the NBA and almost through one season done. This was a very, very big experience for me. I understand what kind of basketball skills I need to work on. And I feel way better than when I came here. When I came here, I was 190 pounds and now I’m almost 210. I feel better. I feel stronger.

I feel like I can … play better defense, now. I’m staying after practice and working on my shot every day. I’m working to penetrate, create for my teammates, getting bigger so I can get the rebounds. It was a very, very good year for me. And this summer, I will try to play Summer League, which is going to be very important for me. I’m going to prepare my body, all my basketball skills for the next season.

My rookie season … has been good but tough – because the NBA season is almost like three seasons in Europe.

Growing up … I remember my first dunk. I was 13 years old.

I think in practice … I tried to dunk. We played with smaller basketballs when I was young. So I would try every day in practice. The older guys were already dunking.

And then, one day … in the game, I have a steal, and I just dunked with two hands. I fell down, but I was so happy! The fans go nuts, the teammates go nuts. That’s something I’m going to remember for a long time!

I stayed after … the game. I had a ton of energy. I just wanted to dunk again and again.

My dad … wasn’t there for that; he was playing at the time. My mom was at the game and she was happy. Then we came back home and I told my dad, ‘Hey, dad. I dunked tonight!’ He laughed and said, ‘Yeah, you’re getting better.’