HoopsHype.com Interviews

Scoonie Penn: "Maybe I should have left college early"
by Jorge Sierra / September 22, 2003

- Played college ball at Boston College and Ohio State till 2000.
- Led Ohio State to the NCAA Final Four in 1999.
- Named 3rd Team All-America in 1999 and 2000.
- Named BEC Player of the Year in 1999.
- Selected by the Atlanta Hawks as 57th overall pick in the 2000 NBA Draft.
- Has played for Trieste (Italy), Virtus Roma (Italy), Asheville Altitude (NBDL), Red Star Belgrade (Serbia) and now Cibona Zagreb (Croatia).

What are your best memories of your years in college?

Scoonie Penn: I have a lot of good memories, but the best thing was playing in the Final Four. That would be number one. Besides, we won the Big East Tournament when I was at BC (Boston College). I also won the Big Ten Conference the first year I was at Ohio State. Playing the Final Four was the best thing, but I have many other good memories.

Do you stay in touch with your former teammate Michael Redd?

SP: Yeah, we stay in touch. Especially in the summertime. Not just Michael and me, but also Kenny Gregory. We hang out together in the summertime and we play in a summer league in Columbus. We have a very good relationship.

What do you talk about?

SP: About what is going on in our lives. Not just basketball. It's not like we don't know each other. We know each other well and we talk about many things.

Did you expect Michael Redd to have such a good NBA career?

SP: Yes, it was clear he was an NBA-type player. He was very good one-on-one and does all the things they do in the NBA. I can't say I'm surprised that he's having such a good NBA career.

You both slipped to the second round in the 2000 NBA Draft. Did you expect that to happen?

SP: I did. Realistically, I know it's hard for players like me to make in the NBA. Point guards in the NBA now are like 6-foot-5. Magic Johnson came and changed the game, changed everything. I did really well in college, but it's harder for small players like me. Maybe I should have left college early because apparently now the sooner you leave, the better your chances are in the NBA. But I have no regrets about that. I stayed my four years in college, got an education and I'm glad about that.

The Hawks had many second-round picks signed in the last few years. Why do you think they didn't give you an opportunity?

SP: I'm happy that happens for others even though it didn't happen for me. Anyway, I am having a good time in Europe. I can play in the NBA. I know I can play in the NBA. But you know, it's all about timing and finding the right situation. But like I said, I'm happy here.

What do you think is keeping you away from the NBA? Do you think it is only that lack of height?

SP: I don't know. Maybe coming to Europe has something to do with it, too. Maybe if I go to camp with some NBA team and give it a try, I could earn spot. But Europe is a great situation for me. I get a good living here.

How is life for you playing in Europe? Has it been tough adjusting to another lifestyle?

SP: It is different, but I can't say it's difficult. I come to Europe to work, then I go home. It's not tough. Obviously, there are times when you miss home and your family, though.

Don't you take your family with you?

SP: No, no... I'm not married. I just come here on my own to do what I got to do. When it's over, I go home. I enjoy this, but it's a great feeling when you are back home.

You played in Belgrade last year. It is said that Serbia can be a dangerous country, especially for American people. How was playing there?

SP: It was great. I had a great time. The fans were unbelievable. I don't think I've ever played in front of fans like that. They were unbelievable. As far as being dangerous, I don't know. When I met with other Americans, they were always telling they were having a great time there, too.

Was Belgrade better than the NBDL?

SP: Well, I played in the NBDL only for a while. I returned to the United States and ended up playing in the NBDL for a while. It was another experience for me, but Europe is a much better situation.

There are not a lot of players in the NBDL that get a chance in the NBA? What's wrong with that league?

SP: It's going to take a while. They are only in their third year. Maybe things will get better in the future. It's tough to get called up now. The scouts come to Europe looking for new players for the NBA and players that are already in the NBA have longer careers than in the past, so there is not room for everybody and it's difficult that you get called up playing in the NBDL.

Where do you see yourself playing in coming years? Europe, minor leagues, the NBA...?

SP: Not in the minor leagues. The minor leagues are not for me. I will play either in Europe or in the NBA, but not in the minor leagues. That's not for me. Europe is a better place for me. It's more profitable to play here. You get more money to support your people, your family. In the minor leagues, you don't get much money.

If an opportunity in the NBA never comes for you, will you feel bitter about that?

SP: No, I won't feel bitter about that. I'm well contend with my life, with who I am and what I do. Even though not in the NBA, I'm doing what I love to do. Besides, I have a life outside basketball. I love basketball, but it is not the only thing in my life. I'm a well-educated person and I know I can do other things in my life when basketball is not there.

Jorge Sierra is the editor of HoopsHype.com.

Tell us what you think about this interview. E-mail us at HoopsHype@HoopsHype.com