Interviews Lifestyle

‘I fell in love with basketball, because I sucked at it´

By on 21st January 2017

In his first year Dutch professional basketball player Charlon Kloof didn’t even got to wear a jersey, but he was determined to become a professional basketball player anyway. His incredible journey brought him to college in The United States and to playing professional basketball in Turkey, Italy, Greece and the Dutch national team, where he became the star of EuroBasket 2015. His basketball crusade is far from over though. Charlon is currently the starting point guard at KK MZT Skopje, where he’s found his new home, for now: “I want to become the best player I can be. If that means moving to a new country every season, so be it.”

Charlon Kloof (26) is born in Suriname, a former Dutch colony, where he grew up with his parents and his brother. As a kid he was always outside, playing on the streets, together with his brother, who now is his biggest fan. Before playing basketball he danced and was a boy scout, but when he was seven he found his calling: “A family friend came back to Suriname from the US. He wanted to play basketball here, but he didn’t want to go alone, so he asked me to come along. I did and fell in love with the game right away”, Charlon recalls. The fact that he sucked at it drove him to get better and even turn pro later in life: “I’m a really hard worker and the reason why I am is that I love to see progress. When you’ve practiced on a move for hours in the gym and you finally do it in a game, it’s like BOOM!” Charlon expresses. – Continued below ⇓

 

 

Family support
His first years of playing basketball were difficult. He didn’t even got to wear a jersey in the first season, but over the years his minutes steadily climb up and so does his level of play. At age 12 he is already the best in his age class and from then on he knows he wants to play in the NBA: “Which was kind of crazy. Back home it was already a big deal if you could afford a vacation to the States and now there’s was this twelve year old kid saying he will be playing in the NBA someday”, the basketball star laughs. “My parents were super supportive about it, though they didn’t really know what they needed to give me. They didn’t know what a professional basketball player needs and what he has to do and don’t in order to become one. What they did do was teach me the right mindset: Whatever you do, do your best and give it your all. That’s what I did. I practiced more and harder than everyone else and in the end it paid off.”

‘In my college tryout I destroyed the teams best player.’

Crushing his college try out
In order to become pro he has to leave Suriname, because there’s no professional basketball competition in the South-American country. After a year playing in the Dutch under-20 league Kloof decides he wants a basketball scholarship at a US university. He calls up some friends and acquaintances in Florida and North Carolina and flies to the United States, the promise land. His tryouts in Florida aren’t successful, but the one in North Carolina is: “I had to spend all my money on a plane ticket to North Carolina, because I wasn’t planning on going there. Unfortunately the college coaches in Florida weren’t interested in signing me, so I had to try something else. When I arrived in North Carolina I literally picked up the phone book to find the nearest college and I called them for a try out. They told me to come over the next day, despite most college students already gone off campus for the summer. Lucky for me their best player was still there, together with a couple of other players and two of their friends. We played 3 versus 3 and I destroyed their best player head to head. They offered me a one year scholarship, but I didn’t see how that would lead to a four year scholarship and that’s what I was really looking for.”  – Continued below ⇓

 

 

March Madness
Charlon has been kind of a journeyman up until this point in his career. After declining his one-year scholarship offer, he decides to go to the Canarias Basketball Academy instead. After a year he moves to the USA when he finds a scholarship he likes at St. Bonaventure College in New York State. In his first year the Bonnies win the Atlantic Division college championship which grants the team access to March Madness: The biggest college basketball tournament in America, where the best teams battle each other for the national Championship. “March Madness is like nothing else. It’s crazy. You get treated like a superstar there. You sleep in the best hotels, the teams are driven to the arena in the most luxurious busses, you play in big arenas and it’s been broadcast by ESPN for millions of viewers,” the basketball player tells. After three seasons at St. Bonaventura, Charlon graduates and becomes eligible for the NBA-draft. Despite slight interest from some NBA teams, he doesn’t get drafted and signs a contract with an agent: “That’s the first step you take after you don’t get drafted. You need representation to get in touch with other teams and to get your basketball resume out there.”

‘My goal is greatness and I will do whatever it takes to reach it.’

Journeyman
Through his agent he signs his first pro contract with Turkish team Istanbul DSI in 2014. In just two seasons he will play for three different teams in three different countries, before landing in Skopje where he plays since the start of the 2016-2017 season. It seems hard to move around that much and never really have a place he can call home, but for Charlon it’s just part of the game: “I’m used to it. I’ve always known what I wanted to achieve. My goal is greatness and I am prepared to do whatever it takes to reach it, even if I have to move from country to country. I still want to play on the highest level that I am capable of and every year I’ve played in a better competition.” – Continued below ⇓

 

 

Life in Skopje
From growing up in the tropical climate of Suriname to living in the harsh winter climate of Macedonia seems quite the culture shock. When we’re having our Skype conversation the power of his home even breaks down, because the temperature is nearing minus 20 degrees Celsius. The 26-year old point guard isn’t bothered by any of it. He is easygoing and is just happy to be wherever he is: “It doesn’t really matter where I play to be honest. At the end of every season, my agent shows me a list of all the teams who are interested in me. I chose to move to Skopje, because of the level of their competition”, Charlon explains his choice. “I like it here. The people are very friendly and they love basketball and the prices in Macedonia are great.” One advantage a professional basketball player has compared to us regular human beings is that the club takes care of the paperwork and finding a house in the new country. He doesn’t have to worry about anything but playing basketball.

‘With my foundation I help prepare kids for college basketball in America.’

Current club
Kloof does just that on his current team: KK MZT Skopje, which plays in the Macedonian First League and started the season in the Adriatic League and the EuroCup as well. They presented Charlon as the star of the Dutch team at the 2015 EuroBasket, where was one of the driving forces of the team with his ability to dish out assists and hit the outside shot. He was immediately accepted and embraced by the rest of the team and by the Macedonian fans: “The club has won the last five championships so the team is a big part of the city and the people here. They are really passionate about the club.”

Life after basketball
After his playing career, Kloof is planning on taking his foundation in his homeland Suriname to the next level: “With my foundation I want to help prepare kids for college basketball in America. I’m planning on making it a success and live off of that and now I just want to be the best player I can be.”

Photo’s are used with courtesy of Charlon kloof

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