Downtime isn’t really something that exists in the basketball odyssey of CSKA Moscow forward, budding filmmaker, and hoop ambassador Kyle Hines.
On May 19, Hines played his typically strong, all-around game with nine points, five rebounds, and two assists to help CSKA Moscow secure the EuroLeague championship. For Hines, the title makes the fourth in his standout career, a new record for an American player in the league’s modern era.
And his celebration in the days following a history-making performance?
“Immediately after we won, we flew back to Moscow [from Vitoria-Gasteiz in northern Spain] the next morning,” Hines told FloHoops.com. “We had practice.”
EuroLeague is structured comparably to soccer’s UEFA Champions League, with clubs from nations and leagues across Europe playing for continental supremacy.
The Army Men of CSKA may have European bragging rights, and Hines now has a particularly special addition to his collection of championships—he said 2019’s was particularly memorable, having his children present in Spain for the title—but the pursuit of the Russian VTB League championship remains on the agenda, leaving little time to marinate on success.
Hines gave CSKA 14 minutes and an efficiency rating of 8 in a VTB League semifinal Game 1 rout of Zenit; he followed that with 10 points, six rebounds, three assists, and a steal in a Game 2 win. The Army Men finished the VTB League regular season atop the standings and figure to add another trophy to go with their EuroLeague prize.
After the Russian league postseason wraps in June, Hines gets right back to work stateside for the 2019 edition of The Basketball Tournament. The burgeoning summertime showcase is fast becoming a phenomenon in the U.S., and this year’s is special for Hines on a few fronts.
“The regional is in Greensboro, where I have so many memories and so many great friends,” he said. “I had such a great time there when I was in school.”
Hines played four outstanding seasons at UNC Greensboro, averaging 13.6, 19.3, 20.9, and 19.2 points with 8.6, 8.2, 9, and 9.1 rebounds per game from 2004 through 2008, respectively. Hines won Southern Conference Player of the Year in 2006-07, a season in which the league also featured then-Davidson guard Steph Curry.
He’ll return to the same city where he made hay in college with an impressive squad in tow. Hines’ brothers helped recruit a EuroLeague-infused lineup that includes 2018-19 leading scorer Mike James and assists/steals leader Nick Calathes, both of whom earned All-EuroLeague recognition.
“We wanted to try to put together a team of some of the top EuroLeague players to compete with Overseas Elite and some of the other top teams,” Hines said.
Overseas Elite has dominated TBT, winning each of the last four championships. A marquee title tilt could be on the horizon come August, offering a potential boon for both the fast-growing TBT, as well as the profile of American stars shining in Europe.
Bringing the full EuroLeague flavor to American audiences is something Hines has done admirably for the past few months. During the 2018-19 season, GTM Family Productions, which Hines operates with Mike Martin, presented a docuseries on first-year Americans playing in the league.
The most recent episode went behind the scenes with 2016 NCAA Tournament breakout star Thomas Walkup. The former Stephen F. Austin triple-double machine joined Zalgiris and helped the Lithuanian squad go on a blistering, end-of-season run en route to securing the last berth in the EuroLeague Playoffs.
On the next episode of “EuroLeague Rooks” #Zalgiris' very own @twalkup23 gives a behind the scenes look into his life here in #Kaunas! 🇱🇹— BC Zalgiris Kaunas (@bczalgiris) May 24, 2019
Episode premieres Monday May 27th on YouTube! @GTMFamilyProd
🎥 @mmartjr23 pic.twitter.com/sce5OHdmAp
Other episodes spotlight Nigel Williams-Goss, the Olympiacos guard who led Gonzaga to the 2017 NCAA championship game; LSU product, G-League, NBA performer, and new Maccabi Tel Aviv big man Johnny O’Bryant; and Hines’ CSKA teammate and former Valparaiso stud Alec Peters.
“Every time when I came home [from Europe], so many people would ask me what it was like overseas,” explained Hines, who last year produced a docuseries on his own experiences called Just a Kid from Sicklerville. “We thought rather than continuing to tell, this would be a great opportunity to show people about these experiences.”
And experiences for American ballers playing in Europe can differ dramatically. Few know that quite like Hines, who began his overseas odyssey in 2008 with Veroli Basket, a now-defunct club in a small Italian village where the Sicklerville, New Jersey, native said no one spoke English.
He went from there to Brose Baskets in Germany, then Olympiacos in Piraeus, Greece, before landing with CSKA Moscow. Hines has pretty well traversed the continent, so he understood how unique each hardwood story is, prompting the creation of Rooks.
Rooks is a concept that fits nicely into an era when series like Last Chance U and Hard Knocks have gained sizable fan bases with their unprecedented looks behind the scenes. The concept is particularly unique in that it’s an added layer in bringing the high-level European game to an American audience, which is gaining some of its first real exposure to it.
“We wanted to give people, and especially people back home in the States, the opportunity to see it,” he said. “Because for a lot of the players, and especially for the top college players, it’s almost like they’re exiled, forgotten about. If you’re not in the NBA, some people don’t necessarily think you’re still playing basketball.
“Players over here, playing overseas, especially in EuroLeague, are playing at a high level, and having great experiences on and off the basketball court.”