Player Spotlight – Zak Missouri

As the new season progresses, we’ll take the opportunity to catch up with a number of players across the league to examine what makes them tick, how they got into basketball, their goals for this season and beyond, and much more.

This week, Itchen’s Zak Missouri is kicking us off. The 5’10” guard is a pivotal piece to coach Guymon’s side, already playing 22 minutes in the South coast side’s opening day 85-33 win over CoLA.

Name: Zak Missouri

Position: PG

Team: Itchen College

Tell us a little about yourself:

I’m from Southampton, born and raised. Before I played basketball I wanted to be a professional footballer and played Sunday League football until I was 12. I’ve been playing basketball properly for around nine years now and first joined the Solent Kestrels when I was 10.

How and where did you first get into basketball?

The first time I ever picked up a basketball was in New Jersey in America in 2010. My family and I went there in order to celebrate my Great Grandmother’s 90th birthday and unfortunately got stuck out there for two months due to the ash cloud over Iceland disrupting air travel.

At the time I was mainly football obsessed but because there wasn’t access to a pitch near me I decided to try out basketball and became obsessed pretty quickly.

Once we arrived home the first thing I asked for was a hoop to play on in my garden and as soon as I got that, that was when my love for the game began to develop.

Can you a remember a moment when you decided basketball was something you wanted to play more seriously? What happened?

The main moment that comes to mind was at an U11 regional tournament where I was representing South.  At the time I was really enjoying basketball but also was balancing playing football alongside it. If I remember correctly we lost in the semi-finals to East and I had a pretty good tournament.

However, I remember the whole journey home all I could think about was wanting to go back to that tournament and win it all. I talked to my Dad about this and he reassured me by saying you’ll get another chance to play them but if you want to beat them you have to work harder and decide between basketball and football.

Of course I picked basketball and in fact the next time I played against most of the East players was in an U12 game for Kestrels, which we won.

What have been the biggest challenges of your basketball career so far? 

I’d definitely say the biggest challenge of my basketball career so far is balancing my academic and athletic life.

I’m quite an academic student so I’ve found it quite difficult since I’ve entered college to balance the workload along side getting the right amount of rest I need and maximising my performance in practice and games.

To counter this I’ve had to be much better with my time management and have improved in planning my time and resources.

Who is the toughest player you’ve faced? What made them so difficult to play against?

Last year I was lucky enough to receive the opportunity to train up with the Solent D1 Men’s team. In these practices I would match up with Ian Smith and out of all the players I’ve ever had to guard I found him the most difficult.

What made him so tricky to guard was how fast he was and how good he was at shooting off the dribble, this made it really difficult for me to gauge the correct distance I should be from him defensively.

What are your current goals for the season?

I have 3 main goals for the upcoming season. The first is to win the EABL playoffs. The second is to reach the Final Fours with my U18 team and my final personal goal is to make the GB U18s team for the Euros this summer.

Do you have any plans or goals for next season?

I have no concrete plans set yet for next season, the main goal is to keep on improving day to day and try to take my athleticism to the next level in order to compete with older and taller players.

What are you currently working on to take your game to the next level?

Currently I’m trying to work on my ability to shoot off the dribble from both the midrange and 3-point levels.

The impact of Steph Curry’s shooting on the game has been massive and in order to be an elite-level Point Guard at all levels I must be comfortable in shooting whatever shot the defence gives me.

What advice would you give someone who is just getting started in basketball?

I think it would be that hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. As a guy who has never been the tallest or strongest guy on any team I’ve ever played on, the only reason why I’ve been able to keep on playing is by outworking other players.

So as a new player to the game, be resilient and keep on working hard. You’ll begin to improve quickly.

Who is your favourite basketball player and why?

My favourite basketball player of all time is Larry Bird.

As a Celtics fan he is a living legend to me and he was also the first basketball player my Dad ever showed me clips of when I was a kid.

All image credits – Luke Simcock

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