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Renfro: «The love we get from the fans is a motive for me»

Nate Renfro is undeniably the main character of the 22nd round in Basket League, while he gathered 37 points in ranking with: 18 points, 14 rebounds,5 steals, 3 assists and 3 blocks! Being the MVP of the last round was inevitable for the American center of PAOK mateco. Now he is experiencing his second season with our team and speaking to, he mentioned the cultural shock that he had in his first three days in Thessaloniki and the pleasant surprise that he feels about his adjustment. He also shared with us his secret about him having an excellent performance in dunks and blocks, but also revealed the games that he feels he «lives» for as an athlete.

Renfro was announced from our team on April 3 2022 and a year after, he’s speaking about the expectations he had coming to PAOK and if in one of those, was the fact that he was awarded as the MVP of the week.

«When I first came in Thessaloniki for PAOK, I was coming from a G league season and I was pretty up and down. So, I knew it was going to be an adjustment playing European Basketball for the first time, that’s why I didn’t have too many expectations as far as how my performance goes. I just wanted to get some type of exposure to the European play style and do the best that I can to help the team and myself. I’ve also wanted to get the experience that I needed, in order to help me for the following years», Nate Renfro said and continue by telling: «Speaking about 2023, being an MVP of the week it’s crazy because you never expect an award. I just play as hard as I can and whatever accolades that I can achieve, are appreciated. I just do the best and play as hard as I can. Sometimes when you do that, you’re being awarded as an MVP, I guess!

Meanwhile, he spoke about his first thoughts and impressions that he had, while coming to the team and also about his teammates: «I think it was a shock for me, more than anything, because it was basically an entirely new culture than I’m used to. I have been to Europe before but it was always for visit. When I came in April, I was obviously for only one and a half month. It was a totally new experience so I almost had a culture shook at first and then it took me some weeks to adjust in Thessaloniki. That was evident of my play, because I wasn’t playing very well, when I first got here. Plus, the fact that you are away from home and learning an entire new system. At that point, I was coming to a team that had almost finished their season.

Speaking about the help that I got from my teammates, Demetre Rivers is now one of my best friends. It is also fun when you can get those experiences. Especially when you have people around you that help you to adjust, get acclimated. That really helped me and it was overall a good experience» commented and then mentioned the time which he had to adjust… «Like I said, the first three games or so I was just trying to learn new plays. I’m a very high thinker when it comes to basketball, so it was hard for me to just go into the game and be relaxed, because I was thinking about: what do we do on this play and the other one. Like who’s going to be open here. That’s why it took some time for me to adjust in that sense. After I did, I was comfortable here and that’s why I ended up coming back».

In our team’s last round’s game in Basket League against Apollon, the 26 years old center surprised everyone’s who was watching that game with his jumping skills and his impressive dunks. Is that a natural skill or you hide a lot of hours of hard work? Nate Renfro makes it clear: «I think that I was blessed and fortunate to get some athletic ability as far as jumping and stuff like that. However, I obviously work during off season to improve my jumping each year. I have a great trainer where I live, in Arizona and he really helps me in summertime to prepare for these times. What I believe about blocking as a 6’8 guy it’s that the timing counts, but that’s something that I’ve worked on and developed over the years. I used to play volleyball when I was younger so maybe that helped a little bit too. However, I think that the timing has helped me over anything».

Speaking about the way he thinks that PAOK has helped him as an athlete… «PAOK has great supporting stuff and Panos (Vasileiou) is a great trainer. They are all there and helps you stay healthy. That allows us to maximize on our skills and our athletic abilities. These little things and aspects, are the ones which people don’t realize that helps you to be the best athlete you can be».

Around all that effort, PAOK fans have a major role. Nate Renfro spoke about that and shared with us his unforgettable moment… «It’s great. The last home game we had against AEK, obviously was the jersey retirement but this type of games are the ones you play basketball for. That’s where you get your love from, your enthusiasm and the reason you play. I was full of the energy and the love we got from the crowd. The love we get around Thessaloniki it’s very nice for me and it’s a motive for me, so that I can be the player I am now and for us to be the team that we are. People are showing their love when we’re walking around, going to the mall. They are asking me to take pictures together and that has a lot of fun. It is great to see that type of culture which has been built around here.

Honestly, the local games against ARIS, whether it’s home or away. The derbies are always a lot of fun. Last year, I played my fourth game, away from home against ARIS and it was crazy to experience that with PAOK. I have understood that those derbies mean a lot for the city. That’s definitely an unforgettable experience».

In the end of our conversation with Nate Renfro, we asked him to put a title to those two seasons in PAOK, in case of a TV series was written about that. What did he reply? «The first word that comes to my mind is chaos. It was basically an organized chaos, but with that I mean the cultural shook that happened to me when I first came. Then, I got more comfortable and I continued to a new season that I was still comfortable and knew how the things were going on. In the meantime, we had a pretty good season but coach Lykogiannis got fired and then you have a whole new coach coming in. It was almost back to square one. You obviously know the system but you have to make that adjustment. So that’s why I called both seasons a “chaos”. You have to fight that and stay locked in your goal and what’s you’re trying to accomplish».

Very good so far, but will it be a season 3 in that TV series? It is a question that all the PAOK fans have and Nate Renfro “left all of his cards open” by saying… «It is possible»!

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