Ilona Korstin is a member of the Russian national team and plays with BC Volgaburmash Samara in the EuroLeague Women.
Korstin has had a busy year. She was named the face of the Year of Women’s Basketball and helped Samara to the EuroLeague Women championship game.
She will soon begin preparations with the Russian national team as they head to Brazil for the FIBA World Championship.
While on vacation in France, Korstin took time to answer questions from fans and share her opinions on life, basketball and her future.
Andrej, Latvia: Hello Ilona! What do you think about being a vegetarian?
Korstin: I am not a vegetarian – I like meats. But it depends on the person. Each person makes a choice and it is not bad to be a vegetarian or not be a vegetarian. I actually thought about being a vegetarian as I have a teammate with Samara who doesn’t eat meat. She plays basketball and does good, so I did consider it. I made the choice for myself that all basketball players need essential vitamins and some of these vitamins only come from fish and meats.
Andrej, Latvia: Do you think that basketball will become the number one sport in Russia and in the world?
Korstin: At the moment, it is not number one in Russia or the world because we don’t speak about it enough. We see NBA games and basketball maybe the number one sport in America, but in the rest of the world I think soccer is number one. I think we need to do more. It would be great if there were a similar project to the Year of Women’s Basketball but on a global level and for both men and women. I went to go see a CSKA Moscow game recently and there were lots of people in attendance. So there is interest, but we need to speak about it more.
József, Hungary: Can you imagine ever playing for Mizo-Pécs?
Korstin: I am playing for a strong team in Russia (Samara) and I am content there. But I always like playing in Pecs because there is lots of support. It is special feeling when I play there because of all the supporters. It was the same way for me in Bourges when I played there. The gym was always full and we had lots of real fans. I like that.
Renáta, Hungary: How did you like the All-Star Game in Pécs?
Korstin: I think it is not easy to organise something like this, especially for the first time. Overall though, I thought that it was very good and I hope that they keep organising All-Star games in the future. It was good to have this in Pecs because of all the fans and because basketball is developed there. I also think it was good to organise this All-Star game as part of the launch of the Year of Women’s Basketball. It was the first All-Star game, but not the last.
Francois, France: Congratulations on being the Face for the Year of Women’s Basketball. I think FIBA Europe made an excellent choice in selecting you. What is this like for you?
Korstin: It was an honour for me to be selected. During the launch of the project, I took part in promotional activities surrounding the project. I gave a speech at the unveiling of the logo and since the launch in Hungary this past March, I have participated in various promotional activities on fibaeurope.com.
Yasmine, France: HI!! Ilo, when are you going to come back to Bourges???
Korstin: I have one more year on my contract with Samara. I like playing in Russia. It is a very good level here. The best American players are here. But maybe at the end of my career I will come back to France.
Darius, Lithuania: Hi Ilona. Do you have a personal web site? Greetings from Vilnius.
Korstin: I have two web sites: http://ilona.vbmsgau.ru in Russian and www.ilonakorstine.com in French. My Russian web site has been running for the last year and a half or so. Every 10 days, I write news and tell people about my life on and off the basketball court. I think it is interesting for people to know behind the scenes about our lives as basketball players. I recently started my French web site – not all the sections are finished yet. I have a lot of friends in France and they want to know about what I am doing so I plan to write every 10 days or so and inform them about what’s going on. Right now, I don’t have an English web site but in the future I think I will have English and French under ilonakorstine.com.
Jiri, Czech Republic: I was watching the EuroLeague Women final in Brno this past year and it was such an exciting game. What was it like for you to be a part of it?
Korstin:I am proud to have been associated with the game. Players sacrificed their bodies for loose balls, every possession in the game was so critical and for 40 minutes the crowd was into every play. I just wish that Samara had come out on the winning end.
Mark, United States: Any chance you will play in the WNBA again?
Korstin: I played with the Phoenix Mercury five years ago. I had just won the EuroLeague title with Bourges. I was averaging 25-30 minutes a game and I was one of the more important players. I was hoping to begin playing with Phoenix and start by averaging 10 minutes a game and then gradually increase. I wanted to prove that I could play there. Unfortunately, I never got that chance to show I was a good player. I was doing good in practice and would beat my teammates in one-on-one, but my coaches never gave me a chance to play and I was very disappointed. When I played in the WNBA, I came right after the EuroLeague Women season. I had no holidays. Then right after the WNBA season, I began playing for the national team. And then after the national team, I began playing again in the EuroLeague. So I went an entire year without any holiday. I think it is important to have a vacation. It is important both physically and mentally. If you do the same thing every day, you start not to like it and that's not what I want with basketball. So for now I decided to focus on the EuroLeague Woman and the national team. Maybe one day I will go back to the US, but that would be after I am finished playing with the national team.
Mark, United States: How would you compare the WNBA to the EuroLeague Women?
Korstin: I think the EuroLeague is better (laughs). No, it is really hard to compare. Over there, the game is more physical and more individual. There is not as much focus on team play. In Europe, we play much more collectively.
Olga, Russia: Hi Ilona. Who was your favourite player growing up?
Korstin: I always liked Magic Johnson. In Russia, we started to get NBA games on TV when I was 14 years old. We would be able to see games once a week on Sundays and I would always be sure to watch these games. I was very impressed by the way Magic Johnson could see the entire court and that he could play all positions. Of course I have always liked watching Michael Jordan play too.
Arvydas, Lithuania: What do you think about Russia’s chances of winning the FIBA World Championship?
Korstin: Our team is changing. There is one generation leaving and another coming up. The young players don’t have so much experience, but players like myself and others who have been on the national team are still young and have experience. I think that we have a chance to medal. Our big problem in the past is that we start bad. After one bad game, we begin to play well. We can’t allow this to happen again. We have to start good from the beginning because the other teams in our group are very strong.
Irina, Russia: What is your favourite city in the world?
Korstin: My favourite city is Saint Petersburg. Then, I like Paris and Barcelona.
Valentin, Romania: What is your opinion about Romanian women’s basketball?
Korstin: I really don’t know so much about Romanian basketball. I remember we recently played a Romanian team and we won by a lot. Their team had one or two good players, but really that is all I remember so I don’t think I am the most qualified person to speak about this.
Valentin, Romania: Can you tell us about your future plans?
Korstin: I have one more year left with Samara. For the moment, I am happy playing there. I would like to stay at least one or two more years in Russia because the level is so good and there are such strong teams. I would like to end my career returning to Europe – maybe France. But you never know what the future will bring.