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Saturday, December 20th, 2008 at 2:41 pm  |  17 responses

Homeboy

A conversation with Charlie Villanueva.

by Matt Caputo

Charlie Villanueva never forgot where he came from. Though his basketball career has kept the Queens, N.Y. native away from home since he was a junior in high school, Villanueva kept close ties to the city he grew up in. While he’s a member of the Milwaukee Bucks, he’s hoping the place he grew up will never forget him.

Villanueva, in his third season out of UConn, has recently shifted to the sixth man role on Scott Skiles’ Bucks and has posted some of the best numbers of his career. Although the Bucks have amassed 12 wins thus far, they could battle for a playoff spot late in the year.

Although Villanueva only played ten minutes in the Bucks first visit to New York Friday night, the Bucks ran away with a 105-81 victory.

SLAM spoke with “Charlie V” during the pregame shoot around.

SLAM: Did you see a lot of games at The Garden growing up?
Charlie Villanueva: I’ve seen a lot of games here. My brother was a big Knick fan and I hated the Knicks (laughs). I was a big Indiana Pacers fan because of Reggie Miller and he was like the Knick-No fearkiller. He’s one of the reasons I wear no. 31 today. I always used to hate the Knicks.

SLAM: Did you play here before you got into The League?
CV: I played here in the Big East tournament and this whole arena is “the main stage.” It’s the world’s most famous arena. I always have a lot of family members at the games that I do play here. It means a lot to me.

SLAM: You left Newtown high school (Queens) to go to prep school in New Jersey? Do you feel like you missed out on winning a few city titles in this building?
CV: I think so. Newtown was good. I was there for two years, but I really wanted to get further away so I could concentrate on what I wanted to do with basketball and my schoolwork. I went to Blair Academy and it was a great situation for me.

SLAM: So, you were ultimately happy you went to Blair?
CV: Absolutely. Being away from home—at such an early age—I had to grow up fast. At 15-years-old, I was doing all kinds of ironing and other little things to take care of myself. I wasn’t used to doing it, but it was stuff I had to do.

SLAM: Do you feel like you’re beginning to find your place with the Bucks right now?
CV: I feel really good. It’s a good situation for me. With Coach Skiles system, he puts me in the position to be a playmaker and to score. That’s what I was looking for in a team and it’s something that I didn’t get in the past years. Coach Skiles put a lot of trust in me in order to make plays.

SLAM: Do you think coming off the bench has helped you or did it mess with your head a little bit?
CV: It did in the beginning of my career, but I still play starter minutes. Teams don’t always have the best five guys on the floor. I’m like the sixth guy, it depends, maybe if there is a point guard in foul trouble, someone will go in ahead of me, but generally I’m the sixth man. I kind of enjoy coming off the bench and I actually have the advantage of seeing what’s going on before I go into the game.

In starting, you have to be ready from the tip. You have to be ready right away and you don’t get the advantage of seeing what’s happening. I can see who’s hot, who’s not. I can see how the defense is moving and what plays they’re running against us. Stuff like that is what you get to see when you’re coming off the bench.

SLAM: What’s Coach Scott Skiles told you about your new role?
CV: He just tells me to go in and provide the team with energy and scoring. That’s the reason why I’m coming off the bench. I’ve been giving the team that boost.

VersatileSLAM: Do you feel like you see your defense improving?
CV: Absolutely, I truly feel like it’s improving a lot. Just having Coach Skiles work with me and teach me the way he wants things done—the way defensive schemes should be done—has helped me a lot. One thing about Coach is that he’s big on defense and if you don’t play defense you’re not going to play and I want to play.

SLAM: Is it that you’re doing something different out there or do you feel you’ve learned to defend better recently because of increased experience?
CV: It’s a combination of both. The experience and having the knowledge of how to play a certain player and the second thing is focus and concentration on being aware of what you have to do and who you have to guard.

SLAM: You’ve got about 50 kids here at the game tonight with have Alopecia Areata. Can you talk a bit about that?
CV: I’m about to go see them in a minute. My program is called “Charlie’s Angel’s” and I’ve been involved with kids that deal with the same condition (alopecia areata) I’m dealing with and allow them have a good time, let them see me more warm, sign autographs for them. I wanted to give them an excuse to have some fun and a good time. I never really had a role model—nobody I could look up to. I realize now that it happened to me so that I could help others.

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  • namik

    Great stuff Matt! Good player but a great guy. And I agree with your assessment of the Bucks. With the talent they have and a pretty good coach, they should start achieving later in the season.

  • http://www.where-basketball-b-longs.blogspot.com/ B. Long

    Caputo strikes again! Great work, Matt.

  • http://thestartingfive.net Michael Tillery

    CV is one of the few guys in the lig I haven’t talked to. Big time talent. Smooth game for his size. Thanks for the insight bruh. Keep doing ya thing.

  • riggs

    this guy makes me feel like punching the crap out of whomever talks bad about him.

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    My man! Caputo AND my man Charlie V! Don’t get much better than that- except for ‘Bucks have collected amassed 12 wins’ choose one Caputo! Love your work! And exclamation marks!

  • http://MYSPACE.COM/PRO_MEDIA BEN DA BARBER

    Its crazy I remember seeing charlie in the park shooting around all day and night, from park to park. He was on his way because he was a diehard type of individual. Can’t believe the kid got to the league and he’s doing the damn thang repping DOMINICANS TO THE FULLEST, CHARLIE HAS GOTTEN VERY FAR AND HE HAS A LONG JOURNEY AHEAD, DON’T SLEEP ON THESE DOMINICANS WE CREEPIN. YOU ALREADY KNOW CAPUTO IS THE REALEST IN THE GAME.

  • thesubwayconnection

    I like CV, good to see some positive stuff about him.

  • http://whaddupma.com The First Lady

    Wooo hooo, another hit from Matty C.

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    Caputo, as usual you come with the excellent work. I remember CV in HS, when I at first honestly thought he shaved his eyebrows or something, then I did some research on Alopecia. It’s great to see a guy that embraces it and sets up something like Charlies Angels to help out the kids inflicted with it. CV is definitely making it to where people with Alopecia are just another person (which they are from the get-go, but some people used to be all sketchy about it). Also, CV has the ability to drop huge numbers at any point in time. I was mildly skeptical when he was on the Raps, but he’s really solidified himself as a consistent NBA player. Skiles is going to make him get to another level.

  • Boing Dynasty

    Charlie dropped 48 (on the bucks) his rookie year with the Raps.

  • http://www.nyhoops.com Dylan Kitts

    great stuff man. always enjoy the reads.

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    Boing Dynasty, yes he did drop 48, but other games he played like he didn’t have love for the game, he’d play inconsistent on defense, and offense….I wasn’t sold on him in the Raptor days. He’s proven himself to me now though and deserves mad respect.

  • denise VILLANUEVA

    dats mii cuzin and i love him 2 death

  • chintao

    Villaneuva is a classy guy. He gives Skiles alot of credit, but CV’s minutes/game are actually at a career low (though not by much) this year. By contrast, his points, assists, and rebounds per game are all at career highs (unfortunately, turnovers are too). Anyway, I hope that he keeps playing well, so that Skiles will give him more burn. Big ups to Newtown and the whole Elmhurst.

  • rikson

    I think CV is capable of much more than we have seen so far. Its about time that a coach realises what Charlie can do… (props to boing dynasty for mentioning the 48)

  • http://ittakesanationofmillionstoholdthissac.blogspot.com ciolkstar

    Nice piece. I always liked CV and thought his game would blow up in the league. If he improves his defense I could definitely see Skiles giving him consistent tick out there. I never knew about him having Alopecia, but thats really cool that he runs a foundation to help kids with the same disease. I’ll bet those kids appreciate seeing someone “like them” in the league. Big props to CV for embracing his condition by trying to raise awareness and help others.

  • http://www.slamonline.com B.Easy B.Greezy

    Queens, what!

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