It’s 6 a.m.
The Arizona sun rises past A Mountain and tired, yet motivated 6’5” Egor Koulechov enters the court to start his day. The spotlights glisten on the polished floor as conditioning begins for the new freshman basketball player.
This starts his first encounter with the court for the day, but he’ll be back.
After conditioning, he attends class, grabs some lunch, goes to another class, then goes to weight lifting, then heads back to the court for skill training. The only thing that’s abnormal in this routine is not having a flight between practices.
Hearing Koulechovs journey from this summer would make it seem like he spent more time in the air than on the court.
“I’ve gone to see my family in Russia as soon as I graduated high school in Florida. I did that for a week,” Koulechov says. “After that I flew to Israel to see my mom and dad and also practice with the national team.”
This was the fourth summer he played for Israel. Koulechov and his team later traveled to Ukraine for a tournament preparing for the championship, and from there, the Israeli team traveled to Montenegro while Koulechov began his career with the Sun Devils back in Arizona.
“After a couple weeks I had to leave [Arizona] again to go to Estonia to play with the national team, and for another two weeks I came back here,” he says.
Upon his arrival, Koulechov and the rest of the 2013-14 squad traveled to China for ten days, walking across the Great Wall of China, visiting Shanghai, and of course, playing the sport that brought them all together. After traveling all over the world this past summer, this is the first time Koulechov has remained in one place for more than two weeks. With experience playing in arenas all over the world, he gets to call ASU’s Wells Fargo Arena his home for the next four years, as he embarks on his new journey of collegiate basketball.
Started From The Bottom
Koulechov was born in Volgograd, Russia, and later moved to Israel with his family when he was seven.
“Our lives in Russia weren’t really good, you know,” Koulechov says. “We just saw an opportunity if we go to Israel that I’ll have a better education, and my parents would possibly have better jobs over there. So we took that step.”
As a young boy, he grew up playing soccer, and it wasn’t until he moved to a small city in Israel that he was introduced to basketball.
“We had this basketball session two times a week at our school for 45 minutes and that’s kind of when I started,” he says.
It was then that he caught the attention of two coaches who recommended he sign up for a league.
“I really didn’t want to at first,” he says. “I felt it was starting to get [too] serious, when I was really just trying to spend some time. I didn’t want to make it anything more than that, but then my mom signed me [up] and from there I just fell in love with the game.”
That love for the game fueled his fire that later got him into a sports institute in Israel called Wingate, taking him away from his family at 14, only being able to see them on weekend visits. When he was 16, he made that distance permanent as he attended Sagemont High School in South Florida. Former high school coach, Adam Ross was excited to have the international athlete on the team.
“He is unlike a lot of American players,” Ross says. “He’s gained all of this international experience in international events all over the world. It’s unbelievable. He was happy to do it. He loves representing his country.”
This love for representing his country was bitter sweet when making the transition to America.
“It’s a tough transition, thinking that you’re not going to see your family for a year almost in time,” Koulechov says. “If you have goals, you got to sacrifice, and that’s what I did.”
That sacrifice was well worth it. Just in those two final years of high school, Koulechov was ranked number 16 recruit in Florida by Max Preps and number 20 by 247 Sports. These individual accomplishments, however, are not what the international player is striving for.
“Individual titles are good, but I haven’t really won anything team wise,” he says. “I’m just trying to come here now, and hopefully we’ll have some team success this year.”
Choosing Arizona State University
When Ross and Koulechov came to ASU on their first college visit, it was clear that they didn’t need to look any further.
“I knew almost immediately that that’s where he would end up. It’s usually very clear when it’s the right place,” Ross says. “It fit all of Egor’s criteria.”
Indeed it did. Koulechov was very much in tune with what he was looking for in a college.
“I really like the coaching staff here; it’s a big part of why I came here. I like the practice facility and they have experience with international students.”
His education was also something he took into consideration. Koulechov is an international business freshman at the W.P Carey School of Business.
“I put a lot in education. I feel like if basketball doesn’t work out, or if something happens along the way, [if] you get a degree, there’s more opportunities out there for you.”
Koulechov plans to make a living out of basketball, whether it be playing overseas in Russia or Israel, or in the NBA. He does all this with no one other than his family in mind.
“I want to make enough living to move my entire family to live with me,” he says. “That’s my long-term goal. That’s something I try to work for every day.”
The Future for the Russian warrior
Ross is confident in Koulechov’s success as a college player.
“Like every college freshman in the country there will be an adjustment period,” Ross says. “He’s going to have to grow into whatever role he ends up having this upcoming year.”
The forward guard will be taking the spot of graduate Carrick Felix this season.
“He brings strength and toughness to the guard position,” Ross says. “I expect Egor to be a very good player and have a very good career.”
Koulechov is keeping focused and not letting anything taint his mindset.
“I’m just coming in and trying to do my best, work hard in every practice, push myself to my limits, get to know the guys, try to build a family here,” he says.
The squad is scheduled to make 13 appearances on the Pac12 Network this season. The Sun Devil’s first game is on Friday, November 8 against Maryland-Baltimore County at ASU’s own Wells Fargo Arena.