Frank Ntilikina Q&A: Cultural transitions, Kristaps chemistry and PB&J

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 6: Frank Ntilikina
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 6: Frank Ntilikina /

With the help of The Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Jif and Smucker’s is helping basketball’s newest players from all over the world  —  including Frank Ntilikina, from France and Cedi Osman, from Turkey — to eat like true basketball pros this season with a tasty PB&J sandwich. As a proud PB&J partner of the NBA — every time anyone uses #PBJLikeAPro on social media, Jif and Smucker’s will donate $1 to The Boys and Girls Clubs of America until it raises $10,000.

After getting the chance to learn how to make the perfect PB&J, Frank Ntilikina spoke with The Step Back about his favorite foods and his rookie season with the New York Knicks.

The Step Back: Was that the first time you’d eaten a PB&J?

Ntilikina: It wasn’t the first time, but it was the first time I learned how to make a PB&J. With the help of Jif and Smucker’s and The Boys and Girls Clubs and these kids too, who are professionals with the PB&J, they taught me how to do it. And by using the hashtag and just tagging Jif and Smucker’s, they are going to donate $1 to The Boys and Girls Cubs of America, just to help kids have great futures.

The Step Back: Have you had a PB&J since? It it something that’s going to a part of your regular pre-game meal?

Ntilikina: Yeah, I mean, pre-game, breakfast, I just had a PB&J this morning. Now that I know how to do it perfectly, I can not spend a day without eating at least one.

The Step Back: Creamy or chunky peanut butter? And do you have a favorite kind of jelly?

Ntilikina: Strawberry jelly for sure. That’s the best. For peanut butter, I like both.

The Step Back: Any other new American foods you’ve been introduced to since joining the Knicks?

Ntilikina: It’s funny how here in America, the restaurants have a lot of seafood. I like it a lot actually, in every restaurant you can have seafood.

The Step Back: Is there any food from home that you miss?

Ntilikina: Maybe my mother’s food, I miss what she is cooking. She was cooking a lot of veggies and that’s something I miss.

The Step Back: Has anything else been a challenge, making the transition here to the United States and a new culture?

Ntilikina: No, actually. I’ve been very welcomed here, very warmly. The transition, they all make it easy for me. The language, at first, was kind of complicated. I didn’t understand some part of the conversations. But I just spent a lot of time talking in English, and just learned.

The Step Back: Can you talk a little about the chemistry you’re developing with Kristaps Porzingis?

Ntilikina: We all know Kristaps as a basketball player. He is in an unbelievable season. He’s going to developed over his career and keep getting better. Playing with him is just a lot of fun. He makes my job easier, basketball is just a lot more fun when you play with a guy like this. On the court and off the court too, our chemistry is very good.

I’ve never played with someone like that. That’s why I enjoy every single moment on the court with him.

The Step Back: What sorts of things have been different about the game itself from your time playing in Europe?

Ntilikina: Running more pick-and-roll, the pace of the game. You get more shots per game because the pace is faster, like, more transition game. It’s a small adjustment really, and I like playing this way.

The Step Back: Do you see yourself as more of an on-the-ball, pick-and-roll shot-creator? Because you certainly have the versatility to play off-the-ball as well.

Ntilikina: I’m a basketball player so I can play with the ball, I can play off the ball. I can play to find my teammates or to create my own shot. That’s an ability you have to keep working on. The more you can do on the court the more the defense will be in trouble.

The Step Back: Anything in particular you’re focused on developing in your own game this season?

Ntilikina: Most importantly right now is getting more comfortable in the offense. I know I can do more, and I just need to keep working to bring more to my team at this end of the court.

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The Step Back: What does success look like for the Knicks this year?

Ntilikina: Just grow up as a team. We have a good mix of young players and veteran players who are teaching us a lot. It’s a little early to say whether we should make the playoffs or not but it would be a great thing if we do it at the end of the year.