UK gamer, Harry Hurst (a.k.a. HazzaUK2K) recently sat down with media to talk about life playing for Mavs Gaming who are part of the Dallas Mavericks organisation.
Harry, a former recruitment consultant, aged 21, from Reading, had never even visited the US before he was drafted and now lives the life of a professional gamer alongside the other 100 gamers competing in the first edition of the 2K League.
Harry is one of just three European gamers selected out of 102 participants.
Q: How have you found your time in the US and playing in the NBA 2K League?
Hurst: It’s been great. Obviously coming over here, it may have been hard to adjust, with a different home environment, different weather, different culture but I’ve settled right in. Everyone has been really friendly and the facilities provided for the team are amazing and will help us to progress in the league. We’re also flying to New York once a week, which can be a bit of a drag but it’s great to do something new. American life is very different to England but I’m settling into it and really enjoying it so far.
Q: What are your goals for this season?
Hurst: Speaking for myself and the rest of the team, we want to try and win as many games as possible. We have two more tournaments coming up which we would really like to win and the Playoffs which is the big goal at the end which we will be striving to win. We lost the first tournament in the quarter-finals where we were knocked out by the 76ers. It was quite a frustrating loss as we knew we were a good team and we had quite a lot of potential. That was the team that eventually went on to win the tournament so we left with our heads hanging as it wasn’t a great start when we had such high ambitions for ourselves. We’re currently 2-1 [wins-losses] at the moment so things are looking up. We have another tournament in a couple of weeks and we really want to perform to our potential and try and win. So we’ve been training hard day in day out and we want to make sure we come out on top in this historic season. We want to win as many titles and awards so going into next year we have a stepping stone so we can progress as far as possible.
Q: How did you get into NBA 2K and what drew you to it?
Hurst: I was a big gamer when I was a lot younger. My uncle is really into tech so I got that from him and my Dad’s side are really sporty so I really enjoyed basketball. One of my friends had NBA 2K and I started playing it for a bit – I think it was NBA 2K14. I really enjoyed the combination of gaming and basketball. It was something I really enjoyed and I was quite good at it. I didn’t really know about the opportunity [joining the NBA 2K League] until NBA 2K posted a tweet saying they were accepting try-outs for the league which I was excited about and I wanted to prove myself. That was about a month’s worth of gaming to try and find the best 102 players – I loved the competitive environment. Then I had a few interviews with the NBA teams who were deciding where I was going to go.
Q: What are your thoughts on this year’s Playoffs?
Hurst: We finish training at about 6pm so when we come home we have time to watch the Playoff games at home or we do a team event. The conference finals have been great so far. Obviously Houston vs Golden State is a big one. Going into it Golden State have been the best team in the NBA for a few years now but Houston are proving to be quite a tough challenge for them. The Celtics are playing really well and it will be a great feat to stop LeBron going to the finals for the first time in a while! He’s been the best player in my eyes for over ten years and one of the greatest of all time and to still be doing it at 33 is amazing. Watching the guys compete in the finals, we try and take all of that in and use their competitiveness in our esports games as well. When we played against the Celtics we were down 20 points at one point and it proves you can’t stop and you have to keep going to get the win and you can take a lot of that from the way the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron play.
Q: How have you built the team in the short time you have been together?
Hurst: We struggled a bit at the start as me, Jannis [Neuman] and Devillon all had to get visas to come over here and it was quite a long process. I came over on the second day of the first tournament so we didn’t have a lot of team practice and we had no plays or feel for each other going into it. But we knew Dimez and Dayfri are both very vocal, good leaders and they’re experienced players so we relied on them a bit to get behind us, run the offense and defense and also to connect all of us. In the first tournament we were knocked out in the quarter-finals and that showed the lack of training and the other team exposed our lack of set plays and experience. We’re training all the time and even during training it is a highly competitive environment and we’re all yelling trying to get the best out of each other. We’ve all got each other’s backs so if we do something wrong, in the next play we’ll all be helping each other out. We’re the perfect fit as teammates.
Q: How does the real game relate to the NBA 2K League?
Hurst: From real life games we can take set plays and motions and transfer them into the game. So for example Golden State play five out a lot of the time so we can transfer that into our game. We can have a lot of shooters on our team so we would target the three point line as much as possible. For people who don’t know how it works in the 2K League, each position has its individual archetypes for how you want your players to play. For example you might be fast and athletic but then not so good at shooting and the teams decide what type of player you’re going to be and you can base your offense and defense around that like a lot of NBA teams.
Training is very similar as well. We often have video sessions where we watch how other teams play, how we play and how we can transfer those skills into the game. We spend hours each day working on plans and taking down notes so we have things to work on. Then we work on these smaller details in training to make sure we’re a step ahead.
Q: Does playing basketball help when playing in the NBA 2K League?
Hurst: I find a lot of my strengths in the game have come from my real-life NBA knowledge. I already knew what was needed for certain plays. So NBA players would be a lot better than people who wouldn’t actually know how to play basketball as they know where to stand, how to play and when to shoot. It’s the little things like that that help you become a good 2K player. A lot of 2K players know very specific tricks and moves. I play using my basketball knowledge so when you combine that you can become a much better player. I would say that an NBA player would have a definite advantage over someone who has never player 2K before.
Q: How does it feel to be part of the Mavs as an organisation? Were you a fan of the team before you joined?
Hurst: It’s a great feeling playing for the Mavs – it still hasn’t sunken in yet that we’re playing for an actual NBA team which is incredible. They’ve got a lot of history obviously winning the NBA Finals. Dirk Nowitzki is Jannis’ [Neuman] idol and he was a great icon throughout Europe. Mark Cuban is great and has provided a great facility and great opportunities so we’re really thankful for everything that has been provided for us. Everyone within the Mavericks organisation has been really helpful and welcoming and are pushing us to be the best we can be.
In terms of supporting Dallas, I’m actually a Miami Heat fan originally, who the Dallas Mavericks beat [in the 2011 NBA Finals] so there may be a slight salty taste there! But now I’m with the Mavericks I’m 100% behind them.
Q: Can you see the NBA 2K League being as big as the real-life NBA at some point?
Hurst: Yeah I can. We’re building a base for our fans and we’re only in our first season so we’ll push the league as far as we can. But we know it’s an American dominated sport. I believe it’s only me, Jannis and Gooner [Jamie Bull] who are from Europe. So we know it’s not as popular there but for the younger generation, they are becoming more interested in esports, it’s a growing organisation and so we’re trying to reach fans everywhere. So hopefully in a few years’ time the league will blow up and become huge.
Q: Have you played 2K with an NBA player? Is that a goal of yours?
Hurst: I haven’t played with any NBA players yet, I know a few of my teammates have before during the $250,000 tournament a few years back and they played with five NBA players. I’d love to play against Dirk Nowitzki which would be great for us European players. I’d hope I’d be able to beat him. It may be a bit embarrassing if I lost! But that would be something I would enjoy.
Q: You grew up in Reading and there’s been a change in your lifestyle, how different is it to the life you’re leading now compared to what it was like before? How has life changed and how do you still keep in touch and stay grounded with your mates back home?
Hurst: Coming to Dallas has been quite a big change; the temperature, the culture – all of that, it’s a lot different from Reading which I’m sure you’ll agree. But in terms of friends and family, the time zone can be quite a difficult situation at times, I normally finish practice around 6/7pm Dallas time which I believe is past midnight back in Reading. So it can be a bit of a struggle but sometimes I wake up early in the morning or we’re constantly speaking over chat trying to stay in touch which is good. A few of my friends also play NBA 2K, so whenever we get the opportunity even if I have to wake up early or they stay up later, we can always play with each other, keep practising our skills and keep in touch.
Family as well, I have an uncle that lives out in Texas, so I believe they’re coming over soon and I’m looking forward to seeing them, speaking with them and trying to kind of bond again as such. There’s a lot of difference in terms of the working environment I’m in now, I was a recruitment consultant working in a small office nine to five, Monday to Friday, but now it’s 24/7 working in something that I really, really enjoy. A lot of people who work can’t say they really enjoy what they’re doing 24/7 but I wake up every morning, we have a team meeting, we get to work out, we have lunch and then we come to this state-of-the-art facility in which we can train, enhance our skills to the best of our ability whilst enjoying what we enjoy most. So everyone around me as well, they all love what they’re doing so we thrive off that, and we create a great working environment in which no one can tell us to come and work here, we’re voluntarily coming here every morning trying to do the best we can and flying to New York once a week, competing in tournaments, trying to improve our work as a team and that’s something that I really enjoy. Putting myself out there, trying to get involved in other communities, competing to a high standard and trying to win as much as I can. It’s something that I really enjoy, I’m a very competitive player. For everyone that knows me, I hate losing, I have ever since I was a kid. I can remember losing a game, trying to change the rules or start crying. It’s great, I love the kind of competitive nature, the yelling, the trash talking – it’s all kind of my cup of tea essentially. So yeah I really like how it’s all coming together out here so far.
Q: Have you had a chance to come back yet to Reading? Have you had much time yet or has it been full on?
Hurst: “Yeah it’s been full on ever since I got out here, I doubt with the schedule I’ll be able to come back for long if I ever tried to. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s really friendly out here. Everyone’s really welcoming and the food’s great, the culture’s really fun as well. It would be great to come back if I could but I think it’s really nice that we’re staying here, everything’s provided for us. I’m really enjoying it.
Q: What are the unique selling points of the NBA 2K League?
Hurst: I think the 2K League is a combination of both sides of the sporting community and the gaming community, the casual sports viewers can also get involved in the NBA 2K. There’s a lot of the same play styles, the same players, the trash talking, the loud environment. I think a few people really enjoy, and the gaming community of eSports – a lot of gamers also like their competitive gaming, they can appreciate the skill and the time the players are putting in to. And I think they can really enjoy the growth of the eSports environment as well. The 2K League is obviously starting up but I think it’s really going to grow in the future, trying to get as many people involved as we can, trying to appeal to the young generation. Obviously the gaming is a lot of a bigger thing now for the young generation than it was for the older generation. So trying to counteract that and appeal to the young generation for gaming but also for the old generation who might not actually get the whole gaming vibe, we’re bringing in more of the sports aspect to appeal to them so they can understand that side as well rather than just one basic appeal but trying to bring in as many people into the audience as possible, trying to entertain both sides.
You can watch the NBA 2K League live on Twitch
Source/Image: Pitch London