Growing up in Bulgaria, basketball made up a large part of Kiko Stavrev’s life.
“Every single person in my family is a basketball player,” he said “Both of my parents were coaches and they used to play basketball. My brother used to be a basketball player. I was just born with basketball.”
Stavrev knew that he wanted to play basketball—he just didn’t want to play basketball in Europe. “It’s always been a dream for me to play college basketball (in the United States),” Stavrev said.
The 6-foot-7 freshman realized his lifelong dream over the summer when he joined the Weber State University men’s basketball team.
Stavrev came to Weber State under unusual circumstances according to WSU Head Coach Randy Rahe. After one of the team’s recruits wasn’t able to participate this year, the coaching staff began looking around for another player to join the Wildcats.
“We were looking for a skilled (forward) who could shoot (well),” Rahe said. “We basically took (Stavrev) based on film, which I don’t ever do. He wanted to come to the states badly, that was his goal.”
When Rahe found Stavrev, he was playing at Myerscough College Basketball Academy in Preston, England.
“I had this offer to go to an academy in England where I can take time to develop as a player and also I would have time to take my SATs and learn better English,” he said. “It was really helpful. I did everything I wanted to do in that year. It opened a lot of doors for me.”
When Stavrev first heard from Rahe and Weber State, he was in the middle of helping Myerscough College on its way to four national titles.
“At first when I heard from Weber State I was really excited. That was right around the final fours so I just tried to keep calm so I don’t screw up in the finals,” Stavrev said. “Man I was excited, I’m not gonna lie. Just talking to a Division I school, back home that doesn’t happen to anyone.”
Myerscough Head Coach Neal Hopkins said that Stavrev had already received an offer to play at Gillette Junior College in Gillette, Wyoming, but when Myerscough College heard Weber State was interested in Stavrev they moved quickly to get him to Ogden.
“I worked really hard to make sure he had a great option. He had a couple other schools that were really interested in him,” Hopkins said. “As soon as we found out that Weber State was interested we were all over that. His dream has always been to play at the Division I level, so to have this opportunity at Weber State was just what he wanted. It was his dream basically.”
Now that he’s in the United States, Stavrev said one of the biggest culture shocks he has had to deal with is the same thing that brought him from Europe—basketball.
“Sports are not that big back home, basketball especially,” Stavrev said. “In the whole country there might be two arenas like the (Dee Events Center).”
Culture shock aside, Stavrev has quickly settled in to his new role and has begun to fit in with his new team.
“He’s a great player, great teammate,” Junior Jeremy Senglin said. “He’s a really good guy.”
As the beginning of the team’s season rapidly approaches, Stavrev is excited to be living his dream and looks forward to the future.
“I love the team, the guys are pretty good,” he said. “I don’t really see it like a team anymore, I’ve become like part of a family already and I really like that. I fit in the team perfectly and I think I can do big things around here.”