Having started his pro career in 2004, Charles Kahudi is among the true veterans of French basketball. A teenager back then, Kahudi progressed quickly to become a multiple medal-winner with the French national team last decade. That's when he met Tony Parker, the biggest basketball legend in France, who would soon became the owner and president of LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne.
"My friendship with Tony started back with the national team," Kahudi recalls. "I joined the team in 2010 and I was kind of the underdog. I had had a good year and those were my first steps in the national team. They took me in and really helped me."
One of the players who guided Kahudi most was Parker.
"Over the years, we got closer and talked more," he said. "I learned about him and his family; he learned more about me and my family."
"I wanted to play in the EuroLeague"
That teammate relationship evolved into a friendship, and that friendship took a new turn when, in 2015, Parker asked Kahudi to join his project in Villeurbanne. Kahudi did not hesitate to grab the opportunity.
"I was looking for another challenge, he said, "especially because I wanted to play in the EuroLeague."
That was Parker's idea, as well, to take ASVEL back to the EuroLeague and make the club's name rise again in French and European basketball.
"That was my goal, too" says Kahudi. "I wanted to show myself that I was able to play against those EuroLeague guys. So the EuroLeague was our challenge."
Everything went according to plan as ASVEL won the 2015.16 French League. Unfortunately, due to the Euroleague Basketball-FIBA conflict, the club could not be a part of the EuroLeague that year. "It was a big frustration for him and for me," Kahudi said.
The ASVEL project seemed to stall for a little while, and Kahudi even had thoughts of leaving the team, but it was Parker, again, who got him to stay.
"I wanted to leave because I wanted a challenge other than ASVEL, maybe outside of Europe," Kahudi says. "But I obviously was not going without my family. We talked at home and we decided to stay put in Lyon because the job was not done. I wanted to play the EuroLeague."
One of the key factors in Kahudi's new stint at ASVEL was that Parker wanted to integrate him more in the structure of the club.
"I stay in my lane, but we like to discuss about the team, the temperature of the situation," he says. "Tony likes the feedback, how the team feels, a lot. On the court or in the offices, I talk to a lot of people around here and then I take my impressions to him. I try to be a link, when I can, between the team, staff, offices... I want to show I am involved."
"I love to ask questions, all kinds of questions. And I always expect answers," Kahudi adds with a laugh.
Now 34, with 16 years as a pro behind him, Kahudi's playing career is in its late stages. It's only natural that he would think about how to parlay his veteran's role at ASVEL into a post-playing career in basketball.
"I love to ask questions, all kinds of questions."
"Of course, this part of managing people and environments... I am the team captain, so I am already doing that!" he says. "We have young people, we have to keep egos in check. We set rules and boundaries to feel good and live good together. This is also a big part of personnel managing."
The ASVEL organization is keen on listening to its players' suggestions. Kahudi's his role in that interaction and his relationship with Parker plays a key part in that process.
"Tony grew up as a player with the [San Antonio] Spurs, and he wanted to do the same kind of thing here in ASVEL that he had there," Kahudi says. "With the Spurs, they had players, key figures, who helped with that. He was obviously one of those players and that is what he tried to do with me here in this team."