Winning streaks always come to an end and the EPG Baskets Koblenz saw their great season start of 4-0 end with a loss in Bavaria against the TSV Oberaching Tropics 90-84. As usual the EPG Baskets Koblenz were able to display a solid offensive fire power placing 5 players in double figures, but if you can´t defend in a proper manner and cough up the ball 19 times, it will be difficult to win the game. Plus it also didn´t help that ex BBL German Peter Zeis exploded for 30 points. Sometimes a loss can be a positive experience in disguise as now the club has that undefeated record off their chest and know that they aren´t invincible. The club quickly wiped the loss out of their memory and came back to battle against the Ahorn Camp BIS Baskets Speyer a team that came to Koblenz riding a 1-2 record. They had had a whole month off as their last game was an unsatisfying 114-80 loss against BBC Coburg. Allowing 16 three´s and losing the rebound battle in Coburg gave the club many weeks to ponder and wanted to give a better defensive effort in Koblenz and did playing pick up basketball the whole night, but allowed only 10 points in the last quarter fighting back to gain their first lead with 57 seconds to play, but didn´t get rewarded losing 72-68. At the press conference a dejected and very somber looking head coach Carl Mbassa stood ready for any questions fired at him and had to digest the tough loss. “We were unable to find our rhythm in the first quarter. We couldn´t handle the athleticism from Koblenz. Our record may be 1-3, but we know what we are capable of doing. Still I´m proud of how the team came back and always fought and played with discipline. I thought that we sold ourselves well. We have a good character and will come back”, warned Ahorn Camp BIS Baskets Speyer head coach Carl Mbassa. EPG Baskets Koblenz head coach Danny Rodriguez had his usual game face look during the press conference questions and one could tell that he was relieved that his team could eke out a real classic nail bitter. “We wanted to start out well and did. Our energy let up in the second quarter. In the third quarter we were able to lead by 10 points again. Overal there were simply too many up and downs with our energy today”, said EPG Baskets head coach Danny Rodriguez.
Both teams had key players missing as the EPG Baskets Koblenz were without ex wiha Panthers big man Edin Alispahic while the AHORN Camp BIS Baskets Speyer were without American guard Jordan Rezendes. “I have an adductor problem that is hard to heal. I wish that I could have been out there for my teammates, especially in a close game”, said American Jordan Rezendes. The home team Koblenz wasted absolute no time jumping all over Speyer the way You Tuber Jake Paul did all over ex NBA Nate Robinson knocking him out last night taking a quick 8-0 lead. In the run it was ex Ehingen forward Brian Butler that dominated scoring 3 buckets as his overall aggressiveness and incredible anticipation for rebounds and finding the open spot and knowing where the basket is couldn´t be handled by the opponent. “Everything Brian does is great. Everything is so automatic for him. The reason he is able to make so many plays is because of how hard he works”, commented ex Leverkusen forward CJ Oldham. Dutch forward Chaed Wellian also showed that he can compete with the athleticism of Buter making a hard slam dunk on transition. Koblenz did a good job getting out on transition as Koblenz defended aggressively, got in passing lanes and played good pick and roll defense not allowing Speyer into their offensive sets. Koblenz suffered a little lull on defense allowing Speyer to go on a 5-0 run to cut the Koblenz lead down to 8-5 as ex BBL player Tim Schwartz nailed a trey and ex Bosnian Concord University (NCAA2) forward Simun Kovac made a lay in. But it didn´t take the EPG Baskets Koblenz long to get their offense going again as they stormed back going on a 5-0 run as ex FC Schalke guard Marley Jean-Louis scored inside and CJ Oldham scored on transition executing on a acrobatic lay in and giving his team the 12-5 advantage. Oldham had another very impressive game showing his excellent versatility filling the stat sheet finishing with 8 points, 8 boards, 3 assists, 2 steals and 1 block. “My role with every team has been different. I just always try to make plays to help my team win”, warned CJ Oldham. Ex BBL player Marc Liyanage nailed a trey cutting the Koblenz lead down to 12-8. But the Koblenz offense was too strong for Speyer as they came back with a rapid 7-0 run to lead 19-8 getting buckets from Ex Speyer guard DJ Woodmore, Oldham and Buter all in the zone. Speyer showed no physicality inside and Koblenz played fine team basketball taking advantage of the lax Speyer physicality resulting in easy baskets. In the last few minutes, the Ahorn Camp BIS Baskets Speyer got some much needed energy from their athletic 199cm small forward Darian Cardenas who began his basketball career with USC Heidelberg and had 43 Pro A games with Jena and Rostock scored 5 points hitting a pretty fade away jumper and nailing a trey. After 10 minutes the EPG Baskets Koblenz had the comfortable 22-14 lead.
The EPG Baskets Koblenz kept the lead in the second quarter, but the Ahorn Camp BIS Baskets Speyer stepped up their game to another level and showed that they weren´t about to back away from the home team on this night. Once again the EPG Baskets Koblenz began well taking going on a fast 10-4 run to extend their lead to 32-18. In the run, the troops of head coach Danny Rodriguez got vital support from ex Giessen guard Lukas Meyer who drilled home a three pointer, Wellian who also connected from downtown andgot lay in´s from Woodmore and Butler. Koblenz was displaying a fine combination of inside out basketball while Speyer continued to lose many 1-1 battles on defense. Speyer got 2 baskets from Liyanage and Cardenas, but Koblenz was defending hard and only giving Speyer very tough shots. Speyer went on a 6-2 run as at times, Koblenz was unable to keep their consistent offensive flow. Speyer got key baskets from Cardenas who makes his fade away jumper look like a work of art, ex Heidelberg forward David Aichele made a 10 footer and ex BG Karlsruhe guard Eric Curth made a smart offensive rebound and put back that enraged Danny Rodriguez to call a time out despite the comfortable 34-24 advantage. Despite no fans and loud music during the time out, one could hear the anger of Rodriguez on the sidelines as he was barking new commands to his players. Speyer was showing better energy on offense, but Koblenz continued to defend very well making every shot tough for Speyer. Despite the time out by Koblenz, Speyer closed out the second quarter in fine fashion going on a 8-4 run to trail only 38-32 at half-time. In their run, they got important help from Cardenas who was their work horse on offense tallying 5 points including a nice hook shot while Eric Curth dropped a key trey. Koblenz got buckets from Woodmore and ex BBL player Jacob Mampuya. “We went to a zone in the second quarter to try to get Koblenz out of rhythm. We just tried to change things around and it helped us. We did a good job switching ball screens and that brought Koblenz more into isolation ball”, stressed Ahorn Camp BIS Baskets Speyer head coach Carl Mbassa.
In the third quarter the EPG Baskets Koblenz were able to hold the lead despite many attempts by the Ahorn Camp BIS Baskets Speyer to almost get over the hump, but when ever they tried, it was huge three pointers that kept Koblenz ahead. The Koblenz offense continued to work very well in the first few minutes as Louis, Woodmore and Wellian all scored, but Speyer also was playing a lot better on offense as Kovac brought some important intensity inside getting 2 baskets and Kovac then when double teamed found a cutting Schwarz into the lane for an easy basket, but Koblenz still led 45-38. Speyer then went on a 4-0 run as Cardenas made free throws and Schwartz scored inside cutting the Koblenz lead to 45-42. Speyer did a good job taking advantage of early Koblenz foul trouble. Speyer was threatening, but Koblenz relied on their three point shooting as Woodmore connected to give Koblenz the 48-42 lead. Kovac made an offensive rebound and put back as Speyer threatened again trailing 49-44, but then came the next trey from Mampuya to keep the Koblenz lead at 52-44. Woodmore and Mampuya again then drilled home the next 2three pointer for the 58-48 Koblenz advantage as Speyer just couldn´t get closer and get consistent stops while exerting more energy in the comeback. Koblenz showed just how deep they were as Butler was no factor, but could easily compensate that with their raining of three´s. Schwartz made a trey late and Koblenz also got Butler going again as he scored 4 points in the last minute scoring on transition and also making another big offensive rebound with his incredible anticipation and put back as Koblenz led 62-53. “Even if we were down 10 points we always felt like we could come back. Of course if the deficit goes down to 15-20 points then it becomes even tougher to come back”, stated Ahorn Camp BIS Baskets Speyer head coach Carl Mbassa. “It is great to have the three point shooting, but we also have to play more inside. If we play more inside it also helps our shooters get open”, added Chaed Wellian.
The fourth quarter proved to be the best defensive quarter that the Ahorn Camp BIS Baskets Speyer have played this season. They stepped up their defense like never before allowing only 10 points and held Koblenz to no field goals for 9.32 minutes. Speyer didn´t play their best offense, but it was enough to get back into the game. In the early minutes, Speyer got some key baskets from Schwartz and Liyanage who did a great job muscling inside for an offensive rebound and put back cutting the Koblenz lead down to 63-57. On the defensive end, they were playing their most aggressive defense of the game forcing turnovers left and right as Brian Butler coughed up the ball a few times and finished with 4. “Mistakes happen and they are mental. We have to learn to minimize them and grow together more as a team. We have to grow to play well for 40 minutes”, warned Koblenz head coach Danny Rodriguez. Speyer continued to chip away and got 2 baskets from Kovac inside to cut the Koblenz lead down to 63-61. Every now and then Koblenz got to the free throw line, but twice only got 1 of 2 shots from Louis and Woodmore giving Koblenz the 65-61 lead. Speyer continued to get stronger and stronger as they began to feel they could win the game. Schwartz hit a massive trey to cut the Koblenz lead down to 65-64 with 3,29 to play. Speyer continued getting stops and Schwartz then gave Speyer their first lead of the contest with a jumper 67-65 with 1,38 to play. Oldham then continued the Koblenz free throw drought hitting only one as Speyer held the 67-66 lead with 57 seconds to play. Young 19 year old German Valentin Rappold who began his career with the TSV Crailsheim Merlins 2nd team (2.Regionalliga) played a huge role at the end. He made some big defensive rebounds and made a huge offensive rebound with under a minute to go. He got the ultimate compliment from head coach Carl Mbassa after the loss.“”Valentin was key for our comeback. He made us better. He is without a doubt our best defender. He has a great IQ and played excellent against DJ Woodmore”, stressed Carl Mbassa. After a Kovac turnover came the turning point of the game as Koblenz finally hit their first field goal of the game with 28 seconds to go. Wellian made a 20 footer that carried his team to the victory. “”The original play was to get some one open on the post. We didn´t get that so we had to find a solution and my team found me and I made the shot. I just try to keep everybody together when we hit a slump”, warned Chad Wellian. Koblenz then closed out the win with Woodmore and Oldham free throws. “Speyer played very passive and switched everything. We didn´t attack enough and were too slow to get out on transition”, said Koblenz head coach Danny Rodriguez. “I felt like we really could of changed the game in the last 2 minutes. There were 2 crucial mistakes at the end that changed the game and Wellian´s shot was one of them”, said Speyer head coach Carl Mbassa. The EPG baskets Koblenz were led by DJ Woodmore with 18 points. Brian Butler added 15 points and Chaed Wellian contributed 11 points while the Ahorn camp BIS Baskets Speyer were led by Tim Schwartz with 20 points. Darian Cardenas added 17 points and Simun Kovac had 14 points and 15 rebounds including 8 offensive rebounds. The EPG Baskets Koblenz shot 47% from the field and 29% from outside and had 27 rebounds and 14 turnovers while the Ahorn Camp BIS Baskets Speyer shot 45% form the field and 32% from outside and had 27 rebounds and 20 turnovers.
It was March 7th, 2013, and the site was Conway, South Carolina, an old historical town that sits only 15 minutes form the Atlantic Ocean and gave all game show fans around the world Vanna White where on this night a quarterfinal game in the Big South Conference quarterfinals was taking place. There were no future NBA players on the court, but some players that would later play in Germany in the easyCredit BBL with DJ Covington who suited up for Virginia Military Institution and current Fraport Skyliner Michael Kessens who was only a freshman at Longwood another school in Virginia. Not only did this NCAA game have an exciting finish, but it would be a game that Michael Kessens would never forget. Virginia Military Institution had a 17 point lead, but Longwood conducted a fierce comeback in the last 11,51 minutes to cut the lead down to 2 points. However Longwood couldn´t finish their comeback as Virginia Military Institution point guard Rodney Glasgow who has put up a stellar professional career in Europe winning titles in Slovakia and England and will ball for UMFN Njardvik (Iceland-Dominos League) this season made a steal and free throws to seal the 90-86 victory. Stan Okoye who has played 3 years in the Italian Serie A and for the 2019 Boston Celtics NBA Summer League team finished with 31 points, but was held to only 6 points in the second half, but his slack was picked up by ex Phoenix Hagen forward DJ Covington who finished with 26 points and Rodney Glasgow who chipped in with 22 points. Even though Kessens lost the game, he exploded for a tournament record 36 points and 16 boards and was put safely on the NCAA map after this game. It’s been a really long time since that game, but I do remember some of that game, he was playing for Longwood and they were a very talented team that was trying to get their chemistry together that year. For us, our season was up and down and we needed the win to advance further in the conference tournament. Play by play, I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I do remember after Michael’s performance I left the game very impressed by his game. He was a freshman that season, so it was nice to see a young player out there with so much confidence”, stressed Stan Okoye( Herbalife Gran Canaria) This game is still remembered by Kessens today. “It was the conference tournament and the previous game we had eliminated the defending champs who were NC Asheville. We played VMI a couple times (led by Stan Okoye) during conference play but they outplayed us every time. I just wanted to play better than I had against Asheville and help my team win. Didn’t really follow the stats during game. It was a big game for me, yes, but the win would’ve been more important. Especially because winning the game would’ve probably saved my coach’s job (Mike Gillian) and I wouldn’t have transferred. Therefore this game really was a career defining moment but not because of the stat line”, remembered Michael Kessens. Kessens was only a freshman, but would go onto have a productive NCAA career playing with a number of other NCAA schools and now has established himself as an easyCredit BBL player in Germany and recently joined the Fraport Skyliners. It was time for another edition of the Miles Basketball Minute ex teammate scouting report with his ex Vechta teammate Chris Carter.
Michael Kessens was born on February 16th, 1991 in Geneva, Switzerland and possesses the German/Swiss citizenship. He has a German mother and father from Somalia, Africa. He didn´t find his love right away to basketball, but began playing soccer. Hs first basketball club that he played for as a youth was with BBC Nyon. He then played for the French club Cholet Basket youth team´s from 2009-2012. :He led Lycee Europe Robert Schumann in Cholet, France, to the French High School championship as a senior and played in the French Under-21 Championship in 2009 and 2010. He played his freshman year at Longwood(NCAA), but wasn´t your typical 17 or 18 year freshman, but was 21 years old bringing European experience to Longwood.He played 33 games as a freshman averaging 13.7ppg, 8.8rpg, 1.4apg, 1.2spg, 1.3bpg, FGP: 55.6%, 3PT: 22.2%, FT: 69.9%. He scored in double figures in 25 games and achieved 11 double doubles. Besides his massive game against Virginia Military Institution where he put up 36/16 numbers, he also hit Campbell and High Points for 22 points apiece and nailed Gardner-Webb for 21 points and Cornell for 20 points. He pIcked up many accolades, including selection to the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Freshmen All-America Team and Big South Freshman of the Year. He also was voted the Virginia Sports Information Directors Association (VaSID) Rookie of the Year, encompassing all Division I schools in the state of Virginia, also being named to the Big South Conference All-Freshman Team numbers,.
After a season at Longwood, he attempted a new challenge and played at Alabama from 2014-206 having to redshirt the 2013-2014 season. He played 65 NCAA games for Alabama, but wasn´t able to achieve the kind of numbers that he had at Longwood averaging 5.9ppg, 5.2rpg, FGP: 53.0%, 3PT: 16.7%, FT: 65.6% and in his senior year averaged 3.7ppg, 3.5rpg. In his sophomore season, he was able to lead the team in rebounds and was second in field goal percentage. He scored in double figures in 5 games amassing 18 points and 12 rebounds against North Florida and 17 points and 10 rebounds against Appalachian State. In his last season at Alabama he scored in double figures in one game hitting Mississippi for 10 points and 7 boards. After achieving some growing pains at Alabama(NCAA), he still had a year of eligibility left and decided to play at Florida International University (NCAA). The decision to play another season proved right as he was able to have another stellar productive season like he did at Longwood playing 30 games averaging 12.9ppg, 9.0rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 58.5%, 3PT: 23.5%, FT: 68.9%. He led the team in rebounding and was second in scoring. He scored in double figures in 23 of 30 games and registered 9 double doubles sixth best in the league. He had some massive games like his 17 points and 23 rebounds against Elon, and 21 points apiece against Florida Atlantic and Youngstown.
He turned professional in 2017-2018 and played for the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven (Germany-BBL) playing 32 games averaging 6.6ppg, 4.2rpg, FGP: 61.5%, FT: 60.0%. He scored in double figures in 6 games including scoring 12 points against the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg and had 11 points against Gotha and Bayreuth. He held his own averaging 15 minutes per game, but had a lot of competition at his position and from other German players. He decided to take a new challenge with Rasta Vechta and like with his decision to add on a NCAA season at Florida International University, this change of scenery was golden as he played his first season for Cinderella team Rasta Vechta and was able to learn from up and coming head coach Pedro Calles.. He would play with Rasta Vechta from 2018-2020. Last season American point guard Chris Carter helped the Niners Chemnitz move up to the easyCredit BBL, but 2 seasons ago he had the pleasure of being teammates with Michael Kessens. There have been many Germans over the years that have had NCAA experience and they return home to Germany speaking fluent English. But not every German that returns has mastered the English language as well as Kessens did and he can communicate in 3 languages today. “I thought he was American when I met him. That is how good I thought his english was. I´m sure he had no troubles at his 3 schools”, stressed Rostock Wolves guard Chris Carter. Carter has had many teammates in his career, but he is a guy that is always able to find the perfect words that fit that teammate and despite it being over a year where they last shared the court, he was crisp and to the point concerning what comes to mind when he hears the name Michael Kessens. “He is a work horse/leader”, stressed Chris Carter. Kessens played 55 BBL games for Rasta Vechta and couldn´t match the stats from the Cinderella season of 7.3ppg, 4.4rpg, FGP: 62.3%, FT: 72.0% last season as he averaged only 4.6ppg, 4.2rpg. But the Swiss/German has demonstrated in Bremerhaven and Vechta that he can be an important team contributor. He never got any basketball schooling in Germany, but profited from the NCAA experience. “I think it helped him seeing the world and getting cultured with the American way of play”, warned Chris Carter.
The 206cm big man can score and rebound, but he also has other attributes that will help his new team Fraport Skyliners as they seek the road back to the playoffs after missing them 2 years in a row. “He is a great pick and roll player, sets hard screens, and his footwork is really good. But his defense is where he excels at”, stressed Chris Carter. But it isn´t only his offensive and defensive skills that standout, but he is also a great role model that will pay dividends for the young Skyliner players. “He is an excellent leader and worked hard daily doing the little things outside of practice. He was consistently in the weight room working on his body and great man off the court”, warned Chris Carter.. Kessens arrived to Vechta lacking the needed self-confidence at times, but was helped by one of the best BBL mentors in Pedro Calles. “Coach Pedro gave him a lot of confidence that season and you can tell it has made him a better player moving forward”, added Chris Carter. Carter definitely has many fond memories, but the most memorable was the amazing Vechta win over Bamberg in the 2019 playoffs. Vechta was severely undermanned due to injuries and Kessens suddenly had to play extended minutes and excelled scoring 18 points in the unforgettable 90-86 win. It was a no brianer that the series against Bamberg remained in Carter´s mind. “On the court, the playoffs during Bamberg when I was moved to the 4 position and he was at the 5. That was fun. Off the court was when we hung out in South Beach last summer. I´m sure that was a game that he will never forget”, warned Chris Carter. In his 2 seasons at Vechta, he scored in double figures in 22 games. He had some very strong games like his 15 points against the EWE Baskets and Wurzburg and 14 points apiece against Giessen, Bayreuth and Oldenburg. Now Kessens will attempt to make another step in his development with the Fraport Skyliners. With the departure of big man Leon Kratzer, he now builds a big man rotation with Kamari Murphy and Marco Voeller. In 3 games he is averaging 13 minutes per game and averaging 3,3ppg and 4,3rpg. Carter is more than confident that Kessens will be to help the Frankfurt game. Carter saw Kessens on a daily basis and knows how Kessens will enrich a part of Frankfurt´s game that has suffered the last 2 years.. “Frankfurt’s defense definitely just got better”, warned Chris Carter. That should put a big smile on the minister of defense Quantaez Robertson´s face.
J J Cratit is a 26 year old 193cm guard from Miami, Florida That is playing his second professional season with TSV 1861 Noerdlingen (Germany-2.Regionalliga) In his rookie season with TSV 1861 Noerdlingen (Germany-2.Regionalliga), he averaged 23,0ppg. He played at 3 schools from 2014-2017 with Lewis and Clark Community College (JUCO) playing 24 games averaging 14.6ppg, 4.0rpg, 1.3apg, FGP: 44.9%, 3PT: 41.0%, FT: 75.4%, Central Connecticut State University (NCAA) playing 18 games averaging 7.4ppg, 1.4rpg, FGP: 29.8%, 3PT: 34.5%, FT: 61.9% and Missouri Southern State University (NCAA2) playing 27 games averaging 14.8ppg, 3.2rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 47.8%, 3PT: 32.1%, FT: 79.6%. He spoke to germanhoops.com late in the summer about his basketball career.
Thanks JJ for your time. Where are you at the moment and how was your summer?
I’m currently in Noerdlingen, Germany getting ready for the season. My summer was pretty good actually, spent a lot of time with family and friends, thank you.
Talk a little how tough the last 9 months were. COVID-19 hit in March and changed the world forever. How did experience the day to day back home?
It definitely was rough, I was working at the time and was let go due to the pandemic so I was stuck at home with nothing to do, nowhere to go.
What was the most challenging thing about life and and finding ways to work on your fitness and game?
The most challenging thing was finding a gym to consistently workout in. All indoor gyms were closed as well as outdoor courts, so I only worked out at the house for a good amount of time, but it was better than doing nothing.
How do you feel did you benefit from COVID-19 and how did it make you stronger as a man in general?
I honestly never paid attention to all the news on the t.v, newspapers, Internet, etc. I just kept faith and put my trust in god and kept moving forward with my life, realized sooner or later everything would be okay.
Your last season was in 2017-2018 with the giants Nordlingen and didn’t play in Europe in the last 2 seasons. Did you play semi-pro in the States and how did you earn a living in this time?
I didn’t play semi-pro but I played in a pro league that we have back home and it’s every summer, great league, great competition, it’s getting bigger & better every year.
Congrats on resigning with the Nordlingen Giants. How glad are you to be back in Nordlingen and what did you miss the most from the city?
Thank you! I’m really glad to be back in Noerdlingen, never knew I would be back so soon. I would say that I definitely missed the fans and people of Noerdlingen, they treated me well and welcomed me with open arms.
The club already wanted to get you back last season, but failed. What were the main reasons for having to wait another year to come back?
I just wanted to make sure that I was stepping into a good situation without any problems, and I also wanted to make sure everything was okay with my family back home before I took off.
Let’s talk a little about your game. You proved to have been a consistent scorer in various leagues. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would best fit the bill?
This is a tough one but I would say Paul George, just from the simple fact that we both can create our shot offensively, can score in the post, mid range, and from the three. I just need to tighten up my handles more, always room for improvement.
You can fill up the stat sheet, but what do you feel is your biggest asset on the floor?
Just being a vocal leader and being the best teammate I can be. We have a lot of young guys on the team so it’s important for me to be that leader and to help them in any way possible.
How do you feel are you a different player now then in 2018? What kind of a player will we see with you this time around?
Not much of a difference, my game is still the same somewhat, it’s more seasoned. Added on some more muscle to my body to keep up with the physicality of overseas ball.
On what things did you work on this summer so you will make an even greater impact in your second season in Germany?
Really just finding and picking my spots on the offensive end. I dealt with a lot of teams doubling me when I last played in Germany so that’s the main thing I worked on.
In your first season with the Giants Nordlingen you averaged 23,0ppg. What was your wake up call to being a rookie in Germany where you knew that you were far away from home?
Not much of a wake up call, I’m used to being on my own due to playing at different colleges back in the states, I just had to adjust to the different culture in Germany, it was very new to me, something I’ve never experienced before.
What was your fondest memory from your rookie season with Nordlingen? You played a big role in the club staying in the second Regionalliga.
Just seeing the great support from our fans at every home game, even though we didn’t have the season we wanted, they still showed up to our games no matter what our record was.
You began your college career at Lewis and Clark Community College (JUCO) playing 24 games averaging 14.6ppg, 4.0rpg, 1.3apg, FGP: 44.9%, 3PT: 41.0%, FT: 75.4%. How do you feel did you profit most from playing JUCO? Players continue to tell me you get tough in JUCO.
Juco was definitely a great experience that I needed, it taught me a lot. We played in a tough conference with great players that went on to play at big division 1 schools. It makes you tough because everyone you’re playing against is fighting for the same D1 dream, it was a battle every time I stepped on that court but I enjoyed it, went up against D1 prospects pretty much every game.
You then made it to the NCAA with Central Connecticut State University (NCAA) playing 18 games averaging 7.4ppg, 1.4rpg, FGP: 29.8%, 3PT: 34.5%, FT: 61.9%. After playing JUCO did your competition level continue to grow as the hunger to prove all wrong continued to grow?
Not really, the competition level wasn’t anything I’ve never seen before, I would say my juco conference had better competition compared to when I was at Central Connecticut State.
It was a tough year, because you didn’t win much. How do you feel did your game make most strides in the NCAA?
Very tough year, I honestly didn’t make any strides that year, which is the main reason why I transferred, in the end it just didn’t work out, I had to do what was best for my career.
You had one of your best NCAA games against Boston College scoring 20 points. What memories do you have from that game?
I just remember I had it going early during that game, my confidence was through the roof, didn’t care who I was going against. I just love playing under the bright lights, big stages, it just brings something out of me. I like being the underdog.
Do you remember battling Eli Carter who averaged 16,00ppg in the NCAA. He didn’t have a easy professional route and has been out of basketball since 2017. Does the fact that his career showing just how difficult it can be to make it as a pro despite having a strong senior year help easen your situation a bit seeing that even established NCAA guys won’t make it?
Yes I remember watching him when he was playing at Florida, very talented point guard. Making it overseas professionally can be tough at times, everyone’s path is different but if it’s something that you truly want to pursue you just got to continue to work and be patient, that’s a huge key to being in this business.
What kind of experience was it playing for ex NBA player Donyell Marshall. How do you remember your relationship with him and how did you learn best from him?
Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to play for Donyell, I already made the decision to transfer when he was hired. I did get the chance to have a meeting with him before I left, very down to earth guy, great attitude, played with Lebron James so he knows the game very well. I’m sure guys enjoy playing for him.
You finished at Missouri Southern State University (NCAA2) playing 27 game averaging 14.8ppg, 3.2rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 47.8%, 3PT: 32.1%, FT: 79.6%. How do you feel did your game mature in your last year?
My game definitely took a huge step my senior year, best year of my college career. I wished I could’ve played all four years at Missouri Southern State, that’s how great of a program they have going on in Joplin. Loved every minute of it.
You had some tough loses like against Central Oklahoma 83-82 where you scored 21 points but also had super games. What was your fondest moment on the court there?
My greatest moment from that year was when we beat Northwest Missouri on our home floor, they were the number 1 team in the country. They were tough but we came up with the perfect game plan to beat them that night, I’ll never forget that game.
How did head coach Jeff Boschee help groom and prepare you best for a professional career?
Coach Boschee helped me a lot with my game, especially on the defensive end. He’s also a great offensive minded coach and knows the game from top to bottom, he played for Coach Roy Williams at the University of Kansas and started all four years. I really enjoyed taking pointers and learning from him, all around great coach.
What was it like having 173cm guard CJ Carr as a teammate? He also hasn’t had an easy road, but continues to grind and find pro teams? How big was the competitive level between you two?
Having CJ as a teammate was great. We both had transferred in from our division 1 schools that year so we connected instantly. CJ is a gym rat, constantly working on his game to get better, I don’t see him having any problems finding pro teams the rest of his career, he’s never satisfied and wants to continue to prove doubters wrong. Me and CJ battled all year long during the season, it just made us better individually, I enjoyed having him as my point guard.
Who won a one on one in practice you or CJ Carr who is 20cm shorter than you?
Me and CJ never really had one on ones during practice, we were always matched up with teammates our size, but sometimes during scrimmages he would score on me and I would score on him.
Who was the toughest player that you battled in the NCAA or anywhere that went to the NBA?
I played against Bobby Portis and Grayson Allen at a couple AAU travel ball tournaments, they were tough.
Please list your 5 best teammates of all-time?
Antravious Simmons CJ Carr Elyjah Clark Burak Eslik Lawrence Brown
Please construct your personal NBA Mount Rushmore of past or present players?
Lebron James Kevin Durant Michael Jordan Kobe Bryant Dwyane Wade
What is your personal opinion between the never ending debate between Michael Jordan and Lebron James concerning who is the greatest of all-time?
I try to avoid this debate between Jordan and Lebron, but to me Lebron James is an all around better player than Jordan in points, rebounds, assists, blocks. Jordan has the rings and he definitely had that killer instinct that Lebron can’t match. Lebron still has a lot of years left to play and it looks like he won’t be slowing down anytime soon, so I’m not sure who’s the greatest of all time.
Thanksgiving is one of the finest moments in the year for Americans to come together and be thankful. It is probably the second biggest holiday after Christmas for Americans. It is never easy for American professional basketball players overseas to celebrate Thanksgiving, because it falls during their season. But over the years certain places in Europe have become more Americanized and one is able to celebrate it nicely. For example in Germany you can visit cool sports Bars and get the total Thanksgiving feast in terms of a yummy buffet. While talking with friends, you can also watch NFL football as there are numerous Tv´s in the restaurant. Teams often come together and have a Thanksgiving feast or a teammate will spare their Apartment for a huge get together. I thought it would be interesting to sample American players overseas and what experiences they have had with Thanksgiving at home and abroad.players families and friends. I love the holidays because I like to get everyone together
Where are you at the moment and how is basketball life treating you?
I’m currently in Luxembourg and basketball is on hold here. Hopefully we can continue the season in January. But while basketball is on hold I’m training hard and staying and shape as well as enjoying the off time by going to visit some of the beautiful castles in Europe
Where are you going to celebrate Thanksgiving 2020 and what part of the day are you most looking forward to?
I’m not exactly sure where I will be celebrating thanksgiving yet because we’re just waiting to see how the committee votes on continuing our season but if I’m in Europe I will make a thanksgiving dinner and try to recreate some of the memories from my childhood. I’m looking forward to eating some good food!
What kind of a meaning does thanksgiving to you and how important is the holiday for you?
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it means that family gets together and enjoys each other’s company. You get to realize how blessed you are when you actually sit around family and think about how all of you are healthy and happy.
What memories do you have from Thanksgiving as a kid and how has it changed over the years?
Thanksgiving for me has always meant that all my family gathers at one house and we share laughs and great food. It’s always a good time with family and especially when all the family are together. I always remember not eating at all the night before or the day of thanksgiving until the big meal is done so I can eat all night. My idea has changed just a little because I haven’t been home for thanksgiving in about 5 or 6 years so where ever I am in the world I try to be thankful and remember how blessed I am to do what I love for a living. I’ve also learned that cooking thanksgiving dinner is not as easy as I thought haha
What is your favorite NFL Thanksgiving moment?
I don’t have a specific memory but just family getting together and watching the games no matter who is playing and just enjoying each other’s company!
KJ Sherril(EVL Limburg)
I am currently playing for EVL Baskets Limburg 1st Regio. Even though this is my first season with them, they have welcomed me with open arms and I’ve grown to bond with them very well, on and off the court. We have a really good team, but obviously now we can’t display our talents due to the postponement of the season. Hopefully things will be better by December so we can continue playing and show the league how talented we are.
I will spend Thanksgiving in North Germany (Bremerhaven) along with my girlfriend and her family as I’ve done for the thanksgiving since I’ve been playing in Germany. I would say the best part of the day is of course when we eat as a family and celebrate and give thanks to one another. I’ve gotten use to the German style thanksgiving and I absolutely love it!
Thanksgivings to me means nothing but family time. It’s a time where my family as a whole come together and fellowship with each other while stuffing our faces with delicious foods. Nothing can get better than that!
I think the best memory is me always being super excited seeing everyone walk in the house with their special dishes they’ve prepared because I know I’m about to eat good! Still to this day my family prepares the same dishes they’ve always made and it still taste amazing as it always has!
I don’t have a favorite moment particularly, but I do always enjoy watching the games with all the men in my family on the big screen and watching everyone get excited about the game. Now that I have buddies playing in the NFL today, it’s even more grateful to watch the games.
CJ Carr(Fjolnhttps://youtu.be/rGkBykwwXEgir Reykjavik (Iceland-Dominos League)
At this moment, I am in my apartment. Just got done with a workout and we’re not allowed in the gym because of Covid. Basketball life is great! Just waiting for the league to open back up.
I think some of the import players are going to get together for Thanksgiving and enjoy a nice meal. I’m looking forward to getting to hang out and chill while eating good food.
For me, Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends to get together and enjoy each other’s company.
When I was a kid my family would always meet up at my Grandmas house for a nice meal and good laughs. That’s changed over the years for me because I haven’t been able have a thanksgiving with my family because of college and playing professionally.
I don’t have a favorite NFL Thanksgiving moment. It was a always a tradition to get together and watch games and I enjoyed that!
Joe Asberry(Former professional player/ currently coach, motivational speaker, podcastPlan B founder)
Thank´s for checking in with me Miles during these tough times,and I look forward to having you on our podcast with my guy Rene Wiemann.Life is treating me very well,I can´t tell you where i´m at because I snuck into a gym,and i´m practicing my trick shots in horse for my next basketball camp with kids! LOL!
I´m going to celebrate Thanksgiving in lockdown,and I look forward to my facetime session with my bro Mike,and talking crazy about the crazy times
Thanksgiving is just another holiday for me to eat a lot to tell you the truth, I do like watching the NFL hits though for sure
My best memories of Thanksgiving as a kid was all of us balling out in front of our house on William Way in California. My big brothers and their friends would beat the hell out of me,m but it prepared me for the physical play I would later endure playing vs some of the best players in the world, and of course the physical play I dealt with as an American in Europe and biased refs LOL! The food my mother cooked was amazing. I always wondered how she fed so many people and how long those meals took to cook.
I don´t have a favorite NFL Thanksgiving moment, but a shout out to all of the NFL Players that have gone out there and given their fans those special moments. It´s easy to sit at home with a beer in your hand, and talk crazy about NFL players from your couch running plays, but when a guy,6 foot 7,260 pounds, is running a 4.5 forty yard dash is coming to tear your head off to get to the pigskin, people will find out quick that FANTASY FOOTBALL is much safer LOL!
Chris Oliver(former player and 2010 Euroichallenge winner with BG Goettingen)
I’m Currently living outside of Charlotte NC. I retired 3 years ago and haven’t done much basketball wise. When I hung them up I really hung them up lol.
I think my family and I will go to south Florida and visit my dad for Thanksgiving. I’m just looking forward to the food and fun with my family.
What kind of a meaning does thanksgiving to you and how important is the holiday for you?
The holiday means nothing to me because of what the holiday is actually celebrating. But the tradition of spending time with family and enjoying good food is special.
What memories do you have from Thanksgiving as a kid and how has it changed over the years?
I’m still doing the same things I did as a kid lol. Only thing that has changed is I’m married with a daughter.
What is your favorite NFL Thanksgiving moment? It’s always enjoyable to watch the terrible Cowboys lose on Thanksgiving.
I’m home in Charleston SC. Basketball has been a major tool in my life and I’m sure I’ll be somewhere around the game even when I´m done playing.
I mostly look forward to being together with my family telling jokes and having some good moments with the people I love. This holiday is one my family looks forward to.
It’s important to me because of my family coming together and having a joyous day with one another. We’ve already created some great moments on Thanksgiving day. I’m sure we will have more moments this thanks giving.
As a kids it’s about the same. Seeing all my family, playing with cousins, meeting members of my family and sharing the day having fun with loved ones.
Calvin Johnson destroying my Philadelphia Eagles with 3 touchdowns. Then after going out to play in a community game called the turkey bowl and receiving the MVP. Then watching Dallas Cowboys lose the same day.
David Teague(former player 2010 BBL scoring leader/Purdue(NCAA)
Right now I live in Avon, Indiana right outside of my hometown of Indianapolis. I currently am the head basketball coach for Purdue Polytechnic High School, a derivative of my alma mater Purdue University. This is my second year coaching the team and we have all of our players back from last year, so it should be a fun season.
This year I’m going to celebrate Thanksgiving at my mom’s house. She recently moved into a new house and will be alone this year so me and my family decided to all get together and have Thanksgiving at her house.
Thanksgiving to me is a holiday for family getting together, having fun, and creating memories for the younger generations to hold onto.
The memories I have as a kid, is what I try to emulate as an adult to make it all about family and ensuring that my kids have great memories to hold onto and to follow once they are of age!!
I don’t watch NFL at all anymore for the past 5 or 6 years maybe. But I would have to say anything Barry Sanders from when I was little. I remember the Detroit Lions games seemed to always be on during the holidays, when they had Barry Sanders. He’s my favorite running back of all time!!
Diante Watkins(Gemlik Basketbol Bursa (Turkey-TBL)
I’m actually in Chicago right now. I will be heading back to Turkey soon. Chose to stay home a few extra months to be with my family during these unusual times.
I will more than likely celebrate it in Turkey alone. I will make a big dinner at home. The best part is calling my family and talking to them.
The holiday isn’t that big to me because I’m usually away from my family and that’s usually my favorite thing about the holiday. Just laughing and enjoying time with them.
The main memory is just sitting at my grannies house watching football, laughing and eating with the entire family. It’s changed because I started playing ball overseas. I’m always away.
I was a kid, I watched Randy Moss destroy the Lions.
Marcus Smallwood(former player)
Right now I’m living in Miami Florida and it definitely has been a different adjustment to life after basketball. I just started my own personal training company that I’ll be launching the website for in a few days elite body design.
I’m going to be celebrating it in Miami and I’ll probably just take the day to relax and just reflect on what’s happening this year and what I’m grateful for.
Since I was always playing during the holidays some of them lost specialness to me. I’m always thankful to have these days to reflect on the friends and family that I’m grateful to have in my life and just the steps I’d like to improve in myself going forward
Oh the biggest memories will just be my mom making this huge spread that would last at least a few days and watching football. Most importantly being passed out and asleep by 9 o’clock because of the turkey.
I don’t have one in particular but I seem to remember a lot of games involved with the Cowboys beating the Redskins,haha
Terry Black(former player)
At the moment I reside in Dallas Texas, basketball life is treating me well as it’s coming full circle, my son AB is a highly recruited junior in Highschool and is on target to have his pick at schools he wants to further his education and athletics
Celebrating 2020 will be kind of tricky we’re usually with a group of extended family but with everything going on we will probably cook and watch sports, most looking forward to eating the turkey & dressing, dressing is the bomb, not to be confused with stove top stuffing
Thanksgiving is a time of reflection to look back on the people’s struggles that has come before us and to ex knowledge the progress and growth the world has experienced
As a kid thanksgiving was always a day to break bread and give thanks it’s also been a holiday in which family comes together to celebrate life, it’s changed over the years Because now we’re the ones giving the celebration and cooking while hosting family and friends
Anytime the Green Bay Packers are playing Detroit and the turkey leg is presented to a player at the end of a game
Javontae Hawkins(MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg)
Basketball from the sidelines has been treating me well watching and cheering my teammates on as I am currently in the rehab process of a knee injury I suffered during a preseason game in October. 2.
I’m going to celebrate thanksgiving here in Ludwigsburg with my wife. The part I’m looking forward to besides the food is just reflecting on all the blessings God has given me and being thankful for life and the special people that’s apart of it.
I’m not really much of a holiday guy but during holidays my wife and I try to find a special bond/moment to make that specific day special. For example instead of thanksgiving we call it “Thankful Thursday” as we reflect and show gratitude towards one another, our families and friends. We like to celebrate the right meaning and not always the “ritual” of the holiday.
I have a lot of memories as a kid celebrating thanksgiving from going around the room with family telling what we were thankful for, going to church, eating delicious food and desserts, and having a great time with family and friends.
To be honest I don’t really have a favorite NFL moment.
Jermel Kenendy(Toulouse Basket Club (France-NM1)
I’m currently playing in Toulouse,France and unfortunately our league is postponed due to covid so I’m just trying to stay positive despite the situation
I’m Canadian so my Thanksgiving was in October but I didn’t celebrate it or anything actually
I believe it’s important to be thankful and grateful for what you have because there are many people less fortunate than you so it’s important to be aware of what you have and appreciate it with humilty
My favorite memory is probably being at the dinner table with all my siblings and family members and just enjoying each others company and having an assortment of different dishes I think back of that a lot because it won’t ever happen like that again
I don’t watch football sorry miles
Darryl Middleton(ex FC Barcelona/now assistant coach CSKA Moscow)
I am in Moscow at the moment. I have been overseas for 30 years. Basketball has been great to me. I have seen pretty much all of Europe, Russia and so many other countries,I,,heard so many different languages, learned Spanish, Russian which is a very complicated language, and I have tried different foods from different countries. If it wasn´t for basketball, I may not have traveled across the water and experience so many things.
I will be here in Moscow for Thanksgiving. I haven´t been in the states for thanksgiving in 25 years but normally I would cook for my since I can´t be with my family. All the players who are here and can´t celebrate in the states I would have dinner at my house. I tried to make everyone feel at home because I know how important this day is for Americans. I haven´t done it in Moscow but as a player I did. I would cook every Thanksgiving. It was great to get everyone together, it´s sad sometimes that I can´t celebrate with my family in the states but it´s okay.
My best memory as a kid for Thanksgiving was when we all got at the table and saw all the food and the big turkey, we had so much food, we would eat it for 3-4 days.
Tucker Haymond(Ex Western Michigan(NCAA)Rist Wedel)
Right now I’m currently back home in Seattle, Washington. The basketball life is going great. I’m training daily and am ready for wherever it takes me next! Excited to see where that will be.
As of now, I have no idea where I’ll be celebrating. It could be that I end up going to a team, and I’ll be celebrating there, however if I’m still at home, I’ll be able to celebrate with my family for the first time in 8 years.
Thanksgiving for me just means spending time with family and being thankful for what we have. Taking time to think of the things we may take for granted that life is great and we have many things to be thankful for.
Thanksgiving as a child was always fun and still is! I love getting together as a family and eating good food ! I love pumpkin pie, it’s my favorite dish.
My favorite NFL moments are always me ending up falling asleep, I can almost never make it through an NFL game after eating all of the food !
Ken Horton(San Pablo Inmobiliaria Miraflores Burgos)
At the moment I’m in Burgos, Spain. Basketball is going okay for the moment having a tough time with playing games regularly due to Covid.
I’m not completely sure what I will be doing for thanksgiving. My family is in the states right now so I think I might be at a teammates house for the holiday but I’m not completely sure still up in the air.
I most look forward just to seeing all of my family together.
As a kid I just remember eating as a family and then making my rounds from house to house to hang with family and eat up everyone s food. It’s always a good feeling being surrounded by family. Over the years it changed for sure because I’m here majority of the year.
I really don’t have a NFL Thanksgiving moment. Too busy eating haha
Chris Carter(Rostock SEAWOLVES)
I am in Rostock Germany and so far basketball is treating me well. I can’t complain.
I will celebrate it at home maybe with a couple teammates. I am looking forward to making some good food.
It is a holiday usually spent with family and reconnecting with one another over good food. It is more important the older you get because you realize everyone is just getting older so you have to cherish the moments.
Just going over to my grandmas house because she always had the whole family over there and it was always fun to see my family all together.
Hello Miles, at the moment, I am in Luxembourg playing for Bascharage. Basketball for myself is treating me very well. After rupturing my patella tendon last season playing in Leverkusen, I bounced back really well, and playing good basketball like before. As of now though, the season is on hold because of Covid-
To be honest, I don’t know. Usually the teams do something for us Americans, or someone would organize something. Because of Covid-19, I’m unsure if this would happen.
The best part for me is obviously all of the great food, but I also just love being around the good energy and having great conversations. Oh and of course the games that’s on TV.
The meaning of Thanksgiving to me is just being thankful of being alive, thankful for all of the special blessings the man above gave me and just thankful for the family and friends. The most important part of the holiday for me, is just the bonding with family or the friends and just being around positive energy.
My most memories is just getting together at both my grandparents house with all of my family and just feasting, having great talks and laughs, and enjoying all of the games. The thing that has changed is that I haven’t been home for Thanksgiving since 2009. So it’s been years that I have got to enjoy this day with family and create those memories again.
? I really don’t have a favorite one. I’m more of the NBA on Thanksgiving. I just enjoy watching the good basketball.
Jon Murry(NEW Elephants Grevenbroich)
I’m currently in Grevenbrioch, Germany right now and basketball is going very well. Just blessed to be able to be here and be playing during these tough times.
I’ll probably prepare myself a huge thanksgiving dinner, I love getting busy in the kitchen especially during holidays. It keeps me rolling.
Thanksgiving means a lot especially where I’m from, just mainly family getting together eating good and then talking about good times and bad times. It’s just fun being with family on the holidays.
I just remember being around all the food and laughs. You’d be surprised how happy people get when they have good food to eat. Lol
I Remember watching Randy Moss from the Vikings just catch Hail Mary’s all game long. He had 3 touchdowns alone, it was crazy. He used to make some pretty amazing plays.
Kam Taylor(Hamburg Towers)
Currently in Hamburg preparing for the season. And with our current situation cherishing every moment I get to play the game I love.
Probably just here in Hamburg. Might get the team together and do something special for the night but we haven’t spoke about it yet.
All the family bonding and good food.
Unfortunately I haven’t been home for thanksgiving for like 7 or 8 years but every year I celebrate with some new friends/teammates.
I can’t really think of one because I usually can’t catch the games here overseas but most of the time I´m sleep after I eat anyway.
Philip Jenkins(VFL Bensheim)
At the Moment I am at VFL Bensheim, where we are undefeated and in 1st place. Basketball life here has been really good on the court success and off the court team chemistry events.
I will celebrate thanksgiving on FaceTime with my family back in the states as I cook for myself. The best part of the day is always when it’s time to eat because it’s typical that we wait the entire day to eat without breakfast or lunch until it’s time for thanksgiving dinner
Thanksgiving to me means family. A holiday we get together and share what all we are thankful for. It used to be more important before I started playing and living overseas , where it’s not a holiday or celebrated, in which was a useful growing experience to see how others view life in a different perspective.
As a kid thanksgiving was about seeing the entire family and getting a chance to all play games together and finally be around each other after a while. Now as an adult thanksgiving is more about the time spent with the ones in your life you hold dear .
Anytime the COWBOYS LOSE! My entire family are cowboy fans and I’m not so I don’t want hear “ HOW BOUT DEM COWBOYS” all through thanksgiving. Haha
Keith Hornsby(EWE Baskets)
I’m in Oldenburg currently preparing this week for a match against Alba Berlin on Sunday. We won our first league game last weekend so we’re happy about that, especially coming off of a disappointing cup performance. I’ve been playing well.
Wherever we celebrate thanksgiving in 2020, I’m sure it will be in the comfort of someone’s home. We won’t be able to go out anywhere special in the town. We have no plans set in stone yet, but I’m sure we’ll whip up something. Thanksgiving dinner is where it’s at! The best food you can think of!
Thanksgiving has always been a holiday about family and simply a time to sit back and reflect on what you have in your life to be thankful. Overseas, thanksgiving is a little different. It’s tough to be away from family for so long. It’s a difficult holiday to miss out on away from the states. Hopefully some of my American teammates and their families (and any German player too) can get together and have a nice thanksgiving dinner this year
As a kid, I always remember getting together with my grandparents, and enjoying some delicious turkey. I would always have to dress up a little bit, which as a kid I never enjoyed haha. Over the years it has changed tremendously. For the last eleven years, I’m always in season during thanksgiving. I haven’t been a part of a large family thanksgiving gathering for a long time. That’s a big change, and an unfortunate one in my opinion
My family is not big on NFL, so we never had any games on. I know, it may sound crazy.
Corey Raley-Ross(Crn Dream Struga, North Macedonia)
Thanks Miles for another interview! At the moment I’m residing in Struga, Macedonia. A beautiful coastal city surrounded by mountains and lakes. Basketball is of course well. Doing my best to improve daily.
I’ll be spending thanksgiving 2020 here in Macedonia . I’m most looking forward to the feast. I’m thinking going along with an untraditional meal this season with seafood!
Thanksgiving will always be special to me. I have countless memories from my past that I’ll forever hold with me. It’s as important as it’s always been.
Most of my memories are with family! We would all come together for holidays. Over the years it’s changed greatly. Going to college away from home enabled me to spend it with family and since becoming a professional the scenario has been the same. I’m thankful for innovation. Family is always a call away. However, I can’t express how much I’ve missed the food.
I honestly can’t recall. By that time the thanksgiving would’ve put me to sleep.
Elias Desport(KFUM Fryshuset Basket Basketligan)
I’m playing in Sweden this year. I decided to stay here and play this year because of the current pandemic. Season started about 2 weeks ago and the schedule is pretty intense.
I’ll be celebrating it with my family here in Sweden. However, since it’s not a national holiday here, we won’t celebrate it until the weekend. Obviously, I’m looking forward to the actual Thanksgiving meal.
For me, Thanksgiving is the time for reflection and appreciation. Reflect on the life that you have and the journey that you’ve made and appreciate the things and people that you have in your life. Outside of Christmas, it’s probably my most favorite holiday because it brings family and friends together.
Honestly, growing up, we didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving that often. As I mentioned earlier, since it’s not a holiday here in Sweden, we didn’t celebrate it that often. As I got older, we started celebrating it more often.
Well, I can tell you my least favorite NFL Thanksgiving moment. I’m a Jets fan so obviously, the “Butt fumble” by Mark Sanchez is probably one of my worst memories in sports period.
Trent Weaver(Professional player)
Currently I am back home in Columbus, Ohio. I just returned from pre season in Switzerland due to certain circumstances, so basketball is on a short pause for me.
I am planning on spending Thanksgiving at home for the first time since college, which is really exciting. Spending time with family is nice and all, but the endless homemade food is what I’m most looking forward to!
Thanksgiving has always had a special way of bringing family and friends together, which unfortunately doesn’t happen enough for most.
As a child, it’s always exciting to get together with cousins and play outside, whether it be (American) football, tag, hide and seek, etc. Then of course the delicious pies were always something to look forward to.
I don’t personally hold any special Thanksgiving NFL memories, but games are always on the TV from start to finish.
Skyler Bowlin(GS Iraklis Thessaloniki)
At the moment I’m in Thessaloniki, Greece! It’s a beautiful city and has been a lot of fun living here until the recent lockdown began. Basketball is going well. At the moment we are 2-1. 2.
That’s a great question. Normally we get our team together and celebrate, but with the lockdown restrictions it may be difficult to do this year.
For me, Thanksgiving is always about being around family and friends if possible. I love when everyone comes together and talks about what is really important in life. We are all lucky to be able to play a game for our job.
As a kid, I just remember always being around family the entire day and eating non stop. I miss being able to celebrate it back home. Since 2007 I think I’ve only been able to be home for one thanksgiving because of basketball.
As a professional I think my favorite thanksgiving moment was celebrating it with our entire team in Giessen in November 2016. We had a special group and were really close that year.
Stanley Whittaker(UBSC Raiifeisen Graz)
Where are you at the moment and how is basketball life treating you? – I’m currently in Graz, Austria playing for UBSC Graz. Basketball is going pretty well, getting ready to hit this
I will be celebrating thanksgiving here in Graz. Although I wish to be celebrating with family and loved ones, unfortunately I am not. However, the part of the day I am mostly looking forward to is virtually seeing my family have a good time and enjoy one another, and I’m also looking to be a part of the “what are you thankful for moment” with my family!
Thanksgiving is a special day for my family and I. We value this day and understand how important it is to us. We always get together on Thanksgiving and share so many great moments. What thanksgiving mean to me is understanding where our blessings come from. And with that, be thankful for everything that you have and be extremely appreciative for the blessings we receive.
All the memories I have from thanksgiving from a kid to now is just them exceptional unconditional moments with the family and loved ones. Thanksgiving are times where we all get together and just enjoy each other’s company. So much joy, laughter and sincere happiness. Fortunately, throughout the years my family has been able to maintain these significant moments, so nothing really has changed, we just age some but the entirety of the day remains special. That is something my family and I is truly thankful for, we love that!
If I’m being honest, I really can’t think of a favorite NFL Thanksgiving moment. Although, I do enjoy the games and watch them. But I do miss the heated conversions/debates with my father, uncle and cousins about the matchups on Thanksgiving. Those are memorable moments for myself!
It was the beginning of November in the 2017-2018 season as the 6-1 EN Baskets Schwelm traveled to Rhondorf to meet the 5-2 Dragons showcasing a massive guard battle between Kameron Taylor and Chris Hortman. Taylor who would become the Pro B player of the year that season led the Dragons to a huge satisfying 95-72 victory while Chris Hortman gave a fine performance with 22 points, but one could sense from his down state in the post game interview that the loss was eating at him. But it wasn´t only the loss, but something else was bothering him. Something that would haunt him that season. “Days before the game I got hurt in practice. Just had the strangest pain in my leg, so I asked to see a doctor. I was given an x-ray and was told that I was okay to play in the game, but during this game it was clear I no longer had the same explosion or lateral movement. I personally knew something was wrong. I asked for a MRI after the game and the next day I learned I tore my meniscus”, stressed Chris Hortman. He began to rehab and the club continued to lose. Instead of finishing his rehab, he came back to early and got hurt again which was his ultimate downfall which led to his release which was a real bad down period in his life. The club tarnished his reputation by questioning his charachter “ The team had begun to lose several games in a row. The management became very needy to get back to the winning side. The situation turned from me waiting until I was 100% healthy to play, to me playing and not being 100% healed. This is where me and the club had difference of opinion. They made false statements pertaining to me. It came to a point where I no longer felt welcomed, very simple things became complicated and I knew I had to do what was best for me. The main thing I’ve learned is to care for your body. Don’t expect others to care, but to take matters into your own hands and ensure you’re doing everything to protect your future”, warned Chris Hortman. More than 2 years later, the American from Wauwatosa, Wisconsin remembers his Schwelm experience very well, but at that difficult time had the continued right self confidence not to give up and hide his head in the sand like a stressed ostrich, trying to flee from a hungry Lion, but knew with his experience of beating adversary his whole life that better times would come. “This was a very difficult time , but I know what I was capable of. I started that season off great averaging 20 and 10 then bam, injury , I knew there was more to be let out , just had to figure out how”, stressed Chris Hortman. The guard has seen adversary his whole career from achieving that chip early having to pay his dues at Milwaukee Area Technical College (JUCO), Missouri Valley (NAIA) and the University of Wisconsin at Stout (NCAA3) As a rookie he had to prove himself again a lower league called SBL in Australia and also in the German Regionalliga with Ibbenburen. After facing more adversary in his second season with the EN Baskets Schwelm and in the German Pro A in his third season where he wasn´t given a fair chance with FC Schalke, he finally rebounded in his fourth season in Croatia having an incredible stellar season. Even if the COVID-19 shortened his amazing season, he finally made his break out season in Croatia after having to suffer countless adversary and paying his dues and now can sing a song with the famous line “better late than never.
After the tough season with the EN Baskets Schwelm, the American decided that he needed a change of scenery after playing his first 2 seasons in Germany. He could have been fed up with Germany after seeing so much misfortune in Schwelm, but going to a new country was a new challenge. The American who names NBA pro´s Wes Matthews and Jimmy Butler as the toughest guys he ever battled on the court found a new employer with KK Pula 1981 (Croatia-Prva Liga). He took apart the league quickly as through 4 games he was averaging 23.5ppg, 7.3rpg, 3.0apg, 4.0spg. Even if he lost his first game in Croatia against Jazine 88-74, he exploded with 37 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals .It would have been interesting to observe if his strong play would have continued or gotten even more potent, but instead he was back on his way to Germany for an unexpected new challenge. “The experience in Croatia was amazing and that´s why to this day I live in the same city. My time was so short there because I was told that I would have the opportunity to prove myself in the Pro A in Germany”, warned Chris Hortman. The American had proven that he can be a top player in the German Regionalliga and Pro B and now it was time to try to prove himself again, but in the second division Pro A that he never played in before. Instead of proving himself once again with success, he had to sit mostly on the bench and watch as the club was well fortified with strong guards. His FC Schalke odyssey lasted only 5 games in which he averaged only 6 minutes per game. This time he was healthy, but like with his former club Schwelm seemed not to have any support from management for his situation. “I remember asking god why, when I was there , I wasn’t on that team to prove myself or even given an opportunity, still to this day I don’t understand that but its ok because even that wasn’t enough to make me stop believing in myself”, warned Chris Hortman. Once again the American was let down facing more adversary, but he never forgot his short time in Croatia before he arrived in Gelsenkirchen and returned back to Croatia. If successful once why not again?
He returned back to Croatia and this time suited up for KK Dubrava Zagreb (Croatia-Premijer Liga). He had more than just a good season, but a great season. He didn´t score 20 plus points like he did in Germany in lower leagues, but more importantly showed his extreme versatility in the first division in Croatia. He averaged 14.8ppg, Reb-2(7.7rpg), 3.4apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 47.1%, 3PT: 31.3%, FT: 78.4% He received a huge honor being named to the Eurobasket.com Croatian Premijer Liga All-Imports Team. There was no secret to his success, but just overwhelming confidence and trust from his coach. “The Coach let me play , when a player like me comes and puts up big stats , some people get offended , even the Coach , so he tried to restrict the player , something as simple as little playing time or continual mental abuse , in the case we’re talking about both”, warned Chris Hortman. He showed tremendous strength once again in overcoming adversary with FC Schalke as he was focused in Croatia and believed in himself and just continued to do work on the court. “I worked for it and my mama prayed , that’s it. My mind set was simple. I’ve come this far to not do what I said”, stressed Chris Hortman. He scored in double figures in 11 games and registered 3 double doubles. His best games included a 33 point explosion against top team Zadar, 22 points, 14 boards and 5 dimes against Split and 21 points, 13 rebounds and 4 assists against Ostijek. The only major downer to the season was that the team wasn´t successful. The team had a record of 4-12 while Hortman wore their jersey. “As a team we were not able to be successful , but one person can only do so much , for me I will cherish this season a lot , first top league job, not only did I show I belong , I showed I was one if not best”, warned Chris Hortman.
He may not have been convincing in his first Pro A attempt in Germany, but he still has gotten some added satisfaction with his overpowering season in Croatia in terms of the skill and competitive level when comparing it to other leagues that he has balled in. “The experience in Croatia was great. They were very cultured people. It’s basically the same as Pro A Germany besides two other teams that are very advanced”, stressed Chris Hortman. He also had the chance to play against some top teams that have played international club tournaments with Zadar and Cibona. He played Zadar twice and Cibona once losing by a combined total of 101 points, but just getting a shot to present himself against top competition was something that he will never forget. “It was just amazing to see how organized and together they were. No one there had a 40 inch vertical , but had the ability to play as a team , which outweighed everything. I’m just happy to have played in the arena with all its history”, expressed Chris Hortman. He also faced two very talented players with ex Sacred Heart(NCAA) stand out Shane Gibson and ex George Mason(NCAA) stand out Bryon Allen. Both played in the German BBL and have played in other top leagues around the world. He not only held his own against them, but was on triple double course against Gibson and hit Allen´s team with 33 points. “For me it was very important to play well against them , Starting off my pro career in the 4th division in Germany , I had a long road to playing in a top league, and with me finally being there and going through all the things I’ve went through, I not only wanted to but had to show that I can not only play with these guys but also put up big performances against them”, warned Chris Hortman. He may be 31 years of age, but he knows that he can´t get lazy or loose focus for just one second, but continue to visit the lab and keep grinding to not only stay at the level he is at now, but possibly continuie to climb the basketball ladder. “For me , I have been able to be successful in a majority of the statistical categories , but there’s always room for improvement , at this point I feel high efficiency is something I can add, maybe hit something like the 50/40/90 club , until I can make 100% I will work on my shooting regardless of my age”, added Chris Hortman.
COVID-19 has been a shock for so many people especially those that lost loved ones and has been a totally new experience. It has been some months since COVID-19 hit Europe by lightening, but instead of returning home, he has remained in Pula, Croatia. Like so many other people worldwide, he only thought that it would be a fad and leave as quickly as it came. He went with the norm and started to really be careful in public concerning sanitary measures and that was a huge adjustment. It was tough having the season end as abruptly as it was, but you have to love life more than basketball even if it may be tough for even the biggest competitors on the court. “I love the game , but the safety of the world is a little more important”, warned Chris Hortman. He has so much free time now to not only work on his game, but also to be contemplative about certain basketball issues like the “games with no spectators”. This could really come into play in the 2020-2021 season should a vaccine not be on the market yet. “Without out fans it is tough The name of the sport is entertainment , so without fans I´m sure it´s a completely different game being played”, stated Chris Hortman. COVID-19 hasn´t only affected the present, but will also affect the future in so many things in life. It won´t be any different for basketball players who might come back to Europe after the summer seeing less teams as some have folded and witnessing salaries making an extreme dip as well as other major factors. He is in the same boat as many other players not knowing what to expect. He knows that how hard he grinds this summer will separate him from others when battling for the next job. “The virus doesn’t kill everyone who gets it. Some people who get it don´t even get sick , this is not the end of the world , but there will be a major adjustment we all will have to make , at this point we don’t know what those adjustments are. I play train basketball because I love it , so until we know what’s going on i’ll keep doing that for my happiness”, commented Chris Hortman. His season may have ended months ago, but he has already got an early jump on training and preparing for the next challenge. “Honestly the only thing this virus has stopped in my normal day life is going to the gym , besides that I´m still doing the exact same training for the ball , now instead of weights I do body weights and instead of an indoor gym I´m outside “, said Chris Hortman. It hasn´t been an easy time for basketball players during COVID-19 being isolated, having so many restrictions cast on you and having to train alone, but you just have to make the best of it to move ahead. “In these times , I realized that you really have a choice , the world has shut down , all movement has stopped , it´s very easy to get depressed , but in the same thought , the world has shut down , all movement has stopped , and now we really have time to do whatever we want , sure your creativity level has to go up , but if you wanted to work on your game , you have all the time in the world to do it now , just got to make that choice”, warned Chris Hortman
Back in May 2020 there were a few leagues left in Europe looking to finish their season while other clubs were looking to survive and look ahead to next season. It wasn´t any different for Hortman who would be entering his fifth season as a professional. If one looked at his vita, then one could see him going back to Germany to prove all doubters wrong and play in the Pro A or remain in Croatia that has become a new stomping ground for him. Or he could attempt a total new experience as the only countries he has ever balled in are Germany and Croatia. “, This summer I’ll do all I can to improve my game , and when it’s time to make a choice on which team, I’ll choose whoever can help me the most to continue in my growing process. for me personally the country doesn’t matter”, stressed Chris Hortman. It seems like it has been ages since that depressing post game interview in Rhondorf in 2017 as the American has gone through so much, but one thing that he has lost track of is the player that he is. And one thing is sure, Chris Hortman isn´t the same player that he was when he was under contract with German Pro B team EN Baskets Schwelm. “Besides the obvious , of stronger , faster , smarter , but now I’m tougher mentally, since then I’ve battled a lot , season ending injury , making a Pro A roster , but then not given the opportunity to play and then being cut , a lot of people would have folded and called it quits. I was able to fight those obstacles and eventually break through to get to where I am today”, warned Chris Hortman. Basketball life is finally really really good for Chris Hortman in 2020 even with COVID-19 having affected the world, he is really really content having taken the challenge in Croatia and being successful and proving he can ball in a first division. “I feel too blessed. A lot of people say never quit on your dreams , but when faced with so many lows it’s easy to hang it up. I had a choice , I stayed true , now things are looking a lot better”, warned Chris Hortman. The basketball journey for Chris Hortman has continued as despite COVID-19 found a new basketball job with Vellaznimi Gjakove (Kosova-Superliga). So far it has been an interesting ride for the American. “Its been crazy good, but has been a huge adjustment rorm other countires like Germany in terms of development, but the people here have been great , and the food is amazing”, said Chris Hortman. The club is off to a slow start, but the American has put up crazy stats averaging 22,0ppg, 11,8rpg, 4,6apg and 2,6spg. He scored 30 points twice, registered 3 double doubles, had a19 rebound game and is shooting a strong 36% from down town. “The league is very similar to Croatia , and in terms of Germany, I would compare it to a Pro B low Pro A level, stressed Chris Hortman. He is a role model for every American balling in lower leagues in Europe, because he proved that he is a talented player that could make it from 4th division Germany to the first division Croatia. “Im just happy and blessed to continue to do what I love to do. Each league brings a different experience. This year has been good so far. I´m xcited to see what the basketball gods brings to me next”, stressed Chris Hortman. Now he is in the first division Kosovo as his basketball journey continues and he is far from done as he is finally really enjoying basketball life after having experienced so much displeasure earlier in his career.
Seeing what ex NBA players enter the easyCredit BBL, Euroleague or Eurocup is always an interesting thing to follow as each season you see new guys coming overseas to hopefully put up big stats and return back to the big show. But for me probably the most enjoyable thing I like to observe and cover very much more today then 6-7 years ago, is exploring the magical and at times Cinderella story like careers of Americans who start at the bottom, but with focus, a brush of Black Mamba work ethic, luck and passion find a way to move up the basketball ladder. In the German Regionalliga you will find enchanting and moving stories like this on almost every team. On great example has been Tyseem Lyles who last season tore up the Regionalliga with Eimsbuetteler TV Hamburg averaging 25.8ppg, 6.5rpg, 4.4apg, Steals-3(3.1spg), FGP: 48.7%, 3PT: 40.0%, FT: 75.8%. There have been so many guys put up numbers like this like Mr Regionalliuga Ricky Easterling who needed many years of grooming before getting a shot in the Pro B. Lyles on the other hand received some luck and moved up 2 leagues higher to Pro A team PS Karlsruhe. He didn´t average the type of numbers he did in the Regionallliga, but had to deal with a totally new role and is developing further up the basketball ladder. Another one of these players is Orlando Parker. He is a player that had to pay his basketball dues in his first 2 professional seasons, but since then proved to have become a very good German Pro A player. Paying dues and experiencing that basketball struggle is nothing new for him. “I’ve been having to prove myself since I was in high school. I still consider myself the underdog in every team I play for and it allows me to work even harder to prove that I’m capable of playing at this level, and regardless of what the critics say I’m never going to stop doing my best”warned Orlando Parker. Parker has received a huge break and is playing his 7th professional season in England with the London Lions this season. But one can be sure that he won´t get a year pass for the London Eye or for the Natural Gallery in London, because he will continue to grind in the gym to get better and have that underdog mentality and something to prove mentality.
Parker is a 29 year old 203cm forward from Orlando, Florida who has carved out a solid 7 year professional career. His path was a bit different in that he actually didn´t begin in the JUCO or NAIA, but had enough talent for a 4 year NCAA career where he played under ex NBA player Bobby Hurley. He didn´t get those jobs in higher leagues something one can expect after a good NCAA career. Ok so he never averaged more than 7,5ppg in the NCAA, but it definitely should have given him a better rookie opportunity than having to play in Ireland for the UL Eagles Limerick. He then came to Germany and the rest is history. His good rookie season in Ireland where he averaged 19.9ppg, 8.6rpg, 1.1spg, 1.2bpg, FGP: 45.5%, 3PT: 42.4%, FT: 78.5% didn´t give him a better deal than landing with the Baskets Vilsbiburg (Germany-Regionalliga) However he had an explosive season averaging 22.6ppg, 9.4rpg, 1.5apg, 1.3spg, 1.4bpg, FGP: 55.6%, 3PT: 33.8%, FT: 79.3%. That strong season allowed him to go to PS Karlsruhe where he played 4 seasons. He helped the club move up to the Pro A in his first season and stayed in the Pro A the last three years. After a strong personal first season in the Pro B where he averaged 13.2ppg, 5.7rpg, he needed no adjustment period as he nearly averaged in double figures in each season. In his 3 year Pro A career, he averaged 11,8ppg and 5,1rpg while eclipsing the 40% mark in 2 of 3 seasons. The American is a very versatile player that can guard the position 1-5 and demonstrates that great defense doesn´t always have to show up on the stat sheet and is simply a team player. He is one of those guys where each season there will be at least one teammate that will say he is the best teammate that player has played with like Bryan Coleman did. “ OP is a great guy and teammate. He was definitely one of my best teammates this season”, stressed Bryan Coleman. I´m sure when his time is over with the London Lions, there will be guys uttering the same kind of words.
Parker´s last game with PS Karlsruhe was on March 11 where he suffered a tough 98-91 loss to FC Schalke. Overall it was a difficult season for PS Karlsruhe. “‘We definitely had an up and down season since the beginning. We had a lot of roster changes and a coaching change as well. For the most part we had a lot of close games’ We started off really good and of course we came across some obstacles that we couldn’t overcome. But that group showed a lot of character and hunger to get better everyday despite the challenges”, warned Orlando Parker. But at least he still finished the season strong netting 18 points and grabbing 7 rebounds. He also ended the season well shooing 7/15. Overall it wasn´t one of his best season´s from his perspective. He played 27 contests averaging 11.9ppg, 5.2rpg, 1.4apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 54.3%, 3PT: 32.5%, FT: 77.4%. He scored in double figures in 16 games and exploded with 29 points in the very exciting 84-83 victory against Phoenix Hagen and registered 24 points in a loss against Nurnberg and had 21 points in a win over the Artland Dragons. It was his outside shooting at a clip of 32% that really bothered him. Many guys would still be totally happy about those kind of stats, but not Parker. “I honestly just wanted another run in the playoffs and hopefully be a part of something special again. After coming up from the 4th league and winning Pro B, I was addicted to success and I wanted to have that feeling again. It was definitely a down year for me but also a big learning experience. The best is yet to come”, warned Orlando Parker. He must have been feeling something extra special , because yes indeed the best was yet to come”, but not right away. His patience and experience of the transfer market in COVID-19 times proved to be exact on the money.
It was a long, hard and demanding summer for so many professional basketball players in the world and it wasn´t any different for Parker. The American wasn´t able to return home right away, but actually remained in Germany until June and just tried to live as normal a life as possible. Obviously being at home for a very long extended amount of time and being able to spend more time with families and friends was a huge plus, but getting into that normal summer routine with work outs and improving one´s craft was very strenuous for any player. Especially a guy like Parker who really invests extra time on his game during the summer months. He is a player that relies on this extra time to work on his craft, because it is this work that helps shape his game for each new season. “The summers are the most important time of the year for any basketball player doesn’t matter the level I wish there was a secret but every player already knows that it comes down to hard work. The off-seasons are huge for me and my development. Each year I try to add something new to my game and overall appearance”, warned Orlando Parker. There are most likely guys out there that would never have trained outside on courts where you can´t always control your shot due to weather and wind, but for Parker, any rim and court will do. ““It was very tough. Most gyms had very strict restrictions on allowing access to the public. But luckily I found an outside court that still had rims that I could use”, remembered Orlando Parker. Of course COVID-19 was also a time where he could continue to develop his near flawless character with experiences off the court. ““I learned to be patient and to control what I can control” warned Orlando Parker. He also knew that the summer transfer period would be one that nobody had ever seen before. There would be more guys around than the last year as new rookies were ready to swarm to Europe, so he definitely went into this uncertain time with the right mentality and an open mind. “Definitely staying positive about the situation but honestly this Is tough because we are all unemployed right now until who knows when. So it’s a big wake up call to start thinking about life after basketball”, warned Orlando Parker in the spring of 2020. You didn´t find Orlando Parker on a roster at the beginning of the 20-21 season in Germany. I was never worried when I didn´t see his name pop up with a team. I figured he would resign with PS Karlsruhe, but also wondered if now may be the right moment to leave Germany and play in another country? ““For me it was all about finding the right fit. I had some offers but nothing that got me excited to play again. I was very patient during this process, although the market was slow and tougher than any other season. I was okay with waiting for the right opportunity to come up”, stressed Orlando Parker.
It was a Saturday November 21st when I open up the eurobasket.com page and there was Orlando Parker on the main page with the headline Orlando Parker Joins the London Lions. I had to reread it at first, because I was in a way a bit surprised. I mean he has been a good guy to me for years hooking up on 8 interviews and I always wished the best for him, but becoming a member of the London Lions wasn´t any easy feat to accomplish My second thought was of complete happiness. Here is another guy continuing to climb the basketball ladder. He had reached the first division for the first time in his career and plus living in London. You have to be kidding me. What an amazing story. Parker moves from Karlsruhe to London. I can think of 100´s of guys right now playing in Germany that would beg for that type of opportunity. Taking this offer was as much as a no brainer like it was for Dennis Schroeder to pick the Los Angeles Lakers. ““I’m extremely excited to do something special here with a very talented group. For me I always had a goal of playing for a cup team. Whether or not it was FIBA CUP, Champions League, Euroleague etc. I’ve always enjoyed the idea of playing in multiple leagues during the season. But of course the location of this deal was even better so it was almost a no brainer for me”, warned Orlando Parker. Another plus for the American is that he isn´t going somewhere where he will be thrown into cold water, but is familiar with other players battling in the UK BBL. ““I’ve heard a lot of positives about the league and of course I know some guys that are playing here. Justin Gordon, Cortez Edwards, Liam Davis, Kahron Ross and a few more guys”, said Orlando Parker.
Playing for the London Lions is an opportunity that would give many guys that kid in a candy store feeling. The club is stacked with serious talent and has something very rare. They have 2 ex NBA players with Byron Mullens that was a first round NBA pick of the Dallas Mavericks and played 5 seasons in the NBA and Deandre Liggins who won the NCAA title with Kentucky(NCAA) won a D-League title and played a season with Lebron James and the Cavs. Plus there are 2 other very talented Americans with Kevin Ware and Dirk Williams as well as very talented British players. The difference to Karlsruhe in terms of roster competition will be like day and night. With PS Karlsruhe he was a main go to guy, but with the London Lions will have a totally different role. Of course backing down and accepting a new role with possibly less minutes is something that Parker will shine at thanks to his character. He has been waiting for an opportunity like this for years and with all his unending hard work in the summers and development as a player will be 100% ready for the challenge. He is a guy that won´t go in nonchalantly, but will be in attack mode right away. His self confidence button is already turned on and at the peak of a mountain. “I´m just going to go out there and compete and the rest will take of itself”. I’m sure my role here will be vital to the team´s success. I’m confident whatever team I’m on I’ll make an impact”, warned Orlando Parker. He is also totally ready to battle guys like Mullens and Liggins on a regular basis. ““It’s fun playing with guys who’ve played at the highest level. I like the challenge to get better and pushed by those guys but also for them to know about me as well”, stressed Orlando Parker. Knowing that he is teammates with a player like Deandre Liggins who has the skill level of a player that he rarely saw in the German Pro A excites him, but in the end, it really doesn´t matter to him who the name is. ““I see everyone the same in my eyes. Of course that stuff is cool to talk about and I’m sure he has a lot of stories that will be interesting to hear about”, commented Orlando Parker. He developed very nicely with PS Karlsruhe and showed his vast versatility and efficiency on a regular basis the last years and will have to do it again this season. Being efficient playing less minutes will be a new challenge, but one he can tackle and beat. ““I’ve done it before so this will be nothing new for me”, warned Orlando Parker. He showed in his first game that he can make an impact as he scored 11 points and had 2 rebounds in the 99-79 victory over Newcastle. One of my favorite quotes from Orlando Parker is this. “I’m never content with anything in life, but one of my favorite phrases to live by is ‘You can’t rush greatness’ so my time will come for the BBL”, said Orlando Parker who currently is loving the series Shark Tank. He stated this to me not long ago and actually meant the German BBL. Even if he has reached a new peak in his basketball career, the British BBL isn´t the same. “I don’t want to take away anything from the UK BBL but in my eyes the German BBL is a bigger accomplishment, only because I came from the bottom”, warned Orlando Parker. This quote proves once again that despite being almost 30 years old, Orlando Parker isn´t satisfied yet and never will be.. “I’m never content with anything in life. I believe there is so much room for improvement on my game and I can get better. I’m not going to stop climbing the ladder until I reach the highest level”, warned Orlando Parker. The London Lions is a great new challenge and a great resume boost. But for the moment the American will do all he can to help his new team win in any way possible and continue to work on his craft, because even at his age sky is still the limit.
Phil Steffens is a 24 year 206cm forward that was born in Gladbeck Germany and will play for BSV Wulfen (Germany-Regionalliga) this season. He began his basketball career with Metropol Baskets Ruhr (NBBL) and then stayed in the States from 2014-2020 playing at Evelyn Mack Academy, Charlotte, NC nad Combine Prep Academy. He then played at Southeastern University (NAIA) from 2016-2020 playing a total of 40 games. He spoke to germanhoops.com about his basketball career.
Phil thanks for talking to germanhoops.com. Where are you at the moment and how has your summer been despite the whole COVID-19 effecting the world? Have you been in the States or returned back to Germany?
I’m back in Germany now after completing my senior year in Florida. My summer still was very productive, I got a lot of workouts done and had some time to relax. Luckily everybody around me stayed healthy.
How have you experienced the whole COVID-19 crisis in the States? How much did the last 6 months change your life and how much of a challenge was it finding the time and places to be able to stay in shape and be able to work on your game?
Luckily I left in the beginning of April, during that time Corona was not spread as much as it is now in the US. But the first month in Germany was tough, too. No gyms were open so I ran a lot in the mornings to stay in shape, but that gets boring quick so I worked out on outside courts.
How do you feel did COVID-19 make you stronger as a man?
Maybe it taught me to take some things more serious but I don’t think Covid affected me as a man.
After 6 years in the United States you have returned back to Germany to begin your professional basketball career with BSV Wulfen (Germany-Regionalliga). You lived there under Barack Obama and Donald Trump. How did you experience life there and how americanized have you become? I know Florida is a place that can be very addicting?
My experience in the States was great to be honest. It made me grow as a man. And yes Florida can be very addicting, always good weather, nice beaches, beautiful women. But I’m happy to have closed that chapter and returned home.
Congrats on signing with BSV Wulfen (Germany-Regionalliga). How excited are you to be back in Germany and beginning your professional basketball career?
I’m very excited especially to play in front of family and friends for the first time in many years.
Choosing BSV Wulfen wasn’t difficult as you played there in your youth and know the coach. What makes BSV Wulfen such a special team?
It’s a special team because we are very young and everybody is still hungry to make the jump to the next level as a team and individually. Also coach G is a great coach, who puts in a 100% effort every day.
After being in the States for 6 years, what are your expectations of yourself in the Regionalliga? What kind of player in Phil Steffens will we see?
My expectations are pretty high for myself, because I know what I can do. Also I am trying to be a leader for the younger guys, because I know how hard it is to sit on the bench a lot.
Let’s talk about your game. You’re a 206cm forward. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would best fit the description?
I think Porzingis is a pretty good comparison to my game, he can shoot the ball but also has a good drive to the basket.
Describe your game a bit and what your biggest assets are. Is it fair to say you try to be like a modern day forward because you like to step out and take the three?
Yes definitely, I love to work from the perimeter and shoot the open 3 and drive to the basket to score or look for open team mates. I think my biggest asset is that I’m a player who can play multiple positions.
How would you describe your play on the defensive end? Are you a type of rim protector or how would you describe your game best?
I’m a great communicator on the defensive end and I’m trying to be a smart defender, who doesn’t get into foul trouble a lot.
Before playing at Southeastern (NCAA) you played 2 years at 2 different schools Evelyn Mack Academy, and Combine Prep Academy. What kind of experience was this and how did it get you prepared for college in the States?
Combine Academy was the best option for me, despite my 3 month injury Combines staff never gave up on me and continued to work with me to get me ready again when the call from universities came.
You played at Southeastern (NAIA) from 2016-2020, but played only 40 games and never averaged more than 0,8ppg and 4,0 minutes per game. How tough was it sitting a lot more than playing?
It was tough especially in my last year and a coaching change happened, which did not do me any good. But I can say that it stressed me a lot and I had to prove myself over and over again and at the end it only made me stronger mentally.
Despite not playing much, you were a part of 2 championship teams winning the TSC tournament in 2018 and 2020. Which title was the sweetest?
The title in 2018 was very special, our team consisted of a lot of 2nd chance guys, and our team spirit was of the charts. That was definitely one of the funniest years.
Despite not playing much how is Phil Steffens a different player in 2020 than he was in 2016 when you first stepped on campus at Southeastern?
A lot has changed. My mentally, my mindset has grown by all the struggles a lot. Also my game got way more physical, my shot more consistent and my athletic ability continued growing from year to year.
How did head coaches R-Jay Barsh/ Kevin Lubbers help groom and prepare you for a professional basketball career?
R-Jay was probably my biggest impact in my 4 years. He coached me for 3 years and that man does not only teach basketball , he also teaches life and I’m very appreciative. When I came there I only wanted to play the wing position, but he made me learn how to play the center, which made me the player I am today.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Dylan Causwell?
Great question, DC and me guarded each other almost every practice, but never actually never played a real one on one. Guess that would’ve been a tie game
What did you learn to enjoy the most about the American culture that you will never see in Germany?
Probably the crazy amount of unhealthy food haha
You were named to the NABC honors court on account of your very good grades. What did you enjoy most about the academics in the United States? The best part of my academics were the professors who were able to bond with me and support me during the years.
Who was the toughest player that you battled in the NAIA or anywhere that went to the NBA?
I think the toughest player I played against was Dwayne Bacon, he’s a beast.
Please list your 5 best teammates of all-time?
Harrison Hebert CJ Reese Isaac Barsh Jmack Isaiah Moody
What is your personal opinion between the never ending debate between Michael Jordan and Lebron James concerning who is the greatest of all-time?
I usually never take part on this discussion because I think you can’t compare today’s NBA with the NBA where MJ competed, but if I had to decide I’d definitively say LeBron is the goat, he’s the most complete basketball player ever and is still dominating in year 17
I remember the early spring of 1985 as if it was yesterday. Playing football, basketball, street hockey and baseball with my best friend Tom then were things we did on a normal basis and pretending to be players as we made kids dunks on a lowered basket was the kind of entertainment that kids got back in the day. I vividly remember that during the 1985 NCAA tournament always being out during the day or under the flood lights playing and when the 2 teams were set for the NCAA final with Georgetown and Villanova, I had no choice to be the 2 guards David Wingate and Gary Mclain while my friend Tom who physically was a lot bigger was able to play the 2 stars Patrick Ewing and Ed Pickney. Of course, we put the ball down and watched the final and it was one that the world would never forget as Villanova did the impossible beating Georgetown which today still stands as one of the greatest NCAA final upsets in the history of the league. The reason why I brought up this story was because of the great late coach Rolle Massimino who coached the Villanova team to victory. The New Jersey native coached an incredible 43 years with 19 at Villanova. When I prepared an interview for American Stanley Whittaker, the name of Massimino popped up and bingo my childhood sprang up into my face again. Whittaker had the pleasure to have had coach Mass coach him at Keiser(NAIA) right before he unfortunately passed away in 2017. Whittaker is one of so many guys journeying around Europe that have their own separate special story of struggle as well as success and a lot of why the American is where he is today dominating the Austrian first division is Massimino. Massimino has had such a gigantic effect on Whittaker on and off the court. Not only on the court at Keiser, but also off the court which delayed the professional career of Whittaker for years. “I promised my late great coach Rollie Massimino “may he Rest In Peace” that I would get my bachelor’s degree. He put me in position where I was able to do an additional year at Keiser University and get my Bachelor’s. So I graduated in May of 2018. But after that, I think it took me so long to get a professional contract because people didn’t think I was worth an opportunity. I didn’t play Division 1, I didn’t really know who to look to for help and assistance, so that’s what I feel is the reason it took longer for me. Having the opportunity to be coached by coach Rollie Massimino was a blessing. He helped my game so much, he taught me so much about the mental aspect of the game. I was able to think the game at a much higher level with coach Mass. Being cerebral is the biggest impact coach Mass had on me especially in my transitioning into becoming a professional. But most importantly, the impact he had on me off the court is what I cherish the most. He instilled so many real life lessons in me, helped me out in so many ways, he was much more than just a coach to me! And I am forever grateful and thankful for coach Mass”, warned Stanley Whittaker. Coach Massimino passed away on August 30, 2017 and Whittaker is extremely appreciative that he will always have one specific special memory with the man who had a huge role in shaping him to being the man and player he is today. “Coach Mass and I shared a bunch of moments together on and off the court. During my recruiting process after I finished up my 2nd year in JUCO, Coach Mass came to my home in Philadelphia and visited my family and I. This was my first time seeing him in person after my visit to Keiser University. This moment was special because as busy as Coach Mass was he took the time out of his day and came to visit my family and I. I truly knew then that he really wanted me to join his team in Florida, so that was a very cool moment we shared together, and my family got to meet him so that made it much more special! My mother tends to ask me do I still remember when Coach Mass came to visit, so it’s great to know that she still holds on to that moment”, remembered Stanley Whittaker.
Stanley Whittaker was born on October 21ist, 1994 in Philadelphia and attended Nueva Esperanza Academy. Like so many guys balling in Europe now, the talent level of guards in general is so high that there just aren´t enough spots in higher college levels that guys have to pay their first dues in JUCO. But for young guys out there today, there is always hope as there have been countless guys who have come from JUCO and climbed the ladder slowly and others quicker like Jordan Brangers who played in the German BBL 2 years ago and recently signed with Greek top division club Larisa. Whittaker who meditates 1 hour a day and has Greece at the top of his wish list to visit is going a similar path as Brangers, but he had to start somewhere and that was Frank Phillips College (JUCO) where he balled from 2013-2015 amassing a total of 56 JUCO games. He made an impressive early basketball development averaging 6.5ppg, 3.1rpg, 3.4apg, FGP: 38.5%, 3PT: 17.9%, FT: 54.1% as a freshman and as a sophomore averaged 13.0ppg, 4.8rpg, 4.6apg, FGP: 44.4%, 3PT: 33.9%, FT: 71.8%. One can see how much his offensive game improved as his scoring, three point shooting and free throw shooting profited from the experience. So many guys I have talked to always report that JUCO was a very tough experience, but in the end very worthwhile and it wasn´t any different for the American. “, JUCO was a grind, it was really tough. You assembled a bunch of guys with the exact same mission which is trying to go to the next level, so there isn’t really a great deal of comfort. You know your time there is short so it’s like, get yours while your here kind of attitude and approach. Well at least that’s the impression I thought of it. But in all, JUCO help shape me into the player I am today. It made me grind harder, it made me go that extra mile, so for that I am forever grateful and appreciative for it. JUCO helped my game because it allowed me to play with many players that were “the guy” coming from their respective high school and maybe other programs. So it allowed me to understand egos and play with a bunch of individual talent on one team”, remembered Stanley Whittaker.
His hard work, diligence and patience paid off as he was able to move up a level to Keiser. It wasn´t the NCAA, but the NAIA is maybe only the 4th best college level, but also one that has produced enough great players that have made the jump to the professional ranks. He played at Keiser(NAIA) from 2015-2017 playing a total of 65 NAIA games and needed no adjustment period as he was able to find his role and had a great 2 year career. At Keiser he helped lead the Seahawks to the 2016 NAIA Elite 8 and 2017 TSC tournament semi-finals. “Finishing in the Elite 8 at Keiser was a pretty great memory and I still remember that season up until this day. It was special, we had a special team and that was a special year. Of course I wish we could’ve went further and maybe won the championship because we surely had a nice opportunity, but yes that was a great time and a memorable moment in my college career”, stressed Stanley Whittaker. On the personal side, he had two very strong seasons as he played 34 games as a junior averaging 15.4ppg, 8.2rpg, 6.3apg, 2.3spg, FGP: 41.2%, 3PT: 34.3%, FT: 67.8% and as a senior played 31 games averaging 13.8ppg, 5.6rpg, 6.9apg, 1.7spg, FGP: 46.2%, 3PT: 21.7%, FT: 70. 1%. In his second to last NAIA game, he registered a rare triple double scoring 20 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out 13 assists in the 78-65 victory over J & Wales. This is a contest that he still looks back fondly at today and could imagine getting one at the pro ranks. “That game was special because it was a playoff game, win or go home. And also it was in our gym. So that in itself made the game special, I wasn’t sure I had a triple double until my coach told me after the win. That made it a little bit better, but I was more happy with the playoff win and we were able to advance to the next round. I would like to get a triple double as a professional. Although I don’t tell myself “go get a triple double,” but if that will help our team win and it’s a possibility I would be happy with that result”,said Stanley Whittaker. The American who lists his parents as the most influential people in his life learned to develop an important attribute at Keiser which was consistency. The Florida native was able to score in double figures in 56 of 65 games and was very content how his game continued to develop in his 2 years there. “I think that my game in general just matured more at my time at Keiser. I think I was very patient in poised in understanding our offense and understanding my attack points. Picking and choosing my spots on the floor, knowing the defensive of game plan from studying film helped my game grow a lot”, expressed Stanley Whittaker.
Instead of turning pro right after his last season at Keiser(NAIA), he held his word to coach Massimino and finished his degree. A big problem for any player especially for the lesser known ones playing at lower college levels is that the longer time you don´t have a professional club, the harder it will be to find a team. On top of that, he was just out of college and had never gone through the difficult process of finding a team. He was finished at Keiser in the spring of 2017 and didn´t begin his professional career until the 2019-2020 season in January. Those 2 plus years is a very long period of being inactive and could have cost many guys a professional career, but Whittaker never gave up after getting his degree, but just kept grinding and grinding and accepting the basketball process. “My last years before turning professional I was spending a lot of time with family, but the goal to become a professional remained the focal point. I spent countless hours working on my craft daily. I prioritized staying in the best shape possible just because you don’t ever know when that opportunity will come. I spent time training younger kids and so I worked around the game just to keep the joy and aspiration. And there was never a time where I wanted to give up, I always told myself that God wouldn’t bring me this far just to give it up”, warned Stanley Whittaker. Before heading overseas in 2020, the American who will never forget his one on one battles with Keiser teammate Brice Jenkins had the once in the lifetime opportunity and had a work out with NBA team Orlando Magic in the summer of 2018. There he was able to see what DJ Augustine had as a player while battling him on the floor. “DJ Augustin is just an extremely crafty, smart well experienced player. He seen all the different defensive coverages so he knows what’s his next move almost immediately, so I think the difference between our games is his experience at playing the highest level in the world”, remembered Stanley Whittaker. He began his rookie season with Jonava Jonavos (Lithuania-NKL) playing 6 games averaging 9.3ppg, 3.7rpg, 2.7apg, 1.7spg, 2FGP: 36.4%, 3FGP: 22.2%, FT: 66.7%. He scored in double figures in 3 games including 20 points against Telsiai and was close to a double double with 11 points and 9 dimes in the exciting 93-91 win over Ereliai Mazeikiai. He showed that he needed no real adjustment period coming overseas. “I believe my wake cup call as a rookie was really just adjusting into being a professional in general. I don’t think the distance bothered me any I embraced the opportunity and was grateful. But just transitioning into being a professional was the adjustment and wake up call for me”, commented Stanley Whittaker. Being the lone American on a team overseas can be tough, but when you walk into a new situation and see another American, it often changes a tough situation into a good situation. He was fortunate to have teammate Kahlid Thomas who had an exceptional career at Rider(NCAA) and took him under his wing. “Khalil is my boy. Our relationship was great when we shared time together in Jonava. He helped me a lot for my short time there on and off the court. We are able to relate to one another as well and we are still good friends and are in contact regularly to this day”, remembered Stanley Whittaker.
The American who lists his NBA Mount Rushmore with the following legends with Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Lebron James and Allen Iverson finished last season with UBSC Raiffeisen Graz (Austria-BSL) suffering a tough 95-93 loss to Arkadia but showed his versatility steering 11 points, 8 boards, 4 dimes and 4 steals in the losing cause. As we fast forward to November 2020, one thing hasn´t changed and that is that COVID-19 is still alive. It has been a very difficult time for everyone and every player has had their own story how they have survived the COVID-19 crisis. “My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who has been affected from this devastating virus. But yes, the virus made things much more difficult for me. I was here in Austria from the end of January to March. The virus cancelled our season so was sent home, back to America. In America, things were tough. Maybe for the first month I wasn’t able to have access to a gym so I had to use other resources to workout and stay in shape. Shortly after that initial month, I was able to get gym access and get right back into my sanctuary”, remembered Stanley Whittaker. Some guys had it easier finding the correct resources too stay in shape and continue to work on their craft, while others had a more tough time. As back breaking and punishing the last 7-8 months have been, the whole COVID-19 crisis has in a way also helped players see another side of life and take positives out of a burdensome time. “I honestly learned a lot about myself during these times. Our world being in a pandemic is something I’ve never seen or been through before. So just with that, it was something I had to adjust to. Life isn’t normal anymore, but I learned that I was much more patient than I thought. Throughout this entire pandemic, it made me much stronger, it made me understand a lot more. Because for a while now it’s just been basketball, basketball & basketball for me, so being able to take a step back, cherish more time with my family and loved ones, it gave me a greater appreciation for life and love”, stressed Stanley Whittaker.
The American who probably would be a sports agent today is loving his life in Austria and one would think it might have been a tough adjustment coming from the warm Florida to the cooler Austria, but in between, he had some practice with a cooler type of climate “Florida to Austria is an adjustment solely based off the climate. However, after I graduated from college in Florida, I spent most of my back home in Philadelphia where the winters are really cold and the summers are really hot. So being back in Philadelphia prepared me for the cooler temperatures here in Austria. I am still learning about Austria and it’s culture, but thus far it’s been pretty good. Here in Graz, it’s really vibrant. The people are nice, the food is good and it’s always pretty active. So that in itself I appreciate”, said Stanley Whittaker. Only a few years ago, he was very far away from a professional career, but now is a top player in the first division Austria and knows that you can´t take anything for granted and enjoys every second of being a part of UBSC Raiffeisen Graz. “It’s truly a blessing to be able to further my career and continue to have the opportunity to chase this dream of mine of being a professional basketball player. I’m grateful to be able to be in this position here playing for UBSC Graz, they gave me an opportunity at the beginning of the year, and extended their hand and wanted me back so I’m blessed and humbled for that. As you stated, this is my first full year as a professional, so I hope we are able to gather some more wins and turn this organization around and be a part of some history for this team”, warned Stanley Whittaker. In the Austrian BSL league, there are 10 teams and at the moment UBSC Graz are in sixth place with a 3-4 record. On paper the team coached by Slovenian Ervin Dragsic is a lot better than it´s record and it´s only a matter of time before this team will take off. The team lost 3 of their 4 games by a total number of only 7 points “I think our team has a bunch of talent. We were assembled at the beginning of the year before Covid hit and that’s when we noticed that we can be a special group. And with the addition of a couple pieces to our team made us better. We are a confident group that prides ourselves on being selfless and playing together. We have some versatility with our group. And as far as our goals, we’re taking it day by day, game by game just looking to get better each day that’s how we honestly go about work here, but making the playoffs are in our eyesight and think we have a nice chance at doing so”, warned Stanley Whittaker. The team has proved early on that it isn´t shy of putting points on the board averaging 88 per game, but so far they haven´t been a solid unit on the defensive end where they are allowing 86 points at the moment. “We have to be much better defensively. We can score the ball pretty well, as I stated we have a bunch of talent, but if we don’t defend we won’t win. Defensively, I think we can come out with better energy and intensity each game. It starts with our energy, but also attention to detail, we tend to have lapses defensively as well and the teams here makes us pay each time. So energy and more attention to detail we have to hang our hats on especially more so on the defensive end”, stressed Stanley Whittaker.
The club has solid support at the American spots with 203 cm forward Nick McGlynn who played at Drake(NCAA) and had double double stats last season with T71 Dudelange (Luxembourg-Total League), 190cm guard Jacob Ledoux who played at the University of Texas Permian Basin (NCAA2) and is in his second season with UBSC Raiffeisen Graz, 203cm forward Sam Daniel who played at Florida Institute of Technology (NCAA2) and brought experience to Austria form Brazil and England and 198cm forward Kendall Pollard who reached the NCAA Elite 8 with Dayton and despite 3 seasons of scoring in double figures in the NCAA couldn´t get a better job than one in the G-League and Iceland. The American who loves chicken Alfredo feels very at home with his many American teammates and sees himself as the leader despite not having played with as many professional teams as they have. “Most of my other Americans teammates have more pro experience than myself. But I feel like I have become a leader here for our team. That goes to show the trust and respect that my coaching staff and teammates have for me. Giving me the opportunity to lead is always a role I will embrace, but I am truly humbled and appreciative for it as well”, said Stanley Whittaker. They haven´t been teammates long, but Whittaker and Pollard have shared a special relationship so far. Both guys have gone a similar path in that it has been quite a few years since school and both haven´t garnered so much professional experience yet. Especially Pollard who only has Iceland and the G-League to show in the last 4 seasons. “Kendall is a great guy and a great player. He is one of the smartest basketball minds I’ve played with over the years. I definitely spoke with him about his journey after he finished school at Dayton. It’s a bonus to have a teammate or teammates you can relate to or can relate to you, that makes the chemistry better in my opinion”, added Stanley Whittaker.
Whittaker is a 183 cm point guard that doesn´t like to compare his game to any of the NBA stars, but rather studies film for hours and hours in order to soak up as much detail as possible which he can add to his game to help refine it. “I watch all the point guards in the NBA as well as Europe, so I study them to learn, therefore I try to take a little from them each and add it to my game in some way. I always watched a ton of Chris Paul, I love Kyrie Irving skill set and his ability make difficult shots. Damian Lillard confidence is unmatched, and Westbrook intensity is relentless. I love watching Mike James, Shane Larkin, Mike Green and Facundo Campazzo. I am not able to compare my game to any of those guys, but I do study and like watching all of them compete. I have two point guards that just got drafted who I like a lot and they are Malachi Flynn and Payton Pritchard”, said Stanley Whittaker. He is a guy that can fill the stat sheet with ease as he proved back in the NAIA with a triple double and just that point guard that has that keen basketball IQ that knows at the split of a second when to create and when to go alone. But not only offensively is he a delight to watch, but also on the defensive end where his non stop focus to detail and man allows him to be a menace and disrupt opponents offenses at anytime. “I think some of my strongest assets are my ability to create and play make, not only for myself but for my teammates as well. I pride myself on the defensive end so much, so I play defense with an edge. I try to limit my opponent from being comfortable let alone scoring. With me I think defense is all effort and will. But also studying film helps me a ton and puts me in position to be able to get some of them steals, but also not just steals for me, it allows my teammates to get some of them as well. I limited my gambling because it hurts more times than it helps especially when I don’t succeed when I do gamble. So I just anticipate and manipulate the defense more so now”, expressed Stanley Whittaker.
At the moment the American who last watched his all-time favorite movie Life with Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence is taking the Austrian BSL league by storm being second in scoring and assists and first in steals currently averaging 21,0ppg, 5,4rpg, 7,6rpg and 3,4spg in 38 minutes. One may think that he is a player that is always looking at his stats, but that isn´t the case. He is just trying to help his team come out on top after 40 minutes. His filled stats rather imply that he is trying to do everything possible to get his team in the best position to be successful. “I don’t base my game or style of play on stats. I try to go out there and play the game the right way and try to get our team in the best possible chance at winning games. I think there are many ways I can be better and improve overall, but doing it in a team setting where it is helping our team and not hurting our team. I don’t have to stat chase at all. The way I play the game is team sensitive and I play within the structure of the team”, added Stanley Whittaker. He knows that he has to continue to get better in all area´s of his game to be able to continue to climb the basketball ladder. One big focus at the moment is his outside shot. At the moment he is shooting at a 31% clip, but isn´t satisfied and knows it will improve. “I definitely see myself as becoming a better 3 point shooter. I don’t believe the percentage shows how well of a 3 point shooter I am or can be. Actually watching the games and seeing the selection of 3 point shots I get plays a part. However, some shots didn’t fall in early on in the season but I definitely can and will improve from behind the arch. I work daily on my long ball and I am a confident shooter as well so I will be better”, warned Stanley Whittaker. He also knows that becoming that ultimate leader is another area that he wants to improve on so he can have that better touch with helping his team be more successful “Some steps I am taking to be a better leader is being a better listener. I think that is the first step with me, if I’m able to listen more and be more understanding that would help me lead better. Understanding personnel helps me be a better leader, leading isn’t a part time role it’s something you have to do consistently. And finally accountability, making sure I am held accountable as well as holding my teammates and everyone that’s a part of our team success accountable, I think that’s major as well”, warned Stanley Whittaker.
Whittaker´s main focus now is getting UBSC Raiffeisen Graz (Austria-BSL) out of it´s rut and also to help them finally win some nail bitters. What happens down the road is unknown, but if the season ended tomorrow, he would surely have offers from two thirds of German Pro A teams on the table as well as some offers from easyCredit BBL teams. He isn´t far from Germany and has the league in the back of his mind. “The German BBL is a pretty good league, I hear a lot about it here since I’m in Austria and Germany isn’t too far. However, it would be a great blessing if that opportunity was to present itself in the future”, said Stanley Whittaker. The great thing about Stanley Whittaker is that he is no near from being satisfied with his current career status This guy still has a very long and bright future in front of him and won´t stop grinding to continue to become the best player that he can be. He has something special that not every player has. He has that heavy chip on his shoulder and that will remain until the day he retires. “I always played with a chip on my shoulder. I was a “late bloomer.” I always been overlooked, and I always got passed up on. But understanding my process and how much time I devoted to getting better and working hard I had faith that when the opportunity presented itself for me I would have to take full advantage of it. My mom always told me to remain humble. So that chip I have on my shoulder will always remain, regardless if the circumstances are good or bad”, warned Stanley Whittaker. I only remember Rolle Massimino from TV and when he was a head coach at Villanova while Whittaker had the distinct pleasure of knowing and learning from him for 2 years at Keiser. It has been more than 3 years since the death of Rolle Massimino, but I´m sure that the 1985 NCAA champion has taken a very special note about his ex player Whittaker and is having a ball watching his progress from above. “I honestly think this is my calling from him as he is looking down on me. I believe he would tell me that he is proud of me and that he loves me. I think he would tell me that he is proud of the decision I made to go back to school and get my degree. Because he would always tell us “the ball will stop dribbling,” so therefore, having that degree under my belt can help me when I am finished up with basketball. I also think he would congratulate me on remaining true to myself as well as my goals and never giving up. Even when times were extremely dull and tough. He will credit my perseverance and dedication and tell me “Stanley I am proud of you babe”, stressed Stanley Whittaker. Massimino is a champion and even if Whittaker is still looking to becoming that first time professional champion, he is also a champion like his friend Massimino, because he earned a degree from Keiser and that is something nobody can take away from him.
It is a late Wednesday night in Germany at about 10:30pm as I reach ex NBA player Darrun Hilliard of CSKA Moscow in his hotel room in Munich, Germany. The American is playing his third season overseas and has the double load of playing Euroleague and VTB League and this week has 2 Euroleague games. For some it is but for the ex NBA player remembering the wear and tear of the NBA, playing 2 games within 48 hours can be tough especially with the long trips from Moscow, but having that team plane makes the wear and tear of travel make it somewhat easier. In the last weeks, I had the pleasure of talking to some ex NBA players like Derrick Williams and Anthony Brown who have made the adjustment to playing overseas after having seen it all in the NBA. Sometimes one might expect ex NBA players to be a bit reluctant to speak about the big show and reminisce about the good old days, but surprisingly most guys really cherish having had the opportunity to have laced them up in the worlds most elite league. But if there is one topic where guys won´t hesitate for a split second to muse over is the legacy of the black Mamba Kobe Bryant and what kind of an impact he had on them. The tales that a Derrick Williams and Anthony Brown had were priceless and lines like “I wasn´t thinking farewell but getting my shoes signed after his last game” or “I remember Kobe joking he would get 82 points and then dropping 60 in his last NBA game” are special fond memories and shows just how much Kobe was loved by his peers. It wasn´t any different for Darrun Hillard. When I mentioned Kobe, I could feel his eye brows rise higher than the tower of London and his smile get wider than the Panama-canal through the phone. His first remark about Kobe was, “I´ll never forget my Kobe story”. I believe you could ask every NBA player who ever dueled against Kobe Bryant what their favorite 1-1 moment was with him, you surely would get a reply from every player and get enough stories to produce the next basketball thriller. Hilliard was a rookie with the Detroit Pistons and played only his 3rd NBA game against Kobe Bryant who was in his farewell season and the way he described the moment was as if you were there Live. “It was huge playing against him so early in my NBA career and with him retiring that season. I had been a huge Kobe and Lebron fan growing up. I had been too young to have been a Jordan fan. A normal procedure with the Pistons was that usually the rookies could go to the circle before the game to shake hands with the opponents captains. After a while the veterans don´t want to do it, so they send the rookies. It is a special thing for the rookies to do. But because it was the last game of Kobe, the veterans all went to the circle not the rookies. Well that didn´t hinder me from going to the circle. I made my way to the circle, shook Kobe´s hand, gave some love and then got kicked out. It felt like it lasted 1 hour, but really it was 30 seconds. I remember seeing an interview after where Kobe said that he remembered this kid shaking his hand and then disappearing. This is my absolute favorite story from the NBA that I had”, stressed Darrun Hillard. It was also so refreshing to see how disappointed he was that he has never been able to find that interview of Kobe Bryant talking about him. Sometimes I truly felt like a little kid in a candy story being able to interview these high class players, but in this Kobe Bryant moment, I totally felt Darrun Hilliard being that little kid in the candy store.
Darrun Hillard was born on April 13th, 1993 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He first had the basketball in his hands at age 5, idolized Allen Iverson and was also a football fan and enjoyed watching the Philadelphia Eagles practices while getting to the facility on his bike. He attended Liberty High School in Bethlehem and had a lot of success there. Even though using his right hand for many things like eating, writing and throwing a football, he learned to shoot the ball lefthanded. He developed a deep bond to his coach Mike Bachman and averaged 18,0ppg and 6,0rpg as a junior and as a senior averaged 19,7ppg. He led his team to the PIAA State semi-finals in his junior season scoring 26 points in the loss to Penn Wood and reached the second round of the PIAA tournament as a senior. All in all, he scored 1,413 points in his high school career finishing second to scoring to Warren West. He was named the Express Times player of the year and was named to the First Team Class AAAA. His stellar high school career earned him a full ride to Philadelphia school Villanova(NCAA).
The American played at Villanova(NCAA) from 2011-2015 playing a total of 132 NCAA games. He had serious growing pains as a freshman as he was supposed to have been red shirted, but head coach Jay Wright decided against it needing him aboard because of a rash of injuries. He played 29 games averaging 4,8ppg and 2,4rpg. He scored in double figures in 4 games and had back to back 13 point efforts against Missouri and Pennsylvania. Things looked up in his sophomore season as he started every game and his minutes soared from 18 to 28 and he played 34 games averaging 11.4ppg, 2.8rpg, 1.6apg, 1.7spg, FGP: 47.0%, 3PT: 31.5%, FT: 73.9%. He scored in double figures in 19 games including 25 points in a win over Syracuse and 22 points a piece in wins over Purdue and Marquette. He ended the season strong hitting North Carolina with 18 points in a loss in the NCAA tournament. In his junior season he averaged 29 minutes playing 34 games averaging 14.3ppg, 3.6rpg, 2.6apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 48.6%, 3PT: 41.4%, FT: 71.8%. He made a big jump in his outside shooting getting over the 40% plateau. He scored in double figures in 30 games and had a career high 30 points in a victory over Marquette. He netted 11 points in a OT 82-79 win over Providence where he hit a crucial trey at the end to help seal the win. He scored 13 points to eventual 2014 NCAA champion UConn at the tournament and won various awards like Big east most improved and was a All-Big 5 Second Team selection.
The club continued to grow each season and had their best in Hillard´s senior year as he led the Wildcats to an amazing 33-3 season. He averaged 14,3ppg, 3,1rpg, 2,1apg and 1,8spg while shooting 38% from down town. He had some big games against Syracuse scoring 23 points in a OT win, had 24 points in a victory over Creighton and had one of his finer moments against Butler achieving 31 points on 8 three´s in an exciting 78-75 OT win where he hit the game winning trey with 1,5 seconds remaining. This was probably his finest individual game, but not most memorable moment. “It is really difficult to say that this game was my most memorable considering how many trophies we won. There were so many memorable moments in my career. We were at ground zero freshman year and to see to where we got to senior year is amazing. I don´t like to bring attention to myself to a game like this. Many accompanied me along the ride to success”, remembered Darrun Hilliard. He scored 27 points in his last NCAA game, a brutal 71-68 loss at the hands of North Carolina State in the round of 32. He finished his NCAA career with 1,511 points, 18th highest in school history; 400 rebounds; and 176 steals. He ended his NCAA career winning many awards like second team for the Sporting News, was an unanimous All Big east First Team, was a All District V First team and was Big 5 player of the year. The American has a lot of respect for head coach Jay Wright who pushed him, but Hillard´s belief that his coach didn´t believe him is what helped him evolve into the player he is today. “Freshman year was very tough. It was a big transition going to another school and not knowing if I could make to senior year. I always had this feeling that coach Wright didn´t believe in me. I wanted to prove him wrong and that was the driving force that kept me in school and helped me do well. I put my mind to getting better each day and not to quit, but to finish that marathon”, warned Darrun Hilliard. The American was fortunate enough to have played with future NBA players like Daniel Ochefu, Ryan Arcidiacono, and Josh Hart, but it wasn´t one of these that had the biggest impact on him, but rather a red shirted freshman who never played a NCAA game with Hilliard. Hillard was most impressed with current Phoenix Sun and 2 time NCAA champion small forward Mikal Bridges. “When he got to Villanova, he was physically a child. I saw him grow and blossom to the player he is today. He was a dog at both ends of the court his junior year. I saw what he could be. He got into the weight room , ate correctly and took everything serious. I´m really proud that he was able to full-fill his potential. He is the only guy that I really follow in the NBA”, stressed Darrun Hilliard.
In the summer of 2015, the 198cm guard was drafted by the Detroit Pistons in the second round at #38. He played NBA Pro Summer League in Orlando (Detroit Pistons) playing 5 games averaging 9.4ppg, 2.6rpg, 1.2spg, FGP: 28.8%. He would go on to play 2 seasons in the Motor city playing 75 games. In his first season he played 37 games averaging 4.1ppg, 1.2rpg, and also played 3 D-League games with the Grand Rapids Drive averaging 25.7ppg, 3.7rpg, 2.7apg, 2.3spg. In his second season with the Pistons he played 38 games averaging 3.3ppg, and also played 4 D-League games with the Grand Rapids Drive averaging 23.5ppg, 5.8rpg, 2.5apg. With the Pistons, he scored in double figures in 6 games including 13 points against Toronto twice and once against Memphis and had 11 points against Orlando and Atlanta. He had the pleasure of having been teammates with guys like Andre Drummond, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Steve Blake, Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris, but one guy he won´t forget is assistant coach Tim Hardaway. “Tim was a coach, but he still had that competitive edge that us players had. If you didn´t do your job, he would let you know right away. He is a Chicago boy and always talked trash. What I´m really happy about having seen is him being the coach. Most guys just know him from his cross over moves, but I knew him as a coach. You could always pick his brain. He got the best out of you”, remembered Darrun Hilliard. Another thing that he has that not every NBA player can boast to their grand children is having a positive record against Lebron James. He has a 2-1 record against the 4 time NBA champion and will never forget being on the same court as his idol. “I remember my dad and I seeing Lebron play in high school. It was so crazy. He was 18 years old and already so good. Then there I am on the floor with Lebron in the NBA. This was the first time where I realized that I had to separate being a fan from being a competitor. I had always been a fan, but now I was on the other side. I had to get him before he got me. It wasn´t easy, but this meeting with Lebron taught me a valuable lesson that nobody is bigger than yourself”, warned Darrun Hilliard.
In his third professional season he split time between the San Antonio Spurs (NBA): playing 14 games averaging 1.1ppg, and played also with the Austin Spurs (NBA G-League) playing 40 games averaging 20.5ppg, 4.5rpg, 3.7apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 52.6%, 3PT: 39.3%, FT: 83.6%. His brief time with the Spurs is another one that he will cherish forever. If shaking hands with Kobe Bryant for a moment was like a kid in a candy store then being on a squad like the Spurs that featured legends like Tony Parker, Manu Ginoboli, Pau Gasol, Kawhi Leonard and Ettore Messina must of felt like a 8 year Barcelona boy stepping on the field at Camp Nou and not believing his eyes seeing 100 Messi clones all doing their tricks with the ball. He wouldn´t trade his short time with the Spurs for anything in the world. “My locker was next to Pau Gasol´s, so I obviously talked to him a lot. Kawhi talks a lot more than people think. The biggest thing I got form him was trying to apply his greatness mindset. He was hurt when I was there and the club was trying to get him back in shape. We were together a lot and played a lot of 1-1 and 3-3 to help him get back in shape. The guy is obviously physically gifted, but his mentality is bar none. There is a reason why he is the player that he is”, stressed Darrun Hilliard. Plus not to forget, he was able to learn from a master mind who loves the European game with head coach Gregg Popovic. In a way, he got an early introduction to European basketball from Popovic. “Coach Pop did prepare me, but honestly the great players there did more. It was Tony Parker and Manu Ginoboli´s last years, but I was also pretty focused on helping my G-League team win the title. With my time with the NBA Spurs, I tried to eaves drop on every conversation as best as I could like the kind of mind set each player had. I didn´t take one moment for granted, but tried to take everything I learned and apply it to life and the game. I was very meticulous about what I observed and just tried to see how they carried themselves as best as I could. The most important thing that I gained from coach Pop was his saying appropriate fear. You should never fear anyone, but remember to have that sense of respect. If you take your opponent for granted, then you can be beaten”, remembered Darrun Hilliard. Of course when your only 27 years old and have that typical competitive mind set, thinking about the NBA is always on the menu, but the reality sometimes is different. “I´m still young and it is still a dream. I´m a competitor and always want to play at the highest level, but I´m not striving for it at the moment. I´m very happy being a member of CSKA Moscow and would never take this opportunity with this team for granted”, warned Darrun Hilliard. He saw everything in the NBA and like most other players knows it will always be strictly a business before anything else. “You can get traded at any time of the day. At one moment your talking with the G.M and in the next moment read on Twitter that you got traded. Guys will be upset that is natural. Important is that you should never take the NBA for granted”, warned Darrun Hilliard.
In the 2018-2019 season he came overseas joining Kirolbet Baskonia Vitoria playing 35 ACB games averaging 10.8ppg, 2.3rpg, 1.4apg, FGP: 48.2%, 3PT: 42.5%, FT: 76.3%, and played 34 Euroleague games averaging 9,4ppg, 2.9rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 49.3%, 3PT: 32.2%, FT: 77.5%. It isn´t always easy for that ex NBA player to come over and play their first season overseas well. The American came into a totally new situation, but had a very solid rookie season in the Euroleague and ACB despite having a difficult adjustment period. “I really struggled at the beginning. My wife and I were constantly on the phone. I came over with totally different expectations. I thought that every game would be like a Final 4 atmosphere with the crazy crowds from Panathinaikos. I just didn´t know the ins and outs of the Euroleague. Playing for Baskonia was a real challenge, but I was fortunate to have been able to play for 2 great coaches. I am happy that I made it through the struggles and am very grateful that Baskonia gave me my first opportunity overseas”, stated Darrun Hilliard. In The Euroleague, he scored in double figures in 16 games and memorable games like netting 19 points in a 97-73 blow out win over Maccabi Tel Aviv and had a strong playoff series scoring in double figures in 3 of the 5 games against his future employer CSKA Moscow. In the ACB, he scored in double figures in 20 games registering 24 points a piece in wins over Joventut and Fuenlabrada and had 21 points against Breogan. He also split against FC Barcelona scoring 18 and 15 points.
He joined CSKA Moscow in 2019 and is currently playing his second season with them. Last season he played 27 Euroleague games averaging 10.6ppg, 2.4rpg, 1.2apg, FGP: 40.4%, 3PT: 41.2%, FT: 79.6%, and played 15 VTB games averaging 11.9ppg, 2.7rpg, 1.9apg, FGP: 45.8%, 3PT: 42.6%, FT: 79.2%. In the Euroleague he scored in double figures in 16 games including 22 points in a win over Valenica, 21 points in a win over Alba Berlin and Panathinaikos and 20 points in a win over FC Bayern Munich. In the VTB League he scored in double figures in 9 games including 24 points in a loss against Khimki and 21 points in a victory over Tsmoki-Minsk. Last season the season ended abruptly for the 2 time Gomelsky Cup Winner on account of COVID-19 and as he was relaxed in his hotel room in Munich, talk concerning COVID-19 was a normal procedure for him as well as it has been for the whole world. “Dealing with this whole COVID-19 has been a big adjustment and you just have to be more aware and be cautious. We don´t have the freedom to move around as much, but overall despite all the problems, I´m so glad that I can still play the game. CSKA has done a great job having the team plane and making everything as easy as possible when we travel. The only difference to the whole traveling now than before Corona is more testing and paper work”, added Darrun Hilliard. This is now his second season living in Moscow that almost houses 12 million people and despite having lived in big US cities like Philadelphia, San Antonio and Detroit, it has been a big adjustment calling the Russian city his second home. “I come from a small town and at times it can be overwhelming. I would compare Moscow to the hustle and bustle of New York city. There isn´t a lot of sunshine in the day and the sun goes down early. CSKA have done a great job providing us with drivers and nannies, but I´m a home body anyway. I´m always home recovering”, expressed Darrun Hilliard. On the court, CSKA Moscow haven´t been great, but fairly good, but it´s still early in the season. They have been very strong in the Euroleague siting in position 3 with a 6-3 record and in the VTB have a 4-2 record and are in 2nd place. The club has done a good job keeping part of the roster intact with top Euroleague guard Mike James, Americans Will Clyburn, Daniel Hackett and Joel Bolomboy and German national player Johannes Voigtmann while adding some spice to the roster with Georgian Tornike Shengelia and Russian Nikola Milutinov. “The team is different in many ways and it also feels like a new team. Many guys are still getting adjusted which shows in certain points of the game. We lost some key guys from last season, but I feel that we can be special. We want to build on from the season we had last season and get the right chemistry to go all the way”, warned Darrun Hilliard. The club lost a key player in Mr Euroleague Kyle Hines, but also won a new face in versatile big man Tornike Shengelia. Even if many may think you could never replace a Hines, a Shengelia is a very special player and will make many in Moscow proud. “Both have special characters. Both are natural leaders and have that special aura with them. They both have the knack to do the right thing every time. On the floor Kyle won multiple trophies and off the court, nobody can say anything bad about him. That speaks volumes about his character. It was a huge blow losing him. I wish him the best in Milan and hope his family loves Italy”, commented Daruun Hilliard. The American has seen it all having experienced so much in the NCAA, seen Kobe and Lebron in the NBA and now become a solid Euroleague player. He definitely isn´t the player he was once at Villanova or in the NBA or before boarding a flight to Spain in late summer 2018. He has come a long way and has taken on an interesting development and stretched his game to new heights being able to call himself a real European player. “I´m really thankful for Jay Wright allowing me to grow and evolve at Villanova. He was patient with me and allowed me o grow each year. I had a different and bigger role each season. In the NBA, you just have to be in the right situation, be patient and have a coach and style that you can flourish in. I´m glad I could show my game in the G-league and help win a title while improving my game. When I came to Europe, I really didn´t know what to expect. The natural thought process of a player coming overseas from the NBA is to put up big stats in Europe and return to the NBA. But it doesn´t work like that. I slowly began to figure out my game with Baskonia. With CSKA coach Itoudis has done a good job always finding new ways to challenge me. It is obvious that I have a different role than a James or Clyburn who are our heavy hitters. They need the ball. I want to be able to play like them. I know that I won´t get a crazy amount of shots like they do, but I just have to find my spots and take advantage of each situation. I just have to be efficient and control what I can control meaning being ready to take shots and to knock them down”, warned Darrun Hilliard. The sky is still the limit for him. He has NBA experience and can prove at any time, he can be the best player on the floor in a Euroleague game or a ACB game. If he will ever return to the NBA is unknown, but guys like PJ Tucker or Brian Roberts have shown it can be done coming from Europe. If he doesn´t get back to the NBA, he will surely carve a fine Euroleague career and whenever he does step into the circle before a game have those unending special Kobe moments. Perhaps a young player will have that ambition to sneak to the circle and shake Hilliard´s hand. Basketball dreams never end for any one old or young and won´t end for Hilliard either as he continues to play the game he loves overseas.
Shavon Coleman is a 28 year old 196cm forward from Thibodaux, Louisiana that is playing his sixth professional season and first in Germany with the SYNTAINICS MBC Weissenfels (Germany-BBL). Last season he split time with the Kangoeroes Basket Mechelen (Belgium-Euromillions League) playing 16 games: Score-3 (16.8ppg), Reb-5 (7.1rpg), 1.6apg, 1.6spg, FGP: 51.9%, 3PT: 32.2%, FT: 68.9%, then signed at Hapoel Unet Holon (Israel-Winner League) playing 9 games averaging 13.7ppg, 5.2rpg, 1.3spg, FGP: 56.8%, 3PT: 41.9%, FT: 67.9%. he began his basketball career with Thibodoux High School an dthen played a season with Howard College, TX (JUCO). He then finished at Louisiana State University (NCAA) averaging 10.5ppg, 5.9rpg, 1.4spg, FGP: 47.5%, 3PT: 30.2%, FT: 70.3% as a junior and as a senior averaged9.1ppg, 4.3rpg, 1.9apg, 1.5spg, FGP: 41.9%, 3PT: 35.8%, FT: 75.7%. He played his professional rookie season with Al Khor (Qatar-D1). He then played two seasons with Amicale Steinsel (Luxembourg-Total League) averaging 19.1ppg, Reb-3 (11.7rpg), 2.1apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 57.6%, 3PT: 37.2%, FT: 66.0% and averaging -4 (25.4ppg), Reb-2 (13.1rpg), 1.8apg, 1.5spg, FGP: 54.8%, 3PT: 38.8%, FT: 69.4%. In the 2018-2019 season he played with Dutch Windmills (Holland-Eredivisie) playing 29 games: Score-5 (16.7ppg), Reb-3 (8.7rpg), 2.2apg, Steals-5 (2.2spg), FGP: 46.8%, 3PT: 39.1%, FT: 76.4%. He spoke to germanhoops.com during the summer of 2020 about basketball.
Shavon thanks for talking to germanhoops.com. Where are you at the moment and how has your summer been despite the whole COVID-19 effecting the world?
I am currently in Germany right now and this is where I will be for the next 9 months playing. My summer has been great, I got the chance to go out to Israel and finish the season off with Holon so that was great for me.
How have you experienced the whole COVID-19 crisis in the last 6 months? From your season ending in Belgium to coming back and playing in Israel in July. How many Quarentines did you have to do and how did you survive?
The whole COVID-19 has been a real challenge for me. It’s something that I never experienced but had to make the best out of the situation. I got to spend more time with my family than I usually get to do. The bad thing is that our season ended early when our team was playing great ball heading into the playoffs. When I went out to Israel I had to quarantine for 14 straight days without leaving the house was really tough.
How much did the last 6 months change your life and how much of a challenge was it finding the time and places to be able to stay in shape and be able to work on your game?
It didn’t change my life at all because I’m still the same person regardless of the situation. It was a challenge because nothing was opening to get in a gym to workout. I went out to buy a basketball goal and put in in my backyard to get shots up and did out door workouts in my backyard as well. So that kept me in a little shape.
How do you feel did COVID-19 make you stronger as a man?
COVID-19 made me realize how important family is and any day that person could be taken from you. I had to be strong for the people who count on me every day.
Congrats on signing with German team SYNTAINICS MBC Weissenfels (Germany-BBL). How excited are you to be playing in the best league so far in your career after having to pay your dues the past 5 seasons?
I am excited to be playing in the top league in Germany. I think it’s another challenge for me as a basketball player to be able to compete with some of the best players in the world. I belong in the top leagues I believe in myself and know what I’m capable of doing on the court.
Have you already marked the date on the calendar when you will play against your ex LSU teammate Keith Hornsby? Have you followed his career?
No I haven’t marked a dated when I will play Keith. I don’t look pass other teams and take one game at a time. But when we get to play each other it was be fun playing against a formal teammate from college. Yes, I keep up with all the guys I went to school with.
You stated in the club press release that you chose the SYNTAINICS MBC Weissenfels (Germany-BBL) because it is the right step in your career. What impressed you most in the early talks with head coach Silvano Poropat?
What stood out to me was that I would be playing in the BBL a league I always talked about playing in some day. I like a challenge and seeing where this team was last year I challenge myself to help this team climb up in the rankings.
How big is the chip on your shoulder? You have had a long way up the basketball ladder starting in Juco and really had a successful career being a top player in Luxemburg winning titles and showing your consistency in Holland, Belgium and Israel. Do you feel like having that chip ben a big reason for your success, because without it you probably wouldn’t have had the desire to always get better and move up.
I always play with a chip on my shoulders because I feel I get over looked so I always tell myself that I have to lay it all on the line every time I step on the court. Me as a person I always ask myself what can I do to get better as a person and basketball player. I love winning and would do anything to win games.
Let’s talk about your game. You’re a 196cm forward that plays the 3-4, can score, rebound and is a very good defender. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would best fit the description?
I don’t really compare myself to nobody I just try to be the best version of myself.
You can do so much on the court, but what do you honestly feel is your absolute biggest asset on the court when you go to battle?
Not letting the person I am guarding score. When I can get a few stops that really gets me going.
You have always been a very good rebounder and really picked it up in Luxemburg. What has always been your personal secret to being successful at getting rebounds?
I always been a great rebounder at my size I think lol. It’s just something that you have to want to do. I always told myself if I could rebound I know I could get playing time on the court. So as a freshman in high school I made that something to do to see minutes on the court.
Free throw shooting continues to be a work in progress. Why do you feel has this been area that has been tougher for you to grow in?
It’s crazy because I shoot the ball so well lol but it’s just a mind thing you know. I just have to settle down and really take my time and knock them down.
On what area’s of your game have you been working on most this past summer as you get ready to compete in the easyCredit BBL a top league in Europe?
I been working more on my midrange pull up game.
Last season you began with the Kangoeroes Basket Mechelen (Belgium-Euromillions League) playing 16 games: Score-3 (16.8ppg), Reb-5 (7.1rpg), 1.6apg, 1.6spg, FGP: 51.9%, 3PT: 32.2%, FT: 68.9%. How much easier did a guy like Rayshawn Simmons make your game with his game? Did you have a special bond to him being he is also a guy like you that has been paying his dues as a player
Ray made the game real easy for me because we would watch film on where he could get me the ball to make plays. I know he was always someone I could count on in a game because we had that bond and connection together
You finished the season with Hapoel Unet Holon (Israel-Winner League) playing: 9 games averaging 13.7ppg, 5.2rpg, 1.3spg, FGP: 56.8%, 3PT: 41.9%, FT: 67.9%. What kind of experience was it being one of the few players that was able to finish the season and not have fans?
It was a real great experience but I know not too many people were able to play in the summer. I got to play against some real good Competition and great teams. I got to see where my game was by competing against some ex NBA players and lottery pick players.
What kind of experience was it playing against top Euroleague team Maccabi Tel Aviv? You held your own with a double double with 11/10? Despite the loss was this still a special game for you as you proved that you can be as good as the opponents top players?
16. The experience was really great you getting a chance to play a Euroleague Team. That’s where I want to be one day playing with a Euroleague team as well. But to see that I could complete with those players only game me more motivation to get there. I just believe in myself.
Did you take the opportunity to find some chit chat with ex NBA player Amare Stoudimire? How special for you was it being able to duel against him?
Me as a player I don’t like talking to other players on the opposite team because I’m competing against them to win the game. I was always taught not to have friends on the court but I spoke with him after the game saying good luck and stay healthy.
How much of a bonus was it being able to talk championships with teammate Guy Pnini who has won 13 titles in Israel? You won 5 titles in Luxemburg and are hungry to win some more before all is said and done.
It was real good hearing the success Guy has had in his career. Always good to hear those great things, it makes you to go out and win more championships.
In 2018-2019 you had an exceptional season with Dutch Windmills (Holland-Eredivisie) playing 29 games: Score-5 (16.7ppg), Reb-3 (8.7rpg), 2.2apg, Steals-5 (2.2spg), FGP: 46.8%, 3PT: 39.1%, FT: 76.4%. How important was this season for you mentally coming off 2 explosive seasons in Luxemburg and then continuing to show you’re a-game and be successful in a higher league?
It was real important because I know I was moving up to a better league and wanted to show I can complete on any level I’m in. We were having a successful season because our team were winning but I was still able to perform at a high level as well.
You played 2 seasons in Luxemburg for Amicale Steinsel (Luxembourg-Total League) winning 5 titles. The percentage of pro players in Europe at the moment that can say they have won 5 titles or more is low. How do you feel did your leadership skills improve most in this time?
In Luxembourg I won 6 titles 2 super cups, 2 cup championships and 2 Total League championships. I feel I have always been a leader but winning those championships I know what it takes to get the job done. It’s the hardest thing to do but putting in the work and locking in is a big reason we were able to win those championships. Playing as a team and having roles got us those ships.
You played 62 games in Luxemburg scoring in double figures in 60 games and scored 20 points or more 35 times, scored 50 points once and had 40 points or more 4 times and 30 points or more 12 times and had 44 double doubles That is very impressive. Did you feel like a man playing with boys?
I felt like all the hard work I put into my game was paying off for me. I work extremely hard in the offseason and as you can tell the numbers I was putting up paid off.
You scored 50 points against Contern on 18-28 shooting including 10 three’s. Is there anything special you can still remember about this game that you will remember forever?
The thing I will remember the most about scoring 50 points was my team was able to get the win that night and everyone was happy to see me put on a great performance.
You played your rookie season with Al Khor (Qatar-D1). What was your wake up call to being a rookie in Qatar where you knew you were very far away from home?
My wake up call from my rookie year was it’s just not a game. People really feed their families from basketball and it’s not room for too many mistakes.
What was your coolist moment there off the court? Did you experience any wild parties in a palace?
The night life in Qatar was really great and I didn’t expect it to be like that at all. Most parties would be on the 45th floor and they get crazy in there lol.
You began your basketball career with Howard College, TX (JUCO). How important were these early years in your development? What was the most positive things that you gained from this experience?
My JUCO years were very important because that’s were my aggressiveness on defense came from. My coach was big on his players playing defense. I learned what it’s like to play team ball and have great chemistry.
You then played at Louisiana State University (NCAA) from 2012-2014 winning the SEC 6th player of the year and as a senior reached the NIT Sweet 16. How do you feel did your game grow most in the NCAA?
I feel my game elevated a lot once I got to LSU. I had everything I needed to help my game grow. Access to the gym and weight 24/7. Coaches spent a lot of time working with me to get better.
What memories do you have playing against Kentucky where you contributed 8 points. How satisfying was it being able to compete against one of the best basketball schools in the country?
The biggest memory I have against Kentucky was beating them at LSU on a snowy night.
How much of a pleasure was it playing with future NBA player Johnny O’Bryant and Jordan Mickey? How sure were you that they would reach the big show?
It was great playing with those guys in college. We all knew those guys would play in the NBA one day. The work they put in everyday and dominating every game like they did every night
How did head coach Johnny Jones groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
Coach Jones let me be myself because he knew when I was on the court I was going to leave everything on the court.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Tim Quarterman?
Me and Tim never played 1 on 1.
Who was the toughest player that you battled in the NAIA or anywhere that went to the NBA?
To many players to name lol lot of tough players.
Please list your 5 best teammates of all-time?
RayShawn Simmons, Billy McDanials, Johnny O Bryant, Jito Kok, Bob Melcher
Please construct your personal NBA Mount Rushmore of past or present players?
MJ, LBJ, Kareem, Shaq,Kobe
What is your personal opinion between the never ending debate between Michael Jordan and Lebron James concerning who is the greatest of all-time?