Three time BBL All-Star Brandon Woudstra retired quietly this summer. I had the opportunity to do an interview with Brandon a couple of weeks ago that was published on Eurobasket. Since Eurobasket only publishes the latest 20 news and posts this interview was about to disappear. Due to the request of some readers I decided to publish the full interview on German Hoops as well.
So this is a compementary post and information to the “Brandon Woudstra retires quietly” report. Most of Brandon’s answers can be found in the report, but those who already know about it will find some additional questions and answers here.
Usually players don’t retire at the age of 29 unless severe injuries force them to. What were the main reasons for you to stop playing basketball?
The main reason was my family. We were expecting our second child and we wanted to be in a place we felt comfortable for the birth and it got to be a lot more work and stress taking a family back and forth. The summer went on and the opportunities I had to play somewhere were not where we thought was best for us at the time, so we decided to stay home for the time being.
The season has started some weeks ago. Do you miss the competition or does it feel right to stay in the states with your family?
I definitely miss the competition, but there are some good things about being home as well. I would say both of those things are true.
Are you still following the BBL? And are you still in touch with some of your ex-team mates?
I check the website a couple of times a week to see how teams and former teammates are doing. Keeps my German up too. I talk to a few guys, but not as many as I would like. I had more free time when I was playing to do those things.
Let’s review your professional career: Coming from a division 2 college certainly did not help starting a pro career. How did you end up in Iceland? And what are your thoughts about that time?
I went to a few agent and professional combines after college, because no one really wanted to give me a chance coming from a small school. Finally in September, a team from Iceland called me up and I took the offer. It was a great decision. I enjoyed it, and learned a lot and it helped me get my foot in the door.
It is interesting to see that there are several players who started a successful career in Iceland. E.g. Derrick Allen has been there too. Would you say it is a nice place to adapt to the european game?
I think so… and it forces you to be a key player for your team. With the way the American rules are set up in most countries now you can come into a bigger league and be a role player, which may not prepare you as well. When I first started playing it was always two Americans, and in smaller countries you were expected to contribute heavily. I think this really helps you develop as a player when you have those types of expectations. DA’s teams and ours had our battles in Iceland, so it was fun to play with him in Leverkusen. AJ Moye, Jeb Ivey, and now BA Walker are all guys from the Keflavik/Njardivk teams that have been in the Bundesliga recently. There are also others from the other Icelandic teams as well.
In 2004 you had a sensational year in the Netherland’s Eredivisie with Woon!Aris Leeuwarden. The dutch league has a better reputation thanthe one in Iceland. How did you manage to produce MVP stats in a more competitive league?
Many times those are based on opportunities and I really just found a great groove during the season. I felt like I really improved through the Iceland and USBL experiences I had and I was placed a perfect situation in Holland. We were a new team moving up, the club had a lot of excitement and they put together a good team. We got off to a great start and made the playoffs for the only time in club history. Again, it was a situation where I was depended on heavily and grew because of it.
The following year you joined Bayer Giants Leverkusen. In your first year in Germany your team missed the play-offs, but your individual stats looked great for a rookie who has not played on that level before. How different was the style in BBL from the Netherlands and Iceland?
I think the biggest difference was the night in and night out competition. The smaller leagues have some very good teams but not as a whole for the league. You really find out that the any body can beat any body in the Bundesliga and you have to prepare each week. Obviously, the skill, size and athleticism of the Bundesliga were better as a whole.
If one reads the names of Leverkusen’s 2006/07 roster it looks like you guys should have been a championship calibre. A young John Goldsberry and you in the backcourt, athletic Jared Newson and scoring machine Derrick Allen on the forward positions, plus Nate Fox and Eric Taylor playing inside. Why couldn’t this team make a deep run in the post season?
It’s quite a roster and it took us a while to gel, and when we finally did we ended up reaching our potential by the end of the season. We had won 11 of 12 going into the playoffs and we really felt like we had a great chance to go deep. Ludwigsburg had a very good team that year and Jerry Green had a monster series against us. We felt like if we stole one on the road we would have a chance because of how we had played at home during the season, but they actually beat us twice at home which was the difference.
In2007 you decided to sign with EnBW Ludwigsburg. What were the main reasons for leaving Leverkusen? Playing ULEB Cup with Ludwigsburg certainly must have helped to sign with them, right?
There was not one reason as most things, there were quite a few. It was a two year deal at Ludwigsburg and the opportunity to play ULEB cup. There was a lot of uncertainty swirling around about Bayer’s plan to leave and I felt like the opportunity in Ludwigsburg was a good chance for me. It was a very hard decision because I really enjoyed playing for Kuczmann and the organization and fans there.
With Ronald Ross, Coleman Collins, Vincent Yarbrough, Heiko Schaffartzik and Michel Nascimento the team looked pretty strong. But surprisingly Ludwigsburg could not make the play-offs with this squad. What went wrong that year?
I would say it was definitely the injuries and transitioning of players. We never really had one team for the year. Vernon Hamilton, Ed Norvell, Charles Bennett, Chad Prewitt, Nate Harris, Lewis Monroe, Anthony Richardson, Vincent Yarbrough, Heiko Schaffartzik, Radi Zradkovic, Stefan Fahrad and myself were just to name a few of the players on and off the our active rosters. There may have been more. It really hurt to lose Nate Harris to injury early and I felt like my 6 week absence hurt our team’s rhythm during the playoff stretch. We were in 7th place when those injuries happened and then we went on a skid. When we got everybody back we made a run to the Cup final, but our season behind us held us from the playoffs.
Last season Rick Stafford took over in Ludwigsburg as a new head coach. Your role changed under Stafford’s guidance. And I never quite understood why he did not let you take more shots or run more systems for you. Did you feel comfortable during that last year with Ludwigsburg?
Coach Stafford never told me not shoot, but I just never got a rhythm or felt completely comfortable in our style of play and with the way things were. I think we both made real efforts to get the best out of myself during the season, but it did not click consistently. I had some very good games and some that were out of character. It was very frustrating at times.
You told me that retiring was something that was not entirely planned. Was there interest from german teams to sign you for this season?
There was but I felt the opportunities were not the ones I was looking for at the time.
Soon after retiring you decided to run a basketball school. It seems reasonable that a versatile player like you can teach kids to work on their fundamentals. How did that idea come up? And was it something you always had planned after finishing your pro career?
I had always done camps during summers when I was home and in Europe and I had thought it would be something I would do when I wasn’t playing. So the idea had always been there.
The first sessions have already been finishied. How much do you like your new role as a teacher/mentor and how did people respond to the whole program?
So far I have enjoyed it and the response has been very good. I am excited about where the program is going and I am proud of what its about and teaches. It’s fun to watch players develop, especially for those who really want it.
Some weeks ago you also spoke at Iowa Basketball Coaches Association and were followed by ESPN analysist Jay Bilas. Is professional coaching something you could possibly do as well in the future?
My dad has been a college coach for close to 30 years so I have been around the profession quite a bit. I can see myself doing it at some point, just not sure right now I am feeling the urge.
Do you think you will ever play professional basketball again? Or is your decision for lifetime?
I don’t think I can really say right now. If you would have told me 10 years ago I would have played professional basketball in the places I have played, I wouldn’t have expected it. So to say what will happen in the future is hard to say, only the Lord knows.