Who ever thought that Goettingen’s success during the 2008/09 campaign was just some sort of cinderella story that had to come to an end sooner or later has to admit that the team looks as hot as last season at the moment. The road win in Berlin (check out the highlights) must have convinced all doubters that MEG Goettingen is probably again one of those teams that should still be playing in May and maybe even June.
Head coach John Patrick had to deal with losing keyplayers like Kyle Bailey, Charles Lee and Clif Brown. But Goettingen also managed to keep important players with Chris Oliver, Ben Jacobson, Jason Boone, Robert Kulawick and John Little. They all improved a lot over the summer and helped to fill the gap. With Taylor Rochestie, Chester Frazier, Chris McNaughton and Dwayne Anderson the 41-year old Patrick found perfect additions to the roster.
Unlike the other two sensations from last season Ulm and Paderborn MEG Goettingen find themselves in a nice position at the end of 2009. They managed to win 9 of their first 14 BBL games and lead Group A of the EuroChallenge competition with a record of 3-1.
MEG Goettingen Center Jason Boone took some time to review one of the most successful years in Goettingen’s basketball history.
Many people did not expect Goettingen to be as good as last season. How did the team manage to compensate the loss of Kyle Bailey, Charles Lee and Clif Brown so easily?
It’s never easy losing players of that caliber but our coach has done a great job of finding new guys who are willing to work hard and buy into our system. Those “people” that didn’t think we’d be as good as last season are probably the same “people” that didn’t think we would finish with a strong record last season. One of the biggest joys in playing the game of basketball is showing those “people” that it’s more about hard work than talent.
If people talk about tactics Goettingen was always reduced to the 40 minutes of full court press defense. This season the team seems to be a lot more versatile defensively. In what ways changed the way Goettingen plays defense this season?
We are always referred to as the team who provides 40 minutes of hell but I think it’s about out working other teams. At this level we know there are players that can score the basketball, we just want to make every trip up the court, every pass, and every offensive move as hard as we can make it. Whether we pick up full court or not, we want to get players doing things that they don’t like doing.
If last year’s team could play against the present one what advantages/disadvantages would you see? And who would win this imaginary game?
That’s funny, I asked Ben Jacobson that about a week ago and we agreed that the game would be a good one. Last year we had more “talent” but I don’t know if we worked as hard, and I think the saying is “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” I like this years squad to win because I think it’s safe to say that Robert Kulawick, John Little, Chris Oliver and I have all gotten better over the summer.
With Taylor Rochestie Göttingen really has signed a nice steal. I can’t remember any other BBL rookie playing so crafty and coolly. He is certainly one of the big names in the Rookie of the Year race. Did you expect him to have such a deep impact on the team when he arrived? He still looks very young and one would not expect him to have nerves of steel.
I like to mess with Taylor because I’m from NY and he’s from California and as we all know, people from New York are a lot tougher but I honestly think that he’s one of the toughest players I’ve ever played with. Not in terms of physicality, but mentally, he plays an extraordinary amount of confidence whether we are on the road playing against the first place team or at home against the last place team. And I think it’s contagious.
In Rochestie’s vocabulary the term “rookie wall” does not seem to exist. Do you think he can keep up with that?
It’s tough coming to the BBL straight from college, a big adjustment, but Taylor has played at a very high level his entire life. Between Conference USA, the Pac-10 and the Lakers Summer League team, it’s not even fair to call him a rookie.
It has been a fantastic year for Goettingen’s basketball. Reviewing 2009: What was your nicest basketball memory?
Winning in Oldenburg when they were in first place last season was good, beating Alba in Berlin last week was also nice since they were number one. But I’d say the best moment was getting that playoff win in Gottingen. After that first game we did not play as well as we had all season, but that initial game was a great one.
For the first time in the club’s history the team also plays in a European Competition. How much does the team benefit from playing against teams from other European countries? Or do those EuroChallenge games during the week harm your league performances, because you guys are tired at the week-end?
I love the European Competition. It forces us to stay sharp during the week and it’s always good to go up against players other than your teammates. Those games mean a lot to the club, the city, the fans and us so it’s never a problem “getting up” for them. Sometimes it’s good to rest up for the league games but I don’t see it being a problem.
Besides Oldenburg Göttingen is the only to that remained unbeaten at home so far. What makes it so hard for opponent teams to win in Lokhalle? It looks like the Lokhalle is a Lokhölle (Lok-Hell) again this season?
You would have to ask our opponents for the answer to that one. I’ve played in gyms with more people, and I’ve played in louder gyms and the home court advantage goes a long way, but the Lokhalle is a great place to play. The fans are amazing and very supportive, and as long as they keep it up I think we will continue to be very successful at home.
With the exception of your favorite opponent Oldenburg (two huge wins last season) you have played against many great teams like Berlin, Bamberg, Frankfurt and the Artland Dragons so far. What team impressed you the most?
The BBL teams never cease to amaze me. I have a ton of respect for all of the teams in the league. A lot of teams play differently than us (whether it’s because of the coach or the players) but I think there’s a lot to learn from every game. I was really impressed with Bonn last season and I’d probably give the edge to Berlin this year.
Let’s talk about your career. Ever since you started your professional career with Lok Bernau you improved from year to year. This season you average more than twice as many points as last year. Is it just that you and Chris Oliver need to fill the gap Clif Brown’s departure caused? Or do you feel like you improved your offensive arsenal?
I think once you stop trying to improve it’s time to stop playing the game of basketball. Mike Meeks joined our team and he’s pushing 50 years old (just kidding) but he’s in his 30’s and he is still out there learning and trying to improve on things. Even if it’s something as small as preparing for practice, staying late to stretch, or any number of other things. I had to chance to workout with an NBA trainer this summer and it did a lot for my confidence and skill work. But knowing that I still have a long way to go motivates me to keep on improving.
Talking about improvement: Last season everyone was picking on you because of your poor free throw shooting (43%). What happened to you during the off-season? Now average about 67%! Did you especially work on your free throws this summer? And what is you secret?
No interview is complete without that question huh? I think it’s about confidence again. Once you miss a couple and you start thinking too much, you don’t want to get fouled because you are afraid you are going to miss. For me it was just getting back to knowing that if I attack the basket on offense, I’m going to either score or draw a foul more times than not, and I know it hurts the team to leave as many points on the free throw line as I did last year. So it was just repetition, I shot FT’s everyday this summer and once you start making them, they get easier and easier.
Is there still room for improvement so that we can nickname you Boone-ovic in the future?
There is always room for improvement but we need to come up with a better nickname than that.
If you look at 2010 what are your personal goals and what are your wishes for the team? Having a healthy roster for the post season?
Personally, I want to make sure that I remain a highly effective player. As long as I stay out of foul trouble I think I can finish the season as a top-rebounder in the league but my wish for Gottingen is to be playing our best basketball come playoff time. Last year we peaked in the spring but were bitten by injuries. I do hope we stay healthy and continue to improve.
Thanks for the chat, Jason. And all the best for 2010 and the rest of the season!