Marcus Smallwood is a 28 year 198cm forward playing his second season in Germany fort he PRO A team Kaiserslautern.
He is from Elgin, Illinois and played at Northern Illinois from 2000-2004. He came to Europe for his rookie season and played for Ostromecko Astoria Bydgoszcz (Poland-EBL): 4 games: 9.5ppg, 9.0rpg: was released in and later that month signed at Pyrbasket Tampere (Finland-Sparliiga): 6 games: 13.5ppg, 10.8rpg, 1.2bpg, FGP: 59%, and also played shortly at Solna Vikings (Sweden-Basketligan): 3 games: 8.3ppg, 5.3rpg, 1.0bpg. The next season, he played in Finland for Forssan Koripojat (Finland-1st Division, starting five): 26 games: 19.7ppg, Reb-2(11.1rpg), 1.3apg, 1.0spg, Blocks-1(1.4bpg), 2FGP-3(64.1%), 3PT: 31.6%, FT: 56.2%. 2006: Elgin Racers (IBL). He had a very strong season in Finland, but surprisingly in the next few years played only briefly in the IBL for the Elgin Racers.
Last season, he played for Kaiserslautern playing 30 games: 9.0ppg, 5.5rpg, FGP: 61.3%, FT: 40.7%. He took some time to talk to German Hoops.
Marcus, you are playing your second season with Kaiserslautern of the PRO A. How do you like the style of the PRO A ?
I think the style of Pro A is a lot more physical and tough than people would imagine. The main reason for this is because it’s a league full of players hungry to show people how good they are who might have overlooked them other places and want to prove themselves!
If someone had told you before the season started that Kaiserslautern would be in 3rd place with four games to go what would have said?
I might have given them a crazy look because it was such a different place then where we finished at as a team last year, but I’m the type of person that thinks anything is possible if you work hard enough.
What were the goals of the team as the season started?
I think the most realistic goal our team had was to just develop a basketball team that the people of Homburg/Kaiserslautern could get behind and be proud of on and off the court.
Currently the team is in 3rd place with an 18-8 record. Why has the team been so successful this season?
The 3 main reasons are that 1) our GM Stephan Seile did a great job of putting together players that fit our team puzzle 2) We have players that came from very successful clubs and brought that winning mentality over to our team this year such as Rob Cardenas (MBC) and Whit Holcomb-Faye (Bayreuth) and also a great captain in Carl Mbassa. And reason 3) We have followed the game plan set out day in and day out by our coach Nenad Josipovic.
Cuxhaven is in second place with two wins more and four games to go. How realistic does the team see getting past Cuxhaven and getting the last spot to advance to the BEKO BBL?
As a team we only give focus on our next opponent because the only thing we can control is how well we play the next 4 games starting with our next opponent and hopefully everything else will work out the way it’s supposed to.
Anything is possible in basketball as is evident in the NCAA tournament each year. What has been the biggest surprise that you experienced this season on the court in the PRO A?
The biggest surprise actually came from being on the same court as my teammate Walt Baxley when he scored 50 points I’ve never had a teammate that has done that before so it was definitely something to see.
How much credit does coach Nenad Josipovic get for making this team work this season?
I think he has to get a big part of course because he has had to make decisions that aren’t always easy or maybe liked by everyone but he does what it takes to winand as a player you have to respect a coach who will make the tough decisions in order for your team to be successful.
What makes him such a strong coach?
I think the fact that his character is one that stays true to who he is and he doesn’t compromise or change his vision. If he feels that something needs to be done that is for the good of the whole team then he does it and that is why as players we have continued to follow the vision he has set out for us.
Manager Stephan Seile also needs to be mentioned for building a strong team. He had some problems at the start of the season releasing a few players, but on a whole built a competitive team. What was the most important missing part that was inserted this year?
By far it’s the great players we have that do their job every day in practice but might not get the playing time or accolades as much as they might somewhere else. Without players like Patrick Taubert, Theo Tarver, Stephan Cramer and Robert Cardenas there is no way our team comes close to the level of success that we have right now, because you only play once a week and you practice 5 days a week so without great practices you can’t have great games.
It seems like each year, there is a player that develops nicely in Kaiserslautern and then advances to the BEKO BBL. Two years ago it was BG Goettingen forward Chris Oliver. Who do you think will make the jump this season? Possibly Marcus Smallwood?
Well a big goal for me has always been to develop my game and body so I’m able to play at a high level of basketball such as the BBL . But it’s my opinion that we have the best point guard in the league in Whit Holcomb-Faye, a guard with great scoring ability in Walt Baxley and one of the best young Germans in Pro A in Tim Schwartz. So along with myself I feel all of them have the talent and ability to play in the BBL also.
The roster has a good mix of five Americans and many Germans. How well did the two Nationalities mesh together? It might be a cliché that the young Germans look up to the Americans or am I wrong?
Well I definitely think most of our young Germans look up to Whit. He has been here before and has great experience and is a fun guy to be around. But I also think a big reason for our success is our teams mutual respect for one another.
You have made a big turn in your stats from last season averaging 14,5ppg and 9,5rpg this season. Did any thing change with your game this season that got you higher stats?
The thing that helped the most is that I dedicated my entire summer to working out 4 to 5 hours a day to get my body to a level where I could be productive every game. The only thing that changed besides that was just having a bigger belief in my self and what I could accomplish this season.
You average many rebounds for 198 cm. What makes you such a strong rebounder?
Well I always say I’m 201 cm because you play with shoes on, haha. No but seriously it’s something I love to do and that I take pride in doing. In college my Dad told my Coach that he thought I could really average a double double I wanted to and in my junior year I did. So I guess I’m such a strong rebounder because my dad gave me such a belief that I could be and it’s my favorite thing to do on the court beside catching ally opps from Whit.
What is a secret about your game that nobody knows about?
Haha if I told you then it wouldn’t be a secret and then I might lose my edge sorry Miles but I have to keep my mouth closed!
Can you take your game to the next level to the BEKO BBL?
The thing I like most about the BBL is that its full of great players such as Jeff Gibbs and Derrick Allen who were very hard working and when given the opportunity were able to prove themselves on that Level. I always try to be hard working and if given the opportunity I would everything in my power to have success on that level as well, but of course my first wish would be to play in the BBL with the Braves!
The team has many Germans, but one of the youngest and who has much potential is Tim Schwartz. What is your impression and how far can he take his game?
First of all Tim is a great guy and very humble for someone with his ability and potential. Tim has the potential to do a lot of things basketball wise with his ability because he’s super athletic. I feel that if he works on his game every day this summer and makes the commitment to improve his overall game he could be a great contributor on any level next year Pro A or BBL just like he is this year.
What was it like practicing a few months almost daily with Maik Zirbes. He is a big beast isn’t he. How much potential does he have and where do you see him in 5 years?
Yeah the first thing I thought is “this guy is only how old you’ve got to be kidding me”! Since Maik has joined us he has definitely made our team better and with constant improvement I don’t see why he couldn’t be one of the best Big Men in Germany I honestly believe that.
A real talented player is American Whit Holcomb-Faye. Why is he in the PRO A still and not in the BEKO BBL?
Well just like any Job there are only so many openings for so many players. The bottom line is he is in my opinion the best point guard in the Pro A and was just selected as player of the month last month so this view is probably shared by a big part of the league as well. So sometimes the timing just isn’t right or he was meant to be here right now to lead this team into the BBL, but we will see in a few weeks!
With what American do you have the best relationship with?
I think all of our guys are great but if I had to single someone out I would say Whit but only because his and my basketball experiences are so similar. And also because out of all of our guys I look at him as the person who leads this team and playing with him has really made me a better player.
Who wins a one on one game, you or Theodis Tarver?
I think we actually had a drill in practice and he smacked one of my shots to half court haha! So of course I have to say my self but it would be close like 7 to 6 and I would have to use A LOT of pump fakes because he’s got really long arms.
You are from Elgin, Illinois . What was your childhood like?
Well I was very lucky to have parents that always stood behind my basketball dreams so much that they moved to a different city just so I could stay at my high school to play for a coach I really loved. So it was one of great support from my parents.
Who were your NBA idols?
I was actually more of a wrestling fan growing up which probably explains my strong man game, haha. So outside of Hulk Hogan my biggest idol was Kevin Garnett always works hard day in and day out
To what NBA player could you compare your game to?
I’d have to stay someone like Paul Milsap for the Jazz…not very flashy or maybe a star but just a guy who works hard and gets the job done.
You played at Northern Illinois from 2000-2004. What were your most fond memories from there?
Unfortunately we never made the tournament but the best game memory I had was putting up 21 points and 18 rebounds against a Notre Dame team that was in the Top 25 and had two guys on the inside that were both over 6-8. The best memory by far though was all the great times I had with some off my teammates who are now some of my best friends.
In your senior year you averaged 14.3ppg, 9.4rpg, 1.9apg. Were you surprised that you did not get more interest from higher European countries?
Actually I was really just excited to have the opportunity to play in Europe because there was only two other people that I ever knew did it from our school Leon Rodgers and TJ Lux. But realistically I felt if our team would have had more success my senior season then I probably would have had more looks, because individual stats are ok but I feel they mean little if they can’t produce wins for your team.
In 2005-2006, you played in Finland for Forssan Koripojat (Finland-1st Division, starting five): 26 games: 19.7ppg, Reb-2(11.1rpg), 1.3apg, 1.0spg, Blocks-1(1.4bpg), 2FGP-3(64.1%), 3PT: 31.6%, FT: 56.2%. You tore up the league. Was the league really as easy as your stats showed?
Actually each team had about 2 or 3 Americans but I don feel it would be on the same level as the Pro A in Germany. So I wouldn’t say it was super easy because I still had to work hard but it definitely was an easier league.
However after this great year, you didn’t advance to a higher league, but played in the IBL. What happened in these two years?
Well I put a lot of trust in the agent I had at the time and the only reason I went back to Finland to play in that league you mentioned was because the year before that which was my first out of college, I bounced around a lot and thought if I showed I could stay an entire season with one team then I would be able to advance on to a bigger and better job and my agent told me this as well. However he wasn’t able to produce any significant jobs and a big part of me thought it was because I wasn’t good enough as a player. so I was devastated like you couldn’t imagine and thought maybe it was time to move on.
So for the next two years I worked for two great companies doing job recruitment and sales but I never really felt like it was for me. So in 2008 I was asked to come to an ABA tryout for the Chicago Steam by a great guy named Ron Hicks and after the game he just said “man you still got some gas in the tank and you need to go back to playing’’. So literally that day he called my current agency Courtside and two days after that call I came to Frankfurt Germany to attend their players camp and that is where I met the owners of the Braves who gave me my current basketball job. To this day I’m not sure if my agency Courtside or the Braves understand how much them giving me this opportunity meant to me, because it was like they gave hope back to my basketball dreams and gave direction again, because basketball has always been such a huge part of me and without it for those 2 years I really didn’t recognize who I was. So I guess for anybody who’s in that same situation if you keep faith and belief in yourself then somehow an opportunity to do what you really want will somehow present itself to you.
What goals do you still have as a player?
Well in this last year I have discovered that I could work and train harder then I ever imagined I could and a big reason for that was my coach from last year Marcel Schroeder who showed me so much in the weight room and on the court. So even though I’m a little older now my main goal is constant improvement to see how much more I can develop my body and basketball abilities in order to play a high level of basketball.
What would you like to do after your basketball career?
I will probably do personal development for high school aged basketball players. I have been lucky to learn a lot of great things nutrition, physical and basketball wise that have helped me in my career and to be able to share that with someone at that age would be the best job I could imagine for myself outside of playing.
What was your most crazy shot ever in a game or practice?
I can’t really think of any off the top of my head but my teammate Mirko Damjanovic is more of the crazy shot guy. He makes at least one trick shot in practice every week that I have never seen before!
What are your hobbies?
My biggest is working out in the gym because I basically live there but besides that I love reading, watching movies and cooking, because I eat A LOT.
What was the last DVD movie that you saw?
Great movie called “An Education”.
Thanks Marcus for the interesting interview!