A Conversation With Jamaal Caterina

Jamaal Caterina is a 28 year old 198cm forward from Valhala, New York. He played at three schools before turning professional in 2008. He started at American where he played from 2002-2004. He then transferred to New Hampshire (NCAA) where he played from 2004-2006. He then finished his college career at Southern Maine(NCAA3). In his senior year, he played games 18 games averaging 18.0ppg, 9.4rpg, 2.7apg, FGP: 44.6%, 3PT: 32.6%, FT: 83.3%. In 2008-2009, he turned professional and played for the Worcester Wolves (United Kingdom-BBL): 2 games: 6.5ppg, 8.5rpg, 1.5apg, 2.5spg. Last season, he played for Casino Figueira Ginasio (Portugal-LPB), left in Jan.’10, because of injury: 6 games: 4.7ppg, 4.0rpg, 1.2apg. Currently he is the German capital Berlin working out and waiting for a call. German Hoops spoke with the American about basketball.

It was nice meeting you in Berlin at the Frankfurt game. What are you doing in Germany at the moment?

It was a pleasure meeting you as well Miles. I am in Germany currently because I was here for a Professional Basketball camp held by Premiere Sports and Chad Faulkner. I was MVP of the camp, which was held in Frankfurt. I was able to get a good workout in at the Skyliner’s great facility and was able to meet with the head coach and some assistants. I was also fortunate enough to meet a contact by the name of Ryke, who assists with the operations for the Chemnitz 99ers, which is also a great organization. Both clubs were very gracious and I am now on their radar as a future prospect. I have been in contact with several agents and am continuing to workout in Berlin and await possible contract opportunities. I have a scheduled workout with Magdeburg and possibly the b squad for Alba Berlin.

How do you know Anne Sophie Briest? I bet you learned something from her at the game since she is very basketball knowledgeable.

Anne and I have a common love for basketball and share a Yonkers connection! She is sexy, witty, charming, and down to earth, but there is definitely more than meets the eye for sure. She is both brains and beauty a deadly combination. Anne can talk and understand the strategies and emotions that run through basketball. She not only understands each positions , but also how the flow of a good game should go and makes observant comments throughout the game displaying knowledge and a unique passion for the game you don’t see in most females and certainly a fare share of males which is uncommon in this male dominated world of sports.

How did you like the game between Alba Berlin and the Deutsche Bank Skyliners? What is your impression of the German league?

The arena had a great basketball atmosphere with a fun energy! It was good to see faces young and old enjoying basketball played at a very high and competitive level. The fans were into the game and both teams competed very well. The speed of the game was dictated by players and coaches who seem to play disciplined, under control and smart team basketball. It was evident that there may be a little fast breaking and more one on one in the states and here in Germany team ball and the pick and roll is a big part of the basketball strategy. There are many great players here and the style of ball is exciting.

What two players impressed you the most? Let me guess Derrick Allen and Dashaun Wood?

Both those players seemed to be the strongest weapons for their teams. They both lead their teams with strong offense, intensity and play making on both ends of the court, while displaying a tough competitive spirit throughout the game. However both teams had adequate contributions from a number of players, but those two did stand out for their respected teams. Taylor for Alba Berlin definitely gave Alba a spark off the bench with hustle and strong awareness on defense and made key plays that were catalyst for the final outcome of the game.

You were practicing with The Deutsche Bank Skyliners recently. How did that come about? Did you sense that there was interest from that club?

I actually did not practice with the team. I was allowed to come workout in their gym with coaches near by, but they had much to do because there was a game for them that evening. I did get to meet the coach and some assistants and had a great workout so they definitely took notice. I am on their radar, but as we all know that programs has many interests from players eager to join the squad, but my ability to workout in front of them was a great opportunity and we will see what the future holds. After seeing the game I am sure I could be an asset for the team, but we will see.

Would you like to play in Germany. Would your game be suited for the style here?

I would love to play in Germany. I think it is a wonderful place to have a career and also get a worldly experience on and off the court. With fans like Anne and a tremendous city like Berlin anyone would see this as a great opportunity to play here. I have the ability to play a multiple of positions that any coach could use to fit into their system. I learn quickly and understand the fundamentals of the game, which is a big part of European basketball in general. I can adapt to any style and Germany is very competitive with basketball, which would be a thriving atmosphere for the development of my skill set and knowing all this makes me feel like Germany would be a great place to continue my career.

You are a 198cm forward. What is the biggest strength in your game?

Well, I have a diverse skill set, which allows me to play a multiple of positions. I am a well round player with height, strength, great ball handling, athletic ability, passing and court vision, rebounding, defense, and shooting ability. So with any team I am sure I could be a useable and affective weapon to any team. I can adapt to what the coach wants. To simply put it I have the ability to be a “glue guy,” which means I have the ability to do a little of everything and what’s needed for that specific team affectively.

What is a strength in your game that doesn’t always get noticed right away?

There have been many cases where I was the taller of the players I was playing with so I get caught rebounding under the basket and turning and giving it to screaming point guards rather than receiving it on the run in the open court or dribbling myself end to end. Don’t get me wrong if someone is ahead the best way to advance is kick it up, but a lot of coaches want you to rebound and look for a guard right away even if they are next to you because traditionally that is the role of most big men without my ability instead of push and because of my height run automatically to the post. However I love to rebound and push the ball and can handle like any guard with the ability to make a multiple of passes under great control. When I am able to get the ball in the open court a variety of my abilities can really be shown, but on teams with a lot of guards who always want the ball and to bring it up combined with coaching styles that control and slow the game down without fast breaking this natural flow for the game I possess doesn’t always get to be seen right away until I simply do it, then the coaches always yell for me to rebound and go with it and like me to handle the ball to relieve pressure for guards and break presses, while taking bigger slower guys off the dribble on offense.

You played for Ginasio, in Figuera da Foz (Portugal-LPB) last season and left in Jan.’10, because of injury: 6 games: 4.7ppg, 4.0rpg, 1.2apg. How was that experience for you?

That experience was both bitter sweet Miles. I was able to see the beauty of another country, but the basketball experience was short and very testing on my soul. I played very well in my first game with 15 and 8 against the third place team in our league , which was 48hrs after my arrival and I was glad to help my team, which was struggling for a win. I followed it with a 20 plus and 12 rebound game in a Portugal Cup game. Only to get injured within the first ten minutes of my third game in Portugal. I then learned that getting treatment in a third world country was much more difficult than in the states, but I remained and tried to stick it out. So combined with pressure from my agent and coaches I really wanted to try and make it work for that season, I agreed to play injured and risk further injury. I was able to contribute my first game back and help my team get a win, but two games later I was hurt again despite my valiant efforts. I was then forced to return home and start rehab and look forward to another season. After the agent came to my practice during my first few weeks he assured me from what he could see my talents could see me go far in not only Portugal, but neighboring Spain and possibly other countries. That is why I tried to play hurt, but it just wasnt in my cards, but I am a fuller person for my experience their and have no regrets. I met great people and played the game I love and got to see a part of the world never imagined from my small apartment building I came from in Yonkers so for that alone I am greatful.

Are you at 100% again?

I am very healthy and it is due to great treatment upon my return to the U.S. and I have worked extremely hard in the summer and off season with professionals in the field of strength and conditioning . In preparation to get my body strong and durable to prevent further possibility of injury. I have been well tested and feel confident about my future and career simply because I have put a lot of work in and continue to work everyday to be the best athlete I can be!

You are from Valhala, New York. What was your childhood like?

Being from New York and living in places like the Bronx and Yonkers taught me to understand the value of family. I was living in horrible conditions that saw me and my brother without access to a playground near by that had more than one swing, a rusty ring at the top of a pole for a hoop, and drugs, violence and prostitution everywhere. But inside my mother did the best she could and taught us that family and hard work would get us out of this situation and those morals and ideals have stuck with me forever. By the grace of god we soon moved from there to live with my grandparents in Maine. Where my mother ended her career with basketball and began coaching. So my brother and I were introduced to the gym and I haven’t been able to leave since. It was a huge culture shock for me, but the pace was so much slower and safer I quickly adapted and thrived through sports. By seeing these two dramatically different worlds I learned to appreciate opportunities and safe living that not everyone has been blessed to live in. However we were raised like we were still in New York and many times a year we returned to visit friends and family so I really had two worlds of childhood, but they have made me the well rounded man I am today and without the chip born on my shoulder from low income living in Yonkers catapulted my drive to succeed in all aspects of life. Being able to see how easily I could have ended up a statistic like so many of my mother and fathers friends and even kids I used to play with when there taught me how important family sticking together is and how where you start in life can impact your whole course of reality and life, but it doesnt have to be where you started from its where you finish!

Who were your NBA idols growing up?

I loved Mike Jordan and Scottie Pippen. I loved MJ for his drive to win, relentless work ethic, and confidence in his game and his style even though he was criticized from the beginning about things as minute as his shorts and that he made it to the NBA even when he got cut from high school. He was every inspirational for me. I loved Scottie Pippen because he was the silent assassin. He did some of everything and thats how the game should be played. I really tried to mirror my skills through him and read of how he didnt have the easiest route to success either but quietly played next to one of the greatest ever and filled the stat sheet often times being the most consistent threat Chicago had and thats what my mother preached to me about playing the whole game consistently to be the best player I could be. I also loved Magic Johnson for his leadership on the court and his amazing ability to pass and creating,“showtime“, which I have implemented in my game ever since. Along with Larry Bird who defied all stereotypes of his times and remains one of the best all around players ever not to mention giving 110% every night with the limited abilities God gave him and displaying a tremendous winning attitude despite being doubted early in his career at a young age.

If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would you compare it to?

I would have to say Scottie Pippen. He was long thin and athletic. He could guard taller players , but was quick enough to guard shorter players as well. He could score from multiple areas of the floor, but didnt necessarily need to always have the ball he played well with and off of other players. He could compliment any style of coach and fit in differently each game depending on where and how he could most be affective without needing to be the center of attention. He could handle the ball and pass very well and lead the fast break as well. He was not loud and distracting he was quietly doing his job, being affective, and very consistent in his play with his abilities to fill a stat sheet. I give all players their individual respect, but because of his style of play, quiet but intense demeanor, and physical build I would say we have a lot of the same capabilities.

You played at Deering Highschool, in Maine and a post graduate year at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire. What was your nicest high school basketball experience that you will never forget?

I was in my senior year and we had two games remaining for a perfect season. Two of our better players, one of which was Nik Caner-Medley who plays currently in the top division in Spain and several NBA summer leagues were sick. The team we were playing was third in the conference and a state title contender. I held it down in the first half with our team up 5 and I had 16. Towards the end of the second quarter I began to break out with some sort of allergic reaction and by the half I was fully blown with hives and my throat began closing up so my mother ran to the closest pharmacy and got me medicine. Luckily the game was at home and they postponed the start of the second half until I was able to pull it together and breathe right. I wound up finishing the game with 35 and getting the win and we went on to have a undefeated season!

You played for American(NCAA), N.H(NCAA) and Southern Maine(NCAA 3). Was there any particular reason why you went to three schools?

Well I had a tough time at American to be honest I didnt really understand the fact that in college and the pros you must often times fit into a system opposed to high school where I was allowed to play my style and do a multiple of things. I liked run and gun and my coach was very controlled so to say the least I was young and our styles frequently clashed so we parted ways and I headed to UNH. That coach recruited me heavily in high school and told me he would design the team around my style and it went along with his game plan perfectly so I felt it would be a healthy situation. I then had to sit out the first year which is the rule when you transfer from Division 1 to Division 1 and at the end of that year the coach was fired. So a new coach and his philosphies came in and I started and played a lot but the summer before my senior season my mother who has a long term illness was hospitalized for a long period of time and with my family spread out from state to state I decided to return closer to home and play for another coach who coached at MCI and coached many former and current NBA players like Caron Butler so it seemed like a positive transition in both cases. I did not like leaving those schools, but it seemed life played a large part in that and that is how it played out so I’ve tried to make the best of it.

At Southern .Maine (NCAA3) you played 18 games averaging 18.0ppg, 9.4rpg, 2.7apg, FGP: 44.6%, 3PT: 32.6%, FT: 83.3%. Was it a difficult decision to turn professional after your senior year or did you always think that going that route could work?

Well it may seem to have because I had a difficult college career filled with ups and downs, but I am confident in my abilitiies. I went to Addidas camp in 2000 where NBA players like Eddie Curry, Kwame Brown, and Ben Gordan to name a few played and I was ranked in the upper percentile for forwards in that camp and actually had Mike Brown of the Cavaliers as my coach and Ben Gordan my teammate. Mike Brown said I had great ability and potential so since then I have tried to be the best I can and always dreamed of playing professional. I had these stats at Southern Maine only being allowed one semester for NCAA regulations from me transferring twice and having already been in school seven straight semesters. I averaged 22pts, 91ft% and 12rbs in the playoffs, making all conference and honorable mention for All American so I felt that I was doing pretty well and with more hard work and given the opportunity I could thrive in the right situation.

You started your professional career for the Worcester Wolves (United Kingdom-BBL): 2 games: 6.5ppg, 8.5rpg, 1.5apg, 2.5spg. That was a very short stay. What do you remember most about this experience?

That situation really taught me the business side of the professional game. Unfortunately due to miscommunication with my agent and paper work issues I arrived late and the team had lost three games already and that was not good considering I was replacing the scoring leader for the league the previous season. So it was not a good start for me. There was a lot of pressure for immediate impact and we lost two more games and had problems within the team. The owner decided to resign the player from last year who had been released in Hungary and was staying in the area with a friend. He signed for less so the coach explained to me the business side of the game and that was my introduction to the professional game, but the coach felt I simply arrived too late and that he would look into a new situation for me and that this was a process of the business. He encouraged me to stay confident and the future would bring another opportunity. And it did but I had returned to the U.S so again timing was my enemy and the situation taught me a lot so it was a difficult learning experience all in all.

Could you imagine playing in the States?

I feel that with hard work, the right connection and being in the right place at the right time any situation could present itself. It will be up to me to make sure Im ready and stay focused on the future. So while I work in the present I am always dreaming of what could be and that is why I continue to stay in the gym and try to improve myself as a basketball player and person.

What were the most free throws that you made in a row in a practice?

I made 51 once and went on to make 95 out of 100. I had teammates trying to make me laugh and I think I was simply bored, which is part of my personality not being able to sit in one spot for a while, but it was a great run in the zone. I was actually 11th in the country at age 13 for national foul shooting with the Elks Organization.

What was your most crazy shot that you ever made in a game?

I was in a seventh grade Christmas tournament and we were tied with I think 13 seconds to go. The other team did a pick and roll and my team and me and our big trapped the ball handler to get the ball and he fumbled it and it popped lose to me so it was a full out sprint dribble to the hoop and I dont know if it was momentum or adrenaline or what but I sped to try and get the lay up or shot off in time and I simply rose up and kept going up and up and wound up dunking the ball just with the defender clinging to me in the air. It was weird because I remember not knowing whether to float it because of the time or try and glide from far out to get it off in time in front of the defense. I hadnt done that before and me and my teammates along with the two teams waiting to play were going crazy and I didnt even realize the other team was still inbounding it but they tried a long shot and it was no good but I was already looking for my mom and ran to her in happiness and shock. That is probably my most memorable shot.

What are your hobbies?

I enjoy just chillin with friends or meeting new ones. I like going to the movies, fishing, playing other sports, bowling, listening and writing music as well as poems. I am an outgoing person willing to try anything really Miles.

What was the last DVD movie that you saw?

Juice was the last DVD I saw because I showed it to a guy from Spain last week at the showcase camp in Frankfurt. He wanted to see a movie with Tupac in it!

Thanks Jamaal for the chat. Good luck in your search!

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