Niels Giffey is a 19 year old 200CM shooting guard/small forward that was born in Berlin and is currently a freshman playing for the UCONN Huskies. He started his basketball career for Marzahn Basket Baeren (2.Regionalliga) in 2005-2006. In 2007-2008, he played for TUS Lichterfelde Berlin (Pro B): 17 games: 2.4ppg, 1.2rpg. He played for Alba Berlin II (Regionalliga) from 2008-2010 and last season played 14 games: 9.6ppg, 3.1rpg, 2.5apg, 1.1spg. Some awards/achievements in his young career so far have been U16 National Team -06-07, European Championships U16 in Jaen (Spain) -06: 8 games: 6.8ppg, 3.4rpg, 1.4spg, 2FGP: 46.8%, 3FGP: 50%, FT: 41.2%, European Championships U16 Division B in Skopje (FYR Macedonia) -07, German U18 National Team -08-09, Albert Schweitzer International Tournament in Mannheim (Unofficial World Championships U18) -08, Adidas World Junior Tournament in Douai (France) -08, European Championships U18 in Amaliada Pyrgos (Greece) -08: 6 games: 6.8ppg, 2.8rpg, 1.5apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 46.7%, 3PT: 22.2%, FT: 70.0%, Nike Euroleague Junior Tournament (Unofficial European Clubs Junior Championships) -09, German NBBL All-Star Game -10, German Regionalliga (North Group) Champion -10, German U20 National Team -10, Eurobasket.com German All-Regionalliga North Second Team -10, and Eurobasket.com German All-Regionalliga North Domestic Players Team -10. German Hoops spoke to the young German prior to March Madness about his life in the NCAA.
How do you like American football? UCONN has a successful football team.
I have been to one game. They have a very good team won the Big East. At first it was hard to understand the game, but with time I have began to enjoy the sport.
Was it easy or difficult to leave Germany to go to the States to play NCAA basketball?
It was very hard to go. I thought about it a year before I left. I spoke to many people including my old coach Henrik Roedl and they all gave me good reasons for going.
What were the main reasons for going to UCONN?
I thought that getting a chance like this only comes once in a lifetime so I knew that I had to take it. I thought being able to go to another country to combine school and playing basketball at a very high level was something that I had to do.
Besides your family and Henrik Roedl, who else did you talk with about coming to the States?
I spoke to many friends like Max Rockmann who is also playing NCAA and all my old coaches that I had.
How do you like the States?
I love it. The student life is laid back which is nice.
What have been the positives and negatives so far?
Coming from Germany to here has been like night and day. At UCONN, the teachers accept that you are an athlete. In Germany, you got free days because of games and things, but you arent really seen as an athlete. The teachers help you more in the States. On the floor, the coaches ask you if you want to do an extra practice or work on individual things which isnt seen as much in Germany.
How difficult is it getting minutes in the NCAA for UCONN?
It is very hard to get minutes. It was easier at the start and I dont really know why. I had better games at the tournament in Hawaii. I dont have my game at the moment, but you cant forget that it is a big transition coming from Regionaliga and some PRO B and going into the NCAA.
What exactly is your role for Jim Calhoun at UCONN?
That is hard to say. I am still trying to find my role a bit. I think that I am that type of player that tries to bring something extra special to the court when I come in. I am the guy that might make that extra pass or dive for a ball. But I also strive to play solid offense and defense.
Where will the journey for UCONN end this season?
Our main goal is to reach the NCAA tournament and come as far as possible.
Coach Jim Calhoun has been coach at UCONN since 1986 and won the NCAA title in 1999 and 2004. what has been the most important thing that you have learned from him so far?
He has taught me that nobody should define you. You should be your own player, have your own ego and just play with self confidence.
How strange is it playing the home games against the smaller school in the Gampel pavillion and the games against the bigger schools in the XL center arena in Hartford?
At first it was a adjustment, but now it doesnt make a difference. The Gampel pavillion is on campus about 5 minutes from my dorm room. That is the middle of campus where there is always something going on and a lot of students whereas when we play in the XL arena we have to travel to the state capital of Hartford.
Has it been tough playing in so many big places like the Bradley Center in Milwaukee or the Prudential Center?
It has been very different for me playing in big arenas. I just have to remember not to be intimidated by fans. I have been amazed by the big places, but you just have to remember to play your game if it is playing in front of 10,000 people or just in front of a few in the Regionaliga.
Is your teammate Kemba Walker the best player in the NCAA this season?
Yes I think that he is. It is just great being able to see him play live. It is amazing how he is able to decide games and how calm and cool he remains in crunch time and is able to make the shots.
How is your relationship with Kemba Walker?
We have a good relationship. He is a cool guy and not arrogant at all. He is a funny guy and that the same time very nice. He will probably play in the NBA next year.
What has been the craziest thing that Walker has done on the court?
I think when he totally dominated the tournament in Maui, Hawaii where he scored like 30 points per game.
How is your German teammate Enosch Wolf doing?
He has a harder time than me simply because he came a lot later to the team where the team was stable and the rotation was set, but he is making strides.
How would you compare the NCAA level to the BEKO BBL?
That is tough since I havent played in the BEKO BBL yet, but from what I know I would say that the game is more tactical and in the NCAA, you have to sit down when you didnt a contested shot something which wouldnt happen in Europe.
What was the most crazy thing that you have experienced in the States so far?
It happened at the start during my official visit to UCONN when I was in New York. I was in Times Square and saw two women with see through tops walk past a policeman who didnt think that was a funny thing.
What do you miss the most form Germany.
I miss my family and friends, but also the city life. Storrs has 20,000 students there, but it is still a town.
What has surprised you the most about the States?
I think just the way people act. Here it seems like the goal of each player is the NBA. If you say in Germany that your goal is the NBA, you would only get a funny look.
Who were your basketball idols as a kid?
My idol was my first coach Norbert Stumpe of the U-12. He was a gym caretaker and always let us practice in his gym. He inspired me a lot. He was a very hard working guy and taught me at the age of 12/13 many things about respect. He had a very interesting personality.
What was your most crazy shot ever?
It was at an NBBL Allstar game where I hit a lucky three pointer about 2 meters behind the three point line after making a cross over move.
What were the most free throws that you hit in a row in practice?
I would say about 60.
Which teams will reach the 2011 NCAA Final 4?
I would say UCONN; Pittsburgh and Duke. The fourth I dont know.
What do you think will be your major next season?
I am hinging in the direction of business in combination of Geography.
What are your hobbies?
I do a lot with my teammates, or watch TV in bed or play X box.
What was the last DVD movie that you saw?
Its kind of a funny story. It was a funny movie with the guy from Hang Over.
Thanks Niels for the chat.