Keith Waleskowski is a 32 year old 204cm forward that recently announced his retirement. He played in Germany in his last season for the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven playing 34 games averaging 6,7ppg and 3,9rpg while averaging 15,6 minutes per game. He played at Dayton from 2000-2004. In hiss enior year, he played 32 games: 13.2ppg, 9.7rpg, 1.9apg. He turned professional in 2004 playing for Farho Gijon (Spain-LEB1): 34 games: 14.7ppg, Reb-3(9.8rpg), 1.0spg, 2FGP: 56.1%, 3FGP: 35.8%. He would play four more years in Spain for teams like Polaris World Murcia , Etosa Alicante and Caja Rural Melilla. He then played in Italy from 2009-2012 for Fileni Bpa Jesi and for Tezenis Verona (Italy-Lega2) his last two years. He spoke to German Hoops about his career.
Keith thanks for taking time to talk to German Hoops. You recently decided to hang up your jersey. How tough was it making this decision?
Extremely tough. I really liked playing basketball and it was pretty cool to be able to do that for a living, but ultimately I didn’t want to be away from my wife and kids for such long periods of time anymore.
Besides having three kids and wanting to spend more time with the family, were there any other reasons for wanting to retire at age 32? You still seemed to be physically in good shape or was there some wear and tear on your body in your nine year playing career?
No, it was almost entirely a mental/emotional decision. Physically I feel as though I could play for another 10 years, but my kids are growing up now and I don’t want to miss anymore of that.
You played five seasons in Spain and three in Italy before coming to the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven. How did you enjoy your only season in Germany?
It was cool to get to play in my “homeland.” It was a different experience from the other countries I played in, but it was still a good experience. The people were good, the competition was good, and it was the most professional league I have been a part of.
I think form your skill level that you could still have played a few more years as you were very efficient from the bench scoring in double figures 11 times. How happy were you with your season on the court?
I was ok with it. Like any player ever I wanted a bigger role, but I was comfortable coming off the bench. I gave it best I had with the opportunities that were presented to me, and I can say that I am happy with that while still wanting more.
It was the second season in a row where the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven missed the playoffs. Besides the Beko BBL being a very competitive league why wasn´t the team able to perform better? The team didn´t lack talent.
We were talented, but there were times where we weren’t smart. And many times it came down to guys playing more for themselves than for the team. If you look at the teams that were successful this year, there were talented players that played the right way and gave up individual statistics and personal accolades for the success of the team. There were many times where we had a hard time finding that balance.
I saw two games of the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven in October and November and two in March and I have to say the body language and team chemistry was like night and day. It really seemed like the team weren´t on the same page? How can you explain an early team chemistry dissolve like that as the season continues.
Pretty much the same as above. Players playing more for themselves and trying to get their own stats than playing for the team.
What was your most fondest game on the court your 16 points in a big win against Artland or your 14 points and win against the Brose Baskets Bamberg?
I was proud of both performances, especially since they were wins. But the game against Bamberg was special. It was a good way to wrap things up in our last home game, and a good way for us to say “thank you” to the fans for their support throughout all the ups and down of this season.
Who was the toughest player that you faced in the Beko BBL in your last season as a professional and why?
The easy answer is John Bryant. He is big, and he is tough, and he can do it inside and outside and is a big force on defense. He is an all around, fundamental, tough, efficient player.
You seemed to get along very well with Jacob Burtschi. Besides golfing together what was your most memorable experience with him on the off the court?
Haha, he was a good guy and easy to get along with. Us two and Scott Morrison used to go to hockey games and get pretty rowdy too.
To what professional golfer would you compare the golfing style and on course character of Jacob Burtschi?
Roy McAvoy. Confident, funny, and full of crap.
As a senior at Dayton you had Brian Gregory as head coach who was in his first season there as head coach. He was responsible for helping develop many players like current NBA player Brian Roberts. What was the most important attribute that you got from him that helped you become the professional player that you were?
He helped me develop my all around game, and got me to be more confident and take responsibility for everyone else on the court. I had to have everyone ready, and we all had to be responsible and accountable. We all pushed each other and raised each other level of play every day.
Who was the best player that you had to battle against in the NCAA that might be in the NBA now?
You played five seasons in Spain. In the 2006-2007 season you played for Farho Gijon (Spain-LEB) where you led the league in rebounding. Were you disappointed that you never got the chance to play in the ACB?
A little bit, yeah. Obviously that would have been a privilege and an honor, but I had many other opportunities and am extremely grateful and happy for those. I was able to make a living for myself and family, and enjoyed my time in Spain very much.
In 2005-2006, you won the Leb cup with Polaris World Murcia. It was the only title that you won in Spain. What made this team so special?
We were really, really good that year. Every last player on that roster could have been somewhere else in the league playing more minutes and averaging more points, but everyone came together and accomplished a major team goal. We actually won the playoffs also, and moved up to ACB, but I didn’t get a chance to play in the playoffs because I had injured my shoulder and needed surgery.
In the 2007-2008 season you played together with American Taylor Coppenrath for Etosa Alicante. You guys went at each other each day in practice. What do you remember most about him on the court and off?
Taylor is tough as nails. That kid is hard to move, and hard to play against. And then he comes down on offense and you can’t relax because he is going to beat you up down low or hit jumpers all day long. And on top of all of that, he was one of the nicest guys I have played with. He is humble, easy to get along with, and fun to be around
When you faced MBC this season and played against point guard Hoerdur Vilhjalmsson who posted 17 points and six assists in a win in Bremerhaven did you remember that he shortly was your teammate in pre season with Caja Rural Melilla in 2008. Was it hard to believe that a player from Iceland could be so good?
It doesn’t matter where a kid is from, once they are on the court we are all in the same place at that moment. He is really crafty and somehow finds a way to get the job done. It may not be the most conventional way, but he is effective.
What will you remember most from your five seasons in Spain? What team was your best experience?
There are parts from each of my stops in Spain I will remember forever. Great people, great food and drink, and solid basketball to boot.
You played for Fileni Bpa Jesi your first season in Italy together with Tommy Adams who played two seasons in Germany including Bremerhaven in 2007-2008. He once put up 40 points in a game in Germany. Where would you rate him alltime as best pure scoring teammate?
One of the best. TA could put the biscuit in the basket. You can’t leave him open, and you can’t think about letting him get going, or get mad because when he turns it up, he is finding a way to score.
Before coming to Bremerhaven you played two seasons for Tezenis Verona. There you played together with ex NBA player Mario West who played three seasons for the Atlanta Hawks and never averaged more than 5,2ppg at Georgia Tech, but reached the NBA. What made him such a good player at second glance?
You can’t stop him once he gets a head of steam in the open court. He is athletic and rebounds well, and doesn’t care if he is on or not on a given night, he is still going right at you.
You lived two seasons in Verona. What was your favorite place to chill at when you had an afternoon free?
Verona was beautiful. It was always nice to go to Piazza Erbe and people watch. There is an endless list of restaurants and cafes to hang out with, relax, and eat some incredible food.
When you look back at your nine year professional basketball career, what will you always want fans to remember you by?
I worked hard, and I played the game the right way. I wasn’t the most athletic player, but I worked on the little things, and did things that don’t always show up on the stat sheet but had to be done for the team to win.
What are your plans now. Do you have any ideas what you will do with your life after your playing days?
I guess I have to try and find a real job and start the daily grind. But I will definitely enjoy being home with the family every night.
How do you beat your brother Adam at fishing? Who is the better fisher?
I don’t. He is by far the better fisherman. But it is good to fish with him because he knows how to put us on the fish so that we have a good day. There is a lot more than just throwing out a line and hoping something is there, and he knows how to find them and where to look.
What was the last DVD movie that you saw?
Doc McStuffins or Sophia the First, or some other Disney deal. I don’t get much of a chance to watch movies for myself anymore. And now with baseball and the Stanley Cup playoffs on I have been watching that, and a little NBA playoffs since it is finally watchable, unlike the regular season which is garbage.
Thanks Keith for the chat.