Janek Schmidkunz is a 24 year old 183cm point guard that is playing his first season for the MLP Academics Heidelberg (ProA). He started his basketball career with Central Hoops Berlin (Regionalliga) in 2008. He then also got further experience at ALBA Berlin II (Regionalliga). He then went to the states and played at Amer.Internat. (NCAA2) from 2010-2014 playing a total of 86 NCAA games and as a senior played 26 games: 10.9ppg, 2.1rpg, FGP: 38.5%, 3PT: 38.9%, FT: 61.5%. He spoke to German Hoops recently before the start of the season.
Janek thanks for talking to German Hoops. Where are you at the moment and how have you been enjoying your summer?
Right now I am in Berlin, my hometown, being with my family and friends. Its been a great summer so far. The transition from living four years on the east coast and now starting off a new chapter in my life has been hard but extremely exciting as well. Besides enjoying my time spent in the gym, weight room and running, I also make sure to catch up with first my family, but also my friends. Overall, I am happy to be back home in Germany.
You have been away in the United States for four years playing at Amer.Internat. (NCAA2) Now you are coming back to Germany to start your professional basketball career? Did time fly in your college experience?
First off, I can’t believe how fast time has gone by and I already know that I am gonna miss going back to AIC’s campus and get ready to work my butt off in pre season and seeing my friends. But I knew early on that my path will head back to Germany and therefore, I was somewhat prepared for the transition.
What were the main reasons for coming to the MLP Academics Heidelberg? What sold you on coming to this Pro A team?
What sold me was several reasons. For one, Heidelberg has such tradition as a basketball organization and it’s an established brand in Germany. I am confident that I will take my game to the next level under Coach Ignjatovic and his staff and I am grateful to be given this opportunity. Also, I fell in love with the city when I first visited in June and the addition of the perfect training and practice environment made the decision easy. It is for a reason that it is one of Germany’s Olympic bases. Last but not least I am rejoining a very good friend of mine, Nico Adamczak. I played with Nico for the first time when I was 11 or 12 and from then on we became close friends and continued playing for Berlins select team. It makes the transition much easier having Nico as a teammate once again.
When you came to the States you had just played for ALBA Berlin II (Regionalliga) playing 17 games and averaging 10.5ppg, 1.9apg, 1.5rpg. There your coach was NCAA champion Henrik Rodl and your teammate was future NCAA winner Niels Giffey. How has your game developed in the last four years in the States?
I have been able to improve as an overall player and because my coach, Art Luptowski, was a very defensive minded coach I made lots of improvements in that regard. Through lots of individual workouts I got better in shooting off the dribble and ball handling. Would one say that you are more a point guard or combo guard? When looking at your stats, one doesn´t notice very high assist stats? I definitely define myself as a combo guard. It makes me flexible in terms of where coach can put me and use me on the court. My assists have been down, but it’s definitely an aspect of my game I am trying to utilize more.
You shot over 40% from outside twice in your college career and if you were to describe that one quality in your game that doesn´t get noticed right away what would you say it is?
A trait in your game that goes unnoticed? Besides my low turnover ratio in the past years I think that my team player skills are not noticeable when looking at the stats. I am trying to keep my errors low but still take smart risks on the court. I think my feeling and understanding of the game is something my past coaches have always valued me for.
If you look back at your season with Niels Giffey at Alba Berlin(Reg) would you ever have thought that he would have developed so well in the NCAA?
Not all German players have had luck with their careers in the States. I would say I knew that he was going do well. Not saying I knew he was going win two championships but I knew that he would be valued highly as a ball player. Playing with Niels was amazing but playing against Niels (three times with AIC vs UConn) was rough. He shined a lot in his senior year but I thought he was a vital part for UConn all four years. It’s true that not all German players succeed in the states, but then not all German players are as gifted and passionate about the game as Niels. The guy worked hard and he got what he deserved.
How did Artur Luptowski help shape your game and made you into the player that you are now ready to attack the pro game? What was the most important thing he has given you on and off the court?
First, coach Luptowski shaped me a lot mentally. He made me “tougher”. I mentioned some aspects above but when trying to summarize his impact two things come to mind: defense and mental toughness. He trusted me on the court and thought of me as a leader of our team. Besides all the basketball, I had a good relationship with coach and he helped me through a lot of hard personal times and was always there for us players. I am grateful for that and happy that he made it to the next level now working as a head scout with the Detroit Pistons. Congrats to him at this point again.
Your ex teammate Bobby Harris had a very solid senior season. How did you guys make each other better on and off the court?
Bobby was a tough matchup in practice and for the opponent teams. It was tough that we had to play without him for the last few games. But with his transfer to AIC, I had another guy in practice that made me better and another teammate that helped us win games. But I don’t want to highlight one teammate, I had one of the best teammates in the world the past four years and I am sad that so few continued on playing. I miss those guys a lot. Bobby still has another year by the way and I am going follow them closely.
In your four years living in Springfield how often would you say did you visit the basketball Hall Of fame and what is your favorite exhibit to see in the Hall of Fame?
Three times to be exact. Sad thing was that it took me two years to realize how amazing it is that I played and lived in the city where basketball was created. The best exhibit was the historic part of the hall of fame, basketball’s first steps and the development of what is now one of the worlds most popular sports. It’s a must see museum for anyone that is in the area.
How does a normal Janek Schmidkunz work out day look like in the summer on and off the court?
I get up early, always! First workout is the lifting after a good breakfast. I added Pilates as a workout this year and it has been helpful. In the afternoon I hit the gym and work on my basketball skills. Every other day I go for a run or swim to improve my cardio. I am a big fan of doing other sports in the summer (tennis, beach volleyball or some soccer) because I think it is important to be diverse and try different things. Off the court, I am a big family guy. Spending time with them is the best. Seeing friends is a must for me as well, especially knowing that I am leaving town so soon.
What was the last DVD movie that you saw?
I watched “the life of David Gale” and it was a good flick. I am a huge Kevin Spacey fan.
Thanks Janek for the chat.