Courtney Fortson is a 26 year old 180cm point guard from Alabama that is playing his fifth professional season and second with Avtodor Saratov. He started his professional basketball career at Arkansas and as a senior played 18 games: 17.9ppg, 5.2rpg, 5.7apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 36.1%, 3PT: 31.3%, FT: 75.9%. In 2010-2011 he started his professional basketball career with Steaua Turabo Bucuresti (Romania-Div.A, starting five): Romanian League: 5 games: 9.2ppg, 3.6rpg, 3.2apg, FGP: 40.0%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 87.5%; EuroChallenge: 6 games: 9.8ppg, 4.5rpg, 4.0apg, 1.7spg, FGP: 38.1%, 3PT: 22.2%, FT: 87.5%. In the 2011-2012 season he played with the Los Angeles Clippers (NBA), in Dec.’11 joined Los Angeles D-Fenders (D-League, starting five): 29 games: 17.0ppg, 4.3rpg, Assists-5(5.9apg), Steals-4(2.1spg), FGP: 51.0%, 3PT: 40.4%, FT: 80.4%, then moved back to Los Angeles Clippers (NBA): 4 games: 4.3ppg, 2.0rpg, 1.3apg, left in Jan.’12, in Feb.’12 signed at Los Angeles D-Fenders (D-League, starting five), in March ’12 agreed terms with Houston Rockets (NBA), in Apr.’12 assigned to Rio Grande Valley Vipers (D-League, starting five): 2 games: 20.0ppg, 7.0rpg, 10.5apg, 2.0spg; later that month called back to Houston Rockets (NBA): 6 games: 3.0ppg, 1.2rpg. In the 2012-2013 season he played with the Los Angeles D-Fenders (D-League): 46 games: 17.8ppg, 5.0rpg, Assists-2(7.1apg), Steals-2(2.0spg), FGP: 41.3%, 3PT: 35.5%, FT: 76.6%. Last season he played with Avtodor Saratov (Russia-Superleague) playing 33 games: Score-3(17.0ppg), 5.0rpg, 3.7apg, Steals-1(2.5spg), FGP: 49.0%, 3PT: 33.1%, FT: 76.4%. He spoke to German Hoops before the Eurochallenge game with the Fraport Skyliners.
Courtney thanks for talking to German Hoops Welcome to Germany. Is this your first visit to Germany and what do you know about basketball in Germany?
I don´t know too much about Germany or its basketball. I have a friend that plays in Germany Jermale Jones. We play pick up during the summers in Birmingham, Alabama. He said he was going to come to the game against Frankfurt.
Germany is your ninth country this season where you have visited. If you had to pick a country that fascinated you most what would you pick?
I like countries that have that American flair and where people speak English. Many people speak English in Germany and so far the food is good.
Avtodor started 0-1 now while the Fraport Skyliners are 2-0 in Eurochallenge play. The best scoring team against the top defense team, what kind of game can we await?
It is the trick of the trade. We will try to play our game which is up and down and I think they will try to play a half court game. We will have to see what happens.
You are playing your second season for Avtodor Saratov. After playing mostly in the D-league and NBA from 2011-2013 you returned back to Europe after being a rookie in Romania. Why did you chose to go to a second division team? Was money the biggest lure?
I was just looking ahead in Europe. The club promised me that they had big aspirations of moving up and I trusted them. I always knew that I could play at the VTB level.
After helping the team move up from the Superleague to the VTB, you guys are holding your own this season with a 8-9record and in seventh place. How much potential does the club have to make a run in this league in the next months?
I think that we have much potential. We feel very comfortable with ourselves on the court. We haven´t had a problem with our offense, but we have been focusing more on our defense as of recent. I think that we will hit our stride very soon.
How much of a challenge has the VTB league for you personally on and off the court with travel?? You have to prepare for so many teams in countries like Latvia, Estonia, Czech Republic ETC.
I have enjoyed this season very much. It isn´t every day that you can visit nine countries. The travel isn´t always easy, but at the end of the day it is worth it. It has been a real blessing for me as this has been an experience that nobody can take away from me.
You have two very talented and capable point guard behind you with Aleksei Vzdykhalkin and Anton Glazunov. They are older than you, but actually have you been able to pick up form them who are seasoned veterans in Europe?
I have learned how to view the game from their standpoint. I try to take what they do on the court and add it in with my speed as well as changing up the game and slowing it down at times.
You are a very versatile point guard that can do it all. You can score and dish out many assists. Are you a pass first guard or would you consider yourself a scoring point guard?
I ask that question myself all the time. When I look at my game I just do what the defense gives me. We have many shooters so I can find them, but if they aren´t open then I can go to the hole or shoot.
What is a hidden strength in your game that doesn´t get noticed right away?
I think it is my rebounding. I can get many rebounds with my 35 vertical. People don´t seem to know this and don´t bother boxing me out. I can jump as high as anybody else on the court.
You are tearing up the VTB league and Eurochallenge. You have better stats than last season when you played Superleague. You seem to very focused to get your ticket back to the NBA?
I think that I always have a chance to get back to the NBA. The point guard position is such an important position all over the world that there will always be a door open for me in the NBA and I hope I get that chance again, but right now my focus is what I can control with Avtodor Saratov.
You played two seasons at Arkansas(NCAA) How did head coach John Pelphrey prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
He was very hard on me form the first day. He gave me keys to the palace and gave me total control of the team. I was the unsung leader and made captain even though there were four seniors on the team. He always made sure I didn´t miss any classes. He was like a father figure for me.
Was your 35 point game against Mississippi State your most memorable game in college?
Yes it was concerning how the game went on. I sprained my ankle in the first half and at half time didn´t get it taped, but just sucked it up. In the second half I was in the zone
You had very strong stats as a senior, but didn´t get drafted and played your rookie season with BC Steaua Turabo Bucuresti (Romania-Div.A). How sure were you then that you had been overlooked and that you would get that NBA shot down the line?
I was always sure that I would get that shot in the NBA later. I played against guys like John Wall and Eric Bledsoe who all played in my conference and I felt that I had their abilities on the court. I never quit and just kept working hard. The next season I made it.
What was your wake up call to being a professional player as a rookie in Romania where you knew ok I have arrived in Europe?
I had a triple double my second game in Romania without making a jump shot. I knew that if I would work on that that it would be lights out when I had one. I have been working on my jump shot over the summer with Joe Johnson and just keep preparing for that next opportunity.
In the 2011-2012 season you had your chance and got NBA air playing a combined 10 games for the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets plus gaining further experience in the D-League with the Defenders and Rio Grande. What was your most memorable NBA experience from that season?
I think just being with Chris Paul and being a sponge and soaking everything in was my most memorable experience. Guys like Chauncey Billups and Grant Hall were also on the team. I was able to learn so much from these future hall of famers in such a short time.
You came to the Los Angeles Clippers when Chris Paul injured himself. What things were you able to pick up from him in your short stay just from talks?
I learned how to play the screen and roll from Chris Paul and from Chauncey Billups how to attack angles with my speed. The pace of Billups on the court looks so slow, but it is all technical and you can´t fall asleep with him on the floor.
In the 2013-2014 season you played for the Los Angeles D-Fenders (D-League): 46 games: 17.8ppg, 5.0rpg, Assists-2(7.1apg), Steals-2(2.0spg), FGP: 41.3%, 3PT: 35.5%, FT: 76.6%. Were you surprised that you never got an NBA call up?
I was very surprised that no team picked me up. I was the top D-League prospect for four months. I still don´t know why I didn´t get a call. I was never bitter about it, but just decided to stay in the lab and get better each day. For me it is all about looking ahead and not back.
You are living your second season in Russia now. What have you learned to appreciate the most about living there?
I have really learned to appreciate the grind of Russians. Sometimes it is -11 outside, but you still see them going to work with a smile on their faces. I think that Americans can get spoiled at times and forget that. In Russia people go to work and take care of their families and I respect that.
What is your 2015 Super Bowl prediction?
The New England Patriots will win 28-14. The Sea Hawks looked shaky in the last game. The Patriots can score while the Sea Hawks have difficulty coming back in games.
Thanks for the chat Courtney.