Antonio Graves is a 29 year old 191cm guard from Mansfield, Ohio that is playing his eighth professional season and second with the Artland Dragons. He played at Pittsburgh(NCAA) from 2003-2007 playing a total of 130 NCAA games and as a senior played 37 games averaging 9.2ppg, 2.1rpg, 2.4apg, FGP: 43.2%, 3PT: 40.2%, FT: 66.3%. He started his professional basketball career in 2007 for the Pittsburgh Xplosion (CBA): 13 games: 19.5ppg, 2.5rpg, 3.6apg, 1.5spg, FGP: 48.8%, 3PT: 44.9%, FT: 77.3%, in Dec.’07 moved to Elan Bearnais Pau-Orthez (France-ProA): French League: 18 games: Score-2(20.4ppg), 2.2rpg, 2.8apg, 1.1spg, 2FGP: 51.2%, 3PT: 43.5%, FT: 82.8%; ULEB Cup: 3 games: 10.3ppg, 1.7rpg, 2.3apg, 1.0spg. In the 2008-2009 season he played for Galatasaray Cafecrown Istanbul (Turkey-TBL) Eurocup Qualifications: 4 games: 12.3ppg, 2.3rpg, 4.5apg, 1.3spg; EuroChallenge: 9 games: 15.3ppg, 2.6rpg, 2.3apg; Turkish League: 32 games: 15.2ppg, 2.3rpg, 2.2apg, 1.8spg, FGP: 51.8%, 3PT: 40.5%, FT: 67.9%. In the 2009-2010 season he played for KK Cibona VIP Zagreb (Croatia-A1) Adriatic League: 9 games: 8.6ppg, 1.9rpg, 1.7apg, FGP: 58.3%, 3PT: 22.2%, FT: 94.4%; Euroleague: 4 games: 4.5ppg, 1.5rpg, 1.0apg, in Jan.’10 moved to Hapoel Holon (Israel-Premier League) 13 games: 10.6ppg, 2.7rpg, 1.4apg, FGP: 47.7%, 3PT: 31.1%, FT: 72.3%. In the 2001-2011 season he played for KK Cibona VIP Zagreb (Croatia-A1) Adriatic League: 9 games: 8.6ppg, 1.9rpg, 1.7apg, FGP: 58.3%, 3PT: 22.2%, FT: 94.4%; Euroleague: 4 games: 4.5ppg, 1.5rpg, 1.0apg, in Jan.’10 moved to Hapoel Holon (Israel-Premier League) 13 games: 10.6ppg, 2.7rpg, 1.4apg, FGP: 47.7%, 3PT: 31.1%, FT: 72.3%. In the 2011-2012 season he played for Canton Charge (D-League, starting five), left in Mar.’12: 27 games: 8.9ppg, 2.0rpg, 1.7apg, FGP: 41.4%, 3PT: 37.5%, FT: 75.9%. In the 2012-2013 seaosn he played for Giorgio Tesi Group Pistoia (Italy-Lega2) 40 games: 15.8ppg, 2.9rpg, 2.3apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 44.1%, 3PT: 41.8%, FT: 75.4%. He spoke to German Hoops before the game against the Walter Tigers Tuebingen.
Antonio thanks for talking to German Hoops. You are in Tuebingen now preparing for the game against the Walter Tigers Tuebingen. What do you remember most from last season in Tuebingen your 18 points or the 104-64 loss?
I remembered the loss most. It was near the end of the season as we were still trying to move up in the playoff places. We lost pretty bad in Tuebingen and it was a game that we forgot quickly.
Losing by 40 points isn´t so typical. Was that one of your worst loses in your professional career?
It was definitely one of the worst loses in my career. I actually thought that we lost by 20, but it was hard to believe that it was 40 points.
The Artland Dragons are currently in 10th place with a record of 11-12. At the start of December the team started a six game losing streak and since then have a record of 3-3. Why is such a strong roster so inconsistent?
That is a great question. That is a question that has been hanging over us and we are trying to figure out what the solution is. We still have many games left to make a turn around. I think that the league is stronger this season, but that isn´t an excuse that we should have. We have underachieved, but we are confident that we can turn it around. We had a nice playoff run last year, but want to do better than last year. Anything is possible. We know that we have the potential and we hope that we can find it in the stretch run.
What has the team been able to improve on the defense end since the six game losing streak where the club gave up 80 plus points five times and in the last six games only one time?
It has taken us longer to get our defensive concept down because we play a certain kind of defensive scheme. We like to take teams out of what they do best and take that pick and role away. Playing this way is unconventional and getting that trust with each other has taken longer. We have practiced it in the Eurocup play and the coaching staff has done a great job with us and having us understand it better
Do you see the team making a run in the last two months to reach the playoffs?
I am confident that we will make a run. Nobody wants to match up against us in the playoffs. We are a scary team and we know it and so do our opponents.
You are playing your second season with the Artland Dragons and returned eight players. Which returning player do you feel has improved the most this season?
I don´t know. It really has been hard to understand why we have been underachieving because each guy works so hard during practice. Our intensity is there and we try to be the best that we can. I can´t choose one player that has made the most strides because each guy has.
You have improve your stats in the Beko BBL and Eurocup this season. Despite a team with many scorers has your role changed?
I think that my role is the same. I understand our offense more and what my coaches expect from me. I also am doing a better job of picking my spots and finding my teammates. I think the improvement has come because of another year of experience. I know my situation now and coming to a team is always an adjustment.
You have played with many great point guards in your career, but where does David Holston rank in your alltime best point guard teammates?
He is up there with the best. He is a match up nightmare. I played against him in Turkey where he scored a lot and now he is my teammate and he is more selfless than I thought. He is an amazing player and guy. It is great being his teammate for a second season.
You are 29 years old. What have you been able to learn most from young head coach Tyron Mccoy?
I have learned a lot from him. He has a high basketball IQ. He played at a high level and wants us to play at that level as well. I have learned to be a better player on offense and defense and not just to go out on the court and use my athletic ability, but to be able to take the game two steps ahead and also know when too slow it down.
Two years ago you helped Giorgio Tesi Group Pistoia (Italy-Lega2) win the title with only two Americans. What was the secret of the success?
I played with an amazing group of guys. I have to also give a lot of credit to our coach who had a great feel for his players and knew what each guy needed and we accepted our roles and understood what to do. I was watching an NBA game the other night between the Cavs and Warriors and Steve Kerr said it best in that a team is only as good as their role players. Our role players were like stars. Having these kind of role players made it so much more easier for Michael Hicks and I.
In the 2010-2011 season you played with Banvit Basketbol Kulubu (Turkey-TBL). What memories do you have of Keith Simmons who started his professional basketball career in Germany with Frankfurt?
Keith Simmons was an awesome guy. He was a hard worker, great defensive player and a high character guy. He was a guy that fit his role. He came to Turkey after playing in Germany where he had a totally different role and then had to play excellent defense, shut down the oppoents best player and hit shots. He fit the puzzle to the team. He accepted a different role with Banvit and that is why he has had such a long career there.
In the 2009-2010 season you split with Cibona and then finished with Hapoel Holon (Israel-Premier League). What memories do you have of American Titus Ivory who suffered a stroke some years ago?
Titus Ivory was a great guy. He was one of the veterans that welcomed me with open arms. I never saw him get down once or have a bad day no matter what the situation was. He helped me get adjusted in Israel. I am sorry to hear that about his stroke. A big problem is that it is hard keeping up with players, because you moving around so often from team to team. I am so thankful that I am playing for the Artland Dragons and this is the first time since college that I have played for the same team for two seasons. It isn´t easy always having to make an adjustment moving from team to team.
As a rookie you played for Elan Bearnais Pau-Orthez (France-ProA) which was your first station in Europe. What was your wake up call to being a professional in Europe that season?
I never thought that I would play professional basketball after Pittsburgh(NCAA). I simply had no offers from anybody. I still had some credits to finish at Pittsburgh, so I remained and played semi pro ball with the Pittsburgh Xplosion (CBA). It didn´t help my confidence at the start that I hardly played, but then I got a chance there and played well. Then came a call from France from Elan Bearnais Pau-Orthez (France-ProA) and I finished the season strong. My dream finally started being a professional basketball player even if I thought I would never make it.
You reached two NCAA Sweet 16 games in 2004 and 2007. Which one was the sweetest?
The 2007 run was the sweetest. It was my senior year, I was one of coach Dixon´s first recruits and I was able to play against UCLA and it was a big deal. We were a great bunch of guys and it was the best time for me at Pittsburgh. I loved every moment and it was at the height of my success there.
You played with many future NBA players like Sam Young or Aaron Gray or great players like Gilbert Brown or Jermaine Dixon. Who was your best teammate at Pittsburgh?
All those guys were great. Gilbert Brown and Jermaine Dixon were great guys, but were younger. I would have to choose between Aaron Gray and Sam Young. Aaron and I were roommates there and are still friends today. Sam Young and I always worked out then as well as last summer. Both guys inspired me so much. Both guys also helped me through the rough times. If I had to choose I would pick Aaron because we came in together in 2003 and it was special.
Who was the toughest player that you battled against in the NCAA that went to the NBA?
I tell my teammates all the time why I love defending is because of all the great players I have played against in my career. I will never forget playing against Ben Gordon when I was a freshman. We were something like third in the country playing against #1 UCONN. I played against him in Madison Square Garden in New York in the Big East tournament. It was a special moment and I really looked up to him.
How much is sky is the limit for Isiah Hartenstein? Does he have the game to reach the top level in Europe of even NBA?
It is scary that he hasn´t stopped growing yet despite being so tall already. I can´t believe it. He competes against us in practice and is still a kid. I think that he has NBA potential. His dad keeps him in the gym all the time.
Your brother is named Miles as am I. How many other Miles´s have you got to know in your life?
Just you two.
Why do so many good basketball players come from the state of Ohio?
That is hard to understand since Ohio is typically a football state. I think that a lot of it has to do that we have a very good AAU program. I played against Lebron a few times when I was a kid. That is when I saw how high the level is in Ohio. Ohio is a good spot for sports.
What was the last DVD movie that you saw?
The Imitation game, but the best movie that I saw in the last month was Whiplash.
Thanks Antonio for the chat.