Brandon Johnson is a 28 year old 183cm guard from Houston, Texas currently playing with the Cuxhaven Bascats of the German Pro A league. He started his basketball career at San Diego(NCAA) in 2005 and played there until 2010 playing a total of 134 NCAA games and as a senior played 29 games averaging 14.0ppg, 2.7rpg, 3.4apg, 1.9spg, FGP: 35.4%, 3PT: 32.2%, FT: 77.9%. He turned professional in 2010 and played for the Dakota Wizards (D-League) playing 24 games: 6.3ppg, 2.1rpg, 2.2apg, FGP: 41.0%, 3PT: 20.8%, FT: 82.2%. Two seasons ago he played for Hoops Club (Lebanon-Division A) playing 5 games: 17.2ppg, 5.4rpg, 6.6apg, 2.4spg, FGP: 32.6%, 3PT: 25.5%, FT: 64.5%. Currently in the German Pro A he is tearing up the league averaging 21,6ppg, 4,5rpg and 5,6apg and is shooting 44% from outside. He spoke to German Hoops shortly after arriving in Cuxhaven in January 2015 and recently again combining his early experiences with Cuxhaven and now after 13 games where he has led the team to an impressive 8-5 record.
Brandon thanks for talking to German Hoops. Where are you at the moment and what do you know about the city Cuxhaven?
I am currently in the Haven hostel new hotel that they have recently built in Cuxhaven.I didn’t have much knowledge about Cuxhaven but now I have been here a couple weeks I truly love the city. The people are very supportive of the team and they have die hard love there. Bascat fans have truly showed me so much love since I’ve been here so it made the transition of leaving home a little bit easier
How blessed do you feel to get a second chance to play in Europe after your stint in Romania ended in pre season in 2012?
Words couldn’t describe how blessed I feel to get another chance to rebuild my professional career as a ball player. The journey that I have been through for the last 3-4 years was tough but all glory to God for giving me the strength and keeping my faith high to continue to stay focused believing that there’s still hope of playing pro ball even after prison. I actually never got a chance to play ball in Romania I signed with the team actually I had signed with a couple of teams but during my situation I was able to leave the country
Did you consult your ex teammate Chris Manresa about Cuxhaven where he spent a few months last season before being waived? Waht were the main reasons for coming to Cuxhaven?
I actually had no idea Chris played here aka c smooth until I reached Cuxhaven and one of the fans came up to me saying his mom reached out letting her know Chris and I had played college ball together. My main reason coming here was an opportunity to show case my talents in one of the top markets and obviously to try and help the Bascats win and stay in the league. I felt like they had a great group of guys just need a couple more pieces to the puzzle.
When you arrived in Cuxhaven the team was 2-14 and since then with you on board 8-5. Could one say that you were the savior the team dearly was looking for?
The team surely would have moved down without you being on the team I don’t think I was the savor. You believe on every team there’s pieces and that’s all I was I brought some unique characteristics to the team. I’ve been a captain or team leader on every team I’ve played on. With that being said I think that was missing. We have a lot of talented players on this team. I didn’t know the last coach but Coach Morris has been a huge reason why we have had success. He wears many hats for our team but great motivator and brings the most out of his players,
What changed with the team since your arrival? Was the club just missing that special spark plug? It seems like the whole team got on the same page since your arrival.
I think in those end of games moments are coming down to we believing in ourselves and playing with more confidence knowing we can win every game Cuxhaven had some close wins, but what is really amazing is that the team won four tight games by a combined point total of only seven points.
I remember Cuxhaven giving away the game in Giessen. How was the team able to become a better crunch time team with you on board?
I think I just added a sense of time management to the team understanding clock in possession in those clutch times and really coach Morris given me the ability to go out and use my individual ability to make the shot or create one
You are tearing up the league averaging 21,6ppg, 4,5rpg and 5,6apg and are shooting 44% from outside. You had absolute no problems adjusting. What has been your secret to being able to be a top player in the league in such a short time?
Thank you, but glory to God for all that I have accomplished in this short time I was here. I think my secret to having success is my struggle to get back to this point. Going through that adversity maybe it gave me just a little more passion to go all out and try to be the best every night
You played last season for Hoops Club (Lebanon-Division A) playing 5 games: 17.2ppg, 5.4rpg, 6.6apg, 2.4spg, FGP: 32.6%, 3PT: 25.5%, FT: 64.5%. What kind of experience was that for you? I am sure you have some stories to tell about that stay?
Lebanon was actually great especially immediately out of prison it really challenged me mentally and physically. I don’t think the Middle East gets as much credit as they should. You have to have unique talents to play In that league because you have to be able to do everything as a player rebound pass score defend so it was good to see where I was as a ball player. I don’t think I had to many crazy experiences wasn’t there that long to really get a feel in that sense of the city but I did love downtown Beirut
You will be sharing the guard duties with experienced American Aaron Cook. How excited are you with this new challenge as you will be playing with experienced and solid Americans?
I’m super excited heard a lot of good things about Aaron one of the best shooters in Germany with my game as a creator I think we will play well off each other. I’m truly just thankful to get the opportunity to play the game I love again with everything behind me moving forward with my life Change is good for me
With some years of professional ball under your belt how do you see that your game has developed since your days at San Diego?
I think the main thing that has developed since college is my maturity as a point guard and leader. Controlling the games and just understanding how to motivate, finding players, running offense, knowing I can get mine anytime just way more poised and confident running a team. I think the plus of going through everything I went through far as my case I truly feel like it’s made me stronger mentally and I’m even more passionate about the game of basketball
After a stellar college career at San Diego where you were the only men’s basketball player in West Coast Conference history to leave as school’s all-time leader in both scoring and assists, you played as a rookie in the D-League and then kind of bounced around for years even playing in a lower league the ABA. Why weren´t you able to move on after that D-League season? Was it like it often is for players, not getting the right opportunity and not getting that once of luck that other players may have had?
My situation is completely different I never been told I wasn’t good enough for the NBA or that I wasn’t ready. Going towards the end of the season in the NBA D league I was picked up by the FBI which snow balled into me losing my agent and my NBA opportunities in the moment. It was understandable of the charges that was against me. So they had to take a step back from a business standpoint. I actually was given plenty of opportunities overseas and NBA teams but with my stipulations during the time of my case I wasn’t able to leave the country and the NBA decided that I won’t be able to do anything until my case was resolved. So ABA teams Abl was kind of how I stayed grounded in my love for the game but God kept my faith high I just kept telling myself one day it will all be over.
You talk about the FBI, your case and prison. Some years ago you were sentenced to a six month prison sentence on account of a game-fixing scheme while you were at San Diego(NCAA). On account of the case, you couldn´t play professionally and lost contracts to teams in countries like China, Romania, Poland, Finland, two in Germany and Venezuela. How difficult was this time and how did it make you stronger as a player and person?
I think when I thought more so like a child I only saw how it effected my life from a material stand point but the closer I grew to God I could see what he had done for me from a more mature standpoint. Some of the things that was important to me shouldn’t have been a priority in my life so the case itself impacted my career but it also gave me a different insight on life outside of basketball. But being out that long without playing ball just really made me appreciate it more So when I came back to the game of basketball I embraced my struggle, the people that gave up on me, people who turned me down, said it was over revenge is in my heart. I am on a mission ultimately my faith in God though he has shown me that I am here for a reason
What memories do you have from your NBA Summer League experience in Las Vegas with the Phoenix Suns? What will you never forget from those few weeks?
Aw man summer league was amazing I won’t forget anything just the knowing of how far I had come from a life standpoint I couldn’t imagine even going to college to play basketball I wasn’t highly recruited I wasn’t talented as a young player so to just to be blessed to be in the company and the conversation of the NBA was a blessing. You would have to truly understand my story to understand how I feel about everything that God blessed me with and the doors he has open I never thought I’ll be here so I’m thankful for everything
As a rookie you played for the Dakota Wizards (D-League) playing 24 games: 6.3ppg, 2.1rpg, 2.2apg, FGP: 41.0%, 3PT: 20.8%, FT: 82.2%. What was your wake up call to your rookie season where you knew ok I am in the D-League now, but still so far away from the NBA?
I actually started off averaging very solid talked to a couple of teams then I was injured had to rehab for 2 months so when I came back I only was cleared for 5-10 min from the doctor to get my body back in shape and find my rhythm then my case had taken place. I have never doubted myself or ability to play in the NBA I think my Achilles injury had taken more time to recover but I was one of the top Players in the country and I had completed against the best so I know I was ready just was a matter or work and maturity
Your teammate then Darren Cooper was in the same boat like you in that he had fewer minutes than other basketball players and bounced around leagues the last few years and now is out of basketball. How true is that the D-League really does concentrate on the top players that could have a chance to play in the NBA while the other guys there are there just to fill some minutes and the roster?
I truly can’t say because I’ve never was turned down or bounced around because of basketball reasons far as not good enough or talent. I think there’s politics in every sport certain coaches have their guys I always believed though that basketball in professionals is more than just talent it’s about getting lucky finding at least one coach that believes in you or maybe finding the right place that will highlight or cater to your specific gifts
Who kept you positive most from 2011-2013 where you didn´t have a stable basketball job? Were you close to hanging up your sneakers and how often did you think “I can still find a job”?
3 letters GOD. God has gotten me through every struggle I have been through in my life from my childhood to adult hood I’ve never been a quitter because my faith in God has always been high he has proven no matter what he has the final decision. Finding a job was never a problem it was the stipulations I had from my case that kept me from being able to leave the country to go play. I did have moments when I thought about not playing because of my family I needed to provide but I worked plenty of regular jobs while still working out. I was able to graduate college with two degrees so I wasn’t too worried I just used it to prepare me for the day I won’t be able to play ball so I started building my life outside of ball
You had your best scoring year as a junior for San Diego in the 2007-2008 season. What memories do you have of your 28 point outburst against Kentucky and playing against future NBA player Jodie Meeks who actually averaged half of what you did that season, but broke out his next season to average 23ppg and has been in the NBA since 6 years?
The Kentucky game was one of the top highlights of my career in college was kind of the country introduction to Brandon Johnson and USD Toreros I had a great group of guys that year gyno pomare who is now playing in Japan, Rob Jones, Trumaine Johnson , Dejuan Jackson seeing what that win did to those guys and the school knowing during that era I was the leader of something great words couldn’t describe the feeling from long nights in the gym long practices all the hard work to see it pay off on one of the most historical places to play was truly amazing
You suffered an achilles tendon tear in the 2008-2009 season. How important was it for your development as a player getting that fifth year of eligibility
It was my number 1 priority getting back healthy so I could get back on the court and help my team get back to being contenders in the conference. Didn’t go how I planned due to my second surgery right before the season started bone spurs in my foot so it took more time on returning to full strength. Was so frustrating not being able to be the same player I was in 07-08 but adversity builds character I had to just keep pushing through it.
How did head coach Bill Grier prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
Bill Grier was an amazing coach getting the most out of his players he had and giving them the right amount of confidence to go perform. He always preached leadership took me time to understand it because I was young not understanding the amount of power I had as a role model to the younger guys. Just helped me grow in so many areas as a person and basketball player taught me what team truly means and what really matters after the game of basketball
What do you remember of the San Diego-San Diegio State duels against point guard Richard Williams who has built a solid professional career in Germany?
It was always a great atmosphere between usd and San Diego state Richie I think he’s one of the fastest players I’ve played against I respect his competitiveness approach to the game. I believe it was more of team battles than a 1 on 1 my game was more of the go to guy on my college team and he had a lot of guys that could put the ball in the hole so his role was different that’s why I say it was literally team battles when we met up
Who was the toughest player that you battled against in the NCAA that is in the NBA now?
Jeremy Pargo from Gonzaga and he’s actually been back and forth NBA and overseas but I think we have the same build far as body structures strong aggressive guards who can create and score but with a relentless tenacity to help our teams win
Where will the journey of the Houston Rockets end this season?
I think the Rockets will go deep into the playoffs and James Harden is playing like an MVP candidate, but we need to get better at the point guard position but overall I think we have a solid foundation of players that can get the job done
What was the last DVD movie that you saw?
Think like a man 2 is such a funny movie with an amazing cast one with my favorite actor and comedian Kevin Hart.
Thanks Brandon for the chat.