Derek Needham is a 24 year old 180cm point guard from Dalton, Illinois that will start his third professional season with the Basketball Lowen Braunschweig and first in Germany. Last season he led BK Khimik-OPZ Yuhzny (Ukraine-Superleague) to a perfect 36-0 record and winning the Ukrainian Superleague averaging 11.9ppg, 3.4rpg, 4.6apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 49.4%, 3PT: 43.4%, FT: 71.0%. He started his basketball career in 2009 with Fairfield (NCAA) playing atotal of 129 NCAA games and as a senior played 33 games: 14.6ppg, 3.4rpg, 3.2apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 49.2%, 3PT: 33.0%, FT: 76.2%. In 2013 he started his professional career with BC Siauliai (Lithuania-LKL) playing 36 games: 11.7ppg, 2.6rpg, 3.6apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 46.0%, 3PT: 37.1%, FT: 87.5%; Baltic League: 19 games: 11.4ppg, 3.1rpg, 3.7apg, 1.5spg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 37.7%, FT-3(92.1%). He spoke to German Hoops about basketball.
Derek thanks for talking to German Hoops. Where are you at the moment and how has your summer been going so far?
I’m in Chicago at the moment and my summer is going great been working out and traveling the country.
You signed to play in Germany with the Basketball Lowen Braunschweig for the upcoming season. How much of a deciding factor was the prestige factor of the Beko BBL?
That was a huge factor the BBL is a great league and is continually growing. I also loved the conversation I had with the coach.
What was your first impression of head coach Raoul Korner. What was key in him getting your trust?
First impression was great we had an amazing conversation and I felt comfortable in his ability to lead the team and get guys to improve. His basketball knowledge was great and his demeanor was impressive.
What do you know in general about the German beko BBL league? Do you have any friends playing in Germany or where there guys that could give you some hints about the German league and way of life?
I watched some of the BBL games last year because Rakim Sanders played in Germany and this year Sean Armand played in Germany so I followed some games. I know the BBL is an exciting league and a great basketball league in Europe.
You will be filling the shoes of Lebron James high school teammate and friend Dru Joyce. To what NBA point guard would you describe your game to?
I’m not sure what NBA player I’m most like but I watch and study a lot of Chris Paul with a little of Russell Westbrook energy lol
You can score as well as set up your teammates and are an excellent defender, but what is a hidden strength in your game that doesn´t get noticed right away on the court?
Maybe my leadership is hidden, I love to help my team and make sure everyone is one the same page and in tune with the game so we can play our best every game
Last season you played for BK Khimik-OPZ Yuhzny (Ukraine-Superleague) and went 36-0. If someone had told you after the first game that you would lose no games this season what would you have said?
I would have said they are crazy and that’s very very VERY hard to do. To stay focused and perform every night and to win the games was amazing. Still can’t believe that happened.
The achievement should not be of less value, because each game has 40 minutes and is a battle, but is the fact that the league hardly has any Americans anymore due to the political situation damper the title win?
I’m not sure I don’t get into that type of things I just try to play hard and make sure my teammates are working hard so we can win games. I let the media handle everything else.
With what kind of feelings did you come to the Ukraine last season? How conscience were you that there was risk of playing there?
I was very conscience of the situation in the Ukraine and was a little nervous when I first got there but where I was in Yuhzny was a great and peaceful city. Lots of families and people from other countries there. It was a beautiful city.
What was the secret to the success of BK Khimik-OPZ Yuhzny (Ukraine-Superleague) last season? Did it feel like you were men playing with Boys after a while?
No secrets we worked very hard and loved each other. We stayed focused throughout the season and had a great coach. We players and coach get along it makes it easier to go to battle with your team.
How important was fellow American Ramone Moore last season. He was the only other American on the team. What will always be your fondest memories with him?
He was a huge help and support system for me. He is a great and skillful player who loves to win games. My fondest memories are probably celebrating the championship with him and going out to dinner every night just talking and laughing. He is a good guy.
As a rookie you played for BC Siauliai (Lithuania-LKL). Despite having four other Americans on the squad, what was your wake up call to being a rookie in Europe which was very far away from Fairfield.
My wake up call was probably the smart basketball skills shown by the veteran players in Lithuania they are very smart and can shoot the ball really well. They knew how to draw fouls and use their mind just as well as their skills.
How important was a guy like Travis Leslie for you? He came in late to the team in January 2013, but what an instant spark
He was great for our team he was our main player when he got there we accepted it and loved it and rallied around him we had a great run.
You played at Fairfield(NCAA) from 2009-2013 and had your best statistical season as a freshman. How do you feel were you able to develop as a player further in college?
I became smarter and more efficient throughout college and my freshman year I had some of the best players on my team that allowed me to be kind of wild and shoot a lot of shots. As I grew up I was the main guy and figured out how to lead and help my team mates while still scoring.
You had Ed Cooley as head coach your first two seasons and then had Sydney Johnson. How did both coaches help prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
Coach Cooley gave me the confidence coming into college that I use to this day and coach Johnson helped me become a better leader for my teammates. They both gave me so much advice and I’m thankful to have had both of them coach me.
Who was the toughest battle you had to face on the court that is in the NBA now?
I played against Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond from UCONN and Vasquez from Maryland they were very tough opponents.
Who won a one on one battle when you were a freshman you or Sean Crawford?
Lol I won the one on one battles. That’s my brother and we talk almost every day. He gave me so much advice throughout my college career and we talk about playing in Europe all the time we are blessed.
Where do you see the journey of the Chicago Bulls going next season. What is still missing for an NBA title?
They need to have a scoring big man before they have a chance to win a NBA championship and Derrick Rose needs to find out how to be very effective with his new body which is not as athletic and his old one.
What was the last DVD movie that you saw?
Last movie I watched was GONE GIRL and JURASSIC WORLD.
Thanks Derek for the chat.