Bryan Smithson is a 30 year old 185cm point guard from Kennesaw,Georgia playing his third season in Germany. He started his basketball career at Middle Tennessee St. (NCAA) in 2003 where he played two seasons. He then moved to NC-Asheville (NCAA) where he finished his college career and as a senior played 29 games: 16.4ppg, 4.0rpg, 4.1apg, 1.9spg, FGP: 45.1%, 3Pts: 41.1%, FT: 83.5%. He played two seasons for the Kirchheim Knights in the German Pro A where he was top 5 in assists in the league the last two seasons. Last season for Kichheim he played 28 games: 12.0ppg, 3.4rpg, Assists-5(5.0apg), FGP: 46.3%, 3PT: 40.2%, FT: 88.2%. This season he is playing for the MLP Academics Heidelberg and led the team to huge road wins in Essen and Hamburg with two game wining shots. He spoke to German Hoopsabout his big weekend where he led the MLP Academics to two big wins on the road.
Bryan thanks for talking to German Hoops. Congrats on two huge wins this weekend with the MLP Academics Heidelberg. In basketball anything is possible, but if somebody had told you Friday afternoon that your team would win two such close games the way you did would you have believed them?
Hi Miles, it is my pleasure to talk with you. First, thank you for the congratulations after such a long and challenging weekend of basketball. To answer your question, when we left Heidelberg for the double header weekend our plan was to come back with two wins. That is a difficult task on the road, but we knew that if we kept the games close we would have our chance to win.
You had the winning three on Friday in Essen and had a buzzer beater for the win in Hamburg. Was this your best weekend of basketball in your basketball career including when you played games in the Big South conference?
We definitely won the last two games in great fashion. I cannot claim it to be the best weekend of my career, but I can certainly say it was one to be remembered.
Take us through the last play where you nailed the winning shot. After your success on Friday, how good were you feeling in the last seconds about getting that next opportunity and making it?
I felt very confident in helping us get a good look at the basket to win the game. The last play was interesting. We had a full court situation with roughly 8 seconds remaining. The plan was to get a high pick and roll to free myself or a teammate for a clean look at the basket. Johannes Lischka set the screen around the half court mark and I did not run my man off him as well as I should have. I got bumped off balance but in the closing seconds I do not think the officials felt comfortable making the call. I lost my dribble rhythm, but when I gained it back I knew in my head that 6-7 seconds had passed so I took one hard dribble and stepped back to get some space. Fortunately, I had a good feeling letting it go and it went in at the buzzer.
Do you think you now have an added role in your game with being the man for the clutch shots this season in Heidelberg?
I am not sure it is an added role to take clutch shots as much as it is making the right play, for the right person, at the right time.
There are quite a few teams in the Pro A that have displayed nerves of steel in the first games, but how much do you credit the veteran guys for getting this team together so well already so early in the season?
We are extremely fortunate to have some really talented players with invaluable experience. In a league like ProA, veterans set the tone for how the team handles itself through adversity. In the first 3 games we have seen some of that experience really shine through.
After two nail bitters how much would you welcome an easier win for the next game or would you favor another buzzer beater by yourself or possibly a Shy Ely?
Well, I think the most important thing for us is to win the game regardless of how we do it. Although it would be very nice to get an easy win, I do not think those exist in Germany ProA.
How has the team developed best in the weeks of training camp into the first two weeks of the regular season. What has been working best and where does the defense still need to get to?
Our team gained a lot of experience in the preseason which was very important considering we have a few rookies that play big roles for us. However, the development in the last couple weeks has been challenging considering I was nursing a minor injury throughout the preseason which did not allow me to participate, our leading scorer in the preseason had an injury prior to the first regular season game, and we brought Shy Ely in last week. With all that said, we are still developing our team chemistry and growing together. As far as our defense is concerned, our second and third rotations must improve in order for us to compete in the top tier of ProA.
The two young Germans Bazu Kone and Jon Williams combined for 31 points and nine assists. Did a Kone remind you a bit of a young and less experienced Dennis Schroeder?
Both of those guys are very talented and have bright futures. The Schroeder comparison is pretty fair. However, I think it is important for him to pave his own way considering he has his own style of play that is very effective. I am excited to see him excel in the world of basketball.
Most will remember your two game winning shots, but less people except for the teammates who appreciate the play of Shy Ely who combined for 40 points on the weekend. Would the team have come out of the weekend 2-0 without his presence?
I am fairly certain every coach in Pro A appreciates the play of Shy Ely. Everyone that is a part of our club had a hand in winning those games. I think if you take any one piece away from that it changes the entire face of the weekend. Nevertheless, it is no secret how Shy impacts the game and I do not think I want to imagine having played the weekend without him.
How important was this signing of Shy Ely? He seems to have been the missing part to the success of this team?
The season is very young to make any bold predictions about the success of our team. I do know that signing Shy makes us a much better team. I played against him two years ago so I was well aware of his talent level, but getting to know him as a person has impressed me the most. Anytime you have the opportunity to add a player to your team that posses great talent and tremendous character, you do it.
Heidelberg doesn´t have as many imports as other Pro A teams and will need to rely on the input of Germans players. One of these is ex national player Johannes Lischka. What has impressed you most about his game as the season has carried on?
Every team in ProA must rely on their Germans to play big roles through the course of the season. The “3 import on the court” rule makes this undeniable. Johannes may be the most experienced player in the league. Many people know the difficulties he’s faced over the last couple seasons and the fact that he had the strength to push through those challenges speaks loudly about the type of person he is. He is a player that I want on my side all the time. Everyone in Germany knows how talented Johannes is but his basketball IQ has been most impressive to me.
He along with a couple of our other German players are the heart of our team. You can score and find your teammates as you were in the top 5 best assist men in the Pro A the last two years with the Kirchheim Knights, but what is a hidden strength that doesn´t always get noticed in your game on the floor?
One hidden strength for me as a player would have to be my athleticism. As a young player I knew I would always be limited in size so I worked extremely hard to develop some serious athleticism. I am older now so I am very careful to pick and choose when I use it, but it’s still there when I need it.
This is your second season as player under Branislav Ignjatovic. Is there already a blind understanding between both of you and how much freedom do you have under him?
Coach Frenkie and I have a little history so the lines of communication are open between us. We have a good relationship and understanding for one another. He puts the ball in my hands and allows me to play my style of basketball freely within the realms of his expectations. I have the upmost respect for him on and off the basketball court.
What is the state of Lebron James in 2015? Do you feel that he will ever be mentioned in the same breath as a Michael Jordan?
Lebron is constantly being mentioned in the same breath as Michael Jordan so that should be an honor in itself. The problem is Michael Jordan was so much more to the game of basketball than just a great player. To compare anyone to him is not fair because he stands alone in so many ways. Lebron is writing his own legacy and I can respect everything he is accomplishing.
What was the last movie that you saw?
The Flintsones Movie with John Goodman.
Thanks Bryan for the chat.