Janek Schmidkunz is a 25 year old 183cm point guard that is playing his second professional season and first with the Giants Nordlingen in the Pro B. He started his basketball career with Central Hoops Berlin (Regionalliga) in 2008. He then also got further experience at ALBA Berlin II (Regionalliga). He then went to the states and played at Amer.Internat. (NCAA2) from 2010-2014 playing a total of 86 NCAA games and as a senior played 26 games: 10.9ppg, 2.1rpg, FGP: 38.5%, 3PT: 38.9%, FT: 61.5%. Last season as a rookie he played for MLP Academics Heidelberg (ProA): 21 games: 1.4ppg, He spoke to German Hoops before the game against the Fraport Skyliners Juniors.
Janek thanks for talking to German Hoops. Congrats on the solid 2-0 start into the season. You registered a big 88-79 win at home against Lich. The week before Lich gave up only 39 points. Did you sense possibly too much self confidence on their part?
Thank you. I think Lich made some noise with their win against Frankfurt the week before, yet I don’t think they underestimated us. I think in our first two wins we had the right game plan that helped us beat those two teams.
Nordlingen scored 88 points and showed stable early season fire power. Was the offense the biggest strength on the night in the win?
Yes, I think that we found the right balance between scoring and getting stops when we needed to. But it is early in the season and I think we are yet growing as a team and each game will help us play better basketball. The thing that we did well in Dresden and were able to pull off at home against Lich is coming right out the gate with high intensity and making shots right away. This was huge to not only send a message to the other team, but also helped us get the crowd into the game at home, or out of the game in Dresden.
Nordlingen is 2-0 now. How has the team developed best in the last weeks that has given the club the well deserved 2-0 start?
We play team basketball. We understand each other on and off the court and there is a sense of team spirit within Nordlingen that I haven’t had in any of my teams in years. This makes it a lot easier for us. We play with confidence not only because of that but also due to Coach Matic’s coaching style.
The club has averaged 80 points in the first two games and given up 72 points. What potential do you see this team having this season? Will it be able to score in the 80´s while keeping teams to near 70 points?
We will have to wait and see. I have no doubt that the potential is there. Yet, we will have different approaches to each game we play. I know for a fact though that Coach’s past teams were always remembered for a strong offense.
To have success in the Pro B, it always depends on the quality of the imports and how well the German role players play. Does Nordlingen have the right mix to be a consistent strong team this season?
So far it has proven to be the right mix. We have a really experienced captain in Fabian Brütting who has played on all levels in Germany. Then they were able to keep the core of the team that got them back into the ProB which was huge. Jordan Talbert has left a big mark in the Regionalliga last year and I have no doubt that he will have another strong season. And Jan Petrovcic, as our third import, gives us great energy of the bench that has been hard for opponents to handle. Also the additions the club made paired with the young talented players we have here gives us a really solid foundation to have a successful season. For now, it is our goal to get into the playoffs.
A big surprise is that an American isn´t the leading scorer, but that you are. Are you surprised at the moment by being the teams top scorer?
I am not surprised at all. I think that it could be any other player on this team as well. And there will be nights somebody else gets it going and everyone will be happy – as long as we come out on top of course. But as I said, we play team basketball and having different players that will contribute is just one of our biggest assets.
Could Brandon Lockhart and you become be the best 1-2 point guard duo in the Pro B this season?
So far it’s been great playing alongside Brandon, but let’s not forget that we play small ball and have Fabian out there as well. So maybe we need to make this a backcourt trio?
How impressed have you been by 17 year old Moritz Trieb? How much potential does he have and how do you help his game in practice get better?
I give him some advice here and there as I was in his situation once in my life. The kid is fearless of any challenge and has such a will and motor to play the game, which is exactly what we need of him. His energy level is probably not matched by any of us in terms of his aggressive style of play. And he is getting better and better as he plays big minutes for us.
What exactly is your role on the team. Do you see yourself being able to score consistently simply because most teams will key in on the two Americans?
I think if I continue to score as I have, it won’t be because of teams focusing on others but rather that we find each other on the court. We don’t go out there to get our share of points each. We go out there and know the only way we can be successful is playing together. So I give lots of credit to my teammates. In terms of my role, I am trying to set an example and embody coach’s style of play. So far I was able to be somewhat of a vocal leader as well trying to keep us together on the court.
How much freedom does head coach Mario Matic give you?
A lot, yet we know what he expects of us and we play within his expectations. So far we haven’t disappointed him therefore he didn’t need to change much in terms of the freedom he gives us as a player.
You will battle two fine point guards in Max Merz who has BBL experience and Garai Zeeb. How excited are you for this challenge?
I think it will be a good game and I am excited for that. I am going be as excited for this game as for any other game though.
You had a difficult rookie season with MLP Academics Heidelberg (ProA) last year. What were you able to learn from your rookie season last year?
Work hard! I mean even though my role wasn’t as big last season, I came to every practice and game and worked my ass off. And eventually it pays off. I think a lot of my play has to do with my confidence level here in Noerdlingen, but also I think I improved as a player during the ProA campaign.
How important was a Marco Grimaldi in your rookie season. What was the most important thing that you were able to learn from him on and off the court?
Very important. I think having a Marco Grimaldi on the team is big for any rookie. He continuously talked to me and helped me out while still battling with me every day in practice. Unfortunately, he got hurt half way through the season and me shortly after.
Now you took a step back to play in the Pro B. Do you still see yourself developing further and making the next step to a higher league down the road?
I mean, developing further is always the goal. It wouldn’t be right to be satisfied with who you are as a player. I always want to get better, so that when it is all said and done, I will not feel any regret. Specifically, it is always important to find new challenges. Right now I found a great one here in Noerdlingen playing in the ProB. So currently, I am not giving it too much thought. Who really knows what will come in the future.
Have you ever ran into a bigger body that Kwame Duku? What do you respect most form his game?
I respect his hard playing style the most. He is ready to sacrifice his body for the team at any time. He creates a great atmosphere on and off the court. And it is a joy to have him around. Especially being a small team, we are going to need Kwame and currently we are hoping that he recovers quickly from his injury. Unfortunately, I have actually ran into Kwame during practice before, and OUCH.
What is the state of Lebron James in 2015. Will he ever be mentioned in the same breath as a Michael Jordan?
Well when is he not mentioned with MJ? LeBron is without a doubt the best player there is right now. With Michael being the best of all time, it is only right to compare the best of now to the best there was. But personally, I go with MJ.
What was the last movie that you saw?
The Imitation Game.
Thanks Janek for the chat.