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 spoke to German Hoops before the game against Baunach.
Bryan thanks for talking to German Hoops. Basketball Germany got a shock a few days ago with the announcement that Johannes Lischka retired. How did you take the news and what has the team lost now in this player?
Greetings from Heidelberg Miles. Anytime an accomplished player like Johannes Lischka retires from the game of basketball it is difficult to process and accept. I was disappointed to lose Johannes because he has been such a big part of our team and a friend of mine. However, I understand that basketball is just one aspect of his life and he has to do what is best for himself and his family.
Lischka still put up very solid numbers. From a playing stand point do you feel that he could of continued to be that solid contributor until the end of the season?
Johannes got off to a hot start but struggled a bit in the last couple of games. When you look at our game-to-game statistics, most of the team has followed the same pattern. I am very confident that he would have continued to play a huge role on our team and losing his contribution may be costly.
As a player how tough is it balancing the mental and physical aspects of the game? Usually it’s the physical when a player gets to old and slow he retires, but seldom does one hear about a player leaving because of mental issues. Can you even imagine how tough the decision of Lischka was and what he was going through?
One of the greatest challenges as a professional athlete is the balancing act between mind and body. The obvious reason for retirement is when an athlete cannot physically compete at a high level anymore. However, there are instances where athletes walk away from their sport because the mental strain is overwhelming. When the stress begins to outweigh the passion, there is not much left to give the sport.
For me Johannes Lischka was a true basketball warrior. How will you remember him on and off the court in the short time where you had the pleasure to be teammates with him?
Warrior is a great description for Johannes. On the court he is a fearless fighter who is always ready to compete. He has a great personality off the floor and I will always remember him as someone with an open ear willing to listen. I feel fortunate to be able to call him my friend. Congratulations to Jo Lischka on a great career and good luck to him in the future.
The team didn´t wait long bringing in Pro A veteran Devon White. What memories do you have of him the last years and will he be able to fill the void?
I do not know much about Devon. He is an athletic presence that we have been missing underneath the basket. I am looking forward to playing with him.
The last time we talked you had been instrumental in reeling off 2 unforgetable wins against Essen and Hamburg in a span of 48 hours. However since then except for a big 82-80 win against Trier, the club has gone 2-4. What have been the main reasons for the club not winning more games?
We have struggled on the offensive end of the court. There has been several changes to our team since August and we are still trying to find a rhythm. We have a very high talent level on this Heidelberg team but we must learn to play together if we want to be successful.
Often a coach will talk about how a team has been developing further as the season progresses. Have the MLP Academics been stagnant in their development in the last month?
The progress on this team has been continuous, but so have the setbacks. Injuries and roster changes are not easy on any club. We need to find more consistency in order to benefit from the daily progress we make.
After the win against Rhondorf, followed 3 losses to Nurnberg, Jena and Kirchheim where the team didn´t defend bad giving up an average of 70 points, but the team scored on average only 64 points. Why has the offense not been where it should be?
As I stated before, we have not had the consistency within our team to maximize on the offensive end. Identifying roles, executing plays, moving the ball, throwing the extra pass, efficient spacing, and taking care of each possession are the principles of offense we will have to emphasize over the next weeks if we want to improve our scoring output.
The standings are very tight now, but much can happen until Christmas. Are the playoffs a goal of the MLP Academics Heidelberg with the current record?
The ProA standings are very close and every game will be important in the end. The playoffs are a goal here in Heidelberg but we do not have a club that will be satisfied only making an appearance in the playoffs. Expectations are high.
Ex Florida State player Aaron Thomas has really stepped it up as a rookie. Do you see him getting even better in the next months as his feel for the league, style and teammates grows?
Aaron is a special athlete but it is not a surprise that he has stepped up when you look at the great college career he had. With that said, he is still a rookie that has room for improvement which is very scary for his opponents in the future. He missed the first part of the season with a muscle injury so as the season moves forward I think he will get even more comfortable with the team and vice versa.
With Americans Aaron Thomas and Shy Ely, Heidelberg have two offensive forces. You are averaging 10,0ppg. Do you feel like you could produce more on the offensive end?
Unfortunately, we lost Shy to the BBL which is just one of the few impactful changes to our team. The points per game are not important to me, but as the season has progressed it has become evident that I need to be more aggressive for our team to be successful. The club and team are behind me on this.
Have you been working more on your shot after practice and how has your shot selection been?
I always work on my shot so that is not a concern. My shot selection has been great but in the last couple of games I missed a few shots that I normally make. As our team finds its offensive rhythm we will see those very same shots go in.
The next game is against Baunach which will be a fight of the 11th vs 12th placed teams. What will be vital in getting the win on Sunday?
The season is a little early to label the game as a fight between 11th and 12th. One game can jump you into playoff range or drop you near the bottom. Baunach is a young, talented team with a lot of energy. We have to utilize our experience, match their energy, and execute offensively if we want to come back to Heidelberg with the 2 points.
Baunach is one of those rare teams that has no American, but many talented Germans. During the course of a game are you able to follow a talent more closely or does that not work so well because one is more focused with the game and helping in your own way?
Following a talented player during the game is not going to work well. Preparing for that player and being aware of their strengths while they are on the floor is much more realistic. Baunach is a unique team in ProA and they have a few young players that I am sure will impact German basketball in the near future.
Thanksgiving is around the corner. How has it been celebrating it in Germany in the past and what is your most memorable Thanksgiving form home?
One of the more difficult things for Americans playing basketball in Europe is missing holidays with the family. I played for American coach Michael Mai last year and he gave us time to celebrate so that was nice. There has not been another season where I have received sufficient time on Thanksgiving to do anything special. My most memorable Thanksgiving was when I was 11 years old. Me, my brother Jason, sister Melissa, and both parents were all together in Georgia after having moved across the country a few months earlier. Great memory for me.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Hot Tub Time Machine 2 – “you choozy, you doozy”
Thanks Bryan for the chat.