Janek Schmidkunz is a 24 year old 183cm point guard that is playing his first season for the Giants Nordlingen 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 he played for the MLP Academics Heidelberg (ProA) playing 21 games averaging 1.4ppg He spoke to German Hoops after the 73-69 win against the Licher Basket Baeren.
Congrats Janek on the 73-69 win in Lich. How important was it setting the tone right from the start scoring 25 points in the first quarter
. Thanks. I think that we have profited all year long from setting the tone early on and putting ourselves in a good position to win those games. So yes, it was extremely important, but as the game showed we struggled again with keeping the distance and not letting the opponent back in the game. We can be more relentless and finish games off earlier. But then, we won this game and that’s what mattered.
Was there already a small mental advantage early for Nordlingen on the Lich home court?
Yes and no. I think we have played extremely well in our last 6 to 7 games and we are confident that we can win games as long as we play our style. Lich on the other hand, had a game which they needed to win to not fall behind in the standings. We knew we had to come out strong and not allow them to gain confidence early on. That we did well.
The game was very tight in the fourth quarter. Lich forward Elijah Allen kept Lich in the game. What made it so hard to stop him tonight?
We lost our rhythm after the first quarter and took the foot off the gas. Lich sensed that and once they saw a chance to get back in the game, their confidence level increased. A player like Allen used that confidence and really played big for them. He is a physical strong player that when hot can hit tough shots and really hurt you, because it forces you to guard him on the perimeter and the post.
Nordlingen kept Lich scoreless for three minutes in the fourth down the stretch while Brandon Lockhart scored 8 points to secure the win. What was key in the last minutes to seal the win on offense and defense?
Well simple, stop them on defense and put points on the board. We stopped them every time when they had a chance to take the lead and used the momentum to score ourselves. Brandon did great attacking the rim out of high pick and rolls which they didn’t really have an answer for.
You have shot 9/18 in the last two big wins against Team Ehingen and Lich. How much have you matured on the court since the loss in Frankfurt?
I think I matured as much as I expected to mature throughout a season. Losses and bad performances can help you if you figure out what you have to do better. I also think that my confidence in my abilities has gotten bigger and I adjusted what needed to be adjusted.
You have scored in double figures in every game this season. How good does it feel to be the leading scorer as a German before the two talented Americans Talbert and Lockhart?
To be honest, it feels much better to look back on winning 6 out of the last 7 games knowing that I played my part in the team’s success. Who ends up scoring the most points doesn’t really affect the way we feel about it. I think what makes me more happy is the fact that I have been able to be consistent with my contribution.
Nordlingen goes into the Christmas break with a 4 game winning streak. Has the more consistent defense been the most impressive thing in this winning streak?
After early losses, we as a team made a commitment to the defensive end. It wasn’t necessarily the defending part we struggled with, but more the rebounding aspect. We just didn’t put enough stops together due to our lack of defensive rebounding. The improvement on that part has made us a much better defensive team.
Nordlingen goes into the Christmas break with a record of 7-5. What is your team summary after 12 games?
Got to correct you, it’s actually 8-5. I think our summary is that there is no team that we cannot compete with. We are also aware that you have to earn every single win in this league. If we keep approaching games the way we have of late, we are going be where we want to be at the end of the year. We still have a long way to go.
How proud are you of the team that they have turned the season around despite losing captain Fabian Brutting after the third game?
Extremely proud, we were in a really rough situation after losing Fabi. He gives you so much on and off the court and plays basketball the right way. We play a small rotation and losing a key player is extremely hard to compensate. Players stepped up and adding Leo Vrkas increased our rotation again. Fabi has been with us and we can’t wait to have him back out there.
At the beginning of the season Nordlingen had problems in crunch time losing to Frankfurt, Leipzig and Elchingen, but now have won close games in the last weeks against Weissenhorn and now Lich. Is there more trust within each other in tight times on the court?
I think for one, we learned from those losses and wanted to make sure that they don’t happen again. Then, saying that is one part, the other is doing it. I think the trust plays a huge part and even more important, we stick together on the court. I had the feeling that early on in the year that chemistry wasn’t as advanced as it has been lately.
How happy have you been with your play? You have scored in double figures in every game. Is there anything too complain about?
Sure, there is always something that I can and must do better. Last game, I fouled out when the team needed me. I was glad we won, but I was somewhat disappointed about leaving my team hanging. If we can continue to pull together wins, the complaining will be not as much though regardless of the amount of points I score.
In what other areas can you focus on in your game in the second half of the season?
I want to make sure that I play my part in leading the team. We started something, where I have the feeling all of us want to be part of this team and give it their all. Improving my leadership is something I want to focus on.
What are your team and individual goals in the second half of the season?
Our goal as a team is still to play in the playoffs. Individually, do what the team needs me to do to reach that goal. I really don’t need to set myself any specific goals other than to continue to improve and contribute to our success.
What was your fondest childhood memory of Christmas?
There have been many. The most important is probably the quality time I got to spend with the family. I started to cherish those moments even more once I started to live further away from home.
What was the last movie that you saw?
I believe it was St. Vincent starring Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy.
Thanks Janek for the chat.