Justin Smith is a 28 year old 201cm forward from Los Angeles playing his fifth professional season. He started the season with Etzella Ettelbruck (Luxembourg-Total League) and then moved to Dragons Rhoendorf (Germany-ProA). Currently with the Dragons he is averaging 13,4ppg, 4,9rpg and 1,6apg. He started his basketball career at the University of Hawaii-Hilo (NCAA 2) and as a senior played 27 games averaging 18.4ppg, 7.1rpg, FG%: 58.1, FT%: 68.8. Ion 2011-2012 he started his professional basketball career with the Coocoon Baskets Weiden (Germany-Regionalliga) playing 24 games averaging 19.7ppg, 10.0rpg, 2.3apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 61.8%, FT: 72.1%. He then played two seasons with FC Schalke 04 (Germany-Regionalliga). Last season he played with the Dragons Rhoendorf (Germany-ProB) playing 11 games: 21.3ppg, 10.4rpg, 2.4apg, 1.6spg, FGP: 60.1%, FT: 72.1%. He spoke to German Hoops recently about basketball.
Justin welcome back to Germany. How easy was the decision to come back to the Dragons Rhoendorf where you played last season?
After being in Luxembourg it was easy knowing I wanted to come back to the Dragons. I’m just glad they wanted me back
How excited are you be back in Germany? What do you like most about the country and it´s basketball?
I’m very excited. I miss how competitive it is here, I’ve watched many pro A games in the past and now I get to play in this atmosphere. Can’t wait
After playing your whole career in Germany and then tearing up the German Pro B last season was it not the logical thing to have remained in Germany? Why did you chose to go to the Etzella Ettelbruck (Luxembourg-Total League)?
Probably should have stayed in Germany, but felt that I wanted to try a new country. See what else is out there.
With the Etzella Ettelbruck (Luxembourg-Total League) you had very good stats with 15,4ppg, 9,2rpg and 1,0apg. Did you have a clause to get out of the contract or were there deeper reasons why you left so early in the season?
Management was unprofessional. I feel everything happens for a reason and right now things are going in a better direction.
You now return to a team that you know well, but this season they are struggling. Do you feel pressure to have to perform and make an impact right away?
No pressure, but I definitely want to make an impact right away. I feel we can get things rolling if we play team ball and believe in each other.
How important was the fact that head coach Boris Kaminski was the coach for you returning back to Rhondorf?
Huge! Boris and I kept in contact. Simple how are you and wishing each other luck for games. We had a good relationship last season that carried off and on the court.
You also will be entering a league and level that you haven´t played at before in your professional career with the Pro A. Do you bring enough confidence from last season and this season in Luxemburg to help you be focused right away and not get lost in thinking can I produce at this level or not?
I always play with confidence, and I just take it one game at a time and give my all. Being in Luxembourg before coming to Germany kept me in good shape and ready to get right back into things.
What kind of role do you think will you have? With Sterling Carter the club has a scoring point guard and with Jordan Hamilton another guy in the same boat as you? Do you expect to be a guy that will have to produce scoring and getting rebounds at a consistent rate?
Not sure my role at the moment. But I plan on trying my best each night and hopefully producing a double double and putting my team in positions to win. But for myself I want to help my team however I can, and I think scoring and getting boards is what is needed
You have always been a consistent scorer and rebounder in Germany, but what do you feel is a hidden strength that doesn´t get noticed right away on the court?
Being a vocal leader and just trying my best to keep everyone focused. I try my best to keep my teammates motivated. Can’t win without team ball.
You also will be playing with Germans like Tim Schonborn, Florian Wendeler and Bastian Winterhalter. How much potential and talent do the German core players have to help make a turn in the season?
Well it’s a team sport first off. We all have to contribute, but I also think our core group of guys are good and can produce. We just all need to get on the same page and believe.
Before coming to Rhondorf last season you played three seasons in the German Regionaliga with Weiden and Schalke. Many guys move up a level after a season or two, but it took you three years. Does it bother you that it took you so long to finally get the respect or do you see it as something that happens for a reason?
I think my agent at the time wasn’t working for me. But yes everything does happen for a reason. Now it’s time to show everyone.
You played with FC Schalke from 2012-2014 playing a total of 48 games. How do you feel were you able to grow as a player at this level where you showed people that you actually can do more than just score a lot?
Two seasons with them helped because I knew everyone. We trusted each other and I was able to help them score. Helped me mature more also and just adapt to being away from family and friends. Got really adjusted to Germany
As a rookie you played for the Coocoon Baskets Weiden (Germany-Regionalliga) playing 24 games averaging 19.7ppg, 10.0rpg, 2.3apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 61.8%, FT: 72.1%. What was your wake up call to be a professional where you knew that you were very far away from home?
When being payed to play and others weren’t. Some had jobs and even still in school.It was very different. I was so used to everyone on the team having the same schedule. But I knew that was why they brought me, to pretty much carry the team.
How important was Czech forward Pavel Novak when you were a rookie helping you get adjusted to the level and making you his scoring side kick that season?
Pavel was like a big bro, had great advice and was a scoring machine.
You played at the University of Hawaii-Hilo (NCAA 2) and was first team All Pac West in your last two seasons. When did you know at university that you would be a professional player one day?
By the end of my senior year, when I was contacted by a few agents
How did Jeff Law prepare and groom you best for a professional basketball career?
Always have gym access. Many shooting drills and conditioning
Who was the toughest player that you battled in the NCAA2 that is now in the NBA or in Europe?
Kobe Bryant went 1/14 this season in a loss to Golden State. Do you think Steph Curry will ever have a stat line at Kobe´s age?
What is the state of Lebron James in 2015? Will he ever be mentioned in the same breath as a Michael Jordan one day?
Definitely, LeBron is a best. One of a kind. But won’t have as many rings as Jordan
What was the last movie that you saw?
Thanks Justin for the chat.