Aaron Nelson is a 203cm power forward from Bloom Township, Illinois that will be playing his third professional season and first in Germany with the Dragons Rhondorf. He started his basketball career with SW Illinois JC (JUCO)and then moved to S.Indiana (NCAA2) and as a senior played 29 games averaging 19.3ppg, Reb-1(12.7rpg), 2.3apg, 1.4bpg, FGP: 60.4%, FT: 63.3%. He started his professional basketball career in 2014 with Los Leones de Quilpue (Chile-Liga Nacional, starting five): Liga Americas: 3 games: 24.0ppg, 10.0rpg, 1.7apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 54.5%, FT: 80.0%; Chilean Liga Nacional: 28 games: 21.1ppg, Reb-4(11.6rpg), 2.0apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 55.2%, 3PT: 28.6%, FT: 63.7%. Last season he split time with Atletico Tabare (Uruguay-LUB): 4 games: 15.3ppg, 7.3rpg, 1.8apg, 1.0spg, in Dec.’15 moved to Salta Basket (Argentina-TNA). He spoke to German Hoops about basketball.
Aaron thanks for talking to German Hoops. Where are you at the moment and how has your summer been?
Hello Miles, how are you? I am currently back and forth between Chicago & Nashville TN. My summer has been great. I’ve been in the gym 24/7, got to travel a little bit, and spending time with my family.
Congrats on getting signed by the Dragons Rhondorf. How excited are you to have finally made the jump to Europe after playing your first two professional seasons in South America?
Thank you. I’m very excited about playing in Germany this season. I thank God for allowing to continue my basketball career. South America has been fun and a great learning experience for me. Now I am ready to see what playing in Europe is like.
Why do you believe did take two years to make the jump across the pond? Was it more needing to find the right situation or were teams in Europe not ready to sign you?
It necessarily took me two years for me to get to EU because I’ve had the opportunity to come to EU last season. I just felt that I had more worth in South America. Also who your agent is plays a big part in that. At the time I was working with agents who were primarily in South America.
You have signed with the Dragons Rhondorf a team in the third country division called PRO B. What do you know in general about the country Germany and it´s basketball?
I don’t know very much about playing in Germany but a few of my friends who have played there tell me a lot of good things. I expect it to be fun and full of tradition. I know a lot more people will probably speak English here than South America. Basketball wise I expect it to be a little more up tempo style of play. Very team orientated. I also know that playing in Germany you always have a good chance to move up and build your resume.
Did some of your friends like guards Brandon Jefferson and Brandon Lockhart who have played in Germany give you some insight as to how the basketball life is here?
Well I spoke with Brandon Jefferson a few time last year. He told me he loves it, they treat him great. The fans and atmosphere is amazing and that its been like a 2nd home for him.
Have you had any contact to the club yet? What sold you most on joining the Dragons Rhondorf?
Yes I have. The head coach and I have talked a couple times on FB or skype. He really sold me on joining the team. This will be his first year as a head coach on this level. As it will be my first time playing in EU it kind of seemed fitting. Also he has confidence in me and knows what I can do. He flat out told me ” I want you on my team” and that pretty much sold me.
You obviously have had very good stats in South America and now will play in a league that is known for having very talented Americans and you should be able to fit in very nicely. What are your goals as a player in your third season besides helping the team win and having a good individual season?
My goals this year is just mainly to be a leader on and off the court. Learning how to lead team, gaining experience, and staying consistant thru everything. I know that I am playing in the third league this season but want people to look at me and what I’ve done and say “this guy can play at any level” I basically just want to establish myself in EU.
Last season you played in Uruguay and Argentina, but played only nine games. How ready are you to play a full season this season in Germany?
I am very ready last season was a little shaky for me. I was in between agents and really didn´t know what direction to go in. This season is like redemption for I am going to be playing with a big chip on my shoulders.
You played in Chile, Uruguay and Argentina. What overall kind of experience was this and what league was the toughest from your estimation?
They all were great experiences for me. I really learned a lot and enjoyed playing in those countries. I would definitely play in any of those countries again. It’s hard to say which was the toughest because they all were pretty tuff. If I had to choose one I would say Argentina just because we were playing during the summer over there. Most of the time we we’re playing it was 100+ degrees in the gym. Sometimes that was pretty hard it made you sweat so much more and made it harder to catch your breath.
As a rookie you played for Los Leones de Quilpue (Chile-Liga Nacional). What was your wake up call to being a professional in Chile where you knew that you were very far away from home in the States?
My wake up call was me stepping off the plane over there. I didn’t know what to expect or how things would be. It’s always hard leaving home but I knew that, that was a great opportunity for me. A lot of people don’t get to experience being a pro ball player in a different country it’s a blessing to be able to do what you love and experience life outside of the US.
How valuable was it having an experienced guy like American Leonard Washington around as a rookie. He had learned form the best like NBA players Taj Gibson, Demar Derozan and Nikola Vucevic at USC. How did he help you as a rookie?
It was great having a guy like Leonard. He is great player and showed me a lot. I looked at Leonard like a big brother and he basically took me under his wing. I probably wouldn’t have made it the whole season in Chile without Leonard. We really complimented each other´s game and he gave me so confidence. We don’t talk as much we did but I always check up on him. He’s having a great season in Italy.
In Chile you lived in a city 20 km from the pacific ocean and resort sites like Valparisio and Vina Del Mar. What did you learn to appreciate most from your first long stay outside the United States?
Chile was amazing it’s probably the place I miss playing the most. Once I learned how to get around an started speaking a little Spanish it was so much more fun. Vina and Valpo are great tourist attractions and really beautiful city’s they also had pretty good food. I really appreciated seeing their way of life over there and just being there in general.
Lets talk a little about your game. You are a guy that can score and rebound and put up double double stats as easy as Shaq can swallow a Big Mac. How would you describe your game?
Haha.. I pride myself on being a great rebounder, being efficient, and being a great teammate. I want my teammates to enjoy playing with me. As far as my game, I can do it all on the court and I really want to show that this season. I am a lot more than a low post scorer and rebounder.
Would the description double double monster for you be a correct description?
I think that description seems fitting. I don’t feel like I’m really doing my job unless I get a double-double.
You can also fill up the stat sheet at will, but what do you believe is a hidden strength in your game that doesn´t always get noticed right away on the floor?
A big hidden strength I have is the ability to pass and handle the ball. My bread and butter will always be getting tuff baskets around the rim. That comes easy to me. Now I have to show that I can stretch the floor and create for my teammates as well.
Has anyone called you the mini Darryl Dawkins? Not everyone has had the chance to bust a back board which you did at the Nike Chi-League.
They were calling me baby Shaq for a while. It was great and doing it at one of the best summer pro-am’s in the world the Chi-League was all the more satisfying.
You started your basketball career at SW Illinois JC (JUCO) before making the jump to S.Indiana (NCAA2) in 2012. Did the fact that you had to start your career in the JUCO make you work so much harder to reach the next level?
Yes of course I’ve always wanted to compete at the highest level. Going the JUCO route just made me want it more. I always wanted to play division one basketball but I wasn’t able to so I dominated the division two level. I still feel to this day feel that my numbers would have been the same playing division one.
Did you know from the start in the JUCO that bigger and better things were there for you?
I actually didn´t know what I would do or where I would be after JUCO. Once I got my confidence and passion back for playing I knew if I put my mind to it and put in the work I knew basketball could take me places.
You really improved your stats in your senior year from your junior year. What do you feel made your game rise so much in your senior game? Did you gain the needed maturity in your first season in the NCAA2?
My junior year I was really just learning and we had a great team all-around and I just wanted to play my part an help us win. I was having a great junior year then I ended up tearing my acl. My coaches, teammates and family made me believe that I could bounce back from that injury. I put it in my mind that I wanted to win player of the year and be one of the best in division two basketball the next season. I worked really hard to get back and be better my senior year. In 4 and. a half months I was back dunking. In 5 and a half month I was back playing ball.
You had some big games in your two year college career at S Indiana(NCAA2) like the come from behind win against Bellarmine or sweeping the Knights or Maryville where you scored 10 of your 22 points in the last 6:45. What do you feel was your best game there?
Beside the 31 point 27 rebound game against KY State. I think the by-in game of the GLVC tourney was one of my best I think I finished with 22pts and 21rebs. That was my 3rd 20+pts 20+ rebound game of the season. The day before that game they gave me co-player of the year and I really felt like I should have been sole player of the year. So I went out with a chip on my shoulder the next day and I wanted to win the tournament to let everybody know I should have been player of the year by myself, and we did just that.
You had 27 rebounds against Kentucky State. Did you feel like a genuine glass cleaner on that night?
When I got those 27 rebounds it made me believe I could be the best rebounder in the NCAA. I was just trying to get the job done that night.
How did Rodney Watson groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
Coach Watson and Coach Good always told me I had the tools to be a great pro. They told me to carry myself like a professional no matter what I was doing. They also put it in my head that I could take care of my family by putting in the work and playing basketball and that is what I wanted to do. They both are great coaches and are a big part of the reason why I am a pro basketball player.
Writer Pat Hickey wrote an article especially citing how ridiculous it was giving you GLVC co player of the year since you dominated the league and was by far the best player. Was their some bad taste towards S. Indinaa(NCAA2) or how do you explain this?
I definitely believe people had something against Southern Indiana or something I don’t know why I wasn’t the sole player of the year. Mike Carlson had a great year and is a great player, but I don’t think he did what I did that season .It’s all politics
What stories do you remember hearing about ex S Indiana(NCAA2) guard Danny Gibson? He is a guy that didn´t have the overwhelming stats in school but has had a long successful career in Europe and still playing. Does a guy like him motivate you in your career?
Yes he does. I want to have long great career just like him. I always heard he wasn´t the best player on the court but he always put in the work and went the extra mile. He played his role and specialized in what he did on the court and turned that into a great pro career.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Taylor Wischmeier?
Me and Wisch always went at each other in practice. He definitely made me a better player on the court. Somedays it was his day and he couldn’t miss anything, somedays it was mine. We really fed of each other.
If you had to construct an NBA Rushmore with 4 NBA players who would you choose?
I didn´t get to see a lot of Magic or Bird or like Bill Russell play I definitely believe they should be on there. From my eyes who I did get to see play my NBA Mt. Rushmore would be Jordan, Kobe, Shaq, and Lebron
What was the last movie that you saw?
The last movie I saw was X-Men Apocalypse it was good.
Thanks Aaron for the chat.