Wayne Bernard is a 35 year old 190cm guard from Poway, California playing his 14th professional season and ninth in Germany and third with Science City Jena. He started his basketball career at Davidson(NCAA) in 1999 where he played until 2003 playing a total of 99 NCAA games and as a senior played 27 games averaging 15.1ppg, 3.3rpg, 5.4apg, 1.7spg, FGP: 41.7%, 3PT: 38.1%, FT: 83.3%. He turned professional in 2003 and in his first five seasons played in Israel, Greece, Sweden, France and Finland. In 2008 he moved to Germany and has continued to play here playing three seasons with the Mitteldeutscher BC helping them move to the BBL in 2009, and then also gained further experience with Giessen, Ludwigsburg and Nurnberg. He spoke to German Hoops during the Christmas holidays before playing his 150th BBL game against the Fraport Skyliners.
Wayne thanks for talking to German Hoops. This is your ninth season in Germany. Could one say that Germany has become your second home?
Yes it definitely is. I have really grown to love the country. Definitely a lot different from the States, and “home” will always be “home”, but Germany has treated me so well these past nine seasons and I’ve appreciated my time being here.
This is also your ninth Christmas in Germany. What have you come to appreciate most about the holiday season in Germany and if you had to choose between Weissenfels, Giessen, Ludwigsburg, Nurnberg and Jena which city have you enjoyed most in this time?
CHRISTMAS MARKETS! By far. We don’t have many of these in the US, and the ones that are there, do not compare to the how big they are in Germany. I know everybody loves the Glühwein at the Christmas markets, but my favorite thing to buy when I’m there are the “Gebackene Mandeln” (baked almonds), especially when they are warm. The city I’ve enjoyed the most during this time? Very difficult to say. But if I had to pick one, I would say Weissenfels in the year 2010. I say this because that was the first year my mother had ever been to Europe and she came to visit me. Watching her having a new experience in a new culture was like watching a child open their favorite Christmas present. It was great to see someone her age “become a happy child” again.
You are playing your third season with Science Jena and helped the team move up to the BBL last season and that was the second time you did it as you did it with MBC in 2009 the first time. Which season was the sweetest in terms of making the jump up to the BBL?
I enjoyed both seasons very much. Both were sweet because of how we did it (only lost 4 games in each season). But I will have to give the upper hand to the most recent season because we did not lose one game at home all season (including preseason) which I had never done before.
Currently you guys are in 11th place with a 6-8 record. You recently suffered a brutal loss to FC Bayern Munich 98-54. As one of the oldest guys on the team and Immanuel Mcelroy and Julius Jenkins more the guys that lead by example, are you the guy that picks up the pieces with the team after head coach Bjoern Harmsen has given his two cents to the game?
I do what I can. Whether it is trying to lead by example or be there for encouragement, I try to help the team when I’m able. Against Bayern, we shot horrible from the beginning (I think 0/10 from 3 in the first half, and ended up going 1/19 for the game), so its difficult to stay in the game when shots don’t seem to want to go in. We are all professionals and know that “bad days” can happen. But the good thing about basketball, is that there is another game right around the corner. We have to put that game behind us and prepare for our next opponent.
Science City Jena have had some big wins, beat teams they should have, kept Alba Berlin close and lost badly to Munich and Bamberg. How much potential does this team have and how do you see their development ability in the next months?
I think we have a great opportunity to improve our record in the next months. We’ve played extremely close games against Alba, Bayreuth, Ulm, and Oldenburg whom are all top teams in the BBL. I think if we can compete with them, then it shows the potential we have going forward. If we continue to build on our progress, then our future looks bright.
The club scores 76 points and allows 80 points. Do you feel as if this is a team that could become a better defensive team and hold teams to 70-75 points a game?
Definitely. Sometimes there are a few times during the game where we have a couple minutes of not being mentally ready. Bringing that number from 80 to 70-75, is actually only a few possessions away. About 3 more stops on defense during the game without making a mistake, could actually be the difference between us winning and losing.
How difficult has it been not having that classic point guard since the departure of Filiberto Rivera? It seems like many different guys step up each game to compensate the loss?
We have to step up. Changes happen and it is up to us to adjust and try to win. But I like the fact that each game somebody steps up on our team. It not only helps us when teams prepare to play against us, but also helps build and maintain confidence in each other.
Marcos Knight is leading the team and BBL in scoring. If somebody had told you before the season that he would be doing this what would you have thought?
I played with him last season, and have always seen what he can do. He is a very determined player, and it shows. So if someone told me he would be leading the league in scoring, I would have thought, “Well I don’t see why he would not be doing it”
How vital is the overall healthy self-confidence of Marcos Knight that enables him to be able to be so consistent and lead the league in scoring?
Confidence is important in all situations, and with him he knows ow to stay confident but humble at the same time. In sports, it is a rare but very important combination to have. He is able to lead the league in scoring but still play within a system which makes things easy for both him, his teammates, and coaches.
How cool is it playing with Immanuel Mcelroy and Julius Jenkins. Seven years ago when you reached the BBL, both guys were winning titles with Alba Berlin. How much do you personally gain from their play on the court and their immaculate professional approach off the court?
It’s definitely been a pleasure playing with these guys. As you said, they are professional both on and off the court so it makes team-chemistry solid. Personally, it makes it easier to communicate on the court. We can be in a huddle, and I can begin to explain something and they understand what I’m saying before I finish the sentence. Or, during gameplay while I have the ball, sometimes a simple 1-second “look” with a head-nod in a certain direction, and they immediately know what I’m trying to say. These types of things may be small, but they are important when crowds are loud, there are 9 guys running around you, and you see an opportunity for attack.
Has your role changed much from the last two seasons in Jena? Has the arrival of Julius Jenkins taken a little pressure off you to have to score and let you concentrate on new tasks on the court?
I think it has changed a little. When you have scorers like Jenkins and Knight, I can put more energy into defense and organizing our offense.
If you had to place a friendly bet as too which of the old heads will play the longest which guy would you chose, you, Imac or Julius?
Haha! I will have to say Imac. He’s already got a year ahead of me and Julius and he’s still playing at a high level.
The next game is against the Fraport Skyliners. You have had many memorable duels, but if you had to choose one which one would it be? How about the last second win by Frankfurt in 2010 where point guard Aubrey Reese hit the winning bucket?
I still remember that game. I couldn’t believe he made it. I honestly think that was the game that would have sent us to the playoffs had he missed that shot. It was a big-time shot and we were so close. That is just how basketball goes sometimes.
What memories are most fresh in your mind that you have had over the years with Quantez Robertson. I guess you will remember the last meeting in 2013 where he helped Frankfurt stay in the league on the last game day beating Ludwigsburg? What does it mean for you to play against such an energizing player like Tez Robertson?
He’s always been athletic and energizing, so to compete against him again will be fun. I know he’s been the face of the Skyliners for years now and I’m sure this game will be another competitive matchup.
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore, which 4 heads would you choose?
Michael Jordan, Julius Erving, Tim Duncan, and James Naismith! These 4 people, in my opinion, completely changed the way basketball was viewed at their respective eras. There are maybe 2 or 3 others, but your question limited it to 4.
Lebron finally brought an NBA title to the Cavs. Where does he stand at the moment in the never ending debate with where he stands as the best of all-time?
It will definitely be a never-ending debate. But unless Lebron gets 2 more rings, which is definitely a possibility but I don’t see happening, I will always say Michael Jordan. I think MJ had the complete package. Basketball IQ, athleticism, and competitive spirit. Lebron simply has unmatched athleticism which he is able to use to dominate. MJ’s intelligence and competitive spirit solidifies him into the best ever in my book.
Where do you rank Kevin Garnett with the best power forwards that ever played the game?
I’ve always liked Kevin Garnett’s game, because he played so hard no matter what. I’ll put him right under Tim Duncan.
Klay Thompson recently hit 60 points in 29 minutes touching the ball for only 90 seconds. Where does this performance rank with you?
Very impressive performance, especially considering he didn’t even have the ball in his hands many times. It’s more a testament to the team play of the Warriors. But it’s still very impressive.
One always talks about Lebron and Curry, but one has to mention Russell Westbrook. He is averaging triple double stats at the moment. Is he stat wise the best player in the world right now?
He is playing VERY good right now. He is becoming more controlled but still maintains his attack mentality. I’ll say his performance earns him the right to call him the best player in the world right now.
What was your most memorable Christmas experience in California when you were a kid?
The most memorable moment was when I received a go-kart for Christmas when I was about 10 years old. I always wanted one but never thought I would get one for Christmas, and my parents surprised me perfectly. After everyone was finished opening presents under the tree, they told me I had one last present. They left clues around the house, which would lead me to the next clue, and my final clue led me to the garage where my go-kart was waiting. I never wanted to stop riding it, and I still have it to this day.
What was the last movie that you saw?
The last movie I saw was “The Big Short”. 2 year old movie but finally watched it. Great movie.
Thanks Wayne for the chat.