Blake Justice is a 24 year old 191cm guard playing his rookie season with the Licher Basket Baeren (Germany-ProB). He started his basketball career with Akron (NCAA) playing 6 games. In 2013-2014, he moved to Valdosta St. (NCAA2) playing 28 games averaging 13.0ppg, 4.0rpg, 1.5apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 38.5%, 3PT: 31.9%, FT: 83.3%. In his junior season he played 16 games averaging 12.8ppg, 2.9rpg, 1.7apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 53.3%, 3PT: 36.5%, FT: 83.3%. As a senior he played 28 games averaging 15.8ppg, 3.6rpg, 2.4apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 44.5%, 3PT: 39.3%, FT: 79.3%. He spoke to German Hoops recently when he arrived in Germany to start his professional career with Lich.
Blake thanks for talking to German Hoops. Welcome to Germany. What has been your first impression of the country?
At first it took a little to adjust, but it’s been nice. Germany is a pretty country and each city I have been in has been really nice.
What did you know about the basketball in Germany besides that Dirk Nowitzki and Dennis Schroeder are both playing in the NBA right now?
I’ve had always been told that Germany as a whole had good basketball. I knew guys were known for their ability to shoot along with high IQ players. Of course Dirk is a legend that everyone knows and Schroeder is starting to make a big name for himself as well.
You signed your first professional contract with German Pro B team Licher Basket Baeren. How excited are you that you will finally start your professional career?
I am very excited. Having the opportunity to continue my basketball career at the professional level is something I’ve thought about since I first started playing.
Did you talk with any friends about making this move? Possibly Brian Sullivan who has seen it all as a rookie in Germany having been injured and having to find his rhythm again?
I spoke with Sully a little, he’s enjoyed the country and hopefully we’ll get the opportunity to connect at some point. Injuries are something that all athletes have had to overcome at some point and it’s never easy. Unfortunately for him it happened his rookie year, but I’ve known Brian long enough to know a little adversity won’t stop him.
How difficult were the last months not really knowing the certainty of your basketball future? What kind of experience did you have the last summer trying to find a team?
Anytime your future is uncertain it’s extremely difficult, but I’ve always been a firm believer that every thing happens for a reason and it’s all in God’s hands. The past summer consisted of contracts and negotiations that just happen to not work out for one reason or another
You put up 22 points in your last college game against Union with Valdosta State(NCAA2). How sure were you after your last game in the NCAA 2 that you could go a professional route?
I’ve always been confident in my ability to play professional. However, I also knew it was all about finding the right situation with the right opportunity!
What has been your impression of the Licher Basket Baeren in the few days that you have been there?
I’ve enjoyed my time here so far. Our team is a group of high character guys to go along with their ability to play basketball. So it makes for an easier transition for me.
You are playing with two of the top players in the Pro B with KK Simmons and Lamar Mallory. How reassuring is it that you could make an impact in the Pro B seeing that a Simmons played in the NAIA and Mallory in the NCAA2?
It’s always reassuring to see other American’s on the team have success and make an impact. Especially knowing the colleges they come from and having the opportunity to relate to them from a basketball standpoint.
What do you feel will be your role with Lich? What has been your impression of head coach Rolf Scholz? Do you guys see eye to eye?
Coach Scholz has been very good to me so far. Any time a player is transitioning mid season its never easy from neither a coaching nor players prospective. He’s been great with helping me adjust into his system. Based on past games and speaking with the players, I think I could be the glue guy that brings everyone together or even just that calmness on the floor.
What do you feel is your biggest strength as a player?
I’ve always relied heavily on my shooting ability; it’s led to a lot of my success in basketball.
You are a guy that can fill up the stat sheet, but what do you feel is a hidden strength in your game that doesn´t get noticed right away on the court?
As a player it’s always hard to say, but if I had to choose I’d say my ability to read things offensively and defensively. Rather it is reading a screen the correct way on offense or anticipating in help side defensively.
What have you learned in your short time just watching KK Simmons? What do you appreciate most from his game? Possibly his explosiveness?
KK is a confident player, with confident comes success. I’d say what I appreciate most is how quickly he can get it going on the offensive end.
You played only 6 games for Akron(NCAA). Despite hardly playing there what do you feel did you get most out of this experience?
I faced a lot of adversity while in Akron, mainly due to some injuries. But adversity tells you a lot about yourself as a person and as a player. I think I grew as both there, I realized what it was going to take to be a pro and allowed that to motivate me to where I am today.
Your ex teammate Quincy Diggs is having a solid season in the German BBL. What do you remember being the most incredible thing that you saw him do on the court then?
Q was one of the hardest working players I’ve ever been around. We used to be in the gym getting workouts in prior to practice then turn around and come back later that night for more. He was always leader by example. On the court Q is the type of player who does it all, so I wouldn’t say there’s a specific moment I remember but more so just different games where he took over in so many ways outside of scoring.
You had a very good career at Valdosta State(NCAA2). How did head coach Mike Helfer groom and prepare you best for a professional career?
Coach Helfer has always been good to me. He’s one of those coaches that will put you in the situation to succeed and then allow you the freedom to do so. He allowed for my game to continue to develop over the years but always held me accountable. His coaching style motivated me to get into the gym and work on what needed to be done to continue to grow as a player. He helped me to learn my weaknesses and turn them into strengths.
What was one of your most memorable games at Valdosta State? Possibly the wild 127-115 win against Northern Alabama where you played 43 minutes scoring 24 points?
I’d say that game is definitely up there. My senior season was full of entertaining games. I believe we played in 7 OT games. That North Alabama game was huge as it was the conference opener on our court. I hadn’t shot it great throughout regulation but down 3 with under 10 to play coach set up a play for me to tie the game. After sending it into OT there was no doubt we would come away with it.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Chris Bilbo?
Bilbo would lie and say he did, but he knows it was always me! ha
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore, which 4 heads would you choose?
Mike, Larry, Lebron, and Kobe (Biased against bigs)
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?
He’s making a very good argument for the #1 spot. But as of right now he’s just a firm #2, although some of his accomplishments thus far is unheard of.
Where do you rank Kevin Garnett with the best power forwards that ever played the game?
I’d say he’s top 5 all-time but I don’t know if I could put him any further than #5
Klay Thompson recently hit 60 points in 29 minutes touching the ball for only 90 seconds. Where does this performance rank with you?
It’s an unreal performance, as a player who has made a career out of catch and shoot situations or reading screens, I have the utmost respect for it.
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?
Those are tough arguments, because they’re all team based. I’d say in the game right now it has to be him and the number he’s putting up are crazy. But switching him and Lebron spots I’d say Lebron is more than capable of doing the same if needed.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Get Hard – Kevin Hart/Will Ferrell.
Thanks Blake for the chat.