Riverside, California may just be another city in California that gives it´s 2 cents in helping the estimated 39,14 million of the Golden State keep it´s growth, but when you have 319,514 people living there, you are bound to produce more than just a handful of very talented athletes. When looking at the who´s who of well known sports figures that come from Riverside, one quickly notices that the city that is 57 miles from Los Angeles has had a fancy of producing baseball players more than basketball players. If one were to make a poll asking Riverside natives which player Barry Bonds or Reggie Miller is that places most famous athlete, the responses may be mixed, but stats don´t lie that baseball players own that region. For the old school baseball fans just mentioning the father and son duo of Bobby and Barry Bonds and Dusty Baker would make one or the other reminisce back to four decades as they owned the baseball landscape of the 70´s, 80´s, 90´s and into the millennium. Other notable players were guys like Alvin Davis, 2002 World Series champion and save master Troy Percival, Eric Show and 2002 World Series champion Adam Kennedy just to name a few. Basketball players just don´t match baseball players in number from Riverside, but it has produced some very well known players besides Miller like his sister Cheryl current NBA shooting star Kawhi Leonard, Tony Snell and Euroleague winner with Real Madrid Marcus Slaughter. Another guy that belongs to the short list of professional basketball players that come from Riverside is Mason Biddle. He may not ring a bell for most, but he recently finished his rookie season in Germany and despite all the baseball talent coming from Riverside, in the end he decided to focus on basketball and his talent brought him a professional contract in 2016. Like so many guys before him, he chose against baseball for a reason I chose Tennis after spending my last game in ninth grade at short stop, the usually most exciting position on the diamond getting one ground ball the whole game and just lost in thoughts about what I am doing wasting my time with this sport. It wasn´t so much difference for Biddle as boredom can be a nagging difficulty for a teenager when all you really want is some fun and excitement. Biddle couldn´t come up with so many famous basketball players from Riverside either. “Yea the only other two I can think from Riverside California besides Reggie Miller would be Kawhi Leonard and a good friend of mine Malcolm Lee. Obviously, everyone knows Kawhi and Malcolm played 3 years in the NBA and was in the top league in Turkey this past season. I played baseball growing up and I wish I would have stuck with it but it was too slow paced for me so I stopped playing at a young age”, warned Mason Biddle.
Who knows what may have happened to the baseball career of Mason Biddle had he stayed with it, but he was able to turn professional after his college career at Western State(NCAA2) and now is on a fun and exciting roller coaster ride where he will see if he can be another one of many talented players form America in Europe that can slowly move up the basketball ladder up levels.
It wasn´t any different for Marcus Slaughter who went from Germany to the Euroleague. Biddle will have a longer road than Slaughter, but he is ready for the challenge and blessed that he got that first chance in Germany. “My first year in Stade I had a great experience. The city and club treated me very well and we had a successful season. I met a lot great people and formed a lot of good relationships. My coach, Nemo Weber was great we had a real solid relationship on and off the court. It was my first time out of the country and I really enjoyed being in Germany”, stressed Mason Biddle. Even if you can´t compare a Slaughter to a Biddle as the big 204cm power forward didn´t win his Euroleague title until his ninth season and in his third try with Real Madrid after being a finalist in 2013 and 2014 and saw the inside of hotels in Europe that Biddle would only see when watching Netflix movies, but Biddle who never saw the inside of a hotel in Germany on a road trip as teams travel to games on game day in the German fourth league called the Regionalliga took his rookie season and less comfortable way of life in stride. “Although the Regionalliga 1 isn’t that glamourous I think it was a good start to my career. I was fortunate enough to be in a position a lot of players would have taken in a heartbeat. Playing Itzehoe and Wedel in the preseason also showed me that the top teams in the Regionalliga are similar to a lot of the teams in the Pro-B. I was lucky to have access to a gym outside of practice hours in Stade and tried to keep myself busy on off days. The top 4 teams in the North were pretty good and with no playoffs in this league every game was important”, warned Mason Biddle.
Biddle started his professional career with Stade which is a small town that has nearly 46,000 residents about an hour from Hamburg and lies on the other side of the beautiful Elbe river. Even if there was little to do in Stade, just roaming along the pretty Elbe river and watching the gigantic ships coming from all the world en route to Hamburg harbor move up and down could have erased any boredom he might have had. On the court, the club had a very successful season, but when it counted most about moving up or staying in the Regionalliga, they were unable to beat top team RW Cuxhaven in the last game as they couldn´t carry over their success from beating them the first time. “It was a crazy year in the sense of how the schedule worked out. There are no playoffs in this league but how the records worked out we ended up playing Cuxhaven in the last game of the year to determine who would move up to the Pro-B. The atmosphere at the game was amazing and our fan support was incredible for an away game. Unfortunately, we came up short and didn’t have our best game when it counted but we fought until the end. Defensively we missed a few rotations that we changed mid-game and offensively we didn’t hit our shots down the stretch. Cuxhaven played real well followed a good game plan and deserved to win that day“, stressed Mason Biddle. The club had very talented players which Biddle benefited from and was able to broaden his basketball horizons and play with international players from Spain like young Damian Cortes Rey and the experienced Oscar Andres. “I loved playing with both Damian and Oscar this season. Damian is a young and very athletic shooting guard that started the year off great. Even though his shooting percentage went down during the year he improved in a lot of different ways and was a vital part to our success as a whole. He is going to be a great player. Oscar Andres was one of my best friends on the team and I loved playing with him. I have been playing basketball for a long time and he is one of the smartest players I have ever been around. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time and helps keep our team level headed through any adversity we face. It was a pleasure playing with both of them”, added Mason Biddle. As is often the case, German Regionalliga teams are filled with experienced German players like Tom Lipke that once played at higher levels, but now in their thirties are closing out their careers and can pass off their experience to younger players like Biddle. “Tom Lipke was another close friend of mine. Tom suffered through some injuries throughout the season and it was tough for him to get into his usual rhythm but he was another key ingredient to our success. Tom is pretty much unstoppable going to the basket and in post-up situations in this league and he had a few games and moments where he showed it. If you watch Tom play you can tell that he was a second Bundesliga talent when he was younger and still has some left in the tank. Tom gave me a lot of great advice on all his experiences and was always open to answering any questions I had. I was fortunate to be able to play with him this season”, stressed Mason Biddle.
Biddle who rates Russell Westbrook as an animal on the court and one of his favorite players had a solid rookie season playing 20 games and averaging 13.0ppg, 5.7rpg, 5.2apg, 2.9spg, FGP: 39.4%, 3PT: 38.1%, FT: 81.9%. “I was very content with the season I had. I stayed healthy, took care of my body throughout the season, and felt in control of each game as the PG and leader”, said Mason Biddle. When examining the stats of Biddle even more closely, one recognizes that he wasn´t one of those typical American players in the Regionaliga averaging 25ppg, but a guy that played more for the team success and was able to not only fill out the stat sheet, but do his role as a classical floor general where scoring wasn´t the first option. He could of scored a lot more if he wanted, but put his his ego in the closet and played for the good of the team. “A lot of Americans get that bad image of being selfish and only caring about scoring in this league because it is how a lot of them play. When I first got to Stade and started practicing I could tell my teammates were real surprised that I was willing to pass the ball and make the right play. But I think I proved this season that I am a team player and put the team’s success before mine every day. I know I can score and get a shot off whenever I want but as a point guard it is my job to get our team the best shot and I think that is what I did this season”, warned Mason Biddle. He scored in double figures in 15 of 20 games and shot 38% from outside. His 38% percentage from downtown is a positive omen that he will continue to raise his shooting in that area. “I do feel with extra reps this summer and more hours in the gym I will be able to shoot in the 40% range next season”, warned Mason Biddle. Stats don´t always tell the whole story especially on the defensive end as there are countless ways one can help his team without it being remembered in the stat sheet, but even despite averaging 2,9spg, Biddle felt as though his defense was overlooked. “I was fortunate this year to do a little bit of everything depending on what was needed that day. A hidden strength in my game that never really got noticed until this year was my defense. I have always had a good basketball mind and I am very tuned in when it comes to scouting reports and defensive rotations. I also take pride in guarding the opposing team’s best player and doing everything I can to get them out of their comfort zone”, commented Mason Biddle.
Biddle is back in Riverside, California with a along summer in front of him and enough time to think about his professional basketball future. Often it is those very skilled Americans who really ruled the Regionalliga that get that promotion right away to the next level Pro B, but then again other guys like American Terence Billups need an extra season of fine tuning before making the next step as he reached the Pro B with Leipzig in his third season after paying his dues in the Regionalliga with Cottbus and Rendsburg. Then again there are other guys like Ricky Easterling who made a name in the Regionalliga for 8 seasons with Saarlouis averaging over 30,0ppg three times, but not making the jump to the Pro B until 2014 and recently completed his third season at that level with BG Karlsruhe. Every player has his own unique experience and one never really knows what kind of opportunity a player will get. On most occasions that highs coring American will make the next step, but where will the basketball future of Mason Biddle go? A guy who averaged only 13,0ppg, but that played that accepted European game of team basketball that GM´s also adore. Biddle isn´t even thinking about more years in the Regionalliga, but is being aggressive and looking up. “Depending on the offer I get I would give this league another chance with a team that has the desire and budget to move up a level. But as for an extensive career I am not too sure. I am looking to play higher as soon as possible”, stressed Mason Biddle. He dropped 31 points in his best game of the season in the 66-59 victory against top team RW Cuxhaven and possibly that club might have scribbled his name in their player transaction notebook. “I don’t know if they have my name in their notebook for possible new players, but if they did I would be ready to talk. They had a good team this year and both games we played them were competitive and fun”, added Mason Biddle. One thing that Biddle doesn´t lack is self-confidence, but why should he when he already proved in his rookie season that he could make an impact at the next level playing against Pro B teams in pre-season. “I am going to be working out this summer and staying ready. Hopefully in the next month or so I will get some good offers to play somewhere next season. We actually beat Itzehoe and Wedel in the preseason this year and I have no doubt that I can make an impact at the next level”, warned ex Western State(NCAA2) guard Mason Biddle. The American will continue to work overtime in the gym and on his basketball craft on the court as his drive to be the very best at his position despite not having even a tad of that Westbrook athleticism continues to push him to the limit. “I am a very smart and skilled PG that gets overlooked by players that are more athletic than me. It has been like that my whole life and it is something that pushes me every day. I am a player that can score, pass, and rebound well for my size and am willing to do anything the team needs to be successful. I am all about playing basketball the right way and getting great shots verse good shots. I am a natural leader that can run a team and system very well.”, warned Mason Biddle. Biddle will surely go his way as a professional basketball player as he has the game and right attitude, but even if he won´t play in the NBA like King James or be able to one day trade Euroleague stories with fellow Riverside native Marcus Slaughter, he will always know the one place where he was truly king and ex Western State(NCAA2) guard and Biddle teammate Danny Hopkins should be able to attest to that. “I have been playing with Danny Hopkins since I was in the 3rd grade and we have been in countless amount of practices together. But I can honestly say I don’t ever remember playing him in an actual game of one on one, and now that I think about it that’s crazy. I will say in my last two years at Western I was the KING of the court in 85% of the group one on one sessions we had though”, smiled Mason Biddle.