Gilles Dierickx is a 25 year old 213cm center from Belgium that is playing his second professional season and first with the Artland Dragons(PRO B). Last season as a rookie he played for three teams with Arcos Albacete Basket (Spain-LEB Silver) playing 2 games averaging 9.0ppg, 4.5rpg, 1.0apg, 1.5bpg, in Nov.’16 moved to Rot-Weiss Cuxhaven (Germany-Regionalliga) playing 5 games averaging 13.8ppg, 5.6rpg, 2FGP: 72.2%, FT: 73.9%, in Dec.’16 signed at Melco Ieper (Top Division I) playing 10 games averaging 12.4ppg, 10.2rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 46.5%, FT: 78.9%. He went to school in the states starting with FIU (NCAA) in 2011 and then moved to Washington(NCAA) playing only 28 games in two seasons. He finished his college career at Seattle Pacific (NCAA2) playing 31 games averaging 11.4ppg, 7.0rpg, 1.2bpg, FGP: 56.0%, FT: 61.0%. He spoke to German Hoops earlier in the summer about basketball.
Gilles thanks for talking to German Hoops. Where are you at the moment and how has your summer been coming along?
I am currently in Quakenbrück already, I decided to come a bit early to get adjusted to the new environment before preseason starts and get some individual work outs in with the coaching staff. My summer has been good, I’ve been working out and took some time off with family.
You played at three NCAA schools and as a rookie played in Spain, Germany and Belgium. Do you already feel like a basketball globetrotter at the tender age of 25?
Definitely a little bit, I think all those experiences helped me become the person that I am today.
How confident and lucky do you feel that you will complete the whole season with your new team Artland Dragons and not continue your basketball globetrotter ways this season?
I feel very fortunate to be with the Artland Dragons, for this season I definitely wanted to be in a stable situation the whole time and not be moving from one place to the other.
Congrats on signing your second deal win Germany with the Artland Dragons. As a guy that comes from boardering Belgium how have you followed German basketball over the years? How have you seen it´s development from a far?
Thank you. I had not kept up with German basketball too much as I just came back from the States this past July and I mainly watched NCAA basketball and the NBA. However, from seeing teammates play in different places in Europe I realized quickly that Germany was a country that plays basketball at a high level.
There will be a test game in Erfurt, Germany in August between Germany and Belgium. How have you followed the development of the Belgium national team? Where is the future of Belgium basketball going?
I have been keeping up a bit with the national team developments and it’s headed in the right direction for sure. I think Belgian basketball has come a long way and we have proven that Belgium has a strong basketball league and can produce high-level local talent as well. We have several players in the Liga Endesa currently.
What new young players are coming up? I have followed a guy by the name of Manu Lecomte of Baylor who had a solid junior season. Do you see him really breaking out as a senior and becoming more of a household name after this season?
I am not too familiar with Manu’s game but I know Baylor and himself had a strong season last year so I definitely see him doing well again. In terms of other players, I’m not too sure, as I said, having been away so long I did not keep up as much with what was going on over here in Europe.
Congrats on signing with the Artland Dragons. How did you experience your second summer transfer period? Did you have more offers than last season and what convinced you after your workout in Quackenbruck that the Artland Dragons were the right club?
This off-season was definitely much less stressful than last year. There was interest right off the bat as I was able to showcase myself a bit this year despite the “globetrotter season”. After my work out I knew right away Artland was a great fit for me, because the club is very professional and coach Flo has a reputation of developing big guys well.
How important was the fact that you would have a big man type mentor in coach Florian Hartenstein in making your decision to join Artland? What did you respect most from the character of Hartenstein?
It was very important to me. I know that I have to develop more to get where I want to be and I think that he will be able to help me get closer to my goals. I do not know coach Flo that well yet as we have only met the one time, but he kept it real with me during the work out and in our talks he payed strong attention to detail.
You are joining a very ambitious team with the Artland Dragons that played in the EasyCredit BBL just three years ago. Their goal is to move up to the Pro A this season. What kind of expectations are you having going into the season concerning your role?
I am setting the bar high as I think any player should. I want to be an impact player when I am on the court, whether it’s rebounding, playing strong defense, blocking shots or finishing strong inside. I am going to approach every game with the same mindset and that is to play hard, do what coach expects me to do and most importantly to get the win.
Let´s talk about your game. You’re a guy that has proved that you can score and rebound consistently for a big man, but what other strengths in your game will you show this season in Germany?
I want to show that I am a good passer, we want to play together as a team and that will involve every player 1 through 5 to be able to make the right read.
You are a guy that can fill the stat sheet not only on the offensive end, but also on the defensive end as you have proven to be a shot blocker already in your early career. However what do you feel is a hidden strength in your game that doesn´t get noticed right away?
I feel that the passing doesn’t get noticed but also the fact that I can shoot the midrange shot consistently. That is something I have not been able to showcase much.
Last season you started the season in Spain with club Arcos Albacete Basket (Spain-LEB Silver), but it was short lived as you played only 2 games. You started very well, but then left. Why did you go and could you take any positives with this brief stay in Spain?
I left because I didn’t feel like the club was a great fit for me. A positive to take out of it is: to appreciate every opportunity you get, because you don’t always know what is going to happen next.
In November you moved on to Germany to Cuxhaven where you played 5 games averaging 13.8ppg, 5.6rpg, 2FGP: 72.2%, FT: 73.9%. This was a team with many nationalities and on course to win the Regionaliga. Again you had a short stay. When looking back are you disappointed you couldn´t stay and help the team move up to the Pro B?
I must admit I was a bit disappointed. Winning is what it’s all about in sports. Being a champion would have been great but we all make choices and it is in the past now. I appreciate the short stay I had in Cuxhaven.
What are your feelings about the club needing money quickly inorder to keep their license. They are known as having incredible fans. What was special about the fans that you noticed in your short stay there?
I really hope they are able to pull it together, the team fought hard all year to get that title and the fans definitely deserve to see Cuxhaven play in the pro B. The fans were extremely loyal as a lot of them traveled with us to away games(even very far ones!) I have to give a quick shout out to Rene and Lena, those two people definitely tried their best to make it feel like a home to us.
You finished the season in the second Belgium division with Melco Ieper (Top Division I) playing 10 games averaging 12.4ppg, 10.2rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 46.5%, FT: 78.9%. How important was it for your mental health and overall confidence for finishing with double double stats after a long and nomadic rookie season?
It was important to me as I feel like I underperformed a bit in the rebounding category at Cuxhaven. But then again I feel like I could’ve done a better job in the scoring category and also finish at a higher rate. There is always something I could be doing better in my mind.
You played at three schools in the states at FIU, Washington and Seattle Pacific. How important do you feel was your long stay in the states for your basketball development. Do you feel like you would not be the well rounded player you are today had you stayed in Europe?
I feel like it was very important for me. I started out in high school there and from early on I was surrounded by highly talented players. It was an eye opener to me. I do believe I would not have been the same player now if I had stayed in Europe. Basketball is a much bigger sport in America than it is in Belgium, therefore I believed I had to make that move in order to pursue my dreams of becoming a pro one day.
You came across so much NBA flair in your NCAA career with Isiah Thomas, Shawn kemp jr or Lorenzo Romar. What special story can you take from your extensive experience in the States with the dealings with these guys that you will surely be telling forever?
Man I remember coach Isiah once played with us in 5 on 5 and was still dropping dimes like it was nothing, those guys don’t lose it. Coach Romar Well let’s just say you don’t want to challenge him to a shooting contest, that man really has a jumper, he also jumps higher than anyone I know on his jumpshot. Being around NBA guys showed me how hard you have to work to make it. There are a lot of talented guys but it will always require a combination of hard work and talent to make it to the NBA.
You started your NCAA career in 2011 at FIU (NCAA) playing 29 games averaging 2.6ppg, 2.2rpg. You played your freshman season for legendary Detroit Piston and NBA champion Isiah Thomas. You were born in 1992 when he had already won his two NBA titles. When you look back what was the most lasting thing that he gave you as advice on the court that you could take with you?
To just play hard. I remember he got really angry with us during halftime one time, not because shots weren’t falling, but because the other team was playing harder than us. He said you can make up for a lot of things by just playing hard.
You had quite a few road trips as a rookie. Do you remember Isiah Thomas telling any great stories from back in the day possibly his rivalry with the Boston Celtics.
Not specifically, that was a pretty long time ago now. But I do remember he would talk about the intensity, it was like those guys almost wanted to kill each other on the court.
You moved to the well known competitive school Washington(NCAA) in 2012, but wasn´t eligible to play until 2013, but practiced with the team. What memories do you have of that first practice year with Washington battling Senegal 213cm big man Aziz N´Diaye? He played in Germany with Frankfurt as a rookie and scored 4 points and grabbed 7 rebounds in a loss at Artland your future home. Do you feel like the both of you gained something on the court from each other?
Yes, I had to redshirt and that was very tough at times because I just really wanted to play. In hindsight, it was important for me to develop a bit more to get ready for the tough PAC 12 competition. Yeah I do, Aziz taught me that I had to hit the weight room hard, he was a beast inside and was tough to deal with if you weren’t strong enough. I think I taught Aziz always to block out, even though I wasn’t anywhere near as strong as him, I made it a point to always crash the boards and whenever I got an offensive board I think he was about to lose his mind.
In two seasons at Washington(NCAA) you played 28 games and hardly got minutes. Were you just in the wrong place at the wrong time having a beast like Robert Uphsaw on the team?
I think it was a combination of things. Having Rob on the team was good because it forced me to get better but it was also tough to get minutes because he was obviously a very good player. I appreciate my time at Washington very much although it may not have gone the way I pictured it.
You moved one more time to Seattle Pacific (NCAA2) playing 31 games averaging 11.4ppg, 7.0rpg, 1.2bpg, FGP: 56.0%, FT: 61.0%. How do you feel did you grow as a player in your senior year?
I think I grew a lot as a player. For me it was important to get into a rhythm again before I went pro. It was a great feeling to be starting and playing a lot of minutes on a great team that won a lot of games.
Your head coach at Seattle Pacific stated “Someone who is transferring from Division I and going to a school like Seattle Pacific that’s Division II, they want to be successful,” “They’re going to push themselves to be the best that they can possibly be. Some of the pressure is probably good from that perspective, but at the same time I don’t want the expectation to be unreal.” How did coach Looney give you that last fine tuning and groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
Well, coach Looney knew one thing very well; and that was how to win. In my previous college careers we had not been as successful as we liked to be, but with SPU having a track record of dominating the GNAC each year I think that it was a good situation for me to develop despite dropping down a level. Coach Grant Leep worked with the big guys and he definitely had a big impact on my game.
Who was the toughest player you battled in the NCAA that is in the NBA now?
Probably Kaleb Tarczewski, the guy was a very mobile 7 footer and very strong.
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you chose?
Michael Jordan, Wilt, Larry Bird, Lebron Lebron.
James failed to win his fourth NBA title and is still three away from Michael Jordan. Where does Lebron stand right now in your opinion in the never ending debate of who is the best of all-time?
I think it is hard to compare the two. I still think Jordan is the greatest of all time. Lebron is a beast and has had chances to push the debate in his favor but hasn’t been able to make it happen.
There has been criticism of Russell Westbrook to be focusing more on rebounding to help inflate his stats and possibilities of getting triple doubles instead of focusing on his defensive assignments. Do you feel that this is a fair assessment to the player Russell Westbrook?
I don’t think that’s really fair because I think he plays extremely hard in general and no player is perfect.
How do you summarize the 2017 NBA Draft. What sleepers do you see playing a role in the NBA?
I think my guy Nigel Williams-Goss will be a big time sleeper, this guy works extremely hard. He received a lot of criticism after leaving Washington but I think what he did at Gonzaga should’ve proved a lot of people wrong.
Where will the journey of the Houston Rockets go this season with Chris Paul and James Harden in the back court. Do they have enough to make a serious run at the title or is something missing?
I think the Rockets will be good but I don’t know if it’s going to be anywhere near close enough to compete with the Warriors.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Thanks Gilles for the chat.