Chris Hortman is a 28 year old 190cm guard from Milwaukee, Wisconsin that will be playing his second season in Germany and first with the EN Baskets Schwelm. Last season he played for the TVI Basketball SWAP Ballers Ibbenbueren (Germany-Regionalliga) playing 26 games: Score-1(25.0ppg), 9.7rpg, 5.1apg, 2.9spg, FGP: 51.5%, 3PT: 42.4%, FT: 76.9%. He got vast experience in the states before turning professional playing at various schools like Milwaukee Area Tech JC (JUCO), Missouri Valley (NAIA), Wisc.-Stout (NCAA3) where as a senior he played 27 games averaging 14.7ppg, 5.6rpg, 1.3apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 42.2%, 3PT: 36.0%, FT: 85.5%. He also played with the Gold Coast Rollers (Australia-SBL) in 2014 averaging 28,6ppg. He spoke to German Hoops earlier in the summer about Basketball.
Chris thanks for talking to German Hoops. Where are you at the moment and how has your summer been?
Hey miles thanks for the opportunity to talk. Rght now I am in Schwelm, Germany and had a really successful summer with working out with my trainer and building my own training company swish dreams elite in Denver Colorado.
Usually Americans are still in the States in July enjoying the last weeks of summer with family and friends before heading back to Germany. You were already in Germany in July. Was it difficult leaving everyone so early and what really brought you back so early even if your Regionalliga season ended on April ist.
Yes it is difficult every time leaving family and friends to come to a new land with new customs, but I felt it was very necessary to leave early and get a head start on the season learning the plays, building a relationship with the head coach and meeting the staff and the city to prepare for this next major step in my career.
Congrats on signing with the EN Baskets Schwelm. How excited are you to be playing in the Pro B with this club and what is your biggest goal on and off the court?
Thank you. and yes I am very excited to have moved up leagues with the EN Baskets Schwelm into the Pro B league. My biggest goal on the court is to just show my skills as a basketball player and show that I belong. Also on the court continue to learn the European style of play and off the court I’m currently working on learning more German so I can more effetely communicate and express myself with my teammates and members of the community.
Last season with Ibbenbueren you split the season series losing the first game badly by 46 points, but you scored 17 points, but in the second game you got revenge winning 96-86 scoring 26 points, getting 12 rebounds and getting six assists. Would you have ever in your wildest dreams that you would be playing with this team the next season?
Yes last season we split games. The first of the two very one sided and the second actually one of the toughest/emotional games of my life. It came down to execution in the last couple of minutes and the better team was able to prevail. They pushed me to a mental high with an extreme physical and high i.q level played game. I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined that I would later sign with them, but in hind sight it only makes sense to because of how high quality level of basketball the team and the coaching staff was able to produce
Do you feel like Schwelm management noticed you in these games, especially in the second game where you really were all over the court and they made a note of you in their notebook?
Yes I feel that they noticed me in the last game which at the time was my goal. I didn’t know they would move up but I surly wanted to win the game. I wanted to be a force not only on the offense end but defensively and on the boards and finding my teammates unlike the first game where we were undermanned. The second game we had a full roster and a new addition of Rishi Kakad plus a new coaching staff with a new team philosophy and with these new additional factors and me playing at a high level we were able to get a Big win Not only was it a big personal win for me, but also a big win for the Ibbebbueren program.
The EN Baskets Schwelm are a very traditional team that played in the BBL back in 2004 and have been up and down in the second leagues the last 10 years. What was the most important thing that convinced you that this club was the perfect fit for you?
Last year playing against Schwelm two times, it was clear that the players and the minds of the coaching staff were levels ahead of the rest though of the two games they were able to apply a level of intense defensive pressures on me the entire 40 minutes and no matter what happened during the game they stuck to their plan offensively and continued to run their sets with a level of discipline I had not seen before and after talking to the coach and the gm Omar who is a great guy during the recruiting process. who made it clear I would have a leader role not only offensively but overall for this type of high caliber program. It was a no brainer. I knew this was exactly the situation that I needed to help propel my basketball career in the right direction. It was a perfect fit!
You have been in Schwelm from early on. How has your early relationship been with head coach Falk Moeller and what is the feeling of head coach and star player about the chances of the team this season?
Coach Falk Moeller has been great. He shows a level of confidence in me that every player wants to see in their head coach. Its honestly great being in the gym with him. He just has so much knowledge that I am eager to soak up during the season and as every coach and player we have high exceptions for the season, but right now the main focus is just getting in doing the reps and building team chemistry and not jumping ahead but doing the process and focus on building foundation that we can work on throughout the season!
You dominated the German Regionalliga and most likely saw some Pro B games last season. How confident are you that not only you will be able to make the transition, but be a serious impact player in the Pro B this season?
I was defiantly able to catch a few Pro B games. There is a clear difference than Regionalliga. Plain and simple the players are just better, the game is faster with more organization and with me, I’m a true believer in hard work so we will see where I fit it the league, but like all players I do want to be a top dog in the league. I have complete confidence in my work ethic and my determination to get better as a player and make adjustments
You have had to always prove yourself in school and now you are working yourself up the professional ladder and are used to it. How do you feel have you mentally grown as a player and person having had to go through your basketball life the hard way instead of having everything go easy for you?
Mentally I feel I’ve grown in leaps and bounds coming from Milwaukee Wisconsin. The tough only survive but coming out here in Germany you need more than toughness excluding basketball. Your on a new land with a new language and completely different customs. I learned quickly that culture shock is real. Mentally I learned with my way of coming up patiently not only with others but with myself. We all have visions on where we want to be and with me taking the non-traditional route I’ve had to have more patience with the process and trusting my skill and a little luck form the big man to get where I feel I should be
Schwelm have some very good talent, but also experience with Germans Sebastian Schroeter, Thomas Reuter and Dario Fiorentino and Matthias Perl. You already averaged an amazing 5,1apg last season, but do you feel like you can become a high assist man playmaker this season with this unending talent?
The talent that is here is amazing. The bigs can shoot and dribble the ball. Basically all the guards can shoot the three and have the will to hold defense plus great movement without the ball. I feel it will be easy to find an open player and even easier to make the pass with confidence knowing the player can get yo u the easy assist. I’m very excited to show that side of my game even more this year
Let´s talk about your game. You are 190cm, but have big man stats having 25 and 9 last season and in school with three different schools 14 and 8, 13 and 7 and 14 and 5. How proud are you of your rebounding ability?
I am very proud of my rebounding ability. Growing up I wasn’t always the biggest or the strongest and really never tried to rebound. I had a coach call me out on it. He told me it wasn’t about height or size but about heart and pride so I took coach Bell of the Wisconsin Wizards (AAU) advice and every game I try and go show how much pride I do have for rebounding
I personally love strong rebounding guards. Has a Russell Westbrook become more of a role model in the last year simply because of how he has somewhat evolutionized the art of rebounding on his own terms?
That is a tough question. I wouldn’t be able to pin point one player. The first one that comes to mind is a Russel Westbrook. Just do the facts I rebound, but if I shot his percentages I don’t think me and you would be having this conversation. For rebounding I would choose him. For finding my teammates and ability to get to the lane I would choose a Tony Parker a smooth ball handler with a keen eye to see open players and play development with shooting/shot selection I would say a Jamal Crawford with some nice crossovers with the ability to catch n shoot from deep and shoot off the dribble from three with a nice percentage
You are a player that can fill the stat sheet, but what do you feel is a hidden strength in your game that doesn´t always get noticed right away on the court?
A hidden strength that I feel doesn´t get noticed right away and really can’t is my work ethic and my ability to adjust. In the beginning of the season last year I struggled badly with the refs. I constantly got in foul trouble and even fouled out of a few games, which really hurt my team. I spent countless hours working on my defense learning how to play under the standards here I’m not sure if anyone noticed but eventually I was able to make the adjustment and stay in the game to help my team get some W’s
Last season as a rookie in Germany you played for TVI Basketball SWAP Ballers Ibbenbueren (Germany-Regionalliga) playing 26 games: Score-1(25.0ppg), 9.7rpg, 5.1apg, 2.9spg, FGP: 51.5%, 3PT: 42.4%, FT: 76.9%. Did it at times feel like you were a man playing with boys?
I honestly never had that feeling. At first it was really tough. I had good numbers but just were not winning games. Once we started to win games and win games in row my only focus was just the next game. I didn’t care to much about the stats and just wanted to keep winning and show I wasn´ t just an American putting up numbers but a leader and a winner. I would rest Sunday and then get back to work on Monday figuring out what I could have done better and making the adjustment and really only focusing on keeping our win streak alive!!
Last season you had many great games including a 45 point game against Frintrop and a triple double against Herten just to mention a few. What was your personal best and favorite game last season?
Truly my favorite game was the second against Schwelm. They were on a crazy win streak and proved to be the best team in the league. We were on a win streak to prove we could play to and I just wanted to step up to the play and show who I was as a player and as a man. I was not happy the way they handled us the first time and we had beat a few decent teams before them and it was really important for me to show that I’m not the guy who can only play against weaker opponents, but more the man who shows up and shows out regardless of the opposing team
Last season what was your wake up call to being a rookie in Germany where you knew that you were very far away from home Milwaukee?
The first and major wake up call that I was not at home. I was oddly the red lights. Not one person jay walked. Its was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen with no car in miles we all stood there and waited for the green. I instantly thought “Dorthery we not in Kanas anymore.
You finished school in 2013 and except for a short stint in Australia with the Gold Coast Rollers (Australia-SBL) where you 28.6ppg, you didn´t return to playing until 2016. Did you have other career choices or just having problems finding the right fit as a professional the last years before Ibbenbueren?
There were some tough years for me. I got to Australia through on of those tours and found a team but was a very low level and with me coming from a D3 I had a hard time with teams and agents taking my game serious. Luckily I stayed in faith and worked and grinded day in and day out until I was about to get the opportunity to play in Ibbenbueren.
You played at three schools with Milwaukee Area Tech JC (JUCO), Missouri Valley (NAIA) and Wisc.-Stout (NCAA3) How important was it for you having this experience of playing at three different schools. How do you feel did you develop as a player that you might not have become had you been only been to one school?
Playing at these three school was major in my development. I went from a very amazing coach in Milwaukee who put a lot of pressure on me but also gave me complete freedom to a very controlling coach in Missouri Valley who wanted everything done his way down to the T. Then next to a division 3 coach who would only use me to score once behind in a game. Besides that I didn’t play. Mentally I had to grow in all these situation I had to learn how to handle these different coaching styles but continue to put in my house in the gym playing or not happy or not but just continue and focus on the future which happened to be the time I’m living out now!
How important was head coach Chad Lance for you at Missouri Valley (NAIA). You were coming from Milwaukee Area Tech JC (JUCO). How did he help you make the transition best?
Chad Lance was all about control with being on his team. I had to learn how to manage my game with his system which started with learning the system and then learning when and where the scoring/passing options were. His aggressive style of coaching help me develop quicker as a man more than a player
You finished at Wisc.-Stout (NCAA3)27 games: 14.7ppg, 5.6rpg, 1.3apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 42.2%, 3PT: 36.0%, FT: 85.5%. What was the deciding factor that convinced you that you could become a professional basketball player?
There really wasn´t a deciding factor at Stout about playing professional basketball. It has been the goal of mine since I was a little kid. and I continually worked on it regardless of the situation just kept working for it and believed it would happen
How did your head coach at Wisc.-Stout (NCAA3) give you the final touches to helping you be groomed and prepared best for a professional basketball career?
The head coach Eddie Andrist at UW stout helped me in an unusual way. He did not start me. I only played half the game averaged 22 minutes. even though I was one of top if the best player in the division 3 at the time. It was a very frustrating time period for me. I felt I wasn’t getting my fair share and really the question was if this was the route that I wanted to take in life. After a few weeks of depression I made the choice that this is what I wanted and really locked in mentally turned my daily grind up to a new level I had never had and really developed my skills.. I Became way more efficient and was able to produce stats with half of the game that most players couldn’t do while playing the whole game. I also was the first player in d3 history to get the all conference award coming off the bench. It was one of the hardest years of my life, but I wouldn’t change it for nothing. It really help me turn my work ethic to the professional level
Who won a one on one in practice you or Aaron Jenny?
Hahahah Arron Jenny. He is a really great guy and was one of my favorite team mates.. He was more of an American football player. I honestly don’t remember practices from years ago, but I’m sure nothing has changed. I will win them now and won them then
You played at Milwaukee Area Tech JC (JUCO) as a freshman in the 2009-10 season playing 30 games averaging 14.4ppg, 8.1rpg, 4.2apg, 1.8spg, FGP: 41%, 3PT: 29%, FT: 78%. As a guy from Milwaukee, do you remember hearing about the murder of Lavell Felton in 2009. He had a stellar professional career and his last team before his death was Paderborn in Germany. Did you have any dealings with him?
Sadly being from Milwaukee you hear of murders every other day and it becomes to the point where its just part of life. I don’t not remember this guy, but if he grew up in Milwaukee I’m sure he was a heck of a player. Milwaukee is a breeding ground for players just waiting to get a chance to show the world
You played against many great players in school, but who was the toughest that you played against that is in the NBA now?
Playing Juco in Milwaukee I had the opportunity to go Marquette and play with the team hoping I could land a spot on their roster. This was during the Wes Matthews and Jimmy Butler years. I would say Westly Matthews, but he was on my team so Jimmy Butler wins by default. He was so strong and solid not a specialist in one area, but just a dominant force that was really good at everything. How he has developed himself to now is purely amazing.
How does your summer workout plan look like on and off the court in 2017?
Workout play was intense. 6am -8 on the court 8-830 hot tub and streaming
2-5 weight room and on the court. 6-7 either jump training with a trainer or stretching with a yoga trainer matters the day. The second ones were pm .. the first was in the am. Massages every weekend. I did my best to stay true and rested when really tired
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you chose?
Top 4 Wilt, Larry Bird, Kobe, Jordan in no particular order
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?
For me Lebrun stands as the great athlete of all time. 6.8, fast and big as a horse, can handle the ball, shoot the ball with great vision, but he’s just doesn’t have that monster in him to be considered the greatest. His IQ hinders him in my opinion. He’s so smart and does the right play every time which I feel doesn’t cut it. You have to say something I’m going to score this ball regardless of what happens which is what the Michael Jordans and Kobe Bryant’s did. That is why for me he’s not where near the best of all time list.
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?
With Russel Westbrook people can say whatever they want. If it was easy to just want to go get rebound and do it everyone in the league would do it. The fact he wanted to do it and did it is beyond amazing and for anyone to make an excuse about what he did doesn’t know what it takes to do that
How do you summarize the 2017 NBA Draft. What sleepers do you see playing a role in the NBA?
The NBA draft was probably the best it´s been in years. The real ballers are here and I was so excited about it. I myself went to Vegas to watch the summer league. I think this class is bringing back some excitement that is needed. I think the biggest sleeper is Dennis Smith Jr. It´s is a joke this kid wasn’t in the top 5 and will prove all the teams that passed on him to be wrong.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Oddly last night I watched love and basketball an American classic
Thanks Chris for the chat.