Kevin Dillard is a 27 year old 183cm point guard from Chicago, Illinois that is playing his fifth professional season and first with PAOK Thessaloniki (Greece-A1). He started his basketball career at S Illinois in 2008 playing a total of 60 NCAA games. In 2010 he moved to Dayton and played 63 NCAA games in the period between 2011-2013 and as a senior played 31 games averaging 15.3ppg, 1.9rpg, 4.5apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 41.2%, 3PT: 39.6%, FT: 89.2%. He started his professional basketball career in 2013 with Novipiu Casale Monferrato (Italy-DNA Gold) playing 29 games averaging 15.7ppg, 3.2rpg, 3.9apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 43.1%, 3PT: 35.2%, FT: 77.9%. In the 2014-2015 season he played with VEF Riga (Latvia-LBL) and in December 14 moved to Elan Bearnais Pau-Lacq-Orthez (France-ProA) playing 23 games averaging 11.8ppg, 2.3rpg, 3.3apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 47.9%, 3PT: 34.1%, FT: 78.9%. In the 2015-2016 season he started with Cholet Basket (France-ProA) and then moved to AS Apollon Patras (Greece-A1) playing 11 games averaging 18.6ppg, 4.6rpg, 4.0apg, 2FGP: 52.6%, 3FGP: 40.5%, FT: 89.7%, In Apr.’16 agreed terms with Port of Antwerp Giants (Belgium-Scooore League) playing 6 games averaging 16.2ppg, 4.8rpg, 4.3apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 56.5%, 3PT: 31.8%, FT: 88.9%. In the 2016-2017 season he started the season with Pinar Karsiyaka SK Izmir (Turkey-BSL) playing 9 games averaging 12.0ppg, 2.2rpg, 4.9apg, 1.0spg, 2FGP: 38.7%, 3FGP: 51.9%, FT: 81.8%; In the Basketball Champions League: he played 7 games averaging 7.6ppg, 3.3rpg, 4.7apg, 1.4spg, 2FGP: 42.4%, 3FGP: 37.5%, FT: 77.8%, In Jan.’17 he moved to the New Zealand Breakers (Australia-NBL) playing 9 games averaging 18.1ppg, 4.0rpg, 4.8apg, 1.6spg, 2FGP: 46.1%, 3FGP: 38.2%, FT: 85.7%, In Feb.’17 signed at Maccabi Ashdod (Israel-Winner League) playing 13 games averaging 8.1ppg, 2.3rpg, 2.6apg, FGP: 45.5%, 3PT: 41.7%, FT: 58.8%. He spoke to German Hoops after the victory against Brose Bamberg in an exhibition meeting in Bayreuth.
Kevin thanks for talking to German Hoops. Welcome to Germany. It’s only September, but already so cold in Germany something you haven´t seen the last weeks in Greece. Does this weather remind you back of home in Illinois?
The weather in Germany did remind me of home. When I got off the plane my fellow American teammates were saying that this weather was more like it. In Greece it is sometimes too hot.
Your playing your fifth professional season and first with PAOK have never played a professional game in Germany. Your ex Dayton teammates Josh Parker, Vee Sanford and Matt Kavanaugh all played here. Did the country first become a topic for you with the emergence of Dennis Schroeder or did you know about it before?
I actually have played in Germany before. I think it was my second season and it was a qualifying game. All I really knew about the basketball in Germany is that it is very physical. They have a lot of very good physical bigs and a couple good guards.
I will quiz you now. You play so many games, but let´s see how good your memory is. In your junior season you beat Boston College 87-71 and you had 14 points. BC German Patrick Heckman had 13 points in 17 minutes. Do you remember him? He recently was a member of Team Germany at the 2017 European championships.
I have to be honest, but I didn´t remember him. He will have had to have done something remarkably good for me to have remembered him. I am so competitive that players in general are all the same to me.
You are playing in a weekend tournament in Bayreuth against Germany´s top team Brose Bamberg. What kind of experience was it playing against Germany´s best basketball club and beating them 75-74.
It was a pretty good game. I was content with my 20 point game. It seemed like everyone counted us out of this game and Bamberg have many good players and have very much depth, but we proved that we are a pretty good team as well. We have been working very hard this pre season on our chemistry and developing it further. This was a very good test for us and we passed. I feel that we sent a message today to everyone.
In your last game in Israel last season you defeated top Euroleague team Macabbi Tel Aviv 80-70 and held new Bamberg player Quincy Miller-Scott to 0 points. He has bounced around and feels the need to have to prove himself all over again. Do you feel he could become an impact player with Bamberg?
Of course he can. With his size and skill level, the sky is the limit for him. I don´t know why he bounced around so much, maybe because it is part of the business, but if he can stay focused and keep his head on straight then I see him being an impact player. He wasn´t in the NBA for nothing.
This is your second tour of duty in Greece after playing briefly with AS Apollon Patras (Greece-A1) in the 2015-2016 season playing 11 games averaging 18.6ppg, 4.6rpg, 4.0apg, 2FGP: 52.6%, 3FGP: 40.5%, FT: 89.7%. You had very good stats then. Do you feel like the expectations are very high for you to perform like that or better this time around?
Yes I think that the expectations are very high for me in Greece this season. They all remember in Greece what I did the last time. I have been on a wave the last years and have played well wherever I was. There is this sense of urgency to bring that winning tradition at PAOK and that motivates me very much and I feel that nothing can get in our way this season. I feel like we will be able to make a push in the Greek and Champions League.
That season you lost twice to top Euroleague team Olympiacos once badly and the second time only by five points as you netted 16 points. You held your own against Europes best players like top guard Vasillis Spanoulis. Do you feel like at age 27 that you are still getting into your prime and will play for a Euroleague team one day?
I hope that through God´s grace that this opportunity will come next season. I have always played well against Euroleague teams and I feel getting there is a reachable goal for me. All I need is to have someone that believes in me so I can prove myself further on that type of stage. I want to be in the Euroleague.
You continue to display your talent against better teams and top players like when you hit Maccabi Tel Aviv for 10 points in 15 minutes in a 80-70 win beating top players like Andrew Goudelock, Devin Smith or DJ Seely. Do these results motivate you more each time and is it just luck and being in the right place for landing with a top club?
In the summer I am always in different gyms working on my game and competing against many top level players. I don´t put any team I beat if it was a Euroleague team or team at the bottom on a pedestal. I am a competitor and stay focused and just be prepared for the next opponent. I am the type of player that is never satisfied and am always achieving to get better. I am not happy where I am. I still have many goals to achieve.
You have put up mostly very solid stats no matter where you have played. What is your secret to be able to adapt so well wherever you go in a season?
It is two things that belongs to me secret. One is having faith in God and second is having trust in the work I put in. Some guys come to their teams and second guess about what they worked on the last summer. If you work on something 10,000 times during the summer and then have that situation five or six times in a game it is something natural. I trust myself and the work I put in.
PAOK Thessaloniki (Greece-A1) is a very traditional team and last won a title in 1999 being the cup. In a league that has a lot of talented teams what is your impression of this years team?. Reaching the playoffs is an expectation with this club. Can the team do more than just reach the playoffs, but annoy the top teams?
It isn´t unrealistic that we could achieve more than just reach the playoffs. We have a good group of guys that understand the importance of this season for themselves and the organization. I feel that we are more than a playoff team, but a team that can win the Greek league and be a top 4 Champions League team. If we stay focused and build on our chemistry then we have all the tools to have a great season. This is the most complete team I have ever played with and with the most weapons and that is exactly what I need as a point guard.
When you were a rookie in Italy you split the season series against Trento and dueled against new teammate and ex Syracuse player Brandon Triche who has had a stellar career in Europe. How excited are you to be his teammate and could you and him become a top 1-2 guard duo in Greece?
I was really surprised that they were able to pull this deal off. My dad called me and told me it and I couldn´t believe it. It is great that he is here and I can´t wait until he is on the floor. He will be very dangerous for us and will give fans hope. It shows how much potential we have when we were able to beat a very good Bamberg team without Brandon Triche.
You have played on many professional teams, but are still chasing that first professional title. Are your leadership skills something that you feel are there or something that you continue to develop?
I learn more each day about myself and how to connect my teammates more. The leadership is there, but you are a fool if you think that you know all. I gather new information each day and the coaching staff has helped me with that. People will still see us as a long shot this season, but don´t count us out.
Last season you also played with the New Zealand Breakers (Australia-NBL) playing 9 games averaging 18.1ppg, 4.0rpg, 4.8apg, 1.6spg, 2FGP: 46.1%, 3FGP: 38.2%, FT: 85.7. In only your third game there you hit a memorable buzzer beater. Where does rank with your all-time game winning shots?
I am not going to lie, but that buzzer beater was my all-time greatest winning shot. We have all been in the drive way as a kid counting down the clock with the buzzer and making that shot. I have hit some game winning shots with two or three seconds left on the clock, but none with zero seconds remaining. It is the best feeling to sink a shot like that.
As a rookie you played with Novipiu Casale Monferrato (Italy-DNA Gold) playing 29 games averaging 15.7ppg, 3.2rpg, 3.9apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 43.1%, 3PT: 35.2%, FT: 77.9%. What was your wake up call to being a rookie in Europe where you knew that you were very far away from home in the States?
Being in the grocery store and knowing none of the food and just eating food that I usually wouldn´t eat. There was also little English and I had no day to day conversations at the start. The beginning was tough, but my agent did a good job calming me down.
How important was American David Jackson for you as a rookie in Italy? Did you reminisce about your Illinois days as he went to Western and you southern?
Having that Illinois connection allowed us to connect from the start. He showed me the ropes and I am really grateful for that. He had a lot of experience and taught me what to be ready for in my career and now I am already prepared for it. He told me from the start that I would experience good and bad things and I am just thankful he prepared me for it.
You started your NCAA career at S Illinois before moving to Dayton(NCAA) in 2010. Despite going how did you benefit from your two years there?
I think that S Illinois helped my mind set and competitive nature benefited from my time there. I was taught to be competitive at all times and be ready for anything. I remember that in practices there would be no fouls and no out of bounds. It was all blood, sweat and tears. The whole experience gave me a dog mentality.
What do you remember from your battles in practice with Josh Parker? How did you make each other better best at Dayton?
I already knew Josh from high school as we are both from Chicago. I remember when I was visiting Dayton he showed me around. I told him right away that if he wanted to be the big man then I wouldn´t come, but Josh told me right away that he wouldn´t be like that and that we would be successful together. We were a good back court and he could really knock down shots. Being around a guy like Josh and Chris Johnson allowed me to develop being more of a fan of my teammates and be more of an encourager. Up to that point I had been more the quiet guy going to practice and home again. I learned to encourage my teammates at Dayton and it meant so much more to me when they encouraged me.
It took your teammate Vee Sanford a little longer than some to make it to a top league in Europe as this season he will play in the France pro A. Did you already notice at Dayton that he had the heart of a lion?
Yes I noticed that early on that Vee had the heart of a lion. He is another nice guy like Josh Parker. There is always going to be some guys that no matter how good they are, they just don´t get that chance for whatever reason. Now he has that new opportunity in France and he is hungry and ready. He has waited so long and it´s now or never. He will make the most out of his situation.
You always played very well against Xavier, but are the two tough loses in your junior season games that haven´t been erased from your memory bank so quickly?
I remember those games against Xavier very well and especially the one´s in their gym. When I was at Dayton the streak was something like 70 years that we hadn´t won there. We always came so close to winning there. I can remember being in the huddle with two minutes to go knowing we were so close and thinking that finally we would win, but then for some reason something happened in their favor and they got lucky and won. Don´t get me wrong they always had good players, but I always believed that we would come away with a win. I haven´t watched much college basketball since.
How did Archie Miller groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career at Dayton?
Before having Archie Miller as a coach, I didn´t have the confidence in my shot or knowing how to effect the game in some way with scoring or passing. When I came to Dayton, he taught me to find other ways to impact the game when I wasn´t scoring.
Who was the toughest player that you battled ever that is in the NBA now?
CJ McCollum. Going into my senior year, I went to a Lebron camp with many other talented players like Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr, BJ Young and Miles Plumlee. BJ Young came out after his sophomore year thinking he could go to the NBA via the Lebron camp. There was a good group of guys, but CJ McCollum stood out the most. He already had league moves and was doing stuff that you just didn´t see in coll
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you chose?
Jordan, Lebron, Kobe, Magic
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?
Lebron is second off all-time. There never will be another Jordan. I grew up in Chicago and watched him in 90´s and carried us. Chicago became Chicago through the Bulls. Lebron will be number one in the stats.
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?
It is very hard to average a triple double at the pro level. What he did last season was a milestone and historical. He played defense. Players weren´t lighting him up.
How do you summarize the 2017 NBA Draft. What sleepers do you see playing a role in the NBA?
Not many are talking about Jayson Tatum. I like him and he will be good. It will be interesting to see if he will start or come off the bench. The rookie of the year will be Dennis Smith. He is a mad athlete and his change of pace is crazy.
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?
The Rockets will be lucky if they get to the second round. The west is so deep. Yes they did get Chris Paul, but gave up so much for him. They have no one coming off the bench. Paul and Harden can´t play 48 minutes for the whole season.
How do you rate the Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas trade? Who got the better deal and which team will profit better in the long run?
I think the Cavs did. Boston got a good scorer in Irving who could score 30 a game. The Cavs got Thomas who could also score 30 and a good defender in Jae Crowder. Lebron now doesn´t need to guard the three and could take Draymond Green and get a little rest.
What was the last movie that you saw?
A Channing Tatum movie.
Thanks Kevin for the chat.