Donte Nicholas is a 30 year old 195cm forward from Washington Dc that is playing his first professional season in Germany with the Iserlohn Kangaroos (Germany-ProB). He has gained experience down under playing with the Albury Wodonga Bandits (Australia-SEABL) and with the Rockville Victors (APBL) as a rookie in the States. Last season he played with the Plymouth University Raiders (United Kingdom-BBL) playing 33 games averaging 15.3ppg, 6.7rpg, 3.4apg, Steals-5(2.1spg), FGP: 54.7%, 3PT: 38.6%, FT: 75.8%. He spoke to German Hoops earlier in the summer about basketball.
Donte thanks for talking to German Hoops. You are in Germany now, but how was your summer in general and what was the most memorable thing you?
No problem, thanks for talking to me. My summer was good overall. I got to play a lot of ball against high quality competition this summer and also got an opportunity to work on a few things in my game. Most importantly though, I got the chance to spend some quality time with my friends and family that I wasn’t able to the last couple years because I was playing.
You arrived in Germany with new teammate Julian Scott who has had experience in the German Pro B with Leipzig. What was your first impression of him and could the duo from Sacramento-Washington DC become a potent 1-2 scoring force in the Pro B?
My first impression of him from the time we talked is that he’s hungry to prove himself in this country. I think we share a similar goal which is to prove that we can compete at the highest level internationally. I think the most important thing for us is that we do what we can to make the entire team a potent force in Pro B. My mindset is to do what I can to make everyone else better and I think he’s willing to do the same.
You have been a professional for some years now and had a very strong season in England. I personally am a bit surprised you didn´t actually land in a higher league than the Pro B. Did you experience the job market at a more competitive level than in the past?
My focus from the beginning of my basketball career has always been make the best of the situation your in. I try to control what I can control, and let everything else fall in place. The current job market, as most people around the game knows, is tough. It´s way more players than jobs available, so when you feel you got a good opportunity that can benefit you. You take it.
Congrats on signing with the very ambitious Pro B team Iserlohn. The club is very high on your abilities and manager Michael Dahmen went as far as saying he believes you can be one of the top players in the league. What impressed you most about the organization that let you sign on the dotted line?
Thank you. I think the main thing was the vision that the club had in place for the season. Like you said, the club is very ambitious and willing to do what is necessary to be successful as it has been in the past and even beyond that. The club wants to prove it can compete at the higher levels and so do I.
What impressed me most about you in my first impression was your positive attitude. In the official team press release you spoke about team chemistry, playing with high intensity and hating to lose. Granted every player shares these views to one or another extent, but don´t always openly display them. Do you see yourself already being as the vocal leader of the team?
I think I tend to become the vocal leader on my teams because I’ve always been naturally vocal anyways. On and off the court.. I’ve always stressed the importance of communication because I believe it can help resolve a lot of issues and prevent them as well, on and off the court
Let´s talk about your game. You’re a very versatile player that can play near to every position and can take control. What other strengths do you have on the court besides these, intensity and shooting the ball?
I would say if I had to, one of my biggest strengths on the court would be my IQ. A lot of my past coaches and teammates would always say I have a good feel for the game overall. I pride myself on always trying to make the right play whether it’s a drive and kick assist, or a boxout, or even the necessary defensive rotation. My intensity though, would be a close second. I’m a very competitive person and it shows a lot of time on the court sometimes uncontrollably. I play with a lot of emotion and passion, which can be a gift and a curse at times. Like I said before, I hate losing more than I like winning and it shows from time to time. Whether it’s on the court, video games, an argument.. anything.. I have to win!
You really can fill the stat sheet and demonstrate your versatility in all phases of the game. If you had to choose a NBA player that you could compare your game to who would you chose?
Honestly, guys I play with usually tell me I play like this guy or play like that guy. The ones I get a lot of are (on a much smaller scale but similar play style of course) is Lebron in the sense that he’s really good at a lot of things but not necessarily great at one thing. His best skill is making his teammates around him better and making the right play, offensively or defensively( as we saw in the playoffs 2 yrs ago). Also get Draymond Green, because his skill set is similar because he does it all. Whatever his team needs he gets it done:rebs, asts, stls, defend the best player, run the offense, etc. But the guy who I try to pattern my game after was Scottie Pippen. I admire how he took pride and locking people down and also dropping 20-25+ daily. He did a lot of things that didn’t make the stat sheet or highlights but was very important in those championship runs.
You never played in the NCAA, but in the Juco, NCAA2 and NAIA and as a professional some years in Australia and didn´t reach Europe until you were 29 years old. Do you still feel like you have to prove yourself even after your breakout season in England and does having that chip on your shoulder give you that extra to be able to perform better?
Honestly, I don’t like to consider it proving myself as much as I think it’s about putting people on notice. People who’ve I’ve played with know what I can do it’s just the people who haven’t played with me or seen me play don’t know yet. They may have heard but you don’t always believe what people tell you, that’s human nature. I take pride in the fact that once you see, you become a believer. Every level I played on, I feel as though I’m one of the best and it’s my job to go out there and show it so you think so too.
You’re a guy that can fill up the stat sheet at easy, but what is a hidden strength in your game that doesn´t get noticed right away? Could it be your defense that took a while to really get noticed?
I definitely think my defense is part of it. It’s harder to put numbers on things you do defensively. Besides maybe steals, which I’ve been in the top 5-10 consistently almost my whole career. Maybe even blocks, which I’m usually near the top team wise. Only other real way to notice is to see it in action, the eye test. I take it as a challenge to guard the opposing teams best player and see him finish the game taking double the amount of shots just to reach his average or even below. In the end, my teammates and coaches notice it though and that’s all I really need.
After a stellar career in the NCAA2 and NAIA leagues where other guys have made their way to Europe right away, you played in Australia for some years. Why did it take you 5 years to get to Europe?
To be honest with you, there’s going to be a book or made for TV movie about the path I took in my basketball career. Lol. I wish I had the answer to that, all I can say is what I’ve always believed it will happen when it’s supposed to happen. Just make sure your ready when it does. I’ve always wanted to play in Europe, I just had to wait for my opportunity.
How thankful are you to not only knowing ex teammate Cory Dixon, but having him as a friend and helping you get to Europe? I am sure you will travel to Belgium this season to see him play.
Very thankful, I met him at the airport on the way to Australia and we’ve been friends ever since. I definitely owe him for what’s he done. Through that, I’ve also learned a lot about this basketball world and sometimes it’s not really about what you can do but who you know. Yeah, we’ve been talking about a possible trip, we have to see how our schedules match up though.
How do you feel did you grow as a player last season with Plymouth? You played with three other talented Americans and was fourth best team scorer and the team chemistry and unselfishness seemed to be on so that all four players were content.
Last year was a unique year in my career. I feel like it was a test for me and an opportunity to learn and grow as a player. It taught me that no matter how much talent you have, there’s a lot of other stuff that has to be there for you to be successful. We had a lot of talent last season, had a lot of guys had great stats, player of the week, player of the month, etc. but we didn’t have other important things in the end and we suffered because of it.
You got your first professional experience in Australia. What was vital in your first seasons as a professional and what was your most memorable experience down under?
One of the most vital things for me was my focus. It’s easy to fall into distractions and to stray in those situations but keeping your focus on what you want to accomplish, which was for me getting to Europe, and not forgetting that was important. One of my most memorable experiences was all the success we had my first year in Albury. The swagger that team had that year was crazy, we walked into every game thinking we were going to win and win easily. It was a great feeling.
You played at three schools with Montgomery College-Rockville CC (JUCO), Metro St. (NCAA2) and Fresno Pacific (NAIA,) Do you feel having had experiences at three different schools helped shape your game better than if you had been only at one school?
I definitely believe so because looking back at it, it showed that at no matter what level of competition I’m at, I will be successful and competitive. You can go back and look at the numbers and the accolades and they will tell you the same thing.
After a season at Montgomery College-Rockville CC (JUCO), you made your breakout at Metro State(NCAA2).How tough was that first season in JUCO? Did you always know that you could play at a higher level?
Rockville was tough because prior to that I had never really taken basketball that serious before. It was just like a hobby but that was it. When I met the coaching staff at Rockville who at the time was Coach Hobson and Coach Blackman, I told them what my goal was and they said they could help me get there if I put the work in. The rest is history. I’ve always believed I can play at the highest level, and still do to this day. Like I said, every level I’ve had the chance to play at since JUCO I’ve produced, it comes down to opportunity and when I will get mine that’s it.
You won the RMAC Tournament in 2009 and 2010, which title was most sweetest?
2010 definitely, because it was right after we graduated like 6 seniors. The team brought in a bunch of new guys and underclassmen, I transitioned to one of the leaders of the team that year. It was much more difficult for us this year but we stepped up to the task and I personally had a pretty good run during that tournament so that was good too.
You moved one more time to Fresno Pacific (NAIA, starting five) averaging 19.7ppg, 7.1rpg, 3.8apg, 1.7spg, FGP: 52.9%, 3PT: 32.6%, FT: 76.9%. What were the main reasons for leaving a program like Metro State after 2 title wins?
The main reason was the coaching staff changed that year and simply put the new coaches and I saw different visions for the team. I felt like I had a better opportunity at Fresno with coach Wright and his staff so that’s where I ended.
How did head coach Chris Wright give you that last added push at Fresno Pacific to help groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
Coach Wright was one of the best coaches I’ve had. He helped me a lot by putting me in a position that season which would help me prepare for the next level on the court. He had former players and pros come in from time to time to play with us and talk to us about what we should focus on if that’s the step we want to take. Coach Wright and also Coach Blackman from Rockville were very intricate parts into my transition in pro basketball
You never played together with Brandon Jefferson who has made a nice professional basketball career for himself in Europe, but you both won 2 GMAC titles at Metro State. He came the year after you left. Do you ever wonder what the team could of accomplished with you both on the court?
Metro has had a pretty consistent stream of talent over the last 20 years or so. They did pretty good before me, we did pretty good while I was there, and they’ve done pretty good after. Bj is a really good player but I think Metro would’ve been good regardless, would’ve been fun though I’m sure.
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you chose?
Easy Mj, Lebron, Shaq, Duncan
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 have this argument with my friends all the time and this is the response I give them every single time because it’s the easiest to rationalize. Mike is the standard of excellence in the basketball community can’t argue that, but who was the standard before that? Bird, Magic, Kareem, etc? It could be argued because it’s all up to opinion, but currently the standard is Lebron. Now the problem is people want to compare them but they are two completely different animals, apples and oranges. People get upset with Bron because he doesn’t do what Mike did but Mike can’t do a lot of what Bron does. Makes no sense to compare them through the same lense because it’s unfair to them both because most of the criteria used to compare them is biased towards Mike because he was here first. Thats my opinion and that’s the best I can do because I could go on for days.
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?
First off, I would like to state I’m an avid Russell Westbrook fan and support 97% of everything he does on the court. Now, to answer your question how does getting more rebounds hurt your team? Rebounds are an activity stat, your focusing on being more active for your team and your getting criticized for it? Harden scores 30 a night and couldn’t stop a runny nose but nobody cares. So no, I don’t think it’s fair.
How do you summarize the 2017 NBA Draft. What sleepers do you see playing a role in the NBA?
A lot of potential in the draft. I think instantly Ball and Tatum are going to shine. Sleepers I like Josh Jackson and Dennis Smith Jr. I think they all are in good situations where they can develop and flourish for their teams when called on.
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?
They don’t have enough because GSW still has everything plus more. But I would like to see them get my guy Melo down there and see what happens. Don’t know if it’s enough with him but it would interesting to watch.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Last movie I saw was Collateral Beauty with Will Smith. Saw it on the plane ride over, 7.8/10 definitely recommend it.
Thanks Donte for the chat.