Matt Janning is a 29 year old 195cm guard from Watertown, Minnesota that played at Northeastern(NCAA) and currently is playing his eighth professional season and first with Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz (Spain-Liga Endesa). In his professional career, he has played in the NBA, D-League and in Europe for teams like Novipiu Casale Monferrato (Italy-SerieA), Montepaschi Siena (Italy-SerieA), KK Cibona VIP Zagreb (Croatia-A1), KK Cibona VIP Zagreb (Croatia-A1), Hapoel Jerusalem (Israel-Winner League), and Lokomotiv Kuban (Russia-VTB). He won titles in Italy and Turkey and reached the Euroleague Final 4 in 2016. He spoke to German Hoops about basketball before the Euroleague game against Brose Bamberg in Bamberg
Matt thanks for talking to German Hoops. Welcome back to Germany. You have a 1-5 record against Alba Berlin and were swept by the Artland Dragons with Cibona and by ratiopharm Ulm with Lokomotiv Kuban. Do you have any special memories of these games. You witnessed an exciting 75-73 win against Alba Berlin.
The Alba games were a while ago. I will never forget the Berlin arena where I also played the Euroleague Final 4 where fans saw high level games. I remember there being a great crowd in Artland. The German teams have great fans and they always respect the opponent teams. I remember many exciting games in Germany and had a lot of fun playing there.
This is your eighth professional season and seventh in Europe as you have played for seven teams in six countries. Does it sometimes feel like you have been living the basketball globetrotter life?
I have had some great stops as well as some stops that were cut short. I have nothing to complain about in my career and always made the best out of where I played while having fun being able to travel.
You are playing currently for Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz(ACB) and the first time in Spain. Are you surprised that a guy with your talent and versatility didn´t land in the ACB earlier?
I have always had interest and offers from ACB teams as my game is what ACB teams like, but for some reason it just didn´t work out earlier. I am happy to play for Baskonia and finally play in the ACB.
With Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz you have a 2 month contract replacing the injured Jordan Mcrae. With what kind of feelings are doing your job? How tough is it playing on a two month contract? How is this role different than if you had a normal year contract?
Playing on a short term contract is tough. You are constantly trying to impress everyone with the hopes of being able to stay until the end of the season. At the same time you just try to go out and play your game and try not to put too much pressure on yourself.
You are in Bamberg playing a Euroleague game against Brose Bamberg. You know guys like Rickey Hickman and Daniel Hackett who was your teammate at Siena. How excited are you to be playing in a new arena, against old teammates and fighting for Euroleague points?
I am looking forward to playing against Brose Bamberg. It will be a fun game. I know Daniel Hackett well as we played a whole season together and I also know some of the other players. I know they have a good team and great fans in freak city. I have heard good things about the organization from my friend Trevor Mbakwe who played there some years ago. I am very excited to see how the atmosphere is there.
Baskona have started slow in the ACB and Euroleague competitions. The club has so much talent. What do you believe is their biggest strength? Possibly their versatility?
Yes we have a lot of versatility. We have many pieces and guys that can play multiple positions. We have the chance to do many things on both ends of the court. We just have needed some extra time to fit together and it has taken longer than expected. I think that when all the pieces come together we will be a team that teams won´t want to play against.
You have played for Euroleague teams in the past, but what is the greatest thing about being able to play for a Euroleague team? Being able to learn something new each day from a teammate?
Yes there are always things that your teammates teach you from day to day. I also think that the Euroleague competition is one of a kind. You play against the best competition like this week we played against Valencia and now two days later we play in Bamberg. You always have to be focused and ready to play at a high level. That is what makes playing Euroleague so fun and exciting.
You have so many talented players on the team, but what has been your impression of German big man Johannes Voigtmann. He has seen NBA interest. Is he just a Euroleague player or could he make the jump across the pond to the NBA?
Joe is my roommate and we spend a lot of time together. He has so much talent and can play at the highest level in Europe and I feel he has the chance to play in the NBA. He has the ability to shoot the ball at a high rate and NBA teams look for players like that can do the pick and pop. He has the ability to change a game with his play.
Let´s talk about your game. You a very athletic guard that can shoot the ball at a high rate. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would you compare your game to?
Now I would say JJ Redick. I am more of a shooter, but can also handle the ball, do the pick and roll and create for my team. Back when I came out of school I was compared to Jeff Hornacek. But today it is just hard to compare myself because the game has changed so much.
You’re a guy that can fill up the stat sheet with ease, but what do you feel is still a hidden talent today in your game that doesn´t get noticed right away on the court?
I think being able to play with the ball and create and play pick and roll. Teams tend to think that I am just a stand around shooter. I also think that I am a good decision maker. We have many guys on the team like this and they make you better.
You won the Italian Serie A with Siena and won the Turkish cup with Efes, but was reaching the 2016 Euroleague Final 4 your biggest moment as a professional?
Yes I think so. The playoff series against Barcelona was very special. We won the first game at home and then were down 2-1. We came back and won 3-2. It was one of those rare special feelings that I have had as a professional.
Do you ever look back on the loss to CSKA, or is this a game that you have erased out of your mind?
I remember that game well. It was a great game. We got down quickly something like 8-10 points. It is always difficult having to play catch up basketball when you have to use a lot of energy. We came back at the end and cut it down to something like 3-4 points, but we just couldn´t make that extra step needed to come back and win the game
In that game you played with Malcolm Delaney and against Nando de Colo and Milos Teodosic. All three have been in the NBA. If you had to pick the toughest of the lot would it be Teodosic?
That is a very tough question. All can do so much on the court. All are a little different. De Colo is more of a scorer while Teodosic and Delaney do a little bit of all being able to run a team and score at ease. If I had to take one player it would be Delaney. He is one of the better teammates that I have had in Europe. It doesn´t matter what the team needs, Malcolm does everything possible and grinds out what is best for the team. He is a winner.
In the 2014-2015 season you played with Turkish team Anadolu Efes and lost in the Euroleague playoffs to real Madrid 3-1, but in the win you led all scorers with 21 points in the narrow 75-72 win. Was that your most memorable game besides winning the cup?
That was a very special game. I was hot that game as everything seemed to be going in. I hit the game winner at the end to seal the deal. It was ironic that that was my second game winner against Real Madrid as I had one earlier in the regular season making a tip in. I will remember these games for a long time.
In the 2012-2013 season you won your first professional title with Siena. Your teammate was Bobby Brown who has been a flat out scorer his whole career. Everybody has their special Bobby Brown story. What do you remember most vividly about him as a player and person?
Bobby is great and it was a great experience being his teammate. I still talk to him and talked to him last week checking up on each other. He is the type of player where you can learn something new each day. He has been the most talented guy that I ever played with at any position. He can do it all. He is a great teammate and guy that was always looking out for you
In your first season in Europe you played with Novipiu Casale Monferrato (Italy-SerieA) playing 25 games averaging 12.6ppg, 3.6rpg, 1.7apg, FGP: 41.3%, 3PT: 37.5%, FT: 69.8%. What was your wake up call to being a rookie in Europe where you knew that you were very far away from home in Watertown, Minnesota?
We were a very young team that had just come up from the Italian second division. We had four Americans that had just come out of college and were rookies in Europe. In pre-season we all gave interviews and were talking about making the playoffs and bringing the team to a new level. In our first game we got blown away. That was my wake up call. It showed really what level we were at and that we had a long way to go to reach the level that we wanted to be at. There ended up being many changes and we moved back down to the second division.
You had some veterans on that team like Oluoma Nnamaka who would leave half way through the season. Did you profit from his experience or from other guys early on as you were trying to get a feel for the game and life in Europe?
He was great and played the full season there. Early on he was like a father to us and took care of us showing us the ropes. In tough situations he told us to keep our heads up and keep moving. He was a great teammate and I am happy that I was able to be around him.
In your rookie season you started with the Phoenix Suns (NBA) and moved to the Maine Red Claws (D-League): playing 20 games averaging 9.3ppg, 3.5rpg, 2.6apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 41.1%, 3PT: 46.4%, FT: 70.7%, in Jan.’11 signed at Rio Grande Valley Vipers (D-League) playing 29 games averaging 11.0ppg, 4.4rpg, 2.7apg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 40.0%, FT: 85.0%. How was that whole experience for you. After that season did you feel the NBA could still become reality or did seem more like a reach?
My rookie season was hectic. I made the Phoenix Suns roster and was on the roster for 12-13 games, but never played a game just sitting at the end of the bench in a suit. The short time was a great experience as I played with guys like Steve Nash, Grant Hill and Jason Richardson. I then got cut and moved to the D-League to Maine that wasn´t a great experience. I then got traded to Rio Grande. I was able to play for Chris Finch who is an assistant in the NBA now. I loved playing for Chris. We had a talented team, but lost the final to Iowa. This experience opened my eyes that I could play in the NBA. All it came down to was the right time and time.
Then you played at many more NBA Summer Leagues in 2012, 2013 and 2014. When you look back at that whole experience did you ever sense that you might get a chance. Did you ever get good feedback that gave you hope?
I thought I played good NBA Summer Leagues with Memphis, Brooklyn and Minnesota. I always got good feedback. I had some training camp invites, but they were never guaranteed. It is hard to go to training camp when it isn´t guaranteed. Until I get a real NBA chance I will keep coming back to Europe. It is exciting to know that there is always that NBA chance, but then again tough to turn down good European offers.
You played at Northeastern from 2006-2010. How was that whole experience for you and how disappointing was it that you didn´t go farther in the CAA tournament?
My experience at Northeastern was great. The opportunity to go to school for four years and play basketball at a great university is something that I will never forget. I will never forget my teammates and coaches. It is one of the best experiences that a young person can have.
How did head coach Bill Coen groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
He was the first to give me the opportunity to showcase my skills. He told me from the start that I would be one of the main guys and take the program to a new level. Also we had many guys from far away with no families close by. We all became a family. He taught us to do it the right way. He gave us the keys and told us how to go.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Chaisson Allen?
I think that I got the best of him. He was my roommate. He still is a great friend today.
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you chose?
Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Kevin Garnett
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 the second best of all-time. I grew up watching Jordan. It was all about Jordan. For me what he did was different. He was effortless and graceful. Lebron will also go down as one of the greatest of all-time
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?
If you watch his games and see his energy, you would never ever say something against his play. He gives 110% each time on the court. It is always exciting to watch him and he has worked hard for everything.
How do you summarize the 2017 NBA Draft. What sleepers do you see playing a role in the NBA?
I don´t follow the NBA that much but did see NBA Summer League games. Kyle Kuzma looked good at the NBA Summer League. He seems to be a guy that can fit into any NBA system. I hope that he turns into a good player.
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 hope that Bobby Brown gets some minutes now with Chris Paul out. The Rockets have a lot of talent, but it will be an uphill battle against Golden State.
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?
Boston got the better deal, but now with the injury to Gordon Hayward it has changed. The Cavs have much talent and when Thomas comes back they will be tough. Crowder can be that steal that will bring the team to a new level on defense. A Cavs-Golden State series will be fun to watch.
Where will the journey of the Oklahoma Thunder go this season with Westbrook, George and Anthony? Can they make a serious run in the west?
They have much talent and three main pieces that each can get you 25-30 points a night. The Warriors will have to be locked down on defense to be able to control the series. If all three get hot then it will be hard to beat them in any series.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Wonder Woman and The New Spiderman.
Thanks Matt for the chat.