Demonte Harper is a 28 year old 193cm guard from Nashville Tennessee that is playing his seventh professional season and first with Zenit Saint Petersburg (Russia-VTB). Last season he played with BC Kalev/Cramo Tallinn (Estonia-Alexela KML) playing 12 KM games averaging 12.4ppg, 4.1rpg, 4.4apg, 1.7spg, 2FGP: 55.6%, 3FGP: 20.8%, FT: 90.6%; In the VTB United League, he played 17 games averaging 16.2ppg, 4.8rpg, Assists-5(5.7apg), 1.4spg, FGP: 43.2%, 3PT: 40.6%, FT: 65.0%, in Mar.’17 moved to Zenit Saint Petersburg (Russia-VTB) playing 8 games averaging 9.8ppg, 3.1rpg, 3.3apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 41.9%, FT: 30.0%. He has gained a lot of experience in his professional career having played in the D-league, Croatia, Belarus, Italy and Poland. He played at Morehead State from 2007-2011 winning the OVC title in 2009 and 2011 and has won two cups in Belarus and Estonia. He spoke to German Hoops after the big 95-93 Eurocup win in Ulm where he led his team with 23 points.
Demonte thanks for talking to German Hoops. Congrats on the big 95-93 win in Ulm. You have played Eurocup and Eurochallenge in the past. What experience have you had in Germany as a professional basketball player over the years?
I played against ratiopharm Ulm in the Eurochallenge when I was with Enel Basket Brindisi (Italy-Serie A).
What do you know in general about the country Germany and it´s basketball? Do you have any other friends playing in Germany besides Brandon Shingles?
I don´t know too much about Germany. My friend Brandon has told me a lot about how Americanized it is and now nice the people are.
What an exciting ending. Ratiopharm Ulm put in a scare scoring 5 unanswered points, but Marco Simonovic made a huge block on Ryan Thompson who led all scorers with 26 points. How did you experience the last seconds?
We had to depend on our defense. We didn´t want to give up a three and just wanted to keep our guy in front of us. We were very focused played on ball and didn´t foul. We got a big play at the end to get us the win.
This is your seventh professional season and sixth in Europe and you have played for 6 teams in six countries. You really have moved around. Do you sometimes feel like you’re a basketball globetrotter?
Not really. I like to explore and see other countries and cultures. I have been lucky to have been able to see many different places in my career.
Your playing for Zenit Saint Petersburg (Russia-VTB). You have won 2 professional titles with cups in Belarus and Estonia. Does the hunger for winning titles grow as your grow older each year?
That is the main goal for any player. You want to win as much as possible in your career. You play for money, but really you want to be remembered as being a winner. It is the greatest feeling in the world winning a title.
This is your third time playing in the VTB League. Last season you put up great numbers with BC Kalev/Cramo Tallinn (Estonia-Alexela KML). Do you feel some added pressure going into this season´s VTB competition or more a challenge as you are a known player in the VTB league?
I think that it is more of a challenge for me. We want to compete for the VTB league title and I want to do my part and play the best that I can so we will be successful.
Zenit started off well in the VTB league competition and has a very talented roster with many Americans an Argentine and some Russians. What are the goals of the team and what will the club be able to accomplish?
We are confident that we can win a title. We do have a new team that is still learning each other, but we know that we are talented. We know that we can compete with the best teams in the VTB and we are still getting better. Plus with the new format in VTB with the final 4 anything can happen. It is only one game. This is a plus for every team. If you play your best one night, then you could be in the final.
How challenging has it been playing on a day to day basis with sniper Kyle Kuric? What do you feel have you gained from his game in the early going and what do you still want to soak up as the season progresses?
I am a veteran and already understand a lot. We play different positions. He is a sniper. I can also shoot, but moreover can do a little of everything. Our games are totally different, but Kyle is a very good player.
Let´s talk about your game. You’re a guard that can score and fill up the stat sheet. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would you chose?
I would compare my game to Russell Westbrook. I also fill the stat sheet like him. I try to add many things to the game and not only one thing. I use all my attributes that I have to do everything on the court.
Your also a guy that can fill up the stat sheet, but what do you feel is a hidden strength in your game that doesn´t get noticed right away on the court?
I don´t really think that I have a hidden strength. I feel that I ca do everything. If I am not scoring than I am playing defense. I feel like I am a guy that gives his team that thing that it needs most at that moment.
Last season for BC Kalev/Cramo Tallinn (Estonia-Alexela KML) and in the VTB league averaged 16.2ppg, 4.8rpg, Assists-5(5.7apg), 1.4spg, FGP: 43.2%, 3PT: 40.6%, FT: 65.0%. Do you feel this was your best season as a professional and possibly break out season as a professional?
I feel that it was one of my best seasons as a professional. I was able to learn to be a leader while being the main guy. I learned what it took to be a main player on a team.
You have played against top European team CSKA Moscow three times and lost each one. Last season you lost 87-68, but led all scorers with 18 points. Do you feel that a game like that might have put you on the radar of Euroleague teams?
Not really. If I do that now maybe yes. On a smaller team 18 points isn’t enough for me to get noticed
What kind of experience was it playing against top point guard Milos Teodosic currently injured with the Los Angeles Clippers. Is there anything else besides his court vision and amazing passing that really stands out for you?
That is his game. He can score and is a really good passer. He does that night in and night out. I think that he can be a good NBA player, because he knows how to run a team.
Two seasons ago you played with diminutive point game Jerel Blassingame with Energa Czarni Slupsk (Poland-TBL) playing 34 games averaging 12.8ppg, 4.2rpg, 3.3apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 46.6%, 3PT: 35.8%, FT: 69.6%. Did some of his leadership qualities rub off on you?
Yes it did. I took a lot from his game to Estonia where I had to play point guard. Jerel has been around for a long time and has played Euroleague. I picked his brain a lot then and still do to this day. I will call him up and still ask for advice. His leadership and how he knows how to run a team helped me the most. He always knew how to run a team, make the right plays and get all involved.
In the 2014-2015 season you played for Enel Basket Brindisi (Italy-Serie A) playing 32 games averaging 4.8ppg, 2.5rpg; In the EuroChallenge, you played 14 games averaging 7.1ppg, 2.8rpg, 1.5apg, FGP: 44.6%, 3PT: 39.4%, FT: 66.7%. The team was stacked with many very talented players like Marcus Denmon. You didn´t play much in the Serie A. How tough was this season and what did you gain most form the season that made you stronger?
I didn´t play much that season. I learned that season that I had to play my best in the little minutes I got.
In the 2013-2014 season you played with Tsmoki-Minsk (Belarus-Premier League, starting five) playing 17 VTB United League games averaging 10.1ppg, 4.2rpg, 3.1apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 42.1%, 3PT: 34.6%, FT: 63.6%; In the Belarusian Premier League you played 13 games averaging 12.8ppg, 4.3rpg, 3.8apg, 1.6spg, FGP: 51.4%, 3PT: 43.1%, FT: 69.2%. In the EuroChallenge you played 14 games averaging 11.2ppg, 5.9rpg, 1.9apg, Steals-5(1.8spg), FGP: 50.5%, 3PT: 35.1%, FT: 64.3%. This was your most complete season as you put up super stats in three different competitions. How proud were you coming from the D-League that you were able to make an impact the way you did?
I was satisfied and happy. Coming from the D-League to Europe I needed to prove myself overseas and play well and be successful. I was able to develop, get better and stick around.
In your second professional season you started the season with Portland and then played with the Erie Bay Hawks (D-League) playing 50 games averaging 9.0ppg, 2.5rpg, 2.1apg, FGP: 39.9%, 3PT: 36.1%, FT: 68.0%. What kind of experience was that for you and were you convinced after one season that the NBA would not be a reality for you?
The D-League was a good experience. I learned more about the NBA style. I just tried to soak up as much as possible in that season and grow as much as possible. We had many talented guys and from that team only one went to the NBA with Henry Sims. We had 9-10 very talented players from division one. There really wasn´t too much difference in the talent level of all the players. It´s all about timing between getting to the NBA and not.
As a rookie you played with KK Cibona VIP Zagreb (Croatia-A1) playing 21 Adriatic League games averaging 5.0ppg, 2.1rpg, 1.1apg, What was your wake up call to being a rookie in Europe where you knew that you were very far away from home in Tennessee?
I didn´t really have a wake up call as a rookie in Croatia. I left home to go to school at age 18 so I was never home. I was used to not being at home. When I went overseas it was my job. I had to lock in and focus on my job. I couldn´t worry about missing home or wanting to go home. I was at school for 10 months and at home for two months during the year. It´s the same as a professional.
You had an illustrious career at Morehead State from 2007-2011 winning the OVC tournament in 2009 and 2011. Which title was the sweetest?
Winning it my senior year was the sweetest. I made the winning shot against Louisville. Peyton Siva and my teammate Kyle Kuric were on the Louisville team. I have reminded Kyle about that win, but not too often.
You played 4 years with future NBA player Kenneth Faried. If somebody had told you he would reach the NBA and stay in your freshman year what would you have thought?
In my freshman year I honestly would never have guessed it, but after my second year I knew he would go to the NBA. He just developed so fast and always got better. He is a great guy and one of my best friends. We always hang out during the summers.
You were teammates with Brandon Shingles and he was second in the nation behind John Wall in assists before he got injured. He has had a solid career in Europe and currently is playing in the German Regionalliga for Limburg. If you see a guy of his talent and see where he is today, does it amaze you that he isn´t playing near the highest level somewhere? There seem to just be too little jobs for so many talented players in the world.
I believe that Brandon could play at a higher level. It is tough when you are playing at a lower level. It makes it so much harder to make a consistent jump. With him it´s all about timing having the right moment, and a coach seeing your talent. He has just been in an unfortunate situation. Maybe it can still turn around for him. I hope it would.
Who was the toughest player that you battled in the NCAA that is in the NBA now?
The toughest player I played against in the NCAA isn´t in the NBA now. He is Lester Hudson and is making a lot of money in China. He played in the NBA before, but is happy in China now and has his own show there. He was a really good shooter and could do it all. He was very tough to guard. When you thought that you played good defense against him, he made a really tough shot against you. He had the ability to consistently make tough shots and had NBA talent at the NCAA level.
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you chose?
Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird, Lebron James
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?
Jordan is the greatest of all-time. Lebron is more of a unique player. We have never seen a player like him before. Lebron is great at everything whereas Jordan was a great scorer.
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 he was stacking his stats. He did it consistently over the whole season. Anybody else would have continued to go for triple doubles and go for the record.
How do you summarize the 2017 NBA Draft. What sleepers do you see playing a role in the NBA?
DeaAron Fox is a sleeper. I really like his game.
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 that if they stay healthy that they could make a serious run. They have a good roster and with the addition of Chris Paul a guy with a lot of experience. A guy like James Harden can still learn things from him.
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 that Boston got the better deal. Kyrie is younger than Thomas. Thomas is a good player, but Irving has achieved a lot at his age being an important piece to a Cavs championship. Boston could be a problem in the east in the future.
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 a lot of potential and could also make a serious run. The Warriors have played together for a while now, but the west overall is getting tougher. If the Thunder stay healthy and click the right time then they also will be a problem in the west.
What was the last movie that you saw?
I have been watching a lot of TV shows. The last one I watched was Penn & Teller. I like magic and like to see how they do it.
Thanks Demonte for the chat.