Michael Holton JR is a 26 year old 185cm guard from Portland, Oregon that is playing his second professional season and first in Germany with RSV Eintracht Stahnsdorf (Germany-ProB).Currently he is averaging 19,6ppg, 4,7rpg and 3,4apg and shooting 44% from outside As a rookie two years ago he played with ECE Bulls Kapfenberg (Austria-A Bundesliga) playing 38 games averaging 8.4ppg, 2.5rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 42.3%, 3PT: 34.1%, FT: 75.7%; He also played 6 FIBA Europe Cup games averaging 10.7ppg, 2.7rpg, 1.7apg, FGP: 46.4%, 3PT: 27.6%, FT: 87.5%. He started his basketball career in 2010 at St.Michael’s (NCAA2) and as a senior played 17 games averaging 14.9ppg, 3.8rpg, 2.3apg, FGP: 55.0%, 3PT: 34.7%, FT: 79.6%. He spoke to German Hoops late in the summer about basketball.
Michael thanks for talking to German Hoops. It has been almost 16 months since your last professional game against Wels. Please explain how hungry you are to get back on the court in a professional game?
Hey Miles, thanks for having me I appreciate it. It’s been a long 16 months since that last professional game and I am extremely hungry to get back out on the floor and compete at a high level again.
You have signed with German Pro B team Stahnsdorf. How difficult was the last season not playing the game you love? Did you ever have doubt that your career would continue?
Watching this last season come and go without being on a team was a really difficult challenge for me to navigate. I’ve been on a team year after year since I was very young. There were definitely a lot of moments of frustration, but I never let doubt fully creep in and used my situation to fuel me to keep getting better and preparing for another opportunity.
You played your rookie season in Austria and now are coming to the German Pro B league. Do you feel pressure to have to really make a statement in your game or are you the type of player that just let´s the game come to you and let the rest fall in place?
As a competitor you always want to go out and make a statement with your performance, and for me that has always been important especially with trying to crack my way into the pros. Overall I am more of the type of player to let the game flow and have it come to me. Any pressure I have is never external and only internal as a driver to keep pushing forward and improving.
What was the main reason for you joining Stahnsdorf? What sold you most on coming to play for them?
I’ve wanted to play in Germany for some time now and the opportunity with Stahnsdorf is a good one for me. They believed in me enough to give me an opportunity after a “year off”. With the way their season ended last year and coming into this year you could say that some may have counted them out. I see my situation as a similar one, and think it’s a good fit for both the team and myself to go out there and turn things around this year.
You have been impressed by the motivation of the club in the early going. The club has two Americans with you and Josh Smith and talented Germans. What has impressed you most about this bunch of guys in the early going?
Everybody has been working really hard early on here in the preseason and I can really tell that we have a great group of guys who are ready to train hard and go out and compete.
The club has a new Head coach Denis Toroman who has coached in 8 countries. Have you felt his experience come through in the early going and what has impressed you most about his coaching style?
I really like Coach Toroman’s approach. He has a lot of on court experience and it’s clear that he knows a lot about the game, especially from the players’ perspective. With him playing previously at a high European level it comes out in his coaching style and he’s able to coach and take us through a lot of situations on the court as well as talk about the mindset you need to have as a player.
Let´s talk about your game. You are a point guard that demonstrated that you could score in college. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player to whom would you do that?
I like to think that everybody has their own game and playing style including myself, but Damian Lillard is one of my favorite guards to watch and if I could model my game after an NBA player it would be him.
What other strengths do you have? You never averaged more than 3,6apg. Do you feel like you could really heighten your playmaking this season and not be relied on so much to only score?
I shoot the ball very well and this has been a big part of my game and has also often enabled me to play off the ball for previous teams I’ve been on. Increasing my playmaking is definitely something I’m conscious of and want to continue improving in.
You’re a player that can really 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?
My ability to set other guys up by keeping good spacing.
AS a rookie you played for ECE Bulls Kapfenberg (Austria-A Bundesliga) playing 38 games averaging 8.4ppg, 2.5rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 42.3%, 3PT: 34.1%, FT: 75.7%; You also played FIBA Europe Cup: playing 6 games averaging 10.7ppg, 2.7rpg, 1.7apg, FGP: 46.4%, 3PT: 27.6%, FT: 87.5%. What was your wake up call to being a rookie in Europe where you knew that you were far away from home in Portland, Oregon?
I’d say the biggest wake up call for me as a rookie was seeing the business side of the game. Before reaching the professional level you don’t see guys on your team being sent home or new guys being added in the middle of the season as well as on the other teams in your league that you’re playing against. So just adjusting your mindset for that and being steady in your routines and controlling what you do was a big learning piece for me.
How vital was 35 year old veteran Shawn Ray in your rookie season. Did he take you under his wing in the early game and what did you appreciate most by his presence?
I’m extremely glad that I had Shawn Ray as a veteran on my team in my first season. He definitely took me under his wing as a rookie and we’re still close today and talk to each other pretty often. I learned a lot from him and really admire how he has turned coming from a smaller college into a lengthy and successful professional career abroad. He embodies what it is to be a pro from his professionalism on the court to his consistency in his routines off the court that have always kept him in shape and ready.
You had some big games in the Austrian league and also hit Cantu and Boras for 20 plus points in the Fiba Europe Cup. Will you keep these highlights in the back of your mind this season when you continue your quest of climbing the basketball ladder in Europe?
Sure. I think that you can always use experiences and learn from both the good and the bad. So I look at the moments where I wasn’t at my best and keep working to improve on those areas and situations, and then with the highlights I use them as confidence for myself that I belong and that I can keep climbing and moving forward in my career.
Your dad played in the NBA in the 80´s with teams Phoenix, Chicago, Portland and Charlotte, coached at the college ranks and is a color man for the Portland Trailblazers at the moment. How was it growing up with an NBA dad and what special NBA stories do you have?
What stands out most for me having a dad who played in the NBA and coached in college is that I’ve always been able to be around the game and continually watch and learn. I’ve been in gyms for as long as I can remember and have observed a lot. He played in a golden era of the NBA with and against a lot of legends, there’s just too many stories to tell one. His path wasn’t clear cut and he bounced around a bit with the CBA and was on a couple of 10-day contracts at times but he turned it into 6 years in the league. I’ve always admired the drive he had to keep pursuing his career.
You played at ST Michaels from 2010-2015 . You had many memorable games, but was your 36 points game in the win against Bentley your most memorable experience on the court?
That was a special game individually for me, but my most memorable game at Saint Mike’s would be one from my sophomore season on the road at Southern Connecticut State. We were the underdog and it went into 4 overtimes, we pulled out the win, and had 3 guys score over 20. A lot of big time plays were made from everybody on the team to pull out the win and the feeling afterwards was really special.
How did head coach Josh Meyer groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
Coach Meyer took over as head coach for my last 2 seasons and he really helped me mentally to mature as a player and a leader especially at a time when I went from being an underclassman to being in my final years.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Corey Crawford?
Corey Crawford is one of the hardest working players I know and we spent a lot of time preparing together in the off-seasons. We had a mutual admiration and respect for each other’s games. I’ll tell you that I would win one on one every time against him, and he would tell you that he’d win one on one against me every time. That’s just how we are as competitors. So, me. I would win.
Who was the toughest player you battled in the states in high school or college time that is in the NBA or in Europe now?
There’s a lot of guys I could mention. Avery Bradley and I were on the same AAU team for a brief period in high school, on the Portland Legends. He was a killer on both ends of the floor. Going against him consistently in practices getting ready for tournaments, I saw why he’s an elite defender and starter in the NBA now.
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you chose?
Jordan, Kareem, Magic, LeBron.
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 best to ever do it. LeBron is also unlike any player we’ve seen before and his career is far from finished. Depending on how he ends his career he could end up being the greatest.
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 think that people have always and will always have something negative to say about Westbrook for some reason. Do you realize how special you have to be to inflate a stat like rebounding? I think that’s silly. The guy is incredible and anybody who averages a triple double is doing something valuable for their team. He deserved MVP.
How do you summarize the 2017 NBA Draft. What sleepers do you see playing a role in the NBA?
This year’s draft was loaded with talent and exciting players. I think maybe 2nd rounder Jordan Bell will find his niche. He plays great defense and has a good motor. He could end up being another valuable piece for the Warriors.
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 really don’t know what to expect from this situation. They’re two of the top guards in the league with the ball in their hands. It will be exciting to watch how they share roles on the team and see how it will elevate the players around them. Rockets have some good defenders and shooters which makes them tough, but the West is just going to be really hard to get out of.
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 was shocked when I saw this trade go through. Both teams lost and received value. Cavs got more in the short term, and a lot obviously depends on if LeBron remains there for a while or not. If Kyrie fits well in Boston they could be in a great position for some years to come due to the young talent that he will have around him.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Thanks Michael for the chat.