Aaron Doornekamp is a 31 year old 201cm forward from Odessa, Canada playing his eighth professional season and first with Valencia Basket (Spain-ACB). Last season he helped lead Iberostar Tenerife CB Canarias (Spain ACB) to the Basketball Champions League title playing 35 games averaging 12.3ppg, 4.2rpg, 1.5apg, FGP: 56.8%, 3PT: 42.6%, FT: 85.9%; In the BCL, he played 20 games averaging 10.1ppg, 4.7rpg, 2.3apg, FGP: 42.1%, 3PT: 46.1%, FT: 90.9%. He started his basketball career at Carleton (CIS) in 2004 playing there until 2009 winning 4 CIS titles. He started his professional career in 2009 with Pepsi JuveCaserta (Italy-SerieA) where he played until 2012. He then played three seasons in Germany with Braunschweig and two seasons with the Fraport Skyliners whom he helped win the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup title playing 39 games averaging 11.3ppg, 5.0rpg, 2.1apg, FGP: 48.0%, 3PT: 44.3%, FT: 85.7%; In the FIBA Europe Cup, he played 17 games averaging 9.1ppg, 4.5rpg, 2.0apg, FGP: 54.2%, 3PT: 36.8%, FT: 84.8%. He spoke to German Hoops before the Euroleague game against Brose Bamberg in Bamberg.
Aaron thanks for talking to German Hoops. Welcome back to Germany. How does it feel to be back in the country where you won your first professional title?
It feels good to be back. I played in Germany for three years with one in Braunschweig and two in Frankfurt. My first child was born in Frankfurt. I have good memories of Germany.
You have a career 1-5 record against Brose Bamberg. With what kind of feelings are you coming back to the arena where you have never won?
They are a great team and have been a great team for a long time. It isn´t easy to win there. They are playing a lot better lately and getting back to where they usually are. It is always exciting and challenging to play against the best teams.
You had some big wins against Alba Berlin, Ludwigsburg and Oldenburg where you scored 20 plus points, but was your 22 point game in the 88-86 win at home against Bamberg your most memorable BBL win?
In general my most memorable game was the final game of the Fiba Europe Cup, but If I had to pick a single game from an individual stand point then I would take the game against Bamberg that we won at home.
Your playing your first season with Valencia Basket (Spain-Liga Endesa). You won the Fiba Europe Cup with the Fraport Skyliners, Champions League with Tenerifa and now playing Euroleague with Valencia. How thankful are you that you decided to come back to Europe after missing a season in the 2012-2013 season?
I am very glad that I didn´t shut down then and continued to fight through the mess and surgeries. I have been extremely happy anywhere I have played and been grateful for any opportunity that I have gotten. Valenica is a great organization and things are going well at the moment. I continue to be grateful being able to ply after that surgery.
Does the club feel a lot of pressure defending the ACB title and having a good Euroleague season?
There are high expectations. We went into the season starting well winning the Supercup. We have put together a great roster and are 15 players deep. This club isn´t satisfied with success once in a while, but want continued success. This season is a challenge and we all welcome it. Every player here signed wanting to win with club.
Your playing with very many talented and experienced players that are stacked up front. What kind of role do you have and are you able to play mostly the small forward position?
I am playing a lot at the position four. We have been battling through injuries. We had five guys out at one time. Guys are coming back now and I am playing the four. It really depends from game to game and how we match up and size up with the opponent. My role is to play tough defense and rebound. We have a couple of guys that get the bulk of the scoring. And the rest of us, it varies from game to game. There might be games where you get 10-15 shots and other games less. The most important thing is just that we make sure that we win.
How much of a challenge is it having to be efficient since you get less minutes. You were a guy that demonstrated making the right plays with Frankfurt, but how much more key is it doing it now?
It is a big challenged. Mentally you always have to be sharp. We have a lot of talent on the team. If you aren´t sharp, there are enough other guys ready to do your job, but that is part of playing for a big team. You get a lot more respect when you are able to be efficient for a big team. It is a good challenge when you know there are so many talented guys around you.
You split against Real Madrid last season and lost a tough 4 point encounter this season. You played very well in all three games. Despite losing two games did it still feel special playing well this season or after a season of the ACB are you slowly getting used to playing great teams on a regular basis.
The ACB is extremely tough from top to bottom. Last season it was a big deal playing Real Madrid, but there isn´t a big drop off between the Euroleague teams and the rest in the ACB. Playing in the ACB is a challenge each week, but that is what makes it so exciting playing in this league. You play Euroleague during the week and on the weekends teams are coming to get you and put a scare in you. This keeps you focused when you prepare. There are never any off games which keeps your mind right.
Your teammates this season with Tibor Pleiss. When looking at his game what stands out most why he made it to the NBA?
His skill level. He has great hands for his size. He can jump hook anybody with either hand. His tough around the rim is great. He makes it look so easy when it really isn´t.
After two memorable seasons with the Fraport Skyliners, you made the jump last season to Iberostar Tenerife CB Canarias (Spain-Liga Endesa) and prompt won the Champions League. What do you feel made this run so special?
The process of it. I came from injury and went to Braunschweig. Then I went to Frankfurt where we had a rough start and turned it around and had a great year. Last year the club had a great season and took the momentum from the season before. We had a slightly unexpected season finishing fifth in the ACB and winning the Basketball Champions League. You tend to appreciate the whole experience a lot more when you have to go through many steps.
After winning the Fiba Europe Cup the season before with Frankfurt and Jordan Thoedore, you broke his heart I the final winning a nail bitter 63-59. Do you remember the words that you exchanged following the game?
He said congrats and I said you lost a tough one. There really isn´t much you can say when you lose a tough final. I spoke to him briefly the next morning before they flew back to Banvit and wished him the best and to stay healthy. We are close, but there wasn´t nothing special said. I just really felt for him. Only one guy can win. That is part of sport.
You played two seasons with the Fraport Skyliners. After a solid first season, you really broke out in the 2015-2016 season. How do you believe did your game mature in that season?
I feel my game matured with the familiarity of the coaching staff and the players. I figured out my spots and how to fit in. In my first year, I did a little bit more in terms of my shooting with Quantez Robertson. It was a combination of the two.
Head coach Gordon Herbert once stated that you were the best player that he ever coached. Could you say he was the best coach that you ever had?
He was different from what I had ever experienced before. For me it is tough to say that one coach was better than the other as I have played for many great coaches. He hammered the fundamentals of the game into my game. He was really adamant in doing things the right way especially on the defensive end. He is a big reason why I have continued to have success after I left Frankfurt. Frankfurt has been overachieving for years and the reason is the coaching staff of Gordon Herbert and Klaus Perwas who get the best out of their players. They maximize the players talents and and one can see what it did for guys that stayed longer than a year. It is no fluke that guys like Joe Voigtmann and Danilo Barthel went to bigger clubs. It is exciting to see how guys develop under Herbert and where they then go to after.
You really improved your shot in Frankfurt and it has carried on through last season. You were known to have been in the gym at 7am. Would you come in at 6am if it guaranteed you being able to shot 50%?
Having that kind of work ethic was what got me there. But it really has to do more with how I continued to work on my shot during the summers. I was fortunate to practice with different coaches and players. You really learn a lot. In the summer, it´s really important for your game development, because during the season you can´t kill your body. You focus on a few things during the summer. I think that if I get to bed early, I could make it to the gym at 6:am.
It was a total team effort winning the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup, but how much more easy was it reaching the peak with Jordan Theodore?
Jordan was great for us. He could get us a basket whenever he wanted or find the right guy at the right time. He never played out of control. He picked his spots really well. It was a lot of fun to play with him and he was a big reason why we were so successful.
Quantez Robertson is a Skyliner lifer and Mike Morrison is on his way playing his fourth season. What are your two most memorable and funny stories with them?
I remember the first time that I met Mike, it was early in training camp in Vienna, Austria. I remember that we were in the back of a small car and Mike suddenly got cramps. So he spread his legs through the car and they were over me while I was underneath him. Tez was always messing around. I can´t really pick one experience. He was always making fun of Mike.
Ex Carleton standout Philip Scrubb who won 7 titles there could have an MVP year in the BBL this season. How long do you feel will it take until he is an Euroleague player?
He was in a tough spot last season not being able to play and getting healthy again. You can tell he is healthy again the way he is playing now. He can really shoot and pass the ball. He has a very good understanding for the game. Everybody knows who he is. If he stays healthy, everything points in the direction that he will continue to move up.
You played with Braunschweig in the 2013-2014 season after having missed the 2012-2013 season. When you look back at what you have achieved how thankful are you that you came back and put in the work?
Braunschweig was a key year for me. That first year showed me that I can still play coming off my surgery. Coach Korner was great. We had a talented team, but not great season. Braunschweig was my first step after that rough injury and I am very grateful that I got a chance to play there, because without it who knows what would have happened.
When all is said and done a guy like Immanuel Mcelroy will belong to a few players like Paulding, Jenkins, Allen and Robertson that will be remembered for being the best Americans that played in the BBL in the last 15 years. How will you ever remember Mcelroy the teammate?
Imac was a great defender and guy. I feel that recently he has gotten the respect of being a passer. I thought he already knew how to pass the ball well then, but people didn´t know how well he saw the floor. He was a beast and tough player to play against.
You played your first three professional seasons with Pepsi Juvecaserta who are competing in the fifth league now. How important was a guy like ex NBA player Jumaine Jones in the early going as you were getting used to the play overseas
We had a lot of talented guys in my first year. We finished second in Serie A, but lost to Milan in the playoffs. This was my first experience where I was exposed to very incredible plyers. Jones was incredible. I was lucky for the experience. It was eye opening how talented these guys were.
You played at Carleton (CIS) at 2004-2009 for head coach Dave Smart. How did he groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
We practiced a lot and he worked us pretty hard. He taught us to play intelligent and the right way making the transition overseas easier. I also learned to make correct and quick decisions under him.
You won four CIS tournaments. Which one was the sweetest?
All were different. I remember most my fourth year where we didn´t win losing in the semi-finals. You tend to remember the loses
You were teammates with sniper Osvaldo Jeanty. What was your fondest moment with him at Carleton?
It was always very competitive in practice with him. He was a great teammate and leader that led by example. He was fun to play with. He still challenges me to one on one games in the summers. He thinks he can beat me in the post and I think I can beat him on the wing.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Cole Hobin?
Cole had a tough time with me. But he was a lot younger than me coming in when I was in my fourth year. It is tough for an 18 year old playing against a 21 or 22 year old. It is safe to say that I had his number.
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you chose?
Jerry West, Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant. If I had a fifth choice I would take Larry Bird. The list is tough.
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. I am old school, but Lebron is incredible.
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 know him or was there every day, but from what I could see he did all he could to help his team win.
How do you summarize the 2017 NBA Draft. What sleepers do you see playing a role in the NBA?
I like Dennis Smith Jr and I also like Jayson Tatum. I wouldn´t call them sleepers, but are extremely talented.
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 would be able to make a run if the Golden State Warriors weren´t there. The Warriors are untouchable with that roster.
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?
The Celtics got the better deal. Boston got the younger player on contract. Kevin Durant said in an interview that Irving is unguardable.
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?
I don´t know. It will take some time. They will be good, but the Warriors have been doing it for years, got good pick ups and got better.
What was the last movie that you saw?
It was a kids movie a while back.
Thanks Aaron for the chat.