Kevin Punter is a 24 year old 188cm point guard from the Bronx, New York playing his second professional season and first with Rosa Radom (Poland-PLK). Last season as a rookie he played with GS Lavrio (Greece-A1) playing 21 games averaging 12.5ppg, 2.4rpg, 2FGP: 45.8%, 3FGP: 43.2%, FT: 80.0%, in Mar.’17 moved to Port of Antwerp Giants (Belgium-Euromillions League) playing 16 games averaging 11.5ppg, 3.3rpg, 1.6apg, Steals-2(1.9spg), FGP: 46.0%, 3PT: 30.9%, FT: 89.1%. He started his college career at State Fair CC (JUCO) and finished at Tennessee (NCAA). In his senior year he played 26 games averaging 22.2ppg, 3.5rpg, 3.5apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 52.2%, 3PT: 36.9%, FT: 81.7%. He spoke to German Hoops about basketball before the Basketball Champions League game against medi Bayreuth in Bayreuth.
Kevin thanks for talking to German Hoops. Before we start how often have you heard the wise comment “How far can you punt the ball?
When I was a little kid I often heard the phrase do you play football, but now I don´t hear it anymore.
Welcome to Germany. Is this your first time to Germany or did you check it out when you played in Belgium briefly last season?
This is my first time here. We got in late, but it´s cool.
What do you know in general about the country Germany and it´s basketball? Do you have any friends playing here?
I don´t know much and don´t know anyone playing here at the moment.
Your playing your first season with Polish team Rosa Radom. Was the attraction to be able to play Champions League basketball a big reason why you joined this team?
Yes for sure. I saw this as an upgrade from Greece. It was a good opportunity that I had to take.
The club has started off slow in the Polish and Basketball Champions League. Do you feel that having only two Americans is a bit slim for being able to be competitive?
Not really. We just have to know how to play the right way no matter who is on the team. If we can play at a high level for 40 minutes then we will be very good.
How refreshing has it been playing with fellow American Ryan Harrow? He seems to be a very capable second playmaker to the team.
Ryan has been a huge help. Before he came, I was the only American on the team. Having him here has made my job easier because he is another guy that can create and score.
How have you profited from his game and how do you feel has he benefited from your presence?
He can shoot, handle and score. I don´t need to dribble and have to create every time. He can create and I have to be sure to be in the right position for him to find me.
Let´s talk about your game. You’re a guy that can really score the ball. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would you compare your game to?
I don´t even know. I have heard comparisons to CJ Mccollum.
You’re a guy that can really score and fill up the stat sheet, but what do you feel is still a strength in your game that goes unnoticed?
That´s a good question. Other than my defense, I would say I´m a great leader.
You have had no adjustment period to the Basketball Champions League. If you compare it to the other leagues where you have played in Greece and Belgium would you say it is the most competitive?
The Basketball Champions League has been the most competitive league that I have played in. We are playing high level teams and players each week. It has been different, but fun.
Last season you played with GS Lavrio (Greece-A1) playing 21 games averaging 12.5ppg, 2.4rpg, 2FGP: 45.8%, 3FGP: 43.2%, FT: 80.0%, in Mar.’17 moved to Port of Antwerp Giants (Belgium-Euromillions League) playing 16 games averaging 11.5ppg, 3.3rpg, 1.6apg, Steals-2(1.9spg), FGP: 46.0%, 3PT: 30.9%, FT: 89.1%. What was your wake up call to being a rookie in Greece where you knew that you were very far away from home?
My wake up call in Greece was when I looked at my shower. I could barely fit in and when I turned on the water, it took 30 minutes to get hot and then it lasted only five minutes. It was difficult being so far away from home, no one spoke English and it even smelt different.
Last season you played twice against Olympiacos and Panathinaikos losing each game, but in one game scored 18 points against Olympiacos.leading all scorers. You played against many great players including Erik Green. Despite the loss were you content that this game showed that you can play with anyone?
For sure. I felt that these games showed that I could play at a very high level coming out of college. These games showed where I was as a player and on what things I still needed to work on. It was a good experience. The plan is to get to the Euroleague.
After leaving Greece, you finished in Belgium with Port of Antwerp Giants (Belgium-Euromillions League) getting your first taste of the playoffs in Europe. How vital was it for your development to finish the season strong there?
Finishing in Belgium my rookie season was very important. I am really big on development. I played in a very skilled league and it was a big challenge for me. I came to a new environment that was winning and had to learn plays and gel quickly. It was another step for me and I enjoyed it and my rookie season worked out well for me.
How vital was ex Georgetown guard Jason Clark in your two months there? Was it just Georgetown or could you profit from his presence?
Just being around him was big. He had been the MVP in Belgium. Just being around him and seeing how he approached things was important for my game. I was able to see what I could add to my game. It was great having the chance to play with him.
You started your basketball career at State Fair CC (JUCO) in 2012 where you played two seasons. How badly overlooked did you feel you were by the NCAA or weren´t you ready for it yet?
I felt I had been overlooked. My knock was that I was too skinny and was more of a slasher and not a high level player. I really worked off my butt in my second year, but despite all that and having good stats I didn´t have any offers from any mid major schools. I was averaging 20 points a game and only Missouri State was interested. Then out of nothing I got an offer from Missouri and then it seemed like every school wanted me. It was crazy.
You finished your schooling in the NCAA with Tennessee playing there from 2014-2016. What kind of experience was it for you?
It was a great experience. I came from a small town and was living on a huge college campus that had all sports. The basketball side was great. I had the great opportunity to play with future NBA player Josh Richardson. It was a big change having three hour practices. I had a good junior season and also senior season despite a coaching change. It all worked out well for me.
When did you know in your first year that teammate Josh Richardson would be a NBA player down the road?
I knew that he wanted to get to the NBA just like any other kid. After a very good senior season, I thought he had a shot. He was creating a buzz at the Pre draft combine so it didn´t surprise me when his name was called on draft night. It was dope when he got drafted.
In your junior year you lost to powerhouse Kentucky 66-48 and you held your own netting 13 points in the losing cause. That Kentucky team had 7 future NBA players on the team. Was that the best team you ever played against in the NCAA?
Yes that was the best team that I ever played against. I don´t remember much except that nobody could guard me. They had some great players that would go to the NBA, but this is just my self confidence talking. I had to do so much just to get the chance to play at Tennessee. Nothing ever came easy to me.
Devin Booker netted 18 points and has established him into a big time NBA player once scoring 70 points. When you look at his game then just how much do you ponder about what you could do to get his level or does he have a lot of god given talent?
I think that a lot has to do with talent, but dudes like Booker were just in a very good situation growing up. I didn´t have that chance. I wasn´t as talented as them. My thing was that I always had to work hard. I was never one and done
A year later you led all scorers again with 27 points beating Kentucky 83-77 and this time there were some new future NBA players with Jamal Murray, Tyler Ulis and Alex Poythress. Do you believe that NBA teams might have had you in their notebooks at some time?
There were maybe some rumors, but I never paid attention to it. For me most important was having a consistent senior year and just continuing to keep pushing. I think that if I had possibly been able to finish my senior year and not gotten injured, I could have played at Portsmouth and been drafted. I remember seeing how Josh Richardson progressed from a freshman to his senior year and thought maybe it could happen to me.
As a senior you averaged 22.2ppg, 3.5rpg, 3.5apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 52.2%, 3PT: 36.9%, FT: 81.7%and then played NBA Pro Summer League in Las Vegas (Minnesota Timberwolves): (Finalist): 6 games: 0.3ppg. What kind of feedback did you become from the GM´s of teams?
It was a learning experience. I rushed back to soon from injury. It just wasn´t my time. Being around the NBA those few weeks was important. I didn´t play much, but learned how the NBA worked.
Was your 36 point game in the win against rising NCAA team South Carolina one of your fondest memories on the court at Tennessee?
Yes it was one of them, but also beating Kentucky as a senior.
You played for two coaches Donnie Tyndall and Rich Barnes. How did each guy help you get groomed and prepared for a professional basketball career best?
Donnie was a hardnosed and gritty coach similar to how I am as a player. Barnes was more a complex coach that believed in finesse and was an offensive genius. I love both coaches and learned a lot from them. If it hadn´t been for Tyndall bringing me in, I wouldn´t be here today.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Shembari Phillips?
Me. He would never beat me, but he is my guy. He is at Georgia State.
Who was the toughest player that you battled in the NCAA that is in the NBA now?
Josh Richardson. I didn´t see anything in my junior year from Devin Booker where I could say it had been tough. Tyler Ulis was smart and Jamaal Murray was tough.
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you chose?
Kevin Durant is my favorite player, Kevin Garnet, Lebron James, Michael Jordan.
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?
You can argue for the rest of your life about this. It is hard to say who is best. One has more rings, while the other loses a lot in finals while the other has the better all around stat line. I feel it all depends on how you argue it.
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 love Russ. He got his team to the playoffs. He plays so hard and makes it so simple. I don´t watch guys like Steph Curry who are naturally gifted.
How do you summarize the 2017 NBA Draft. What sleepers do you see playing a role in the NBA?
Donovan Mitchell and Kyle Kuzma.
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 they could. Harden is having an MVP year. I think that they could get to the final.
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 feel the trade evened out. Thomas is no push over and Irving is one of the best guards in the league.
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 have no clue. I hope they find chemistry. They have the talent to make a run
What was the last movie that you saw?
Ride Along 2 with Kevin Hart and Ice Cube. It was cool.
Thanks Kevin for the chat.