DJ Richardson is a 26 year old 190cm guard from Peoria, Illinois playing his fifth professional season and started this season with s.Oliver Wurzburg(4,0ppg, 1,7rpg) before moving to BM Slam Stal Ostrow Wlkp(Poland-PLK) where he is averaging 11,0ppg, 17rpg and 1,3apg. Last season he played for Proximus Spirou Charleroi (Belgium-Euromillions League) playing 37 games averaging 13.3ppg, 2.3rpg, 1.3apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 50.8%, 3PT-3(44.7%), FT: 75.4%; In the FIBA Europe Cup:he played 2 games averaging 21.5ppg, 2.0rpg, 1.5apg;In the BCL, he played 9 games: averaging 12.7ppg, 2.1rpg, 1.0apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 63.9%, 3PT: 41.9%, FT: 93.3%. As a rookie he played in Austria with UBC Magnofit Gussing Knights (Austria-A Bundesliga) and then played two seasons in Finland with Kouvot Kouvola (Finland-Korisliiga). He played at Illinois(NCAA) from 2009-2013 playing a total of 138 NCAA games and as a senior played 36 games averaging 12.3ppg, 3.9rpg, 1.6apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 44.4%, 3PT: 32.2%, FT: 81.5%. He spoke to German Hoops about basketball.
DJ thanks for talking to German Hoops.After a short stay in Germany with Wurzburg, you now are balling in Poland with BM Slam Stal Ostrow Wlkp. (Poland-PLK). You have had a steady rise playing in leagues in Austria, Poland and Belgium and reached the German BBL one of the top leagues in Europe in your fifth professional season. How disappointed were you not to make the next step in Germany?
Honestly, I am not disappointed at all. It was my decision to leave the team. There’s more basketball Germany is not the end of the world. I made a quick decision because I wasn’t happy in my situation. The team made an agreement to let me leave.
Do you feel like had you been healthy from the get go that you would still be a member of s.Oliver Wurzburg now?
I had a few early injuries in the preseason and one entering the beginning of the season. I play my best game of the season against Oldenburg playing around 14 minutes. Every day up until the next game I had great practices. Coach told me I was getting better and better every day. Then next game he plays me three minutes. Any basketball player knows being put in a position like that is frustrating. (Especially if your opponent plays with small players). So it was my decision to play somewhere else to be happy. Nothing to do with injuries at all.
You were playing with three very talented guards with Abdul Gaddy, Cliff Hammonds and Maurice Stuckey. Do you feel like head coach Dirk Bauermann gave up too early on you? Do you feel like you could have found your rhythm had you been given a little more time?
Yes we had pretty good guards we all competed ever yday. It wasn’t time he put me in a situation where I felt like I shouldn’t be there anymore. When yoru coming back from an injury, you get better in practice and gain your confidence from your teammates, coaches, and most importantly yourself. After the Oldenburg game and that week of practice I feel like I was Dj Richardson again.
You definitely left a lasting impression in Wurzburg with your style and character on and off the court. In four games where you got a chance you produced well in three games. What do you feel was your most memorable experience on and off the court in your short time in Germany?
My most memorable experience on and off the court was the whole situation. None of my career I been treated like that. I learned a lot from it but it’s only going make me a better person and player. Besides basketball Wurzburg was definitely the most comfortable city I have played in. The city was beautiful, easy to get around, fans where great and most people spoke English. I was able to find a lot of things I bought in the states in near by stores in town.
Now you have a new challenge ahead with BM Slam Stal Ostrow Wlkp. (Poland-PLK). What kind of basketball journey awaits you here and do you see yourself having a big role again like in the past with other teams?
Yeah this is a new challenge, I’m looking forward to having a good season. Yes I have a bigger role on this team which is going to make put me back on the same track I left off at in Belgium. Most important part is I just want to be happy and competing on the court with my teammates.
You are pairing with diminutive 173cm guard Aaron Johnson who you battled in Finland three years ago. What kind of experience has it been playing with him and can this duo develop into an unstoppable one in Poland.
I have actually been knowing Aaron for a while he’s from Chicago and I am from Peoria which is about two hours away. We talked a few times during my time in Germany. We both been handling the ball a lot in practice and building a lot of chemistry
Last season you played with Proximus Spirou Charleroi (Belgium-Euromillions League) playing 37 games averaging 13.3ppg, 2.3rpg, 1.3apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 50.8%, 3PT-3(44.7%), FT: 75.4%; you played 2 FIBA Europe Cup games averaging 21.5ppg, 2.0rpg, 1.5apg; and played 9 BCL games averaging 12.7ppg, 2.1rpg, 1.0apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 63.9%, 3PT: 41.9%, FT: 93.3%. After three strong seasons in lower leagues Austria and Finland do you feel like last season was your real breakout season in Europe?
I feel like last season was definitely my breakout. I’ve been playing against great players my whole career and played in one of the toughest college conferences for 4 years. Last season I had great games against great teams.
In the 2015-2016 season you played your second season in Finland and prompt won the league title with Kouvot Kouvola (Finland-Korisliiga) playing 46 games: Score-5(16.6ppg), 3.4rpg, 1.5apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 55.4%, 3PT: 37.5%, FT: 81.2%. What did you learn about your team in the playoffs where you didn´t have to win 9 games which is usual in most leagues, but 11 games in the three series as the semi´s and final´s were a best of seven games.
I knew what it felt like to play a full season, had to learn how to keep focused on the goal. You see on social media a lot of players eliminated early spending time with family. It makes you miss home but I just FaceTimed my family and cherished every moment with my teammates.
Would you like to envision your last professional season being written the way Kyle Shiloh´s was winning the title and then retiring? How important was his presence in the title run?
It was great having Kyle as a teammate and roommate for a short time. His leadership and his experience helped us when we hit adversity. His way of retiring is a way most athletes dream of hanging up their jersey.
In the 2014-2015 season you came in mid season to Kouvot Kouvola (Finland-Korisliiga). You were teammates with American Jason Conley who had many good years in the BBL with the Telekom Baskets Bonn. Everyone has their special Conley story. What impressed you most about his game?
Jason Conley was a good player but even a better person to be around. He was a good all around player. He could shoot, post, and was good on the glass. Favorite part was competing against him the next season.
As a rookie you played with UBC Magnofit Gussing Knights (Austria-A Bundesliga) playing only 2 games averaging 14.0ppg, 5.0rpg, 3.5apg, 1.0spg. What was your wake up call as a rookie where you knew that you were very far away from home in Illinois?
Even though I played a few games with Gussing Knights they won the title that season, some say I have a title and 1/3 haha. I was there as a replacement for a month. I was used to being away from home. When I was 17 I moved to Henderson, NV for prep school. College days I rarely went home. I always talked to friends and family but rarely was home.
In Austria you played very briefly with Austrian national player and current Braunschweig guard Thomas Klepeisz. You faced him again recently as he helped beat you 73-71. Did you even recognize him again on the court with his play? How had he developed in the last years?
Yes I had seen Thomas team play at our arena in the preseason, that’s when I knew he was playing in Germany. Also ran into our Gussing Knight coach that day. He has developed into a better scorer. He could score in the Austrian league but the game I seen in the preseason he did the same
Before going to Illinois(NCAA) you played your last year of high school basketball at the well known Findlay Prep in Nevada that has produced Canadian future NBA players like Anthony Bennet, Tristan Thompson and Cory Josepth along others. In your one year you and Avery Bradley helped the team to an amazing 33-0 record beating Oak Hill for the national title. What memories of this sensational season you do have and what do you miss most about playing with Avery Bradley?
Living in a house with a funny group of guys from ages 15-18. We stayed in a half million dollar home which was already a big memory coming from a small place like mine and growing up in a rough area. Avery Bradley was probably the best defender I’ve played with. We used to both guard the other teams best players. I talk to him maybe 5-6 times on FaceTime in the last 3 months. Also talked to Tristan Thompson over Instagram DMs this past summer.
You arrived at Illinois as a huge prospect. Andy Katz of ESPN called you and Brandon Paul “the best freshman backcourt not at Kentucky John Wall and Eric Bledsoe” How did you handle this comment and did you feel pressure at times as a freshman needing to live up to the praise?
Brandon Paul & myself had an outstanding summer going into our senior year of high school. We played together with the Illinois Warriors AAU team in one of the best summer tournaments, Nike Peach Jam. I was a top 3 performer among varies of players in the NBA now and good overseas players. Also beat John Walls team. I really didn’t know he said that, just knew our recruiting class was one of the best.
You played four years with Brandon Paul in the back court. How vital was his basketball existence for your game development at Illinois? Is he a certified brother for life for you?
Brandon is definitely my brother for life, we talk all the time, send each other funny social media video clips, laugh about old times, etc. He developed pretty quickly, I think what helped his game out the most is when he started playing a lot of point guard.
How much does his basketball story of grinding in Europe for three seasons and one in the D League with the reward with having a contract with the San Antonio Spurs motivate you to do more and more in the gym to follow him one day?
Besides the seasons he had in Europe and D-League, this guy had 2-3 major shoulder injuries. He came back even stronger after those. I think he deserves to be in the NBA and always knew he was talented enough to play in the NBA. Of course it’s motivation, I would like to be on the same team or competing against my brother again
You played three years for Bruce Weber and one year for John Groce. How did these two guys help you in their special way to groom and prepare you best for a professional career?
Coach Weber prepared me more for being an early experienced, clutch player and sharp shooter. I was more of a one dimensional player. I had a bigger role playing for coach Groce, he gave me more freedom to play how he knew I could play. Both coaches helped me get ready professionally.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Brandon Paul?
Me and Brandon use to compete all the time in practice, he will win one day or I would win.
In Germany one saw that you have your very own style with the hair and clothing style. If you had to chose a current NBA player that has a most fitting clothing style and overall appearance who would you chose to trade designer secrets?
Since I’m getting older I have to take Dwayne’s Wade designer style.
Who was the toughest player that you battled in the NCAA or playgrounds that is in the NBA now?
The toughest player I played in college and now in NBA is Evan Turner and playgrounds Shaun Livingston.
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you chose?
Russell Westbrook, Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving
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’s the greatest of all time. He did it against greater players, better defenders, and a league where flagrant 2 fouls were regular personal fouls. NBA players get an assist after another player takes 3 dribbles after the pass.
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?
Westbrook plays with a lot of heart and passion. Sometimes you have players that only can score but don’t defend, defend but can’t score. He scores, rebounds, create for others. He’s defense could be better but he took that team to the playoffs in the West.
How do you summarize the 2017 NBA Draft. What sleepers do you see playing a role in the NBA?
I didn’t watch the draft. I seen summer league games though. I called Ben Simmons getting rookie of the year even though he was drafted the year before.
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 just think they got Chris Paul for better decisions making in the playoffs, James Harden had like 11 turnovers or something the last game. I think it will help to control the team better. Not enough for a title, they gave up one of the leagues best perimeter defenders 3 high energy guys. You need role players like Patrick Beverly.
Thanks DJ for the chat.