Bryce Leavitt is a 23 year old 193cm guard from Kennewick, Washington that is playing his second professional season and first with WWU Baskets Muenster (Germany-Regionalliga). Last season as a rookie he played with TV 1864 Salzkotten (Germany-Regionalliga) playing 23 games averaging 20.3ppg, 7.9rpg, 4.6apg, 2.3spg, FGP: 59.1%, 3PT: 35.2%, FT: 84.9%. He got college basketball experience with three schools with Washington St. (NCAA), N.Idaho JC (JUCO, starting five) and Seattle Pacific (NCAA2) where he played his last two seasons and as a senior played 31 games averaging 9.6ppg, 6.8rpg, 4.3apg, FGP: 47.8%, 3PT: 22.0%, FT: 78.8%. He spoke to German Hoops about basketball.
Bryce thanks for talking to German Hoops. You’re playing your second professional season in Germany and first with Muenster. What kind of experience has it been for you playing the in the German Regionaliga? What have been the biggest benefits and negatives for you personally?
I feel like I have been able to grow as a player in this league, and show the value I can bring to a team. I wouldn’t say there are any real negatives, just motivation to keep improving as a player.
Has it been difficult being able to work on your game consistently with the lack of daily practices? Are you able to put up shots when you can and get gym time or is that a real problem when your at the Regionaliga level?
Not at all, I am able to work on my game every day here. Our coach, Philipp, is the director at a sports school. So every morning I meet him for individual training/shooting, and then join our strength coach Baris Türkel in the weight room for his performance program.
You have put up great stats in your first two seasons. How big is your drive to continue to get better and move up the ranks. Would you pay the price of playing say 4- 5 years in the Regionaliga before making the jump to say the Pro B or is this experience something you will just take it year by year?
I’m just striving to keep improving as a player, and taking a step forward in my career every season. Right now my full focus is on helping Muenster to win games and fight for the championship. After the season I will be able to step back and evaluate my future.
Muenster is playing a very successful season. How big are the team aspirations of moving up to the Pro B?
Winning the league/moving up to Pro B is the only goal this team has. They have been close for a couple years now, and I could really feel that motivation when I arrived. That’s a big reason why I signed here, I felt like I could help them get over the top.
Is the team experience with so many German players having ample time in higher leagues in Germany a big reason for the team success?
I think having numerous experienced German players is a huge advantage for our team. Those guys have played basketball at many different levels, so they know how to handle themselves in tough situations.
Obviously the most important thing are the wins, but you are so close to averaging triple double stats. Is this like a quiet goal of yours to go for that? I cant remember a guy ever having triple double stats at any level in Germany from Regionaliga up to the BBL.
Honestly that is not a goal of mine at all. I just try to have a feel for the game, and provide whatever my team needs to win on any given night. But my only goal is to win these last 10 games and win the league. I think a championship would bring more respect to my resumé than any statistic ever could.
Let´s talk a bit about the team. You have some very experienced players with Stefan Wess, Alex Goolsby, Leo Padberg and Kai Haenig and Max Massing who all have played at the Pro A or Pro B levels. Which of these guys has their game impressed you most?
Yes the depth on our team is one of our strongest assets. All the names you mentioned are really good basketball players, and all bring something different to our team. But the two guys that have impressed me the most are probably Stefan Wess and Jan Koenig. In my opinion they are the two best Germans in the league.
How much of a pleasure has it been playing with Brandon Mcgill. He has brought extra experience having played in England and Australia. He is a guy that can fill the stat sheet like you. How do you guys compliment each other best?
It’s been great having Brandon as a teammate and being able to pick his brain from his past experiences. Unfortunately he’s been injured so I haven’t had the chance to play with him yet. But I think my playmaking and his shooting ability will compliment each other really well.
You came in late to the season. You really didn’t need any adjustment period. What exactly is your role on the team? It seems like you are way more than just the team scorer, but the Russell Westbrook of the team. Is that a fair assessment that you have to do so much on the team for it to be successful?
This team has so many talented scorers, so I would say my main role is to organize the offense and make things easier for our shooters by penetrating/attacking the defense. Besides the responsibility of playmaking, I just play with high-energy on both ends of the floor and speed up the pace of the game.
Your scoring stats are down from last season, but you have drastically upped your rebounds and assists from last season. Do you feel you have more of an opportunity this season to show your complete game?
Muenster has way more scoring depth than my team last season, so I just try to adjust my game to whatever the team needs to win. I think I have always shown that I bring value to a team in many different areas, this season is no different.
You’re a guy that can fill the stat sheet. If you had to compare your game to a NBA player which player would best describe how you play the game?
Would have to be my favorite player, Manu Ginobili. Not the flashiness or crazy plays, but the competitive fire and playmaking he brings to the court. He’s a guy who probably could have averaged 20 points a game on a lot of teams, but he sacrificed that to win championships. Manu always does a little bit of everything to win, that’s why he is a future hall of famer.
You can do so much on the court, but what do you feel is a hidden talent in your game that doesn’t get noticed right away on the court?
Probably my speed with the ball. I feel like I can really improve the pace/tempo of any team with the way I play on both ends.
What kind of a feeling was it registering a professional triple double in the 86-44 win against Kamp-Lintfort where you had 19 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists. In a blow out game like that did you have a feeling in the fourth quarter that you were really filling the stat sheet and could achieve it?
It was actually surprising when I first heard it after the game, I didn’t realize I had been rebounding so much. All week we talked about bringing good energy for 4 quarters, so that was a good win.
Having achieved this feat, do you remember your first senior game against Dixie State being near a triple double? How memorable was that game for you considering it was your first game where you finally started getting minutes?
Ya I remember it being a huge win for us to start the year. We had a lot of confidence after that game.
As a rookie you played with TV 1864 Salzkotten (Germany-Regionalliga) playing 23 games averaging 20.3ppg, 7.9rpg, 4.6apg, 2.3spg, FGP: 59.1%, 3PT: 35.2%, FT: 84.9%. What was your wake up call to being a rookie in Germany where you knew that you were very far away from home?
My “wake-up call” was probably the first couple weeks of being in Germany. It’s tough when you first see life back home going on normally without you. But I adjusted pretty quickly and really enjoyed that season in Salzkotten.
Last season I am sure that you saw some games of the Uni Baskets Paderborn and some Pro B games somewhere. How confident are you that you could make an impact at that level? Is there anything significant that you are working on most to get to the next level?
Ya I actually practiced with Uni Baskets twice a week last season. So I’m extremely confident that I can make an impact in higher leagues right now if I had the chance. My main focus for improvement is being more aggressive/consistent with my jump shot, and being stronger with my on-ball defense.
You played at the NCAA, NCAA 2 and Juco level. How important was it for you personally to have been able to play at three different schools and levels. How did you profit on and off the court having this chance?
Playing at three different colleges/levels was a unique experience, but definitely made me a better basketball player. I had the chance to play against/with many different players, and styles of play. It also prepared me for Europe because in the pro game there is so much turnover with rosters. You always have to be ready to fit quickly into a new system, or play with new teammates.
When I mention these players NBA players Allen Crabbe, Solomon Hill, Shabazz Muhammad, Norman Powell, Spencer Dinwidde and Dwayne Dedmon what comes to your mind first?
I just think about how good the players in the Pac-12 are, NBA talent on every team. But I actually think the best player from my season in the Pac-12 didn’t make your list. My teammate from WSU Brock Motum, he’s playing with Efes in the Euroleague right now. I’ve played against all those guys you mentioned, and I would still pick Brock over them. I think he will be in the NBA sooner rather than later.
Can you recount against how many of these guys you actually faced on the floor as sometimes you played only 1-2 minutes.
I think I played against all of them. But the only ones that I really matched up with were Norman Powell and Shabazz.
As a freshman you played at Washington State(NCAA) playing 20 games and playing hardly. What kind of experience was this year? Was the NCAA year to early in your development?
I improved a lot as a player that year. It was a mental grind to sometimes play 25 minutes and sometime play 2. I don’t have a single regret going to play at Washington State. Fighting my way into the 8-man rotation as a freshman gave me a ton of confidence going forward.
How much does it motivate you to continue to work on your game when you see ex teammate Davonte Lacey tearing up the German Pro A with Ehingen?
It motivates me a lot, it’s awesome to see Davonte having a great season because I know how hard he works. But at the same time, I’m not surprised at all. I think he could easily be making a big impact in the BBL or another top league in Europe.
You moved to N.Idaho JC (JUCO). How important was it taking a step back to play there? What besides your self confidence was bolstered there?
Taking a step back and going to North Idaho was huge for me. The main thing I improved on there was my toughness, the JUCO grind is no joke. Jared Phay and Corey Symons really pushed me as a player, and took care of me. They honestly probably saved my career.
You finished at Seattle Pacific (NCAA2) playing 49 games from 2014-2016. Was winning the GNAC tournament your fondest memory there?
Winning that GNAC championship was definitely one of the top moments. But just being part of the winning culture at Seattle Pacific was great, the team chemistry was awesome there. I made some of my best friends in life at SPU, I still live with some of them when I’m home for the offseason, shout out to the boys.
Your minutes went from 12 in your junior year to 32 in your senior year. How did your game grow in these two seasons?
My first season there it took some time to adjust to the slower style of play, and I was never fully healthy. But that really motivated me for the offseason, I destroyed myself everyday that summer. I came back for my senior year stronger, fully healthy, and way more skilled.
What memories do you have of ex teammate Gilles Dierickx? Have you followed his progression in Germany and possibly seen him play since he has been in your region?
I have some great memories playing with Gilles and we still talk quite a bit. He is a beast on the court, he really anchored our team in Seattle. So when he finds the right team in Europe that appreciates his value, he’s going to make some serious noise.
How did head coach Ryan Looney groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
Coach Looney was definitely big for me becoming a more complete player. He made me stronger on defense and better at impacting the game without scoring. But the assistants there were great too. Bubba Filios put a lot of time into improving my skills with the ball, and stealing rebounds. And Grant Leep was a great mentor for my consistency and mental approach to the game.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Brendan Carroll?
I miss having Brendan as a teammate, he’s one of the most talented scorers I’ve seen at any level. I don’t remember us playing much one on one. But Brendan, myself, and Mitch Penner used to always play shooting games like 48 and ride the bus. I don’t think I ever lost.
Who was the best player that you battled at the NCAA level that gave you most fits on the court and is in the NBA now?
Solomon Hill at Arizona. And Gary Payton II, I think our teams played each other like 4 times in one season during junior college, those were some battles.
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you chose?
MJ, Kobe, Lebron, Magic
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?
It’s really hard for me to make those comparisons when I’ve never gotten to see Michael Jordan live. To me, MJ and Kobe are the two greatest players ever, but the chapters of Lebron’s career are still being written, so ask me again when he retires.
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 haven’t seen enough Thunder games the last couple years to judge that. But I feel like if you’re going to criticize Westbrook for anything, it would be high-volume shooting and turnovers. Not rebounding or assists, because that guy plays harder than almost anyone I’ve ever seen.
How do you summarize the 2017 NBA Draft. What sleepers do you see playing a role in the NBA?
It’s hard to summarize the draft when no one has even seen the 1st pick play yet. But biggest sleeper so far has to be Kyle Kuzma, he’s already the best player on the Lakers. Also Jordan Bell, I have no idea how the Warriors got him in the 2nd round, dudes a beast.
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?
It’s been interesting to see how well that team has meshed, they are really fun to watch. But I still don’t think they have the championship experience or firepower needed to beat the Warriors.
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?
It actually could end up being a win for both teams. But I think the main factor will depend on Isaiah Thomas’ health, and the final result of the 1st-round Nets pick that Cleveland got in the deal.
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 think that roster fits together very well, so I don’t see them making it out of the West. But that’s a lot of firepower.
What was the last movie that you saw?
The Town. Top-5 movie ever.
Thanks Bryce for the chat.