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 20,3ppg, 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, 4,5rpg, 3,8apg, FGP: 55.0%, 3PT: 34.7%, FT: 79.6%. He spoke to German Hoops about his season in Germany.
Michael thanks for talking to German Hoops. You played your rookie season with ECE Bulls Kapfenberg (Austria-A Bundesliga) and took a step back to play in the German Pro B league for RSV Eintracht Stahnsdorf. When looking back at the season did you regret having made this decision?
I have no regrets this season playing in this league or with Stahnsdorf. I’m actually extremely grateful for the opportunity I’ve had this season to play for Stahnsdorf and in the Pro B. Basketball is my passion and every opportunity I get to go out and play is a blessing. I’ve enjoyed my experience this season being able to do what I love and I’ve been able to learn a lot from it.
In our first interview last summer you stated “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 team was rewarded in the first game with a win against Wolfenbuettel, but then lost 11 of 12 games. Did a few loses effect the team mentality in the early going that didn´t allow the team to get out of it´s funk?
We had a really rough patch and needed to keep showing up every day and putting the work in regardless of the game results. We lost a lot of those games in the final minutes. It was a really tough challenge for our young team, but we’ve been steadily learning and improving as a unit over the course of the season.
The team has had a lot of difficulty on the defensive end allowing 82 points per game. What have been the main reasons for the club not being able to be more consistent on the defensive end?
Throughout the season we’ve had some injuries, roster changes, and have gone into some games undersized; we’ve needed to adjust and throw teams different looks. The entire season has been a learning process for all of us. When we defend with a high level of energy and together as a team, we’re very competitive against anybody.
It didn´t help in that losing streak that you also lost three games by three points or less. When looking back at those three games, do you realize that had you won those three games, you might be in the playoffs now instead of the playdowns?
It’s always tough to go back and look at those close games and see the plays where you could have done something differently on offense or defense and think what could have been, and hindsight is always 20/20. I believe had we collectively been playing how we are now as a team in the first half of the season that we could be a team heading into the playoffs rather than the playdowns.
How confident are you that the Playdowns will be a success for Stahnsdorf? You go into the playdowns having won three of your last four games.
I’m very proud of our group of guys for all the work we’ve continued to put in over the course of the season. It’s hard to take a lot of losses, but we’ve been continuously learning from them and have steadily improved up to this point in the season. We’ve been playing good basketball lately and winning our last 3 out of 4 games is a testament to that resiliency. We like how we’re playing and we like our chances heading into playdowns.
The club had two dominant import players with you and Josh Smith. Do you feel like depth was missing from having been able to win more games?
Not necessarily. One of the challenges in team sports is to find a way to win with what you have available. There will always be adversity.
How much of a pleasure has it been being teammates with Josh Smith? What did you learn to appreciate most about his game?
Josh is a great teammate, a hard worker, and a very unselfish player. It’s really easy to play with him because he can make his teammates better, and he makes everyone’s jobs easier with his presence on the court.
How have you seen the development of German point guard Colin Craven? He has developed nicely since 2014 with Stahnsdorf. Do you see him making the next jump to a higher league?
This is my first season being around Colin and getting to see how he is as a player and teammate. He’s a fierce competitor and has a lot of tools in his kit. He’s improved a lot over the course of the season and I know he has what it takes to make the next steps in his career and play at a higher level.
How content have you been with your game this season with Stahnsdorf. Currently your averaging 20,3ppg, 4,5rpg and 3,8apg and are shooting 42% from outside.
Content is not a perspective I have as a basketball player. The goal is to always get better.
You never shot as well as this season from outside. Has your improved accuracy from outside been with putting up more reps or better shot selection?
Shooting is something that I’ve paid a lot of attention to over the course of my career with repetition and routine and, as long as basketball is played with a scoreboard, scoring will always be important. However, my learning curve this season has taught me that while getting good shots and the ability to score is an important skill set, true effectiveness can only come from team execution. My coaching staff and team put me in a position to get good shots and I play with a group of guys that execute.
How would you classify your overall development as a defender. In the last four seasons you have never averaged a steal a game per season. How do you justify being a solid defender from your overall abilities that isn´t based on getting steals?
I don’t necessarily think that you have to get steals to play good defense. The most important thing to me defensively is to keep the ball in front of me and to limit the amount of times our defense gets rotated. My personal challenge defensively is to not give up straight line drives towards the basket. I want to limit the amount of possessions that I give up dribble penetration, which is always a challenge for anybody who is tasked with defending primary ball handlers.
Where would you rank your 39 point explosion against top Pro B team Artland Dragons in your all-time best games as a professional?
It’s up there. We had been in a tough stretch and really needed a win, especially going into the Christmas break. Being able to have a game like that and win against a highly ranked opponent was a special feeling.
You had some very good games this season. Do you feel like you could have been even more aggressive and less unselfish in certain games that you had lost?
I’ve played on teams where I’ve scored a lot and we had some success and I’ve also scored a lot on teams that didn’t have so much success. One thing I know is that basketball is a team sport. We go to work together every day in practice, know what each other are capable of, and trust in each other’s abilities out on the floor.
You obviously have the ability to take over games. Do see yourself being able to heighten your game even more during the playdowns? Is your playmaking something you see needing to be better when you take on the challenge of the playdowns?
Situational awareness is important, and we are all aware that this time of the season calls for all of us to be playing our best basketball. Every day I wake up I feel a personal pressure to be better as a person and as a basketball player. I like being in a leadership position on this team and I accept the responsibility of playing well. My number one goal right now is to go out and play well enough to help my team survive and advance, no matter what is required of me on the floor.
Who was the toughest guard that you battled against this season? Possibly Demetrius Ward of Wolfenbuettel?
There’s a lot of talented guards and tough teams in this league. Demetrius Ward from Wolfenbuettel and Pierre Bland from Artland are both guards that do a lot for their teams and can impact games in a big way with scoring, playmaking, and defense.
From your experience this season in the Pro B, what teams do you see having the best chance of winning the Pro B title?
I think it will be interesting to see how things finish for Artland, Woflenbuettel, Schalke and Bernau as I believe they all have a good chance at the title.
With March Madness just around the corner. Who are some of the favorites to reach the Final 4 and who are your sleepers?
March Madness is such a special and unique time in sports, I’m excited to see how the brackets shape up on Selection Sunday. I think that Duke and Villanova are really strong this year as usual, and there’s some other teams not ranked as highly that are rolling right now like Michigan and Gonzaga. Can’t wait to watch.
How will the Cavs react on the court after trading away their stars Thomas, Wade and Rose and becoming younger? Where will their journey go in the next years?
They’ve got a completely different look to them now in comparison to how their roster looked and how they were playing prior to trading away those stars. Maybe it was what they needed to do, by getting some younger guys that are also really good. LeBron has shown over his career that he’s able to lead all kinds of teams into the post season and even the finals. So I think they will be okay. In today’s NBA it seems like anything can happen now with trades and free agency periods. It’s really hard to forecast a team’s future with how things have gone in recent off-seasons.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Thanks Michael for the chat.