Robert Nortmann is a 30 year old 204cm forward from Nassau, Bahamas playing his first professional season in Germany with the ROMERSTROM Gladiators Trier (Germany-ProA). He has been a solid force from the bench averaging 6,0ppg and 3,0rpg in 15 minutes of action. He has played most of his professional career in Canada with teams Halifax Rainmen (Canada-NBL Canada), Island Storm (Canada-NBL Canada), and Windsor Express (Canada-NBL Canada). He also gained experience with teams Maitland Mustangs (Australia-WARATAH) and Francavilla Fontana (Italy-Serie C Silver). He played four years at Dalhousie University (Canada-CIS) and as a senior played 21 games averaging 14.6ppg, 6.4rpg, FGP: 49.4%, FT: 61.7%. He spoke to German Hoops at the start of 2018 about his basketball career.
Robert, thanks for talking to German Hoops. Welcome to Germany. 2018 is here. Are you the kind of guy that sets new years resolutions each year or rather are you a guy that doesn´t believe in that?
I do believe in setting goals every year. However, I do not believe in resolutions. I believe that you should build habits for success, every single day. Why wait for the new year to start your success.
You have the German citizenship as you have a German grandmother. What do you know about the country Germany in general and it´s basketball?
My father is German but he was born and raised in Canada. His parents moved to Toronto from Germany before he was born. My grandfather was from Hamburg. I know quite a bit about the country and I have visited in the past. I am excited to learn more about my father’s side of the family and my German heritage. I also have many friends who have experience with professional basketball in Germany, so they told me what to expect.
Congrats on signing with the Romerstrom Gladiators Trier. One could say you helped blow a positive wind to the team as it is undefeated since you arrived. Do you feel like a sort of good luck charm based on the current success?
It definitely looks like it! The Gladiators are a very talented team. They were just missing a piece to bring them over the hump. The team needed a physical presence in the paint and some more experience. Fortunately, I was able to bring both of those things to the team.
You have played most of your career in Canada and was in Italy and Australia. Why hasn´t Europe been more of an option for you in your career? Was the right situation missing or were you comfortable playing in Canada?
The right situation in Europe had not presented itself. I was only able to get lower level European jobs that I did not find appealing, so I played in Canada for most of my career. The NBL of Canada provided an option to play high level basketball in a secure, familiar environment.
Talk a little about your new team Romerstrom Gladiators. What has been your impression of the team and what exactly is your role with the club?
I really enjoy playing basketball with the Gladiators. We have a young, talented team. This group is very unselfish and hardworking. My primary role is to anchor our defense. I bring a physical presence inside and protect our paint. I have always been the guy who brings energy and does the dirty work. I have also been able to bring leadership and some scoring to the club.
The most known player on the squad and heart and soul of the team is Canadian Jermaine Bucknor. What has impressed you most about his game and character since you arrived?
Jermaine is great teammate and just a high character guy. He brings a veterans presence and calm to the court. He understands the game at a high level and makes big plays down the stretch. He is also a gym rat. Buck is always getting up shots after practice and making extra trips to the weight room. I have really enjoyed learning from Buck and having him as teammate.
Let´s talk a bit about your game. You’re a 204cm forward that can score and rebound and is very versatile and very athletic. You also are a gritty player that likes to the dirty work on the court. To what NBA player would you compare your game to?
Draymond Green would have to be my NBA comparison. I am a glue guy and a gritty player. I want to be the heart and engine of my team. I am willing to do whatever the team needs from me to win. Defensively, I am versatile enough to defend both the perimeter and the post. On offense, I score and facilitate both from inside and out. I pride myself on playing hard and making the right basketball play for the teams success.
You’re a guy that can do a lot on the court, but what do you feel is a hidden strength in your game that doesn´t get noticed right away on the court?
My ball handling and passing are definitely my hidden strengths. When I was 15 years old, I started playing basketball on the playgrounds. I would study the AND1 Mixtapes, Allen Iverson, Steve Nash and Magic Johnson. I wanted to be a point guard and I would practice my ball handling nonstop.
When one looks at the various teams that you played for in Canada in the NBL, you never played a big role, but did for teams in lower levels. Could you classify yourself as a late bloomer as you have displayed a lot of skill in the German Pro A?
I would definitely describe myself as a late bloomer. I started playing the game later in life. I wasn’t coached and didn’t really take basketball seriously until I was 18 years old. I have been playing catch up my entire career. I know that I can play this game at a very high level and I am happy that the fruits of my labour are finally showing.
You started the season with the Windsor Express (Canada-NBL Canada) and didn´t play a big role there either. Was this the last straw where you were ready for a return back to Europe?
Yes, it had become evident to me that my abilities were not truly valued in the NBL Canada. I knew that it was time to return to European basketball.
In your short stay at Windsor Express (Canada-NBL Canada)) you were teammates with three guys Logan Stutz, Devin White and Mike Lucier who have all played in Germany. Stutz led the German Pro A in scoring in the 2012-2013 season. Were you able to take anything positive from his work ethic and game that might be beneficial for your game in Germany?
Logan is just a great professional. He takes his craft seriously and works hard to ensure that his game is always sharp. Logan really understands how to use angles, fakes and footwork to score at a really high pace. Believe me, I was taking notes while I was in Windsor.
Last season you played for Francavilla Fontana (Italy-Serie C Silver). What was your wake up call to your first season in Europe where you knew that you were very far away from home?
The European game is different from the North American game. The tactics and movement was completely different from what I had become accustomed to in North America. The culture was very different as well. I had to learn that things happen slowly in the south of Italy. In comparison to the fast paced city lifestyle that I was used to. Then you add a language barrier, and I definitely knew that I was far away from home.
You played with Canadian Terry Thomas with the Island Storm. Thomas had a strong rookie season in Germany with the Hamburg Towers in the Pro A and is now in his third season back in Canada in the NBL and is a top player. Would that be a direction you might go in returning home after a strong season in Germany?
Terry is a very talented, hard nosed player. I am really happy to see him thriving back home. I am thankful for my time in the NBL Canada. However, I feel like that chapter in my career is closed. It’s time to focus on the German market. I intend to stay and continue my career in Europe for a while.
In your rookie season you played with the Maitland Mustangs (Australia-WARATAH) playing 18 games averaging 18.0ppg, FGP: 54.6%, FT: 56.1%. What memories do you have of your first professional season down under?
I had a great statistical rookie season in Australia. I had a lot of fun and it great to get away from the harsh Canadian winter and to go and enjoy the warm beach weather. My time in Australia made the transition into playing professional basketball overseas easier. It was an easy cultural adjustment and I had some great teammates that were real characters.
Many players that I have interviewed over the years continue to say that the Canadian NBL is a league on the rise. How have you experienced the league? Is it a league that is really rising?
The NBL Canada is definitely a league on the rise. The talent level is outstanding as it increases every year. There have been several former NBA players and many very high level pros that have played in the league. I would say that the NBL Canada is definitely the third best league in North America, outside of the NBA and G League. The league needs to continue to develop its fan base and awareness in Canada. The large amount of player turnover is one thing that can make playing in the NBL difficult; hopefully they can figure that out.
How would you compare the level and skill level of the NBL to the German Pro A league?
The levels are both high, but the style of play is very different. The NBL is built for uptempo, run and gun basketball. Right now there are 7 imports allowed on a roster and most of the imports are from the US. The NBL is a guard dominant, fast break, pick and roll league – NBA style basketball. The athleticism and individual skill set of the guards and wings is top level in the NBL. The teams usually attempt to stack as much offensive talent as they can to out score the other team. Pro A basketball focuses more on tactics and defense. Offensively it’s more about ball movement and finding the best shot for the team. The game here is also more cerebral and physical. There is more of a focus on playing inside-out basketball at the Pro A level, and the big men typically have more size and skill. Both levels are high, however the style is completely different.
Three years ago you were involved with the Harlem Globetrotters program. What kind of experience was that and what was did you achieve there?
It was a blessing to be recruited by the Trotters! I loved watching them as a kid and they were big inspirations to me. My assistant coach in Halifax, Don Sellers, saw that I could handle the ball extremely well for a big guy and set up a workout. I went on a few trips with them and became a development player. I definitely was able to take my ball handling skills to a whole new level. However, I wasn’t able to get full time work right away and my heart was still focused on competitive basketball. So I decided to return to professional basketball rather than show basketball.
In that time you were also keeping in shape in the Sacramento area training with NBA players. With what players did you train with and is there so much missing from your game that guys like this have?
Don was also responsible for bringing me to Sacramento in the summer of 2014 for training. I was involved with the Sacramento Professional Development League. Willie Reed, James Nunally, and Xavier Munford were some players with NBA experience that I was able to train with daily. I also spent time in LA, training and playing games. I watched the Drew League and I played in a game against the Venice Beach All Stars. I also did a few exposure camps in Vegas during NBA Summer League. I was able to watch some of my friends participate in the NBA summer league. That summer really gave me perspective about what it takes to make the NBA. I have played and trained with many NBA players over the years. I do not believe that there is a huge amount of separation from what I can do. I know that I can help a team at any level with my mindset and abilities. Being the right fit at the right time, is sometimes all you need to crack a roster.
You are guy that was born in the Bahamas, grew up in Canada and has the German citizenship. How has your back round been able to shape you as a person best? How important has it been for your development as a person to have this unique back round?
My diverse background has really given me a unique perspective on the world. Each part of my background, blends together to make me who I am. It has made me a more open to different views and I have become a more adaptable person overall. I am thankful that I was given this diverse background as it makes the adjustments to life overseas easier.
You recently played with the Bahamian national team. What is it like playing for the Bahamian national team? How good is the talent level at the moment and are there any interesting prospects looming on the horizon?
It was good experience to play with the Bahamian national team. We have a great amount of athletic talent in our small nation. Bahamian players tend to be extremely athletic, quick and hard working on the court. The country has a great deal of potential in the sport, however we yet to find a way to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together. The next great Bahamian prospect would have to be Deandre Ayton. You will definitely see him join Buddy Hield in the NBA this year.
You played at Dalhousie University (CIS) from 2008-2012 winning the AUS tournament in 2009 and 2011. Which title was sweetest?
The first AUS title in 2009 was definitely the sweetest championship for me. Dalhousie University had only one AUS Champtionship prior to that, in the 95-96 season. We were the underdogs that season, and every game was extremely close. I remember we beat the heavy favourites St. FX in the championship game that year. The excitement and support from the school was incredible. It was definitely an unbelievable feeling of pure joy when we won that first one. The 2011 title was fun, but a little less satisfying. That season, we were the top team in the conference and we were expected to win. We beat Acadia in the championship game by a massive margin. Those two titles definitely changed the tide of Dalhousie basketball. The Dalhousie Tigers became a dynasty. They have won three AUS Champtionships in the past three seasons, and we have won five titles since 2009.
Not many guys have turned professional having played at Dalhousie University (CIS). How proud have you been being a part of this program and having made the jump to the professional level?
I am proud to be one of the few Dal Tigers to make that jump to professional basketball. Simon Farine, Joe Schow, Devon Norris, and Drew Stratton are former teammates of mine who have also played pro ball. Simon and I definitely had the longest pro careers. I am happy to see that Kashrell Lawrence has started his pro journey in Finland. I am sure that I will see Sven Stammberger and Ritchie Kanza Mata starting their careers in European basketball soon.
How did head coach John Campbell groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
John Campbell taught me how to play basketball. Before I went to Dalhousie, I was an extremely raw basketball product. I had only one year of real training prior to heading to university. I did a post grad year of training with John Clara, a legendary Toronto grassroots coach, and Greg Francis, the Canadian National Team youth developmental coach. John Campbell taught me how to understand the tactics, plays and systems of basketball. He preached sticking to the fundamentals and playing high percentage basketball. He was a defensive minded coach, who focused intensely on mental toughness and grit. He did not care about style points, he actually preferred to play and win ugly. We would do whatever it took to grind out a win. John taught me to handle my responsibilities on and off of the court. He held me to a high standard and I learned how respect my craft. I did not play right away. I had to sit and learn the game. I learned to accepted that things will not always go my way. All of these experiences with John, groomed and prepared me to handle a career in professional basketball.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Sandy Veit?
Sandy and I have had many battles over the years! Sandy was the ultimate teammate. He would rather take a charge or get an assist rather than score the basketball. He was great team defender, rebounder and he developed a very consistent mid range jumper at the end of his career. But in a one on one?! I definitely have Sandy’s number. I won our one on one match up in practice. However, basketball is a 5 on 5 game. Sandy had great chemistry with the starting lineup and deferred to our scorers. Therefore he started over me for most of my university career. I still feel like I should have started earlier in my career. But I used it as motivation to get that much better.
Who was the toughest player that you battled in the CIS that is in the NBA or in Europe now?
The toughest player that I battled in the CIS would have to be Owen Klassen. He is currently playing in the German BBL. I always looked forward to playing Acadia because I knew that Owen was the top big man in the CIS. I always wanted to prove myself against the best, and I saw him as the guy with the most pro potential. I recently got to play against him in Halifax, where he represented Canada for the FIBA World Cup qualifiers. We actually played in the same arena that hosts the AUS Championship tournament. It brought back many great memories of our battles over the years.
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you chose?
Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Lebron James, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
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?
He is on the path to being the greatest player ever statistically. He is an amazing talent and one of the all time greats. However, he still has work to do in the Championship department if he ever wants to catch Michael Jordan.
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 is a warrior and competitor. I doubt that he would sacrifice his teams ability to win in order to gather statistics and triple doubles. He seems like he wants to win at all costs. I do not believe that this is a fair assessment at all.
How do you summarize the 2017 NBA Draft. What sleepers do you see playing a role in the NBA?
I am going to go with my fellow Canuck – Dillon Brooks. He is a second round guy that locks up on defense and plays with an edge that will keep him in the league. He can definitely carve out for himself a nice role in the association.
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?
The Rockets are doing great right now in the regular season. However, the west is extremely stacked and Chris Paul and Harden both have histories of melting down in the playoffs. They are going to have to prove to me that they are the real deal.
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 think that the trade was a win – win. Kryie wanted to leave, and the Cavs were able to get another star guard in Isaiah Thomas. Both teams definitely got a great deal in this trade. Kyrie is getting his chance to lead a team. And Isaiah is finally getting a chance to team up with legends.
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 really hope they make a run.
I am a fan of Westbrook, George and Anthony. I want to see them make this work. But like I said the west is very tough this year. So we will have to wait and see.
What was the last movie that you saw?
The last movie that I watched was Bright, that new Will Smith flick on Netflix.
Thanks Robert for the chat.