Robin Christen is a 26 year old 203cm German forward currently playing with German Pro A team Vechta. He started his basketball career with BBLZ Mittelhessen and then played with Lich from 2008-2012 while also having a double license with BBL team Giessen where he played 17 games and played his first BBL game at age 18. Since 2012, the German has been playing in the Pro A and played three seasons with the RTB Wohnbau Baskets playing a total of 78 games. Two seasons ago he made his Pro A breakthrough with the Hebeisen White Wings Hanau (ProA) playing 29 games averaging 12.1ppg, 4.2rpg, 1.6apg, FGP: 43.8%, 3PT: 34.3%, FT: 80.4%. Last season he played with the Rhein Stars Koeln (ProA) playing 33 games averaging 9.6ppg, 3.9rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 44.3%, 3PT: 35.7%, FT: 80.5%. He spoke to German Hoops about basketball.
Robin, thanks for talking to German Hoops. Congrats on the big 104-76 win against Phoenix Hagen in game one of the playoffs. It was the third win of the season and the second blow out in a row. Is Vechta just so good or Phoenix Hagen so bad? How do you explain these amazing dominance in the last two games where you outscored them 208-141?
Hey Miles, thanks for the interview. I think we did a great job as a team in the last 2 games against Hagen. We played our high intensity defense and on the offense side we moved the ball very well and made our shots. But we know Hagen has a lot of firepower, so we have to be ready for every game.
This is the first time in your career you have played with a very good team. Last season you made the playoffs with the RheinStars, but Vechta is another step up for you in terms of winning. What have you learned about winning mentality this season that you never saw before in your career?
We have obviously a lot of talent in our team. But that doesn´t automatically win games. I think our will to play as a team on both sides on the floor is the key and we always believe that we will win at the end. Besides, it also helps that we have a really good chemistry in our team.
Vechta are with Crailsheim one of the favorites to win the Pro A and move back to the easyCredit BBL. Vechta has displayed little pressure and just played like a champion. On what things does the team need to focus on most on the court besides winning now in the playoffs?
Our key focus is to play great defense and then the offense will take care of itself.
Let´s talk a little about the team Vechta in this season. What have you appreciated most this season with the club? The team obviously has a lot of talent and depth, but how key has the chemistry been that played a big role early on?
I appreciated most this season that the support of our fans is phenomenal. This give us a real homecourt advantage and will also be important for every single game of the playoffs. Like I mentioned earlier our chemistry helped us from the start of our preseason to build a real team who love to play for each other.
Vechta was one in defense and two in offense. What has been the biggest quality on the defensive side that has made Vechta so ruthless? Possibly the never ending trust in each other?
Yes,you are right. We have a lot of trust in each other. But that’s not the only reason why we are number one in defense and number 2 in offense. Our philosophy from the start was to play high intensity full court defense with a lot of switching. We spend a lot of time in the gym to work on that. Moreover, our team has a good Basketball-IQ which helps in terms of rotations in defense and ball movement in offense.
One can call you a veteran, but how vital has Dirk Madrich been for your game? Has he been like a mentor for you and how have you grown from his physicality?
Dirk is a great character who brings a lot of positive energy. He always plays with 110% so you have to be ready when you play against him. He loves to play for Vechta and for us it is really important to have such an experienced guy in our team who already moved up with Vechta.
Seth Hinrichs is the leading scorer on the team and rebounder. He has been so huge, but more than those two stats, it is his versatility that continues to keep getting him jobs. After a few years of experience will he be able to make an impact as a BBL player next year?
Seth is definitely ready to play BBL next year. He is a really efficient and versatile player and always brings a consistent performance. I think he is the Luke Sikma of the Pro A.
Please talk a little about the huge German talents Philipp Herkenhof and Luc Van-Slooten. What has amazed you most about their games and can they take it further than the easyCredit BBL?
Both of them have a lot of talent. Philip really worked his ass off in his first year as a pro and improved a lot this year. If he keeps working like that he will have a great career and I wouldn’t be surprised if the BBL is just a halt in between. Luc is also a big talent and is only 15. If he works hard he won´t play that long in youth basketball anymore. But I also have to mention that Rasta Vechta is doing a good job pushing these young guys to the next level. They offer daily extra workouts and are really interested to develop them. As a young talent it is a great place to be. And there are also Radii Caisin and Nat Diallo I would have my eye on the next years.
Let´s talk about your game. You played BBL for the first time as an 18 year old in the 2009-2010 season with Giessen and was teammates with David Teague. Was the BBL at that time a step too early for you?
Back then I was more the practice squad guy. My main focus was to play NBBL and Pro B in Lich and get experience in practice with the BBL guys. But I learned a lot in this time and I remember that Teague was an unbelievable scorer.
Six seasons ago you played for Lich in the Pro B averaging 6.8ppg, 3.5rpg. Could one say that you have been a late bloomer?
I am definitely a late bloomer. Even though I expected more from me back then. I played under my potential for several reasons. And after that year it was clear for me I have to leave the Giessen area if I want to have a basketball career.
You then played 5 seasons in the Pro A with 140 games experience. You played three seasons with the ETB Wohnbau Baskets and never averaged more than 5,1ppg. Were these three seasons in a way a wasted time?
In my first two seasons I was the back up on the 3 . And I learned a lot in that time battling every day in practice with my good friend Fabian Franke. In the 3rd Year there was the plan that I will be starter on the 3 and get a lot of minutes. The year started well I played around 30 mintues and I was a key player. We won the first 5 games and then I got an injury that put me on the sideline for over 4 months. After that I didn’t get in any rhythm. But I had a great time in Essen and wouldn’t like to miss all the experience I made.
Your breakthrough came with the Hebeisen White Wings Hanau In the 2015-2016 season where you averaged 12.1ppg, 4.2rpg, 1.6apg, FGP: 43.8%, 3PT: 34.3%, FT: 80.4%. Your minutes went from 17 to 28. Head coach Simon Cote was the first head coach who gave you trust and responsibility and you paid it back with good results. How thankful are you for Simon Cote and what did he see in your game that other coaches didn´t see?
I am very thankful that Simon gave me the chance to play for him after my injury year. He gave me trust and a lot of self-confidence in my game. Also Ryan Panone was a great assistant coach. They both were really interested to get my game to the next level. We worked a lot in the gym and video analyzed our games. I really appreciated the work from both of them . And if we wouldn’t have so much bad luck with injuries in the beginning of the season I am pretty sure we would have been in the playoffs that year.
Your self confidence rose, but what did you notice about your game in the Hanau season that you hadn´t seen before or did you suddenly improve so much?
I had the self-confidence that if I get the chance to play for a coach who trusts me I can have a great season in the Pro A. And with Cote I found the right Coach.
How much did you profit from a Kruize Pinkins at Hanau? He dominated the Pro A and now is a solid role player in the easyCredit BBL. Does his path continue to motivate you to go yours?
We did profit a lot from Kruize. He was not stoppable for the most Pro A teams. Also he is a great character and likes to put in extra work. I think he is an another great example that guys who do a good job in Pro A can also compete in the BBL.
Last season with the RheinStars your minutes increased to 30 and you averaged 9.6ppg, 3.9rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 44.3%, 3PT: 35.7%, FT: 80.5%. How important was battling Alex Foster each day in practice. He has improved over the years and came from a NCAA 3 school and has the drive to get better.
We didn’t battle that much in practice because I played mainly on the 3 and he on the 4. But I loved playing with him and I can call him a good friend of mine now. In my opinion he improved every season and he is a sniper from downtown.
You are the third best scorer for Vechta and this season you show often how efficient you can be scoring to minutes. How do you feel have you made another step this season with Vechta?
I believe that battling every practice with David Gonzalves as one of the best defenders in the league really helped my game to go to the next level. Besides, we play as a team. We have a lot of guys who make the extra pass or find the mismatch situation and I profit from that.
Your turning 27 in April. Medi Bayreuth´s forward Steven Wachalski didn´t reach the easyCredit BBL until he was 27. You are a classic late bloomer. Do you feel that German BBL coaches have been a little scared to give you a chance in 2016 and 2017?
I don’t know what the BBL coaches thought the last years. But for me it was important to develop every year and then hopefully there will be the chance one day to show that I can play in the BBL.
In the current BIG, you are listed at #20 of the best German small forwards. In the 10-20 ranking I see you with 3-5 guys where you can easily compete with in skill. How do you see this ranking from your perspective? Is this another motivation to go into the gym each day to get better?
It is great to see that it is recognized that I do a good Job this season. And I agree with you that if I keep working I can move up some spots in the ranking.
Do you feel your game is complete enough now for the easyCredit BBL? You have never averaged high rebound stats, but you spread the floor well and are a dangerous shooter from outside now.
I have the confidence to play BBL. I can play the 3 and 4, shoot from the outside, have low post game, can go all the way to the basket and also improved my pullup game this year. Also I can play defense. I know BBL is on another level then Pro A but like I mentioned earlier there are a lot of examples of guys who played good in Pro A doing now a good Job in BBL.
What memories do you have of the 2010 NBBL game. On your team you had teammates like Daniel Theis, Nils Giffey and Matis Monninghof who are the only guys that have been in the BBL for years. Did you think then you would get to the BBL quicker or were you more reserved about where your development could go?
To be honest I don’t have that much memories from that game anymore. I know it was always fun playing these Allstar-Games. The guys you mentioned have definitely more talent than me and were also in great organizations where they knew how to work with young talented guys. But back then I for sure hoped I will be in BBL quicker.
You obviously want to reach the easyCredit BBL, but what other goals do you have? I would imagine winning that first title with Vechta is big on your list?
First of all we want to win the series against Hagen that’s where my focus is right now. And yes it would be great to win a title with Vechta and then go to BBL. But it’s a long way to go and a lot can happen.
Who was your toughest opponent on the court and your best teammate in your career?
I remember playing against Maurice Jeffers when I was 17 and 18. He really killed me every practice. That was probably the toughest matchup. And to pick the best teammate I ever had is really tough because everywhere I played I found good friends. But if I have to choose one I would take Guy Aud who I played with in my last season in Lich and since then we are really good friends.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Before the Flood.
Thanks Robin for the chat.