Garrett Jackson (TG s.Oliver Wurzburg) It’s Not About Having A Chip Or Proving Anyone Wrong But Proving Myself Right

Garrett Jackson is a 26 year old 201cm forward from Portland, Oregon playing his third professional season and first with TG s.Oliver Wuerzburg (Germany-ProB) Currently he helped his team remain in the pro B and with one playdown game remaining he is averaging 19,2ppg, 7,6rpg and 2,1apg. Last season he played with the Sydney Kings (Australia-NBL) and the  Dandenong Rangers (Australia-SEABL) playing 12 games averaging 16.6ppg, 7.6rpg, 1.6apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 40.0%, FT: 70.9%. In his rookie season he played with the NW Tasmania Thunder (Australia-SEABL) playing 15 games: averaging 21.1ppg, 9.4rpg, 3.3apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 51.6%, 3PT: 31.6%, FT: 82.8% and with the  Melbourne United (Australia-NBL) playing 6 games averaging 5.2ppg, 2.2rpg, 2FGP: 54,5%, 3FGP: 25.0%, FT: 80.0%. He played at USC(NCAA) from 2010-2012 playing 65 NCAA games and at St.Mary’s, CA (NCAA) form 2013-2015 playing 52 games and as a senior played 31 games averaging 8.5ppg, 4.4rpg, 1.3apg, FGP: 53.8%, 3PT: 46.7%, FT: 71.9%. He spoke to German Hoops about basketball before the end of the regular season before the playdowns started.

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Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing ex USC(NCAA) forward Garrett Jackson after dropping 18 points, hauling down 16 boards and dishing out 5 assists for Wurzburg in a 72-56 loss in Rhondorf in Pro B action.

Garrett thanks for talking to German Hoops. You have been 3 months in Germany now playing for Pro B team TG s.Oliver Wurzburg. How has the overall experience been for you being this is your first professional season in Europe?

Overall it’s been great. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to do what I love on a team of people I enjoy being around. This is my first time in Europe, so I’m doing my best to take in the culture and experience new things every chance I get. 

Did the city Wurzburg and Main river remind you a bit of home Portland and the Willamette river. Did that make the first days of the adjustment period a little bit easier in conjunction with English being a language that everybody identifies with

Yeah, there are some similarities. Portland’s a bit bigger and we have a lot more bridges. I was actually surprised at how many people speak English here. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, but everyone’s been really helpful. I’m trying to learn some German too. 

You played your first two professional seasons In Australia. Did the contact to the team and signing come through your contact to Australian coach Liam Flynn? Talk a little about how you got your feet into the European basketball world?

I hadn’t met Liam prior to this and he’s Australian. I spent the last two years in Australia playing year round in two leagues so I hadn’t been home that whole time. My season just finished up in September where we lost in the SEABL championship. I decided that I would go home and see my family and if an opportunity came up to play in Europe I would take it. I was only home for a couple weeks when Liam contacted me. He was looking for another foreigner for the roster and asked some of his contacts in Australia. A couple people mentioned me. I later found out that some opposing coaches and players, as well as former teammates recommended me. Coach definitely did his homework. I jumped at the opportunity to come out here and play. 

It hasn´t been the easiest of seasons for TG s.Oliver Wurzburg. The team will play in the playdowns to save their season. You came in the midst of a big losing streak, then won four games in a row and now have another losing streak. How tough has the season been for you and the team?

It’s been tough losing but I’m very fortunate to be around a good group of guys who want to come in and work and get better. Despite our losing streak, as a team I feel that we’ve still managed to stay tight and stay together. Things haven’t always gone our way but that’s sports. 

The biggest problem is scoring points. The team is affected by not having the same roster as Leon Kratzer is often playing BBL while he has been injured as well Julius Albus. The team does a good job in giving young Germans minutes. However what do you feel are the major problems with the team? How big is a lack of experience a factor with the German players?

Well it’s tough when you have injuries to key players. We’ve been dealing with that throughout the year, there’s only been a few games where we’ve had everyone together and healthy. We are welcoming the challenge and we look forward to figuring out ways to win with the healthy guys that we have. We understand that other teams aren’t going to  feel sorry for us. It’s up to guys like Miles, Dejan and myself to lead the way and figure out ways to win. It’s also important for us to bring along and help out the young German players as much as possible. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve seen a lot of basketball, I’ve been fortunate to play with some talented players and pick up some things along the way. I feel it’s my responsibility to share what I’ve learned with our young German players and help out any way I can. I know that will make our overall team better and hopefully translate to more wins. 

How important has Miles Jackson-Cartwright been for you since you have been there? You guys are similar in age and are in your third professional seasons, but it is his third in Europe. Also how much easier has your game been with him as the point guard?

I am very fortunate to have a player like Miles on the team, he makes my job so much easier. He plays hard on both ends of the court. He’s a phenomenal defender, and he might be one of the fastest players I’ve played with. He has great stamina and can run all day. He has everything you want in a point guard. I really appreciate his basketball IQ and overall understanding of the game. We’re usually on the same page, thinking the same things when we play. We’re able to read and react and play off each other which is a lot of fun. He does a great job running our team and making sure everyone is in the right place. 

Let´s talk about your game. You’re a 201cm forward that is super athletic. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player which guy would best fit your style?

As far as style of play I would say Kawhi Leonard. I love watching guys like Kawhi and Jimmy Butler. They are versatile forwards that play hard on both ends of the floor. I try to watch them as much as possible. Those guys are elite defenders that play the right way and do whatever it takes to win. Those are things I aspire to be, so I’m watching them, stealing their moves and trying to pick up all their tricks. I try to study guys who have a similar body type and style as me. I’m not very flashy, but I try to play aggressive, keep the game simple and play the right way. Scottie Pippen is my all time favorite player. I watch a lot of old tape on him as well. 

Your versatile play has really stood out as you can score, rebound and pass the ball well. What other strengths do you have in your arsenal?

Since I was a kid something that came naturally was my rebounding. Specifically offensive rebounds. I have long arms and I’m pretty active always trying to bring a lot of energy. All those things have helped my rebounding. I’ve been trying to take those skills and gifts and translate that into becoming a great defender. I’m not where I want to be yet but I’m working on it. The desire is there. I just got to keep learning to be a SMART defender. Sometimes my aggressiveness and activity has gotten me in foul trouble, which actually hurts my team. I’ve had moments, and made some strides, but I’m still working on that and trying to stay consistent. 

You’re a guy that can fill up the stat sheet like no other. What would you say is a hidden strength in your game that you believe is somewhat off the radar?

I still have a lot to learn, but I would say my overall understanding of the game. As I’ve gained experience over the years, being a part of different teams, different styles of play and coaching, I think that is something that’s helped me overall. Understanding game schemes, counters, what the other team is running, making in game adjustments, trying to get a good understanding of what my coach wants and then being an extension of him on the court. Even though I’m not a point guard, I still try to carry myself with that type of understanding. You don’t need to be a point guard to help get your teammates in the right spots, or to talk on defense, or to know how to exploit a mismatch we may have. Not just knowing my strengths and weaknesses but also my teammates strengths and weaknesses, and from there asking myself what I can do to help put them in a position to maximize those strengths. I don’t really see myself as a 2, 3, 4 or whatever. I see myself as a basketball player. So I try to develop all areas of my game, and no matter what I’m playing and where I’m at on the court I can always bring energy, talk, defend rebound and make the right play to help us win. I guess those are all things that may be hard to pick up on if you’re just a casual fan. But I hope the people who are with me day by day recognize these things because that’s what I try to bring on a consistent basis. 

You played in two leagues in Australia in the NBL and SEABL leagues. How would you compare those leagues in talent and skill with the Pro B?

There are some really talented players playing in the NBL. I was fortunate to play with some guys who represented Australia in the Olympics and compete with them ever yday in practice, which was fun. SEABL is a pretty good standard of basketball as well. It probably doesn’t get the respect it deserves. But the style of play is very different than ProB. In Australia they play more of an up and down style that’s fast paced and you see a bit more isolation situations. In Pro B you see the influences from the top leagues all across Europe. Ball movement, player movement, multiple pick and rolls in the same possession. Not every team executes this, but this is more of the European style of play. These are the things Coach Liam Flynn has really stressed to me and this is what we try to do. It’s nice having him as my coach because he knows the leagues and the style of play I’ve been used to over the past couple years. He’s helped me break some bad habits and adjust here in Germany. 

After having a very solid NCAA career at USC and St Marys, you had to play in Australia for two seasons. Did you come to Europe with a huge chip on your shoulder? Why do you feel didn´t you arrive earlier in Europe?

At St Mary’s we have a well documented Australian connection. When I graduated a SEABL team (in Australia) reached out and asked if I wanted to play with them for the remainder of their season. Their season begins around March and ends early September. I didn’t have an agent or anything lined up with summer league so I jumped at the opportunity to play professionally. One thing led to another and I was fortunate enough to play NBL and SEABL. I was already used to the culture and the people. I loved Australia and I ended up playing there year round in two leagues for two years. I wouldn’t say I came to Europe with a huge chip on my shoulder. I’m not here to prove anyone wrong or convince anyone anything. I don’t play for the opinions of others. I am here because I love competing. I love playing basketball, I want to push myself as hard as I can and I want to compete against the best. I’m living out my dream as a pro basketball player and I don’t take this game for granted. I recognize that getting a job in Europe is hard to do, especially with my SEABL season ending when most European clubs already have their teams together. But now I have my foot in the door and I want to make the most of my opportunity. I also recognize that in Europe you can move up to different leagues. I know I can compete at an elite level. It’s not about having a chip or proving anyone wrong, but proving myself right. Everybody’s different and has different motivations. This is just me. 

You played briefly in the NBL league with Sydney and Melbourne. What kind of experience was that for you? You were playing with and against ex NBA players. Were you a bit disappointed that you weren´t able to play more minutes with these teams considering you didn´t get major minutes?

Awesome experience. I was able to learn a lot and practice was fun, it would get pretty intense. Both times I played NBL I was replacing an import mid-season. It’s kind of tough coming into a new environment, new teammates, new offense, and then trying to develop that chemistry. I was very fortunate for the opportunity. I take pride in being a professional, doing what needs to be done to help my team win with no excuses. That being said, it would have been nice to be with the rest of the team for training and preseason. Things happen, I just wanted to make the most of my situation. 

What memories do you have of ex NBA player Josh Powell? Was he a guy that inspired you in some ways or was he just another teammate for you?

Anytime you can be around and learn from somebody who has a lot of experience playing at a high level you have to take advantage of that situation and learn as much as you can from them. I’m glad I was able to pick his brain, observe, and learn from him. 

You started your NCAA career at USC in 2010 and played two seasons there. In your first season as a freshman you had talented bigs Alex Stephenson and Nikola Vucevic on the roster. How did your game develop there coming as a star from Westview high school and banging with them on a daily basis?

Well it forces you to add some things to your game. You have to mix up your finishes and reads on offense. I had to learn how to play off bigs like that, where they want the ball, how to set them up, where they like to get shots, where I can find my shots. Things like that. It was really good for my development. 

You picked up your stats in your second season averaging 6.9ppg, 3.1rpg, FGP: 48.1%, 3PT: 22.2%, FT: 68.2%. You opted to move to St Mary(NCAA). Did you not see a real future at USC? Why did you depart?

The basketball environment just wasn’t for me. I loved the school, but I wasn’t enjoying it there. The program was in a shaky spot. My freshman  year we went to the NCAA tournament because we were so talented, but my sophomore year we were terrible. The basketball culture was toxic, we didn’t stick together as a team, and we lacked leadership. Being in a winning culture, around good people, in a good basketball environment meant more to me than playing at a big school in the PAC 12 and being miserable. Going to St. Mary’s had everything that I was looking for. 

Future NBA player Dewayne Dedmon didn´t have the best stats his two years there, but left after two years didn´t get drafted and now has been a role player for years with the Atlanta Hawks. Would you have thought after your freshman year that he would be an NBA player?

I’d be lying if I said I knew right away he would be in the NBA. But the talent was there. I’ve never seen someone that big move so well and be so athletic. Some of the dunks and stuff he did in practice would just make me shake my head. He was very raw early on, but you just knew if he continued to work hard the sky was the limit. He had all the tools be successful at the next level. 

You played at St Mary´s from 2013-2015 closing out your NCAA career there. One of your best games was a 26 point effort against San Francisco. Was that one of your most memorable personal games or do your 15 point games against Washington, Washington State or UCLA top that?

The San Francisco game was special to me personally because my mom actually played there and she came to that game to watch. It was really nice to play well in those PAC12 conference games. Especially against the Washington schools, we played them in the same weekend so those games were back to back. 

How did head coach Randy Bennett groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career at St Mary´s(NCAA)

I learned so much from Coach B. The biggest takeaway I got from him was leadership. He talked about and stressed it every single day. How can you serve others? What can you bring? You can always bring energy, you can always talk, you can always pick someone up. What can you bring if you’re having a bad game? How can you impact a game if your shots not falling? Are you going sulk and have bad body language? Or are you going get deflections and do your job defensively. When you’ve got 12-15 guys asking themselves these kinds of questions every day, and they get the opportunity to live it out team environments, you end up building a winning culture. As a pro living overseas I’m able to sit back and really reflect on that experience. I feel very fortunate to be a part of that, and I try to bring it to every team I play on now. 

I really enjoyed watching your ex teammate Kerry Carter tear up the pro B last season with Leverkusen as he led the league in scoring with 24,0ppg. He is also a guy that has a chip on his shoulder. Did he already have that killer instinct on the court at St Mary´s when you were teammates?

Love Kerry. He’s always been a killer. One of the hardest working players I’ve ever been around. As a teammate you have a lot of confidence going into games knowing your brother has done everything possible to prepare. He’s very loyal and will always have your back. Love going to battle and competing with Kerry. I’m happy to see him do well overseas, he really deserves it. 

Who won a one on one in practice you or Desmond Simmons?

Haha it depends on who you ask! Dez is another gym rat I was lucky to play with. We have similar body types and he’s a great defender. He has a really nice face up game. I try to play one’s against him as much as possible because he’s competitive and he’ll always give me a good look, but best of all he’s a good person and a great friend of mine. 

Who was the toughest player that you battled in the NCAA that is in the NBA right now

My freshman year we played Kansas at Kansas and that was tough. Thomas Robinson was killing it that year and I think they had the Morris twins. Klay Thompson was tough as well, I got switched onto him for a bit but we had the best defender in the league at the time (Marcus Simmons) starting on him and he made it pretty tough for Klay. 

If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you chose?

Jordan, Shaq, Kobe, LeBron 

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?

LeBron is defiantly up there. He’s one of the greats. It’s hard to top Jordan because he has never lost a finals series.. when it’s all said and done though, LeBron will have better numbers at the end of his career 

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?

No. If I’m a coach and my point guard is the best rebounder at his position I’m going to tell him to grab as many boards as possible. You got to remember, he’s beating out 9 other guys on the court for those rebounds, and there’s a lot of big men in the league not averaging 10 boards. People will always try to nit pic and critique people’s game no matter how good you are. 

How do you summarize the 2017 NBA Draft. What sleepers do you see playing a role in the NBA?

Not sure. I don’t really keep up on the draft. I like Ben Simmons and Mitchell from Utah. They are fun to watch. 

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?

They got the pieces! If everyone’s stays healthy the West is going to be a lot of fun to watch. 

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 love watching Isaiah play, it’s unfortunate how everything played out. I think the Celtics are in a pretty good spot right now. They would be scary good if Hayward never got injured. 

What is your take on all the wheeling and dealing the Cavs did sending away Thomas, Wade and Rose. Do you see them having success again with what they got in the near future?

It’s definitely a business! Players get flack for leaving and not being loyal which is unfair. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes that I don’t think the average fans realize. The Cavs will have success because they got LeBron. Not sure if they will win it all butane team LeBron is on is a threat. 

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?

Yeah I really hope everyone stays healthy. 

What was the last movie that you saw?

The Revenant 

Thanks Garrett for the chat.

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