Diante Watkins is a 27 year old 174cm point guard that is playing his fifth professional season and first with SO Maritime Boulogne (France-NM1) averaging 15,0ppg, 2,7rpg and 5,5apg.. Last season he played with the the Nurnberg Falcons BC averaging 17,1ppg, 2,7rpg and 4,7apg. In the 2015-2016 season an injury in pre season derailed his path playing for the Bayer Giants Leverkusen. He started his basketball career in 2009 with Daley CC (JUCO) playing 28 games averaging 26.5ppg, 5.8apg, 2.7rpg, 2.0spg, FGP: 44%, 3Pts: 38%, FT: 86%. He then played two seasons with Robert Morris (NAIA) and as a senior played 27 games: 24.4ppg, 7.4apg, 3.0rpg, 2.1spg, FGP: 47.0%, 3Pts: 38.9%, FT: 82.7%. In 2013-2014 he started his professional basketball career with SC Rist Wedel where he played 30 games averaging 16.2ppg, 2.3rpg, 3.8apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 48.0%, 3PT: 31.3%, FT: 86.9%. He improved his play in 2014-2015 with SC Rist Wedel playing 32 games: Score-2(21.3ppg), 3.8rpg, Assists-1(6.8apg), Steals-2(3.2spg), FGP: 49.2%, 3PT: 32.4%, FT: 87.4%. He cleaned up the Eurobasket awards winning Eurobasket.com All-German 2.Bundesliga Pro B Honorable Mention -14, Eurobasket.com All-German 2.Bundesliga Pro B Player of the Year -15, Eurobasket.com All-German 2.Bundesliga Pro B Guard of the Year -15, Eurobasket.com All-German 2.Bundesliga Pro B Import Player of the Year -15, Eurobasket.com All-German 2.Bundesliga Pro B 1st Team -15, and Eurobasket.com German 2.Bundesliga Pro B All-Imports Team -15. He spoke to German Hoops about his season in France.
Diante, thanks for talking to German Hoops. This is our 13th interview and first with you playing outside Germany. Has time flown by since our first interview 3 years ago when you were dreaming of winning the Pro B with Wedel?
Yes Time has flown by, it seems like yesterday I was playing in Wedel.
A year ago at this time after your season with Nurnberg, you had no idea about your future and only had summer on your mind. Instead of coming back to Germany for a fifth season, you decided to explore a new country and league in France. Did you not have good offers from the Pro A?
I had a couple offers but I felt like they weren’t good enough, so I wanted to try a different country.
Over the years there have been so many good point guards in the German Pro A and so little Americans get that chance to prove themselves in the easyCredit BBL. How has that effected your mentality over the years. It´s pretty much the same with the NBA, so many great players in Europe so little jobs.
I was shocked I didn’t get an opportunity, I felt like I had a really good season in Nürnberg but I didn’t let it mess with me. I just chose to try something different and see how it will go.
Do you sometimes feel like German easyCredit BBL teams don´t have the balls to give a experienced and talented American pro A guard a chance?
I think they rather choose to go with point guards that already played in a top league with better resumes rather than choose a guy from Pro A.
Recently Pro B players Kameron Taylor and Miles Jackson Cartwright who you played against in the Pro A got a chance with Wurzburg and past the test in the easyCredit BBL. Do you feel that maybe this might have broken the ice for lower league players in Germany possibly getting a better look this summer?
I hope so. There are some good players in Pro A so it’s good for some of those guys to get that opportunity to show they can play in the BBL.
You decided to move to SO Maritime Boulogne (France-NM1) of the third French division. What were the main reasons for moving to a third league? I can imagine money was a big deal?
It was a good opportunity for me with a respected French club. They were in the French Pro B last season and dropped down so they have plans to move back up. Plus the money was better.
Please compare the styles, skill and competitive levels of the France NM1 and the German Pro A and Pro B leagues. Is the NM1 somewhere between the German Pro A and Pro B?
France NM1 is more like Pro A as far as talent. The competitiveness is good here. I think France is more athletic but I think Germany is more fundamentally sound. It’s two different styles of basketball.
In the past you lived in Germany in the town Wedel and city Nurnberg and now live in Boulogne.that only has 42,000 inhabitants, but you live right on the ocean. How has the lifestyle been for you this season?
It´s been ok for me here. The north of France doesn’t have the best weather but the food and people are great. Also it’s a great Basketball town so I like it.
Did you experience a kind of culture shock? In Germany everyone knows English, but that isn´t the case in France and even more difficult in smaller places. How have you experienced the whole French culture and what have been the positives and negatives?
Yeah that was the biggest shock for me. Not a lot of people speak English here like Germany.
What kind of experience has it been playing for SO Maritime Boulogne (France-NM1)? The club is fighting for a playoff spot. How content are you that this will happen?
It’s been up and down for me. I had to adjust to the French style of Basketball but I think I’ve figured it out. I think we will make the playoffs. We’re good enough to win it we faced a lot of injuries this season.
This club has a history as it played 6 years in the Pro B and a few years ago even reached the Pro A. Have you felt that there is a big urgency to move back to the Pro B right away?
Yes of course they want to move back up right away so it’s been exciting to see the passion of the fans and club.
One might have thought that in the France NM1 you would be the main attraction, but your not having two other Americans on the squad. But it still isn´t as packed as what you had in Nurnberg. Does this season remind you again of the Pro B where there were less Americans on the team?
Yes it reminds me more of Pro B as far as the rules.
What has it been like playing with ex Marquette stand out Dwight Burke and ex ORU standout Warren Niles? What have you appreciated most about their games?
It’s been cool playing with those guys. They both can shoot really well for their positions.
Have you bonded even closer to these two Americans off the court simply because the culture is a little different in France than to what you saw in Germany?
Yes, I talk to those guys a lot but I’ve talked to everybody I like to learn different cultures.
How has it been playing alongside many French players. How would you describe their skill set to the Germans that you have come across over the years in Germany?
I think French guys are more athletic but I think Germans are better with the fundamentals.
How has it been being teammates with the “brain” Ralph Temgoua? He made it from the NCAA 3 at St Lawrence and went to school at the well known school Deerfield. He is 30 and seen a lot in his career. How important was he in the early going for you learning the ropes especially on the court?
He understands the French game more than anyone on our team as a guard so he’s help me make the adjustment to this style of play.
Let´s talk about your game. You have been the leader in Wedel and Nurnberg. Do you have that same position again this season in France or is your role a little different?
I’m still a leader here but it’s a different role. In Wedel and Nürnberg I was asked to do more as a player.
In our last interview last season you stated this “I learned a lot this season. I have to pay more attention to details. I think I lead by example so that won’t change”. Have you been able to pay more close attention to details this season?
I have but it was a whole different adjustment for me. I felt like I figured out the German style and now I have to figure out the French style
Your averaging less minutes this season than the last two seasons in Nurnberg and Wedel. Your averaging 15,0ppg, 2,7rpg and 5,3apg. How content have you been with your season?
Me personally, I feel like this is my worst season as a professional. I’m just trying to finish strong and make the playoffs. I’ve had ups and downs.
You have cut down your turnover rate and are getting more steals. What has led to better taking care of the ball and has your defense grown in France even in the areas that aren´t seen in the stat sheet?
It’s just more of a balanced offense here. I’ve took more pride in playing better defense this season.
You continue to shoot very well in France with 40% from the three. Do you feel like you are at a point in your career that you can be that 40% shooter from outside?
Yes I work hard in the summer, so I think I’m a good shooter from outside.
What have you missed the most about the country Germany and from the basketball side?
I miss the diversity in food the most haha. I miss the guys I played with in Germany it was really fun to play basketball with those guys.
Nurnberg missed the playoffs. Do you feel like they would have reached it had you remained?
Maybe. I think if we had the same guys as the season before we would’ve had a good chance to make it because we would’ve had that year of experience together.
It looks like your ex teammate Dan Oppland will retire. What will you always remember most about his game and character?
That left hook shot no one could stop it. He’s a great guy, great teammate and just a great guy.
How did you experience the 2018 NCAA March Madness? What was the most spectacular upset in the tournament?
Loyola Chicago was the best thing. We almost had a championship for Chicago.
Deandre Ayton seems lie he could be the #1 NBA draft pick in 2018. But having been in Europe this season you must of seen some highlights of Real Madrid´s 19 year old stand out Luca Doncic who belonged to the best players in the Euroleague. Should a guy like that be the automatic #1 pick just from sheer experience and talent?
I think Doncic is really good. I haven’t watched a lot of college basketball but Ayton is really good also. You can’t go wrong with either choice.
Lebron James makes amazing passes in every game, but really showcased it in a game this season against the Los Angeles Lakers. He already is like a point guard, but if he played just point guard and concentrated only on playmaking how many assists do you feel would he average per game?
He would average 11+ assist a game easily haha.
What was the last movie that you saw? Let me guess Black Panther?
Thanks Diante for the chat.