Matt Vest is a 25 year old 195cm guard from Kettering, Ohio that finished his fourth professional season and first with the Rhein Stars Koeln (Germany-ProA) averaging 7,8ppg, 2,3rpg and 3,2. He played two aseasons with Paderborn and as a rookie in 2014, he played with BiG Oettinger Rockets Gotha (Germany-ProA): 38 games: 6.2ppg, 3.3rpg, 1.3apg, FGP: 58.2%, 3PT: 27.4%, FT: 67.6%. He played at Wright State from 2010-2014 playing a total of 114 NCAA games and as a senior played 29 games: 7.4ppg, 3.4rpg, 2.0apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 65.4%, 3PT: 43.1%, FT: 64.9%. He spoke to German Hoops after the end of the 2017-2018 season.
Matt thanks for talking to German Hoops. It´s never easy the day after but the season of the RheinStars ended abruptly with a 3-0 sweep. For me a total shock. Is this one of the toughest weeks in your basketball career?
The end to our season was definitely a disappointing one, but I’ve learned over my career that the most difficult times are typically the most beneficial in terms of learning and growing as a player.
The RheinStars were down 2-0 in the series. One would have expected a total turnaround at home, but instead you lost by 20 points. The RheinStars were so talented and so deep. Is there any kind of logical explanation for this?
We were a very talented and deep team, but we ran into some injury problems to key players during the playoffs. These injuries really came at a bad time for us and kept us from playing at our best.
PS Karlsruhe shot better, rebounded better and the RheinStars turned over the ball 21 times on average in the last games. With no disrespect to PS Karlsruhe, but were the RheinStars just so bad or was PS Karlsruhe so strong?
We did not play at our best, but we must give credit to Karlsruhe for the way they competed all series. They are a very strong offensive team who played with a lot of confidence and rhythm in all three games. Congratulations to their club and best of luck the rest of the playoffs.
The Rheinstars came into the game with the second best defense giving up 72 points per game, but allowed 88 points on average in the playoff series. Why did the team defense let down the RheinStars?
Due to our injury issues, our rotation became much shorter and we were not able to sustain the type of energy and physicality that we brought on a consistent basis throughout the season. We also cannot overlook the way Karlsruhe executed on the offensive end, they deserve a lot of credit as well for making our defense not look as good as it could have.
The RheinStars came into the playoffs cruising on a 5 game winning streak. Had the club already peaked or was this playoff series a classic example of underperforming and nothing more?
I am continuing to repeat myself I know, but we experienced some injuries to key players at the wrong time of the season. We were playing good basketball heading into the first round of the playoffs, but ran into a tough opponent with a team who was not 100% healthy and we got beat. Winning is not easy, and sometimes things outside of your control can make it even more difficult.
The RheinStars have been ambitious for years about reaching the easyCredit BBL and it felt at times like nobody got any air. Did you feel pressure during the season that the expectations to reach the BBL this season was too high to grasp and come to terms with mentally?
We certainly had the expectation and goal to move up to the BBL this year, but I never felt pressure from management or coaches. Everyone connected with the team was very supportive, and never put unfair pressure or expectations on us. As I said before, winning is not easy, it is not something that just happens if you want it to.
After great years in Giessen where head coach Denis Wucherer led Giessen to new dimensions and did a good job with the RheinStars. I believe it would be unfair when his hard work this season gets criticized only for being swept in the playoffs. How vital was coach Wucherer for the success of the team?
Coach Wucherer has a great understanding of the game on both ends of the floor, and I am very grateful that I was able to learn so much from him this season. He is a hard-working and competitive guy who showed up to help the team every day. Unfortunately, in a season where a team underperforms, the coaches and players will all deal with criticism, but that is part of sports. Coach Wucherer and Dodson both have nothing but respect from me moving forward.
The season ended early for the RheinStars, but still it was a positive season having reached the playoffs and finished in position 4. What were your season highlights? Possibly sweeping Hamburg and Chemnitz?
It was a small step forward for the club finishing in the top 4 with 19 regular season wins. Sweeping two-quality team likes Chemnitz and Hamburg were certainly two highlights of the season.
You never beat the top 3 teams Vechta, Crailsheim or Heidelberg, but at least in one game against all, you played them tough and were in position to win. What do you feel was missing in the end from the RheinStars and these teams to have been able to pull out games against them?
We did show that we could compete with the top teams in the league, but struggled all year to get over the hump. We struggled at times to generate points and execute offensively, which I think made it difficult for us. We were a defensive minded team, and our inconsistency offensively is what held us back most of the year.
Let´s talk about your teammates. You played with many talented guys and there were also many older guys. How important was a guy like American Keith Ramsey for your season? You’re a veteran now too, but he has played in many countries and seen so much.
Keith is a veteran player with experience all over Europe. He has a high basketball IQ and a unique skillset that definitely helped our team all season long.
How did you see the development of teammate Jessie Morgan? He destroyed the Luxemburg league and gave vital scoring punch to the team. Do you feel like he is ready for new tasks in a high level league in Europe?
Jessie is one of the most talented scorers I have ever seen in this league. As he continues to get experience in Europe, the sky is the limit for him.
How did you see the development of teammate Kavin Gilder-Tilbury? He came in from the NCAA and did a very solid job as a rookie. What did you appreciate most about his game?
Kavin had a very good season and has a lot of potential to be a high level pro. His versatility on both ends of the floor makes him extremely effective. I wish him nothing but good health and success moving forward.
How thrilling was it being teammates with Alex Foster. He is one of the rare guys form the NCAA3 that has maintained a solid professional career putting up good numbers. What did you appreciate most about his game and character?
Alex has been a solid German in this league for 3 seasons at the 4-3 position. His shot making ability is incredible, but he brings more to a team than just stats. He is a great teammate who genuinely loves the game and tries to go about his business the right way. It was a pleasure playing with him.
The RheinStars had the second best defense in the Pro A. How vital was Max DiLeo for keeping the defense in order and what else did you see in his game besides being that defensive game changer?
Max is a relentless defender, competitor, and person. He gave our team so much on the defensive end with his ability to pressure the ball, get deflections, and even switch onto bigger players in pick and roll situations. Max brings a defensive spark every game, but also has a lot of offensive skill to bring to the table as well with 3pt shooting and aggressive drives.
The RheinStars had quite a few young Germans. But which guy made the biggest jump in your opinion? Possibly Lukas Wank?
We had some very promising young German players who all worked very hard this year and will continue to develop. Lukas Wank is certainly a great young German talent who has a bright future because of his work ethic and love for the game.
Let´s talk about your game. You averaged 7,6ppg, 2,3rpg and 3,2apg. You shot your best as a professional from outside, but also averaged 7 minutes less than last season with Paderborn. How content were you with your season on the floor?
This season for me was challenging as I battled through a quadricep issue for about the last 3-4 months of the season. Due to the injury my minutes and production did decrease the second half of the season. I think I played some of the best basketball of my career through the preseason and first half of the year, but unfortunately was not able to sustain it all year due to those health issues. Although, I did not achieve the goals I had individually I have no regrets because I did everything I could to contribute to the success of the team with the goal of making the move to the BBL. I am grateful for the opportunity I had this year in Cologne, and I am as hungry as ever to get myself fully healthy and prepare for next season.
In Paderborn you were one of the main scoring options and with the RheinStars it was 5-6. Was it tough getting adjusted to getting less touches and more than 100 less shots than last season?
On a defensive minded team with an 11-12-man rotation where no one played over 25-27 minutes I think it is only natural to see offensive statistics decrease. Playing on a deep/well-balanced team in addition to my injury is what lead to less touches for me individually. With that said, being part of a winning team requires sacrifice and total buy-in to putting the team first, which I will never shy away from.
You stated in our last interview last season that “Shooting is a skill that you can never stop working on. I definitely feel like my consistency from 3 has gotten better each year, and I know that is going to continue”. You stayed true to your warning as you shot 37%. How difficult was it having to be even more picky about choosing when to shot and when not to this season?
It was not difficult, I simply tried to go out each game and do everything I could to help contribute to the success of the team.
You also stated in our last interview that a hidden strength in your game is your defense, which got you jobs previously in Gotha and Paderborn. How do you feel did your defensive game grow this season playing on a team that not only prided itself on defense, but were successful with it?
I think I did make positive improvements defensively as a result of being around Coach Wucherer and learning from him. This aspect of my game is something I never want to lose, and will continue to try and develop.
What was your personal highlight of the season on the floor? Possibly your 18 point games in the wins against Chemnitz and Baunach?
Yes those were big games for me where I was able to contribute to significant wins for our team during the season.
What is the next step for Matt Vest? You have played your whole career in Germany for 3 teams. Could you imagine staying in Germany or exploring for the first time in another country?
I am open to every opportunity that will continue to challenge me and help me grow as a person and a player. With that said, I have really enjoyed my time in Germany and have developed a sense of comfort here. I will be in contact with my agent to see what options make sense, and will do what is best for my wife and I moving forward.
How does a summer work out day look like for you on and off the floor? On what things will you be working on this summer to keep tweaking your game?
This summer my main focus will be to get fully healthy and rehab my leg. After recently meeting with our team doctor here in Cologne, we have a recovery plan in place to get me back to 100% by June. In addition, I will continue to develop every aspect of my game so that I am ready for next season.
Who was the toughest player that you faced on the court in the Pro A this season.
How did you experience the 2018 NCAA March Madness?
Watched as many games as I could and enjoyed all the buzzer beaters and upsets.
What was the most spectacular upset in the tournament?
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?
You cannot go wrong with either guy, both are unbelievable talents and will be great in the NBA I think.
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?
I think he could get 20 assists a game if that was his main focus.
What was the last movie that you saw? Let me guess Black Panther?
I did see Black Panther recently, but my wife and I also watched a movie called “Molly’s Game” which was also very good.
Thanks Matt for the chat.