Donte Nicholas is a 31 year old 195cm forward from Washington Dc that played his first professional season in Germany with the Iserlohn Kangaroos (Germany-ProB). He belonged to the top players in the league averaging 17,6ppg, 8,0rpg, 4,1apg and 3,3spg while shooting 41,8% from outside. He has gained experience down under playing with the Albury Wodonga Bandits (Australia-SEABL) and with the Rockville Victors (APBL) as a rookie in the States. Last season he played with the Plymouth University Raiders (United Kingdom-BBL) playing 33 games averaging 15.3ppg, 6.7rpg, 3.4apg, Steals-5(2.1spg), FGP: 54.7%, 3PT: 38.6%, FT: 75.8%. He spoke to German Hoops about his season in Germany with Iserlohn.
Donte, thanks for talking to German Hoops. This is our second interview since the summer of 2017 when you signed with Iserlohn. How quickly did this magical season in Iserlohn fly by for you?
It went pretty fast, seems like we were just in pre season and now we’re done.
I would like to congratulate you on a great season. Unfortunately the ride ended against Rostock. Despite the sadness of the season ending how proud are you of your team Iserlohn?
Honestly, I’m not even sad. If anything I was more shocked because I truly believed we would be the last team standing. I’m proud of what our team accomplished this year, we did way more than a lot of people expected from us.
You stated in our first interview last summer. “I’m a very competitive person and it shows a lot of time on the court sometimes uncontrollably. I play with a lot of emotion and passion, which can be a gift and a curse at times. Like I said before, I hate losing more than I like winning and it shows from time to time. How tough was it digesting the Rostock series loss and how do you feel with this loss make you stronger as a player as you prepare for next season this summer?
Personally for me it was really tough just because I think if I could’ve made a few more plays down the stretch we win. I am my toughest critic and I always analyze my play to find out what I could’ve done better. I will look at the things I didn’t do to well this year and take the time over summer to improve.
Iserlohn gave it all it had, but came up short in OT. Rostock hit you with an 8-2 run in OT. Was their overall overpowering game just too much for Iserlohn after the 40 minute mark?
I don’t think so, we made a few mistakes and they capitalized off them. We put ourselves in bad situations a lot this game and I think in OT it really showed.
Despite 30 points from you, you just had big problems containing the big 4 of Brandon Lockhart, Jordan Talbert, Chris Frazier and Bill Borekambi. In the first game you held them to a mere 44 points, but their bench stepped up, but in game 2 they produced 71 points. Was their overall individual skills just too much to handle for the Iserlohn defense?
Rostock has a good team and they just made a few more plays than us. But if we make one more shot in regulation it doesn’t matter how well those guys played because we win the game.
If you could have played coach now seeing what happened what would you have changed that might have helped Iserlohn get over the hump?
I think our game plan was solid but we just didn’t execute. Despite all that we still had a chance to win it in regulation.
Is Rostock the overwhelming favorite to win the Pro B title now? How do you see them staying in the Pro A? Alone from their fan base they will always be a tough team to beat?
Rostock is a good team but we also played the other two teams left and both are going to be tough in the finals too. Rostock has a lot of resources from what I hear so they probably will be competitive at the Pro A level.
Let´s talk about the season of Iserlohn. In the regular season you had a 15-7 record. It was fairly consistent. What are you most proud of how this collective team played as a whole and how did the team play grow?
I’m most proud of this team for fighting all year. We faced some situations where we were tested and we continued to respond. Nobody outside our locker room expected us to do what we did and we continued to prove them wrong and prove us right. We beat teams nobody gave us a chance against because they have this player or that player and a big budget or whatever.
Iserlohn had some real memorable games in the regular season like the close wins against Schwelm, Coburg and Giessen. What was your most memorable win in the regular season?
I think maybe the Giessen game, that game was a dog fight until the very end.
It didn´t end there as in the playoffs you had tight games against Bernau and Artland. Was the fantastic 78-76 win in Bernau your favorite win of the season?
The first game in Artland was my favorite because we went there with nothing to lose and a point to prove and I think we did that.
You went into the Artland series as underdogs, but came away with the sweep. Was this in a way your Pro B final which came a bit too early?
I don’t think either series was our final, I think both series were just tests and we responded how we should’ve if we wanted to be champions.
Let´s talk about your teammates. You said this about your teammate Julian Scott. “My first impression of him from the time we talked is that he’s hungry to prove himself in this country. I think we share a similar goal which is to prove that we can compete at the highest level internationally. I think the most important thing for us is that we do what we can to make the entire team a potent force in Pro B. My mindset is to do what I can to make everyone else better and I think he’s willing to do the same“. How did your relationship grow through out the season and are you guys after the Iserlohn experience brothers for life?
I think it’s not just him but my relationships with everybody on the team grew. That’s what happens when you go to work every day with guys, you start to build relationships. “Brothers for life” seems a little extreme lol but we’ve definitely built a relationship over the season.
You will be at the top of the MVP race while Julian Scott was somewhat in your shadow. How important was he for the success of Iserlohn this season?
I don’t think he was in my shadow, everybody on our team had a job to do and you don’t make it as far as we did without everyone doing their jobs. Julian was an important piece to what we did and he made things easier for all of us because of the job he brought to the team, especially me.
What was your fondest play with Julian Scott this season where you both were involved? I can imagine an alley-op was involved?
It wasn’t an alley oop but I drove it off the left wing and he ducked in down the middle. Bounce pass, he caught it and punched on like 3 people down the lane. Can’t remember exactly which team it was but I remember it was the highest I’ve seen his fat little legs jump.
How valuable was it having veteran Nikta Khartchenkov on the team who has seen so much not only for the team, but for you? What things did you soak up from his existence on and off the court?
It was very valuable because Kita is a real pro and we had a lot of young guys who needed to see how a real pro works. Even myself, I took away a lot from Kita throughout the season. It would be a waste to not learn as much as I could from a guy who’s done things I want to do in my career already. He’s played 10+ years at high levels and he still is very effective so of course I learn from him because I want to do the same.
You were teammates with many Germans, but how did you see the further development of Gabriel de Olveira? He recently turned 21 years old. Do you see him making the step to the next level?
Only thing that can stop Gabi, is Gabi. I tell him all the time because that’s my guy… he’s one good summer of working out away from being in the BBL for the next 10yrs if he wants. He doesn’t know how good he can be yet but he’s still young so he’s got time to flip the switch.
Let´s talk about your game. You led the team in scoring with 17,6ppg, in rebounds with 8,0rpg, in assists with 4,1apg, in steals with 3,3spg and was second in three point shooting. How content were you with your season and was it a MVP worthy season for you?
I’m never content with my play because I always think I can do better. I think for me personally this year was a tale of two seasons. First half of the season our team played differently and it effected my game so I didn’t have the best productivity. Second half of the season, as you can just see from the change in my numbers this was a better playing style as a team for me. As far as the MVP thing goes, I think it depends on what whoever chooses it defines as a MVP candidate. If they’re strictly looking at productivity across the board than you can’t ignore my numbers.
How can you evaluate your play this season with the leagues in Australia and England. Where would you rank the German Pro B with those leagues?
Numbers wise, I’m right around the same marks I was in the other leagues I’ve played in. Pro B is probably closer to the leagues In Australia that I’ve played in just from a talent point of view. England seems to be somewhere in between Pro A and BBL I think.
Your self confidence rose this season, but how do you feel did your game overall developed further? Your two big strengths is your IQ and playing with intensity. Did these areas make new ground this season?
My self confidence is always there but I think me learning to play the style of basketball played in this country definitely helped my IQ. I always try to play with intensity but as far as my IQ is concerned you always want to add to it and playing this year helped me do that.
You filled up the stat sheet from game to game like a Lebron or Draymond. How do you feel did your game grow further in Germany?
Being able to add the German basketball playing style to my game I think helped me a lot. Every time you go to a new country or a new league you have to be able to adjust your game to find out how to be productive and I think I’ve done that here.
How important was it seeing three Pro B players with Kameron Taylor, Miles Jackson-Cartwright and Jeril Taylor make the step to the easyCredit BBL. Does that give you extra hope and drive to make it up a next level in Germany?
It’s good to see it because I know those guys worked hard for that but I think it’s more about opportunity than anything. You either have to create it or be given it but I know if I had an opportunity like those guys I could be successful as well.
What is the next step for Donte Nicholas? You made a name in Germany. I can imagine you would stay if the right situation comes.
For me it’s always been about finding the right situation. I will go home and talk with my agent over the next couple weeks or so and see what opportunities are there. Personally, I like to keep taking steps forward as far as my career but like I said it’s all about opportunity so if the right one comes from Germany than I will be back here next season.
You had many amazing personal games, but was one of your best games your triple double of 26 points, 13 rebounds and 10 dimes against Bernau?
Definitely my best game to me because it was my first professional triple double. I’ve been so close it seems every year and now I finally got one and in the playoffs which makes it more special I think.
Who was your toughest Pro B player opponent on the court this season?
Maybe because it’s the freshest in my memory but Talbert from Rostock comes to mind. I even told him after the last game, I respect his game a lot because it’s not a lot of flash or flair but he gets it done. I can respect how he just comes to work every day and consistently produces. Taylor from Rhondorf too, had an amazing season probably the MVP and I’m not mad at all because he’s from where I’m from so it’s all love.
How will a normal summer work out day look like for you in 2018 and on what things on your game will you be focusing most on?
I think this summer I will really focus on my body most importantly along with skill work of course. I got a new trainer I’m going to be working with but we haven´t talked much about our schedule yet. I’ll most likely get body work out earlier in the day then follow it with skill work later. I want to work on things I feel I could’ve done a little better and sharpen up everything else.
How did you experience the 2018 NCAA March Madness? What was the most spectacular upset in the tournament?
To be honest I didn’t catch too much of it this year. I definitely think the Loyola story was a good one and the UMBC one too. Think they had a young fella from my city too who played well and I always like seeing that.
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’ve seen a few games Doncic played in and he’s definitely talented but I think the NBA drafts off of potential and Ayton’s potential is through the roof. It also depends on who’s picking and what they need too.
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?
Without a doubt he would lead the league in assists. His court vision is one of the best in the league and his ability to make pin point passes is incredible.
What was the last movie that you saw? Let me guess Black Panther?
I definitely saw black panther but like 2 months ago. I watch movies all the time actually but I think the last one I saw was Red Sparrow.
Thanks Donte for the chat.