Van Girard is a 28 year old 193cm guard from Los Angeles, California that completed his first season in Europe with the Nuernberg Falcons BC (Germany-ProA) averaging 3,0ppg and 1,7rpg.. He has bounced around North America in the last 4-5 years getting exposure in the Drew League as well as with the S.California Summer Pro League (And1 Select team)and Newport Beach Sunblockers (WCBL). He also got further experience with the Elite Talent Exchange Glo Japan playing 10 games averaging 12ppg, 8rpg, 2apg, 3spg and with Vaqueros de Saucillo (Mexico-Chihuahua Vive): Score-1 (27.5ppg), Reb-2 (12.9rpg). He spoke to German Hoops at the end of the 2017-2018 season.
Van, thanks for talking to German Hoops. You just completed your first season overseas and first with the Nuernberg Falcons BC. Your back in the states now. How good is it to be back home in Los Angeles. What was the first thing you did when you touched foot on home soil? Possibly search out your favorite eatery?
Loving being back home! Great weather and was great to see my family. First thing we did was go to in&out burger and eat! Love that place.
After reaching Europe for the first time in your professional career, you didn´t seem to travel anywhere, but returned home to Los Angeles right away. What did you learn to appreciate the most about Germany?
My family and I traveled a bit. Saw a few great sites in Germany, but also had the chance during a layover in Iceland to visit the blue lagoon. Both were amazing experiences.
Before we talk specifically about your personal season on the court, talk a little about your first experience overseas in Germany. It took you 6 years to get overseas. You averaged only 3,0ppg in 8 minutes in a very limited role. How do summarize your experiences in the German Pro A on and off the court?
Overall, this season only fueled the fire under me to continue to work hard and get better. Would love to come back to Pro A next season with an increased role to show what I really can do.
The Nuernberg Falcons BC finished the season in 12th place with a record of 11-19. How significant was the 2-8 start for the course of how the season went?
Wasn’t too significant in determining our outcome. We need what we needed to do, just took us some time to try and figure that out.
You then had a good phase winning 6 of 8 games, but then lost 9 of 10 games, but finished the season strong with a two game winning streak. Why was the team so up and down? Did the team never reach their potential?
No I personally don’t think we ever reached our potential as a team, however, Unfortunately I’m not sure why we were so up and down.
The team had a lot of talent, had solid Americans and a healthy mix of very talented young Germans and veteran Sebastian Schroeder. Do you feel like the club underachieved or was there 2 more German veterans missing to add a bit more depth?
As someone who truly loves winning and seeing his team be successful, more than his own personal success? I definitely feel we underachieved.
Let´s talk a bit about your teammates. How much of a pleasure was it playing with American Dan Oppland who played his last professional season. What will you be your fondest memory of him on and off the court?
Dan Oppland became like a brother to me over the course of the season. Always kept his head and did his best to keep us focused & motivated. My fondest memory of his was at 4am my wife went into labor and I texted him asking him if he could come help watch our 3yr old so I could be in the delivery room. This dude woke up so fast and sped down to the hospital to be there for us, stayed for like 4hours, and was one of the first to meet my 2nd daughter. Nothing but love for Dan Oppland.
You told me in our first interview that American veteran Virgil Matthews was key for your rookie season. How did he help you get adjusted to the European style and what was the most important part of your game that you feel you could improve with your daily one on one battles with him in practice?
He helped a lot by spending extra time to help me make specific reads as a European PG, vs USA PG such as certain passes to make and look for.
You were in the same boat with fellow American Mardracus Wade who played his first season in Europe. How important was it having him around as you both could comprehend each other´s struggles throughout the season and just keep each other positive in all siutations.
Wade was a great teammate. Always kept practice competitive and interesting. We always were able to pick each other up during our tough times throughout the season.
The club has many talented Germans like Moritz Sanders, Matthew Meredith, Nils Hassfuerter and Ben Gahlert. Which German do you think made the biggest step this season in their development?
I was very proud of all of the young German players on our team. All showed great improvement over the season. Very very impressed with Nils Hassfuerter though. His game and confidence improved tremendously over the season. Proud of how much he’s grown.
Let´s talk about your game. In our first interview you stated this about your lack of minutes. “it’s just a matter of getting in where I fit in and contributing with what I am given”. You never stepped out of this role spot. Did you get the chance to earn more minutes or was it a given from the start that you would only play a small role?
I´d be lying if I said I had a clear understanding as to why my role never expanded throughout the season. As I said before I did everything I could within the limited time given, and respect the staff’s decision despite never fully understanding why.
How was your relationship with head coach Ralph Junge. Did you ever have talks with him about how your role could be more significant or was there or was there as is often the case when guys aren´t playing much that notorious silence?
Or relationship was good, and there wasn’t any silence.
Did you ever conversations during the season with ex NBA player Baron Davis about your woes and playing time? He said this about you last summer during the Drew League. “. “It’s hard to find a guard that can guard 4 positions, score the ball, and assist. Hopefully, this is the summer that some scouts come out and give him a look. He’s one of the most underrated players in this league.”
I didn’t speak with many people regarding the season, because I was busy fighting an uphill battle to earn a spot and more of an opportunity.
How do you summarize your personal season. You averaged 3,0ppg and 1,7rpg in 8,5 minutes per game. In a situation when a guy plays little, you try to be as efficient as possible. Do you feel you were this in the minutes you got?
Honestly. Absolutely heartbreaking. I played my heart out every minute I was given, and to be honest I’m proud of myself for what I was able to accomplish. But I’m hungry for more. This season left me a little bit empty, but that’s good. Because anyone who knows me knows that I turn setbacks into huge comebacks. I’ve got more fuel for the fire under me now.
You scored in double figures only twice. Was your 16 point game in 19 minutes against top Pro A team Vechta your best game this season?
How difficult was it coming from leading the league in Mexico in scoring averaging 27,0ppg and second in rebounds at 12,9. How difficult an adjustment was it coming from always having the ball in your hands to playing a limited role. What did you learn about your game this season?
It was extremely difficult. And glad to be back home to work on new additions to my game.
You stated in our last interview that your defense is a hidden strength in your game. How do you feel did you improve as a defender as well in your offense in a skilled league like the Pro A? It was the highest professional level that you had played at.
Germany had some great players and in this league on any given night any player on the opposing team could have a good night. Definitely kept me on my toes even more so than before this season.
In our last interview you stated this about having that chip on your shoulder for years where you didn´t get a chance before Nurnberg got you. “ It’s easy to get caught up in being under the radar and out of the spot light. But the reality of the situation is there’s thousands of other talented guys out there. The difference in the long run is who’s going work the hardest and the smartest”. Has your chip gotten lighter and is it still there? How do you feel now after a season having finally gotten that chance to play at a higher level in Europe?
Considering how this season went, that chip has actually gotten bigger. I feel highly motivated after this season and can’t wait for what the future holds.
What is the next step for Van Girard? I can imagine with your foot in the door in Europe, you now want to get your whole body in. How will you go about attacking the market this summer?
Next step is focusing on my weaknesses, and becoming a complete player. I want to put the next team I play for in the best possible position to win. Can’t wait until next season.
You have showcased your talent in the legendary Drew League in Los Angeles. Do you expect to play there again and mix it up with the NBA players. Are you looking forward to being able to finally tell people you made it in Europe?
Yep I can’t wait to see the great players in the Drew. Very excited to tell everyone how my season went and being able to showcase what I’ve learned.
On what NBA players are you looking forward to competing against on the courts in Los Angeles? Do you feel like with your added experience in Germany that your competitive fire will be high in that you will be able to make another step in your game this summer when your playing against NBA guys?
Definitely looking forward to competing with James Harden, Baron Davis, Demar Derozen etc this summer, and absolutely believe that my experience from Europe will only add more to my game and make me more of a threat.
Thanks very much for the chat.