Janek Schmidkunz is a 28 year old 183cm point guard that finished his fourth professional season with the Dresden Titans averaging 14,9ppg, 4,0rpg and 5,3apg. He started his basketball career with Central Hoops Berlin (Regionalliga) in 2008. He then also got further experience at ALBA Berlin II (Regionalliga). He then went to the states and played at Amer.Internat. (NCAA2) from 2010-2014 playing a total of 86 NCAA games and as a senior played 26 games: 10.9ppg, 2.1rpg, FGP: 38.5%, 3PT: 38.9%, FT: 61.5%. He returned back to Germany in 2014 joiningthe MLP Academics Heidelberg (ProA): playing 21 games averaging 1.4ppg. In the 2015-2016 season he joined the Giants TSV 1861 Noerdlingen (ProB) playing 29 games averaging 17.0ppg, 2.7rpg, 2.7apg, 1.6spg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 36.8%, FT: 76.1%. In the 2016-2017 season he played with BiG Oettinger Rockets Gotha (ProA) playing 30 games averaging 5.9ppg, 1.2apg, FGP: 48.5%, 3PT: 35.2%, FT: 56.3%. He spoke to German Hoops after the 2017-2018 season.
Janek thanks for talking to German Hoops. It´s been 2 years since the last interview we did when your season ended with Nordlingen. Has time flown by since then for you as you had stops in Gotha and Dresden?
I wouldn’t say time has flown by, but a lot of new experiences and different situations have filled the past two years. I am enjoying this journey as long as I can and think that I can reflect on what has happened over the past two years with a lot of positive memories.
Let´s look back at the last season. After having a solid, but not spectacular Pro A season with Gotha, you took a step back to the Pro B. When you look back at the last season with Dresden, was this the right step?
I am very happy with moving to Dresden. After the success we had with Gotha as a team and overcoming the broken hand that sidelined me for three months, I wanted more security and a bigger role. Dresden wanted me to take over as playmaker and captain and I welcomed that kind of trust they put in me. It was a new challenge and therefore definitely the right decision. Finding new challenges is what makes you better as a player and as a person.
Despite it being a turbulent season for Dresden with players coming and going, do you feel like having reached the playoffs that the season was still a success despite the ups and downs?
I can’t label it a success nor a failure. I think we didn’t live up to our potential and had lots of adversities that we had to overcome and therefore we reached our minimal goal, the playoffs. In the playoffs we played a very good Schalke team and we gave them our best. Unfortunately the season ended way too early.
What kind of journey do you feel would the Dresden Titans would have had had they had sniper Travis Thompson for the whole season?
It is hard to say. We had our ups and downs with Travis as well. Having a team that stays together from start to finish is key and that clearly wasn’t the case with our team this year.
The Dresden Titans were very up and down during the season. Do you feel that had more to do with the many changes or was the team just not put together correctly?
I realized that during the Christmas break it felt like a whole new pre season. Integrating players in a week or two is extremely hard and being in a situation that requires results right away made the whole thing even more difficult. That is one thing I am very proud of, that we reached our minimal goal even though the odds were, lets say, not in our favor. I think we missed a little more depth and losing Sebastian (Heck) was a huge blow to our team. He anchored us very well defensively while also being a big part of our offense.
The Dresden Titans played FC Schalke very tough in the playoffs losing by 8 and 3 points. What do you feel was missing from Dresden to have gotten over the hump to win the series?
I think Schalke was a bit more experienced than we were. Physically they were strong from position 1 through 5. We played them really well overall, making shots was a big problem for us. We controlled their key players for the most part of both games, but their role players came up big for them and that will make the difference in those kind of match ups.
What do you feel was the season highlight? Sweeping Leverkusen or the close wins against Coburg and FC Bayern Munich or did the win against playoff team Schwelm standout?
It is hard to say, but if I had to choose I think our home game against Munich will be remembered by most as the highlight. It was a game with do or die characteristics and we played our second game as the team that was formed over the Christmas break. We were clicking and displayed the type of team play that makes everyone on the team enjoying their role. It was a great night for the team and the fans.
Let´s talk about your teammates. What kind of a pleasure was it playing with Mr Alaska Travis Thompson. As a potent shooter, were you able to pick up any extra things from his shooting that you could add to your shooting?
Travis and I are different types of shooters and I think it was the combination that made us dangerous. I enjoyed it and it was a big blow to us that he didn’t stay with the team.
German talent Helge Baues had a solid season averaging 14 and 6. He has had experience in the Pro A. How did you see his development this season. Is he ready to become an impact player in the Pro A or will he only be a very good Pro B player?
That all depends what Helge chooses to do. He has the potential to be an impact player in either league. He is still young and he is going get better that is for sure. On top of his potential, he is also a very smart person and I think he knows exactly what he wants.
How did you see the development of young German Noah Berge? How do you feel were you able to help him best with his game?
The situation with Noah was tough. We didn’t do a great job creating the right situations allowing him to get his feet wet in this league, yet he was a great piece to our team. He brought the kind of energy to practice that makes everyone go harder and that is something I appreciate about a player. I tried to be a bit of a teacher and made him read the game better. Trying to slow him down and force him to make decisions is something that I wanted to help him with.
Let´s talk about your game. You led the club in scoring with 14,9ppg and assists with 5,3apg. How content were you with your season in the Pro B?
It’s hard to say because I am a team guy and I don’t care about my individual performance. I know from experience that it takes more than scoring the ball and having assists to help your team win. I think that I know exactly what I need to work on and that is something that is always good to have going into the summer. Overall, I am happy with what I gave the team and what I left on the court. I went through the year without any injuries which is another big key for me to be content with the past season.
You had your best assist average as a professional. You became more of a playmaker this season. How important was this experience for you as you continue to move on in your career? Do you feel like you have become more of a versatile player?
It was part of the challenge that I was looking for. I think it was the right step and having more experience as a playmaker definitely makes you a more versatile player. Finding the proper balance between scoring and playmaking is what will be key to help my team in the best way possible.
You have been a shooter your whole life. You also improved your three point shooting to 38% this season. Is your shooting accuracy only a combination of putting up reps and shot selection or have you picked up on other aspects that help´s you improve your shooting?
The key for me at this point is shot selection and confidence. I have proven myself to be dangerous beyond the three point line all my basketball life. Of course you got to put in the work and work on your shooting at all times, but having the experience and success shooting the ball for quite some years now makes you confident.
You averaged almost 2 steals a game. How do you feel has your defensive game improved with more experience the last two years? Has reading the game been something that you have continued to improve on?
It definitely is reading the game and studying your opponent. As a younger player you are aggressive defensively, sometimes overly aggressive, and that puts you out of position. I find myself to be in the right position more and more and getting steals is something that is the result of that.
Last season with Gotha you averaged 5,9ppg, 1,0apg and 1,2rpg. How was that whole experience for you? What positives did you take from that season?
It was a great experience with a lot of ups and also downs. I started the season off well until I was sidelined due to breaking my hand in December. I came back just three games prior to the playoffs and it was hard to find the same kind of confidence and condition that I had prior the injury. But making the experience to come back from that kind of injury and playing yourself back into the rotation and helping the team was big for my career. Moving up to the BBL was a huge success that I always will be proud of.
How have you followed the season of your ex teammates Brandon Lockhart and Jordan Talbert with Rostock? Do you sometimes miss those Nordlingen days?
These two guys are winners. I am not surprised that they have the success they have. They play basketball the right way and they approach their business with the right mindset. They are perfect teammates and make everyone on the team better. I am very happy for them and of course I miss those Nördlingen days. That was one of the best teams I have ever been a part of and the friendship we created back then will always be there.
What is the next step for you? You had a solid season in the German Pro B after coming from the Pro A. Is your goal the Pro A or would you be comfortable in the Pro B again?
I am comfortable in both leagues and I know that I can play in the Pro A. It is where I want to go back to. Helping my team to get there when the time is right is the ultimate goal.
What is your opinion on the Pro B having only one import next season? There will be less jobs for your American colleagues.
I am not sure, because there are many good imports in the EU region that will fill those roster spots. We will just have wait and see what the next season will bring.
How important was it having guys like Kameron Taylor, Jeril Taylor and Miles Jackson-Cartwright from the Pro B make the jump to the easycRedit BBL. Does that give you hope about being able to move up the next level soon especially in Germany?
Those three guys were really good players and I think it is great to see that they were able to make the jump to the German top-level. It shines a big light onto the Pro B and allowed me to face some really good competition.
Who was one of the toughest player that you faced this season with Dresden at your position?
That is hard to say as there are a lot of good players at my position. I think the two Frankfurt guards, Zeeb and Akodo, were really tough to play as well as Cartwright from Würzburg and Schalke’s Courtney Belger.
What will be your goal this summer in continuing to improve your game? Will you change anything up with your work outs?
No not really. What I have done so far has worked really well for me and I don’t think I need to start to experiment with anything at this stage of my career. Being in the right condition physically and mentally for the preseason is my big goal for the summer.
If you had to choose your very own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you pick?
Jordan, Magic, Shaq and Duncan. Although I think it is about time I add LeBron, I just need to decide who I swap him for.
What is your personal opinion on the neverending debate concerning Jordan and Lebron about who is the best of all-time?
My opinion is that Lebron is going to go down as one of the greatest players. Jordan will remain the GOAT to me.
How did you experience the 2018 NCAA March Madness? What was the most spectacular upset in the tournament?
I only watched a few games, but I think Michigan’s run was the most impressive one to me. Yet, Villanova’s success over the past three seasons is extremely impressive as well.
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?
That is hard to say because not every player that was a Euroleague star was able to adapt to the NBA game, but Doncic will make it for sure. I think if you ask all 30 teams in the NBA, there would be different #1 picks in this year’s draft.
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 his scoring threat allows him to be the passer he is. He has the size to pass over double teams and always finds the open guy. So to back off from being an aggressive scorer may very well hurt his passing.
What was the last movie that you saw?
I can’t even remember right now because Netflix and its many shows have been the choice over movies lately.
Thanks Janek for the chat.