Byron Sanford is a 25 year old 183cm guard from Louisville, Kentucky that completed his rookie professional basketball season in Germany with BBC Coburg averaging 11,6ppg, 4,6rpg and 2,5apg.. He played at Trevecca Naz. (NCAA2) and really excelled in his last two seasons as a junior he played 17 games averaging17.2ppg, 6.5rpg, 4.2apg, Steals-3(2.9spg), FGP: 55.5%, 3PT: 27.3%, FT: 72.0%. In his senior year at Trevecca Naz. (NCAA2) he played 32 games averaging 18.4ppg, 7.6rpg, 4.2apg, 1.8spg, FGP: 49.4%, 3PT: 39.1%, FT: 69.5%. He was the G-MAC Player of the Year in 2016. He spoke to German Hoops after completing his rookie season in Germany.
Byron thanks for talking to German Hoops. You just compelted your rookie season in Germany with BBC Coburg. If someone had told you in September that the team would move back down to the Regionaliga would you have believed it?
No problem always a pleasure to talk with you. Never would have thought the season would have went the way it did. It was definitely a learning experience and something we can look back and all grow from.
After such a great first season where BBC Coburg moved from the Regionaliga to the Pro B, how disappointing is the fact that the club was unable to stay in the Pro B?
It is very disappointing given that I felt we had the right pieces to be very successful in the league. If you look at our season it very well could have been the opposite because we have so many single digit losses that could have very well went in our favor. If a few more things went right we would have been a playoff contender for sure! Even with our ups and downs as a team our fan support was by far the best in the league and that meant a lot to have ride or die support!
BBC Coburg didn´t start off well losing it´s first three games, but then caught fire winning three of four games. What kind of atmosphere was within the team with that 3-4 record at that time?
It was a great atmosphere within the team. For the most part we stayed together as a team throughout the season. As I said before we had the best fans in the league and that helped keep our spirits high even through the rough stages during the season.
The club showed that they could win in crunch time at that moment beating Leverkusen and Wurzburg, but then it all went down hill. The team then lost 6 in a row including tight affairs against Iserlohn and Rhondorf. Was this the turning point of the season?
Losing close games and road games was the story of our season. We always showed we could compete with the best teams in the league. I wouldn’t say a turning point because we still felt like we had a chance to turn things around. Shortly after this stretch we had a new coaching change. Personally I wasn’t playing as much when I felt I could have been on the floor to pull out a few more of those close wins.
Then came the huge 105-97 win against top team ScanPlus Baskets. One would have thought that after this big win, something would get ignited within the team, but you then proceeded to lose 6 of the last 8 games. Why do you feel after good moments, the club was unable to take the momentum and carry it into future wins?
Yeah that was a huge win against the best team in the league! We had a few things out of our control happen with injuries to key players and a coaching change we had to adapt to. I think those thinks played a little part but we just needed to be better defensively to pull out those close games that went the other way.
You were solid in the playdowns with a 3-3 record, but it wasn´t enough as Wurzburg remained in the Pro B with one win more. Was there a game in the playdowns what you feel cost the team the Pro B?
Yes we showed a lot of fight in playdowns, which I think I set the tone. Unfortunately it was pulling out road wins that hurt us like much of the season. I think the lost to Karlsruhe at their place hurt us and put us in desperation mode the rest of the playdowns. Not one game cost us the Pro b because we had a whole season that could have very well went the other way and we would have been contenders.
The teams biggest handicap was their defense allowing 80 points per game. Why was the team unable to find a more consistent rhythm on the defensive end this season?
Yes defense was our Achilles heel and we all know that defense wins games especially close games. Which we lost a lot of close ones. I think we needed an anchor and more rim protection. Also more communication would have helped a lot. I think when we were in the half court we would break down so our best defense was scrambling and speeding other teams up.
It is no secret that success in the Pro B comes from having team unity, but also good imports and a good functioning German core. You had a lot of German experience on the club, but was the scoring depth missing at times from them?
Yeah I think we had a good mix of imports and Germans which is why I feel like we definitely should have been a contender. At times players that we needed didn’t show up or be as consistent for us to pull out those close games that could have changed our whole season.
I would imagine the season highlight was the win against the ScanPlus Baskets. What are your fondest memories of this win?
It was a great team win against the best team in the league! A very hard fought win that was a big highlight of the season. Personally me having the 40 point game I did showed that I can produce at a high rate against the best in the league. Fun game for sure!
Let´s talk about your teammates. How much of a pleasure was it playing with American Jordan Burris. How did you see his game develop throughout the season and is he ready to tackle a higher level?
It was great playing with Jordan. He is very very talented and will do very well in the future! I really enjoyed playing with him because our games compliment each other well! With Jordan being such a good shooter it helped space the floor and allowed me to attack off the pick and roll which opened up so many options to hit the roller, finish, or kick out to the shooters. Also our work ethic was very similar in which we would always try to outdo each other which helped us get better throughout the season! Jordan will be very good as he continues to move up. He has all the intangibles to be very productive at a high level.
You stated this about Jordan Burris in our interview in 2017. “I am very excited to play and compete with Jordan this upcoming season. I followed the season he had and knew he was a real good player. After seeing him resign it showed me this is a place where players want to play and compete. He has a similar story to mine so I know we will be on the same page once we get things started. Yeah I read the article about him and Kobe Bryant. Pretty cool and humbling experience I could imagine. How soothing was it having a guy with a chip on his shoulder?
It was great because we always tried to out compete each other and always learn from each other!
Despite playing for a losing team, do you feel like he should be mentioned in the Pro B MVP race?
Of Course but I always know that if things would have went a little better that really would have been reality.
Sometimes a whole season really bonds Americans. How was it for you as a rookie being teammates with Jordan Burris? How did you relationship grow on and off the court and could you call him a brother for life?
It was great! We bonded well and he will always be my brother no matter what happens in the future! I´m actually going out to California this summer to kick it with him.
How did you experience the season of Anell Alexis on the court. He is a veteran, but still seems to have upside. What did you appreciate from his game the most this season?
I became very close to Anell to because he is from the states and knows a lot of the same people. Anell always went the extra mile in preparation whether film, stretching, preparing his body, and mind a lot like me. So it made it easier to do a lot of the extra work because I had someone to tag along with me.
How long did it take for you to find out who Anell Alexis´s dad was? Do you remember hearing stories from back in the day?
I heard people talking about his dad once Anell arrived. I didn’t hear about him growing up but looking him up and heard stories while I was here. He seems like he was really good.
You played with many talented Germans, but if you had to pick one who developed the best who would you pick?
Ha That’s a tough question but maybe Chris Wolf just because he is the youngest and was a great teammate.
Let´s talk about your game. As a rookie in Germany you averaged 11,6ppg, 4,6rpg and 2,5apg. How content were you with your rookie season on the court in Germany
I´m never satisfied good or bad. I feel like there is always more you could do. It was tough not playing early as much early in the season and out of rhythm but once we had a coaching change and I got an opportunity during the second half of the season and post season I really got to showcase my game and abilities. I showed once I got an opportunity I can be a top player in the league. It was a learning experience and showed my resilience to bounce back the way I did. So my numbers overall could have been higher but that due to playing limited minutes first half of the season. If you look at my season half and post season numbers you can see I have the ability to really impact a game. Overall I was efficient but I always know there is room for improvement during the offseason. I will be back stronger and better for sure wherever I end up.
You averaged 7,0rpg in your last two seasons at Trevecca Naz, but only 4,5 with BBC Coburg. Did Jordan Burris take some rebounds away from you this season being that dominate rebounding presence?
Yeah I had some big rebound games this season but my numbers aren’t as high as college because half the year I was playing limited minutes. I love to rebound the ball from the guard spot to start the fast break right away.
You stated in our last interview that “I know my will to win and do whatever it takes is a big strength of mine”. How tough was the losing season and how did this season make you stronger as a player mentally so you will be better prepared down the road for adversity?
Yeah and I honestly felt but just things didn’t go our way. I will for sure be coming back even better with gaining experience and learning how to be effective with the European style of play. Having to overcome a great preseason then limited minutes half the season to a good second half and post season showed I can overcome adversity quickly and be efficient and effective. I think I did a good job of learning on the fly and once giving the opportunity to showcase my talent against the top teams and players.
You had a very solid rookie season. How do you feel did your game progress most with BBC Coburg and what are you most proud of of how you were able to present Germany with your game?
I think I had a solid season and showcased my talents once I had the opportunity. My game progressed a lot just learning the European style of play from actually playing in games and watching film. Also after the coaching change and getting coached by Derrick Taylor a former great point guard in the top German league I was able to pick his brain and watch film with him to elevate my game and learn things that will be very beneficial in the future.
You have stated that you compare your game to Russell Westbrook and train with Rajon Rondo in the summers. Both guys live for the triple double. Do you feel like you could have been a triple double guy in the Pro B had you had 10-12 minutes more like a Kameron Taylor?
Yeah those two point guards I love to watch play and learn from. It´s great that Rajon Rondo is from my hometown so I get hands on learning and playing experience from him. But yes I was close a few times to a triple double but with a few more minutes a game I know for sure I would have had a few. In the minutes I played I was efficient with percentages and tried to be effective in every stat. I strive to impact the game like a Westbrook or rondo by scoring, getting teammates involved, rebounding, guarding the other teams best player, just whatever I have to do to give my team the best chance to win.
I imagine your favorite personal moment with BBC Coburg was your 40 point 13 rebound explosion against the ScanPlus Baskets. You once scored 40 points against Kentucky Wesleayan. What do you remember most from that game?
It was one of the first games after the coaching change and I knew I was going to get a chance to show what I could do. I just remember seeing the first shot go in and how good it felt. I knew I had to play well for us to beat the top ranked team in the league and I went out and showed what I could do against the best team in the league. Its great to say you had 40 points on the team that won the Championship in the league. Just wanted to show I could elevate my game to prove I can play and dominate against the best of them.
How cool was it seeing Pro B guys Kameron Taylor, Jeril Taylor and Miles Jackson-Cartwright make the jump to the easyCredit BBL. Does that give hope for you in the unending process in your quest to move up the basketball ladder?
It was pretty nice seeing those guys move up and be productive in the BBL because against all of them I played well and showed I can hold my own. It´s great to see that there is always a chance to move up and be productive with the right team and opportunity. I was especially hyped for Jeril Taylor because we are both from Louisville, Kentucky and train together sometimes in the summers. So its great and I know I will get there with consistent hard work and consistency. I will be ready!
What is the next step for Byron Sanford ? Would you like to stay in Germany or test another country?
I would love to stay in Germany and continue to build my resume. After being coached by Derrick Taylor and hearing about his basketball journey in Germany has motivated me to reach that level. I have high faith that GOD will place me wherever he sees fit in the future!
How does a summer work out day look like for you on and off the floor? Last summer it consisted of 9am Basketball workouts, in between rest and eat, 3pm another basketball workout, in between rest and eat, 7pm Weight training/ yoga. Will that change somewhat this summer? And on what things will you be working on this summer to keep tweaking your game?
It will stay the same for the most part because I feel it is very effective and also I’m around other top level pros from my city all do so its very beneficial. I will tweak a few things but always be consistent and the hardest worker wherever I am. A lot of jump shots to keep increasing my range and staying consistent, a lot of pick and roll reads and options so I can become closer to mastering the pick and roll, reviewing film of my games to help continue to see the floor better and how I can because even better defensively. I will be back better than ever next season!
Will you be competing against any NBA players this summer in the gym like Rajon Rondo, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd Gilchrist, and Darius Miller? Talk a little about how excited you are to be able to show them how you have progressed?
Yeah I will play and workout with a few of those guys just being in Kentucky. It´s always fun to pick their brains and just be a sponge and take in all the knowledge I can to continue to improve. I´m hyped to show off my game this summer to some of the guys. Just to show what a season in Europe can do to help elevate your game. Also show them film of my games of some of the skills they taught me last summer.
Who was the toughest player that you faced on the court in the Pro B this season?
Kam Taylor was pretty good which I had a very good game against him at their place. Some of the young Germans like Jallow and Bonga were pretty good and had promising games for the future. Then of course my teammate Jordan was tough and we had our battles in practice a lot of times pushing each other to get better.
How did you experience the 2018 NCAA March Madness? What was the most spectacular upset in the tournament?
It was for sure a fun tournament this year with all the upsets and game winning shots that took place. By far the biggest upset was UMBC beating Virginia for the 16th seed winning over the 1 seed for the first time ever in men´s college basketball.
Deandre Ayton seems like 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?
Yeah Luca is very good and experienced at a young age. I think if he shows well at draft camps and against some of the other top prospects it´s not a bad choice to draft him high if not number 1.
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?
Man he could average at least 15 with all the attention he draws and shooters surrounding him.
Thanks Byron for the chat.