When you see Gilles Dierckx on the court for the first time, no one would ever have the audacity to predict any NBA minutes in the future for him, but what few know, the 26 year old 213cm giant from Gent, Belgium may never ever guard Kevin Love in Madison Square Garden or have to endure the nasty trash talking by a Trevor Booker after being posterized by one of his thunderous dunks and having to hear the words”cut down on those Belgium Waffles if you want to stop me”, but doesn´t only have a few NBA stories to explain, but an afternoon worth that would make even a Larry Bird hang around for a few minutes to confirm if those Isaiah Thomas anecdotes from back in the day are genuine. ”Isaiah Thomas would talk about the intensity, it was like those guys almost wanted to kill each other on the court”, stressed Gilles Dierickx. Dierickx who played two years at top NCAA school Washington and lists ex Arizona 213cm giant Kaleb Tarczewski of EA7 Emporio Armani Milano as his toughest opponent in school has had that infectious NBA flair following him around since he stepped foot in the states at West Hills Chaminade HS more than seven years ago and came in contact with guys like 2 time NBA champion Isiah Thomas of the NBA Detroit Pistons, Shawn kemp jr or Lorenzo Romar. That unique infectious NBA flair is still around and followed him in his second professional season having Florian Hartenstein as his coach who is the father of Isaiah Hartenstein who was recently drafted by the Houston Rockets. Dierickx knows that he wouldn´t trade in his unique experiences in the NCAA in the States for anything as it will remain with him for the rest of his basketball life and beyond. “I remember coach Isiah once played with us in 5 on 5 and was still dropping dimes like it was nothing, those guys don’t lose it. Coach Romar well let’s just say you don’t want to challenge him to a shooting contest, that man really has a jumper, he also jumps higher than anyone I know on his jump shot. Being around NBA guys showed me how hard you have to work to make it. There are a lot of talented guys but it will always require a combination of hard work and talent to make it to the NBA”warned Gilles Dierickx.
His first contact with that unique infectious NBA flair occurred in 2011 when he decided to commence on an NCAA journey that would take him to Florida and Washington and three NCAA teams. His first stop was FIU (NCAA) which would probably not even get a second of interest from a talented 221cm big man from Siberia, but when spelling it out Florida International University that poor soul from Russia would have had that warm beach in his thoughts quicker than he could of yelled the word Njet. The chance that the Belgium center would play at a school that had a legendary ex NBA superstar as head coach when there are 352 NCAA schools was minimal, but then again his luck was just hot as he would witness in the years to come. Dierckx remained only one season at FIU playing only 29 games and averaging 2,6ppg and 2,2rpg, but it was that daily meeting and interaction with Isiah Thomas who was a member of the Detroit Pistons Bad Boys of the 80´s that won two NBA titles that made his freshman season like a trip to the candy store for a kid that turned into an overnight stay with unending lolly pops to his disposal. Even if his stay at FIU was more than five years ago, he remembers his time with Isiah Thomas as if it was yesterday and soaked in every piece of advice as best he could. “Thomas always stressed to just play hard. I remember he got really angry with us during halftime one time, not because shots weren’t falling, but because the other team was playing harder than us. He said you can make up for a lot of things by just playing hard”, warned Gilles Dierickx. After not getting minutes at FIU(NCAA), the big man moved to the west coast to top school Washington(NCAA) that has not only produced three PAC 10 tournament wins and three NCAA Sweet 16 appearances, but consistently bred new talent and have produced great players over the years like Detlev Schrempf, ex Boston Celtic Isaiah Thomas, Terence Ross, Dejounte Murray, Quincy Pondexter, Justin Holiday or Spencer Haws to just name a few. When The big man arrived on campus, he had to sit out the 2012-2013 season on account of transfer rules, but there also didn´t get minutes in two seasons from 2013-2015, but could witness future NBA players CJ Wilcox and Nigel Williams-Goss develop, but had stiff competition with other big men like Aziz Ndiaye who would play in Germany with Frankfurt and move on to success in Japan and he remembers his battles with N´diaye with thankfulness. “I had to redshirt and that was very tough at times because I just really wanted to play. In hindsight, it was important for me to develop a bit more to get ready for the tough PAC 12 competition. Aziz taught me that I had to hit the weight room hard, he was a beast inside and was tough to deal with if you weren’t strong enough. I think I taught Aziz always to block out, even though I wasn’t anywhere near as strong as him, I made it a point to always crash the boards and whenever I got an offensive board I think he was about to lose his mind.”, stressed Gilles Dierickx. In two seasons at Washington(NCAA) he played 28 games and seemed to be just in the wrong place at the wrong time having a beast like Robert Uphsaw in front of him. “I think it was a combination of things. Having Rob on the team was good because it forced me to get better but it was also tough to get minutes because he was obviously a very good player. I appreciate my time at Washington very much although it may not have gone the way I pictured it”, stressed Gilles Dierickx.
After developing further as a player at Washington(NCAA) with all the massive talent around him, he decided to find a new basketball address one more time and didn´t have to go cross country again, but instead not only stayed in Washington state, but also in Seattle and had to only travel a few miles further across Aurora avenue over the Fremont Cut to Seattle Pacific (NCAA2). The only difference now was that the competition was lesser, but he would get the suitable minutes which resulted in 25 minutes per game as he played 31 games averaging 11.4ppg, 7.0rpg, 1.2bpg, FGP: 56.0%, FT: 61.0%. He scored in double figures in 22 games and produced seven double doubles and had his basketball self confidence at a new high. “I think I grew a lot as a player. For me it was important to get into a rhythm again before I went pro. It was a great feeling to be starting and playing a lot of minutes on a great team that won a lot of games”, stressed Gilles Dierickx. He is thankful for having head coach Ryan Looney who had that winning gene in him as in his previous schools winning wasn´t on the menu. “Coach Looney knew one thing very well; and that was how to win. In my previous college careers we had not been as successful as we liked to be, but with SPU having a track record of dominating the GNAC each year I think that it was a good situation for me to develop despite dropping down a level. Coach Grant Leep worked with the big guys and he definitely had a big impact on my game”, warned Gilles Dierickx.
That last season in the NCAA 2 got him prepared for a professional basketball career and that certain twist of moving around which he had witnessed in the States in the NCAA with three schools somehow dragged on with him going to Europe. As a rookie, he didn´t have the time to mature and grow with one team, but instead played with three teams in three countries Spain, Germany and Belgium. His professional career globetrotter experience commenced with Arcos Albacete Basket (Spain-LEB Silver)in the third division and lasted only a few months and 2 games where he averaged 9.0ppg, 4.5rpg, 1.0apg, 1.5bpg. “I left because I didn’t feel like the club was a great fit for me. A positive to take out of it is to appreciate every opportunity you get, because you don’t always know what is going to happen next”, added Gilles Dierickx. Instead of being home for months and sitting by the phone and getting depressed with no calls, he actually got new work quite rapidly as he signed with successful German Regionaliga team Rot-Weiss Cuxhaven who were in the midst of creating a championship season. Again the big man held his own and put up consistent stats in 5 games averaging 13.8ppg, 5.6rpg, 2FGP: 72.2%, FT: 73.9%. However after a little more than a month, he had to pack his bags again and was a bit sad he couldn´t win his first professional title. “I must admit I was a bit disappointed. Winning is what it’s all about in sports. Being a champion would have been great but we all make choices and it is in the past now. I appreciate the short stay I had in Cuxhaven”, said Gilles Dierickx. With Christmas just around the corner, he did get a special present with a contract his third in his rookie season with second Belgium division team Melco Ieper (Top Division I) and closed out the season in fine fashion playing 10 games averaging 12.4ppg, 10.2rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 46.5%, FT: 78.9%. He came into the summer with a heightening self confidence after playing well in his homeland which had him ready for the next challenge. “It was important to me as I feel like I underperformed a bit in the rebounding category at Cuxhaven. But then again I feel like I could’ve done a better job in the scoring category and also finish at a higher rate. There is always something I could be doing better in my mind”, stressed Gilles Dierickx. Even if his rookie season was tough, he wouldn´t trade in his early globetrotter experience as it made him the person he is today on and off the court.
He and well known Sports agency M.A.C Sports Management didn´t let the dog days of summer roll in, but quickly found a new stable fit with German Pro B team Artland Dragons. The big man joined a very ambitious team that was a consistent EasyCredit BBL playoff team in the past, won the 2008 cup with top coach Chris Fleming who would win countless titles with Bamberg and had their share of NBA flair in the past with players like Toby Bailey, Ryan Gomes, Dennis Horner, or Rob Kurz. However a few years ago, the main club sponsor turned off the money faucet and the club disappeared into the German third league Pro B. The club would like to be back in the BBL faster than one can stroll down the main street in the small 13,000 town Quackenbruck where the club calls home, but first need to get to the Pro A which they did last season. He moved to Quackenbruck in late spring after he convinced the club in a try-out that he is the right big man for their program and hoped that he would be able to call it home for a whole season. “I feel very fortunate to be with the Artland Dragons, for this season I definitely wanted to be in a stable situation the whole time and not be moving from one place to the other”, added Gilles Dierickx last summer. Despite having a roller coaster rookie season, the Belgium big man had high expectations of himself last season. “I am setting the bar high as I think any player should. I want to be an impact player when I am on the court, whether it’s rebounding, playing strong defense, blocking shots or finishing strong inside. I want to show that I am a good passer, we want to play together as a team and that will involve every player 1 through 5 to be able to make the right read. I am going to approach every game with the same mindset and that is to play hard, do what coach expects me to do and most importantly to get the win”, warned Gilles Dierickx. He also knew that opponents would be keeping an eye out for his inside presence, ability to finish and handle the boards at ease, so he knew that other assets in his game that aren´t known would become more valuable for the Dragons. “I feel that the passing doesn’t get noticed but also the fact that I can shoot the midrange shot consistently. That is something I have not been able to showcase much”, added Gilles Dierickx.
However even if the professionalism of the Artland Dragons was a huge incentive for him coming to the club, it was actually the head coach Florian Hartenstein that made the 213cm big man get that special sparkle in his eyes as being able to work with him on a daily basis was wetting his basketball appetite every day. Hartenstein was also a professional player that played at Oregon(NCAA) and had a 13 season professional career as a 206cm center. And with the name Hartenstein, Dierickx was positively reminded again about his unique infectious NBA flair that continued to follow him around like little 8 year old actor Adam Rich did like a puppy whenever the beautiful Diane Kay was around on the set of the American family TV series Eight Is Enough back in the day. The son of Florian Hartenstein Isaiah was drafted by the Houston Rockets in 2017 and now once again had NBA talk on a daily basis. It was no secret that it would be very vital for him to be able to learn further from an ex professional center. “It was very important to me. I know that I have to develop more to get where I want to be and I think that he will be able to help me get closer to my goals and he kept it real with me during the work out and in our talks he paid strong attention to detail”, warned Gilles Dierickx last season. However his Artland Dragons stay turned out to last only half a season as he moved back to an old stomping ground to Cuxhaven in December. With Artland he averaged only 9,3 minutes per game averaging 4,3ppg and 3,7rpg. “For me personally I just wanted more minutes, Artland is a great organization but with the signing of Yasin Kolo it was time for me to move on”, stressed Gilles Dierickx. The big man finished the season with the Cuxhaven in the Pro B and was unable to help save the team as they moved back down to the Regionalliga. With Cuxhaven he finished the season averaging 6,5ppg, 5,3rpg and 1,2apg. One thing is for sure, Dierickx knows that he not only would have never have had all that contact to the NBA had he stayed in Europe the last years, but he would not be the player he is today. “I feel like it was very important for me. I started out in high school there and from early on I was surrounded by highly talented players. It was an eye opener to me. I do believe I would not have been the same player now if I had stayed in Europe. Basketball is a much bigger sport in America than it is in Belgium, therefore I believed I had to make that move in order to pursue my dreams of becoming a pro one day”, warned Gilles Dierickx. Even if he was living in a tiny place in Artland, the NBA stories never ran dry, because Florian Hartenstein is a good story teller and there were enough chances on long road trips to Rostock or Bernau to revel his battles with ex Georgetown(NCAA) center Ruben Boumtje Boumtje who was fourth in school history in shot blocks behind Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo or his legendary pre season game in 2008 with Giessen against FC Barcelona where he owned one half scoring in double figures against NBA players Juan Carlos Navarro, David Anderson and Ersan Ilyasova. The NBA will continue to be so far away for the big man from Belgium, but then again so near as Dierickx will remember having another NBA connection in Artland as he starts over from scratch again this season in his homeland with Crelan Okapi Aalstar (Belgium-Euromillions League).