Jett Speelman is a 24 year old 201cm forward from Granville, Ohio that is playing his second professional season and first with SC Rist Wedel (Germany-ProB). Last season as a rookie he played with FSU Selfoss (Iceland-D1) playing 12 games averaging 22.9ppg, 8.0rpg, 1.5apg, FGP: 52.5%, 3PT: 44.2%, FT: 84.2%. He started his basketball career at Newark Catholic and then played 35 games with Ashland (NCAA2) from 2013-2015. He then played at Denison (NCAA3) from 2015-2017 playing a total of 55 games and as a senior played 27 games averaging 18.3ppg, 6.0rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 0.0%. He spoke to germanhoops.com earlier in the summer about basketball.
Hi Jett thanks for talking to germanhoops.com Where are you at the moment and how has your summer been?
At the moment I am at my home in Ohio. My summer has been great! July has been a very busy month.
Before we get to the meat of the interview please tell me how you got this out of the ordinary name Jett? Did you have more positive or negative experiences with this name?
Well I must give all the credit to my parents. I believe they picked the name Jett from an old movie character. I have had a lot of positive experiences with the name, one common mistake people make is calling me Jeff instead. When I was born, the doctors incorrectly wrote ‘Jeff’ on my birth certificate and it had to be changed.
How blessed do you feel being able to play professional basketball? Not many guys in the NCAA 3 are able to go this route and play the game they love?
I feel very blessed and fortunate to be given the opportunity to play professionally. I have put a lot of hours in the gym and it is a great feeling to have it pay off. I try not to take any moment for granted.
After having a very productive rookie season in Iceland, how did you approach going into your second professional season? Did you notice that your strong season in Iceland that teams took notice besides Rist Wedel or did you also notice that coming from Iceland didn’t open up as many doors as you may have liked?
Going into my second season I understand more of the work it takes off the court to be successful and the everyday things that go overlooked. Living in a foreign country was an adjustment and it took some time getting used to being on my own. I now feel more confident going into my second year with life outside of basketball. I received a decent amount of interest after my season in Iceland and honestly, I did not know what to expect coming into my second year. I knew that it would be a challenge to make a name for myself having played at a NCAA D3 school. However, I thought that having a productive season in Iceland gave me more validity as a player.
Congrats on signing with Rist Wedel. What were the main reasons for signing with Pro B team Rist Wedel?
Thank you! I know that Germany has some of the best leagues in Europe and I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of Rist Wedel. After speaking with the team, I felt that I would be able to grow as a player and make an impact on the court. Wedel is a much larger city then Selfoss, Iceland and after researching the club I learned that the community really supports the team. It was also a funny coincidence that the team colors are the same as my high school.
What do you know in general about the country Germany and it’s basketball? Have you known any people that have played here over the years?
I do not know much about Germany. My parents recently traveled to Europe and said that Germany was one of their favorite places they visited. I know that the style of basketball is more fast paced and embodies the European style of play more. I know two guys who I grew up playing against who have recently played in Germany and both enjoyed their experiences.
You were highly recommended by your coach last season Eloy Doce. How important was his influence and coaching for you being able to succeed as a rookie in Europe?
Eloy was great last season. He is a very good coach and also extremely approachable. Eloy helped me early on to understand the European game and put me in positions to be successful. I was able to expand my game and grow a lot as a player under Eloy.
Let’s talk about your game. Would it be fair to see you’re a very modern forward that has a very good inside out game? Is this something that you always had or did you develop it more over the last years?
I would agree with that statement. Growing up I was either the tallest or one of the tallest on my teams so naturally I started off as more of an inside player. Towards the end of high school I began shooting the ball more outside and became more of an inside player who could shoot. Once I entered college I began working more in the offseason to expand my game every year and over the last few years have developed as more of an inside/outside threat who can shoot and drive to the lane as well.
You’re an outstanding shooter and never shot under 44% in the NCAA except as a freshman at Ashland. Has shooting always came easy for you? Has your success in the last years been more a combination of putting in the time with reps or continued improved shot selection?
At a young age my father taught me proper shooting form and mechanics and I thank him all the time for that. I believe because of this I never had to ‘correct’ my shot and was able to become a good shooter faster than others. I think my success is a combination of reps and shot selection. Each offseason during high school and college, I dedicated myself to the gym more and in turn increased the number of shots I was putting up. Having a hoop in my driveway helped tremendously as I spent a lot of time out there shooting. As I learned the game more and my basketball IQ grew, I was able to also increase my shot selection.
You can score in many varieties and have the total package for a 201cm forward. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would best fit the description?
That’s a good question. I would say a mixture between Kevin Love and Paul Millsap. Love is a talented inside scorer and shooter whereas Millsap is more of an all around forward who can shoot but not as well as Love.
You’re a guy that can fill up the stat sheet with ease, but what would you say is a hidden strength in your game that doesn’t always get noticed right away on the court?
I would say my athleticism or passing. I believe I’m a more athletic player than people might guess. Passing is one aspect of my game that I believe has improved over the past two seasons and something I try to put emphasis on.
Last season as a rookie you played with FSU Selfoss (Iceland-D1) playing 12 games averaging 22.9ppg, 8.0rpg, 1.5apg, FGP: 52.5%, 3PT: 44.2%, FT: 84.2% How tough was this season for you being able to put up explosive stats, but winning only one game?
It was very tough for me because throughout high school and college I had never really been on a losing team before. It was hard to go out and give 110% and sit in the locker room after exhausted with a loss, especially since we lost a lot of games by a small margin. I do believe that this gave me some more mental toughness and improved my ability to focus and play hard regardless of the situation.
What do you feel was your most positive gain in your game in Iceland? Possibly not shooting 44% form outside which is a strength of yours, but continuing to make strides in your shot selection not heaving up 10 shots a game, but really picking your spots well?
I believe that the biggest positive gain was being able to develop a better shot selection and picking good spots to score. I know that I am a good shooter and I put a lot of work in on my shot, so I was not surprised by that. A lot of teams in Iceland were keying on me defensively, so I had to really be precise with my movements and when/when not to attack the defense.
How important was your senior season where you scored in double digits in 25 of 27 games for your professional career? You showed it Iceland. How confident are you that you can continue to be an impact player now once again in Germany?
Senior year was an awesome experience and a season I will never forget. I grew a lot as a player and person and tried to take that momentum to Iceland. I believe that confidence is key in whatever you are doing. I think that as long as I am working hard on the court and playing smart that I can be an impact player in Germany.
You started your career at Newark Catholic and left as the all-time leading scorer. Talk a bit about the two years having to play in the NCAA 2 with Ashland? You left to go to Denison (NCAA3) taking a step back, but all worked out. Do you ever wonder how your career would have gone had you remained at Ashland for all four years?
Newark Catholic was a great four years. During those years I really developed a love for the game and took that to Ashland. It was definitely a change going from high school basketball to college (Ashland). The two years at Ashland showed me how physical the college game was and how much time I needed to spend on weight training/conditioning. Ashland also showed me the amount of work you had to put in to become a good player. I took those lessons to Denison to finish my college career. After I transferred I used to wonder what could have been if I stayed at Ashland. They have had some very good teams over the past few seasons and I know I could have helped them reach even higher levels. Now, I try to stay focused on the present and control what I can control instead of analyzing the past.
How vital were your two years at Ashland and How did John Ellenwood help your game best that got you prepared for making the next step to Denison?
My two years at Ashland were pivotal for my career. Coach Ellenwood really developed my inside game and taught me a lot of the proper footwork and moves that are needed to be a successful inside scorer.
You experienced two very successful years at Denison averaging 18,0ppg and won the NCAC Tournament. What were your fondest memories on and off the court?
My fondest memory at Denison was winning the NCAC tournament for the first time in school history. It was one of the most exciting games I have ever played in and the feeling of winning it was awesome. My fondest memories off the court are ones where my teammates and I were goofing around. I miss the comradery of the team and seeing my best friends every day.
You had many personal memorable games including 32 points against Oberlin and 27 points against Allegheny. Was one of these games your best performances or was there a game that you feel was your best?
Although I scored season highs against those teams, I would have to say my best performances were Junior year in the NCAC tournament when I had 26pts and 10rebounds in the semifinal and 25pts and 4ast in the final the day after.
How did head coach Bob Ghiloni give you the needed last touch in your last two years to groom and prepare you for a professional basketball career?
Coach Ghiloni was great. I have known him since I was in middle school and our relationship helped me grow as a player. Ghiloni challenged me on/off the court to be not only a better basketball player but a better person as well. Ghiloni gave me a lot of freedom to try new things on the court and I think this really developed my game in the two years I was there.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Mathew Bauer?
Bauer and I used to have some battles after practice. I would typically come away with the win though.
You played against so many great players at the NCAA level, but which player was your toughest opponent that is in the NBA now?
I played against a lot of tough guys in college. However, I believe the two best players I played against in high school AAU were Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor.
How does your 2018 summer work out plan look like? On what things will you be working on most so you will be fully prepared for your rookie season?
This summer was primarily spent in the gym. I will typically do workouts on the court 5-6 times a week and do strength training 4 times a week. I also play in a summer league twice a week. I have been working a lot on my outside game. While I get a lot of shots up and work on post moves/inside game, I have been trying to expand my game more by working on my ball handling and playmaking.
If you had to construct your very own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you pick old or new?
A Mount Rushmore is very tough–I would have to say Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James. These players all dominated their eras and changed the game.
What is your personal opinion of the never ending debate about who is better Lebron or Jordan?
Well growing up in Ohio as a Cavs fan I would have to say LeBron. I try to make the distinction that although LeBron is a better player, Jordan is the greatest of all time. On individual skill level I think LeBron is superior and is much bigger than Jordan. Career wise, though, Jordan was the greatest going 6/6 with titles. But who knows!
Tracy Mcgrady said that the Boston Celtics will be the Golden State Warriors of the future. Do you see that happening?
I could see this happening for sure. I think Boston has grown its team through the draft and trades much how the Warriors have (minus signing Durant). Boston has a lot of young talent mixed with all stars. Additionally, the Celtics are coached by probably the best coach in the league. They could be a main contender in a year or two.
Deandre Ayton was the #1 NBA draft pick in 2018. Do you feel that from sheer talent and experience that Luca Doncic should have been the real #1 draft pick?
That’s tough to say. I think Doncic might be a better prepared player and he certainly has more experience. I think the reason Ayton was drafted first was because of his immense upside and incredible physical profile. It’s hard to look past someone who is 7ft 260lbs and moves like he does.
How did you follow the 2018 NBA Draft? How cool is it having two Germans being drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers?
I watched the first few picks just to see how it played out. I think its very exciting that the Lakers picked up two Germans. I really liked watching Wagner play at Michigan and I see some similarities in our games.
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 he could easily lead the league in assists and get 13-16 a game. What helps LeBron is that he has the physical size to post up easily and can find people that way. Most point guards cannot go into the post and make plays down there.
What was the last movie that you saw? Let me guess Black Panther?
Close! The last movie I saw was Avengers Infinity War. I really enjoyed watching Black Panther too!
Thanks Jett for the chat.