Jamar Wilson(Panevezys Lietkabelis) I Turned Professional In The Wrong Era As My Game Didn’t Transition Into The NBA Style At That Time

 Jamar Wilson is a 34 year old 188cm guard from the Bronx in New York that is in his 12th professional season and has played in 7 countries including Belgium, Finland, Australia, Serbia, France, Spain and now in Lithuania with Panevezys Lietkabelis (Lithuania-LKL). He has played 372 games leading up to this season. Last season he played with JSF Nanterre (France-ProA) playing 27 games averaging 9.0ppg, 2.5rpg, 1.9apg, FGP: 61.8%, 3PT: 40.9%, FT: 76.1%; and played 11 BCL games averaging 7.9ppg, 1.9rpg, 2.5apg, FGP: 59.5%, 3PT: 35.3%, FT: 86.4%. He had a stellar four year career at Albany (NCAA) from 2003-2007 leading the school to two NCAA tournaments and finished career as school’s all-time leading scorer with 2,164 points and ranked second in assists (488). Other highlights in his career was leading the VTB league in scoring in 2011 and playing at the 2015 and 2017 European championships with Finland. He spoke to germanhoops.com before the Basketball Champions League game against Brose Bamberg.

Jamar thanks for talking to germanhoops.com Welcome back to Germany. You are in your 12th professional season and have played 372 professional games up to this season. Including inrnational games with Finland it’s even more. Could you remember what your record is against German teams and which opponent you have played on two separate occasions?

At the moment ‘knock on wood’ In terms of records against German teams I am doing well. I would say I played Bonn the most in international competition and from what I can remember I’m split ‘500″ with national team games against Germany. 

Early in your professional career you played in Belgium for three straight seasons. I am sure you visited Germany in that time. How have you followed the development of German basketball over the years?

The league make up was a bit different at that time. Was the down swing of the Koln team. Playing against a young Ricky Paulding and Jason Gardner in Eurocup with Oldenburg. The Frankfurt 08 Uleb cup team with the great Pascal Roller running the show, was also nice playing against him who is important to German basketball. German basketball has grown quite a bit and the talent is there. I remember playing against Maodo Lo in a National team game and thought he will be a very good player in the future. I also think Gordon Herbert is very important in the development of German Basketball at the moment. He’s pumping out these young talented German prospects. Seems like all the young guys that leave him have the tools to go on to higher levels and blossom into great players. 

With their vast amount of guys in the NBA and other talent do you see Germany having a legitimate chance of winning the gold at the 2019 World Cup?

It’s always tough but I don’t see why not. Spain is going through a bit of a transitional phase. Lithuania and a lot of other powerful teams are playing with different rosters in qualifiers. I believe it gives countries who aren’t so NBA player heavy a chance to steal some wins and put pressure on the countries that have been on top for quite some time.

Your playing your first season with Panevezys Lietkabelis (Lithuania-LK) and playing in your seventh country for your 11th professional team at age 34. You don’t seem to slow down. Besides the love of the game and competing what else still fascinates you about the game of basketball at your age?

The maturation of being a professional and student of the game. I have learned quite a bit on my journey but I feel like the latter years I have become such a better player because I truly became a student of the game. The most important goal is to win and that has always been the goal, but you can’t be a winner if you don’t prepare your body and mind. These last few years taking care of my body (eating right, sleeping, training the right way) and studying the game of basketball instead of just watching, has prepared me for winning and not cheating my teammates and the game itself. Im still on the road to winning my first Domestic tittle. Trying to break down the wall. 

Your playing your first season with Panevezys Lietkabelis (Lithuania-LK) and are teammates with Mike Morrison who I covered the last four seasons in Frankfurt. What has impressed you most about his game and character?

Another product of playing in a good system he’s a professional. Very disciplined and he’s always working. He learned what he does well and he does it consistently. He comes to practice everyday and has his routines (pre warmup, take the same warm up shots, laser focus on being a better player). He also understands different systems defense and offense that we as Americans learn when we come out to Europe to play. His attitude to the game and his team is class act. Has the traits of a winner. 

Recently Mike Morrison made a nifty behind the back pass. He stated this to me about that pass. ‘I’ve always been a pretty good passer but It’s not flash, it was actually just the best pass to make that play to hold the defender. A regular bounce pass would have been easier to react to’. Did Mike possibly pick that up from your passing skills?

Haha you know Big men always wish they were Point Guards in a different life. But to his credit Mike sees the floor really well and has great vision after catching the ball from the short roll 

Before we look back on your career let’s talk briefly about your game. Would it be fair to say that you have primarily been a scoring point guard. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would best fit how you have played the game in your career?

Derrick Rose without the athleticism haha. I turned professional in the wrong era. I was a undersized scoring point guard coming out of college in 06. At the time I didn’t know how to be a true point guard. I went to a small division 1 school where I was primarily used to score. NBA was built at the time for conventional basketball. Every position had its role. It was a Big mans game then. Now players are able to play at any size with an unorthodox skill set or any position as long as they are effective on the floor. Guys like Isaiah Thomas in the NBA or Kyles Hines out here in Europe has been pivotal in the change of the way the game is played at a high level. 

Your uncle is James Pookie Wilson who is a notable street baller form the Bronx. Did he have any effect on you as you were growing up and trying to find your game?

He is the reason why as a kid I played to see the ball go in the net. He was a NYC great, big time scorer putting up over 100 points in a game. I tried to emulate his game when I was younger. He was my hero growing up.

In the last few years you haven’t been averaging double figures in scoring. What are you most focusing on now in your game besides the normal blabla of leadership and giving good experience?

Being a point guard. Doing the little things. I see the game differently now. My percentages are still the same if not a bit better, but the roles on my teams lately hasn’t been to score. My job is to be a leader and fill the gaps. Get the ball to people in the right spots make sure everyone knows what defense we’re in. Make plays on both sides of the floor. Be vocal and give people confidence. In Spain and France I was splitting time with another point guard which limited my time in half on the floor. Also in these leagues at the higher level your roles can change in an instant because you have a lot more talent around you. Playing at a high level professionally is very mental and coaches have to be very strategic in who they will give more leash too. Anyone who comes abroad to play has been very good somewhere before coming over here and in those seasons tend to be under coaches who lets them explore on the floor without major repercussions. The hardest part is finding the coaches and systems you mesh with. 

How much longer do you feel you will keep playing? You will be turning 35 in a few months. Do you have a special routine during the season in what you do physically off the court to keep so well in shape?

As long as it remains fun, and I’m still at the point where I can help a team be better. The biggest changes I made throughout my career is eating better and learning my body. I have the same routines and warmups everyday. I know my weak points so I try to keep them up to par.

Your in your 12th professional season and have never won a professional title. How tough has that been not getting a professional chip. Is the Radivoj Korac cup final los one of those games you keep in your mind for motivation now?

For sure it would have been huge for us that season in Partizan. We beat red star (who I believe went to the final 4 or elite 8 of Euroleague that year) to advance to the finals. Winning with less than a minute to go we found a way to throw the game. Was a Disaster. I lost 3 cup finals. During my career. It has been hard for me. I have been a winner at every level expect the professional level. Elite 8s in Eurocup and Champions league but never crossed the finish line. I want to close the book in my career as a winner that’s the ultimate reason why we play and I will continue to chase that dream.

Last season you played with German sniper Heiko Schaffartzik who has made his share of wild shots in his career. What was the craziest shot that you saw him make and it seems like France has become his second home.

He has a knack for hitting the toughest shots. Last year we had a game down by 2 less than 24 seconds in the game and he decided he was going to finish the game by shooting a 3 pointer 2 steps inside of half court. At first I was confused and thought to myself if he knew what the score was. But after playing with him for sometime I realized that he lives and excels in these moments. 

Two seasons ago you played with Estudiantes Madrid and played with another veteran who just won’t quit with Omar Sharif-Cook. Despite being a veteran like him what do you remember most soaking up from his game?

Best passer I ever played with. He is actually the guy who slowed my game down. He taught me pace and change of speeds. After playing with him I realized how you can affect the games in so many other ways besides just scoring. He plays with great pace and he takes pride on defense and is an extreme competitor. I really admire and look up too him. I learned so much from him 

After being in Europe for four seasons, you went down under for parts of four seasons. What kind of experience was that overall there. How did you game develop down under and how competitive is the game there?

It was great experience it’s during the summer so the weather is great and the organizations are very professional. The game is a bit fast and physical down there. Down there your a hired gun so your paid to really get wins and put numbers up. It’s a pretty competitive league so teams are always on the front foot trying to make moves to stay competitive. Great 4 years spent down there. If it wasn’t for my family and kids we would of stayed. 

Not many Americans can say that they that they have played at an important international tournament. You played at two with the 2015 and 2017 European championships for Finland. Despite the loss to France you scored 21 points. Was this still memorable considering you played against many legends including Tony Parker?

Yes International game besides the game winner I hit against France last year in the opener of the 2017 euro championships this was up there not only because of the way I played but the stage. It was my first time playing officially in an international game. The emotions that was on the floor from both sides and willingness to win is contagious. International games are where basketball is beautiful and you can see the passion and selflessness from everyone just to win a game. Especially in Finland basketball is pure selfless at the international level. 

You beat France 88-86 two years later at the 2017 European championships posting 12 points and dishing out 6 assists. Was this one of your biggest wins in your professional career?

It was a big win for us internationally. It was our first game of the tournament which so happened to be in Finland it was amazing. The crowd was unreal and hitting the game winner was the icing on the cake 

In the 2010-2011 season you played with Honka Espoo Playboys (Finland-Korisliiga) where you led the respected VTB league in scoring with 18,8ppg and was second in scoring in the Finish league with 21,8ppg. Is winning the VTB scoring crown your most cherished professional personal moment considering how many great players play in that league?

It was a nice achievement because it was one of the best leagues in Europe but it was a disappointment as well as we easily had the biggest budget in Finland and didn’t play close to our ceiling. 

In Finland that season you scored 45 and 44 points back to back. Did it sometimes feel like you were a man playing with boys?

That season was similar to my university years where my responsibility was to put the ball in the basket. I was super confident and had the green light to go which is important in order to put up games like that. 

You played twice against top Euroleague team CSKA Moscow losing both games, but you held your own. Please explain the experience it was playing then against two of the best players in Europe with Trajan Langdon and JR Holdon. It seems like ages when they played, but they will never be forgotten. What special qualities did they have that you rarely see with players nowadays?

They were CSKA in those days. Tteams were able to keep they’re players for very long periods of time. They both made things look effortless. They knew the system and players on their team so well that when they played it seemed like they didn’t exert any extra energy because they knew exactly where they was suppose to be on the floor at all times, both sides of the floor and they never second guess themselves. 

You have had so many teammates in your career and I will test your memory. What memories do you have of big blond forward Juka Matinean? I covered him at the start of my career in Frankfurt. What kind of a lasting impression did he make on you that season?

I played with him in Finland. One of my favorite teammates. I actually spent time with him at some point every off season. He is a very gentle guy and sees the better in people. Very loyal and extremely hard worker, sounds like a typical Finn. 

In the 2009-2010 season you played with Generali Okapi Aalstar (Belgium-D). You were teammates with big man Bingo Merriex. What did you appreciate most about his game and who will retire first you or him? He is turning 38 this season and is still playing now with Gifu Swoops (Japan-B League D3).

I’ll probably retire before him haha. All Bingo wanted to do Is pick and pop. He swore he was Rasheed Wallace. He was a great dude off the floor as well. Very charismatic. He’s another guy that would of played very high level basketball if he started professionally in this era. The way he plays he can play untill he is 50. 

In the 2008-2009 season you played with Belgacom Liege Basket (Belgium-D1) How much of a pleasure was it being teammates with then rookie Will Thomas? Have you followed his rise to a Euroleague player in Spain the last years?

Will was always special. Very quiet and handled his business. He made the right choice in his career in staying with his rookie team for more than a year a mistake that I made. He is another guy who is at where he is by being a great teammate and working very hard. He’s another guy who is an ultimate professional. He knows what he’s good at and he works on those things. 

In 2007-2008 as a rookie you played with VOO Verviers-Pepinster (Belgium-D1) playing 27 games: Score-4 (17.6ppg), 2.2rpg, 3.0apg, 1.3spg, 2FGP: 58.0%, 3PT: 36.0%, FT: 77.0%. What was your wake up call to being a rookie in Europe where you knew that you were far away from home?

When I paid 20 euros for my first prepaid Belgacom SIM card to call home and I was only able to talk for 4 min. At that point I realized I was on my on. We didn’t have twitter or any kind of these social media to keep in close contact. Internet was very expensive and you could never find a hotspot. Times were rough then haha. Had to figure out how to drive stick make food and make sure my place was clean. I was on my own for the first time and it was in a different country it was good that I had some great teammates. 

How important was American guard Earnest Shelton in your rookie season? Was he like a mentor for you that season? 

Yes he was. We actually were next door neighbors. He girlfriend was also with him so they invited me over for quite a few dinners. Like I said had some great teammates that year.

You played at Albany (NCAA) from 2003-2007 winning the AEC tournament twice and getting MVP twice. Which title was sweeter?

First one for sure. My freshman year we were the worst team in the conference and to go out on top was sweet. We put in a lot of work and it paid off. 

You led the school to two NCAA tournaments. What memories do you have of battling against the top talent in the NCAA?

Its great because I still play against some of these guys to this day or see them play on tv in the NBA. Its great to see how these guys games evolved. 

You finished your career as school’s all-time leading scorer with 2,164 points and ranked second in assists (488). Obviously your thankful about having a long career overseas, but you had such consistent stats. Do you feel your skills were overlooked for the NBA because you were not in a stronger conference?

No I think I had the numbers regardless what conference I was in and I had opportunities. I think my game didn’t transition into the NBA play style at that time. I graduated 5 years to early. But nevertheless I am thankful for my path because it has given me a chance to see the world and play against some of the best talent in the world. 

How did head coach Will Brown groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?

At the time he was the youngest coach in division 1 so we honestly were learning as we were going. His biggest thing with me was making sure that I showed up every day to practice with the mindset to be the best player I can be. As a freshman I was playing 34 minutes a game. So my battles every day in training for my time in college wasn’t to try challenge a upperclassman. It was to be the best player I can be. Me and JJ Barea were freshman together in the same conference and I remember our battles was to be the best Freshman in the league and from there the best player and so on. 

Who won a one on one in practice you or Jason Siggers?

Shout out to Siggy the mid range bandit. I am so happy how his career panned out. He put in the work. He was another guy on my team in college who would sneak in the gym to get extra shots up. In college I had him because he was automatic but he was a 1 or 2 dribble guy. Had all the tools but wasn’t used to putting the ball on the floor at the time against quicker guys. Now its a different guy who evolved into a very good playmaker as well. But in college I def going to ride with myself its my game haha! 

Who was the best player that you battled in the NCAA that would play in the NBA? 

Carmelo Anthony we were both freshman. They beat us then went on to win the NCAA championship that year but I still gave them a 30 piece (points) and a biscuit haha.

If you had to construct an all-time favorite starting five of teammates which five players in your long career would you pick?

Wowwww thats super tough. But off the top of my head I’m thinking unconventional small ball playing fast and outscoring the team in front of us. I would put Omar at the 1 Edwin Jackson at the 2 Wildcard Mitch Creek at the 3. Brock Motum or Kevin Jones at the 4 and Lauri Markkanen at the 5

If you had to construct your very own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you pick?

Lebron James, Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul Jabber

What is your personal opinion of the never-ending debate of who is the best of all-time Jordan or Lebron?

Lebron because I would rather have 5 Lebron’s over 5 Jordan’s in a wild game of 5v5. I can’t see that Lebron team losing. 

What was the last movie that you saw?

John Wick

Thanks Jamar for the chat.


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