Kwan Waller(Dragons Rhondorf) I Started From Scratch But It Made Me Tougher Because I Never Gave Up

Kwan Waller is a 29 year old 183cm point guard from Auburn, Illinois that is playing his third season in Europe and first with the Dragons Rhondorf currently averaging 16,8ppg, 4,1rpg, 4,0apg and 2,9spg. He began his basketball career with Auburn High School. He then played with Sauk Valley CC (NJCAA) and Ky Wesleyan (NCAA2). He turned professional in 2012 an dplayed in semi-pro leagues in the states from 2012-2015 for teams like the Charleston Gunners (PBL), Rockford Riverdawgs (IBA) and the Lake Michigan Admirals (PBL). He also sampled experience with Mineros de Cananea (Mexico-CIBACOPA) playing 15 games averaging 12.1ppg, 2.5rpg, 2.1apg, FGP: 47.7%, 3PT: 46.2%, FT: 80.6%. In 2015-2016 he came to Europe and played with the Leeds Force (United Kingdom-BBL) playing 32 games averaging 15.1ppg, 3.3rpg, 2.2apg, Steals-5 (1.6spg), FGP: 43.5%, 3PT: 31.7%, FT: 69.7%. Last season he played with Sokhumi Tbilisi (Georgia-Superleague playing 21 games: Score-4 (17.9ppg), 5.6rpg, 4.4apg, Steals-3 (2.1spg), FGP: 50.2%, 3PT: 25.9%, FT: 63.3%. He spoke to about his basketball career.

Miles >Schmidt-Scheuber conducting a post game interview with Kwan Waller in the Dragon Dome

Kwan welcome to Germany. After playing in countries like England and Georgia. What has been your impression of Germany and what have you learned to appreciate the most so far from the country? 

I have learned to appreciate the way Europe plays the game of basketball. It’s a more team oriented game!! It has taught me to become a better point guard. 

Congrats on signing with the Dragons Rhondorf. What was the deciding factor that made you take this step? 

Basketball is my dream job! I know that joining the Dragons will be a win win situation for both parties! For example me helping out the Dragons with wins and me moving up the latter in Germany from the Dragons organization! 

After toiling in the semi-pro leagues for three years, you have found foot in Europe now in your third full season. Does the chip on your shoulder get lighter now with two seasons of European ball under your belt or will it always be there? 

Good question! It’s still there! My road to professional basketball has been quite the journey. I have started from scratch. Unlike most players who go pro straight out of college, I felt like I was passed up because of my height and lack of numbers from playing division 2 basketball. Moreover learning that grades does matter in highschool/juco college which stopped my chances of playing division 1 basketball even though I was the leading scorer in my conference and all-american. so I had to start from scratch going to try out after tryout! but it made me a tougher basketball player because I never gave up!

How tough has the overall situation been for you coming to an ambitious team that started 0-4. How tough was it mentally leading up to the first game in Erfurt? 

Nothing that I haven’t faced before. Playing in Georgia has taught me how to play with a young team so I’m looking forward to the challenge 

You started in Germany on the right foot getting a win. You don’t have the best winning percentage in your first two seasons in Europe as you had a combined record of 15-38 in England and Georgia. How confident are you that the Dragons will turn the season around?

Very confident! anything is possible when you work hard and inspire while your doing it!

What has been your early impression of the Dragons Rhondorf. It is a very young team. What do you feel is the biggest strength of the team? Possibly always sticking together in all tough situations?

Our biggest strength is that we are young! so we can use that to our advantage, running the floor, playing aggressive defense etc. 

Lithuanian big man Zygimantas Riauka has been a beast. What has impressed you most about the veteran inside player? 

The guy LOVES to win!! He treats the Game like war! and I love that and he doesn’t mind looking in the mirror to see if he is doing anything wrong. Oh he’s also super unselfish. A little bit too much and a great IQ as well. He is my type of big! 

You’re the oldest on the court and will be the leader in the back court. How much of a raw talent is 17 year old Samuel Horvath? How vital will he continue to be this season as he gains more experience? 

This young guy is good. All we can do is wait to see how good he will become. Maybe sooner than later if he keeps playing against me every day in practice. 

Let’s talk about your game. You’re a 183cm point guard that can fill up the stat sheet at ease. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would best fit the description?

I don’t like to compare myself especially when I’m still an active player. Let’s wait and see after I finish ball. 

You showed your scoring talent the two seasons in England and Georgia On what things do you see continuing to work on and getting better at in your third professional season? 

Everyday I’m continuing to become a better playmaker for my team. Also a better shooter and an overall dominate force on the court.

Last season you averaged 4,4apg in the Georgian league. Do you feel like you can up that this season especially when you have a big man like Riauka who is a beast down low? 

Yes sir. I feel we already have good chemistry and communication. I feel comfortable we will make the right decisions on the court together! 

What is a hidden strength in your game that doesn’t get noticed right away on the court? 

My shooting! and my overall ability to control the game!

Last season you played with Sokhumi Tbilisi (Georgia-Superleague) playing 21 games: Score-4 (17.9ppg), 5.6rpg, 4.4apg, Steals-3 (2.1spg), FGP: 50.2%, 3PT: 25.9%, FT: 63.3%. You won only 1 game. How tough was this season and what lessons did you learn about yourself when you went through hard times?

The season was really tough and I was put in a bad situation because of injury the previous year. It taught me how to be leader through tough situations on the court. More importantly how to talk to my teammates through those situations.

As a rookie in Europe you played with the Leeds Force (United Kingdom-BBL) playing 32 games averaging 15.1ppg, 3.3rpg, 2.2apg, Steals-5 (1.6spg), FGP: 43.5%, 3PT: 31.7%, FT: 69.7%. Ok so you had the English language there but what was your wake up call to being a rookie in Europe where you knew that you were very far away from home? 

Actually rookie season was in Mexico! I never have been afraid to leave home, that is what I always wanted to do!! England was a great experience for me and the english speaking country made me feel right at home!

In your rookie season in Europe in England you were teammates with American Dandre Bullard who was also a rookie. How important was he for your rookie season and how important were you for him as rookies? 

Like I said before I was not rookie! I also toured in china and all through Europe countless times in between Mexico and my first European job. my ex agent is working on a documentary about it now. Bullard and I became very close during our time in England!! 

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and Kwan Waller with the post game interview in the Dragon Dome

As a rookie you played in the up and coming Mexican league but then three years in the semi-pro leagues with teams like Rockford Riverdawgs and Lake Michigan Admirals. How tough was this period. Was there any one special experience in those years where you say today that that was vital for you staying with it and not stopping? 

It was very tough making it as a pro those years everyone kept asking my why I’m not a pro. All I could do was shrug my shoulders. I’m glad I kept chasing opportunities and investing in myself, and that’s what I would tell youngsters today.

In your season in Mexico you played with three veterans Clavin Clemons, Derek Wright and Franco Harris. How vital was guard Harris for you in your first professional destination. Is he a guy that you looked up to considering his vast experience in Mexico? 

Mexico was the experience that showed me what the business was about and to play under pressure! it was everyone for themselves.

You began your basketball career at Sauk Valley CC (NJCAA) in 2007 and played two seasons there. How important were these two seasons for your early development? What did you learn about yourself as you were fighting to get established more as a player?

I was just a scorer back then and strictly a 2 guard!! I was a raw talent that didn’t do much besides putting the ball in the basket! I started school early as well, so I was always 2 years younger than my competition. 

You finished at Ky Wesleyan (NCAA2) playing there from 2009-2011. What were your fondest memories there on and off the court? 

Honestly Kwc was a bad experience for me. one of my fondest memories was changing my shot in one summer. The system made me feel like a robot and I dropped out my 4th year with no degree and no professional offers. The reason for dropping out was to pursue a professional career in basketball in China. The best memory of kdub was when the head coach told me my best basketball was ahead of me with a look of disgust on his face because I was dropping out!

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

By saying my best basketball was ahead of me!

Who won a one on one back in the day Cardell Mcfarland and who would win today?

We were tied. Cardell doesn’t play anymore. Might want to go watch the full game when we played against each other in England.

Who was the toughest player that you battled in the NCAA that is in the NBA now? 

Not sure if anyone made it to the league when I was playing in the NCAA.

Who would be your starting five of best teammates you ever played with? 

Huzie Hambright. Willie Richardson. Darko who currently is in Russia and Tone from my NBA China tour. Sorry I don’t remember last names.

If you had to construct your very own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you pick?
Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Shaq and Bill Russell.

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

Come on now!! Mj I hate this question. The greatest players never abandon their teams to chase rings, There in it for competition. Kobe is better than Lebron.

What was the last movie that you saw? 

interstellar! I’m a huge fan of physics

Thanks Kwan for the chat.

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