After presenting loses after loses on the Crailsheim Merlins menu in the first few months of the season which would have gave any other restaurant menu in Crailsheim like the one at Acanto an awful taste to their otherwise tasty dish Rib Eye steak, the Crailsheim Merlins rode into Frankfurt in January 2019 and shocked a somewhat helpless Fraport Skyliner club 91-77 and after the big win, the screams and shouts of joy as the players were getting to the locker room felt more like they had just won a title instead of only their second game ending their embarrassing nine winless streak. One player that had helped put his own staple on the huge victory was diminutive combo guard Dewayne Russell who had led all scorers with 22 points in only 14 minutes and was clutch in the third quarter scoring 10 unanswered points helping the team break a 50-50 tie and they led 68-61 after three frames and would never look back. The American gave scoring in bunches a new meaning and might even have had Houston Rocket scoring disease James Harden tug on his beard and wonder who this kid was had he seen the highlights. ““I just took what the defense gave me and took advantage of the mis matches against the bigger guys. Finding my spots and making shots gave me added confidence”, stated Dewayne Russell. He made this statement seem like the most natural thing in the world, but his eye brows rose and he risked a smile as I mentioned “You went to Grand Canyon right”?. Ok so non basketball aficionado´s or even people with basketball knowledge might have wondered why this reporter had asked a professional basketball player if he had gone to one of the seven wonders of the world and said it in not correct English. When looking at NCAA schools, there are a few that have peculiar names like the Campbell Fighting Camels, Presbyterian College Blue Hose, Purdue Boilermakers or the Akron Zips, but an NCAA school called Grand Canyon? It´s no joke. I had honestly never heard of the school and at first asked the player if that was at the picturesque Grand Canyon, but he answered “no, no it´s in Phoenix”. It´s always nice to learn something new. Even if Grand Canyon isn´t a known basketball school, Dewayne Russell for sure made a name for himself. He has experienced a lot in his short basketball life so far. He averaged better than 21,0ppg in the NCAA as a senior, something very many NBA players can´t say they ever did, battled against many future NBA players and not only held his own, but was better than they were and even had a face to face chat with NBA legend Magic Johnson. But he isn´t playing in Madison Square Garden or staying in Four Season hotels around the states on NBA road trips, but instead making a living in Germany and calling a small, but pretty German town called Crailsheim home sweet home this season. The kid definitely has game, but so do 1000´s others in the world especially at the guard position which features so many great players that getting the right exposure and true opportunity is so difficult even if a guy like Russell deserved it. “I have a chip on my shoulder to prove to everyone that I’m a good player and I can help teams win”, warned Dewayne Russell. Dewayne Russell´s drive to having to always Prove himself will most likely never remove the chip on his shoulder.
Dewayne Russell is a 25 year old 180cm guard that was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Peoria, Arizona and attended Peoria High School. After high school he started his NCAA career at N.Arizona (NCAA) playing 32 games averaging 14.4ppg, 2.4rpg, 3.2apg, 1.5spg, FGP: 42.7%, 3PT: 33.9%, FT: 73.2%. Sometimes even when the stats look good, not everything is in harmony as the American didn´t gel with head coach Jack Murphy. Despite the early growing pains as a freshman, having the hardships helped him in the long run. “That experience really helped me grow up and help me mentally”, stressed Dewayne Russell. He scored in double figures in 25 of 32 games and scored 20 points or more six times. His best game was a 25 point effort against Sacramento State. After his freshman season he moved to Grand Canyon (NCAA) but sat out the 2013-2014 season due to the NCAA transfer rule and couldn´t officially start his sophomore year until 2014-2015. It is never easy for a player to transfer and have to sit out the first season. But for Russell the one year off was a blessing in disguise as he changed up his shot. He remembers what could have happened if he hadn´t made a change in his shot. “It would have been a lot easier for people to guard me and my game would have never evolved”, stressed Dewayne Russell. That first season he helped the club be a WAC regular season runner up. He needed no real integration period with his new school as he put up consistent stats again playing 23 games averaging 14.2ppg, 3.0rpg, 3.9apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 42.8%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 75.7%. He scored in double figures in 17 games including 24 point games against Utah Valley and CSU Bakersfield. He never did forget the difficult 56-55 loss against Chicago State where he dropped 23 points, grabbed 5 boards and issued 4 dimes. “, It was one of my tougher losses at GCU. We were the better team but we didn’t come out focused that night”, added Dewayne Russell.
In his junior season at Grand Canyon(NCAA) ex Phoenix Suns great Dan Majerle who was Russell´s coach there had other ideas for the youngster making him take a break from being that explosive scorer and making him a point guard. Russell had no problems making this adjustment as it offered him to help develop another aspect of his game. “We had really good players on the team that year. It was best for me to take the backseat and get those guys the ball. It was the right move because we were 27-7 that year”, commented Dewayne Russell. His scoring was down, but his playmaking qualities excelled as he led the WAC in assists playing 33 games averaging 9.7ppg, 3.0rpg, 5.3apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 40.8%, 3PT: 42.4%, FT: 70.1%. In his junior season he scored in double figures in 17 games. He really broke out in his senior season averaging 21.2ppg, 3.8rpg, 5.4apg, 1.5spg, FGP: 40.2%, 3PT: 39.7%, FT: 75.8% as Dan Majerle wanted him to lead a young team and be a scorer. He is confident that having had the chance to really showcase his offensive abilities helped him progress forward. “I’ve always been confident in my game but having the opportunity to be the first offensive option allowed me to showcase what I could do. It definitely helped my professional career”, warned Dewayne Russell. One of his most memorable games in the NCAA if not the most memorable was his unbelievable 43 point explosion against powerhouse Louisville. Russell did lose the game, but witnessed future NBA player Donovan Mitchell put up a measly 9 points and will never forget legendary head coach Rick Pitino´s reaction after his scoring clinic. “The thing I remember most were Rick Pitino’s comments after the game. It meant a lot to me”, smiled Dewayne Russell. That senior year he would prove time in and time out that he was a very good player and held more than his own like against top NCAA basketball school Arizona where he dropped 19 points in a tough 64-54 loss, but competed his heart out against future NBA players Kobi Simmons, Lauri Markkanen, Kadeem Allen and Rawle Atkins. Having played at a school playing in a lower conference has kept his chip on his shoulder alive ever since his NCAA days. But it wasn´t just his hard work and dedication that helped him excel on the court, but also by the guidance of head coach Dan Majerle who helped teach him about loyalty and was brutally honest with him. He will never forget the teaching from him. “The best advice that coach Majerle has ever given me was to never be satisfied with just being good. He never took it easy on me as a player or a man”, warned Dewayne Russell.
After his stellar NCAA career at Grand Canyon, there were NBA teams that took notice like the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers who invited him to workouts. Just being in a NBA atmosphere and getting some valuable experience would have been more of a treat for most players, but getting called into the office of NBA legend Magic Johnson to talk basketball and get valuable advice is something that very few can achieve. Russell will never forget that encounter and took very vital advice from Magic into his professional basketball career. “ The piece of advice that Magic gave me that I remember most was the responsibility and leadership qualities of a point guard”. Stressed Dewayne Russell. Unfortunately nothing further came from the work outs, so he concentrated on getting overseas and signed with Sluc Nancy Basket Pro (France-ProB). After many seasons in the Pro A, the club finished the 2016-2017 season in 18th place and moved down to the Pro B. As a rookie he led the team to a seventh finish losing to Fos-Provence in the playoffs. The American had a strong rookie season in France playing 34 games averaging 13.6ppg, 3.0rpg, 5.5apg, 1.5spg, FGP: 46.8%, 3PT: 32.3%, FT: 81.3%. He was the only American on a team that mainly had French players, but he bonded quickly with Canadian veteran Jevohn Shepherd who played in Germany many years ago in the BBL with Frankfurt and Giessen. “. He has helped me so much with my game and my career. He even helped me pick my agent, he is like a big brother to me”, added Dewayne Russell. He scored in double figures in 27 games including top games against Rouen with 27 points and 25 points against Poiters. This season in Germany, he has little problems with the Americanized culture, but last season had that special wake up call to being a rookie in France. “I knew I was far from home when I went to charge my phone and the outlets are different”, stressed Dewayne Russell.
Russell who lists Utah Jazz Donovan Mitchell as his toughest foe in the NCAA made the next jump in his professional career signing with German easyCredit BBL team Crailsheim Merlins. He came from a winning program in France and is playing for a losing team in Germany. It wasn´t an easy adjustment, but he has seen positive aspects from his sophomore season. “It’s definitely been tough but it’s making me better mentally and helping me lock in on the little details of the game to help us get better and win some games”, stressed Dewayne Russell. Crailsheim lost 12 of it´s first 13 games and allowed 90 points or more in six of the losses. Despite allowing very many points, it scored 81 points per game. It then finally got a break winning two games in a row against Frankfurt and Braunschweig, but then started a losing skid again showing how up and down the club is. “We just have to do a better job trusting each other defensively and having the same common goal. We just need to come with the same focus every night. Sometimes we have a better focus in the games we play well in than we do in others”, warned Dewayne Russell. The team has six players that are 30 years old or older so experience isn´t a problem, but then why can´t the vast leadership opportunities help translate in wins? The club believes though that they have the means to remain in the league. “We just need to do a better job of following our leaders and everyone buying into the same common goal. We are very confident that we can stay in this league. We picked up some momentum with the two wins and figured our identity on how to win games”, warned Dewayne Russell.
On a team that has a lot of depth, his minutes have fluctuated this season, but he has held his own currently averaging 9,0ppg, 1,9rpg and 3,8apg while shooting a solid 35% from outside. He has been able to soak up so much from the abundant experience on the club like 36 year old veteran Sherman Gay and 30 year old point guard Frank Turner. “Sherm has been great to me. His knowledge on different aspects of the game have helped me progress. He also has helped me with different reads on pick and roll. I hope his efficiency rubs off on me as much as possible. Frank has been amazing for me this year especially playing against him every day at practice. He is one of the best guards in the BBL and I’m grateful to have him as somebody in my corner”, warned Dewayne Russell. But he hasn´t only learned from many guys on the court, but also seen how a guy like Konrad Wysocki ticks who is also 36 and as a German got an Ivy League education at Princeton something that isn´t to common. “You definitely can see how intelligent he is by the way he carries a conversation. But at the same time he knows how to joke around and make the atmosphere really light”, added Dewayne Russell. His idol as a kid was Allen Iverson and he compares his game to NBA players like Tyler Ulis and Kemba Walker and shines with his quickness getting in the lane and picking his spots, but he is aiming to also being that feared outside shooter the way his mid range game is. “I am very confident that I can be an outside shooter. I work on my jump shot every day and I can feel myself getting better. The biggest challenge for me is making sure I am taking smart shots”, stressed Dewayne Russell. He is mostly known for his scoring, but proved at Grand Canyon(NCAA) that he can be that feared and controlled playmaker and now wants to continue to remain that ruthless scorer, but also that dangerous playmaker. “I am working on provoking the defense with my scoring so I can get my teammates involved more”, warned Dewayne Russell. Even if it has been a very tough season with Crailsheim, the growing pains have helped once again as it did at N.Arizona (NCAA) six seasons ago as he continues to go his way up the basketball ladder. But no matter how much higher he climbs in the next years, that chip on his shoulder will most likely continue to sit there as that is what positively drives him to continuing to make strides in his game as he continues to make a name for himself.