Mike Nwabuzor is a 188cm guard from Lakewood, California playing his rookie season in Germany for Regionalliga team BG Dorsten putting up massive stats averaging 22,2ppg, 8,2rpg, 5,6apg and 2,5spg. He has scored 20 points or more 19 times and had an incredible 43 points against Hagen-Haspe. He also produced a triple double against Dortmund with 27 points, 12 boards and 10 assists. He played at three schools with Cent.Arizona JC (JUCO)UTRGV (NCAA) and finished at N.Mexico Highlands (NCAA2) playing 28 games averaging 12.7ppg, 4.4rpg, 3.5apg, FGP: 45.2%, 3PT: 39.3%, FT: 80.3%. He spoke to germanhoops.com recently about his basketball career.
Mike thanks for talking to germanhoops.com Where are you at the moment and how is basketball life treating you?
I am currently at home, relaxing getting ready for my game tomorrow. The basketball life has been treating me great. I am truly blessed to be able to do what I love on a daily basis.
You experienced a lot in school playing at three different schools in three different leagues. Has your rookie season in Germany been a little less stressful concerning being able to concentrate on your rookie season and not having to worry from year to year where you would play and learn?
Yes, the biggest part that made it less stressful is not having to deal with schoolwork on the daily basis and being able to focus strictly on basketball. That time that I used to spend on studying and doing homework is now spent on studying the game and perfecting my craft.
After having a solid senior season at New Mexico Highlands (NCAA2) how did you experience your first summer looking for that first professional job?
Honestly, it was very stressful because I train multiple times in summer days, every day and there were for sure days where I didn’t believe I would ever get a contract or anybody would take a chance on me. Major shout out to my agency (Powerside Agency) and also my club BG Dorsten. This club was my only offer and it has been working out for the best so I am forever grateful for that.
You know what it is like playing at different college levels, but was it tough for your ego having to start in the Regionalliga in Germany? How big is the chip on your shoulder?
Personaly for me, I’ve always been a type that had to start at the bottom and work my way up with basketball so it was just another stepping stone in my journey. I know soon I will be at the top, it just takes time. You have to fall in love with the process so that when you do reap the benefits, you don’t take them for granted. Plus it was my only offer and in that case, you can’t have an ego.
Was it a big adjustment for you coming to Germany? What have you learned to appreciate most about the country Germany?
The adjustment wasn’t too drastic because I have been to multiple states for college but it is my first time out of the country so I had to get adjusted to a different style of living. In Germany , I appreciate how professional things are here. Everything is on time and situated.
What kind of experience has it been for you being the only American and playing with very many Germans?
It has been a very good experience. It has taught me to play basketball in a different type of way that I haven’t been used to. I’ve tapped into certain elements in my game that I didn’t know that I even possessed. Yes, as a point guard of a team, you should always be the leader no matter what the circumstances so I just live by that.
How important has very experienced guard Nederim Pelaj been for your rookie season. What has been most helpful from him that has helped you adjust best in Germany as a rookie?
This has been very important. More important than people may know or what shows up on the stat sheet. I also like to play shooting guard so he relieves me of on-ball duties a lot and lets me be able to float around the court. This is what leads to many of my plays I make off of the ball. He also has given me good tips of never to force and let the game come to me which has helped immensely with my efficiency.
Let’s talk about your game. You’re a 188cm guard that can score with ease. If you had to describe your game to an NBA player who would best fit the description?
I would like to compare my self to Russell Westbrook or De’aaron Fox. Both are fast and athletic guards like myself. I study both of their games a lot because I see characteristics in them that I possess in myself.
Your averaging almost twice as much as last season with New Mexico Highlands (NCAA2). Has it been adjustment for having more of that central scoring role?
I think the biggest contributor to that is taking more shots and making more threes. I’ve been blessed with a coach in Coach Franjo Lukenda who believed I was a scoring guard even when I didn’t believe it. The best thing a coach can do is give a player confidence and that is what he has done to me all season.
Your scoring and rebounding really stand out, but what other parts of your game do you feel is always important for the success of the team?
I feel that I am really good at shooting gaps and getting steals off the ball and I am also an underrated passer. Coming up, I was always the 2nd or 3rd best player on my teams which caused me to be a pass first player and also helped me to learn how to get guys the ball in their spots where they excel at.
Your highest scoring game this season was netting 43 points against Hagen-Haspe. Did you know early on that you would be in the zone?
The game started the same way every other game did but I knew something was different when I hit back to back threes in the 3rd quarter. That’s when it clicked in my head that I just might be doing something. From that point on I just continued to play my game and things went smoothly.
You had a triple double against Dortmund. Was that your first triple double in your career and how important is it for you filling the stat sheet on a nightly basis?
In junior college at Central Arizona, I had a total of 6 triple doubles on the year so it was not something new for me. I just play hard and play the game the right way and the stats come. My intentions are to win on a nightly basis, if the stats come with it then so be it.
Your are an amazing rebounder leading the team with 9 a game. Were you always a good rebounder or did you continually improve that in the last years?
I have always been a good rebounder because of my athleticism but rebounding is also about mentality and will. My junior college assistant coach Rich McCray instilled that mentality into me one game and I got 16 rebounds that game. Since that game and on, I come with that same mindset to rebound the ball.
Your three point shooting continues to be a work in progress. What is your biggest challenge as you continue to improve your shooting?
My biggest challenge would have to be confidence. I put the work in on a daily basis but the work is one thing and confidence means even more when it comes to shooting. My shot will continue to improve with in-game reps and summer days of getting shots up.
How do you feel has your game progressed as a professional this season? On what things do you continue to work on most as you mature as a professional?
The thing that has progressed the most in my opinion is my pace. The game has slowed down and it is slower than ever for me right now. Nobody can speed me up or take me out of my groove and that’s very important at the point guard position. I would like to continue to work on taking care of the ball. As I mature , I understand more and more how important possessions are and how important taking care of the ball is.
You began your basketball career at Cent.Arizona JC (JUCO) in 2014 playing two seasons and 59 games. How important were these two years for you getting your foot into the door at the college level?
The most important of my life to be honest , Central Arizona was my only scholarship offer coming out of high school so from there everything began. My true work ethic , my athleticism, everything got exploited when I was there in those two years and it helped put people on notice.
You then played a season with UTRGV (NCAA) playing 29 games averaging 2.0ppg, 1.4rpg. You averaged 9,3 minutes per game, but didn’t get a real chance. How tough was this time and what did you learn about yourself as a player having to watch more than actually playing?
This was a very tough and low point in my basketball career. It was a point where I always believed I was good enough but got minimal opportunity. I had no confidence in myself at the time also but it was a blessing in disguise because it brought the dog out of me that I didn’t know was in me. It made me work harder than ever and let me know to never take playing the game for granted because you can easily be at the end of any bench, no matter how good you are. I learned that I am persistent because many would have folded in my position and given up.
There you played together with Xavier Mcdaniel, the son of the famous NBA player. What kind of relationship did you guys have and was there a touch of an NBA flair around?
Xavier was a freshman in my one year there so we did not hang out that much off the court but I would say he definitely possess his father’s superior athleticism.
You played your senior season with N.Mexico Highlands (NCAA2) playing 28 games averaging 12.7ppg, 4.4rpg, 3.5apg, FGP: 45.2%, 3PT: 39.3%, FT: 80.3%. You made big strides especially with your shot. Do you feel like your senior season play has carried over to your rookie season?
I do feel that way completely because at New Mexico Highlands , I gained a new born confidence in my shot. I also have that same confidence in the way that I played the game and that stayed with me during summer in pick up sessions and now over here playing professionally.
Did you know that Robert Franklin who played at N.Mexico Highlands (NCAA 2) is still a professional at age 38 and playing in Germany with the Basketball Lowen in the Pro B. Do you remember hearing stories of him when you were there?
I was only at New Mexico Highlands for one year so I didn’t get a chance to dive deep into the school history but I do remember seeing and hearing his name multiple times.
You had many good games there, but would you count your two games against W New Mexico as some of your most fondest?
Those are my highest scoring games while I was there but I wouldn’t count them as my most fondest because scoring wasn’t my best attribute that I brought to the table at the time.
How did head coach Craig Snow give you that last needed push to groom and prepare you best for a professional career?
Coach Snow gave me a chance to showcase my talent and I am appreciative of that. If I wasn’t able to play and play through mistakes , I wouldn’t be where I am at right now.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Jacob Holland?
Even if he did win , I wouldn’t tell you. But I definitely won, I shoot the ball better than him haha.
Do you ever wonder where you might be today or how you might have developed had you visited only one school instead of three?
Yes, I think about that all the time. I am grateful for my journey because it is all God’s plan. Going to three schools built me up to be able to go to any state, country, or basketball system and learn how to thrive in a couple months time span. I wouldn’t change my story one bit.
Lakewood is a big community, but have you ever had dealings with ex NBA player Josh Childress or seen him around in the gym?
It’s funny you ask that because Josh is actually like a big brother to me. He is also one of the biggest reasons I am playing professional basketball. Since I got out of high school, every summer, I train with Josh. That is where I learned how to play, train and act like a professional basketball player. He also sponsored our high school team while I played at Mayfair High School so we’ve had a solid relationship since I was about 16.
Who was the toughest player that you battled in the NCAA that is in the NBA now?
The toughest I would say would be Rob Gray from the University of Houston. He was a bucket.
If you had to pick your personal favorite starting five of teammates over the years which players would you chose?
In the backcourt I’m going with me, Nick Dixon and Trace Dimeff. My two bigs I would have to go with Dillion Reise at the 4 and Chris Lewis at the 5. I like to play small ball.
If you had to construct your very own NBA mount Rushmore which 4 heads would you pick?
Michael Jordan LeBron James Shaquille O’Neal Magic Johnson
What is your personal opinion about the never ending debate of who is the greatest between Michael Jordan and Lebron James?
My favorite player is Lebron James , he inspired me to start playing basketball but..best player of all time is Michael Jordan and there is no debate.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Last movie I saw was Creed II
Thanks Michael for the chat.