Virgil Matthews is a 35 year old 188cm guard from Federal Way, Washington that is playing his 12th professional season and fourth with the Niners Chemnitz. He has given his massive experience and helped the club reach the Pro A semi-finals and are on their way of getting to the BBL. Last season he played with the Nuernberg Falcons BC (Germany-ProA) playing 24 games averaging 8.3ppg, 4.0rpg, 3.9apg, 1.5spg, FGP: 50.5%, 3PT: 28.4%, FT: 71.4%. Two seasons ago he almost led Chemnitz (Germany-ProA) into the BBL playing 40 games averaging 9.4ppg, 4.2rpg, 4.8apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 63.0%, 3PT: 32.1%, FT: 86.7% He played at Montana (NCAA) and in his senior year played 31 games averaging 10.1ppg, 4.6rpg, 4.0apg, 1.7spg, FG: 49.8%, 3PT: 48.4%, FT: 76.1%. In 2006-2007, he turned professional and came to Germany and played for KICKZ Muenchen Basket (Germany-2.Bundesliga) playing 29 games averaging 18.0ppg, 6.1rpg, 5.2apg, 2.6spg, 2FGP: 57.3%, 3FGP: 31.8%, FT: 66.5%. In 2007-2008, he played for Tacoma Jazz (IBL). In 2008-2009, he returned back to Germany and played for Schwelmer Baskets (Germany-Regionalliga). In 2009-2010, he played for Olympia Reign (IBL) playing 28 games averaging 23.1ppg, 7.2rpg and for Seattle Aviators (NABL).In 2010-2011, he played his first season for Erdgas Ehingen playing 32 games averaging 11.6ppg, 5.3rpg, 3.6apg, 1.5spg, FGP: 57.6%, 3PT: 29.4%, FT: 71.3%. He would play until 2014 with Ehingen playing 126 games with three seasons in the Pro A and one in the Pro B. He spoke to germanhoops.com after the win against Ehingen.
Virgil thanks for talking to germanhoops.com You have met many people in you life, but where does the meeting of German chancellor Angela Merkel rank?
Its definitely up there. When you can meet the leader of any country it is a pretty big deal, and for me being in Germany for about 10 years it’s like a second home to me so meeting her was pretty cool.
She took a photo with the team after the win over Ehingen. Was there any other conversation with the team or was that all the time she had?
We just took a photo no time for questions really. We also had just won an important game so we were also just pretty excited.
If you were able to have a dinner with her what main topic would you love to have a conversation with her?
I would of loved to ask her about her struggles to become a person in such a high position as a woman. Also, her thoughts about socialism, and what she thinks America could do better as a country.
Congrats on the super season that Chemnitz is having. There aren’t many faces left from 2017, but at first glance how is this season’s team different than two years ago where the BBL was so close?
Thanks, I think we are more experienced than two seasons ago, we were more of a surprise that season and this year I think we saw our potential early and we haven’t looked back. The players that were here before have also gotten older and gained some experience.
The team started off so well winning it’s first 12 games. How much of the early success can one only attribute to head coach Rodrigo Pastore considering that there were 6 new Americans on the squad?
We only had 5 Americans we added on when we had injuries and once we got healthy we went back to 5 again. Coach has a lot do with our success. He works really hard and tries to put us in situations to be our best and to make everyone look good. He knows what he wants and pushes us to try to be at that level every day.
Even if the defense was solid in the winning streak what really stood out also was the offensive consistency and winning some close games. What did you attribute the early winning streak most to?
I think confidence, we had a really good preseason and I think we just felt like no one could beat us. We carried that into the start of the season and we played well. I also think our depth is really big I think we have had 8 or 9 guys all lead us in scoring in a game, we are a dangerous team when you can’t just focus on stopping 1 or 2 guys.
Around Christmas came a down time where you lost three of four games. The defense averaged 85 points per loss. What did the team mostly get away from in that losing phase?
I think after that first loss our confidence took a hit, but also we had had some big injuries and people coming back, it just threw our rhythm off a little bit. Rotations and things change and you’re playing with different guys and stuff like that, just took us some time to adjust.
In February the team lost two straight, but since have won three of four. You have four games remaining with an easy schedule. How confident are you that the Niners will win the Pro A regular season?
In this league this season there isn’t a such thing as an easy schedule anyone can beat anyone. With that being said we plan to stay focused and finish the season strong, I’m very confident that we will finish the regular season in 1st.
You split with Rostock and did the seemingly impossible winning in their place. You have seen many Pro A arena’s over the years, but how special does their basketball culture seem to be there?
They struggled at winning at home early in the season, it is a really nice atmosphere there, but I don’t know if their basketball culture is better than other teams in the Pro A such as ours here in Chenmnitz or a place like Trier, but I think maybe they felt some pressure to want to be so good there early on and they just couldn’t get it done, but they have gotten better and played really well.
You have played under Rodrigo Pastore before. How do you feel has his coaching developed further than two seasons ago? He is two years older and has more experience and now must be ready to land in the BBL.
I think he has grown and gained experience just like all of us players. They had a rough season last year after two really good ones, I know he’s probably harder on himself than he should be for that, but I know he’s always putting in effort and trying to improve not only the team but himself as well. I think that is a big reason for the success is his focus on always improving not only the player but himself as well.
Let’s talk about your teammates, Last season Malte Zigenhagen led the team and he is doing it again. How has he developed this season and is he ready to lead this team in the BBL next season?
Malte is a knockdown shooter, if he’s open its pretty sure to go in, we all have the most confidence in him. He’s also added to his game to work on becoming a more complete player, he improves on that every day. I think he has made huge steps in leadership, he’s the captain of the team and I think everyone is behind him and that is important and you don’t always see that from the German players in the Pro A. It will be nice to see him in the BBL.
How important has American Kavin Gilder-Tilbury been for the success? He had a tough Pro A rookie season with the RheinStars. What kind of player has he become this season having this winning culture present?
Kavin has been really important for us, he’s won us some games with his ability to score, there are times no matter what teams do they can’t stop him. I don’t think he even knows his potential sometimes. He can do everything on the basketball court. I think those are the players any coach would want or would take.
Talk about the worth of the two Germans Robin Lodders and Jonas Richter? These are two players that have been infected positively by the winning culture and have been important offensive players. What have you appreciated most about their games?
Both guys are so important for our team. Robin has improved a lot from what I saw in the one game where I played against him last season. I feel like he makes every shot when he’s in the paint. Jonas is another guy who has no idea his potential. He has NBA level talent he can do everything on the court. I think he will end up at a very high level by the time he finishes playing.
Let’s talk about your game. Your 35 year old and in your eighth Pro A season. I’m sure you can remember how you were feeling in March in Ehingen years ago. How do you feel now and does you body feel a year older each season as the playoffs slowly approach?
I’ve been really focused on trying to keep my body healthy whether it be from eating or treatment or whatever so that when playoffs come I’m ready. I definitely feel older though. Games are exciting though and my adrenaline gets me through it even when I don’t feel great. Surprisingly though my body has felt good I even feel a little better than I did at the end of last season.
You said in our last interview that I’m ok with any situation as long as we’re winning. I think I can be effective in any role I’m put in. I don’t really look at minutes or things like that’. Have you been surprised at having averaged 27 minutes this season?
I think everyone is surprised at the minutes I’ve had to play. Again we’ve had injuries. I think that more than anything else has been the reason I’ve had to play so much. I’m ok with the playing time though we play well when I’m on the court I think, and I think the guys all trust me so that makes it easy.
Your filling up the stat sheet well. How happy have you been with your play? Your averaging close to six assists per game.
I’m satisfied with my play but there are always things I can do better. I had a bad shooting stretch in the middle of the season so that’s always frustrating but passing and reading the game is something that I’ve always been able to do well so the assists aren’t so much of a surprise for me.
How has your communication been with head coach Rodrigo Pastore this season on and off the court? Do you sense like that a coaching job could be something for you down the road?
I would love to coach down the road for sure, I don’t know where or if it will happen, or when! Coach definitely has taught me things that I think I will carry on into my coaching career when I start. We have a good relationship, I think we think sometimes very similar so we don’t have to communicate too much and we both know what the other is thinking. It is a really good relationship I’m lucky that I’ve had the chance to meet him and be coached by him.
You also stated in our last interview that you would do anything for the win, but wouldn’t hope that you would have to be a consistent scorer. You showed against PS Karlsruhe that you could lead the team with 22 points. Do you feel like there is still that switch that when you get the green light you can go off on anyone?
Hahah, I don’t know if there’s a switch, but I think that game against Karlsruhe just put me in a situation to have to do that we didn’t have many players available and they did some things defensively that I thought helped me be more aggressive, and I also made a couple of outside shots which helped, but I still stand by my statement I would rather not have to do that every game!
Against PS Karlsruhe you had 22 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists in 35 minutes. You had triple doubles in your Pro A career against Leverkusen, Nuernberg and Ehingen. Early in your career you achieved one triple double with Ehingen. How crazy is that being so close now at age 35. Even if you don’t shoot for triple doubles, does a performance like this give you added fire to possibly continue wanting to play some more years?
I think its very crazy to have stats like that at 35 but I think with my understanding of the game I can do some things on the court better with my mind which allows my body to not have to do so much. As far as still playing who knows I just go on how I feel and how my mind feels while in the off season, but games like that lets me know I can still do it if I want to.
You said in our last interview that you have to work harder now at age 35 to be able to stay at the level at where you are now. What do you appreciate about playing the game most now than say when you were at the start of your career with Ehingen?
I appreciate wins more. It is a lot a sweeter to win when you never know when your last game will be. When you are young you feel like you can play forever, but as you get older you value wins more and time hanging out with your teammates.
You have seen Ehingen’s big man Kevin Yebo the last two seasons. Three years ago he was an unknown player in the German Regionalliga. How have you watched his game develop and when will he be in the BBL?
I have heard he is a hard worker which would explain his development, I still think he has some big holes in his game that he has to improve before he is able to be an effective player in the BBL but his talent level is hard I hope he continues to work and gets that opportunity to play at the next level.
Please name your five all-time best teammates in college and pro’s
Ajay Calvin I played two season in Ehingen with and in Chemnitz Chris Carter in Chemnitz Joe Lawson in Chemnitz Kavin Gilder-Tilbury this season Dan Oppland last year in Nuernberg. I gave 6! That’s a hard list to make there’s been so many teammates over the years
It’s still so early, but when all is said and done could Luka Doncic be one of the greatest Europeans that ever played in the NBA?
Definitely he reads the game so well watching him the past two season in Europe I knew he would be special in the NBA. It’s good to see him doing well!
What was your reaction when you heard that Lebron James named himself the greatest of all-time?
I think all great players think that way especially when they are still playing he is incredible. He’s probably not wrong either.
Charles Barkley recently proclaimed that Tom Brady Is more of a GOAT than Michael Jordan. Do you share his opinion?
I don’t think I do I think Michael among his peers was so highly revered as not only a great player and winner but also one of the best talents at the time. I think a lot of people wouldn’t say those things about Tom Brady but he is a great player and a great winner.
Tom Brady won sixth Super Bowl. Where will he be if he wins a seventh next season?
There will be no arguments about his greatness as a football player if he wins again. It’s just hard to give so much credit to one person on a football team.
What was the last movie that you saw?
The Sisters Brothers interesting film!
Thanks Virgil for the chat.