Courtney Belger Developed Further In The Pro A Through Trying To Extend Plays More And Trusting In His Own Abilities

Courtney Belger is a 29 year old 187cm guard from St Louis that completed his sixth professional season and third with FC Schalke 04 (Germany-ProA) averaging 15,0ppg, 4,3rpg and 5,0apg Last season with FC Schalke he played 25 games averaging 16.5ppg, 5.4rpg, 5.2apg, 1.5spg, FGP: 53.5%, 3PT: 22.4%, FT: 78.9%. In 2015-2016 he played with the Itzehoe Eagles (Germany-ProB) playing 24 games averaging 12.6ppg, 5.3rpg, 4.5apg, 1.7spg, FGP: 46.0%, 3PT: 20.0%, FT: 65.6% and Kalamunda Eastern Suns (Australia-SBL) playing 14 games averaging 21.1ppg, 6.3rpg, 4.1apg, Steals-4 (3.1spg), FGP: 49.0%, 3PT: 22.4%, FT: 80.8%. He played his first two professional seasons with TV Ibbenbuehren (Germany-Regionalliga). He started his basketball career at Quincy (NCAA2) in 2008 where he played until 2012 playing a total of 113 NCAA 2 games. As a senior he played 27 games averaging 11.3ppg, 5.2rpg, 3.9apg, 1.8spg, FGP: 47.8%, 3PT: 10.5%, FT: 72.0%. He spoke to at the end of the season.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and Courtney Belger talking basketball at a game in Rhondorf in the 2018-2019 season

Courtney thanks for talking to Has the NCAA madness distracted you a bit from not reaching the Pro A playoffs?

Hey miles. I haven’t watched any march madness games. I’m not really in the mood to watch post season play unless it’s my lil bro Leon Friederici’s team.

After having a 9-21 record and knowing the talent that the team had. Do you feel like the club underachieved this season or was the many players coming and going and inexperience factors that would justify the team not underachieving?

In my opinion it’s no way to think that a 9-21 record is acceptable. I think we definitely underachieved and won’t take any excuses. Reasons are still excuses to me. I think we as whole needed to get closer and focus on trying to see the next game as a new opportunity. Instead we would have too much negative energy about what just happened the week before.

The team was up and down in the first months of the 2018-2019 season, but at least was winning games, but in 2019 the club won only 3 games, but lost 11 games. Why was winning so difficult in the second half of the season?

In the second half of the season we had a lot of players in and out of our practices. Instead of focusing on teams we were about to play, we were focusing on trying to teach the new guys our concepts and doing preseason drills. That was a tough time for us. The other problem I saw was that I allowed my body to break down over the season and started to play bad. I tried to start facilitating more during that time but we were at our best when I was aggressive and scoring. I let us down in my opinion in the second half and I can accept that. I’ll just learn from it and be better next year.

In basketball and many other sports you are always confronted about what could have been. You lost four very close games to Baunach, Trier, Rostock and Hanau. Was crunch-time a time this season a type of disease for the team in being able to make the right offensive plays and get stops?

Crunch time was very tough for us because we didn’t really have a direction on how we wanted to finish the game. It was normally just us playing and continuing with the flow of the game. When the game gets tight it’s up to everybody on the team to understand which actions and players we will use to create now. With our season going in lot’s of different directions it was hard for us to find that rhythm.

Despite not making the playoffs, the team was one of the top rebounding teams in the Pro A and had the seventh best defense in the league. The offense seemed not to score enough points this season. What do you believe was missing from the team offense that disallowed the team to score more points on a consistent basis?

I think what hindered us from scoring this season other than not making our three pointers was the fact that we didn’t pay attention to detail. When you are a slow down team who runs systems you have to be smart and see every opportunity that you get. The entire team has to see that. Our coach prefers the system game and not run and gun, so we needed to find ways to create the situations we wanted. I also think if we ran more in transition and let it get a little wild, we would have scored more. In order to do that we would need everybody to be committed to hitting the break hard and move with a level of energy like Hagen or Ehingen. They attacked transition breaks very aggressively.

Despite not making the Pro A playoffs, what positives do you feel could FC Schalke take from this season?

I think the fact that we always fought hard almost every game result wise and didn’t fall out the league is a positive for us. A lot of times teams can accept all these excuses and not compete anymore. We saw improvements as the season went on even though we were losing. We also knew that a loss was still a loss and nobody would feel sorry for us.

Despite losing some tight games, you also had some big wins against Ehingen and Trier. What do you believe was the team highlight this season?

I think the road win verse Trier or Artland was probably one of our biggest highlights of the season. Both wins were on the road and we fought hard down the stretch to seal the victory. I remember my teammate Austin playing maybe 6 minutes in Artland and being the life of the bench. He was invested and wanted to see the team do well. That’s important. It’s not always just about the five players playing on the court during a certain time. The energy in the room after those games were special.

Let’s talk about your teammates. Your teammate Shavar Newkirk said this about you. ‘Because of his experience I’m getting a lot of wisdom which will help me at game time. He has taken me under his wing like I’m his little brother. I can’t wait to war with him. I haven’t experienced game time with him yet, but what I’ve seen in practice is amazing. With his experience and my youth and me being a blur, I think we will make a dynamic duo’. What kind of experience was it being his teammate and how did you see his development this season?

It was a wonderful experience having a teammate like Shavar. He’s a competitor and pushed me to really become younger and meaner again haha. He was killing me in practices with his speed and anticipation. I had to work hard to take that away with just being mean and more physical. Loved practicing with var. The thing I liked the most about watching his development was how he started to get comfortable with interacting with the coaches. He understood that he might be doing something good and they want to see him do something great. That can be frustrating at first when you first come to a new team. The on the court stuff we don’t have to talk about. He was a guaranteed bucket.

German center Adam Touray made the next step in his career making the jump from the Pro B to the Pro A. How did you witness his development and do see him becoming an very good consistent Pro A player?

Adam made a huge step in his career this year. I have played against him since I was a rookie I think. I always knew he had great feet and was a work horse. After the first month I was amazed to find out that you can play through Adam in post up game too. His confidence grew as the season went on and he became more and more dominant. A lot of people don’t know that he played with a bad finger on his left hand and it didn’t really heal up until this last month. I think Adam’s next season with two healthy hands will be crazy. This season definitely was not a fluke.

You were also teammates with American Brandon Parrish. What did you appreciate most about his game and how did he improve his game?

Brandon was somebody we could put anywhere. He was very versatile in the fact that he could play the 2,3, or 4 for us. In Trier we played small ball with him on the 4 and in Hamburg when we almost beat them at their place. I think Brandon was more of a space the floor type of player before he got here. Towards the end of the season he was starting to put the ball on the floor more and look to attack that way. He also started to become a better transition finisher on the fast breaks.

German Bjoern Rowher who had been playing for years in the Ulm organization came to Schalke and made the most of his opportunity. Is he still a raw talent or has he reached his potential?

I think Bjoern still has a lot of upside left in his development. He got a lot stronger over the course of the year and more explosive. The most important thing is that he doesn’t think that he has everything figured out. He still wants to learn. For Bjoern he needs to see and understand things physically. Once he begins to learn something and see that it works he picks it up quickly and applies it.

Let’s talk about your game. After playing in the Regionalliga and three years in the Pro B, you made your debut in the Pro A. You waited a long time for this opportunity. What did you learn to appreciate the most about the Pro A?

What I appreciated the most about pro a is that there weren’t any asterisks in the league. What I mean by that is, if you play good in Pro a and you only have one move it’s okay. Everybody will say he’s a good player that’s Pro A. If you play the same in the other leagues, it doesn’t count or there is always a doubt factor in someone’s mind. In Pro A it was competitive and very respected competition. If I kill my opponent this game, he will come back stronger and kill me next game. That’s the type of competition I like. I enjoyed my first year a lot.

What was the biggest adjustment for you in the Pro A coming from the Pro B?

The biggest adjustment in Pro A for me was that the games are harder and seem longer. It’s 40 minutes but if I play 40 minutes, it feels like 50. You have to take care of your body and your diet. I don’t eat bad but I wasn’t eating enough. You also need to have a clear mind when you play in Pro A. My body broke down and then I left some doubt creep into my mind about how I wanted to play my own game. Once that happens it takes a lot of effort to overcome.

You averaged 15,0ppg, 4,4rpg and 4,9apg. How content were you with your season?

To finish the season the way I finished I’m disappointed honestly. If I look at the overall picture though I look at it a little differently. I’m happy to be an impact player in Pro A, because everybody in Germany said I couldn’t go to Pro A from second Regionalliga. They said especially with not shooting this and that. Raffi took a chance with and I’m glad he did because I know what I can do when I’m healthy. With not making the playoffs and letting some teams get the better of me, it sets the mood for a wonderful summer this offseason. I am very grateful for the added fire.

In our last interview you stated ‘I am really like the big brother on the team and try to communicate more. We have a lot of go to guys on the court which helps me to get in the lane and create advantages. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’m the guy that keeps the offense together though. We just see who’s going for us down the stretch and try to exploit that matchup’. Did anything change with your role in the Pro A?

I wouldn’t say much changed. I always had the role of trying to make something happen for us no matter what it would be. Towards the end of the season things just didn’t go my way all the time like the first three fourths of the season. We got help when Shavar came and we were able to allow him to try and bring us home down the stretch.

In our last interview you stated this about how your game developed last season in the Pro B. ‘I think I have a better feel for reads and rotations this year. I also think that I’m stronger mentally to step up when the team really needs someone to on offense or defense’. How did your game develop further in the Pro A this season?

I think my game developed further this season through trying to extend plays more and trusting in my own abilities. I learned that there are a lot more executions off of a pick and roll and that you need to play at your own pace. Pace is everything. You have to be able to change it and control other’s pace when you want to.

Last season you focused on on taking open shots, as finding gaps in the defense to be aggressive, and understanding when you have to just flat out step up and win the game in crunch time. I also tried to find players in spots that they are most successful. I believe I have done those things so far. What did you focus on most this season in the Pro A?

This season was different for me. I was at my best for the team when I was confident and aggressive. I had put in a lot of work and was having fun trusting the result of it. For majority of the year I just focused on being aggressive and putting pressure on the defense every time. I feel like I was comfortable enough to find out good solutions based off what actions I wanted to create.

In our last interview you stated. ‘ I think I will be hitting my prime soon for sure. My body seems to be aging backwards at the moment. My legs are feeling younger and I am constantly learning more about the game of basketball’. Did you hit it this season?

I was in my prime basketball wise. The game felt very easy. I was never really healthy yet the whole year. Now the year is ending and the problems I had with my legs are gone. I guess they didn’t want to cooperate for me to get an in game dunk this year. I’m excited to take what I learned this year through playing against a lot of different basketball minds into my next year. I’m confident that my arm and legs will feel about 24 next year to go along with the mental experience I have gained from this year in the pro a.

What was your highlight of the season? Possibly your 32/12 game in the win against the Hamburg Towers?

I think the 32/12 game has to be a highlight for me because of the mental exhaustion of that game and because I had so many assists. If you add the next game to that where in my opinion I didn’t play well enough but reached 12 assists again, I have to be happy with that weekend. Everybody was happy about the 32 points but my close friends were laughing about how I finally had back to back 12 assists games.

What is the next step for you? Will you remain in Schalke and continue to play for Raffi Wilder or possibly try something new in another country?

I’m not sure what the next step looks like. I’m getting older and feel confident to take the next step. I’m just hoping somebody will take a chance on me if I decide to finally leave Schalke. I would like a tryout in the BBL or another country in a good situation to help take care of my lady who I will finally see in a week.

You have a long summer ahead of you. On what things will you be working on most in the basketball lab as you get ready for that next opportunity?

This summer I will work on making sure my body is healthy and fresh for the preseason. Everybody thinks I have a problem shooting now and would expect me to say that because my numbers went down. I’ll do the same workouts as I did last summer when I was shooting and creating easily. I chose to keep playing and not worry about what my season would look like if I’m not at 100%. I think the team should always be above your own personal situations, and in order to put a team first I will be 100 percent at the start of the year.

Please name your five all-time best teammates in college and pro’s

I have more than 5 but these are the teammates I talk to probably every day

Quez Brown-Quincy University

Lester Ferguson, Charles Bronson-Itzehoe 2015-2016

Leon Friederici, Nic Sperber, Rj Slawson, Coheen kalondji, Shawn Gulley-schalke 2017-2018

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?

I think he could easily be one of the greatest. He has been built for this from a young age. He seems to be hungry and has that performance factor in him. When the lights come on he likes rise to the occasion.

What was your reaction when you heard that Lebron James named himself the greatest of all-time?

I’m not a big LeBron fam. I’m a kobe guy so for me I was unimpressed by his remark. I like the confidence and that he tried to own that title. I am a fan of confident players. I do not like the fact that he looks for help or blames others. In this interview above I stated that we didn’t play good the second half of the year because I played bad. You have to accept responsibility sometimes.

Charles Barkley recently proclaimed that Tom Brady Is more of a GOAT than Michael Jordan. Do you share his opinion?

Michael Jordan can do no wrong in my book. I didn’t even know he had ever missed a shot until I got older so Charles Barkley is wasting his time saying that.

Tom Brady won sixth Super Bowl. Where will he be if he wins a seventh next season?

I don’t think he needs to win a seventh. He is already on top of the football world.

What was the last movie that you saw?

Bird box.

Thanks Courtney for the chat.

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