Javon Mccrea is a 26 year old 201cm forward that has five professional seasons under his belt. He began his career at Newark high school and then played at Buffalo (NCAA) from 2010-20014 and as a senior played 29 games averaging 18.5ppg, 9.9rpg, 2.2apg, 1.5spg, 2.2bpg, FGP: 56.1%, 3PT: 50.0%, FT: 66.7%. As a professional he has gained experience playing in Germany for teams like medi Bayreuth and the Tigers Tuebingen and also played in Belgium, France and Israel. Last season he played with the Yokohama B-Corsairs (Japan-B League) playing 14 games averaging 19.4ppg, 9.1rpg, 1.8apg, 1.9spg, FGP: 53.3%, 3PT: 50.0%, FT: 57.1%. He spoke to Germanhoops.com about his basketball career
Javon thanks for talking to germanhoops.com Where are you at the moment and how has your summer been?
Hey Miles, thanks for taking the time. I’m currently spending my summer in Germany. I go back and forth between Frankfurt and Berlin, depending on the week. So far, my summer has been one to remember. I pushed myself to get into a consistent routine. It feels better when you’re able to balance your life the right way. I can spend time with my child who’s living here, work on my basketball career, and also see my friends.
I’ve also really had a chance to challenge myself with basketball workouts. I’ve been doing two workouts a day everyday since May. I really got into working out outdoors. I usually start my routine with two ball dribbling up a steep hill about 20 times. If you add that up it would total up to around 5km. Then in the afternoon I go to the court and get 1000 shots up. Different types such as post moves to mid range and extending even to the 3 point line. Then I finish with a nice stretch afterwards to get the kinks out. With doing all these things on a regular basis I found my love for the game again. I take my ball everywhere I go. I can’t wait to get back on the court and give my all to the team and also the community.
The first and only interview we ever did was in Bonn during the Allstar game weekend in January 2015. How much has time flown by since then?
Wow, that’s a long time ago. Since then I’ve had a chance to learn so much more about myself and the game. I love basketball. 2015 was my first year as a pro and being an Allstar that year really helps me today as motivation on how to succeed going forward. I use some of my memories then to help steer me into making the right decisions today and visualize where I want to be and what I want to achieve. My basketball career is a real life roller coaster so it helps to focus on all the good things basketball allowed me to experience so far.
It is a little unusual for an American to be in Germany during the summer and not in the States. Talk a little about your life in Germany and the difficulties not being signed at the moment?
My life is Germany is great, I love being here. Since I became a dad last year I try to spend as much time as possible in Germany with my son, Teo. He really helps me learn patience and take on responsibility, it’s not just me anymore. I’m still new to being a parent. Sometimes you feel like you will never be a good enough parent. You also reevaluate your priorities because you just don’t have as much time or energy for the things you used to do. Watching him grow up, learning how to crawl, learning how to grab things, his teeth growing in, learning how to walk. All these things have been a joy to watch.
I understand that the season hasn’t started yet. So no matter how bad I want to get back on the court and get the best contract and situation for my family and myself, I also realized that I still have valuable time before I report to the team. I’m really trying to use this time to spend as much time with my son as well as preparing physically and mentally for the new season. So I use all my anxious energy and put it into working out and making sure that when it is time to report to a new team I’m at my optimum level to perform.
How is Javon Mccrea the person and player different in 2019 to 2015? You have seen a lot of gyms over the years, lived in a lot of countries, but your mental health was always the same.
I feel like I’m a completely different person from then to now. I understand so much more about basketball and more importantly I’ve learned so much about myself. My son really has helped me grow up and evolve as a person, even or especially off the court. I think the whole experience of becoming a dad humbled me and made me realize what’s important.
I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on past situations that didn’t go as planned and I now understand the reason why certain situations went the way they did and I understand where I went wrong and how my actions contributed to that. When you get put in tough situations we all have to understand that this is just life testing us. Seeing if we’re strong enough to take losses because the bigger the loss the bigger the blessing is on the other side of it. In the past I’ve gotten myself into a few situations with teams and today I’m more aware of where these teams come from and how I could’ve avoided those situations had I had the mindset I have today. It’s our job as players to make sure our teams perform to the best possible and help reach our shared goals as a team. My mindset now is that I shouldn’t come to a team only looking for what they can give me and what I can get out of it. Instead I focus more on what I can give to the team and contribute to the organization and also to the community. I think I can say today that since my first year as a pro I’ve been through a lot of tough situations but I’ve come out on the other side much more mature and professional and ready to work.
You did an interesting interview last season about mental health and just how widespread it is in the NBA as well as overseas. What kind of feedback did you get and what was the nicest compliment that you got out of it?
I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback and I think it resonated with a lot of people, especially in the sport. Some people told me that it made them feel more confident and a lot better about themselves because they were going through some of the same things I was. I understood what type of risk I was taking with that interview but I’m okay with that as long as I can hopefully encourage my fellow athletes who deal with these same situations to talk about their mental health and seek out help if they need it. I’ve gotten all types of responses from people talking about how hard it can be to be a foreigner living in a totally new world and still having to perform, as well as “Overseas basketball needs a player’s union” and more awareness and support from the professional organizations.
Since the release of that Mental Health interview, did any players reach out to you about their mental health problems?
Over 50 players reached out to me and talked to me about it. Some just wanted to check in on me and see how I was doing. Through the interview I’ve gotten a chance to still be in touch with a lot of people I played with and/or against. And some just felt a level of comfort that someone else was going through what they were going through, too, and talking about it. It’s easy to feel like you’re the only one going through stuff like that, when you’re actually not. Not by far.
How much is the whole mental health issue a part of your daily life? Are there some days when your 100% fine while other days you don´t want to leave the house?
Your mental health is and should always be a part of your daily life. What’s changed for me is how I’m able to deal with any ’issues’ that might come up in day to day life. For me today the ’mental health issue’ is not so much about focusing on everything that might go wrong in my life. We all go through ups and downs. It’s more trying to figure out why I think the way I do and ways I can try to think differently and why I react to certain situations in a certain way. In therapy for example they help guide you to remember some of the things you’ve been through and then when you connect those dots you can understand that your acting a certain way because of specific events or situations in your past. Ever since I started to really get into the topic of mental health I’ve become a lot more aware of these patterns and learned to deal with them in a healthy way. I’ve also come to realize how my behavior might have affected other people’s reactions and perceptions of me in the past and how I can work with that knowledge going forward.
So seeking out therapy basically just helped me feel a lot more confident in handling stressful situations. Being a dad has also helped me with that, too, it calmed me down a lot. So to answer your question, I’ve learned to make my overall health and my mental health specifically a priority and I feel great. I’m ready for my next challenge.
Last season you had a very good season in Japan with Yokohama B-Corsairs (Japan-B League) averaging 19.4ppg, 9.1rpg, 1.8apg, 1.9spg, FGP: 53.3%, 3PT: 50.0%, FT: 57.1%where you saw a therapist, meditated and had a very understanding head coach in Tom Wiseman. How positive was this Japanese experience on and off the court for your mental health?
Japan really helped me revitalize my career and get me back on track. They have a very good system out there. No man was more important to me or a bigger help in that situation than Tom Wiseman. I love him like a father for some of the risks and things he’s done for me. He and the team allowed me to actually see a therapist and work through some of the things that had been bothering me.
What did you enjoy about the Japanese B league the most and how do you feel did your game profit from it?
Yokohama plays in the top-tier league in the country and I got a chance to evolve my game and really make a big step as a player. My time there helped me develop my perimeter game. Going against guys like Josh Smith, Dexter Pittman, Robert Sacre, Xavier Gibson etc my advantage on them was my quickness. So I dominated the competition and ended up averaging career numbers which was great. Right now I’m working hard during the off season to work on any weaknesses. With hard work and shooting 1000 shots a day consistently my 3 point jumpshot has become one of my strengths. I’m knocking it down regularly off the dribble or even catch and shoots or transitional 3s, it doesn’t matter. I understand how important the 3 point shot is in today’s basketball, no matter what position you play. I want to be someone who can be relied on to help the team in winning in the 4th quarter.
Japan is a lot like Germany, very organized, disciplined, and very nice people as well. It’s really clean everywhere, you don’t really wear outside shoes inside the house or even in public bathrooms, they provide clean slippers for you to put on. I lived right next to Tokyo so I got a chance to be in the city and it’s fun and exciting. Basketball is very popular in Japan so a lot of fans would come and show support at the games, I enjoyed that a lot.
You had a great season in Japan and had the mental health issue in control, but the Japanese season ended for you on March 24. Now 4 months later the summer transfer stage is winding down somewhat and you’re not signed yet. Are you struggling with the mental health issue now again?
Not at all. I usually don’t sign until August. This is how it normally plays out so I shouldn’t worry too much. Also me worrying about it won’t do the job. I just need to continue working out twice a day everyday and eating the right things to keep my nutrition level at optimal levels.
You stated in our last interview in 2015 that your Buffalo head coach Reggie Witherspoon helped you with your mental toughness then. Do you think that he could help you again today?
Reggie Witherspoon can make any athlete tougher with his exceptional coaching style and focus on mental strength. He’s clearly one of the best coaches I’ve played for so far. I wouldn’t be a professional without Reggie Witherspoon. I still do his sprint ladder drills in my training sessions. Everytime I get tired I hear his voice screaming “Come on Javon are you a 4 or a 5?? 4s don’t get tired 5s do!!!
You were on triple double course against San-En with 32 points(13/17 shooting), 8 boards and 7 steals. Was this one of your best games at both ends of the court in your career?
Yes, I remember how important that game was. I really put the team on my back. I used my quickness and struck out advantages when I could. I got a lot of deflections and rebounds.
You have gotten jobs in the past and have an agent now, but don´t have a job yet. You stated the pressure to perform really affects your mental health, but what about the pressure to find a team now? How are you coping with the whole day to day search for a new team?
Yes, this was before I got a chance to seek help from a therapist. After doing all these sessions with him I now have a lot more leveled head. The way I cope with things now is working out twice a day until I’m completely exhausted and just focusing on getting ready for my next opportunity and developing my skill set. Also being around my son, its very hard to worry about basketball or to get anxious with the job search. He loves attention so it’s hard to think about anything but Teo after coming home from my workouts.
You stated recently that you would love to play in Germany again. Do you feel like your last two experiences in Tuebingen and Bayreuth may have forced BBL and Pro A teams to distance themselves from you?
I definitely would love to play in Germany again, my son is here and I’m just very comfortable overall in Germany. I’m enjoying my time here and I feel like it’s a great environment for me to be in. That being said, me having a child and focussing a lot on him has limited the focus I’ve put onto basketball the last time I played here. I found out about having Teo in January 2018 right around the time I was with Tübingen. At the time I was not yet prioritizing my mental health and also, as anyone who has kids knows, you can put a lot of pressure on yourself in the months leading up to their birth. That pressure and anxiety at that time took a toll on me and made me react to certain things out of character. I have made my fair share of mistakes but none of them were out of malicious intent but rather because I hadn’t really found a way yet to deal with pressure in a healthy way. That’s why I originally sought out professional help.
My basketball skill set is what it is and I think I can really help BBL teams today. I’m familiar with the league since I’ve played here before, I know the competition and what’s expected. I hope that I’ll get a chance to prove myself again in this league.
Please clear up what happened in your last time in Germany? In Tuebingen you had to leave in March for some disciplinary reason and in Bayreuth you seemed to also wear out your second welcome. Was there any truth to this or was it blown out of proportion from both sides?
The second time I signed with Bayreuth I came in to help out when Assem Marei got injured. When he came back from his injury Bayreuth then had too many foreigners on the roster so that’s why I ended up leaving and signing with Tübingen but there was no negative situation going on at any time. I’m still in contact with members of their organization, so there’s no hard feelings.
As you said I then ended up leaving Tübingen in March. When I signed there both sides agreed on a deal for 10 games and that we would see after those 10 games, if we won or lost, whether we would extend my contract with them. A lot of me leaving had to do with their situation in the league. By that time we were already in discussions for terminating the contract because that last game we lost was the nail in the coffin for them going down to Pro A and they wanted to save some money before that happened.
You have been working out at the BCM facility in Frankfurt where the Fraport Skyliners train. In what kind of shape is your game now? At the age of 26 you are still fairly young and not in your prime yet?
That’s right, the Skyliners have allowed me to workout in their gym this summer, it’s a great facility and I really appreciate that.
This is the best shape I’ve ever been in my life. I’m running 5km a day up and down hills, I rode my bike 13 miles to the BCM facility, then did a two hour workout there and rode my bike 13 miles back home. It’s been great for my athleticism and conditioning. I want to be the best I can at my sport this year. I know what’s at stake and I will never take basketball or anything in my life for granted.
Despite seeing some bad things in Israel, you had a pretty good stat season especially in the Basketball Champions League. How do you explain coming of a season like that and then going to Germany and having tough experiences?
That’s the key to life, understanding that there will be lots of ups and downs. It can seem like everything went wrong after that season in Israel. But I try to use these experiences to my advantage. Those bad times taught me a lot about the business of basketball and what I need to do on a daily basis to make sure I’m at the top of my sport and not just trying to fit in. I have to be willing to do everything it takes and then some and also win games and make the community a better place.
After a strong rookie season in Germany, you had a tough second season playing a few months in France and Puerto Rico. Do you sometimes wonder where you would be today had you played a full season in 2015-2016?
In life everything happens for a reason. I am where I am because of the good and bad choices I’ve made throughout my life. And if I would have made different choices it might be a lot worse. We all understand things can’t be perfect, they just never are. If I dwell on the past I will never be able to see the future. So I just strive to be the greatest athlete I can possibly be going forward without any doubt.
Explain in a few sentences why you could help any club at the moment with your game and that you are stable enough mentally to be an asset on and off the court?
Now I’m experienced and have seen various different types and styles of basketball. With my ability to play multiple positions and be versatile you could fit me into any line up. Teams deal with injuries every season. I can be the glue that holds the team together in February when we really need a win to clinch first place. Also with how good my shape is I can help on both sides of the ball at a great level. WIth my 3 point range now I can help spread out the floor. I can dribble, shoot, and pass. I can do whatever the team needs me to do on the court. And also I think I can bring a great locker room presence because I’m all about winning and motivating each other on and off the court. My goal is to help my teammates so we can stick together as a family so that we can all achieve our goals.
In your rookie season with Bayreuth you played with some real experienced and great players like Ronnie Burrell, Bryan Bailey and Brandon Bowman. When you look back at that time, which guy was most beneficial to you on the court?
Brandon Bowman is my brother and I love him to death. He’s the biggest reason I became an Allstar 2015. He taught me a lot about what will go wrong in my career and also how to be a lot more mature about my approach to situations on and off the court and how to get better everyday.
Please name your personal NBA Mount Rushmore. Which 4 heads would you pick?
LEBRON KOBE JORDAN SHAQ
What is your personal opinion of who is greater Michael Jordan or Lebron James?
What was the last movie that you saw?
HE GOT GAME
Thanks Javon for the chat