Nino Celebic is a 27 year old 191cm guard from Serbia playing his second professional season in Germany and first with the Bayer Giants Leverkusen. He has been an important reason for the team’s 10-0 start currently averaging 10,9ppg,1,1rpg and 3,4apg. He began his career with BC Mega Aqua Monta Beograd junior team and played many years in his home land before coming to Germany in 2016 where he practiced a season with Pro A team Hamburg Towers. Last season he celebrated his break through in Germany with SC Rist Wedel (Germany-ProB) playing 27 games averaging 14.5ppg, 2.9rpg, 3.9apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 51.7%, 3PT: 29.9%, FT: 79.6%. He spoke to germanhoops.com at the end of the season.
Nino thanks for talking to germanhoops.com Before we get to the incredible season, I have to ask you about your stomach. When you touch back down at home what will be the first eatery that you will visit?
First I’m gonna visit my mom! This was for her and then we are going to have a great dinner in my favorite restaurant TORO
Congrats on winning the 2019 Pro B title. How good does it feel winning the title and where does this rank in your basketball career highlights?
Thank you . I’ve never had this kind of season. 21-1 regular season and 9-1 playoffs and this is for sure the most successful season for me. . Feeling is great man,something really special. For sure the most successful year in last 5 years for me.
How was the celebrations? Did the team do something special afterwards? Was there anything you learned about certain teammates in the celebration that you never would have dreamed of?
We stayed after in our gym to celebrate with our fans. It was really beautiful. Honestly everyone got crazy after
It was the first time that the arena was sold out since the legendary game 5 against Frankfurt in 2008 which I luckily was at. Please describe the atmosphere and what your feelings were after the buzzer sounded?
I heard about that and I am extremely happy we did it for a first time since 2008. In one moment I had a feeling that I am playing in Belgrade in Pionir. Everyone who knows something about basketball knows what kind of fans we have there, and our fans did it on that way
After Munster played you tough in game one, the Bayer Giants Leverkusen came home and destroyed them. Was there anything special that head coach Hansi Gnad stressed before the game or was it pretty clear after a 28-2 season what had to be done?
Was clear. We had our rules during the season, and we knew how we have to play the second game and how we were going to win
The Bayer Giants Leverkusen played a great game 2 at home hitting 11 three’s and outrebounding Munster by 26. How much fun was it playing this game at home and what will you always remember from it?
Rebounding was a key of the game for sure. Everything was special. We had an amazing season this year and playing finals was I would like to say ‘our last dance’ ,we had great game ,full arena since 2008,we all play for those moments so I will remember it forever.
Let’s talk about the season. The Bayer Giants Leverkusen came out strong and finished consistently until the end. Is this the greatest team that you have been a part of in your career?
I can’t answer is it the best team I ever had in my career, but I can say this team was special. This was a real TEAM.
You stressed in our first interview this about the secret of the success. ‘We are just pushing each other all the time in practice. Me as a PG, I am always trying to talk with my big guys and trying to explain then how important it is to control the rebound , so far they are doing a really great job. I am happy for them’. How do you feel was the team able to grow from the start to the end of the season?
Of course ,at the end we show to everyone how good we are as a team. We grew every single game.
It is never easy to have such a consistent season after teams keep gunning for you each weekend and the pressure builds. What was most key for the team being able to cope with the building pressure week in and week out?
If you want to be successful all the time during the season which is hard you have to agree that you have to practice hard every day,every week every year. That was the main reason why we had this kind of season plus our chemistry.
Obviously the team chemistry was huge, but what part of the team’s game do you feel improved most over the course of the season?
Sharing the ball. If you take a look at the stats, you can see best scorers are with 12 and 11p per game,that was our biggest strength.
The team had so many massive highlights during the season like the 103-101 win over Giessen, the exciting 94-92 playoff win over Schwelm or the crazy come from behind win in Bernau 101-97. What was your personal favorite team moment?
Semifinals in Berlin. If you agree with me that was absolutely insane come back
You stated this about head coach Hansi Gnad in our last interview. ‘Hansi is a different guy, he really is. He wants to win every game that’s his mentality. If he continue like this, he can put this club on a high level again. I really believe in that’. How do you feel did he grow further as a coach this season?
Of course ,if you see our rotation during the game who is doing that? Some young players had a big roll in this team especially in playoffs. In our team everyone had their minutes. That was because of Hansi,he was a guy who create this
What was your most special moment with Hansi Gnad this season. Was there a specific tip he gave you on or off the court where you will be forever grateful for?
He recognized what kind of effort I am putting every practice and every game for this team. He believed in me during the season. He knew what I can bring here and he gave me a freedom to talk with the guys and maybe change some small things if it’s necessary. I’ll be always grateful for that.
Let’s talk about your teammates. You stressed this about Nick Hornsby in our last interview? Nick is a guy who is everywhere on the court. His energy is crazy. He is so important for us. We understand each other really well and playing with him here is an amazing thing’. How did he grow in the season and is he an MVP candidate?
He’s a guy who can change a game and who can do a lot of things not only scoring. He understands the game and he gave as a big push in playoffs and yes definitely he is MVP!
You stated this about your guard partner Alexander Blessig. ‘Alex is helping me a lot here if I am tired he will be there to give the energy and to push this team. Having him here is a great thing for me plus he is a great shooter’. How much of a pleasure was it being his teammate and on what phases of his game did he grow most on?
First of all Alex is really smart guy off the court. I was enjoying playing with him in the same time. He understands basketball so good and our communication was on a high level during the season and that was really important for the team!
How vital was captain Tim Schonborn. He is a player where you will always get 100% and that lethal three pointer. Is there something you picked up from him in the leadership area?
Tim!? He never quit. If he is missing his shots he will continue to shoot because he how much important he is for this team and his 3s saved us so many times this year! Unbelievable shooter
The club had many young Germans like Lars Thiemann or Lennart Winter. Which player so you feel made the most strides this season?
Both. They gave so much in practice during the season and especially in the playoffs. Everybody in this team believe it in them! And they showed up!
Let’s talk about your game. How refreshing was this season for you? You have often been doubted in your career but as point guard helped lead the team to an incredible record and title. How gratifying was this season for you?
My goal this year was to play constantly good. If I don’t score, I had to be a guy who is controlling everything. I have some players I like to watch on how their doing and helps me a lot. Best season ever for me .
You were third best scorer on the team and led the club in assists. How content were you with your personal game on the court?
As I say,goal was to play constantly good and to make the team better and to win as much is possible. I believed in myself, I knew what I can do and I showed this year.
How do you feel did your leadership qualities grow this season? Was there a special experience in a game where you feel your leadership skills were seen best?
That’s a good question. One of my favorite players said once ‘it’s not so easy to be a playmaker, To be a leader in one team makes the players look better than many times they are and make everybody happy . People only see games they don’t know how much work you put in behind the scenes.
You weren’t healthy in the first few months, but then found your game rhythm. Which area of your game do you feel did the Bayer Giants Leverkusen profit most of?
Passing skills. I was trying to make everybody happy.
You still have that big goal of reaching the easyCredit BBL. Despite playing in the Pro B, does that dream become even bigger now and realistic simply by having such a huge winning season? Your self confidence must be high now.
Yes,I said once and I will say once again. I believe and I know what I can bring as a player. Some bad times are behind me now. I am ready for new challenges. BBL will probably wait one more year. I have to go step by step now. I know how much I have to improve next year.
You had many personal big games like scoring 23 and 21 points in the wins over the RheinStars and Wurzburg, but was your 21 points in the exciting playoff win over Schwelm your most favorite?
Yes,against Schwelm was special. I had to show why I am here. When the team struggles, the point guard has to take responsibility and finish the game. I did it many times so far and I knew I can do that on that day.
Who was the toughest player that you battled in the Pro B this season?
Niklas Geske from Schwelm. He’s a really good player.
What is the next step for you? I can imagine you will stay in Leverkusen or will you seek another opportunity in another country?
Right now It’s to early to talk about that,will see.
On what things will you be focusing most in the lab this summer as you continue to look to improve your game?
I want to improve my 3 point shot more. This year was way better than the season before but I think I have more space to develop
What was your most special Dirk Nowitski moment that you remember?
When he won the NBA trophy with Peja Stojakovic that season was amazing for Dallas.
What was your reaction when you heard that Lebron James named himself the greatest of all-time?
I am not a big fan of Lebron James. Of course he’s one of the best ever ,but if you ask me he will never be like Mike and Kobe
Charles Barkley recently proclaimed that Tom Brady Is more of a GOAT than Michael Jordan. Do you share his opinion?
Different sports, You can’t compare that. That is my opinion. Both are legends.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Thanks Nino for the chat.