Jaleen Smith is a 25 year old 193cm guard from Freeport, Texas that completed his second season in Germany with the MLP Academics Heidelberg (Germany-ProA) averaging 12,7ppg, 3,9rpg and 2,7apg. He will play this season in the easyCredit BBL with the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg. In his rookie season with Heidelberg he averaged 7,6ppg, 2,8rpg and 2,9apg. He had a stellar four year career with New Hampshire (NCAA) from 2013-2017 where he played a total of 120 NCAA games. He improved his scoring, rebounding and assists average each season and as a senior he played 32 games averaging 15.8ppg, 6.4rpg, 4.3apg, FGP: 52.4%, 3PT: 35.8%, FT: 78.1%. He spoke to germanhoops.com at the end of the 2018-2019 season.
Jaleen thanks for talking to germanhoops.com. Where are you at the moment and how is basketball treating you at the moment?
I went to Berlin and Amsterdam after our season was over. The season was great I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
What was the first eatery that you visited first upon arrival back home in the States?
I had Qudoba whenever I landed in Atlanta.
Congrats on the great season in Heidelberg. With what emotions did you say farewell to the season? On the one hand the team achieved so much, but on the other hand just missed reaching the final.
I couldn’t believe the season was over. I felt like we could’ve made it further, but we ran into a really good team in Nurnberg. I couldn’t be more proud how we did this season either.
You split the season series with Nurnberg and lost 3-1 in the playoffs. What is your semi-final playoff summary?
I believe this is a series that many in Heidelberg will remember as being one where the Academics didn’t take advantage off enough. I feel like they played more physical this us. We had the talent but they were more physical.
I believe the turning point was game three. Heidelberg let that game get away. What do you feel really cost you this game the most?
That game 3 I remember I started off the 4th quarter with 2 straight air balls, so I would say I felt the weight of losing game 3 on me.
What did you respect the most about the Nurnberg Falcons this season? This is a team that nobody except people in Nurnberg would have had the audacity to proclaim months ago that they would move up.
They stayed with the grind of the season and had a streak 13 game winning streak during the season.
Let’s talk about the whole season. The MLP Academics were 7-6 at the start of December. How vital was it closing out 2018 with that three game winning streak that included a big win against Hamburg.
The season going into the new year kind of reminded me of last season with the team going into the new year barely above .500 then we have a great 2nd half of the season.
You had two tough crunch-time loses to Trier and PS Karlsruhe at the end of the regular season. Were those loses like a blessing in disguise letting the team know that there was playoff business coming up. You easily disposed of pesky Ehingen by an average of 14 points in the three game series.
Those type of loses only can make you stronger not only as a player but also as a team.
What really impressed me about the MLP Academics this season was their consistency despite not having a deep rotation like many other Pro A teams. What was the secret to the success and was there a special mentality that continued to grow during the season that allowed the team to be so successful?
When you have guys that buy into what the coach does then everyone is working together. I felt the chemistry of the team get better and better as the season went on.
What made it so special to play for the MLP Academics Heidelberg for a second season? Did you notice that that the basketball culture is continuing to grow in there and that something special is happening?
Man, it felt just like home I know where everything was and I already had my favorite restaurants in town so that was great. The home games started to get more people in the stands and you can notice it.
The MLP Academics had many season highlights. Was it possibly sweeping the Hamburg Towers or beating Chemnitz or was it something else?
I think making it to the semifinals was a big highlight of the season.
One of the real great and seemingly underrated coaches in Germany is coach Frenki. Please talk about how important he has been to the new winning culture in Heidelberg?
He just a confidence booster as a coach. He sees something in you and hell bring out the best in your game. He really is underrated in the league.
Let’s talk about your teammates. For many in Heidelberg Shy Ely was an MVP candidate. Most of the Pro A players I interviewed after this season stated as him being their toughest cover. How vital was he for the success of the team?
When things got tough for us, you can rely on him to get us out of anything. Shy can score from anywhere. I still have to say he is the toughest guard I’ve matched up against.
Last year you said this about Niklas Wurzner after being his teammate. ‘Nikki turned himself into the floor general of our team. If you watched our games, you can just see it. He’s going be really good in a year or 2 so be on the lookout for him. He just has a great feel for the game. He plays at his own pace and doesn’t let the defense dictate how the game going to be played. I feel his passing got more and more better as the season went on. More like his vision on the court was through the roof. He could see everything in front of him or behind him’. How did you see his development continue in your second year?
He has been the rock for us this year he’s been consistent all season. I feel like if he works on his jump shot over this summer he’s going be a problem for the league.
How vital was it having the experienced versatile forward Dan Oppland on the team. He was in semi retirement but was coaxed out of it. How did his game and presence give the team a whole new dimension?
His experience helped big time with the team. He gave me advice on how to move without the ball as well.
Last season you stated this about veteran Eric Palm. ‘It was great having Eric, he taught me a lot of stuff that I will carry with me for a long time. He didn’t just teach me shooting tips but more importantly he taught me how to move without the ball. Just learning when to cut on offense. Having him come in was such a joy and a great pick up for the team’. What new things could you soak up from him in your second season as teammates?
Just learning how to catch and shoot better. If you ever watch our games Eric can make some really tough shots. I just watch how he does it in practice and the game.
How key was it having that added German veteran Philipp Heyden on the team. How did his 9 years of BBL experience show on the court best?
Phil gave us scoring from the post and mid-range. He showed us how effective a screen can be when it is set solid. He was the fire of the team with his emotion for the game.
Let’s talk about your game. You improved your minutes and scoring averages. In your first season it was tough being on the court only half of the game instead of the whole game like in school. How much better did it feel playing 28 minutes per game this season?
The more I played I knew I had to contribute someway on the court. Going into year 2 with the team I wanted to be more aggressive with the ball. I just wanted to give them another scoring option.
You averaged 12,7ppg, 3,9rpg, 2,7 apg and 1,5spg while just missing the 40% mark from outside at 39,7% How content were you with your season?
I felt like I’ve could’ve done more this season. I sometimes would just be in the game just to be in the game. I can always get better from the season and I need to develop a killer mentality. Just have to win every match I have whether that’s practice or the game. I have to be better at staying aggressive.
In our last interview you stated that ‘Just doing the little things for my team. Just doing the dirty work to help my team win games. Also learning all aspects of the defense like on and off ball defense. How do you feel did your game progress in your second season in Germany?
Going against guys like the guards we have in practice you’re only going to get better. I have more knowledge from being on the help side on defense this second season.
You upped your outside shooting from 33% to 39%. Last season you stated that confidence would be huge this season. What besides believing in your self helped you shoot better?
I started my shooting pocket higher to have a quicker release. Also, keeping my follow through up and not jerking it so quickly.
What was your personal season highlight on the court? Possibly your 26 point explosion against Kirchheim or 23 point effort against Chemnitz or was it another?
I would have to say the 23 points against Chemnitz because it was my girls just got into town for that game and I balled out.
What is the next step for you? I can imagine that you will want to stay in Heidelberg.
I just want to explore my options right now. Coming off the season I had I just want to see what else is out there.
On what things will you be working on the lab this summer to continue to improve your game?
I’m trying to get stronger and get my shot more consistent. I also want to work on my hops but well see how that goes haha.
Please name your five all-time best teammates in college and pro’s
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?
He can be he had a really great season with the Mavericks this past season. Next season him and Porzingis going to be trouble for other teams.
What was your reaction when you heard that Lebron James named himself the greatest of all-time?
You have to aim high on yourself. Why wouldn’t he say he’s the greatest of all time?
Charles Barkley recently proclaimed that Tom Brady Is more of a GOAT than Michael Jordan. Do you share his opinion?
I fell he maybe is he’s changing the game of football on how its being played.
Tom Brady won sixth Super Bowl. Where will he be if he wins a seventh next season?
He would still be the GOAT of GOATs in my opinion.
What was the last movie that you saw?
I just seen John Wick 3. John is a baaaaaaaddddddddd man.
Thanks Jaleen for the chat