TJ Shorts is a 22 year old 175cm point guard from Tustin, California playing his rookie season with BK Ventspils (Latvia-LBL). He began his basketball career at Tustin High School an dthen played two years at Saddleback JC (JUCO) He finished at the University of California – Davis (NCAA) playing 31 games averaging 14.6ppg, 3.7rpg, 4.5apg, 2.0spg, FGP: 53.8%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 72.7% and in his senior year averaged 15.2ppg, 4.7rpg, 4.3apg, 1.6spg, FGP: 53.0%, 3PT: 27.9%, FT: 71.8%. He led BK Ventspils to a 84-80 win in Bayreuth netting 15 points and spoke to germanhoops.com before a Fiba Europe Cup game against medi Bayreuth in Bayreuth.
TJ thanks for talking to germanhoops.com. Before we get to the interview, I read that what not many know is that you’re a passionate surfer. Have you been able to pick up on it in beautiful Ventspils in Latvia?
I wouldn’t say I’m a passionate surfer but I do enjoy surfing as a side hobby. I don’t get to surf as much as I’d like and unfortunately haven’t been able to pick it up here in Ventspils.
Welcome to Germany. Is this your first time here? What do you know in general about the country and it’s basketball?
Thank you this is my first time in Germany, and I don’t know much about Germany but I do know Dirk is from here and also Dennis Schroeder is from here but not super familiar with this country.
Have you had any ex teammates, or opponents that have played in Germany in the past? Do you have contact with Nick Hornsby who played at your high school Tustin?
So I do have an ex teammate who is currently playing here in Germany my brother Nick Hornsby is here playing and me and him played high school basketball together for a year when I was a sophomore and he was a senior we won a school championship together during that year.
Your playing your rookie season in Latvia for BK Ventspils. The club has won 11 titles since 2000. What kind of experience has it been playing for such a well known organization that has a lot of tradition?
So far it has been a great experience playing for such a well know organization with such great tradition. I’m learning every day about the style of basketball here in Europe and I’m trying to fit in and help bring another title to the team this year.
BK Ventspils is off to an excellent start in the Fiba Europe Cup. The club is averaging 90 points per game and allowing 74 points per game and grabbing 40 rebounds per game. What has been the secret to the success? It seems like everything is gelling early.
I think the secret to our success is how hungry each and every one of us are we are never satisfied with just one victory we celebrate the victory for a few hours after the game and the next day we are back focused and back hungry for another victory. So I think the secret is we are never satisfied and we are hungry.
In the last few years BK Ventspils have had a great record of winning titles or reaching finals. How big are the club expectations to win titles in general?
The goal every year for any team should be to win the title so I don’t think there’s any expectations I think it’s just a mindset of wanting to win the title every year and like I said earlier staying hungry for more.
What has it been like sharing the floor with point guard Wes Washpun? How do you guys compliment each other best and has there been anything that you have been able to soak up from him?
Unfortunately I haven’t been able to play with Wes yet because he suffered a minor injury but hopefully in the near future we can share the floor soon.
When you arrived in Ventspils and found out that Ryan Luther was your teammate, did you remember he had played against you last season with Arizona beating you 70-68 while you dropped 25 points?
Yes I definitely remember still a classic game to look back on but we joked about the game a little bit but now that we are teammates that is in our past.
What have you learned to appreciate the most about Ryan Luther on and off the court? Have you bonded in a special way since your both rookies?
I’ve learned first off how talented he is on the floor he can play inside and he can shoot the 3 so it is easy to play with. Also, off the floor he has been a huge help showing me around and helping me get settled here in Ventspils.
Let’s talk about your game. You’re a 175cm point guard. Did you get a lot of doubters growing up about your size? How did you experience having to deal being a small point guard?
I definitely had a lot of doubters growing up and still have some now but that was never something I listened to because at the end of the day everyone will always have an opinion on something but it’s just a matter of what’re you going to do once you step in between those lines on the court.
If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would best fit the description? Would Nate Robinson be a good choice?
I think my game is a mixture of Chris Paul with his ability to pass and the new Isaiah Thomas with his ability to score while being so small.
You were a solid scorer at the NCAA level and averaged 4,4apg. Do you see yourself concentrating more on being a playmaker at the professional level and be able to push the assists up?
I just see myself doing whatever the team needs me to do, I’ve never been one to look at stats but I more so look at the outcome of games so if the team needs me to be a playmaker I can do that for the team.
You had a stellar career at Tustin leading team to three consecutive Empire League titles and averaging 17,0ppg as a senior. But you got no NCAA offers. How tough was dealing with it and did you wish that you would have been 185cm to 190cm tall?
It was definitely tough dealing with having no scholarships but I continued to work and went a different route and eventually got what I was working for. Also, I don’t look at my height as a negative I’m blessed with what I have and am happy the way things worked out for me.
You played two seasons with Saddleback JC (JUCO) getting MVP. What did you learn about yourself as a player and person in these two years which allowed you to reach the NCAA?
I learned that I was a fighter and was willing to work for my goals. During JUCO it’s easy to give up and take a different route but I continued to work and eventually got better and earned my division 1 scholarship to UC Davis.
You played two seasons with University of California – Davis (NCAA) putting up big time stats and winning all big west player of the year in 2018. After playing two seasons of JUCO league, how do you feel did your game develop further at the higher NCAA level?
I think the main thing was I started to understand the game more and got stronger which ultimately helped me to succeed at the next level. Also, my coaches were great excepting me into the culture there and helped me excel to win those achievements.
In your junior season you put up 31 points in an exciting 105-104 victory over Long Beach State. Was that one of your most memorable games in the NCAA?
This was definitely my most memorable moment from the NCAA, something I will never forget and still from time to time go back and watch the video of the crazy game and the crazy shot that won it.
You recorded a triple double of 10/10/10 in a win against Cal Poly. How big was that achievement and do you feel like with added experience and the continuation of polishing your game that you could be an absolute stat filler at the professional level and get a triple double?
That was another big achievement in my college career and I definitely feel like with continued work I can become a stat filler at the next level here as a pro.
In your last NCAA game, you lost to Cal State Fullerton 75-71 getting 28 points. Is this one of those games that will stick in your mind as one you won’t forget so easily?
This was definitely a game I’ll never forget with it being my last game of my college career but looking back I have no regrets and glad it played out the way it did.
How did head coach Jim Les groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
He was a big help especially with him playing in the NBA for many years I was able to learn so much from him in my two years at Davis that I’ll be able to take with me and apply at the professional level so I thank him for that.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Damion Squire?
I was definitely winning one on ones against my young brother Damion squire but there were a bunch of close calls because he is a exceptional talent and will have a great career at Davis for the next three years.
If you had to construct your own personal NBA Rushmore, which 4 heads would you pick that bets fits your taste?
NBA Rushmore that fits my taste would be Kobe, Lebron, Isaiah Thomas, Chris Paul
Where will the journey of the Golden State Warriors go now with the injury to Steph Curry? Is the Dynasty now over?
I don’t know if the dynasty is over I’m sure they will be able to bounce back but it will definitely be interesting to see what happens next.
What is your personal opinion of the never ending debate of who is the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan or Lebron James?
They’re both great in their own rights so I cant make that decision of who is the GOAT cause I never got to watch MJ live.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Pursuit of Happyness my all time favorite movie
Thanks TJ for the chat