Kendale McCullum is a 185cm guard from Elgin, Illinois that is playing his rookie season in Germany with the Uni Baskets Paderborn (Germany-ProA). The Uni Baskets Paderborn have had many very talented point guards in the last years, but none better than Kendale Muccullum. At the moment he is averaging 17,5ppg, 5,6rpg, 6,9apg and 3,0spg and flirting with a playoff spot. He has had an enormous impact on the success of the club as he is fourth best scorer in the league and leading the league in assists and steals.He also is shooting a very respectable 40% from outside. He registered a rare triple double against Schwenningen with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists. He began his basketball career at Larkin High School and then played three seasons at Wisconsin Parkside (NCAA2) playing 73 games. In his last two seasons there he averaged 15.0ppg, 5.0rpg, 5.1apg, 2.1spg, FGP: 49.6%, 3PT: 41.1%, FT: 76.7% and 15.5ppg, 4.9rpg, 6.2apg, 2.7spg, FGP: 53.3%, 3PT: 30.4%, FT: 76.4%. He played his last season of college ball at Lewis (NCAA2) playing 31 games averaging 16.4ppg, 5.5rpg, 6.3apg, 2.8spg, FGP: 52.1%, 3PT: 40.5%, FT: 80.2%. He spoke to eurobasket about his basketball career before he signed with the club last summer.
Congrats Kendale on signing with German Pro A team Uni Baskets Paderborn. How did you experience your first summer transfer period. How blessed are you about having Heinrich Sports represent you? It isn’t so common that a D-2 player reach the Pro A?
Heinrich believed in my game from the beginning. He knew he could get me in a really good league where I could showcase my skill.
What do you know in general about the country Germany and it’s basketball? Have you had ex teamamtes or friends play here besides the big man Zygimantas Riauka?
I’ve done a decent amount of research and I’ve talked to some guys who played in Germany. They all loved it. Said the people were amazing, fans were cheering loud at games, food is amazing and etc. I haven’t talked to Ziggy much since he left Parkside. But one guy I talk to a lot was Andy Mazurczak. He talked to me about how it was when he played in this league and that’s it’s a really good start for my rookie season.
How excited are you to be playing Adam Eberhard this season who is playing for the MLP Academics. Is there some revenge on your mind or did the exciting two wins with Lewis in your senior year erase that?
Adam and I became really good friends our senior year. He’s a really good dude and a competitor. So am I! We talk almost everyday and we’re both excited for each other and can’t wait to go against each other. So, there’s no revenge at all, more just having fun, competing with your brother and having bragging rights.
You have a connection to another guy from Elgin where you come from. His name is Marcus Smallwood who played many years in Germany including the Pro A and belonged to the best big men. He lives in Chicago now, but over the years did you ever hear about him? Now that your playing in the Pro A, could a guy like that be like a role model for you?
I actually never heard of him before.. which is surprising to me. One of my role models is Andy Mazurczak! He taught me a lot the two years we spent together at Parkside. So, I reached out to him about the Pro A league. Also, had some conversations with Milosh Pulo! He played 11 years in this league.
The Uni Baskets Paderborn are an ambitious Pro A team that once played in the BBL and haven’t reached the playoffs in a while. How focused and ready are you to lead this team to the playoffs?
We’re just going take it day by day and game by game and see what happens. I believe we have some really good talent on our team, we have a new coaching staff coming in. So we have the potential to be a threat in this league. There’s also other teams in the league with great talent and good coaching staff. So, we’ll see what happens.
The Uni Baskets management is very convinced of your abilities especially head coach Steve Esterkamp who once helped Paderborn reach the BBL with 50 wins in a row 14 years ago. What were the main reasons for joining this club?
I met with coach Esterkamp and we had a great dialogue. We both dissected my game and he sees what I see. He also speaks really good English so that’s good for me. I related this club to Parkside! To whereas I like playing for teams that get no respect because it makes you play harder every game and when you accomplish things people don’t think you can is an amazing feeling. I heard the city of Paderborn isn’t too big but isn’t too small. Which is what I like, think it will help me adjust faster in a smaller city! It’s a really good league to start my career in, especially if I want to move up.
Let’s talk about your game. You’re an aggressive 185cm point guard that can fill up the stat sheet like a Russell Westbrook. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would best fit the description?
I would say my stats are more like Russell but I think my game is very similar to Kyrie Irving! I study film on him every day and try his moves when I’m training and in games.
Coach Steve Esterkamp really likes your will and determination. Are these qualities something that have been developed and grown on account of having played in the NCAA 2? How big is your chip on your shoulder to keep proving yourself that you are a lot better player than in the division you played at?
People don’t understand how good D2 basketball is. Some schools could beat some low major D1 schools. I think every D2 player plays with a chip on the shoulder. I think playing D2 did have an positive impact on me having that will and determination. But it also, started back in high school and during AAU season. A lot of politics with recruiting but it’s whatever. I know I could’ve been a mid-major d1 player, others coaches know that, my teammates know that and etc. but I’m glad I got to play D2 because I’m still playing Pro basketball at the end of the day and got my degree so that’s all that matters. Just a different route for me to get here.
You can score, rebound, get assists and get steals. What other qualities do you have in your game that fans in Germany will see this season?
I think the passion and energy that i play with the fans will love! Sprinting over to pick up at teammate and those types of literally things.
Getting steals isn’t everything about being a great defender. What other qualities do you have on the defensive end that don’t make you an above average defender, but a very good defender?
I play defense with pride! So, I’m playing a game with myself in my head. I never try to be that guy who gets beat every time. It happens because I’m usually guarding the best player but I never let someone bully me or say they ‘killed me’. I think having that mentality of ‘okay, I’m not letting you get by me’ is what helps me be an above average defender.
You were so close to achieving a few triple doubles in your NCAA 2 career and as always filled up the stat sheet, but what do you feel has been missing for you to gain one?
I never really looked or asked during games about my stats. Only stat that I checked for were Turnovers. There were a few times where someone would say ‘hey you need 2 more rebounds to have a triple double’ and I would try too hard and not get them haha.. other times we were usually up by a lot and games would get a little out of hand and I’d tell coach to pull me.
You shot over 40% twice from outside in the NCAA 2? How content are you with your shot and what are your goals to continuing to be a dangerous shooter at the pro ranks?
The biggest thing with me is having confidence. I know I can shoot the ball. I just have to take the shots and have confidence when shooting. I put the work in everyday, just got to knock them down with confidence. One thing I’m focusing more on is shooting 3’s off the bounce. I think once I get the hang of that, my game will be at another level.
You’re a player that can do so many things on the court, but what do you feel is a hidden strength in your game that still is off the radar for many?
I think my leadership of my game is still of the radar a little bit. My team knows I’m a good leader, but I don’t think others see that yet. Which is fine! I would also say, my shooting ability. Like I shot 52%FG and 40%3pt. But this year people will see that ability.
You played three years at Wisconsin Parkside (NCAA2). You had a tough freshman season where you averaged 4.7ppg, 2.7rpg, 1.8apg, 1.3spg in 14 minutes and in your sophomore season averaged 15.0ppg, 5.0rpg, 5.1apg, 2.1spg, FGP: 49.6%, 3PT: 41.1%, FT: 76.7% in 31 minutes. Despite not playing much as a freshman, how important was that season for your game getting a feel for the NCAA 2?
I knew coming in my freshman year I wasn’t going to play much. It was going to be just getting my feet wet and next season adding more to my plate. I was playing behind Andy who was one of the best guards in the league. Having Andy helped me through my freshman year of the rough times. I learned a lot from him that year by watching and seeing how he controlled the tempo of the game. How he was a leader and more. That helped me make an impact my sophomore season.
You played together with the double double beast Zygimantas Riauka as a freshman. What memories do you have of him as a player? What was your fondest memory with him?
My freshman year, he was like my big brother. We were together a lot off the court. He sprained his ankle the day before a game. And he played the next day on a sprained ankle and still got a double double. Guy is a true beast and competitor.
You had two very good season at Wisconsin-Parkside, but then left for Lewis. What were the main reasons for making his change?
Main reasons for the change was because of all the violations the athletic department were receiving! I didn’t want any part of it! Also, talked to some people and said it would be best for me to leave. I think it worked out. Trost allowed me to have freedom and do what I wanted. If I messed up, of course I would get yelled at and that’s how it should be. The Lewis offense was my type of play style, all ball screens and a 4 out 1 in constant motion. At Parkside, it was more a system there. We were successful with it don’t get me wrong. We won a lot of games, conference champs and made the tournament. But it wasn’t truly my play style.
You had many great games at Wisconsin-Parkkside, but how memorable was your 30/7/5/5 game in the 107-106 victory over Quincy?
That whole weekend was memorable! But that Quincy game I’d never forget. We where not supposed to win that game. Quincy missed 6 or 7 free throws down the stretch and it allowed us to take them to overtime. That’s when Andy and I took over. But at that moment, I knew I had a chance to really be good in this league and play professional basketball.
How tough was it losing to top school Bellarmine twice in your last two games at Wisconsin-Parkside) What will you remember most from that weekend?
I did not expect that to be my last game at Parkside. We were so close and then we’d make a mistake and they would go on a run. I was telling the guys ‘we’re going get them next year’. I mean that next year they did beat them at Parkside. So I wasn’t wrong, just wasn’t a part of it.
You had another strong season with Lewis (NCAA2) averaging 31 games: 16.4ppg, 5.5rpg, 6.3apg, 2.8spg, FGP: 52.1%, 3PT: 40.5%, FT: 80.2%. How do you feel did your game develop further as a senior?
I think having that year off to expand my game, get stronger and rest my body had a big impact on it. I think me being in a system where my skill can be shown helped as well. All my stats and percentages went it up. And it showed with all the accolades I received and the team achievements.
How did Lewis head coach Scott Trost give you that last push in helping you be groomed and prepared for a professional basketball career?
Trost saw me play once when I was at Parkside and we went against each other. But once he saw me every day in practice and in games, he knew I could play pro and he helped me prepare for that. Every day, I was working on things I’d have to do professionally. Some things I may not be able to get away with. He pushed me every day to be the best player in the gym. During practice and in games. And I thank him for that.
Who won a one on one in practice you of Adam Pischke?
Not going to lie, but the kid is a walking bucket. He’s not the biggest kid on the court but he’s going to guard you and he’s going to score on you. We never played one on one. Unless it was during a one on one drill in practice. He’d score on me, I’d score on him. We never kept track. I only play One on one with Anthony D’Avanzo because he thinks he can guard me. We’re actually tied 5-5 in the series
Who has been the toughest player that you battled in the NCAA that is in the NBA or in Europe?
Jordan Loyd was a bucket machine. He dominated us every time we played them.
Please list your five best teammates of all-time?
I have to give you six haha Andy Mazurczak, Chip Flanigan, Adam Pischke, Anthony D’Avanzo, Frank Vukaj and Donovan Oliver
Please name your personal own NBA Rushmore. Which four heads would you pick past or present for your list?
This is tough! I’m picking LeBron James, Luka Doncic, Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant
What is your personal opinion of the never ending debate of who is the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan or Lebron James?
I think they both are phenomenal players and glad to see the LeBron James Era. I never saw the MJ era so I can’t pick. Based off the sports analysis and what I’ve seen LeBron James do on the court, I’m picking LeBron James.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Netflix original, it’s called Point Blank. Fantastic movie, highly recommend it. Especially, if you like action movies.
Thanks Kendale for the chat.