Demetrius Ward is a 29 year old 188cm guard from Detroit, Michigan that played his eighth professional season and second with Pro A team uni Baskets Paderborn and averaged 12,2ppg, 3,8rpg, 3,9apg and 1,0spg. Last season he averaged 9,1ppg, 4,4rpg and 5,6apg. He played his first six professional seasons with MTV Wolfenbuettel Herzoege (Germany-ProB) playing a total of 138 games. He played at Western Michigan from 2008-2012 playing a total of 129 NCAA games and as a senior played 31 games averaging 12.1ppg, 4.6rpg, 3.0apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 41.3%, 3PT: 31.5%, FT: 76.2%. Currently he is averaging 17,4ppg, 6,4rpg and 4,7apg. He spoke to germanhoops.com during the Coronavirus crisis
Hi Demetrius, where are you at the moment and how is your current mood despite the world turmoil at the moment because of the outbreak of the Corona Virus?
Hello Miles, I’m currently in Paderborn. My mood is a bit weird and not being able to do much due to this Corona Virus.
When you first heard about the Corona Virus did you ever think that it could have such an effect on the world?
No, I did not think the COVID-19 virus would have such a significant effect on the world. It’s shocking to see how the world around us has changed so drastically.
How have you experienced the day to day life in Paderborn during the Corona Virus outbreak? Did you see that corona effect on the culture there or was it not so much different happening in your day to day dealings?
When the COVID-19 first began to spread, day to day living was going normally. When the number of cases started to increase drastically, life began to change, and normal routines were disturbed. I think we were one of the last cities to shut down. Now each day we are facing new restrictions and guidelines to keep ourselves and other safe.
Did you become more aware about how you handle yourself in public in terms of shaking hands and not being in the line of fire with somebody coughing?
Yes, the COVID-19 virus is very serious. I try to limit myself to going outside unless I absolutely need too. I ensure to wash my hands regularly, use hand sanitizer, and avoid touching my face. I keep myself at a distance from other people in order to protect myself and others.
Basketball leagues have shut down all over Europe including the Pro A. How disappointed were you about this and not being able to finish the season?
I was very disappointed to learn the basketball season was cancelled. However, I understand the reasoning behind such action. We as a society have to remember our health is more important, keeping ourselves safe and healthy is extremely important for the better good of the world.
Before leagues were shut down there was a BCL game in Bonn against AEK Athens and a Fiba Europe Cup game in Bayreuth without spectators. What is your overall opinion of playing a game without fans?
I think it could be interesting. Playing basketball is my passion and I believe it is better to play without an audience rather to not play at all. However, I understand why that’s not a possibility right now.
Have returned back to the States or are you going to remain in Germany first for a while?. How have you experienced the coronavirus outbreak at home compared to Germany?
I have not returned to the States, I am still in Germany and will remain here for a while.
What have you learned about these tough times that has made you stronger as a person?
I have learned that we should live in the moment and appreciate our family, friends, and health.
Will it be a big adjustment having to start 3 months earlier with workouts and basketball skill development? What will be the advantages and disadvantages of this?
I truly believe it will be an advantage if the gyms are open and we are able to go workout. The disadvantage would be having a lockdown for 3 months.
The whole world economy is going to be affected including German basketball. How worried are you about the future of professional basketball? The next season will have many changes. How are you handling this mentally now not knowing what to expect?
Mentally I am staying strong. I can’t control what will happen. All I can do is work hard daily to keep myself in good shape in order to compete in the next season. I can’t predict the future and how it will affect the professional basketball, all I can do is work on myself and continue to improve my strength and skills.
Congrats on a marvelous season with the Uni Baskets Paderborn. The club finished with a record of 14-12 in sixth place. It was the clubs best finish in 6 seasons. What made this years club so special?
Thank you for the recognition of our team’s success. Our team chemistry made it special. We worked as a real team and didn’t rely on 1 or 2 people to carry the team. We all had the same goal, all of us wanted to reach the playoffs. We knew how tough the league was going to be, so we focused on the little things we could control like practicing hard daily, being mentally focused, and playing selflessly.
How tough is it being at home now and not knowing how the season of the Uni Baskets would have ended? Do you sometimes go over certain scenarios of how the season might have gone?
It’s tough, we truly wanted to make the playoffs. We worked extremely hard to reach our goal. There were only 5 games left and we were currently in 6th place. We were in a good situation to make it there. Sometimes I play in my head how our season could’ve played out, if we would’ve made the playoffs, and who we would have played.
The Uni Baskets Paderborn began the season slow losing 4 of 5 games, but then won 6 of 8 games. What were the reasons for the swift turnaround?
The swift turnaround happened because we continued to stay and work together. We continued to believe in what coach Steve was teaching us. We never got discouraged or lost hope, we kept working and it started to click. We lost those games by 1-2 possessions which meant it was only small things we needed to fix.
How vital was that exciting 77-75 victory over Tuebingen to begin the turnaround?
It was really exciting because we know how hard winning in Tuebingen is. Winning with 2 points ahead made the long ride home a lot better.
The club kept a good core of guys from last season and added 4 new players that made the difference. How confident were you that this team chemistry would continue to grow throughout the playoffs and lead to success?
The team chemistry was great, it was one of our strengths. I had no doubt that we would keep growing. It only took time where we locked in and started to believe.
Head Coach Steven Esterkamp has been undergoing a stellar development as a coach. He got good Pro A experience in Gotha with Chris Ensminger, led Wolfenbuettel into the Pro B playoffs and now did the same thing with Paderborn. What was it with his style and coaching that made the season so successful?
Coach Steve is very intelligent, he pays attention to detail, which helped us succeed as a team. He was always on us to be our best and was open to feedback. He gave us the trust and confidence to play freely within his system. He recruited a good group of guys that fit his system in playing fast and shooting 3’s.
How vital was your experience for Kendale Mccullum did you take him under his wing early on and give him the tips that helped him have a great rookie season?
Kendale and I had a good relationship on and off the court. I helped him out a few times with a few small things. I helped him more off the court with when the stores open where to buy certain things. On the court he didn’t need much help just small adjustments.
The duo of Jackson Trapp and Ryan Logan was a big reason for the success this season. Could you describe a little what you appreciated most about them on and off the court
Jackson and Ryan were a good combo. Ryan a point forward and Jackson a deadly shooter from outside. What I appreciate on the court about Jackson was he made it easy for me, teams didn’t want him to get an open shot, so he let things open up for others. Off the court we use to always go to the second team games together. His music playlist was pretty good. Ryan had eyes in the back of his head. He’s very selfless maybe to selfless at times but he’s a good teammate and he loves to compete, and trash talk which pushes us to play harder. He could post up and also drive from the outside and his play making ability made him a hard matchup. Off the court we would play a lot of Xbox together.
If you had to choose one player who you feel improved the most this season who would you pick?
I would say Henning Ballhausen, he worked his butt off daily in practice and never complained about anything. There were games where he played 10 mins and the next game maybe 0, but he was in practice the next day working without complaining. His jump shot got a lot better also with his decision making.
Let’s talk about your game. You played 26 games averaging 12.2ppg, 3.8rpg, 3.9apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 54.5%, 3PT: 39.2%, FT: 82.1%. Was this your best season as a professional considering your stats you gave at the pro A level?
Yes, I would say this was my best season as a pro. Seeing numbers like this and one may ask why? The other years my numbers were all higher, but my efficiency wasn’t as good, and we didn’t finish the league in 6th place. This year I’ve done what I needed to do to help the team in limited minutes. I was very efficient within 23 mins average with an efficiency of 14.5 where other players with 30mins average have the same or less efficiency but you see 18pts 2rebs 2ast and think it was a better season for this guy. Sometimes I think that goes unnoticed, people look at the stats and see high number but don’t pay attention to efficiency or minutes played. So yes, I know this was by far my best season as a pro.
Your turning 30 this summer. Can one say looking back at your season that you have reached your prime now?
I would say yes, my understanding for the game is at an all-time high. Coach Steve helped me realize that you don’t have to average 30 mins to be effective. So, with my age and experience I bring a lot to the team, not only statically but off the court as well.
You made another step as a player as you’re getting older. How confident are you that you can continue this curve up instead of back as often is the case as players reach 30?
I’m confident because I know what I can do, and I trust in myself to keep getting better. I play my game and I don’t force things. So,my goal is to keep growing and continue to prefect my skills.
You shot 39% from outside which was your best three point percentage since your junior season at Western Michigan. What do you attribute to shooting so well and having your best percentage as a professional in your eight seasons?
Taking good shots, being in the right spot to get good shots. This summer I worked a lot on shooting the ball off the dribble, so I was more comfortable taking those shots in the game when I had to. Also watching a lot of film to know where my shots would come from and having good teammates to find me.
Your assists and rebounds were down and your minutes, but you were more efficient than last season considering having the dominate Kendale Mccullum on your side. Did taking less dribbles factor into the success?
No not necessary, my role changed this season. Kendale was our point guard and ran the team, I was the backup. We had a well-balanced team, so my numbers were down, but we were winning so everyone is happy.
What is the next step for you? I can imagine you will want to return back. On what things will you be working on this extended spring/summer to help you make the next step once again?
I will work more on my body and my conditioning. Along with some different types of finishes around the basket. The next step is to stay healthy and wait for this corona virus to be over.
Steven Esterkamp has been your coach for three seasons. Has your relationship grown over the years and how has he helped you become a better player in the last three years?
Yes, over the years my relationship with coach Steve has grown. He continues to push me to better and guides me to be successful on and off the court. I have a lot of respect for his role, he has many hard decisions to make and he helps each player to become better and better each season.
I don’t have to guess what your best game was. Your amazing 14 points, 6 rebounds, 10 assists, 1 steal and ,3 blocks in the thrilling 92-91 win over top team Chemnitz was an achievement. What memories do you have of this game and where does it rank in your best games as a professional?
The memory that stands out to me the most is how loud the gym got when we took the first lead in the game in the 3rd quarter. It was an overall amazing game with a lot of great memories. Chemnitz was a good team and had won the last 22 games before coming into Paderborn and we ended that which was a good overall feeling.
Who was the toughest player that you battled in the Pro A this season?
I would say the players I had to guard daily in practice.
You have probably seen many beautiful places in your basketball career, but how did the city of Paderborn grow on you?
Paderborn has grown on me because it’s not so big and everything I need is in walking or biking distance. Paderborn is pretty nice and quiet with a lot of historical things.
Luka Doncic had an amazing sophomore campaign. Is he a top 3 NBA player now?
Luka is no doubt an amazing player but in my opinion in this moment, his is not a top 3 player in the NBA just yet.
Where were you when you heard about the death of Kobe Bryant. What kind of influence did he have on you during adolescence?
I was at home when I got the news. He had an incredible influence on my life growing up. His love for the game, how hard he worked, and the respect he demanded from others. He was the reason I started playing basketball and the reason I fell in love with the sport.
How bitter is it that the NCAA March Madness has been canceled? This tournament for some kids is the greatest time of their lives. What advice would you give that senior who worked hard for 4 years and would have had his one and only chance now?
It’s very unfortunate for those players that missed the opportunity to participate in the tournament experience. It is not easy getting to the tournament, if you’re not at a big school. So, to be picked for the tournament and then it gets cancelled is very bitter and sad for those players. I would tell them to keep their head up focus on life and move forward.
What was the last movie that you s
Bad Boys For Life
Thanks Demetrius for the chat