The Secret To Kendale Mccullum´s (Uni Baskets) Success Was That He Had Nothing To Lose

Kendale Mccullum is a 185cm guard from Elgin, Illinois that played his rookie season in Germany with the Uni Baskets Paderborn (Germany-ProA) averaging 18,1ppg, 5,3rpg, 7,2apg and 2,6spg. The Uni Baskets Paderborn have had many very talented point guards in the last years, but none better than Kendale Muccullum. He has had an enormous impact on the success of the club as was the third best scorer in the league and led the league in assists and steals. He also shot a very respectable 42% 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%. 

Hi Kendale where are you at the moment and how is your current mood despite the world turmoil at the moment because of the out break of the Corona Virus? 

Hey, I am currently at home in the Chicagoland area! It sucks not being able to go outside the house and being trapped in but it’s what’s best for right now. 

When you first heard about the Corona Virus did you ever think that it could have such an effect on the world?

I didn’t think it would be like this! I just thought it was one of those viruses that would be gone within a month and not affect the world like it has. 

How did you experience 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? 

We still had practice, weights and everything. We did not change our schedule until we found out how serious the spreading was getting. ButIi didn’t not see anything change really. People were still out doing their daily activities! 

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, I just have a head nod or an elbow to elbow or just said what’s up! Made sure to wash my hands before and after doing anything. Didn’t really interact with people coughing. 

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 disappointed just because it happened so late in the season. Right when the playoffs were coming up things started to get more intense. And we had the chance to do something Paderborn hasn’t been able to do in the last 10 years 

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 mean, that’s what we play for. We play to give the fans a show. It’s hard to play a game without a crowd. Playing home or away. It’s tough. There’s no advantage really anymore. I think we shouldn’t play if there are not fans. 

You have returned back to the States. How have you experienced the coronavirus outbreak at home compared to Germany? 

We’re on lockdown here in Illinois. So, it’s different here than in Germany. I think we’re taking action right now. 

What have you learned about these tough times that has made you stronger as a person? 

I’m the type of person that’s never in the house. I like to be around friends and people. So, now I’m doing puzzles and reading books and it’s helping me do new activities and things like that. I never really sat in the house and read and do puzzles. 

Wil 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 think it’s an advantage because we have more time to recover from the long season we just went through. More time to spend with skills trainer, get stronger and watch film. Also, not in such a rush to sign a contract with a team. More options and more time for teams to watch film on you to see if they actually want you. 

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? 

I think it’s more not knowing when it will start so we have to stay ready for when that is. And just staying patient and healthy. 

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? 

I think we knew we were the most talented to team but we had a bond that was phenomenal. I think we had a unique play stay and a roster. We weren’t the biggest, nor the most athletic. 

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? 

I think we would have made the playoffs. Might’ve be close because we didn’t really have tiebreakers with teams fighting. But I think we had a really good chance to win our last couple of games. Things were starting to click for us and we were playing well. 

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? 

I think guys started to finally understand their roles and who should be shooting what shots, who should be in ball screens and etc! Then, coach also found an offensive and defensive style that fit the guys we have. 

How vital was that exciting 77-75 victory over Tuebingen to begin the turnaround? 

After that game, was when we realized how good we could be. If we played together, never gave up and trusted the system. 

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? 

We spend so much time together. We do a lot of team bonding and that’s what helped us build our chemistry. I think we would have surprised teams by making a playoff run. 

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? 

We didn’t do anything special. It was just a simple action into a pick and roll. But we have several actions a team stopped the first action we had 4-5 ball screens in one action. It was hard for teams to guard if we ran it at a fast pass. Another thing was if you’re open, let it fly. As long as it was the right guys shooting those shots. 

Let’s talk about your season. How vital was the experience of Demetrius Ward? Did he take you under his wing early on and give you the tips that helped you have a great rookie season? 

Dimi and I had a great connection. He taught me a few things to look for and how to get away with certain things. But most of the stuff come from Steve helping me adapt to the European basketball. Different style played there than here in the states. Watched a lot of film and worked out a lot to adjust. Daniel also helped me too.

The trio of you 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? 

Well, we lived together so we were always together. It was nice for me because they’ve been in the pro life awhile so I just picked up things from them and how they went about certain things. On the court, things were just natural for us. It felt like we’ve played together our entire lives. 

If you had to choose one player who you feel improved the most this season who would you pick? 

I would say Henning Ballhausen, kid is grinder and a gym rat. Works hard and always wants to get better. 

Let’s talk about your game. In your rookie season you played 26 games: Score-3 (18.1ppg), 5.3rpg, Assists-1 (7.2apg), Steals-2 (2.6spg), FGP: 58.5%, 3PT: 42.4%, FT: 76.2%. How content were you with your first professional season? 

I honestly didn’t expect it to this well. During preseason, I was having doubts on if I was good enough to play at this level. Thinking I should be in Pro B! Then, after our last preseason game, I had a talk with Steve. And after that everything just started to click for me and I never had that doubt in my mind again. I’m happy it ended well for me, coaching staff and the players trusted me to make plays and let me be me. And I’m thankful for that. 

You began the season scoring 27 points in a loss to Heidelberg and never let up scoring in double figures in 25 of 26 games. Were you a bit surprised how you exploded in the Pro A coming from the NCAA 2? What do you believe was your secret to your success? 

I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder. People don’t realize how good D2 basketball actually is. There’s some really good players. It’s all about agents, and teams taking a chance on that player. My secret was I have nothing to lose. A team just needs to give me a chance to show I can play. I believe I can play at a high level. I still have a lot more I can learn and get better at which is scary. Players from others teams were shocked when I’d tell them I played D2! 

You stated in our first interview that will and determination is a big part of your success. Do you feel like you brought that to a new level as a rookie? 

I definitely feel like I took it to another level. The determination that I was going get better everyday to improve my game and give Paderborn the best chance to every game we play. 

You are very humble concerning your defensive qualities. In our first interview you stated ‘okay, I’m not letting you get by me’ is what helps me be an above average defender. How do you feel was key for making the jump from being a great college defender to a great rookie defender? 

It’s a lot more physical here so it happens. They don’t call the hand check fouls so it helps me with being physical on the ball and putting good ball pressure. 

You were close to getting a few triple doubles in school saying then that you tried to hard when you were close. You achieved your first professional triple double in your fourth game in a win against Schwenningen achieving 22 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists. Take us back to that game. Did you know again at the end that you were close and didn’t try to hard and let the game come to you or were you not aware that you had got it until you checked the stat sheet at the end? 

I never know until after the game. Through the game, I was just in the grove and was in my zone. I didn’t try against Schwenningen. Everything was just clicking for me and my teammates were making shots! I found out in the locker room. 

You shot a strong 42% from outside as a rookie. In our last interview you stated that ‘shooting 3’s off the bounce. I think once I get the hang of that, my game will be at another level’. Do you feel like you made it to the next level as a shooter combined with added self confidence? 

I did take another step in that! It’s starting to become a strength. Still have to improve at it but have a lot of time this summer to work on it. Once it becomes elite, I’ll be tough to guard in the pick and roll. 

You stated in our last interview that leadership is off your radar. You showed as a rookie that you can lead a team well. Do you feel like people noticed your leadership more this season? 

I think I could have been a bit more vocal. But, yes I do believe a lot of people noticed my leadership. But, it’s a different type of way you have to lead playing pro than playing college. It’s more challenging here. 

You had many great games as a rookie including your triple double and games against Jena and Rostock where you were missing an assist or close wins against Chemnitz and Tuebingen. What game do you feel was your strongest as a rookie? 

This is a tough one haha! But I would say at Rostock, or the win against Chemnitz. 

After a season like this easyCredit BBL teams have you on the radar. On what things do you need to work on this extended spring/summer to make the next step to the top league in Germany? 

I would have to put on some weight, keep working on different finishes around the rim. Such as floaters. Then, just coming off the ball screens and pulling up from 3! 

Who was the toughest player that you battled in the Pro A as a rookie? 

There were a lot of good players in the league. My favorite guys to play against were Kasey Hill, were super similar. I feel like. Duane Wilson, Jordan Gist, Jalen McCloud, and Shy Ely! 

You have probably seen many beautiful places in your basketball career, but how did the city of Paderborn grow on you? 

Paderborn is a great city. It’s not too small but it’s not too big. The people were awesome, super friendly. Everything was super close. Food was amazing. It felt like home and that made the transition easy for me. 

Luka Doncic had an amazing sophomore campaign. Is he a top 3 NBA player now? 

I would say top 10! But a top 3 point guard 

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? 

I think the NCAA should give those seniors that year back. I think it’s unfair to them because they won’t be able to play in the biggest game of their lives and for much of them they were going be done after their senior season anyways. Some guys needed this big stage to play in front of NBA scouts and agents. 

What was the last movie that you saw? 

Ready or not! Great movie

Thanks Kendale for the chat.

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