Matt Vest is a 27 year old 195cm guard from Kettering, Ohio that finished his sixth professional season and first withScience City Jena (Germany-ProA) playing 26 games averaging 9.6ppg, 3.1rpg, 5.3apg, 1.5spg, FGP: 61.2%, 3PT: 36.5%, FT: 56.1%. He scored in double figures in 11 games including a 24 points game against the Uni Baskets and 20 points against Nurnberg. Last season he played with the NINERS Chemnitz (Germany-ProA) averaging 6.0ppg, 2.3rpg, 3.2apg, FGP-1 (67.5%), 3PT: 36.4%, FT: 59.0%the In the 2017-2018 season he played with the Rhein Stars Koeln (Germany-ProA) averaging 7,8ppg, 2,3rpg and 3,2. He played two seasons with Paderborn and as a rookie in 2014, he played with BiG Oettinger Rockets Gotha (Germany-ProA) averaging 6.2ppg, 3.3rpg, 1.3apg, FGP: 58.2%, 3PT: 27.4%, FT: 67.6%. He played at Wright State from 2010-2014 playing a total of 114 NCAA games and as a senior played 29 games: 7.4ppg, 3.4rpg, 2.0apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 65.4%, 3PT: 43.1%, FT: 64.9%. He spoke to germanhoops.com during the Coronavirus crisis.
Hi Matt 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?
I am still in Jena, Germany right now with my wife. We are expecting the birth of our first child anytime in the next 1-2 weeks. We have decided to stay in Germany for the next few weeks to welcome our new baby into the world and stay safe during this difficult global health situation.
When you first heard about the Corona Virus did you ever think that it could have such an effect on the world?
I definitely did not. One of my best friends, AJ Pacher, actually played near Milan, Italy where the virus really became serious. He was telling me about the situation there as it spread, but I never thought it would get to the level it is now.
How did you experience the last weeks? Are your loved ones in the States concerned for your well being?
The last few weeks have been difficult as the season came to an unexpected end. Of course, my family was concerned, but we are doing everything we can to remain healthy and not spread the virus. It has actually given my wife and I time to relax and prepare for our baby, which is the most important thing. We have been cleaning the apartment, preparing the nursery, talking with friends and family, reading, going on walks, and watching some of our favorite tv shows. We are trying to make the best of the situation.
How have you experienced the day to day life in Jena 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?
The daily culture in Jena has changed a little bit since restaurants, bars, and cafes have been closed, but I do not sense any panic. Everyone here seems to be remaining calm.
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?
Yea I have become much more aware of things like that, as I am sure we all are. I think doing all the little things to keep ourselves healthy and away from large crowds of people will make a significant difference.
Basketball leagues have shut down all over Europe including the Pro A. How disappointed were you about this and not being able to playoffs? How tough is it not knowing where Science City Jena would really have landed at the end?
Very difficult ending, but of course completely out of our control. I believe we had put ourselves in a great position to make a run in the playoffs, but we will never know how things would’ve ended for us. I just feel grateful for the opportunity to have been part of this club and this team.
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. Could you ever imagine not having fans at a game?
The fans certainly bring a great amount of energy and excitement to a game. Playing without this would’ve have a weird experience for sure.
How tough is it having the season end this way? Would it be easier or more difficult to get motivated to get into the lab each day to keep working on your game or would you try to play in another country that doesn’t have the corona virus?
Although, it is difficult the season had to end this way I plan on using this long offseason to get in the best shape of my life. I want to use this time as an opportunity to really work on my game and body.
Let’s talk about the Science City Jena season. The ex BBL team finished in third place with a record of 18-9 and you still had some games left. How content were you with the season?
I am very happy with what we accomplished as a team. I think we were on the right path to building something special and giving ourselves a chance to compete at moving up to the BBL. I think we developed a strong core group of guys here in Jena.
Could Science City Jena have had a good chance in a 5 game series against your ex club Chemnitz or Bremerhaven?
Definitely! I think we continued to improve as the season progressed and would’ve challenged the top 2 teams in the playoffs. Although, Chemnitz and Bremerhaven both had strong seasons, I think we definitely had a chance.
Science City Jena averaged 83 points per game and were the fourth best rebounding and assist team. It had it’s problems on defense allowing 83 points per game. It allowed 80 points or more 16 times. The team seemed to find it’s defensive identity quickly to start the season in the 5 game winning streak not allowing 80 or more points, but then in the next 9 games allowed 80 points or more 9 times. Why was the defense so up and down?
Our defense always seemed to be what held us back as a team. A reason for that could’ve been our lack of depth at times which didn’t allow us to play consistently with the type of energy and intensity you need to be a high level defensive team.
You had three very thrilling wins by not more than 2 points against PS Karlsruhe, Phoenix Hagen and Trier. Which win was the most exciting and emotional?
I think the Trier win was the most exciting because of the buzzer beater shot at the end of the game. I still think that was the best game winning shot I have ever been a part of in my entire career, and I made the pass so I had a nice view!
Let’s briefly talk about your teammates. How much of a pleasure was it playing with experienced Brad Loesing? How vital was his BBL experience and leadership qualities for the success of the club?
It was great playing with Brad again. We played together in Gotha my rookie year as well. He is a great player, competitor, and person. He was a huge part of the success of our team and I really enjoyed being around him at work every day!
It is always important to have strong German role players and Jena had that with Dennis Nawrocki and Julius Wolf who combined averaging 25 points per game. What quality of each guy was most crucial for the team success?
First of all they are both high character guys and team guys, which is most important. Dennis and Julius brought great shooting to our team at the German positions. The job they both did this season was critical to our success.
Big man Alex Herrera has established himself as a top Pro A player in the paint. What do you still feel is missing for him to reach the BBL?
Nothing. Of course, we can all get better to improve our weaknesses, but I see Alex as a quality BBL big right now. As long as he continues to stay healthy and continue to improve I believe we will see him at that level soon.
Let’s talk about your game. You averaged 10,1ppg, 3,0rpg and 5,1apg, 1,5spg and shot 36% from outside. How content were you with your game this season?
I am really happy with how I performed this season. I was able to stay healthy all year and contribute to our team’s success. I think I did a great job of bringing efficient production on offense and also bringing a high level of defense to the team. I am excited to keep working and improving to prepare for next season.
You had one of your best seasons as a professional comparable to your second season with Paderborn. How do you explain the good season? Was it a combination of hard work, having the right teammates and the Jena system that led you to your success?
I think it was a combination of staying healthy, being in a good situation in Jena, and definitely a lot of hard work. I take pride in my ability to improve every season and I think I took a nice step forward this year.
You have stated in past interviews that shooting is something that you can never stop working on. How would you describe your shooting skills in 2020. Have they progressed the way you have liked this season?
Shooting is a skill you can never stop working on. I am happy with my percentages, but am also looking to develop my offensive skillset every year. I will certainly take advantage of the long offseason.
You have always been a very good defender. Does defending get harder as you get older and your body has had more wear and tear or is the effort something when there will always get you going in the right direction to success?
I think in some ways what I bring defensively is my biggest strength. As I continue to gain more experience the game has slowed down and my defensive instincts have become even sharper. I am grateful that I was taught at a young age the importance of defense because it has served me well my entire career.
Are you looking forward to the next signing summer or dreading it? The coronavirus will put a big dent and change in team’s budgets. Would you play for less and possibly in a lower league if you had to?
I guess time will tell. I plan on being patient this offseason as clubs try to organize their budgets and plans for next season. As always I will talk with my agent and try to make the best decision for my family and career. Wherever my career takes me I always just try to stay committed to my values and make the best of each situation.
What was your personal favorite and best game this season? Your 20 points, 3 rebounds and 7 assists in the thrilling 86-85 win over Trier or 20 points in the 98-88 win over your ex team Paderborn?
Going back to Paderborn was a special game for me this season. We were able to get a win and I had one of my best offensive games of the season. To do this in front of a lot of old friends in Paderborn was a fun experience. There is a place in my heart for all the clubs I have played for in Germany, and certainly Paderborn is no exception.
Who was the toughest player that you battled this season in the Pro A?
There were so many quality guards in the league this year, it is difficult to pick just one. I think Hill from Bremerhaven had maybe the strongest year. His speed, athleticism, and skillset made him very difficult to defend.
Where were you when you heard about the death of Kobe Bryant. You were 12 years old when he began in the NBA. What kind of influence did he have on you during adolescence?
Kobe is a role model for basketball players all over the world. His mentality and work ethic were things I always admired. I can’t tell you how many times I have lost myself on Youtube watching Kobe highlights or workout videos.
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?
The news was difficult to hear just for me as a fan, but I can’t imagine how tough it is for some of those seniors. March is such a special time of year for college basketball.
What was the last movie that you saw?
1917. Very Good movie!
Thanks Matt for the chat.