Courtney Belger is a 30 year old 187cm guard from St Louis that completed his seventh professional season and fourth with FC Schalke 04 (Germany-ProA) averaging 13,7ppg, ,4rpg,4,oapg and 1,6spg. Last season with Schalke he averaged 15,0ppg, 4,3rpg and 5,0apg Two seasons ago with FC Schalke he played 25 games averaging 16.5ppg, 5.4rpg, 5.2apg, 1.5spg, FGP: 53.5%, 3PT: 22.4%, FT: 78.9%. In 2015-2016 he played with the Itzehoe Eagles (Germany-ProB) playing 24 games averaging 12.6ppg, 5.3rpg, 4.5apg, 1.7spg, FGP: 46.0%, 3PT: 20.0%, FT: 65.6% and Kalamunda Eastern Suns (Australia-SBL) playing 14 games averaging 21.1ppg, 6.3rpg, 4.1apg, Steals-4 (3.1spg), FGP: 49.0%, 3PT: 22.4%, FT: 80.8%. He played his first two professional seasons with TV Ibbenbuehren (Germany-Regionalliga). He started his basketball career at Quincy (NCAA2) in 2008 where he played until 2012 playing a total of 113 NCAA 2 games. As a senior he played 27 games averaging 11.3ppg, 5.2rpg, 3.9apg, 1.8spg, FGP: 47.8%, 3PT: 10.5%, FT: 72.0%. He spoke to germanhoops.com during the coronavirus crisis.
Hi Courtney 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 what’s up Miles. I am currently in my wife’s hometown in Camp Point, Illinois. Everybody pretty much has to stay at home orders because of the virus but for me it’s not really that bad at all. Normally I’m away from my wife for 9 months while we’re both playing so the extra time together has been amazing for me personally in this tough time for others.
When you first heard about the Corona Virus did you ever think that it could have such an effect on the world?
When I first heard about the Coronavirus I definitely didn’t think it would bring the world to a complete stop like it has. I wasn’t taking it so serious at first.
How did you experience the day to day life in Gelsenkirchen when you were still in Germany? What things did you notice in the surroundings there that showed that life wasn’t normal?
My overall day to day didn’t change too much until they told us we couldn’t workout in the basketball gyms or lift weights. Once those two were canceled I was eager to hear what the decision would be with us staying or going home. My last couple days in Gelsenkirchen some of my favorite restaurants were closed and that was very disappointing because I love to eat lol.
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
The Coronavirus made us all aware of making sure we were taking our hygiene serious and not touching unnecessary things. Coughing was definitely a no fly zone for us. If somebody started coughing the interaction was finished lol.
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?
The ending of our league was bitter sweet. It made sense obviously in order to keep people safe and like I mentioned earlier, I was able to see my family earlier than ever in my whole career. The negative side to the season ending earlier was I was starting to play my best basketball and wanted to see what that looked like. Everything was starting to click.
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 don’t really have an overall opinion on playing a game with or without fans. We also played our last game in an empty gym and it felt like all the other games for me. I started in Regionalliga 2. There weren’t many people in the crowd watching us play back then.
What have you learned about these tough times that has made you stronger as a person?
The main thing I have learned about these tough times are to take nothing for granted. Your profession, your family, even your time on this earth could all be taken away from you in a blink of an eye.
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 think having three more months to train and workout will not be an adjustment for me this off season at all. Last year I played injured and couldn’t even dunk. During the summer I would have to shorten workouts to try and be ready when the season came. I got fully healthy in August. This summer is one I’ve been looking forward to because I was actually able to get healthier throughout the season. I’ll take my month off of just stretching and mobility and then get to work like always. Next year will be a good one for me I’m sure.
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’m not too worried about the future of professional basketball. I think things will recover eventually. When it’s time for me to play I’ll be ready. I’m not going to stress this summer. I will pray, workout, and chill with wifey for as long as I can at home.
If you had to name another player besides guys from the team that you have been in most contact via Social Media who would it be?
I have been in Germany since 2013. I’m talking to everybody. Niclas Sperber, Demetrius Ward, Pierre Bland, Adrian Breitlauch, Roland Nyama, Kris Davis, Josh Braun, etc. I get bored in Europe and connect with everybody. I normally hate them the first time we play though lol.
How has the day to day life been now in the States with the outbreak of the Coronavirus? Have you noticed any differences and are there any differences between the Americans and German people on how they are coping and handling themselves?
My day to day life has been great since I have been back in the states. I self quarantined with my mom and lil brother for the first week. After that my wife and I moved into our place and have been watching Netflix and doing home workouts all day lol. Perfect way to spend my first weeks back. The main difference I have noticed between how Germany and America has responded to the Coronavirus is the types of clothing being worn. Americans wear gloves and masks, but in Germany I was seeing full call of duty outfits lol.
How has your approach to family changed since the outbreak of Corona? What things have you seen yourself do that you may not have done before?
My approach to family has changed because of the Coronavirus for the better. I make sure to try and communicate and spend time with my family. I try to be around more when I can be as well as interact more with my little brother. I want to really put more of an impact into his childhood.
Let’s talk about the season with FC Schalke. It was your fourth season with the club. Last season you helped lead the team to a 14th place and this season to a 16th place. Because of the season ending abruptly and it not being able to be completed there will be no teams going to Pro B which might have been the fate. How do you summarize this season with how the season ended?
The season ending abruptly was the perfect ending to a very strange season. We started out with injuries, had more injuries in the middle of the season, players in and out, and a coaching change. When I sit back and look at how the year went, it almost makes sense that we wouldn’t be able to finish the year smh.
Talent wise was there much difference between the two teams in the last two seasons? How disappointed are you with the season and do you put some blame on yourself as point guard?
The talent on our team this year was similar to the talent we had last year. It might have been better actually, even though we finished in a lower position. We lost a lot of games by 2-4 points, so we weren’t really as bad as the record seemed. Obviously I take some responsibility for us being in the bottom two positions in the league. We had a coaching change in December and I played terrible for five games straight. I think I couldn’t get my mind right, because I came back to finish out Raffi’s last year. I had to get back to enjoying the game and having fun. If I didn’t have that five game mishap I think we would have been fine. I finally started playing better again, but we were learning a new style of basketball. There was a learning curve that we needed to catch up to. The other teams in the league had been playing the same style and with each other since August. We were basically learning on the fly the second half of the year.
The team scored 77 points and allowed 82 points per game. The club allowed 80 points or more 17 times. It was strange at times, because the team knew how to defend once allowing Artland to only 46 points and early in the season in December had 5 games in a row allowing under 80 points. Was the consistent effort missing?
After we changed coaches a lot of our focus went to fixing our offensive struggles. We didn’t really focus on defense that much anymore. We would like to think it wouldn’t affect our defense much but it seems like it did. Towards the end of the season we started to put more energy into our defense again and I think we made a step.
Let’s talk about your teammates. How much fun was it playing with new guard Tucker Haymond. He had to pay his dues in the Pro B last season which led to the scoring crown and came on board late and demonstrated in 5 games that he can be a very good Pro A player. Do you feel like the club would have had a different season had he been on board from the start?
I had a good time playing with Tucker. He takes the grind serious and puts a lot of energy and effort into his game. It was nice to be around that type of work ethic. I think we would have been okay with having all of our players there the whole time. While we were waiting on Tucker to be able to play, Jordan was already gone. We missed another playmaker during that time.
What did you learn to appreciate the most about German big man Adam Touray? He had his third excellent Pro A year in a row. Do you see him being a bit off the BBL radar and how did he make another step as a player?
I actually have been playing against Adam since his Regionalliga days. I have seen his progression each year. I enjoyed how active Adam was around the rim on offense and defense this year. We had a lot of nice connections on the pick and roll. He made me look good lol. I think a team with a good playmaker would be perfect for Adam in the BBL. He probably would actually look even better than he did in Pro A. If you get him in position he’ll take care of the rest.
It was your second season playing with Shavar Newkirk. In our last interview you stated this about him ‘He’s a competitor and pushed me to really become younger and meaner again haha. He was killing me in practices with his speed and anticipation. I had to work hard to take that away with just being mean and more physical. Loved practicing with var. The thing I liked the most about watching his development was how he started to get comfortable with interacting with the coaches’. How do you feel did he make another step in his development?
I enjoyed having Shavar on our team this year and feel like we became closer on the court. This year Shavar took a step in being more vocal and being able to interact with coaches and players. We started to workout more towards the later part of the year. I feel like Shavar learned what it takes to be a professional this year and will have a promising career.
If you had to pick one guy that improved the most in the time with you were with the FC Schalke organization who would it have been?
If I had to pick one guy who improved the most throughout my time at Schalke I think it’s a pretty easy choice. With Leon winning the most improved player award this year I think that speaks for itself. My dark horse would be Nic Sperber from Karlsruhe though. He had some solid games for them when he was able to start and get minutes.
Let’s talk about your game. You played another solid Pro A season your second with FC Schalke averaging 13.7ppg, 4.4rpg, 4.0apg, 1.6spg, FGP: 48.2%, 3PT: 26.3%, FT: 77.0%. How content were you with your game this season?
This season I was okay with how I played. I’m Pretty sure I can do 15 5 and 5 anywhere I play. Without those five games or with the last five I think I would have averaged my normal. My normal hasn’t been good enough the last couple years so we need to figure something else out for this next year.
In our last interview you stated that ‘I’m happy to be an impact player in Pro A, because everybody in Germany said I couldn’t go to Pro A from second Regionalliga’. You had another solid season in the Pro A and have proved for good that you can stay. Is being consistent at least something positive that you can take form this season concerning your game?
I think that showing my consistency was definitely a positive that I can take away from this season. I don’t feel like it’s doubts or anything like that anymore as far as me being able to play in Pro A.
In our last interview you stated this about your first Pro A season. ‘I think my game developed further this season through trying to extend plays more and trusting in my own abilities. I learned that there are a lot more executions off of a pick and roll and that you need to play at your own pace. Pace is everything. You have to be able to change it and control other’s pace when you want to’. How do you feel did your game take another step in your second Pro A season besides getting extended valuable experience?
I think that I gained more confidence in abilities this year. I was also understanding coverages and tendencies a lot quicker. Towards the end of the year I was able to take what the defense was giving me. I have never been able to score 20 plus points with only one lay up made in the game ever. I just feel like my game has finally matured. It’s been fun to play basketball and grow in the point guard. position
What is the next step for you? Obviously much will change the next season with teams having possibly lower budgets. I think this would make it even tougher for you to play in the BBL, but I would really love to see you get a shot somewhere or is the Pro A the best safest option?
To be honest with you Miles I’m tired of playing it safe. I would love to have an opportunity to fight for a position on a BBL team. I feel healthy and like I’m ready. If somebody gives me a call I’ll be ready.
Who was the toughest player that you battled in the Pro A this season?
Luka Doncic had an amazing sophomore campaign. Is he a top 3 NBA player now?
Where were you when you heard about the death of Kobe Bryant. What kind of influence did he have on you during adolescence?
When we heard the news about Kobe we were eating at the Chinese buffet in Essen as a team. We didn’t believe it at first. Kobe has always played a big part in how I approach the game of basketball. ‘Rest at the end and not in the middle’, doing blackouts instead of workouts, and getting into that mamba mentality no excuses mindset has always been the way I approached my work ethic.
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 would advise all seniors to leave the house when corona is over and get in front of some decision makers. Coaches and GM’s always prefer to see players in front of them instead of on paper. Stay proactive and keep persevering until you get that one yes. All it takes is one.
What was the last movie that you saw? ‘
Thanks Courtney for the chat.