Zamal Nixon is a 31 year old 186cm guard form Brooklyn, New York that is playing his 9th professional season. He began the season with the MLP Academics Heidelberg (Germany-ProA) playing 28 games averaging 13.7ppg, 2.4rpg, 4.1apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 61.6%, 3PT: 33.8%, FT: 82.3%. He was signed by the MHP Riesen for the BBL season ending tournament in Munich. He played for other teams in Germany like Herten (Pro B), Phoenix Hagen (BBL) and Nurnberg (Pro A). He also played in Poland, Austria, Austria and 3 years with GS Lavrio (Greece-A1). He began his basketball career at Xavier high school and then played at the University of Houston (NCAA) form 2007-2011 playing a total of 122 NCAA games and as a senior played 30 games averaging 10.3ppg, 2.6rpg, AssistsCUSA-3 (4.7apg), StealsCUSA-3 (1.8spg), FGP: 44.6%, 3PT: 36.1%, FTNCAA-3 (92.2%). He spoke to germanhoops.com shortly before the begin of the BBL tournament in Munich.
Zamal thanks for talking to germanhoops.com We did our first interview together in 2012 in your rookie season with Herten and second one in 2014 when you had your first tour of duty in the BBL with Phoenix Hagen. How has time flown by since then?
The time has flown by rather quickly. My first professional job was here in Germany and for me it’s hard to believe that now I’m headed into my 10th year as a pro.
Let’s talk a bit about the last months that has shocked the world with COVID-19. How did you experience the last 3 months. Did you return to the States or did you remain in Munich?
I stayed in Munich the whole time. Me being from New York and New York being one of the places that was hit the hardest with the Virus I thought staying in Munich with my family would be the best option.
How did you experience the day to day dealings with life during COVID-19? What was the most difficult thing to get adjusted to during these difficult times?
The toughest part for me was not being able to move around freely. Stores, restaurants, gyms, and even parks were all closed. It was difficult staying in the house so much, but I’m happy things seems to slowly be getting back to normal.
How do you feel did you get stronger as a person during COVID-19?
I wouldn’t say it’s made me any stronger but it’s help me appreciate the little things in life that I might have taken for granted.
How did you stay in shape best during this time? Did you sense like you might land with a team somewhere to end the current season when it was made known that the pro A season was over?
For me during this time staying in basketball shape was a bit difficult. Nothing can prepare you to be in that type of shape besides actually playing games in my opinion. I rode my bike a lot around Munich though, and was able to do some running outside as well. As far as getting on a team goes I really wasn’t sure what would be possible. I just knew that if a team did need a player that maybe me being in Germany already would work in my favor.
You played in Germany in 3 of your first 4 professional seasons and then was away for 4 years playing 3 years in Greece before returning back to Germany to play in the Pro A with Heidelberg. You last played in the Pro A with Nurnberg in 2012-2013 How have you witnessed the Pro A change in the last 7 years?
The Pro A has changed a lot in many ways for the better I would say. Having a social media presence is something new that wasn’t really going on while I was playing. Also having all the games available for people to watch on Air tango was great. When I was playing back in 2012 it was a lot more difficult for people back home in the states to be able to watch games. It also seems like there are a lot more ambitious clubs in the Pro A. A lot of teams want to make that push to get into the first league. Teams like Chemnitz Bremerhaven Jena Heidelberg Rostock Nuremberg are among a few I can think off of. You even have a lot of former first league clubs in the Pro A now as well. With Artland, Trier, Hagen & Tuebingen are all teams who I played against when I was in the first league as well.
How disappointed were you that you couldn’t finish the season with the MLP Academics Heidelberg. What did you enjoy most this experience and do you feel like the club could have made a run in the playoffs?
It was unfortunate that the season had to end the way it did. Especially for us in Heidelberg. Right before the season ended we were playing really good basketball. I enjoyed playing in Heidelberg it’s a really great club & everyone in the city is excited about the new arena that’s being built. I have no doubt in my mind that we could have made a deep run in the playoffs.
You have signed with the MHP Riesen for the final tournament in Munich. How exciting is it to be back in the BBL and what are your memories of the league when you were with Hagen?
It’s exciting to be back in the BBL especially for this tournament which is something I’m sure everyone in Germany will always remember and will always be talked about. The league has changed a lot since I was in the league. I think the league has gotten better every year and it’s really cool to see teams like Vetcha who was in the Pro B when I started and now they are one of the better teams in the league and even played champions league this season.
What is your impression of the club? The team has lost some key players with Leissner, Carrington and Konga but gained you and Teyvon Myers. How is the team shaping up on the court and how have you adjusted to the style of John Patrick?
Ludwigsburg has established themselves as one of the best teams in the BBL over the course of the last couple years. Coach Patrick has done a great job in the BBL and in international competition as well. They went to final 4 in Champions league a few years ago which was a great accomplishment for the club. Teyvon went to the same High school as me He’s a little bit younger but I’ve known him since he was a teenager and it’s been cool to play with him after us having such a long friendship. I think the team is shaping up well. It’s a lot of talented guys on the team and everyone has been working hard. I think I’m adjusting well. J.P has done a great job of communicating the things he wants from me both defensively and offensively and really making me feel welcomed here so all in all it’s been a smooth transition so far.
What has been your impression of German big man Ariel Hukporti? He is on the radar of many NBA teams. How far do you see his game compared to the most talented NCAA players that are his age?
Ariel has been fun to watch and play with. I think he has tremendous upside if he keeps working. If he went to college in the states I’m sure he would be a 5 star recruit and have offers from every major University.
How cool is it sharing the back court with Jaleen Smith another guy like you that had to pay his dues in the Pro A before making the jump to the BBL. Do you have a different kind of relationship with him considering the type of paths you started to take as professionals?
I met Jaleen a few times because he came to Heidelberg to watch some games during the season. He’s a great guy & it’s definitely cool to share the backcourt with someone who’s grinding their way to the first league through the lower leagues. I always have a different level of respect for those guys because I know first hand how hard it is.
What kind of role do you see yourself having with this team that will have more scoring options than Heidelberg? You don’t always have to score 30 points in a game. Could we see you having more of a playmaking role?
As far as my role goes here I just want to help my guys out in anyway possible. Over the course of the last 4 years I’ve played as playmaker more than any other position so I’m comfortable in that role. We have a lot of weapons offensively so I’m just here to help wherever I can. Weather it’s scoring passing defending or cheering the guys on from the side. I just want to win.
You have played for many coaches in your life like Ingo Fryer in Hagen where defense wasn’t an issue and now have John Patrick who preaches defense. Do you feel like you can make another step as a defender in the next weeks at age 31?
No matter how old you are I think you can always find ways to get better. So for sure I believe that playing for a defensive minded coach can help me better myself.
How is Zamal Nixon a different player today than when he played with Phoenix Hagen?
I think the biggest thing is that I have a lot more experience now. I’ve played in Greece and France since I left Hagen. Playing in different countries and adapting to different styles really has helped my IQ for the game grow even more. I understand European basketball now a lot more than I did back then. I believe I’ve sharpened my skills and grown a lot mentally throughout these years since Hagen.
All 10 teams are staying in the same hotel. It won’t be easy avoiding other players. If you had to chose 2 players that are in the tournament that you would like to get to know better who would you pick? I can image that guys like Rickey Paulding and Quantez Robertson will be high on the list?
I’m new here to the team and have only known these guys for about 2 weeks so I think I’ll spend my time in Munich getting to know the guys on my team a little bit better.
There is a lot of turmoil in the States concerning the death of George Floyd who was murdered by a white policeman. Ratiopharm Ulm legend Per Guenther has stated he will pay the first 10,000 euro in player fines should players get involved with making some kind of protest during the tournament. Do you think that these could happen with the influx of Americans that are taking part in the tournament?
First I I would like to start by saying that I have a unbelievable amount of respect for Per Gunther for coming out and making such a strong statement it’s speaks volumes to his character and the type of person he is. As far as protest goes I don’t think any players are going to protest anything. In the U.S we are dealing with a great deal of systemic racism, inequality and Police brutality. So speaking up on these issue or wearing clothing that supports our stance shouldn’t be a problem with anyone in my opinion. If anything it should be supported by the league because a lot of players that have played in the league come from these areas where people are suffering from these problems.
You played 3 seasons in Greece. How do you feel did your game progress being able to play against top Euroleague teams Panathinaikos and Olympiakos?
Playing in Greece helped me better myself as a player a lot. The league is very tactical and physical. Many of the games are played in hostile environments. I think I became a lot smarter and tougher mentally throughout my years playing there. Greece has many historically successful teams. Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, AEK, POAK ARIS, & Pertisteri all have rich tradition within the European basketball world.
What memories do you have having played many years against top guard Nick Calathes? What was most challenging about limiting him as best as you could with his game?
Nick is one of the best guards in Europe. With his size IQ and ability to pass to the ball makes it very tough to guard. He hast he ability to control the game without scoring, but has the ability to score if the team needs him to.
You also battled one of Europe’s best point guards Mike James who played in the NBA before, but recently signed a 3 year deal to remain with CSKA Moscow. Despite having played against so many players in your career can you still remember scenes on the court with him and you that just have stuck in your mind?
Mike James is a big time guard also one of the best in Europe. you can only imagine how much of headache it was for teams having to stop him and Nick. I just remember Mike James being a guy who can score all types of ways, & having great athletic ability.
You played a season with Euroleague player Kevin Punter. Would you have thought years ago that he could make the Euroleague and how much of that chip on his shoulder has helped him get to where he is today?
K.P is a guy I always knew had the talent to play at a higher level. But how fast things has happened for him has been surprising to me. To think he has 2 Champions League Titles and now is playing Euroleague already in only his 4th or 5th year as a pro is amazing. That chip he plays with on his shoulder is the reason he is where he’s at now. I couldn’t be more happy for him and all the success he’s having.
Please name your NBA Rushmore of past and present players?
My Mount Rushmore would be Jordan, Kobe, LeBron, Tim Duncan & Shaq. These are the guys from my generation that I actually got to watch. Not taking anything away from the other great players that paved the way before I was old enough to watch the game.
Did the current incredible ‘Last dance’ documentary help Michael Jordan solidify his title as the greatest of all-time a bit more and make it a bit harder again for Lebron James to pass him one day?
I personally don’t think LeBron will ever be able to pass M.J . That doesn’t mean LeBron isn’t a great player but when you watch the Documentary and you see how much of a larger than life figure that Mike was even before social media was around I don’t think we will ever see anything like Mike again.
What was the last movie that you saw?
The last movie/show I watched was ‘Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich’
Thanks Zamal for the chat.