Coming from Boston, it isn´t unusual for a basketball enthusiast kid to like 2 basketball teams. The first major choice was obviously the Boston Celtics who had the amazing 60´s dynasty around Bill Russell and in the 80´s it was Larry Bird and Co which made many a nights more enjoyable in the living room. The second most obvious choice at least for me growing up was Boston College. They are a basketball program that have reached the NCAA tournament 18 times and have placed countless players in the NBA and in Germany over the years. I´ll never forget getting my first taste of the Boston College Eagles close hand in the early 80´s. After watching Doug Flutie punish Rutgers 27-21 on the football field, I ran across the street after the game and ran into the Eagles basketball practice gym and would see future NBA players like John Bagley, Michael Adams, John Garris, and Jay Murphy practice their autographs for me. That was my earliest basketball NCAA memory and I was always a close follower of college basketball as a kid and also loved the Georgetown teams around Patrick Ewing and North Carolina around Michael Jordan, but soon UConn would also be a school that I would constantly be reminded of. I don´t know how many bus rides I took from Boston to Harford when I was going to Avon Old Farms school, but it was a lot and every time we were chugging down I-90, not long after entering Connecticut a sign would pop up “Storrs” home of the UConn Huskies. UConn basketball has been around since 1901 and their program didn´t start to have big success until 1999 where they won their first NCAA title and the next ones followed in 2004, 2011 and 2014. They have played in 33 NCAA tournaments, reached 5 NCAA final 4´s and 11 Elite 8´s. The basketball factory have placed many former players in the NBA with the most notable being Kemba Walker, Ray Allen, Rudy Gay, Richard Hamilton, Caron Butler and Emeka Okafor. But there have also been a few players that have played in Germany that played at UConn. My journalistic connection to the basketball school is traced to 3 of their NCAA titles. I was fortunate to interview ex NBA player and 1999 NCAA winner Khalid El-Amin who played with BG Goettingen for 2 seasons, saw Souleyman Wane play in 2005 in Germany when he played for Giessen who won the 1999 title and I have been covering Niels Giffey for years as he is the only German player to have won 2 NCAA titles with the 2011 one with Kemba Walker and 2014 title with NBA player Shabazz Napier. I was fortunate to interview Nils Giffey back in the fall of 2010 when he was a freshman at UConn and when he turned professional in 2014 with Euroleague team Alba Berlin. There haven´t been many guys that played at UConn to have played in Germany as the list is short with Khalid El Amin, Niels Giffey, Souleyman Wane, Marc Suhr, Enosch Wolf, Leon Tolksdorf, Sam Casell Jr and Daniel Guest, but a new one has arrived with Christian Vital. The easyCredit BBL is enriched anytime a new UConn player like a Christian Vital(BG Goettingen) comes into the league.
Christian Vital was born on March 21st 1997 in Queens Village, New York and is the oldest of 6 kids and was an avid chess player as kid beginning at age 5 and took part at tournaments in New York through high school. Even if he is a player who loves the quick paced game, chess gave him that calmness that he would be able to bring to his game in certain situations where the game had to be slowed down. He played at various schools like the Rectory school in Pomfret, Connecticut and the Thomas More school in Connecticut where he played his final 2 years of high school averaging 16.8 ppg, 7,0rrpg and 2,2apg leading his team to a 31–7 record and the National Prep Championship final. He earned New England Preparatory School Athletic Council Class AAA first team honors and was picked to play in the Jordan Brand classic scoring 13 points, dishing out 7 dimes and had 4 steals. UConn wasn´t first on his list of school´s that he wanted to attend, but he actually wanted to play at UNLV, but then declined as head coach Dave Rice left. Despite getting an offer from Louisville, he chose UConn and the rest is history.
The American like so many other guys in the NCAA was a player that set foot on the Storrs campus and wasn´t a high recruit coming in, but instead of sinking his head in the sand, went on a mission to make his UConn career a memorable one. He never ever was short of self-confidence, but actually possessed a very healthy one which allowed him to perform at a high level and knew that if he worked hard, he would be rewarded in games. Even if the program wasn´t winning during his stay, he had extraordinary leadership skills that helped him keep his teammates on the same page in tough times. As a freshman, he started 10 games and averaged 9.1ppg, 3.5rpg, 1.8apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 43.0%, 3PT: 36.6%, FT: 70.8%. UConn finished with a less than satisfactory 16-17 record and it was the school´s first losing season something that the American had to swallow. In that first season he did score in double figures in 13 games. With head coach Kevin Ollie at the helm, the club continued to be a losing program then going 14-18 in his second season, but Vital made big strides in his game averaging 15.0ppg, 5.3rpg, 1.7apg, 1.5spg, FGP: 47.9%, 3PT: 31.6%, FT: 84.5%. He would set records at UConn and the first ones occurred that season as he ranks second and third with most points off the bench with 30 against Boston University and 29 points against Columbia. He led the team in rebounds and steals and scored in double figures in 24 contests He declared for the 2018 NBA draft, but decided to return to school as he still had things to prove in the win column. In his junior season, he had a new coach with Dan Hurley, but they still couldn´t get over the hump registering a 16-17 record. He continued to offer consistent stats averaging 14.2ppg, 5.6rpg, 2.4apg, 1.6spg, FGP: 51.4%, 3PT: 40.9%, FT: 81.3% and led the team in steals. He scored in double figures in 27 games.
As a senior everything turned around as the team finally got back on the winning track having a 19-12 record and was 5th in the ACC with a 10-8 record. It was too bad that COVID-19 hit, because like for so many other players in leagues around the world, the American was left with that sour “what if” feeling about how the season would have ended. He improved in many categories in his senior year having his best stats in scoring, rebounds, assists and steals averaging 16.6ppg, 6.1rpg, 2.6apg, 2.5spg, FGP: 46.1%, 3PT: 34.6%, FT: 89.7%. He scored in double figures in 25 games and finished his career red hot averaging 24,0ppg in his last 7 games and in his last 3 games averaged 27 points as he scored 28 points against Tulane, 27 points against East Carolina and 26 points against Houston and helped the school win it´s last 5 games in their shortened season. UConn assistant coach Tom Moore is in his 16th season as an assistant having been part of 2 NCAA titles and in between coached 10 seasons at Quinnipiac University. ““My favorite memory of Christian is him playing a great game in a huge win against a tough Houston team in his last appearance at home in Gampel Pavillion. To see him address the crowd and thank them for all the support after the game was heartwarming and something I won’t forget.”, added UConn assistant coach Tom Moore. For a player who never played in an NCAA tournament at UConn in 3 decades, he sure played like he wanted to be there. Sometimes things just don´t work out as well as you want. If he would have been a bit older, he could of experienced totally different scenario´s with guys like Walker and Napier on his side. He continued to leave it all on the court in his senior year and was rewarded as the team had a winning season. He played 110 games in a row and scored 1,735 points in his UConn career, nailing an AAC-record 265 three-pointers. For a guy where nobody was expecting much from when he began at UConn, he didn´t do badly as he passed ex NBA players like Donyell Marshall and Khalid El-Amin to become the 13th leading scorer in UConn history. ““He had the misfortune of coming to UConn during the only rebuilding period in the last 30 years of the program. That did not ever beat him down though as he kept his belief in himself and his teammates until the end. It was extremely frustrating to see COVID take away the end of his career because he was playing at the highest level he’d ever played at and he was extremely excited to see if we could finally get into an NCAA Tournament.”, stressed UConn assistant coach Tom Moore
Now he begins his professional career in Germany with 2010 Eurochallenge winner BG Goettingen. The club reached the easyCredit BBL in 2008 and until this season had mostly been led by 2 head coaches with John Patrick and Johan Roijakkers. Roijakkers came in 2012 and after 2 seasons back in the Pro A have stayed in the BBL since 2014. BG Goettingen is one of those clubs that doesn´t have the biggest budget, but mostly have been able to remain in the league because of good coaching and being able to land steals with players. Roijakkers has made the next step to Bamberg and now BG Goettingen will be led by head coach Roel Moors of Belgium who came from Bamberg. It will be a rebuilding year as many new faces will grace the floor like ex G-League player Aubrey Dawkins and ex NBA player Jorge Gutierrez or German BBL veteran Akeem Vargas who returns back to his old stomping ground or British national player Luke Nelson who has played in Europes best league in Spain called ACB. So how will Christian Vital fit in? He should fit in well. Head coach Roel Moors is thrilled about having the rookie start his career in Goettingen. “He is a very versatile guard that can play various positions at both ends of the court. He is a good shooter from outside, a very good defender and for a guard a good rebounder”, added Roel Moors. If there is any doubt that Christian Vital can get the job done with BG Goettingen, then UConn assistant coach Tom Moore quickly dismisses those doubters with brutally strong and effective words. ““Christian is a tough-minded, determined young man. He has as much self-belief as any player I’ve been around in my 33 years of coaching college basketball. That may be his biggest strength. He has great confidence that he can make the next shot, the next play, or get the next stop.”, warned Tom Moore. One thing is for sure, it is a good omen that an ex UConn guy like Khalid El Amin had played in Goettingen 5 years ago. He almost brought them into the playoffs his first year and saved them his second season from moving down. Maybe Vital will do something that El Amin didn´t do and help the club reach the playoffs? He finished strong at UConn and why shouldn´t that momentum carry on with BG Goettingen. No matter how the season goes, Vital will leave it all on the court. It is what he did at UConn and really all he ever did and knows how to do.