After having to pay his dues in the German Pro B with the RheinStars in 2018-2019 and beginning 2019-2020 in Cyprus, Tucker Haymond finally got his first real professional basketball break when he was signed by Pro A team FC Schalke in January 2020. First came the tragic death of Kobe Bryant which could have been a bad omen for what was about to come, but the American fought through the tough loss and really proved that he could ball at the Pro A level. The Seattle, Washington native was just getting heated up in the German Pro A and then COVID-19 hit the world the way ex New York Jet legend Mark Gastineau did opposing quarterbacks back in the day and wiped out his season. After experiencing so much hard ship beginning the last season in Cyprus, then leaving and working out in Cologne and having to have a soar body every morning after a night on the floor and then living through the reality of the passing of Kobe Bryant, he finally was rewarded for all his neverending effort with a contract with FC Schalke. He had misfortune coming to a losing team, but he made the best of it putting up very respectable stats. Then his season ended abruptly due to COVID-19 and he had to live a new life like the rest of world having to deal with new challenges each day and finding a way to keep in shape and taking on the difficult search of finding a new team in hard times. “ Last season was definitely one to remember. There was a lot of ups and downs but I believe it made me a lot better because of it. I was able to become very comfortable with being uncomfortable and not knowing what else was next, but only staying positive and controlling what I can control which is preparation and mindset. Kobe Passing was really hard for me, he was a huge inspiration to me. Everything that happened last season has prepared me to be even better on and off the court, physically and mentally this upcoming season”, stressed Tucker Haymond. The idea of taking pen and paper and writing a book about his crazy season isn´t so unrealistic. At least he has found a way to document the past 12 months. “I thankfully actually recorded a lot of footage during this last year in the travel from country to country and how I was living, what I was doing every day in trying my best to stay ready for an opportunity. I will be making a short film to put out just to kind of give a more behind the scenes look at what happened last year, so my friends and family can see how different the overseas basketball lifestyle can really be, but why I love it so much”, stated Tucker Haymond.
It´s September 2020, but let´s rewind back to February 2020 when Tucker Haymond was playing out his heart with Pro A team FC Schalke. Just like most other players when the American who played at Western Michigan(NCAA) first heard about COVID-19, he thought the rumors were fake and nothing would come of it. But then within 48 hours everything changed and he was back on a plane on his way home. Having to end the season was on no players menu and just was a tough pill to swallow. “It was very unfortunate, especially in my situation for just having signed to Schalke and shortly after the virus shutting everything down. However, I know it was for a reason that was for everyone´s safety. Which is more important than sports. I know I would have been able to continue to improve my performances throughout the rest of the season and win games with Schalke, however I’m just glad that the proper decisions were made and everyone was able to remain safe with their families during the very unusual times”, stressed Tucker Haymond. FC Schalke had a tough season finishing in 16th place with a record of 8-19 when Corona hit and under normal circumstances would be playing in cities like Bochum and Itzehoe of the Pro B, but instead was allowed to remain in the pPo A on account of COVID-19. “My short time in Schalke was very good, I feel like we were just starting to get used to playing with each other with the addition of me to the team. I felt like we improved every game and had really started playing well. It was unfortunate that we couldn’t see what our future held with each other”, remembered Tucker Haymond. In the short time where the American was there who won the G-League title in 2018 with the Austin Torros, the club went 1-4, but lost some tough games like a nail bitter to Nurnberg 83-81. Haymond is more than convinced that had he been on board sooner, things could have happened in a more positive light. “I do believe that things could have been different, I noticed our game play and style forming together in the short time we were there. Even with small changes to teams with new players, it adds a whole new dynamic to a team and can be just the thing that filled in a small gap. I think we could have won games together. My teammates and coaches were very talented, I enjoyed playing with and for them”, warned Tucker Haymond. Despite having some hard times not winning as much, he did form nice new relationships on and off the court. He gelled especially well with the powerful guard duo of Belger and Newkirk and enjoyed playing with big man Adam Touray. “I loved playing with CB and Var, they made the game easier for everyone else. I think it was very difficult for teams to guard us with those two drawing a lot of attention. It made decision making for everyone else on the court easier because the teams really focused in on them a lot because they were very crafty with the ball, and amazing scorers! Adam was someone that every person wants on their team. He played hard every possession, and did his job every time. You could count on Adam to have your back and to do what you knew he was capable of. He was the ultimate professional, and was a great teammate. Its no surprise to me that he signed in the BBL. I think he has a bright future ahead of him for sure”, added Tucker Haymond.
The 26 year old 198cm shooting guard who on some nights can shoot out the lights in any gym in the world had the most contact to his friend NFL player defensive end Daeshon Hall of the Philadelphia Eagles during COVID-19 looks back fondly on his short stay in Gelsenkirchen. Despite all the turmoil he went through prior to coming to Gelsenkirchen, it all came together there for him as he was mentally prepared. In 5 games he averaged 16,2ppg, 3,2rpg, 2,6apg and shot 41% from outside. “I think that everything that I went through prepared me for last season, as well as future seasons. Going through what I went through really just made me hungry and ready for an opportunity. I had days where I thought I was not going to be signed, I started to look at flights back to America. But I never stopped working hard. The day I got the call, I had literally 1 day left on my stay in my AirBnb. I kept my bags at my friends house and my wife and I travelled across Europe to tryout for Heidelberg, I had nowhere to stay after that. I stayed in a hotel then traveled to Schalke to tryout, living in the hotel there and played my heart out because I knew those were my only chances to continue my career or I had to go home because there was nowhere for me to live. I´m blessed I was able to earn an opportunity and it was inspired me to take full advantage of every opportunity in life. And to never give up, because on the final day, your opportunity can show up”, stressed Tucker Haymond. The year before he led the German Pro B in scoring with the RheinStars Cologne averaging (22.5ppg), 6.0rpg, 2.3apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 44.4%, 3PT: 30.3%, FT: 80.7% and had no problems adjusting to the Pro A, but saw a difference in both leagues. “ I think the biggest difference was just depth of teams. Teams are very talented with a lot more imports and the talent of the Germans is very good, to be honest the level of talent between imports and locals was back and forth through the different teams and very even. I have a big amount of respect for Pro A basketball and the teams”, answered Tucker Haymond. He has always been known as being a sniper and when you have those goods, you can be successful everywhere, but you have to still put in the work. “I think just having teammates around me that made me better in all aspects of basketball really helped me. My coaches put me in great positions to be successful. Also when working out in Cologne I would shot on the shooting machine and shoot sometimes over 1000 shots a day, going to the gym twice a day”, expressed Tucker Haymond. It wasn´t only his scoring and shooting that stuck out in the Pro A, but his total game profited in the higher league. “I think that in Pro A my versatility improved. I was able to play many different roles and positions. During my time in Schalke I was able to play positions 1-4 and facilitate, make my teammates better, as well as execute when it was in the offense for me to be aggressive. The play style and my teammates/coaches fit me perfectly”, commented Tucker Haymond. He listed Rhondell Goodwin from Bremerhaven as his toughest opponent in the Pro A and will always remember wearing the FC Schalke jersey. “-I actually really enjoyed Gelsenkirchen. It was different than Cologne, and very different then Seattle. But I really enjoyed my time there. Everything was very close, and I really enjoyed being able to use Medicos facilities every day. It was an amazing time to be able to play for Schalke, as well as use such an amazing facility”, remembered Tucker Haymond.
The American who won the MAC tournament in 2014 with Western Michigan returned home to Seattle in March 2020 and had to get used to a totally new way of life knowing that he had to keep staying in shape and finding a way to keep working on his basketball skills. “Life has been very different in America. You don’t go anywhere without seeing someone wearing a mask, which never ever happened here. There are still a lot of places that are shut down because of the virus, the whole summer we couldn’t eat at restaurants and fitness centers were closed. It was definitely difficult for athletes to remain fit and continue to prepare for this upcoming season. I know professional basketball players that haven’t been able to play on an indoor court since last season”, said Tucker Haymond. Being able to train the way he wanted to was a real challenge, but there is always a way to overcome the odds if you go out and just want to train, it will work. “My off season training consisted of a lot of dribbling at home and outside. I went weeks where I had no access to a hoop and all I had was a ball. Now that things have started to open back up, I practice basketball 6 days a week, and do strength and conditioning 3/4 days a week. I am in the best physical fitness of my life because I have had so much time to really focus and invest in my body. I´m more ready than ever to get back to playing because I know this is the hardest I’ve ever worked”, stressed Tucker Haymond. The American had enough area´s of his game to work on this summer and believes that he was able to progress with his game. “This Summer I really focused on my physical fitness and my body, ball handling, and shooting. I feel like I´m really a new version of myself that even I have never seen before. Every day after workouts I continue to get more excited to play games because I feel like it will be a lot more fun with all the new things I have learned. For me this is the biggest summer I’ve ever had In terms of overall growth. Physical and mental. I have never made this much progress with my body before, I have taken my diet and how I take care of my body very seriously, and I notice a HUGE difference. My plans are to make this my new lifestyle so that I can remain fit and healthy for the rest of my career. I have lost almost 10 KG and am stronger than I have ever been! I´m ready”, stated Tucker Haymond.
Besides worrying about staying in shape and getting in enough time for basketball skills, he also has had to stay on the ball with finding a new club for this season. His German agency Athleadz have been hard at work trying to find the best fit for him, but like for so many other players around the globe, COVID-19 hasn´t made the search easy. “The transfer period has been very different, it has definitely been challenging because of all the unknowns of what will happen. I knew it was going to be a very special off season due to Covid and me only being able to play 5 games. The only thing I have stayed focused on is making sure I am physically and mentally ready for whenever I get the call. I know I can’t focus or worry on things I can’t control, I´m just very excited for when I´m able to play again. I miss Germany”, warned Tucker Haymond. He who lists Luka Doncic as the best point guard in the NBA enjoyed the Pro A, but doesn´t see himself still being without a team on account of not playing many Pro A games as the reason. “I think that teams are making decisions that they think are best for their teams, I respect the people who make decisions because their job is not easy. This is a very difficult season for them to choose players for many reasons, and I understand their pain. I know there is someone out there with their eye on me, and I have to focus on staying ready for when opportunity is the right one for me. I loved Pro A and the competitiveness. Can’t wait to see where I will end up and be able to compete for wins!”, warned Tucker Haymond. One realizes quickly that Tucker Haymond really misses having that week to week competitive edge and just wants to play basketball again. Playing anywhere and winning titles is at the top of the menu for him now. “I love Germany and everything about it. If I was able to play there for the rest of my career I would be very happy!!! To be honest, I am willing to do whatever it takes to win. Doesn’t matter what level that is at, I want to be a part of a championship. If that means I play 30 seconds or 30 minutes, I’m Okay with that. If I score 0 points, or 30 points, I´ll be just as happy either way with a win. I have been a part of championship teams before with the Spurs and WMU, and I have been able to adapt to many different roles to achieve a championship. I just want to win, and will do whatever it takes, no matter the cost”, warned Tucker Haymond. All the American needs now is a new team and then he could delay his best seller a bit and add a possible title to 2021 to help spice up his book