It was March 7th, 2013, and the site was Conway, South Carolina, an old historical town that sits only 15 minutes form the Atlantic Ocean and gave all game show fans around the world Vanna White where on this night a quarterfinal game in the Big South Conference quarterfinals was taking place. There were no future NBA players on the court, but some players that would later play in Germany in the easyCredit BBL with DJ Covington who suited up for Virginia Military Institution and current Fraport Skyliner Michael Kessens who was only a freshman at Longwood another school in Virginia. Not only did this NCAA game have an exciting finish, but it would be a game that Michael Kessens would never forget. Virginia Military Institution had a 17 point lead, but Longwood conducted a fierce comeback in the last 11,51 minutes to cut the lead down to 2 points. However Longwood couldn´t finish their comeback as Virginia Military Institution point guard Rodney Glasgow who has put up a stellar professional career in Europe winning titles in Slovakia and England and will ball for UMFN Njardvik (Iceland-Dominos League) this season made a steal and free throws to seal the 90-86 victory. Stan Okoye who has played 3 years in the Italian Serie A and for the 2019 Boston Celtics NBA Summer League team finished with 31 points, but was held to only 6 points in the second half, but his slack was picked up by ex Phoenix Hagen forward DJ Covington who finished with 26 points and Rodney Glasgow who chipped in with 22 points. Even though Kessens lost the game, he exploded for a tournament record 36 points and 16 boards and was put safely on the NCAA map after this game. It’s been a really long time since that game, but I do remember some of that game, he was playing for Longwood and they were a very talented team that was trying to get their chemistry together that year. For us, our season was up and down and we needed the win to advance further in the conference tournament. Play by play, I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I do remember after Michael’s performance I left the game very impressed by his game. He was a freshman that season, so it was nice to see a young player out there with so much confidence”, stressed Stan Okoye( Herbalife Gran Canaria) This game is still remembered by Kessens today. “It was the conference tournament and the previous game we had eliminated the defending champs who were NC Asheville. We played VMI a couple times (led by Stan Okoye) during conference play but they outplayed us every time. I just wanted to play better than I had against Asheville and help my team win. Didn’t really follow the stats during game. It was a big game for me, yes, but the win would’ve been more important. Especially because winning the game would’ve probably saved my coach’s job (Mike Gillian) and I wouldn’t have transferred. Therefore this game really was a career defining moment but not because of the stat line”, remembered Michael Kessens. Kessens was only a freshman, but would go onto have a productive NCAA career playing with a number of other NCAA schools and now has established himself as an easyCredit BBL player in Germany and recently joined the Fraport Skyliners. It was time for another edition of the Miles Basketball Minute ex teammate scouting report with his ex Vechta teammate Chris Carter.
Michael Kessens was born on February 16th, 1991 in Geneva, Switzerland and possesses the German/Swiss citizenship. He has a German mother and father from Somalia, Africa. He didn´t find his love right away to basketball, but began playing soccer. Hs first basketball club that he played for as a youth was with BBC Nyon. He then played for the French club Cholet Basket youth team´s from 2009-2012. :He led Lycee Europe Robert Schumann in Cholet, France, to the French High School championship as a senior and played in the French Under-21 Championship in 2009 and 2010. He played his freshman year at Longwood(NCAA), but wasn´t your typical 17 or 18 year freshman, but was 21 years old bringing European experience to Longwood.He played 33 games as a freshman averaging 13.7ppg, 8.8rpg, 1.4apg, 1.2spg, 1.3bpg, FGP: 55.6%, 3PT: 22.2%, FT: 69.9%. He scored in double figures in 25 games and achieved 11 double doubles. Besides his massive game against Virginia Military Institution where he put up 36/16 numbers, he also hit Campbell and High Points for 22 points apiece and nailed Gardner-Webb for 21 points and Cornell for 20 points. He pIcked up many accolades, including selection to the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Freshmen All-America Team and Big South Freshman of the Year. He also was voted the Virginia Sports Information Directors Association (VaSID) Rookie of the Year, encompassing all Division I schools in the state of Virginia, also being named to the Big South Conference All-Freshman Team numbers,.
After a season at Longwood, he attempted a new challenge and played at Alabama from 2014-206 having to redshirt the 2013-2014 season. He played 65 NCAA games for Alabama, but wasn´t able to achieve the kind of numbers that he had at Longwood averaging 5.9ppg, 5.2rpg, FGP: 53.0%, 3PT: 16.7%, FT: 65.6% and in his senior year averaged 3.7ppg, 3.5rpg. In his sophomore season, he was able to lead the team in rebounds and was second in field goal percentage. He scored in double figures in 5 games amassing 18 points and 12 rebounds against North Florida and 17 points and 10 rebounds against Appalachian State. In his last season at Alabama he scored in double figures in one game hitting Mississippi for 10 points and 7 boards. After achieving some growing pains at Alabama(NCAA), he still had a year of eligibility left and decided to play at Florida International University (NCAA). The decision to play another season proved right as he was able to have another stellar productive season like he did at Longwood playing 30 games averaging 12.9ppg, 9.0rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 58.5%, 3PT: 23.5%, FT: 68.9%. He led the team in rebounding and was second in scoring. He scored in double figures in 23 of 30 games and registered 9 double doubles sixth best in the league. He had some massive games like his 17 points and 23 rebounds against Elon, and 21 points apiece against Florida Atlantic and Youngstown.
He turned professional in 2017-2018 and played for the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven (Germany-BBL) playing 32 games averaging 6.6ppg, 4.2rpg, FGP: 61.5%, FT: 60.0%. He scored in double figures in 6 games including scoring 12 points against the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg and had 11 points against Gotha and Bayreuth. He held his own averaging 15 minutes per game, but had a lot of competition at his position and from other German players. He decided to take a new challenge with Rasta Vechta and like with his decision to add on a NCAA season at Florida International University, this change of scenery was golden as he played his first season for Cinderella team Rasta Vechta and was able to learn from up and coming head coach Pedro Calles.. He would play with Rasta Vechta from 2018-2020. Last season American point guard Chris Carter helped the Niners Chemnitz move up to the easyCredit BBL, but 2 seasons ago he had the pleasure of being teammates with Michael Kessens. There have been many Germans over the years that have had NCAA experience and they return home to Germany speaking fluent English. But not every German that returns has mastered the English language as well as Kessens did and he can communicate in 3 languages today. “I thought he was American when I met him. That is how good I thought his english was. I´m sure he had no troubles at his 3 schools”, stressed Rostock Wolves guard Chris Carter. Carter has had many teammates in his career, but he is a guy that is always able to find the perfect words that fit that teammate and despite it being over a year where they last shared the court, he was crisp and to the point concerning what comes to mind when he hears the name Michael Kessens. “He is a work horse/leader”, stressed Chris Carter. Kessens played 55 BBL games for Rasta Vechta and couldn´t match the stats from the Cinderella season of 7.3ppg, 4.4rpg, FGP: 62.3%, FT: 72.0% last season as he averaged only 4.6ppg, 4.2rpg. But the Swiss/German has demonstrated in Bremerhaven and Vechta that he can be an important team contributor. He never got any basketball schooling in Germany, but profited from the NCAA experience. “I think it helped him seeing the world and getting cultured with the American way of play”, warned Chris Carter.
The 206cm big man can score and rebound, but he also has other attributes that will help his new team Fraport Skyliners as they seek the road back to the playoffs after missing them 2 years in a row. “He is a great pick and roll player, sets hard screens, and his footwork is really good. But his defense is where he excels at”, stressed Chris Carter. But it isn´t only his offensive and defensive skills that standout, but he is also a great role model that will pay dividends for the young Skyliner players. “He is an excellent leader and worked hard daily doing the little things outside of practice. He was consistently in the weight room working on his body and great man off the court”, warned Chris Carter.. Kessens arrived to Vechta lacking the needed self-confidence at times, but was helped by one of the best BBL mentors in Pedro Calles. “Coach Pedro gave him a lot of confidence that season and you can tell it has made him a better player moving forward”, added Chris Carter. Carter definitely has many fond memories, but the most memorable was the amazing Vechta win over Bamberg in the 2019 playoffs. Vechta was severely undermanned due to injuries and Kessens suddenly had to play extended minutes and excelled scoring 18 points in the unforgettable 90-86 win. It was a no brianer that the series against Bamberg remained in Carter´s mind. “On the court, the playoffs during Bamberg when I was moved to the 4 position and he was at the 5. That was fun. Off the court was when we hung out in South Beach last summer. I´m sure that was a game that he will never forget”, warned Chris Carter. In his 2 seasons at Vechta, he scored in double figures in 22 games. He had some very strong games like his 15 points against the EWE Baskets and Wurzburg and 14 points apiece against Giessen, Bayreuth and Oldenburg. Now Kessens will attempt to make another step in his development with the Fraport Skyliners. With the departure of big man Leon Kratzer, he now builds a big man rotation with Kamari Murphy and Marco Voeller. In 3 games he is averaging 13 minutes per game and averaging 3,3ppg and 4,3rpg. Carter is more than confident that Kessens will be to help the Frankfurt game. Carter saw Kessens on a daily basis and knows how Kessens will enrich a part of Frankfurt´s game that has suffered the last 2 years.. “Frankfurt’s defense definitely just got better”, warned Chris Carter. That should put a big smile on the minister of defense Quantaez Robertson´s face.