Playing Referee In A Paulding-Robertson Clash And Picking Sides Would Be Impossible For Nigel Pruitt(Unger Steel Gunners Oberwart)

Imagine battling easyCredit BBL legends Ricky Paulding and Quantez Robertson on a daily basis in practice in back to back seasons, but never really playing in official games. That is what happened to American Nigel Pruitt in the seasons 2018-2020. He was fortunate to play for the farm teams of both the EWE Baskets Oldenburg and Fraport Skyliners. He was fortunate enough to play 1 minute in a easyCredit BBL game in a 87-76 loss to Bamberg with the Fraport Skyliners, but that amazing experience probably went by faster than Quantez Robertson does when he makes a full sprint coast to coast. Of course being able to practice with 2 different BBL teams on a regular basis in a 2 year period surely heightened his game. When he suited up with the Fraport Skyliners Juniors, it wasn’t rare to see a Quantez Robertson in the stands watching and supporting the team. Robertson had that special ability to be playing games on his phone, but still be able to give an accurate summary of the first half as multitasking is an art for the ex Auburn (NCAA) player. In Oldenburg, he saw an ultimate legend with Rickey Paulding who has been with the same team since 2007 a feat that you rarely see in any league by an American. Paulding is 38 years old and not slowing down as he is statistically as strong as even 10 years ago. Just being able to see the ex Detroit Pistons draft pick from 2004 operate in practice and present his unbelievable work ethic must have left an impression on him like he had never seen before. There are guys that would have died to have been able to work together with both guys and having been able to have this experience is something that Pruitt would never have taken for granted. ‘One thing I will never forget about Tez as a player is his work ethic and his defensive motor. He works extremely hard to bring results and never backs down from any challenge. Rickey Paulding was a hardworking guy who always had a smile on his face. He was always about the team and never focused on individual stats and he was always super competitive’, stressed Nigel Pruitt. When I put Pruitt on the spot as to who would win a 1-1 between the two legends Paulding and Robertson, it was obvious that he would be unable to pick sides. ‘Both Rickey and Quantez are both legends in their own rights for their teams and the BBL. They were both very friendly and encouraging people who always pushed you to do what you did best. They were also both team first guys so they would both do whatever it took to help their teams succeed. It is hard to say who would win in a 1-1 game. That would be a close game. I would rather say that they are two great players who have made their stamp on their respective clubs. I couldn’t root for just only one guy because they both are great competitors and even greater individuals’, warned Nigel Pruitt. 

miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing Nigel Pruitt in 2019 in Basketball City Mainhatten in Frankfurt

Pruitt was born on October 3rd, 1994 in Knoxville, Tennessee and began his basketball career at Northwest High in Germantown, Maryland and then played a season at the well known Montrose Christian High in Rockville, Maryland that produced famous NBA players like Kevin Durant, Linas Kleiza, Greivis Vazquez, Patrick Mccaw and Jason Conley who carved out a nice career in Europe and was an important player for the Telekom Baskets Bonn. He also gained further experience at the Bullis school in Potomac, Maryland averaging 17,5ppg as a senior. ‘I played at The Bullis School for the last 2 years of my high school career. There were many great memories there, but the best was winning the league title during my senior year. During my one year at Montrose, it was challenging because I was super young at the time. It was my sophomore year in high school (second year) I was really trying to just improve my game and gain my confidence with the game of basketball. I had some pretty talented teammates there at the time. To name a couple who went on to play in the NBA were Terrence Ross, Justin Anderson’, remembered Nigel Pruitt. 

He then went on to play at Kennesaw State University (NCAA) from 2012-2016 playing a total of 115 NCAA games. In his freshman year, he averaged : 5.1ppg, 2.2rpg, FGP: 41.3%, 3PT: 31.3%, FT: 61.4%. In his junior year he upped his stats a tad bit more averaging 7.3ppg, 2.0rpg, FGP: 39.7%, 3PT: 30.7%, FT: 80.0%. He had his breakout season as a junior averaging 12.2ppg, 4.0rpg, 1.3apg, FGP: 48.3%, 3PT: 37.0%, FT: 76.8% and as a senior averaged 8.1ppg, 4.2rpg, 1.5spg, FGP: 46.7%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 75.5%. In his last 2 years he played 55 games and scored in double figures in 26 games. In his junior year, he scorched USC Upstate for 32 and 26 points, but lost each game. He hit Youngstown for 29 points in a victory and had 21 points in a win over Samford. ‘I would say my fondest memory was being able to play against Ben Simmons during my senior year. It was a great experience to go toe to toe with him at the time, NBA prospect. We lost the game, but I was able to showcase my ability to play against bigger talent’, added Nigel Pruitt. He held his own against Simmons finishing with 15 points and 12 rebounds. He also remembered his personal good games against USC Upstate. ‘The USC Upstate game was definitely my best game. That game was a conference game, so it was huge, and we were in it until the end but in that game, I was fortunate enough to showcase my ability to take over a game’, stated Nigel Pruitt. He was fortunate to learn from 2 coaches with Lewis Preston and ex Boston College coach Al Skinner and remembered vividly exactly how both helped him to be able to perform well as a professional player. ‘The biggest way they groomed me to prepare for a professional basketball career would be how to handle adversity mentally when situations are not as clear or concise as they need to be’, commented Nigel Pruitt. 

He crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 2016 and went on to play 2 seasons with TSG Westerstede (Germany-Regionalliga). He needed no real adjustment time on the court as he averaged 20.2ppg, 6.4rpg, 1.9apg, Steals-4 (3.1spg), FGP: 47.1%, 3PT: 47.0%, FT: 81.0% and 21.4ppg, 10.5rpg, 2.6apg, 3.3spg, FGP: 39.6%, 3PT: 40.4%, FT: 85.0% in his 2 seasons. He was 100% consistent in producing points scoring in double figures in all 25 games he played and registered 8 double doubles. He scored 20 points or more 12 times and 30 points or more 5 times. He remembers his wake up call to beinga rookie as more being mentall. ‘The game of basketball itself wasn’t so different for me but what really caught my attention as to saying that I am an actual professional and not at home, was the responsibility that was put on my shoulders daily to constantly perform in practices and in games’, remembered Nigel Pruitt. His best scoring games in the Regionalliga included a 33 point explosion against Vechta 2, and 32 points and 31 points against Wusterhausen. His consistent play in the Regionalliga rewarded him a job in the Pro B with the EWE Baskets Oldenburg farm team Baskets Akad.Weser-Ems/Oldenburger TB (Germany-ProB). He had a solid first Pro B season playing 27 games averaging 14.0ppg, 5.8rpg, 2.4apg, 1.9spg, FGP: 50.8%, 3PT: 38.3%, FT: 76.7%. There he had the opportunity to play with many young German kids, but was also teammates with ex Alba Berlin veteran Philipp Zwiener. ‘A special experience we had together would be making it out of the first round of the Pro B playoffs when we defeated the defending champions at the time ScanPlus Baskets Elchingen’, remembered Nigel Pruitt. He proved that he could be a strong player at the Pro B level where he scored in double figures in 21 of 27 games including scoring 28 points, getting 10 boards and dishing out 5 assists in a 88-82 win over Bochum and hit Schwelm for 23 points in a 91-79 victory over Schwelm.

In the 2019-2020 season the American who lists his own personal NBA Mount Rushmore with legends like MJ, Kobe, LeBron, Shaq and Magic Johnson moved to the Fraport Skyliners Juniors playing 18 games averaging 14.9ppg, 3.1rpg, 1.6apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 59.1%, 3PT-1 (51.7%), FT: 86.8%. He had his best season ever shooting an incredible 51% from the parking lot leading the Pro B in that category. Playing a second season with a easyCredit BBL farm team definitely helped his game mature another step. ‘I profited the most just being able to practice with the first team at Frankfurt. That allowed me to see how their system was supposed to be ran and also it gave me more confidence that I could perform and play at the BBL level’, stressed Nigel Pruitt. It wasn’t always an easy season for him as sometimes his minutes went up and down, but he made the best of the situation and still scored in double figures in 13 of 18 games. He had some great games exploding like a volcano against Baunach with 32 points netting 10 treys and scored 30 points against the Lowen. The game against Baunach was a special experience for him. ‘Professionally, I would say that the Baunach game was definitely my best in game performance to date. It was a great night for my team and me. During this time, we were on a three or four game winning streak, so it was important that we kept it going. For me I just wanted to continue to do what I was doing for the team during the winning streak so that is what I did, and God blessed me and allowed me to have a remarkable game’, said Nigel Pruitt. He also played his first easyCredit BBL game playing only a minute in a loss against Bamberg, but he knows that if he ever had the opportunity to battle in the top German league, he would be confident he could play a role with any team. ‘I don’t remember much from that game, but I do remember that I was super excited about the chance to possibly play and help the team. If given the chance I feel 120% positive that I could compete at that level. My game would fit in very well’, warned Nigel Pruitt. 

The last movie that he watched was the week of with Adam Sandler and Chris Rock and is a player that compares his game to a Paul George in that he can help teams with his hot and timely shooting, attack the rim and defend many positions. He is a guy that can do many things on the court and remembers growing up who influenced him most at a young age. ‘The two main players that were my favorite and role models growing up were Tracy McGrady and Dwayne Wade. I loved the way that T-Mac could destroy you in a game. He could shoot, dunk on you or play make at a high level. He was the complete package. D-Wade was an electrifying player to watch and made the game of basketball fun for me and made me want to really pursue a career with basketball’, commented Nigel Pruitt. A hidden strength in his game is his playmaking ability as well as doing the little things not always seen on the stat sheet, but he also recognizes that he still has things to work on with his game so he can continue to climb the basketball ladder. ‘Right now, what I am working on the most to continue to improve my game is the leadership aspect of the game. Just trying to be more vocal on the court with my teammates. Also, I am really working on increasing my IQ for the game as far reading the game even faster than I do now and being able to be 2 to 3 steps ahead of my opponent’, said Nigel Pruitt. 
The American has made the next step in his career and is playing in the first Austrian division with the Unger Steel Gunners Oberwart (Austria-BSL). He has been pleased with his deveoplment in his first 4 professional seasons in Germany and is ready for the next step. ‘I believe that since my rookie season, I was able to always take something away from every station or team I played at. During the 2 years in the regional league, I was able to get a taste of the European game. I was able to find my game and get comfortable in Germany during these 2 seasons. Then, in the next two seasons in the Pro B, I was able to take my game up a notch and prove to not only myself but to many others that I belong and that my game can translate through multiple leagues’, stressed Nigel Pruitt. 2020 has been a very tough year for every one including Nigel Pruitt. One of the biggest obstacles was being able to stay in shape and work in the lab to continue refining his game. ‘The last 7-8 months, I was in Germany the entire time. I really wanted to go home to the States to see my parents, but I wasn’t able to due to the travel restrictions. I could have still traveled to the States, but I would have had to quarantine when I returned so it was better for me and my wife to just stay in Germany. During this time the most challenging part was trying to find place to get into a gym to shoot and workout. The small area that my wife and I live in is like a small village so there aren’t many available gyms to shoot at. I was lucky to be able to lift and keep up my conditioning at the local home gym. I feel that COVID-19 definitely slowed down my usual summer of work’, stressed Nigel Pruitt. Even if so much negative things have happened during COVID-19, there were also positives that players could experience and Nigel Pruitt is thankful for the extra time he had to accomplish new things. ‘Obviously, the news of COVID was alarming for me just like it was for everyone. I didn’t go out at all and I stayed home mostly. But that allowed me to find new interest and new skills. I was able to improve my German language skills. That allowed me to obtain the German passport this summer which was a huge accomplishment for me. It was a lot of work, but I successfully passed all the requirements needed for it so now I am a dual citizen (US-German Citizen)’, added Nigel Pruitt. Many players haven’t had as much luck finding new teams in this difficult time while others were patient and lucky as a guy like Orlando Parker who played in the German Pro A and moved up to the UK BBL joining the London Lions and Pruitt also took his time and signed in late November.’The transfer market was definitely not the nicest. It was a lot of talks of interest but nothing coming through on paper for a long time but thanks to my agency (The Sports Law Group) and my agent Rob Falk, they were able to help find me a great next step for my career. I am extremely thankful’, stated Nigel Pruitt. 

He finally has reached a first division team in his fifth professional season and is a guy that definitely deserved it and his overwhelming joy about showing that he belongs is high. ‘It feels great to finally get the breakthrough opportunity I have been working hard for, for the last four years. But I’m still hungry and working for the next step in my career’, said Nigel Pruitt. Not only on the court does he have much new challenges to conquer, but off the court he is extremely lucky to be living in an area in the eastern part of Austria only a 10 minute drive from Hungry and 45 minute drive from Slovakia. ‘I have only been here for 2 and half weeks and at the moment there is a lockdown going on so I haven’t been able to see much other than the gym and my apartment so maybe once the lockdown here is lifted then I will be able to explore a bit more and see more of Oberwart’, commented Nigel Pruitt. His new team has won 7 titles and is off to a perfect record in the Austrian BSL and the goals of the team are very clear. ‘The goals of this team are the same as it is for most successful clubs, which is to win the league title and to continue to improve on a daily basis to be better than the day before. We have a talented group of guys, so I believe that we can go very far and contend for the title as long as we take it day by day and focus on being a better team daily’, warned NIgel Pruitt. For the first time in his professional career, he has the fortune to be playing for an organization that has many nationalities with many young Austrians, a Dutch player, a Lithuanian player, a Serb player and 2 other Americans including the experienced ex easyCredit BBL player Quincy Diggs. He has only been there a short time, but knows that a guy like Diggs will be instrumental in his development there. ‘Quincy Diggs is good player who can do a little bit of everything. He is also a great teammate who is always encouraging not only me but every one of his teammates to be the best they can be daily. Since this is his second stint with Oberwart, I have been able to get a better understanding of how the coach wants things to be done by just always talking with Quincy’, expressed Nigel Pruitt. The American had a solid NCAA career and could have started in a higher league in Europe and might have been further up the basketball ladder. But instead the basketball God chose a different path for him. Vital for him was that instead of trying to be a one man show in the Regionalliga, he stayed calm and level headed and showed his true team colors and played 2 very strong seasons that carved his path in a positive way to where he is today. He remembered how tough the beginning in Germany was. ‘Due to unfortunate circumstances, I knew that I was starting a lower point than expected, but my story has always been different. I have always had to go the hard route and prove myself every step of the way, so this was nothing new. I embraced the challenge and just went out to prove to myself and everyone watching that I can play and that I belong in the higher leagues’, warned Nigel Pruitt. The American may be far away now from being able to referee a one on one duel between Rickey Paulding and Quantez Robertson, but now he is ready to continue to prove that he can play at a higher level in Austria. He also recognizes that the whole professional basketball life is a process and so far he has adjusted very well to it and will continue to climb the basketball ladder at his own pace. 

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