Justin Cobbs is a 29 year old 191cm point guard from Torrance, California playing his seventh professional season and second with KK Buducnost Voli Podgorica (Montenegro-Erste Liga). Last season he played 20 Adriatic League averaging 15.7ppg, 2.1rpg, 5.0apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 46.9%, 3PT: 40.5%, FT: 84.7%; and played 9 Eurocup games averaging 15.4ppg, 2.4rpg, Assists-2 (7.3apg), 1.0spg, FGP: 47.0%, 3PT: 35.0%, FT: 80.0%. He played his rookie season in 2014-2015 with the Fraport Skyliners Frankfurt (Germany-BBL) playing 27 BBL games averaging 14.4ppg, 2.5rpg, 4.4apg, FGP: 47.9%, 3PT: 31.6%, FT: 80.3%;and played 12 EuroChallenge games averaging 16.3ppg, 2.9rpg, Assists-4 (6.1apg), FGP: 46.6%, 3PT: 40.6%, FT: 83.1%. In the 2015-2016 season he also gained further experience with Istanbul Buyuksehir Belediyesi (Turkey-BSL) averaging 7.6ppg, 2.1rpg, 3.3apg, FGP: 47.9%, 3PT: 30.8%, FT: 64.3% and averaging 5.2ppg in Eurocup in Dec.’15 moved to FC Bayern Muenchen (Germany-BBL):playing 26 games averaging 6.8ppg, 1.3rpg, 3.1apg, FGP: 43.5%, 3PT: 39.0%, FT: 83.3%, 2.1apg, FGP: 42.6%, 3PT: 14.3%, FT: 75.0%. In the 2016-2017 season he played with BCM Gravelines Dunkerque Grand Littoral (France-ProA) playing 34 games: Score-3 (16.9ppg), 3.6rpg, Assists-5 (5.5apg), 1.4spg, FGP: 48.5%, 3PT: 30.4%, FT: 87.9%; and played 11 FIBA Europe Cup games: Score-4 (18.9ppg), 4.0rpg, 5.5apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 53.2%, 3PT: 36.7%, FT: 89.4%. In the 2017-2018 season he played with Le Mans Sarthe Basket (France-ProA) playing 47 games averaging 14.1ppg, 2.9rpg, Assists-4 (5.9apg), FGP: 48.2%, 3PT: 36.3%, FT: 88.7%. In the 2018-2019 season he played with KK Cedevita Zagreb (Croatia-Premijer Liga) averaging 12.1ppg, 1.9rpg, 4.3apg, FGP: 44.3%, 3PT: 37.0%, FT: 91.8%; played 25 Adriatic League games averaging 13.9ppg, 1.8rpg, 4.2apg, FGP: 46.9%, 3PT: 35.8%, FT: 83.0%; and played 16 Eurocup: games averaging 14.4ppg, 2.2rpg, 5.5apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 53.0%, 3PT: 38.7%. FT: 82.8%. He played at Minnesota (NCAA) and California (NCAA) reaching the Elite 8 in 2014 and has won professional titles in Croatia, France and Montenegro. He spoke to germanhoops.com before a Eurocup game in Ulm about basketball.
Justin thanks for talking to germanhoops.com Welcome back to Germany. How did it feel returning back to Germany where you had your first success with the Fraport Skyliners?
It was good to be back in Germany and see some of those familiar faces. It brought back many memories like playing against DJ Cooper with Frankfurt in the Eurochallenge. I always think good things about Germany.
Before we talk about your career, I have to ask you about how you experienced COVID-19 the last 7-8 months. What was the biggest challenge for you in terms of being able to keep in shape and work on your game during the hard times.
I was in Los Angeles. There was no big challenge. My circle is very small. I usually work out in the mornings and am by myself. The hardest part was keeping my little one inside. It wasn’t easy being locked in the house.
With everything that you experienced how do you feel did COVID-19 make you stronger as a man?
I was locked in. It was a good time to relax my mind. It was also good to be able to spend more time with my family.
Your playing your seventh professional season and second with KK Buducnost Voli Podgorica (Montenegro-Erste Liga). What kind of experience has it been playing in a new country? How has it been different from other places that you played in?
I think that the biggest difference in comparison to other countries is the format of the playoffs. Every game is important as only 4 teams make it. Having that home court advantage is huge. The pressure and expectations are higher in the ABA league. You always have to be on you’re A game. You need to always have good results and be able to do that consistently.
The club is doing well in the ABA and Eurocup. Where do you see the journey of the team going this season?
We are doing great in the ABA. We are in the Top 16 of the Eurocup I see us as being one of the best teams. I feel that if we peak right then we can go far in both. My goal is the Eurocup final and winning the ABA title.
You have 2 new teammates with Melvin Ejim and Willie Reed. What have you learned to appreciate most about both guys play?
Melvin helps the team in so many ways. He is so humble and always gives advice. You always know what you will get from him. He always gives the same energy. Willie is an athletic presence. He can dunk at a high rate and always disrupts the other teams offense. He is a great rim protector and rebounder.
What kind of experience was for you sharing the back court with ex NBA player Sean Kilpatrick? You both turned professional in 2014.
We actually were together many years ago at a Charlotte (NBA) work out. We relived those times. This was only his second time overseas. Everything was new to him. My job was it to help him. Often guys coming from the NBA have a difficult time making the adjustment to overseas ball. He has done a good job figuring out and is playing with Gran Canaria now.
In 2018-2019 you played with KK Cedevita Zagreb (Croatia-Premijer Liga) playing 12 games averaging 12.1ppg, 1.9rpg, 4.3apg, FGP: 44.3%, 3PT: 37.0%, FT: 91.8%; played 25 Adriatic League: games averaging 13.9ppg, 1.8rpg, 4.2apg, FGP: 46.9%, 3PT: 35.8%, FT: 83.0%; and 16 Eurocup games averaging 14.4ppg, 2.2rpg, 5.5apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 53.0%, 3PT: 38.7%, FT: 82.8%. What did you appreciate most about last season? You won a cup title.
There were two things I appreciated the most. One was the coaching staff who deserve a lot of credit. They had a lot of faith in me. It was a bit shakey with some of the guys they kept. They were totally behind me and Jacob Pullen to lead the team. Jacob was a great guy to have in the back court. Sean Kilpatrick and me were the most dynamic back court.
You won the France pro A title with Le Mans. How good did it feel winning your first professional title in your fourth professional season. Did it feel a little extra sweet simply because Le Mans came into the season having missed the playoffs.
I actually wasn’t familiar with the club when I arrived. It isn’t always typical that you know about the history when you get to a new team. We started off well, but we didn’t really realize that we had a chance to win it all until we reached the playoffs. We knocked off teams like Asvel and Strasburg. We didn’t read any of the newspapers, but we were told that we were picked to looe every playoff series. We really had good chemistry.
Not only was the regular season amazing, but what you experienced in the playoffs was nothing for bad nerves. First you beat Asvel, then beat Strasburg in five games and then Monaco in five games. Was there any point in the playoffs where you knew that nothing was going to take you from winning the chip?
I think the only time that we questioned not being able to win it was when Romeo Travis was suspended for game two. We lost game one and had to win game two with out him. We found out only one hour and a half before the game began. That was when guys knew that they had to step up.
After being up 2-1 against Monaco, you lost at home and had to come back on the road. You won game 5 76-74 and had to rally to win. Talk about the last seconds and how you witnessed winning your first chip?
I honestly was never worried. Chris Lofton made a big shot and I made important free throws. Paul Lacombe took the last shot and missed a tough floater. It was an exciting time seeing all the energy in that game. It was fun to win on the road in Monaco.
What made the season so amazing was that the core players were all new. What was the secret to this team always being able to come out of holes and being able to win when you needed it most?
I just credit our team. We were a team that always played with the hot hand. It didn’t matter if it was me, Romeo Travis, Chris Lofton or DJ Stephens, someone always made the big shot. We had many guys that contributed on a consistent basis. We always fought hard and never stopped believing. We proved in the playoffs that we could get it done.
How vital was it for your game to have a guy like Chris Lofton. How much easier was it for you to play your game having such a lethal sniper by your side?
He could catch fire at any time. He scored 34 against Monaco and 25 points against Strasburg. He is one of those guys that can take over a game at any time in 10-15 minutes. He took a lot of pressure off me and when I had a bad night, he would pick it up.
One of the true professionals is Romeo Travis who won the playoff MVP. How key was his character for this team having success? Would the team have won the title without him?
He kept everything together. If things got hectic, he would calm us all down. He had a lot of experience and had been in those moments before. He was a tremendous leader.
How many Lebron James questions do you suppose slipped out from you over the course of the season or did everybody respect his friendship with the king and not hassle him with questions?
He didn’t have too many crazy Lebron stories. I know that all 5 guys form the movie have a group chat. He talked a lot about his high school days. People were always asking him about Lebron.
Before we talk about your current game, I would like to go back a few years. After a stellar rookie season with the Fraport Skyliners, you suffered some sophomore blues in Turkey where you didn’t find your groove and with Munich got lost in the shuffle with less minutes to spare. What did you learn from this season?
That season taught me that if there are situations that don’t work out, you just have to embrace the journey. I wasn’t the same player in Turkey the way I had been in Frankfurt. I learned if something goes wrong, just keep playing your game and keep that same confidence.
How big of a challenge was it for you in 2016 going into your third professional season wanting to turn around from your second season. You struck back with BCM Gravelines Dunkerque Grand Littoral (France-ProA) playing 34 games: Score-3 (16.9ppg), 3.6rpg, Assists-5 (5.5apg), 1.4spg, FGP: 48.5%, 3PT: 30.4%, FT: 87.9%; and in the FIBA Europe Cup played 11 games: Score-4 (18.9ppg), 4.0rpg, 5.5apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 53.2%, 3PT: 36.7%, FT: 89.4%. What was key for you this season for being able to bounce back? Did you work extra hard in the summer or was your self confidence somehow increased quickly?
That team was smaller and had a lot of confidence coming in. I always bring the same work ethic where ever I go. I also use each summer to get better. I think a big factor in my good play was changing my mind set and getting back to playing thew ay I know I can.
How important was it having that familiar face around with Richard Solomon from the university of California who was your teammate there. How much of a role did he play for you being comfortable and finding back to your game?
The life style and food is different abroad for Americans so any time you have a familiar face around, it makes everything easier. Richard helped me relax and just be myself.
You have always been that scoring point guard, but already showed that special knack of knowing exactly when to score and when to set up your teammates which you demonstrated time in and time out as a rookie in Frankfurt especially in that do or die game against Enisey in Frankfurt. How do you work on continuing to improve decision making? How vital is watching film in your preparation?
Film is key for my game. It helps knowing where guys will be open and the opponents defensive schemes. I always know where a guy will be open on the pick role before it happens because of film. Watching film and knowing the scouting report always gives you an upside.
Except for your second season in Turkey and Germany, you have been so consistent. What has been your personal secret for doing this? Some players say that they played for good coaches. How has it been for you?
Playing for the right coach is always key. I have been lucky to have played for coaches that have let me play my game. It is important for them to believe in you and let you play through your mistakes. If that doesn’t happen then you won’t have confidence. I think that me putting in the work has also been key. Since playing in Munich, I have always had the best defender defending me. I always had to be prepared and my team helped me also.
What do you believe kept you from the NBA? I interviewed your ex teammate David Kravish recently and he said you could have been in the NBA
I speak to guys about this all the time. If you take a Mike James the best player in Euroleague and switch him with Cameron Payne then I feel like James could help the Suns more than a Payne could CSKA Moscow. No disrespect to the player Cameron Payne. That is just how I feel. I think to get to the NBA has more to do with timing than talent. Guys come form the NBA to Europe and are unable to play here.
How important was your rookie season in Frankfurt for you personally? How important was head coach Gordon Herbert for you as a rookie? He had the confidence in your game and gave you total freedom. Is this something that you will always remember?
My first real job was with NBA team Charlotte. Then I went overseas to Riga and was instantly thrown into the fire. I thought coming to Europe would be easy, but it wasn’t In Riga I was expected to be a program changer. The expectations were really high. I played against top teams CSKA and Khimky after only 2two practices. I didn’t produce. I was cut. After that brief experience, I questioned myself if I could play in Europe. I thought that I was done. Gordie believed in me and revamped my career. I came to Frankfurt and believed in myself and the process. Sean Armand and Quantez Robertson allowed me to play my game. Without that time in Frankfurt, I really wouldn’t have known where I would be after.
You probably have many very fond memories from your Frankfurt days, but what is your fondest memory? Possibly that do or die Eurochallenge game in Frankfurt against Enisey where you were down by 18 points at the break and still won?
I remember telling the guys at half time, ‘Come on guys do you really not want to win this game’ ? I remember how much fun we had as a team in Frankfurt. It was great times. I remember the exciting playoff series against Munich. Everybody counted us out, but we proved them wrong. I remember when I got to Frankfurt, we were something like 14th in the league and then finished 4th. Those were some of the best teammates that I had in Frankfurt.
How have you been following the career of your ex teammate Johannes Voigtmann? He is playing his 6th season in the Euroleague. Any memorable story with him from Frankfurt?
We had two of the best big men in Europe with Joe and Danilo Barthel. We were all hungry to play at the next level. Joe can do it all. Both deserve the success they have achieved. Watching them grow over the years has been amazing. I still tell stories today about how Joe and Danilo were my big me my rookie year.
Who would win a one on one today if you played again. You or Sean Armand?
I will always take myself. Sean would put up a tough fight. He loves to paly defense. I will always take myself except if I go against a Lebron or Jordan.
Who was the toughest player that you battled in the NCAA that reached the NBA?
I remember two guys. I remember when we played Washington State and Klay Thompson going off for 44 points. Those were the most impressive 44 points I ever saw. The other was Damian Lillard. You could tell he had potential.
If you had to construct your very own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you pick old or new?
Jordan, Lebron, Shaq, Kobe, Iverson
What is your personal opinion of the never ending debate about who is better Lebron or Jordan? As a player and stats Lebron owned him, but Jordan has 6 rings?
They are two different players. Lebron is more like a Magic. Jordan had that killer mentality and scoring
What was the last movie that you saw?
Set it off.
Thanks Justin for the chat.