2020 has been a difficult year for the whole world with COVID-19 having changed the lives of everyone and it hasn´t been any different for American baller Tucker Haymond. COVID-19 ended his Pro A season with FC Schalke, left him in limbo in the spring and summer about how his basketball career would continue as well as finding ways how to keep in shape and left him sweating as getting that new contract didn´t happen until November. But that hadn´t been the whole story of his 2019-2020 season as he began in Cyprus, but had to depart early from there. Then he hung out in Cologne where he had played with the Pro B team RheinStars Cologne the season before winning the scoring crown. He didn´t mope about his tough situation and worked out with well known German individual trainer Paul Gudde and had that hard brush with sleeping on the floor. “Sleeping on the floor for the past month has almost been something out of a movie. Going from winning a G league championship to bouncing from country to country, house to house, has shown me what I’m really made of. How dedicated I am. And because of all of these things, when an opportunity arises, I will be ready for it. Because of the work I put in and sacrifice I’ve made. I’m just lucky to have a wife that will go through this with me and support me even when it may look like there’s no way out. She believes in me”, stressed Tucker Haymond. After his job abruptly ended in Schalke, he returned home and had to deal with the whole COVID-19 crisis. He had to deal with finding gym time as well as just hope he would find a new job opportunity. “ 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. 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”,stressed Tucker Haymond. The waiting finally ended as German Pro B team SC Rist Wedel called in November But his basketball life would excellerate an incredible 180 degrees as after 2 games he got promoted to the easyCredit BBL team Hamburg Towers who were suffering some injuries and gave him the special BBL 5 game contract. The last year has been a massive rollercoaster for Tucker Haymond, but 2020 has had a happy ending for him as he made his BBL debut against ratiopharm Ulm playing 4 minutes. So there he was on the bench and head coach Pedro Calles looked at him and gave the Washington native the call. “My first reaction was excitement and happiness to get this opportunity so fast after my arrival in the end of November. Together with my agency ATHLEADZ I decided to sign with SC Rist Wedel because besides playing for their Pro B team the organization wanted to give me the chance to practice a lot with their BBL affiliated team Hamburg Towers which we thought would help me a lot to step up my own game by practicing with high quality players like Jordan, Kam or TJ and being coached by head coaches Pedro Calles (BBL) and Benka Barloschky (ProB) on a daily basis. So once I received the news, there wasn’t a lot of time to think about it because the preparation process for Ulm began immediately with watching film and mentally preparing myself for the game, not only for me personally, but how I can step in and do whatever coach asks me to do to help, in whatever way that is”, stressed Tucker Haymond. The American has left sleeping on the floor with no job in Cologne to suiting up with BBL team Hamburg Towers.
Obviously signing with SC Rist Wedel was a no brainer for Tucker Haymond. Even if he landed back in the Pro B, he had a massive advantage to his other German teams RheinStars Cologne and FC Schalke that he had played with in the past in that SC Rist Wedel was the farm team of the Hamburg Towers. He would have the opportunity to practice with the BBL team on a regular basis. He didn´t disappoint in Wedel with his game as he had his usual sniper qualities present as he scored 27 points in a victory against Lok Bernau and contributed 23 points in a tough loss to Itzehoe. He had been practicing with the Hamburg Towers and then suddenly he got his chance to tackle the BBL level. If his buddy Jan Zimmerman had told him a year ago when he was getting him off the floor to get into the gym that he would inhaling BBL minutes, the American would only have looked up to God. “Thanks for the flowers Miles, but I think I’m not quite there yet. I’m glad I played my first BBL minutes and it was an important experience for me to built on. I still have to study the game a lot to get on this level and I will definitely do my best to earn a chance to get called up by coach Pedro again. But if someone had told me one year ago I think I would have just thanked them and continued to put my faith and trust in God and continued to work hard every day. During those times I didn’t know what was going to happen or what direction God was going to send me, I just knew whatever the path was, it was meant for me. And I was blessed to start working with my agent Robert Cardenas Ruda (thanks to my old teammate Jan Zimmerman) around that time who one hundred percent believed in my abilities, and worked very hard to get me fitting opportunities”, warned Tucker Haymond.
On December 12th, he scored 23 points in a loss against Itzehoe and then would give his BBL debut the next day against one of the BBL´s top 5 teams ratiopharm Ulm. All of a sudden he was sharing the floor with BBL identity figure Per Guenther, German national player Andreas Obst, ex Euroleague player Patrick Heckmann and a slew of talented Americans like John Petrucelli, Troy Caupain and Demitrius Conger. There were 2 vital things that he wanted to get out of the few minutes he played as well as being able to make that adjustment as the BBL is a totally different world to what he saw in the Pro A and Pro B. “Important was to gain experience and confidence. Besides speed, physicality and basketball IQ, I think the biggest difference is just overall combined experience in the players on the teams. Most teams in Pro A have a lot of guys who have many years of combined mid or high-level experiences in basketball. Whereas sometimes in Pro B, you can have a very talented young team with most guys 18-21 and they are on their way to getting to those places that the guys in Pro A have been”, explained Tucker Haymond. Another huge advantage that Tucker Haymond has with being able to gain new experience with a BBL team is being able to soak up as much as possible with head coach Pedro Calles who easily belongs to the top 3 coaches in the league. The head coach had a Cinderella season with Rasta Vechta and brought them to a new level and now he is trying to go 2/2 with success as he attempts to guide the Hamburg Towers to new heights where they haven´t been before. “Even in this short time of 2-3 weeks practicing with the Towers I have gained more then I can even type out. He has been patient with me and is a great teacher of the game. Since coach Pedro is known for his high intensity, fast pace, defense and team orientated style of basketball, I have the chance to learn something new every day and I try my best to apply it to my game. Him, coach Benka (AC BBL), and coach Miguel (AC BBL) have been very positive and patient with me, which has helped me learn so many new concepts in a short time. When I also practice with Wedel, it’s more reps at the same system. Coach Benka pushes me on both teams and has helped tremendously in different parts of my game, not just skill wise, but mental and technical parts of the game, too”, stressed Tucker Haymond. He had the family feeling in Cologne with manager Stephen Baaeck and it isn´t any different in Hamburg with ex German national player Marvin Willoughby. “We have connected well, we have a mutual friend in Paul Gudde, who told me a lot about him before I even met him. Ever since my first practice, and before any games for either team, Marvin, Christoph (sport director Wedel) and everyone in both organizations have treated me with nothing but respect and welcomed me to a family like environment. I’m just thankful and blessed to be here”, said Tucker Haymond.
The American who currently is watching the TV series Your Honor knows that he only has 5 games in the easyCredit BBL to be able to leave a lasting impression for the Hamburg Towers as well as other BBL teams and teams from other high levels. But the guy has an amazing work ethic and is so focused to make the most of this once in a lifetime opportunity. “Practicing with the Towers is great and I try to take advantage of it in every way. Playing with the Towers is a big bonus for me and I’m trying my best to earn it since it isn’t guaranteed. I’m also trying to make my BBL teammates better every day in practice, if I can achieve that, then the team improves and I did a good job. But my main focus right now is winning games in Wedel doing whatever is asked of me to help achieve a win and be a good leader for this young and highly talented group”, expressed Tucker Haymond. He has many excellent teammates like BBL veteran Bryce Taylor and diminutive electric point guard TJ Shorts, but there are so many other key players where he can soak up additional vital basketball knowledge on offense from versatile player Jordan Swing and defensive stopper and pest Max Dileo. “I like how Jordan gets to his spots on the floor with his changes of pace, as well as his angles of attack. He is a very talented player. Practicing/Playing with him and watching him reminds me of another lefty I once played with, with similar playing styles – Darrun Hilliard. With Max, I just try to watch how he uses his body and his different angles he takes on defense, as well as positioning. But his biggest asset on defense is his effort. I’ve never played with anyone who gives as much effort on defense as he does, and its contagious. When he gives high effort, other players on the court match his intensity. One of my main goals for this season was/is to be equally dominant on defense and offense and luckily I have players within the team like Max and Kam which lead by example and force me to perform on a high level every day in practice. You’re always working hard to get better”, warned Tucker Haymond.
Even though the ex Western Michigan(NCAA) guard has been practicing in Hamburg, he is living in Wedel and needs to make the 45 minute drive to Hamburg. He is so focused on making a positive statement with his game that he probably couldn´t tell you where the breathtaking Alster lake is or where the overwhelming famous harbor is. “To be honest I haven’t seen much of Hamburg or Wedel, once I got out of quarantine by the end of November I started practicing 1-2 times a day, sometimes in Wedel, most of the time in Hamburg, so I spend all my time either at home, in the gym, or on the way to the gym. Definitely looking forward to explore the city together with my wife whenever I’ll have the time for it”, warned Tucker Haymond. Even if COVID-19 is still a pain in the neck for the world, basketball wise Tucker Haymond is sitting on top of the world with this very rare BBL chance. Even if he was only a Pro B player two years ago, you can never doubt the self confidence of a professional player. Most have chips on their shoulders and are always gunning for more and reaching the top of the basketball ladder. It hasn´t been any different for him. As soon as he saw Washington native Peyton Siva in the easyCredit BBL, he knew exactly where he wanted to go in Germany. “Ever since I got to Germany it was a goal of mine to play in the BBL. I gained a lot of experience in Pro B and I was a dominant player in Pro A with Schalke (2019-2020). I grew up watching Peyton Siva back home, he was someone I looked up to as a young kid, so being in Germany I wanted to do the same. I think I’m still on track and I will do my best to get closer and closer to accomplish my goal of being a respected BBL player. God has blessed me with this new opportunity in Wedel and Hamburg and I’ll just continue to work hard wherever I’m at, no matter the situations or circumstances”, stressed Tucker Haymond. Even if 2020 has been a year that no one has ever experienced before, one thing is for sure, Christmas will still be there. It is a time of the year where all the turbulence gets forgotten a bit. A time for Tucker Haymond to reflect on his interesting journey in the past 12 months as well as being able to spend precious time with his wife. “I’ll be celebrating this year with my wife, maybe try to go see some Christmas lights if possible and FaceTime back home with family. Of course watch Christmas movies and just enjoy family time, something I’ve learned to savor this year more than ever. And yes, this Christmas I’m blessed to have a comfortable place to sleep and a team to play on, 2020 has taught me to never take anything for granted, big or small.”, added Tucker Haymond. He has witnessed so much that he easily could of written a book about what he went through and would of easily titled the last chapter of his book concerning his easyCredit BBL experience as Faith & Humility. He has everything he needs in Wedel/Hamburg having his wife and having the biggest professional opportunity with the Hamburg Towers. Only one thing is different this holiday season and that is he will have traded the floor in Cologne for a big comfy bed in Wedel. But then again, if he still has that kid at heart in him, then he may actually risk sleeping one night on the floor on Christmas eve next to the Christmas tree to see if Santa Claus actually makes house calls in Germany.