Kendale Mccullum Is Soaking In Some Of That Same Seagulls Magic That Trae Bell-Haynes Did To Help Him Make the Next Step

If I were to track down Kameron Taylor in Hamburg and ask him the magical phrase “are you still happy that you took a step back to take two steps forward”? I´m more than 100% sure the Maryland native would release that golden smile and in his soft voice say “yes I am” He said that more than three years ago as he career turned into a total Cinderella story. After having a solid Pro A rookie season in Ehingen where he averaged 10,0ppg, he decided to take a step back to the Pro B(3rd division Germany) to the Dragons Rhondorf and he totally dominated the league putting up crazy stats of 23.4ppg), 7.9rpg, Assists-4(5.6apg), Steals-2(2.6spg), FGP: 59.7%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 76.4%. He picked up six Eurobasket.com awards and then made the jump to the easyCredit BBL joining s.Oliver Wurzburg thus proving he can go back a step and make two forward. Since then he dominated a season in Hungry and returned back to Germany last season averaging 10,0ppg with Bamberg and this season is having his best BBL season with the Hamburg Towers averaging 14,0ppg. This basketball cycle of players deciding to take a step back just keep repeating itself. Currently in the EasyCredit the best example of a player taking a step back to take steps forward is Crailsheim Canadian guard Trae Bell-Haynes. Two seasons ago as a rookie, he had some good games in Frankfurt, but also sustained growing pains. So last season he took a step back to play in Finland for the Seagulls and put up solid yet not spectacular stats of 12/3/4 and returned back to the BBL this season and is having a type of season that has him as an early MVP favorite. The Canadian is leading the league in scoring and assists and is near averaging double double stats. Another player who would like to follow in Kam Taylor and Bell-Haynes foot steps is Kendale Mccullum. Last season he tore up the German Pro A averaging 18.1ppg), 5.3rpg, Assists-1(7.2apg), Steals-2(2.6spg), FGP: 58.5%, 3PT: 42.4%, FT: 76.2%. He even racked up a triple double against the wiha Panthers as he won five eurobasket.com awards including player of the year, but his fascinating rookie season didn´t reward him with a ticket to the easyCredit BBL. “Honestly, I was devastated! I know I’m better than some of those guys in that league but now I am okay and I will be ready when it´s time for me to perform. I thought after the year I had in Pro A, there would be no question I’d be playing at the level. Even with COVID-19, there was no doubt in my mind. But some teams struggled with money issues, some teams just took guys who were already in the league, or took guys who had experience. I talked to some of the higher level teams there at one point! But never pulled the trigger but I’ve now accepted that”, said Kendale Mccullum. Playing for the Helsinki Seagulls could prove to be a very good omen, because his point guard predecessor was Trae Bell-Haynes. Mccullum could profit from his head coach Jussi Laakso the same way Bell-Haynes did. “Coach and I have talked about Bell-Haynes before! He’s a talented player. I’ve been watching him play this year. He’s doing it all. But of course, before coming here Jussi told me they have good connections with the Crailsheim coach and that a lot of players end up in the BBL Or they go to France or Italy”, stressed Kendale Mccullum. The American is in the driver seat now playing for a great new team, coach and teammates and sees Bell Haynes as a huge motivation. “I think yes since he’s played here and he’s now proven teams wrong that he belongs there! But, I’m also looking at other PG´s that I see playing. The steps they took to get to where they are”, warned Kendale Mucullum. So far his game has been soaking in some serious Seagulls magic the same way it has helped Trae Bell-Haynes and now it will be interesting to see if the American can hold his consistency in Finland.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing Trae Bell Haynes in the 2018-2019 season in Frankfurt

            2021 has finally arrived and everybody is hoping that the new year will be better while trying to forget 2020. Before landing in Finland, Kendale Mccullum had to deal with COVID-19 just like everybody else. His season ended early in Germany and suddenly he was back home in March. He quickly realized that it would be a big challenge being able to continue to work on his craft. “It was definitely tough because there was nothing to do! Nothing was open. So, I’m working out in my basement, going outside to run then back in the house for video games or movies or puzzles. But, around June was when gyms opened up and I finally got to work on my craft”, remembered Kendale Mccullum. COVID-19 really made him look at life in a totally different way and also had to accept that the whole brutal Corona calamity could be a blessing in disguise in terms of what kind of direction his basketball career could go. “It definitely helped me grow mentally! I feel as COVID is the reason why I’m not playing in the BBL or some other countries because of money budget. But, maybe it’s a sign saying in need another year of experience and to get better. So, when I get that phone call, I will be ready to perform”, warned Kendale Mccullum.

            The American last watched the movie Soul with Jamie Foxx is playing his second professional in Finland and despite having dreams of making the next step to the German easyCredit BBL, he has accepted his move to Finland. The Koriisliga has proved over the years to be a league that players like to pick to help refine their game. There have been many players that have made the next step from Finland to higher leagues like a Trae Bell-Haynes or Ken Horton. “I’m happy because I still get to play. I get the chance to grow as a player and get more experience. There are some very talented players who are still back at home waiting for opportunities to get a call. This system is perfect for me and it allows me to show what I can do. I’m showing I can lead a team as a point guard! The club is off to a huge start having won it´s first 11 games and the American is enjoying basketball life to the fullest. “It’s nice being in a winning team. Knowing you have a high chance of holding that trophy come March is what gives me the most joy! I don’t think I’ve ever started a season 11-0 in my entire basketball career. I’ve been on 14+ game winning streaks but never started 11-0”, stressed Kendale Mccullum. So far the club has done everything right. It has defended on a very consistent rate, and have won the nail bitters, but their biggest strength is their lethal offense that have scored 100 points or more in 5 games. “We just have so many offensive weapons. We’re a tough team to defend. There is no secret to success. We work hard every day, we take care of our bodies, and we do the little things. But, I guess you can say the old guys with their experience is our secret. They never get frustrated or panic when things aren’t going our way”, said Kendale Mccullum.

            A big reason why the American has been able to be so successful on the court with his game is because of his talented teammates. With Tuuka Kotti an ex BBL player and Timo Heinonen he has two 39 year old veterans who still shine on the court and give their expertise to the younger guys like Mccullum. He is also teammates with another ex BBL player Shawn Huff who played six years in Germany with the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg and Fraport Skyliners. He is that ultimate glue guy player that plays hard defense and can hit the three pointer and a player that he can soak up a lot of basketball knowledge from. “Shawn is a great guy! He’s a very talented veteran! But, seeing where he been definitely gives me hope. Not just to play in the BBL but other high level leagues in other countries too”, stated Kendale Mccullum. Another guy who just keeps chugging along year for year is 37 year old three time Romanian allstar Porter Troupe. He became an identity figure in the Romania-Liga Nationala) and even though he isn´t a point guard, he has been able to give the American valuable advice. “I’ve learned a good amount from Porter. He’s played at some high levels and he has a lot of experience. So, any time he speaks to me i listen and take his advice. Biggest thing he taught me so far I would say would be having even more patience when playing within the ball screen”, added Kendale Mccullum.

            Last season he played in the second division in Germany called Pro A while this season in the first Finish division. In both leagues he was able to put up great stats. But there are distinct differences to the two leagues. “I think the competition and the players were slightly better in Pro A. Especially, at the point guard position. I was battling a tough PG every night in Pro A! Also, I’m on the best team here in Finland with the most money. To whereas, in Germany, I wasn’t on the best team and we had the least money”, expressed Kendale Mccullum. So far this season he is racking up stats of 15/5/8/3 stats which is very solid, but especially when your on a team that has so many scoring options, one can´t expect him to be averaging 20,0ppg. Even if he is second in the Finish league in assists with 8,0 and leading the league in steals with 3,3, he isn´t doing cart wheels in joy about how he views his performance. “I’m never satisfied, I could always be better at something. There’s still a lot I can improve on to potentially make those stats better. Especially, not that I am 100% healthy”, stressed Kendale Mccullum. Last season he shot a very respectable 42% from outside, but so far this season is struggling at 31%. After an amazing rookie season in Germany, his self confidence is still very high concerning his outside shooting. “I started out well shooting from three! I think I was around 44%! But after our 5th game I believe it was, during practice I got an injury. I partially tore 4 ligaments in my hand and it was swollen. I missed one game but played and the others and caused my % to go down! It was hard to dribble, shoot and pass. I haven’t practiced since before the FIBA break. My first practice back was a couple days before Christmas. Just trying to find my rhythm from 3 again. The shots will fall, I’m not worried about that. If I go 3-3 from 3pt next game I’m back to 37%. So no worries here”, warned Kendale Mccullum. There have been two significant areas of his game that have really improved since he arrived in Germany in August 2019. When he came to Paderborn, he had some self doubts at the beginning if he could compete in the Pro A believing that he was only good enough for the Pro B. He then had a talk with head coach Steven Esterkamp and after that everything clicked and he knew he had the game to be successful. “I think the biggest thing for me was trusting my craft. Also, to know wherever I end up playing that I belong there and I’m there for a reason. Even if I’m one of the best players in the league or in the middle of the league. I’m there because I can play”, remembered Kendale Mccullulm. The other area that has improved is his leadership that he felt was a bit off the radar in his rookie season as he still had to get used to the idea that leading a team as a professional is more challenging than his college team. “I am more vocal now here, I’m more controlling of the game here. I don’t get mentally frustrated when things are going wrong. It’s not because even the older guys listen and take my advice when I say something. And most of them have been playing for over a decade”, stressed Kendale Mccullum. One can´t forget that he has played hurt this season at about 60%, but is back at 100% now. He definitely wants to cut down on his 4,2 turnovers per game while also working on other areas. “I´m continuing to work on weight, different finishes around the rim. Such as floaters. Then, just coming off the ball screens and pulling up from the three”, stated Kendale Mccullum.,

            Not only is there a difference in the German and Finish leagues that he has experienced, but also in the two cities he has been able to call home the last two years. In Paderborn, he could take a quick city tour in his car in about 15 minutes as only 148,000 people live there, while in the Finish capital of Helsinki he could take days touring the city that has 631,000 inhabitants. Even if COVID-19 has hindered his sight seeing a bit, he has found the time to explore and understood to enjoy every moment of his overseas experience. “With COVID, it’s hard to go out and go sight seeing. I have done a little and seen some beautiful things. The city is gorgeous here. There’s a Rocky Mountain I would go chill and just relax and clear my head and remind myself not to take things for granted”, stressed Kendale Mccullum. The days are short in Finland, so when he does have some extra time and isn´t dreaming about making his mark in the easyCredit BBL, he does follow the NBA  One guy he does monitor closely is 2019 NBA champion with the Toronto Raptors Jordan Loyd who is in Europe now balling in the Euroleague with KK Crvena Zvezda MTS Beograd (Serbia-KLS). They both battled in the NCAA 2 and took completely different basketball journeys. Loyd is another one of those players where he can take a lot of inspiration and hope from and won´t forget how focused he was when they battled head to head in the NCAA 2.. “They way he led his team in the heat of the moment! When it was crunch time, you were not stopping him. We still talk here and there and I do watch his games. Learning a lot from him. That’s the level I want to be at. He gives me hope since he came from where I came from. I just have to be patient. That’s what he has told me”, warned Kendale Mccullum. He also saw the 5 minute video of Steph Curry drilling home 103 three´s from the corner. He didn´t quite reach the amount of three´s that Curry sunk last summer, but simply can take Curry´s feat as more motivation to hit more with his never satisfied attitude. “My trainer, Matt Mooney and I had a drill this summer. You shoot from 5 spots and you see how many you can make in a row. No time. I made 32 from the corner and 21 in a row from the top”, said Kendale Mccullum. Obviously he wants to make the next step after his Finland stint and follow a Trae Bell-Haynes to a higher league, but for now he wants to take care of business with the Helsinki Sea Gulls. He will never be satisfied with his own game and also has the ultimate highest goals with his team to win a championship. “Life is good here in Finland. We’re all happy but we’re not satisfied. We have more we want to accomplish as a group”, stressed Kendale Mccullum.

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