Ricky Easterling and Rickey Paulding have the same name and share a common talent of scoring, but play in two completely different basketball worlds. Paulding who played at Missouri(NCAA) and was drafted by the Detroit Pistons in 2004 is a 38 year old 196cm swing man that is in his 17th professional season, but what is most amazing about his career is that he has been a EWE Baskets lifer having played 14 seasons for them For an American playing for a very long time for one club is about as uncommon as Larry Bird not being named on the Boston Celtics all-time Mount Rushmore. In his 14 seasons in the BBL; the 6 time BBL allstar has belonged to the best small forwards each season, averaged double figures in scoring each season in the BBL and helped the club to their only 2 club titles. On top of that he is a role model for all having a good character and being a good family man. But Paulding isn´t the only identity figure for his team in Germany, but there a few other guys that have proclaimed their love for one organization as in Frankfurt you have Quantez Robertson who is in his 12th season with the Fraport Skyliners and in Saarlouis, you have Ricky Easterling who is a 37year old 189cm guard that has been 13 seasons with them. The only massive difference between Paulding and Easterling is that Paulding plays in the first division in Germany and Easterling in the 4th division called Regionalliga. He played at Bridgewater College (NCAA3) and came to Germany in 2007 and never played in any other country. He played 9 seasons in the Regionalliga, one season in the Regionalliga 2 and two seasons in the Pro B. He has belonged to the best of the best that the Regionalliga has ever seen averaging 26,0ppg in the 9 seasons. He had incredible seasons in the Regionalliga of averaging 34,0, 32,0, 29,0 and 28,0ppg. He helped the club move to the 3rd league Pro B and in both seasons showed that he was one of the best players in a higher league winning the scoring title both seasons. Showing that kind of incredible scoring consistency and love for a club certainly would deserve some kind of recognition. In Oldenburg, after 10 seasons with the EWE Baskets, Rickey Paulding was honored with a special wall graffiti called Pauldingburg. The question now is when will Ricky Easterling get a type of Easterlinglouis recognition in the city? That’s a great honor! I’m sure Ricky Paulding is thankful for that type of love for sure! He played in the first league so I guess things like that are accepted by the city but I can’t see Saarlouis doing something like that for me. Not meaning that they don’t appreciate me here but that might be a little overboard in the cities eyes. But if something like that were to happen, I would be very thankful and honored. I would like to think Saarlouis would show some type of appreciation and honor me in some kind of way. I can see them doing something like retiring the number 8 and making it a number that no one else can wear in the future. That would be pretty cool and manageable in a small city like Saarlouis. But I guess we have to wait and see! Still might play another year so something like this might have to wait a little while. This city gives me so much love! Maybe even more then I deserve. I love this place and I am very thankful for the opportunities they have given me over the years. I can’t thank the people of Saarlouis enough for that! And because of that Saarlouis will always own a place in my heart.”, warned Ricky Easterling. In November 2020 he was given the German citizenship with the help of the city of Saarlouis. A start to getting further love from the city with a statue?
Last season the American from Baltimore helped Saarlouis finish in 8th place in the Regionalliga South West division. The division was as competitive as ever as between 3rd and 11th place there was only a difference of 2 wins. When the season abruptly ended because of COVID-19 there were 5 teams from 7-11 with identical records of 10-13 including Saarlouis. The Regionalliga has 4 divisions, but only the West were going to finish the season with playoffs, but than COVID-19 hit and abruptly ended the season. With such an exciting and very competitive south east division, playoffs would have been a great way to end the South West season. “Not to talk negative about the German basketball federation but I don’t really understand how they operate. They are always changing rules and doing things that don’t make sense to me. I mean they have their reason for doing things but I can’t sit here and say I understand. I think it was weird that they have playoffs for some divisions and not in others. It was very disappointing that one division had playoffs and others didn’t because our division was so up in the air and I think playoffs would be very interesting in the Southwest. Besides Karlsruhe anybody could have beaten anybody on any given day. But Corona came and no one in any division got to play it out unfortunately”, stressed Ricky Easterling. The club had a positive stretch at the beginning winning 3 games in a row, but overall age and a lack of experience was a big problem for the team finding consistency. “It definitely was a rough season for us. We had a short roster and many young players were thrown in the fire and forced to play big minutes. That made things difficult. But on the flip side it helped our younger players grow and gain a lot of experience and I think that will help us in the future”, warned Ricky Easterling. Some positives was the team´s ability to win some tight games against Ulm 75-74, 72-70 against Mannheim and 78-77 against Tuebingen. It was tough for the American to pick just one most memorable moment. “These close games gave us a good learning experience. Most of our games throughout the season were this way. So when we were approached with this challenge it did not scare us at all. We had been there and done that many times before and it help us grow. A lot of teams that are used to winning comfortably might freeze up in these moments. But for us it was nothing new and I think that helped us win games that we probably did not deserve or thought we could not win. All these games were equally memorable because each game had their own lesson and we will use this in the future to be a better team in these moments”, expressed Ricky Easterling.
Easterling may be the star with the club, but he can´t do everything by himself and has very capable teammates. One of those is 204cm Bosnian Muharem Mujkanovic. Some may not know it, but he would also be worthy of a special recognition because he just completed his 14th season with the club and also has had some great seasons. It is only obvious that Easterling and him are very close on and off the court. “That is my brother from another mother! Haha! I love that dude! We built a very strong bond over the years! He’s a great friend, person and family man! I can’t imagine my time here without him. I wish we could have found a way for him to play with us more than he was able to do because with him we are a totally different team. He brings us to a different level. That was evident in the win against Koblenz this past season. No one thought we would go in there and win and with him, but we did! Without him we wouldn’t have had a chance. That just shows you how important he is for us. I don’t even think he had a good game. His presence alone was key and in the clutch moments of the game he stepped up and helped us get the win. That’s my brother for life on and off the court. We are the P&R brothers and the best duo in all of Germany! I don’t care what league or what division you look at there is no duo better than us. I don’t care how arrogant that sounds that is straight facts and if anyone has anything to say about it lace them up and let’s go”, warned Ricky Easterling. Another player that Easterling had a lot of praise for was second year man Filip Kamenov from Bulgaria. He is a player that should make the next step in his career this upcoming season. “Filip is a great talent and it was a pleasure playing along side him. He has an amazing work ethic and was playing in a league lower than his potential. I feel he has a great future ahead of him and if he keeps working the sky is the limit! I see him in the future playing at a higher level in any country. Of course there is room for improvement but what player doesn’t. I wish him the best in his career going forward and I hope to see him successful where ever he lands. He is also like a brother to me and will always be a guy I keep in contact with no matter what”, stressed Ricky Easterling. One of the great things about German Regionalliga is that you can see the older experienced Germans who aren´t good enough for higher leagues, but have game or the young German kids who are also fighting to move up to higher levels. Each season Easterling has young German teammates and is like a mentor for them. This last season he had Paul Fuchs and Nils Bergmann in the back court? “I’m a leader and mentor to all my teammates. I’m by far the oldest on the team so that is my duty as a captain and leader to be there for them all. Like I said before we were young with a small roster. I think they did an amazing job stepping up and playing big minutes for us! Even though the season was hard for us they were able to learn on the fly and I feel that is the best way to learn. And they handled that great. We had hard times and good times but at the end of the day this season allowed them to learn and grow as a player at a rapid pace. This season helped our young team develop and in the future the league better watch out and fear these young guys because they are on their way”, expressed Ricky Easterling.
When every Regionalliga season ends, you expect Ricky Easterling to be at the top as best scorer. He has been doing it since 2007 and this past season he actually had a better season than the season before. It seems like the American is getting better with age. “This is something I have been doing and I don’t expect nothing less from myself. I’m my biggest critic and I am never satisfied. So that drives me to continue to work hard no matter what my numbers look like. 2 years ago I had surgery on my spine but not too many people know about that. I think that is one of the reasons my numbers were able to rise a little bit this season. The season before I had to rehab all summer long, so I was not able to but in the amount of time training like I normally do. I’m just glad I was able to come back strong and continue to be the same player I was before. With age comes knowledge and I think that also plays a factor in why I can continue to play at a high level in this league”, stated Ricky Easterling. This past season he put up great numbers averaging 24.9pp, 6.3rpg, 5.0apg, 2.0spg, FGP: 56.8%, 3PT: 38.3%, FT: 83.2%. What is even more amazing is that at the age of 36 he averaged an astounding 38 minutes per game. The older a player gets, the more he has to watch diet as well having that efficient and healthy off season training plan. Easterling has all of this, but one also has to consider him having incredible genes. “I´m blessed to have genes that keep me slim. But if I don’t put the work in then these slim genes would probably affect me in the opposite way that people normally think is out of shape. Out of shape for most people means to be overweight with no conditioning. But out of shape can also go the other way, which is my case. If I don’t put the work in I would be a weak skinny little man that would probably easily get injured. I’m a slasher and like to be aggressive going to the basket. Without putting in the work I think I would be more prone to injury and wouldn’t be able to play the minutes I play because I would be easily worn out because of the beating a slasher takes attacking the basket. So I understand where your coming from but I don’t feel my genes are the reason I’m able to stay in shape like I do! I’m just on the other side of the spectrum when it comes to out of shape. So with out putting the work in I don’t think genes alone would have allowed me to stay healthy and be as effective on the court as I have been able to do throughout my career. I put in a lot of work! More than a lot of others do and that’s why I lasted so long. No just my genes”, warned Ricky Easterling.
Everyone knows and loves Ricky Easterling´s mid range game. Ok maybe not opponent defenders and coaches, but one reason for the consistency and longevity of Easterling has been his mid range game. He has driven opponents defenses crazy for years as it is unstoppable. Because he was able to score so much this way, he didn´t need to rely so much on his three pointer. But this past season he shot an incredible 38% from downtown a best in his career. “I have been working on my 3pt shot for years. I just recently was able to apply it to my game. It was a long but fun process. This season was a great challenge as we talked about earlier in the interview. I been around for a long time and teams really commit to going under screens or trying to cut off the lanes to prevent me from getting to the basket or to my pull-up mid range shot. Knowing that as a player I knew there would be a point where I needed to be more effective from the 3pt line. This season more than ever I really had to deal with teams concentrating on me because of the limited roster personnel. I had a bigger responsibility to put points on the board. So this season I had to unlock new attributes to my game to counter that. Thankfully I was able to do that for my team this season. It was a process that took years and this new challenge gave me something else to push for and made basketball even more fun knowing I had new goals and challenges to overcome”, stressed Ricky Easterling. He continues to develop his game and this past season he averaged the most rebounds in a season in his career. He knows that opponents will always be out to get him on the court. That is why he continues to set new goals each season to help his game always get better. “•I set forth new challenges for myself like developing an effective 3pt shot. Playing with different types of players from year to year and having to adjust my game to make things work together as teammates. And being a mentor / older brother figure to my teammates drives me to keep developing as a player. At the end of the day I like to lead by example so if I am preaching something to my teammates I want to make sure I am practicing what I preach at the same time. It doesn’t make much sense trying to help someone or telling someone how to do something when I am not doing it myself . So that has help pushed me to continue to improve. I also have personal goals to out play my competition. If I continue to keep playing I want to out play my opponent. That drives me the most I think. Now that I am getting older the first thing people will think if I start to slow down is “Ricky is getting old and he doesn’t have “IT” anymore!” I never want to hear them words come out of anyone’s mouth. So I put the effort in to never let that happen. If I feel like that’s the word on the street then that means it’s time for me to hang up my Kobes (I only wear Kobes shoes when I play) and start doing something else”, warned Ricky Easterling.
The Baltimore guard can easily be called the greatest Regionalliga player that ever played in Germany, but even a great player like him has very tough battles. But what is even more commendable is that he is able to talk so easily about it and also give opponents credit for their stellar play. Some guys ego´s would never allow for praise for the opponent. “Karlsruhe was by far the most difficult challenge this season. They were so deep and I used to play with half the players on their team when I was playing for BG Karlsruhe. So they knew my game better than any others in the league. My boy Aaron Schmitt always jumps to the opportunity to guard me When we play against each other because we used to have fun competing against each other in practice every day back in my BGK times. When we played them both times this year their whole team was all over me. There was no game this season where I had such a hard time getting the ball in a position to where I could do something. If I did get the ball they cut of half the court and forced me into double and triple teams. Playing them in Karlsruhe was the hardest challenge of the season and they exposed us to the point where it was embarrassing. I never in my life felt embarrassed after a game like I did against them. They were well prepared and executed their defensive plan to perfection. Even though it was embarrassing there was no hard feelings! It’s part of the game and I still stayed true to my normal routine and stayed after the game to kick it with my Karlsruhe homies and laugh the embarrassment off together with them. Idstein was also a difficult game to play because they kind of used the same defensive plan. They threw multiple players at me and forced me into double and triple teams. Shot out to my fellow Marylander Juilan DeBose for a great season in Idstein. Keep holding it down for MD brother”, warned Ricky Easterling. Continuing to be consistent on the court and being able to curb one´s ego are two good traits that will keep a player playing for a long time, but at some point comes the time when you have to begin thinking about the next step after the playing career. In the Regionalliga and especially in the BBL there have been guys scratching near the 40 age area. Easterling turns 37 on November 8th and loves the game, but at the moment he isn´t sure how much longer he will stay play. “I could imagine that happening but I am not sure if it will? To be honest the last couple years I have been thinking a lot about hanging it up and starting to coach. My team in Saarlouis would love for me to step up and take over as coach but it is hard to do because I am still playing at a high level. But this option seems to be more appealing than ever at the moment. I have to be honest with myself and just think about my future. There is honestly nothing more left for me to prove in this league. I been dominating this league forever and when I had the chance to play Pro B I did the same. Not to talk highly about myself and sound arrogant, because that is not what type of person I am. I´m just giving facts. Now if we would have moved up or something like that I could see myself trying to prove to myself and others I can still compete at a high level in the Pro B, but that is not the situation I face at the moment. I’m looking at another year of Regionalliga. Is it really worth it? That is a question I really have to think hard about”, stressed Ricky Easterling.
Last season Ricky Easterling didn´t only have basketball in his life, but also had to deal with COVID-19 something that wasn´t only new for basketball players, but everyone else in the world. It´s been a few months since the Coronavirus hit Germany and the American has been in Germany since then. He is doing well, but has been trying to take everything in a positive way. “After every season I normally stick around in Germany until the beginning of June. Then I go back home to the states, visit my family and then I report to my summer job at Kutshers Sports Academy. I help run the basketball program there and I am also able to workout on a daily basis and prepare for the up coming season. Unfortunately it is still up in the air if the Academy will be running this summer. So this virus has really put a pause on my summer routine. Maybe it is good for the world to sit down and take a break from everything and reflect on what is really important in their lives”, stressed Ricky Easterling. The Americana has seen it all on the basket court, but the whole development of COVID-19 has taken him by surprise. “To be honest I never thought the Corona virus would have such an impact on the world. I thought it would be something like those other viruses from the past. Like the Bird Flu or the Schweine Flu. But unfortunately it is not. It turned out to be the most deadly pandemic of our era. In a way it is still unbelievable to me that we are in this situation now”, expressed Ricky Easterling. His life changed drastically from one day to the next as he suddenly had to totally get used to not doing the things he usually did and live with it and not mope round about it. “There has been a big change in my day to day life here in Saarlouis. As soon as things started to escalate world wide Saarlouis took matters very seriously and immediately went on lock down. I’m a very active person. I enjoy working out. I was basically every day in the fitness studio and the gym working on my game, coaching my teams, or working out others helping them improve their game. All that came to a screeching halt from 1 day to the next. Eventually I figured out a way to work out from home and keep myself busy fitness wise but it definitely was not the same. Had to make big adjustments to my daily routine because of the Covid-19”, added Ricky Easterling. He immediately knew that COVID-19 was very serious and right away handled himself very differently in public. He refrained from hand shakes and practiced social distancing and just had to get used to being only at home. He did see a friend every now and then but took the social distancing very seriously. He had a lot of time to think about how he would be staying in fit now and how he would go about getting ready again for next season. “I have been using some equipment I borrowed from some friends here in Saarlouis. So I have some barbells, dumbbells, pull up bar, and resistant bands and I have been using this equipment to do the NTC program (Nike Training Club). I also have access to basketballs so I been doing some at home ball handling drills with passing. For about a week or 2 I was able to get shoots up at a local outdoor court. But unfortunately the weather doesn’t always allow me to get effective shooting in and then on top of that the city took down the rims at the court. So I just get it in how I can under those circumstances. Of course there will be big adjustments starting to train earlier. Before there were no restrictions in our training. Now we are not allowed to participate in 2v2, 3v3, 4v4, and 5v5 drills/games/tournaments. No summer leagues to play in and training session must be smaller to prevent the spread of the virus. But at the same time there is still many ways to get better under the circumstances we are in. I’m big on the motto “No Excuses”. So for me I’m not going to sit here and cry about what I am not allowed to do. I’m just going to go out there and do what I can do and keep trying to improve as a player and coach. Everybody is in the same boat. It’s not like we can´t do anything. So take the situation for what it is and make the most out of it. That’s how I will approach these extra months of preparation and I advise others to do the same”, warned Ricky Easterling.
He also has been thinking a lot about basketball and keeps having the what if in his mind had the season not been stopped by COVID-19. On top of that he also knows that playing in front of no fans isn´t his cup of tea something that teams experienced shortly before the Coronavirus hit. “ It was very disappointing to hear that news that our season ended but I totally understand why it happened. So because of that it was somewhat easier to handle. But on the other side basketball is life and I sure do miss the game. Can’t wait for this to be over so we all can get back on the court and continue to play the game we love! It sucks because the fans create an amazing atmosphere in the arenas. It is also a big motivation factor. At least in my opinion. It motivates me to play at the top of my game. I always have this thought in the back of my head that there is someone here that never seen me play before so I need to show them how I get down! Haha! Every player enjoys to play in front of big crowds. I’m sure that was a weird feeling going into a big arena and having no one there cheering for you. It’s an unfortunate situation but sometime you got to do what you got to do to keep people safe”, stressed Ricky Easterling. He also knows that world basketball won´t be the same again, but also knows that every other professional basketball player on earth is in the same boat. “I’m old enough to realize this and once again I’m going to take it for what it is. It is a very unfortunate situation. I hope things are not affected too much but I am preparing myself for the worst. I’m just going to try to stay in shape as much as possible and wait and see what happens. I think a lot of imports will suffer because teams will not be able to afford to buy players. I don’t even want to think about it to be honest. It’s like a real life nightmare. But it is what it is and it is always good to have a plan B if things end up for the worse. So at the end of the day I am preparing myself for the worse case scenario. Which is not being able to be paid to play the game I love but at the same time staying ready for the possibility of being fortunate enough to continue my career here in Germany”, warned Ricky Easterling. He also hasn´t only thought about himself of trying to stay as best fit during these hard times with COVID-19, but also has come up with a new You Tube project called “No Excuse”. He wants to give back to the youth and help them with the game of basketball. “It all Started with a recommendation from my Boss Michael Gilberg from Kutshers Sports Academy. Come to find out our Club here in Saarlouis requested the same type of videos to send out to our players on how to continue to improve during the quarantine time. It had also been something that both Florian Kirsch and I being thinking about doing ourselves. So because of these requests and both having the same thoughts of making training videos we decided to come together and form a channel on YouTube. So we started with these two videos that are already posted and there will be many more coming soon! So expect to see more videos from F&R Basketball Workouts on YouTube. Hopefully people like our videos and support the channel. It would be great to build something out of this! If not it is also ok! The main point is to just spread our knowledge of the game to the youth coming up after us! Just like the older generations did for us as we come up as young players! So for those of you out there reading this interview. Go to YouTube and Support us and LIKE and SUBSCRIBE to the Channel! “F&R BASKETBALL WORKOUTS”, stressed Ricky Easterling. Not only has the American learned a lot about the game he loves over the course of his long and fruitful professional career, but also tries to learn in so many other phases of life. He also has taken the whole COVID-19 experience to heart and learned new things that will help him further in life. “It just put things in perspective and made me realize to never take anything in life for granted. Before this whole thing no one even thought of not being able to play basketball at your own will. This situation opened our eyes and shows us everything is life is a privilege. Even a simple thing like sport and athletics. Anything can be taken away from us at any moment so we should cherish EVERYTHING we have and are able to do in life. Even if I live in Saarlouis forever basketball will never be taken away”, warned Ricky Easterling. Ricky Easterling is a basketball legend in Saarlouis and I´m sure he will get his due recognition in time. A graffiti wall with him taking that lethal and deadly step back jumper would look good somewhere in downtown Saarlouis. No matter how much longer he plays, his exciting game and presence will always be greatly appreciated in any gym in Germany but no more than in Saarlouis.