Maik-Kalev Kotsar is a 24 year old 211cm forward from Estonia that is playing his first season in Germany and first with the Hamburg Towers currently averaging 12,6ppg, 6,2rpg, 1,5apg and 1,1spg.. He played at the University of University of South Carolina (NCAA) from 2016-2020 playing a total of 130 NCAA games helping the team reach the NCAA Final 4 in 2017.. In his senior season for the University of University of South Carolina (NCAA) he played 31 games averaging 11.2ppg, 6.3rpg, 2.3apg, 1.5spg, 1.1bpg, FGP: 49.8%, FT: 69.0%. Last year he took part at the FIBA World Cup 2019 Qualifiers playing 4 games averaging 8.8ppg, 3.5rpg, 1.3apg, 1.0bpg, FGP: 46.9%, FT: 62.5%. He spoke to germanhoops.com about his basketball career.
Maik thanks for talking to germanhoops.com. Where are you at the moment and how has your summer been despite the whole COVID-19 effecting the world
Thanks for showing interest in me. Currently I am in Hamburg, Germany working out and getting myself in the best possible shape for the season. The summer was full of working out. Because of COVID there really weren’t too many distractions so it was possible to put all the focus on getting better
How have you experienced the whole COVID-19 crisis in Estonia the last months How much did the last 6 months change your life and how much of a challenge was it finding the time and places to be able to stay in shape and be able to work on your game?
It was hard and unusual at first. Once I got to Estonia, I had all the opportunities needed to work out. The people ahead of the Estonian NT put together a ‘Basketball NT home’ where players had the opportunity to work out every day and I used it to its full extent
How do you feel did COVID-19 make you stronger as a man?
COVID certainly showed how lucky I am to not be in a risk group and it showed me as well as the rest of the world that we all have to work together and be responsible to protect those with an immune system that is weaker and of course the elderly
Congrats on signing with the Hamburg Towers. What have you learned about the German basketball over the years. Was Germany a place you always wanted to play in?
Thank you! I never thought about where in Europe exactly I would play or would like to play. Growing up I always had the dream to play in the NBA and that is the goal that I have been and will continue to keep working towards. I have faced Germany a few times over my career. once or twice at the youth National Team level and once at the National Team level.
The Hamburg Towers really love your game. What was your impression of head coach Pedro Calles? Did you find out that he is one of the top up and coming coaches in Germany?
One of the reasons of choosing The Hamburg Towers was head coach Pedro Calles. I saw a few of Rasta Vechtas last years games and I liked that he puts a lot of emphasis on the defensive side and I feel like that is where I excel. Overall from my perspective he is a very professional coach who takes his time to learn and study his players and make the whole team run as one unit.
What was the biggest reason for you to come to the Hamburg Towers? Was them wanting a strong defender one of the real main reasons?
Yes, that was one of the main reasons. As I said before, Pedro was one of the reasons for me to decide to come here but that wasn’t the only reason. I really liked how much professionality I saw from the organization even before signing the contract and after signing it, they have stayed just as professional if not more. Also, I have heard only good things about the city and the fans.
You attended the University of South Carolina Darla Moore school of business. You achieved so much in the classroom being named to the Presidents list, was on the SEC honor roll, was on the honors court and was the University of South Carolina’s Male Scholar Athlete of the Year. Do you see yourself stimulating your brain this season when you have some time or will basketball be 100% on your mind?
I am interested in working on something on the side. Of course basketball is going to be my main priority and I am not going to let anything else distract me from performing my best. That being said, I want to educate myself further on the business side of things and I am also trying to connect with some people to try and bring awareness to mental health and overall the mental side of things for athletes. Overall, I am the type of person who always wants to stay busy and also help people
Let’s talk about your game. You’re a 211cm power forward/center. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would best fit the description?
I do not even know who I would compare my game to. I usually just like to be myself and not compare myself to others but just try and be the best that I can be. I’ll leave it up to who you want to compare me to
Would be fair to say your more of an old school big man? You only attempted 3 three pointers in the NCAA. Is the three pointer a part of your game that you would like to develop further?
Yes, I am working to be more consistent at the 3pt line. In South Carolina being the one to create opportunities for others I really didn’t have many chances to get a catch and shoot 3 but I would say that I am capable of hitting 3 pointers. That is going to be one of my main focuses throughout the season that I want to work on
You have a strong offensive game and are a tenacious defender. What do you feel is your biggest asset on the court?
I think my best asset would be defense, being able to guard forwards that are fast as well as bigs who are really strong. I enjoy having a task given to me and to study the opponent, learn his tendencies and to lock the given person up.
On what area’s of your game did you work on most last summer so you can continue to grow as a player as a professional?
I put the most emphasis on being more agile. To be lighter on my feet on the court. I also worked a lot on footwork and new moves both in the post and facing up
You played at the University of South Carolina (NCAA) from 2016-2020. Do you sometimes wonder where you might be today had you skipped the NCCA route and turned professional 4 years earlier?
That thought has crossed my mind but I don’t dwell on it. I am extremely thankful for the path that my parents advised me to take and eventually I chose to take. I really value the education I got at the university of South Carolina and the experiences that I received from there were really valuable and something I will remember for the rest of my life
You reached the NCAA Final 4 as a freshman. You had huge wins over Duke and Florida, but then lost a heartbreaker to Gonzaga 77-73. What memories do you have from this Cinderella run back in 2017?
It was an amazing run. It was a pleasure to see all of the team come together as one unit. How. Everyone sacrificed everything for the good of the team. How the fans went out of their way to come and watch us across the country and supported us until the end.
You started 33 games as a freshman and in the NCAA Final 4 loss you had 3 future NBA players along your side with Thornwell, Dozier and Silva. Did you know then that these 3 guys would go to the NBA?
Seeing what they were like in practice I knew that they were going to make it big. I didn’t know if that was going to be the NBA or somewhere else but I was sure they were going to make it because they were great teammates and they took every day as a chance to get better
You had so many great personal games at South Carolina. You had MIssissippi State’s number having many good games against them or had a 25/11 game against Missouri. What was your favorite personal game for you?
I would say my favorite two games were the last 2 home games, vs Georgia and vs Mississippi state. I was extremely grateful that my family came all the way to South Carolina to support me in person and to win against Georgia in overtime and then against a really good Mississippi State team was truly special.
How did head coach Frank Martin groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
Frank Martin did a lot for me. He always pushed me to become better and better. He never let me take any shortcuts. He saw that I was committed to getting better and so he pushed me even further every day
Who won a one on one in practice you or Chris Silva?
I’d say it was pretty even most of the time
In 2018 you played a World Cup qualifying game against Germany getting beat badly 86-43. Did it surprise you how poorly they played at the 2019 World Championships?
Yeah that game wasn’t the best for us, our shots were not hitting at all. It was probably one of the hardest games I have played because just a few days before the game I had come back from the US so I remember being extremely jetlagged during the game. But in the end Germany played great against us, and dominated the game until the end so hats off for that. When it comes to Germanys play in the 2019 world championships, yes, I was surprised about it. I knew they were capable of performing better.
Who was the toughest player that you battled in the NCCA or anywhere that went to the NBA?
Probably one of the toughest guys to go against was Grant Williams, he is a really smart player and capable of doing almost anything. He would always take what was given to him. He would always have a counter to my every move and as much as it was hard to go against him, I really enjoyed it and I like to think I gave him a hard time as well
Please list your 5 best teammates of all-time?
In no particular order
Please construct your personal NBA Mount Rushmore of past or present players?
What is your personal opinion between the never ending debate between Michael Jordan and Lebron James concerning who is the greatest of all-time?
I would go for MJ pretty much any day, I just admire the way he was able to take over, his fierce competitiveness and how he always pushed himself and his teammates. That does not mean I don’t respect Lebron. I actually love everything he is doing, how he is an all around player that can do pretty much anything that is asked of him. How he cares for the community and is always active regarding social issues as well
What was the last movie that you saw?
I rewatched interstellar which is also in my top 5 movies
Thanks Maik for the chat.