Todd Withers is a 24 year old 203cm forward from McLeansville, North Carolina that is playing his third professional season and first with Lavoropiu Fortitudo Bologna (Italy-Serie A). He played his first two professional seasons with the Grand Rapids Drive (NBA G League) playing 47 games averaging 7.0ppg, 5.6rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 54.7%, 3PT: 31.8%, FT: 71.8% and in his second season played 42 games averaging 10.7ppg, 5.0rpg, 1.0apg, FGP: 59.8%, 3PT: 36.5%, FT: 76.7%. He played at Queens (NCAA2) from 2014-2018 playing a total of 106 games and as senior played 36 games averaging 13.6ppg, 8.0rpg, 1.6apg, 1.7bpg, FGP: 49.9%, 3PT: 40.2%, FT: 75.3%. He spoke to eurobasket before a basketball Champions League game against Brose Bamberg.
Todd thanks for talking to germanhoops.com. Your playing a Basketball Champions League game against Brose Bamberg. Is this your first time in Germany? What do you know in general about the country and it’s basketball?
This is my first time in Germany. I don’t know much about Germany. But I remember when we played Bamberg the first time, I was impressed by their team. I imagined that the BBL was a very good league.
Your ex Queens (NCAA 2) teammate Shaun Willet is balling in Germany at the moment. Have you been following his Basketball career?
Shaun has been killing in Germany on the court. I actually called him today asking how far Bamberg is from him. He told me about three hours. I have been following his game and seeing him getting double doubles. I am very proud of him and how far he has come coming from a D-2 school.
If someone had told you as a freshman at Queens that you would play for an NBA team farm team and play in Europe down the road what would you have thought?
I would probably have thought that he was lying or that it was a joke. I took the game seriously as a freshman, but I just didn’t know the potential that I had at that time. I was very motivated, but just didn’t feel up to par with other players.
Your playing your first season in Europe with Lavoropiu Fortitudo Bologna (Italy-Serie A) after two years in the G-League. You have needed no real adjustment period to the Italian Serie A. What has been the most challenging part on the court?
I think the spacing on the floor. In Europe the bigs can be in the paint more than in the States. It has been a real adjustment finding the space.
It has been a tough season for the team as it has been struggling in the Serie A and in the BCL. What have been the main reasons for how the club has played?
I think the biggest problem has been that it has taken longer for everyone to get used to each other. There are new players and coaches and we have had injuries. I feel like we are starting to feel more comfortable and that there could be a change in the second half. There was a lot of growing at the start and guys finding each other.
What kind of an experience has it been being teammates with Italian veteran Marco Cusin who has played at 4 European championships. He hasn’t played so much this season but does one feel his vast experience?
He is one of our most vocal guys on the team. You always know that he is there. He really has helped me see things on the court that I couldn’t see. If I mess up, he is always the first guy to get my head up. He is a real big motivator and I love playing with him.
Let’s talk a bit about your game. You’re a 203cm forward. If you had to compare your game to a NBA player who would best fit the description?
I like to model my game after Trevor Ariza. I like being that role player three and D guy. I do the little things on the court. I like making the right play and guarding the other team’s best player. I also have the ability to be able to switch from guarding a team’s best guard to a team’s best forward. And I take a lot of pride in making the tough plays.
You’re a player that really fills the stat sheet with ease. Would you call yourself a modern day forward?
I like to believe that I am. I like to stretch the floor for others guys so they can create for others. When guys throw me the ball, I like to be able to knock down shots with confidence.
Detroit Pistons head coach Dwayne Casey said that you have an unbelievable motor. Is that something you were born with?
No I wasn’t born with a motor. I had to work very hard to getting that motor. Queens helped me get that motor. In my first two years at Queens, I wasn’t the most fit guy. We had boot camp at Queens where we woke up at 4am and had to run. I learned to be in shape there and also during the off season. The motor has helped me a lot by having the right energy at all times.
You have been a good three pointer in College. How have you seen your development as a three point shooter?
I have become a more consistent shooter. I have more confidence now in my shot and more trust. In college, I would turn down shots if caught the ball wrong or my footwork wasn’t right. Now I have a lot more confidence and have taken many reps in the off season. In the G-League we shot a lot, but in Europe you shoot all day.
How much pride do you take in your defensive game? What kind of a defender do you strive to become in Europe?
I love defense. It is my pride and joy. I want to become one of the best defenders in Europe. I take a lot of pride of not allowing my man to score on me. I have the ultimate respect for guys like Luis Scola or Tony Douglas, but in my eyes it’s my job not to allow them to score on me or have a break out game against me.
You played the last two seasons with the Grand Rapids Drive (NBA G League) improving your stats each season. How do you feel did your game develop in the G-League?
I learned a lot in the G-League the last two seasons. It made me slow down my game. In college I was full speed and ran around like a chicken that had lost it’s head. Being around NBA vets in the G-League really helped me slow down my game and see the floor better. In school I had too much energy and often ran myself out of plays. I became more consistent in the G-League. I began to focus on making plays that would help my team win instead of making the hero plays.
You put up solid stats in your second season. Do you feel like you would have had an NBA call up had a guy like Sekou Doumbouya not been around?
I don’t know. I can’t really say. I’m a guy that is always looking at the positives. The fact that he was there helped me and I would hope the fact that I was there also helped him. I learned that even if I came off the bench, I needed to be productive. I had no control about what the coaches decided. I saw his style and that he was NBA material and tried to the same things as him to help my game.
You had many great games in the G-League, but was your 30 point explosion in the win over Windy City one of your most memorable?
Yes it was. A lot of people talk down the G-League for being a league where there are only selfish guys playing for their stats. This game made me realize that my team was out for my best interest. It wasn’t only a great day for me, but also for my team. I realized my team wanted me to do well.
You played in the G_League and saw how the NBA functioned. What was the best example that you saw in the two years where you saw that the NBA will always be a business first?
When long time NBA player Marcus Thornton came back from China, he became my roommate. I was always asking him about the NBA and what it took to get there. The first thing he always said was that the NBA was a business first. I saw him killing every night and he still didn’t get a NBA call up. It always depends what a team needs. Teams like to protect their franchise players. Teams need guys to play hard. Not everyone can score 30 points a game. For many guys that is a hard pill to shallow.
Dwayne Casey said that you need to get stronger and improve your ball handling. Could you see yourself going back and giving the NBA another chance?
I have not given up on the NBA or playing for a good G-League team. I remember during a team meeting getting these cards where everything was written about what we had to work on. That has always motivated me to get better. I need to get stronger. I don’t want guys bullying me on the court. I need to feel comfortable playing against bigger guys.
You played at Queens from 2014-2018. Was wining the 2017 SAC tournament or was it reaching the 2018 NCAA 2 final 4 one of your biggest achievements there?
‘Reaching the NCAA 2 Final 4 was my biggest achievement. I loved that team to death. It was such an amazing experience being able to go to the tournament.
You had many great games, but where do you rank your 26 point game in the tournament win over Cal Baptist
I never ask about stats. I just go out and play. But that game was a huge accomplishment for me and the team. We had never played against a school that big or skilled. They were going to division 1 the season after. We gave it our all. I will never forget Daniel Cage’s steal and my dunk at the end. Just seeing everyone go crazy at the end was great. We had amazing support from all. That game was one of my top three moments in my life.
How did head coach Bart Lundy groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
He was real big about having the right mindset. He used to have this saying ‘I will fill the cup and knock it over and then see if you can pick it up’. There were days when we didn’t like our coach, but at the end of the day we needed him and he needed us. I went from being an immature player to being a captain who helped the young kids.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Lewis Diankulu?
I’m beating him for sure. He is definitely my guy and one of the nicest guys that you would ever meet. He was amazing with his hands. I would take him to the three point line and see if he could beat me.
Who was the toughest player that you battled in the NCAA 2 that made the NBA?
Emmanuel Terry of Lincoln Memorial. His motor was amazing and he was a walking double double. People think that he is arrogant, but he takes a lot of pride in his game. He was definitely my toughest competitor in D-2.
Please name your 5 best teammates of all-time?
Ike Agusi Lewis Diankulu, Kenneth Smith, Marcus Thornton, Craig Sword
Please name your personal NBA Mount Rushmore of past or present players?
Jordan, Kobe, Lebron, KD, Shaq
What is your personal opinion of the neverending debate of who is the greatest Michael Jordan or Lebron James?
You can’t debate it. They played in two different era’s-. Jordan will never be forgotten and was the best in the world. Lebron is the best in this era.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Thanks Todd for the chat.