Chris Ensminger Helped Transform Igor Milicic(Orange Academy) From A Shy Closed Boy Into A Very Confident Player And Person

One of the great things to observe in the German Pro B are the farm teams of the easyCredit BBL and witnessing how young guys have developed over the years. For example in Frankfurt the last years have brought the basketball world Euroleague players Danilo Barthel and Johannes Voigtmann and NBA player Isaac Bonga while currently the next talents in the stall are Len Schoormann and Maxi Begue and later on Joshua Bonga. Another club that has developed young players well is FC Bayern Munich with names like Nelson Weidemann or Benjamin Schroeder or Ibam with the Da Silva brothers Oscar who is at Stanford and for many a certain NBA daft pick and Tristan at the University of Colorado. Another German basketball address that has been making strides in the last years has been ratiopharm Ulm with it´s farm team Orange Academy. In the last years the club has brought young talented players like David Kramer, Marcel Pongo and Joschka Ferner forward and recently have made German Christoph Philipps into a easyCredit BBL player. Not too mention Zach Ensminger who made a massive step in Ulm and now is already showing impact player abilities in the Pro A with the Artland Dragons and is still a teenager. His 16 year old brother Jacob is already getting minutes in the Pro B at age 16 and is waiting in the wings for the next step as proud papa Chris is observing it all. But there aren´t only German players taking advantage of the youth programs, but also guys from other countries. One guy who is looking to make the next step in Ulm is a young Polish boy named Igor Milicic who is looking to become that next house hold name in Poland. Coming to UIm was a huge step for the young Polish player in 2018 as a young 16 year old. But his competitiveness and self confidence has risen in Germany in the last years the way a Zach Lavine flies to the rim. Recently after a nail bitter 85-82 loss in Frankfurt, he answered politely, but also in a naughty way that he hadn´t expected Len Schoormann to make so many shots after he destroyed Orange Academy with 29 points. Milicic is a 18 year old that has the healthy self confidence of a veteran and that shrewd competitiveness that isn´t often seen at such a young age. He credits easyCredit BBL legend Chris Ensminger of helping him develop these qualities. “When I was younger and playing in Poland, I had no confidence. I was more of an outsider. There was a point where I was playing terrible, because I was scared to make decision on and off the court. When I came to Ulm, I was still overthinking things in my first year. In my second year I became a key player for our U-19 team and coach Chris Ensminger taught me how self-confidence is important in the game of basketball. He changed me from a shy closed kid to a confident young adult. I am really thankful for all our talking and his help to develop me as a player”. warned Igor Milicic who lists Nikodem Czoska, Jeremy Sochan, Moritz Heck, Nat Diallo and Timo Lanmuller as his five best teammates of all-time.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber has been covering Chris Ensminger since 2004 and seen his development from player to coach. In this pic Chris Ensminger was a judge at the 2015 BBL allstar game slam dunk contest in Bonn. From left to right basketball legends Chris Ensminger, Henning Harnisch and Ademola Okulaja

                Igor MIlicic born on August 27th, 2002 in Poland. His dad Igor had a long professional career where he won 8 titles in countries like Kosovo, Belgium and Poland. After his playing days, he turned his energy to coaching and coached Polish team Anwil and last summer there were rumors of him going to Bamberg. 18 year old Igor Milicic played youth basketball with UKS 7 Trefl Sopot school (EYBL). He also has two younger brothers that also are playing in the Ulm youth program with Orange Academy. Having his brothers around is a huge plus as well as knowing that the support and advice from his father will always be present. “So far, family has had a huge impact on my career. My brothers and I, we talk basketball 24/7. We practice on individual skills every moment and we have dad next to us. Zoran, Teo and me, we promise to ourselves that one day we will play one season together in same team where dad will be our Head coach.. Hopefully that will be at a high level. I don’t know how it is going to be in the future, but we can always count on each other, and our father is always there to support us and give valuable advice”, warned Igor MIlicic. He came to Ulm in 2018 and played his first season with BBU Allgau/Memmingen (Germany-NBBL) playing 13 games averaging  6.3ppg, 4.6rpg, 1.2apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 46.9%, 3PT: 21.7%, FT: 58.3%. He scored 13 and 12 points against ratiopharm Ulm and scored 11 points against FC Bayern Munich. There he was already teammates with Julius Ferber with whom he still is today with Pro B club Orange Academy. He and his brothers looked for the best basketball opportunity and there was none better than in Ulm. “I feel great in Ulm. This is a great organization. My father was looking for the best opportunity for development for my brothers and me. We went to a lot of places on tryouts, and after a while we understood that Ulm would be best for all 3 of us. Other teams seemed also good but Ulm looked like an organization that has a professional approach even to 10 year old players. We were thrilled when coach Thorsten Leibenath and coach Chris Ensminger informed us that the Ulm organization is interested to sign all three of us”, stated Igor Milicic. He made another jump last season not wasting his basketball talent by balling for three teams. He dominated with the ratiopharm Ulm U19 team (NBBL) playing 13 games averaging  20.4ppg, Reb-4(10.9rpg), 2.2apg, 1.5spg, FGP: 54.5%, 3PT: 32.7%, FT: 68.8%. He scored in double figures in every game and scored more than 20 points seven times including 28 points against Bonn/Rhondorf and 27 points against Tuebingen. He also received added experience with BBU 01 Ulm (Germany-Regionalliga) playing 10 games averaging  9.7ppg, 3.5rpg, 1.3apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 78.1%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 85.0%. In this league he played against men including having a 25 point game against Idstein and 16 points against Stuttgart. He also got valuable experience with Orange Academy Ulm (Germany-ProB) playing 15 games averaging  5.7ppg, 2.8rpg, 1.0apg, FGP: 46.8%, 3PT: 20.8%, FT: 79.4%. He scored 15 points against TSV Oberaching Tropics and 11 points against the ScanPlus Baskets. He also left a fabulous impression at the 2020 Addidas Next Generation Tournament with ratiopharm Ulm U18 team (Germany-ANGT) playing 3 games averaging 17.0ppg, 6.3rpg, 2.0apg, 2.3spg, FGP: 53.1%, 3PT: 42.9%, FT: 88.9%,


            Let us fast forward to 2021. His season ended suddenly in March 2020 as COVID-19 hit the world like an angry hurricane. For many in the basketball world, 2020 after March and into the summer was a very difficult time as finding places to train was hard, while for others it didn´t propose such a problem. For Igor Milicic, he finally had time to spend time with his dad again. “It was quite an experience. It actually was not bad at all for me and my family. As sChris Ensminger Helped Transform Igor Milicic(Orange Academy) From A Shy Closed Boy Into A Very Confident Player And Personoon as we found out lockdown from school, practice and games is ahead, mom and my two brothers who are also playing basketball with Ratiopharm , (they are really good)  drove back to Poland where my father is coaching. We had the opportunity to practice every day for 3-4 hours on individual skills with our father. I really used that time to get better. On top of that we had the opportunity to be together as a family for a longer period, which is rare for us”, expressed Igor Milicic.  COVID-19 has affected him as well now, because he is in a phase of his life now where he has a lot more responsibility. Despite COVID-.19 tearing apart his family, he has been able to take positives out of COVID-19.  “It makes me look on things how to get the best out of every situation or obstacles that I come across. For example, now I am in Ulm without family and learning how to live professional life without anyone helping me. It is tough but it is great for me. I am more confident as knowing that I can go over and beat obstacles”, warned Igor Millcic who last watched the boxing movie Southpaw.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing Igor Milicic in Frankfurt in 2021

                One of the surprise teams this season in the Pro B has been Orange Academy. The team is so young and has nine teenagers on the team and nobody is older than 22. You can´t always expect young teams to be successful simply because there is such a big lack of experience, but this team has gelled well and are playing fine team basketball. “This is no secret that BBU’01 and Ratiopharm are investing in the Youth program. Everybody in the organization gives 100% in every practice and the great work of the Coaches last year gave us good groups of talented players for this season. Coach Anton already prepared few of us even last season. He is pushing us hard to get better and to play together. The team is talented but important is that we want to play hard and win every game”, warned Igor Milicic. He has many talented teammates, but one that has been a huge spark in the success and left an impression on the polish national player is athletic German Nat Diallo. “It is tough to speak about teammates. They will go at me in the Locker room with whatever I say. Nat is an amazing guy off and on the court. Everyone loves being around him, and at the top of that he is a great athlete and tough basketball player. We are getting along really well, sometimes we even play 1v1 or have shooting competitions, and sometimes it gets out of hand. He is the best teammate I could ask for. He puts the team before himself. If there is some trash talk in the game, he is always the guy that is going to talk back to the opponent. I really appreciate what he is doing for our team”, stressed Igor MIllicic. Another teammate that really influenced him was German Timo Lanmuller. Unfortunately he left and joined Pro A team Tigers Tuebingen recently. “Timo was one of my best buddies this season. It all started in preseason when we were practicing with the BBL team. After every practice we had to stay to make 10 made 3s in a row from 5 spots. We would go as long as it took both of us to finish all spots. We both wanted to get better. I think that’s what connected us”, remembered Igor MIlicic.  His hard work has really paid off this season as he experienced his first easyCredit minutes with ratiopharm scoring 4 points against the Giessen 46ers. “It was a good and funny experience. Coach Jaka Lakovic called me for a sub and I was already hyped. In a few seconds, I had the ball under the basket. Going up to shoot, I had lot of ideas how to finish. Eventually I just flushed the ball to the basket . In that game every possession looked like a lifetime for me. Even when the game was stopped or on free-throws, I was all hyped and my legs were fire footing . It was a great experience and I can’t wait again to be in same situation”, said Igor Milicic. He also knows that in order to become an impact BBL player, he can´t stop grinding, but has to even work harder, because he still has a long way to go. “In some practices with the BBL team I really think I can play with Pros and on next ones I see I have to improve a lot. I am working a lot with coach Anton Gavel and Moris Hadzija individually to improve as fast as possible. Coach Jaka Lakovic is helping me when I practice with the BBL team. Coach has a big aye on my mistakes and motivates me to get better”, warned Igor Milicic.

                When you first see Igor MIlicic on the court who lists his personal NBA Mount Rushmore with NBA legends Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Tracey Mcgrady and Kevin Duran, you would imagine him being a big man still needing to get stronger, but he is really a 208cm guard/forward who compares his game to current Brooklyn Nets Kevin Durant. “. I am practicing a lot of his moves with Coach Hadzija on a daily basis. In the future I would like to find many similarities between me and KD. For now, it’s only height, little bit of style of play and a high jump shot release. He is impossible to guard because he moves as a guard with 6 ft 9”, can shoot over smaller defenders with his high release point over the head. Adding his footwork and ball fakes, he is unbelievable. I would like to view myself in the future as a European version of KD”, warned Igor Milicic. He used to like to see David Jelinek play, but also enjoys watching Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum and former NBA player Ricky Ledo who played for his father last season at Anwil. Currently he follows current FC Bayern Munich forward Vladimir Lucic. Milicic is a player that is able to guard all guards and wings. Two big strengths in his game is his work ethic and mentality, but there are so many more that help him on his way to becoming that complete player. “I feel very comfortable with the ball in the open court or as a runner in transition. Second best where I feel great is in all shooting situations. I know my shooting % are not great but in practice my shooting % are much better and I´m just waiting for the moment when the same is going to happen in games consistently. Offensive rebounding is what I enjoy doing”, expressed Igor Milicic. His shooting continues to be a work in progress, but he is taking measures to become a more reliable shooter. “Together with Coach Moris we work a lot on having balance and good footwork during shooting. I feel very confident in my shooting. Coach is saying that repetition will give me consistency. Also, I need to stop thinking about missed shots immediately after taking the shot. Sometimes I think too much, so I need to relax a little more”, warned Igor Milicic.. Another area in his game that he is working on is defense. His hard work has paid off this season as he has improved on the defensive end as his ability to keep up with smaller guards and apply pressure has gotten better. “Defense is something that I take really personally. Everybody in the coaching staff, coach Ensminger last year, coach Gavel, and coach Lakovic, are on me about defense. They have made sure that they don’t want one dimensional players. Now I have to prove to them each game that I am on top of it, on both sides of the court. In the last few months, I think there has been a big change on my defensive approach. Although I can make huge progress I think we are on good path for me to become that lock down defender as well”, stressed Igor Milicic. Last season it was ex Bamberg legend Chris Ensminger that helped him leap and make huge strides and this season it has been ex Bamberg guard Anton Gavel. “Coach Gavel is giving me lot of confidence with his approach towards me. I feel he believes in my abilities and also he is challenging me on little details which ultimately will make me a better player. He is a great motivator and brings high energy to practice as well as in games. I am very happy to develop under his eyes”, stated Igor MIlicic.

Miles schmidt-Scheuber and Igor Milicic in Koblenz in 2021

                He is only at the start of his career, but so far in his career he has been able to battle against some high level guys in the BBL, but so far none has compared to the experience he witnessed last season in Poland with ex NBA player Ricky Ledo. “Last season I was always practicing before and after the pro team Anwil had their workout. One time my dad was missing one player so he called me to play defense on Ricky. It wasn’t like Ricky slowed down as he was guarded by the coaches 16 year old son. It was quite the opposite. He scored on me almost every time, although my hand was in his face all the time, he was still making the shot. I have never played against someone like him before. It was like a dream come true for me, because I always wanted to play against an NBA level player and Ricky was one of them”, stressed Igor Milcic. In the future the regularity of playing against guys like Ricky Ledo could increase dramatically as he recently was named to the Polish national team from ex ratiopharm Ulm head coach Mike Taylor. “He comes from a great basketball family. I love this father /son tradition something I also had with my dad. He continues to make good steps. He gives Poland a good future”, warned Mike Taylor. Ex BBL players like Michael Hakim Jordan who now is coaching at Drexel(NCAA) or current BBL legend Ricky Paulding can smile with the best of them, but so can Igor Milicic. His smile couldn´t have been any wider after he found out that he had been chosen for the Polish national team. “Wow, that was huge surprise for me. I was smiling all day after I found out I was on the list. I called immediately my teammate Jeremy Sochan and we were showing our happiness very loud . That is a great motivation for the  future. You never know when and where an opportunity can appear, so I will work even harder in each game and practice. You never know who is watching”, stressed Igor Milcic. What many don´t know is that he also could have picked to play for the Croatian national team. “I am half Polish half Croatian, but Polish basketball is closer to me, because I played there for 7 years and everybody saw me. In Croatia we are only on summer time and in big basketball nobody saw me there. The Polish federation is following and contacting me for a while now. Besides coaches of the U20 NT , but also the President of the Polish Federation Mr. Radoslaw Piesiewicz himself called me to make sure that I play for Poland. This nomination for the Polish A NT was the crown of my basketball career so far, and I have no doubt for who to play for”, added Igor MIlicic. This very humble and friendly guy has huge goals for the future. “We are valuing options and what is best for me to do in the next years. College is also a strong option. I have contacted a few colleges that are making strong interest to recruit me. It is not easy to decide what road is best for my development. I definitely have big goals. NBA or Euroleague is a dream, but I know, I have to do lot of work and improvements to go there. That is why I am concentrated on the present time, and focus on the work to be done now. A good future will come along the way”, stressed Igor Milicic. It will be interesting to keep observing this young Polish gem in the next years with his decisions and how his game develops. He has showcased that huge smile already and that will definitely continue as he garners more success. He may be 20 years younger than easyCredit BBL legend Ricky Paulding and still be very far away from his success, but when it comes to displaying that championship smile, he is already on a good way to being able to compete against Paulding in who has the more charming reward smile.

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