TJ Shorts (175-PG-97, college: UC Davis) is a 24 year old 175cm point guard from Tustin, California playing his third professional season and second in Germany and first with the Hakro Merlins. Last season with the Hamburg Towers he averaged 14.3ppg, 2.8rpg, Assists-4 (5.3apg), Steals-3 (1.7spg), FGP: 49.3%, 3PT: 28.1%, FT: 71.8%. In his rookie season he played with with BK Ventspils (Latvia-LBL) playing 12 FIBA Europe Cup games averaging 14.6ppg, 2.8rpg, Assists-4 (6.3apg), Steals-5 (2.0spg), FGP: 66.7%, 3PT: 25.0%, FT: 82.4%; and played 20 LatEstBL games averaging 11.8ppg, 3.3rpg, 5.0apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 63.8%, 3PT: 25.0%, FT: 75.6%. He began his basketball career at Tustin High School and then played two years at Saddleback JC (JUCO) He finished at the University of California – Davis (NCAA) playing 31 games averaging 14.6ppg, 3.7rpg, 4.5apg, 2.0spg, FGP: 53.8%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 72.7% and in his senior year averaged 15.2ppg, 4.7rpg, 4.3apg, 1.6spg, FGP: 53.0%, 3PT: 27.9%, FT: 71.8%. He spoke to germanhoops.com after defeating top easyCredit BBL team Telekom Baskets Bonn 81-76.
Congrats on the big 81-76 win over top team Telekom Baskets Bonn. To how much % were the Hakro Merlins able to execute the game plan from head coach Sebastian Gleim?
I would say we executed the game plan of coach with the exception of the first quarter where we started off very slow. They beat us up pretty bad with the rebound. They are a very talented team and you won’t be able to stop everything. We did a good job controlling the game from the second quarter to the end.
After 10 minutes of play the Telekom Baskets Bonn had the commanding 26-9 lead. Did the Merlins stay out too long and New Years eve? You actually started ok but gave up a 17-2 run to end the first quarter
We knew coming in that they are a very good team. After it was 9-7, they punched us in the mouth and found a good rhythm. We did a good job not panicking or being flustered after that run. We got focused on finding a defensive rhythm and when we can do that then we can compete with anyone one.
In the second quarter you stepped up the offense as if it was nothing scoring 28 points, but were still down by 10 points at the break. Was it your sheer aggressiveness that picked up the Merlins offense in the second quarter?
Yes definitely. One of the keys was being aggressive. When we found our rhythm, we finally felt like we could dictate the game and we did. In the second quarter, we hit them first and didn’t let them hit us back. Once we got into our flow, we were able to change the mind set of the game.
What did head coach Sebastian Gleim tell you at the break? The team stepped up their defense allowing only 11 points.
He got on us at the break. He asked if we wanted to take our defensive task personal. We came into the third quarter with the mind set that we would make every bucket tough for Bonn. We made a collective effort and executed well on the defensive end.
In the fourth quarter it was tied and must of felt like 0-0. The game was a back and fourth battle. Does one notice how intensive the game is despite it not having that sold out arena atmosphere?
It has been tough with Covid. I think that we were allowed to have like 500 fans in the arena. It wasn’t as loud as the previous games, but our fans still did a great job helping us bring energy and being loud. I’m very thankful for the great support of our fans.
Terrell Harris stepped up big in crunch-time with two key three pointers. You made the assist on his last three that sealed the win. How glad are you that a guy like that is on your team?
I’m super glad to have him on our team. He is a guy with a lot of experience. He has played something like 6-7 years overseas. With the kind of situation that we were in, you can’t help but be grateful that you have a player like that. When he is in rhythm, he is a key asset for us in winning close games.
The Merlins stepped up the defense in crunch-time. Did you watch any extra film on Parker Jackson-Cartwright who had 5 turnovers.
We watched a lot of the team aspects of them on film and the things that they do. We also watched personal clips of him. We knew what he could do. He can change the game at all times. He was key in our scouting report. I thought that we did a good job on him.
What is it in general like playing against Parker Jackson-Cartwright? Are you and him the two fastest players in the easyCredit BBL?
Yes I would think that we are the two fastest in the league. Everybody wants to see us battle. Nobody backs down from the other. We bring competitiveness and spirit to the atmosphere. Neiter of us wants to let up for our teams. We had a small battle within the battle, but ultimately it was about the team.
Right now you and him are 1-2 in MVP voting if I had tochose. Do you follow how he is doing on a week to week basis?
I don’t necessarily follow what he does. If were off and Bonn is playing, I might watch them play. I’m really not focused on what he does, but more focused on my team.
Who would win a one on one on a neutral court you or Parker Jackson-Cartwright?
I would have to go with myself. I have confidence in what I do. It would be a fun battle, but I have to rock with myself.
The Hakro Merlins have a 4 game winning streak having beaten Munich, Bamberg, Chemnitz and Bonn. Are you guys playing your best basketball at the moment?
I think that at the moment, we are playing some very good basketball. I don’t know if it is actually our best this season. I think that as a whole we are heading in the right direction. We still need to work on a lot of things. We want to keep this rhythm going and try to continue the winning streak so we can secure a playoff spot.
How much credit does one have to give head coach Sebastian Gleim? One could say that he has taken over the system from Tuomas Iisalo, but isn’t that a bit unfair?
Coach deserves a lot of credit. He came in with a vision and brought new players. He has had success and you have to give him credit with how he scouted and his style. Hat’s off to him for what he has done. People could have said ‘Oh well Tuomas is gone and now the ship will sink, but coach came in and kept it going’.
This season your averaging 19/4/7 in 5 minutes more than last season. You have really raised your stats. How do you explain your rise in your game?
I think a lot is a testament of the work I put in last summer. I continue to elevate my game. I’m a key factor at a starting position and have a lot of more responsibility. Obviously with more minutes, it has helped me raise my stats. I have let my work show and have trusted the work that I have put in.
When you put up stats like that in the easyCredit BBL, how can you still raise your game more in the second half?
I have always had the mindset that I always want to get better. I have had to grind for everything in my career and had to get out of the mud. I’m never satisfied with my game and always want to elevate it. I can’t ever get in the mind set that I played well and am satisfied. I always want to grow and do more. That has always been my mind set.
You had 2 steals and 2 blocks against Bonn. Talk a little about the development of your defense in Gleim’s system?
I think the success to playing good defense starts with the work that we put in in the summer. We worked on becoming good 1-1 defenders. You have to be ready to defend against a good guard like Cartwright. You have to trust your work and understand that you can get beat on defense, but that you should always try to make as tough as possible for your opponent.
How did you enjoy your second Christmas in Germany? Was it any different than in the other countries you were in the last years?
Christmas was good. I spent it with teammates. We had a nice dinner. With COVID you had to be careful. It is tough for Americans being away from home, but with technology and the click of a button you can see family face to face. I connected with my family and opened gifts virtually
How was the whole New Year experience in Crailsheim? Were their any fire works that you could enjoy or did the whole COVID feeling get in the way?
A little bit of COVID was in the way. At midnight I saw fireworks. Even if you have to be careful with COVID, I was still able to enjoy it and am blessed to se a new year.
I recently read that some basketball expert said Lebron James is the best player ever and Michael Jordan the greatest of all-time. Does that finally end that long debate?
This debate will continue to go on for a long time. The old heads go with Jordan and the younger people with Lebron. I never saw Jordan play because I’m too young, but I have seen his videos on You Tube. For me Lebron is the GOAT. I don’t know if we have ever seen someone do what he can do especially at his age. I don’t think people really can comprehend what he can still do at his age. Both are top 2 to have ever touched the ball.
Thanks TJ for the chat.