Anthony Watkins Believes Coming To Heidelberg Was 100% The Right Decision And The MLP Academics Need To Find That Dog Mentality On Defense Again

Anthony Watkins (194-PG-00) is a 21 year old 194cm guard playing his first season with the MLP Academics Heidelberg. Last season he played with the Basketball Loewen Braunschweig (Germany-BBL) playing 13 games. He scored 6 points in 11 minutes in aloss against Ludwigsburg. He has the German/American citizenship and lived in Chattanooga and attended McCallie High School before coming to Germany in 2019. Last season he split time with the Basketball Loewen Erfurt (ProB) playing10 games avergaing 3.6ppg. He also played with the OeTTINGER Rockets Gotha 2nd team (Germany-2.Regionalliga) and in in Jan.’20 moved to VfB 1900 Giessen Pointers (Regionalliga) playing 8 games averaging 10.0ppg, 4.1rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 53.3%, 3PT: 66.7%, FT: 58.8%. He spoke to after the tough 109-73 loss against the EWE Baskets Oldenburg.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and Anthony Watkins in Frankfurt in 2021

The MLP Academics Heidelberg suffered a tough 109-73 Loss against the EWE Baskets Oldenburg. The bubble finally burst for them ending their 11 game losing streak. You know what a long losing streak feels like having lost 9 games this season. Has it been difficult to see this historic club losing so much?

It was confusing watching them lose so much. They are a historic and very well respected organization. Plus they invest so much money into high level players each season. I thought that they would be a much bigger factor in the season. But for whatever reasons they just didn’t click. It was just a matter of time before they would click. It was only unfortunate that it would be against us.

Did the MLP Academics give the EWE Baskets Oldenburg perhaps too much respect?

We knew that they were going to be hungry. It was a must win for them and was a big opportunity to make a statement. We feel like we can play against any team, but we need some things to go our way in order for us to beat top teams. We knew that it would be a tough game, but we had no fear or apprehension going in.

What was your personal feeling when you heard that Ingo Freyer had been named coach of the EWE Baskets Oldenburg. A guy known for the run and gun play.

The timing was funny. I had never played against Ingo Freyer, but had seen his practices when I was playing in Giessen. His style is that of a G-League team. Very high paced and that seven seconds or less system. He really has his teams get up and down the court. They have a very talented roster with guys like Heidegger and Michalak who can really score and have had crazy games this season. Getting Freyer was an interesting move, but when seeing the result of the game against us, it doesn’t surprise me that they put up 109 points.

The EWE Baskets Oldenburg began on fire scoring 27 points in the first quarter. That is the kind of team everybody knows Oldenburg should be. Did you sense a different mentality in their play because of having a new coach?

I wasn’t in the Oldenburg locker room, but I can only imagine what it was like. They had a must win situation. They were hyper focused, but that is human nature when there is a new boss. They wanted to prove themselves and show their best side. At the end of the day things clicked for them and not us. Both teams had the same mind set going in, but they executed better.

The EWE Baskets Oldenburg gave up only 33 points at the break. Ingo Freyer has never been known as a defensive specialist. I can remember players saying he never practiced defense in Hagen. What impulses did he give for this total change in playing defense?

They played super aggressive defense. Everybody got after it. It was as if someone had told them to light a fire. Ingo took timeouts for defense something you normally wouldn’t see happen. They overplayed us on defense and I haven’t seen that happen before. We weren’t able to get into our sets easily. They did a good job pressing full court and Brekkott Chapman had to bring the ball a lot. They took us out of our rhythm and we didn’t expect that type of pressure that they gave us.

The EWE Baskets Oldenburg won the second half 58-40 and played a very consistent game. What gave Heidelberg the biggest problems on the night?

We got destroyed on the boards. We got outrebounded by like 24. You can’t win games in the BBL when you rebound like we did. We are a bunch of dogs that hang our hats on defense. We have to find our way back to that. We are a group of dogs that are hungry and want to fight to stay in the BBL. They didn’t feel us, but we felt them. If we can play the brand of game that we are capable of playing then we will look a lot different.

A big strength in the game was the rebounding for Oldenburg. Is that a negative area in the team play? Are there just not enough Brekkot Chapman’s on the team?

We do play small ball and do take some stray offensive rebounds in stride. Our defense dictates our offense. For us it always starts on the defensive end. We want to get stops and get on transition. The way we rebounded in Oldenburg has nothing to do with our personnel on the team. We have shown enough this season that we can lock in on defense.

How do you see the long run of the EWE Baskets Oldenburg? This is a team that just has to stay in the BBL

This league is so competitive. That was a big win for them. It helped close the gap. It is hard to say at this point. This league is so strong that anyone can beat anyone. You can’t sleep on any night. There is a lot of parity in the league. But that win makes it look a lot more optimistic for them. They have to continue to hold their momentum. We are only worried about staying in the league.

Michalak and Heidegger combined for 41 points. These two guys are pure scorers. They seem rejuvenated under Ingo Fryer. Could you feel that in their mentality?

They played with a lot of freedom. When you give guys of that calibur that kind of freedom, then it can get very scary. You have to slow them down and break their rhythm. When guys like that find their rhythm early, then it gets difficult to stop them. When you give them easy looks and they score, then the basket looks a mile wide.

I guess it becomes hard to win when Geist and Ely combine for 5 points. Have teams realized a key to winning is keying in on them more?

At start of the season no opponent had a game plan for us. They found their spots. Now they are adjusting to the situation. The main thing now is that we find a way to play hard nosed defense again. We have to get stops again and get on transition. That will help us play good offense again.

You next play the Niners Chemnitz where you lost a tough crunch-time loss. What will be key for splitting season series?

We have to turn the page from Oldenburg. We can’t forget what happened, but also take the next step forward shutting teams down and making the game scrappy. We want teams to adjust to our style and not the other way around. We have to look at their personnel and see how our brand of basketball can limit what they do best. We will focus 80% on us and 20% on them.

You came to the MLP Academics Heidelberg with a focus. Were your expectations to high?

I don’t believe that my expectations were too high. My goal each season is to find a place where my game can continue to develop and where I can take the next step. Coming to Heidelberg was 100% the right choice. I have found great mentors in Kelvin Martin and Shy Ely who have taken me under their wings. For me this situation is a lesson of patience. I feel that I have the tools to help my team. If I didn’t feel it then I wouldn’t be here. But at the end of the day coach makes the decision who plays. He wants to win just as I do. My job is to help make the guys at my position better each day. I bring positive energy. My time will come. It’s not an easy situation, because I love the game so much. Some of my best memories in life have happened on the court. It is an incredible feeling to play at the highest level. I will just continue to make the best of my situation and try to help the team win.

You have played only 5 games. How disappointing has the season been for you? How have you held up on the mental side?

I just focus on what I can control. The situation has been made easier because I’m surrounded by guys that genuinely like each other and want to win. Even during the 9 game losing streak, everything could have become toxic, but everyone stayed positive. It’s been tough because I’m a competitor. I will continue to work hard and focus on the team first and do all I can to help us stay in the BBL.

Did coach Frenki tell you at the start of the season what expectations he had of you? What kind of relationship do you have with him?

I was told that I have an opportunity to prove myself day in and day out. I feel like my relationship with him has grown. Frenki is a very loyal person. You have to prove yourself character wise. We are both very introverted. I could have been more open from the start. He respects my work ethic and authenticity. I respect his passion for the game. He has given me many things to work on and try to reduce certain mistakes. It is his decision if I get a chance to play in a game. We have a solid and good relationship.

Despite not playing much minutes do you feel like your improving? Talk a little about how you feel your game has continued to develop?

I always want to become a better shooter. That is something that I’m always working on. You can always become a better shooter out of certain situations. I’m happy with how my shot is going and my pick and roll reads. I always try to think one step ahead. My comfort level on the court has risen tremendously. I always felt comfortable on the court and always think about the task at hand. Last season it felt more like a blur being on the court. But I think that comes back to making that transition form Regionalliga player to BBL player. Now I feel like I can be ready and create for myself and others rather then see situations happen and react and hope things go well.

How has Shy Ely helped you with your game? He is like a mentor for you?

Shy has been a mentor. I love his demeanour and being that silent assassin. I also love his dedication to the game at his age. He still takes shots from the gun after practice. He was one of the first guys I met last summer when I was training with the U-20 national team. I began to pick his brain then and still do now. He is just a great guy.

Even if the season has been tough, Rickey Paulding has continued to lead by example. In what part of the game has he impressed you most at age 39?

I hope to play against him in Heidelberg. When you think BBL in Germany, you think Rickey Paulding. He is the identity figure of the BBL. It is so surreal seeing the Paulding Burg in Oldenburg. He is the ultimate role model for young players. Every young player should aspire to be like him. I have never spoke with him personally, but have only heard good things about him. He is unique and admiral.

Where does Tom Brady rank with the greatest athletes of all-time?

It is hard not to put him first. He has accomplished so much. He kept up that code of excellence until the end at age 44. That is mindboggling. As a basketball guy, I have to give the nod to Michael Jordan. I say Jordan 1A and Tom Brady 1B

Super Bowl prediction Bengals-Rams?

It is hard to say. I want both to win. I like both quarterbacks. The Rams have a team I created on Madden. I think that game will be a tossup 50/50 because the Bengals have the momentum. But I will go with the Rams, but wouldn’t be surprised if the Bengals won.

Thanks Anthony for the chat.

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