Playing Against Legends Like Teodosic and Belinelli And Meeting Westbrook Have been Eyepopping For Jon Axel Gudmundsson(Hakro Merlins) In The Last Year

Jon Axel Gudmundsson (195-G-1996, college: Davidson) is a 25 year old 196cm guard from Grindavik, Iceland playing his second professional season and first with the Hakro Merlins Crailsheim. He began the season with Lavoropiu Fortitudo Bologna (Italy-Serie A) averaging 3.5ppg, 3.8rpg, 2.3apg. Last season he played his rookie season with the Fraport Skyliners Frankfurt (Germany-BBL) averaging 12.2ppg, 3.1rpg, 3.5apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 42.9%, 3PT: 35.9%, FT: 74.3%. He began his basketball career at U.M.F. Grindavik and then played at Davidson (NCAA) from 2016-2020 playing a total of 127 NCAA games. He spoke to after the 81-70 loss to the Fraport Skyliners

Thanks Jon for talking to The Hakro Merlins Crailsheim suffered a tough loss to the Fraport Skyliners that could have bad consequences for their chance for the playoffs. Did the team underestimate Frankfurt?

We knew coming in that Frankfurt had played well and won some games. We didn’t go into the game with the needed energy. We just didn’t play the game the way that we wanted to.

The Fraport Skyliners had the comfortable 44-31 advantage at the break. Rasheed Moore was on fire. Is that how you had him in your memories?

Yes for sure. I remember him as being a very good shooter. He made many shots early including hook shots. He always was able to be aggressive early and score baskets. He is a real good scorer with a good three pointer and post up game. His game gave Frankfurt confidence.

You made a furious comeback in the fourth quarter. The Fraport Skyliners are known for slipping up in the fourth quarter. What adjustments did you make and did Frankfurt run out of gas?

We finally played with energy and how we know we can. But the problem is when you only play really well for 5 minutes, it’s still hard to win.

What was it like playing against your old team Fraport Skyliners? Despite being on the other side of the court, do you feel for their struggles?

Obviously as an ex player, it was difficult seeing them struggle this season. I think a lot of it had to do with the coaching change. I went through the same in Italy before coming to Crailsheim. We were close to winning some games we should of won and it was the same for Frankfurt. Sometimes all it takes are 1-2 possessions to win a game. Last season we were able to hit big shots when we needed to. That didn’t happen as much for them this season.

Last season you played with the Fraport Skyliners. Had you been following their progress in Italy and seeing their poor results? Did it surprise you?

Not really. They dealt with injuries. It was huge when they lost Bruno Vrcic in pre season. I remember him last season being so key for us coming off the bench. It was hard for them not having him this season. He was a real game changer.

What was it like seeing Quantez Robertson again. Did you exchange any words with him?

Tez and I talked before the game as well as after. He apologized about the intentional foul after the game. It wasn’t hard a foul, but the refs still had to call it.

After having a solid rookie campaign with the Fraport Skylines, you moved to Lavoropiu Fortitudo Bologna (Italy-Serie A) for your second professional season. You only played half a season there. From the stats it seemed like your role might not have been classically defined?

Coming into the season in Italy, I had a great coach. He allowed me to do a lot in pre season and first game. But then came a coaching change and then everything shifted. The new coach didn’t have that confidence for the players and something was different. He wanted to bring in his own players. It was still a struggle and there were off court issues like guys not getting paid. I also got a new role.

You got good minutes at first averaging 22 minutes in the first 9 games but then only 11 minutes in your last 4 games. Did the coaching staff lose faith in you?

I did play at the start of the coaching change, but then I pulled my hamstring and I was out for 4 weeks. After that it was tough to get playing time. You could feel that the energy shifted. We ended up wining like 3 of 4 games before I left. It was really an up and down time for me and a real learning process.

How much of a factor was your bad start shooting the three which is your bread and butter. You didn’t begin well and never found a rhythm.

I had a different role. I’m used to playing point guard and then they had me playing the two. I wasn’t used to that and a lot of the plays were for the point guard. It came down to me getting something like 3 or 4 touches per game and I was just standing in the corner. I couldn’t find any kind of good rhythm like that. Plus I feel like we didn’t have a well put together team. The new coach brought in some new guards and we couldn’t find the right ball movement.

What was it like being teammates with German Robin Benzing And James Feldeine? Were you able to get any positive things from his existence on and off the court?

I became really close to James. We always hung out. James is super experienced and had played at a high level. The same for Robin. Robin is a great offensive threat. It was great to learn from both. We began to click as a team when James came in, but then came the coaching change.

What was it like dueling in the Bologna rivalry against Virtus? Did that bring you back to some of those rivalry battles in the NCAA?

I don’t feel that it is comparable to the rivalries in the NCAA, It is different. The passion that fans have in Europe is a lot different. I had so much fun in this game. We had some of the best fans ever. You couldn’t hear anything the whole game. We didn’t know what was happening on the court. We had a 15 minute drive to the arena and along the way there were fans on bicycles that were banging on the bus. It was crazy. Unfortunately my ex team will probably move down.

You have played against incredible players in the NCAA, but what was it like playing against legends like Teodosic and Belinelli? Does the kid in you come out a bit seeing them play?

Teodosic was one of my favorites growing up. I remember talking to one of my teammates about him and Belinelli and how crazy it is watching both growing up and then you have to go out and guard them. But when the game starts, you don’t think about that. Then when the game is over, you look at the scouting sheet, you just think that they are so good that made plays that are so incomparable to anything else.

You then returned back to Germany to play for your old coach Sebastian Gleim with the Hakro Merlins Crailsheim. But also here your results and minutes are up and down. It really baffles me why you don’t have more of a scoring role especially now with TJ Shorts out?

We have a very good point guard in Mike Caffey. I feel that I can help the team. It is about me finding my role. I thought that I had found my role already when TJ was still playing. Then the team got Caffey. They needed to make changes. I feel it was right move getting him. We had played against him in the Fiba Cup. I had had a good game against Munich and thought that I had found my rhythm. Then I had foul trouble against Bamberg and couldn’t really help the team. In Hamburg we didn’t show up as a team. Then I tweaked my hamstring and Mike played really well. Coach liked that and the rotation faded for me.

What changes have you seen in the coaching of Sebastian Gleim in comparison to last season? He is winning this season and is a big reason for the success of the team?

Key for him has been that he has been gathering more experience and learning new things. He did a great job last year with Frankfurt. I don’t think the budget is as high in Frankfurt as in Crailsheim, but I don’t know. We had a good core from last year and then he did good recruiting getting the right pieces. Jaren Lewis has played great since TJ went down. He put together a great team and allowed the players to play their game. Many coaches don’t allow that. He told us what he expects and has allowed every player to do exactly what they are good at.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and Jon Axel Gudmundsson in his rookie season with the Fraport Skyliners in 20-21

How annoying is it as a sniper to have consistent shooting woes. How have you tried to deal with it best this season?

I just try to shoot every day. It is tough and even tougher with the schedule that hasn’t allowed as many practices. I try to take 150 shots from the three point line two days before a game and do shooting sessions with coaches before a game. Plus I try to shoot before and after practices.

Last summer you played NBA Summer League for the Phoenix Suns. What kind of an experience was it being able to catch a breath of the NBA? What one instance will you never forget about it?

It was a very fun event. Many NBA players watch you. We all live at the same hotel and you see super stars. I remember my assistant coach Mark Bryant taking me over to meet Russell Westbrook. He introduced me. It was cool being able to say what’s up to Russ. He asked me where I had played. It was nice to see how humble he is. I also remember the Suns coming over like Chris Paul and Devin Booker showing up and hyping us up. I also remember seeing Dario Saric being in the practicing facility and taking treatment. I also got close to Jaleen Smith now with Alba Berlin who I had known. I also remember playing against Jalen Smith in college. He has had a great season since being traded to Indiana. I also remember seeing Steph Curry signing autographs and remembering me from my Davidson days when he visited.

Did you get a better feel about what it takes to reach the NBA? Is luck really the biggest factor?

Yes I feel like I got a good taste of the NBA. I don’t know if luck is the right word, but I feel that it is more about being in the right place at the right time. A good example is Haywood Highsmith. Last season he played with Crailsheim and didn’t have the greatest season, but recently signed a three year deal with Miami. He put in a lot of work during the summer. I think that a lot of unseen work is happening that players do. There is obviously politics involved, but also a lot of hard work that people don’t see. It isn’t always about how good of a scorer you are, but about how good you do the little things.

You have ties to the Suns and Warriors because ex Davidson great Steph Curry played there. These two teams most likely will reach the final. Who will most likely win the series?

The Warriors have played well, while the Suns struggled against the Pelicans. Booker was hurt, but the Suns still finished the series. Chris Paul has been great and he also was another favorite of mine growing up. I think that if they are in the western conference final, it will go 7 games and whoever plays best will win.

Did you see the sequel to the classic Coming To America? Shouldn’t they have left it alone?

I didn’t see it. I always think that the original is the best. It is hard to beat the original, but too many people see the money signs,

Thanks Jon for the chat.

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