Benas Veikalas (192-G-1983, college: MSU Denver) is a former professional player that had a 10 year professional career. He began his basketball career in his native Lithuania and then played 3 years at the Metropolitan State University of Denver (NCAA2). He then returned back to Europe in 2007 and began his professional career. He played two years in Lithuania and the Czech Republic and a year in Italy, but spent most of his career in Germany with 4 years with the Telekom Baskets Bonn and finished his career with BG Goettingen. His most successful time was with the Telekom Baskets Bonn where he belonged to the top three point and free throw shooters. He also battled against Rickey Paulding on a number of occasions and shared his memories of him.
Thanks Benas for talking to germanhoops.com. Where are you at the moment and how is basketball life treating you?
What’s up Miles – Greets to Germany and sorry for getting back to you so late. Currently we reside in Las Vegas, we love the flashy lights here but still cannot get used to the heat It’s definitely a different life after basketball. I got into real estate business with my wife and spend way more time watching my kids play basketball and do gymnastics and love it !
You retired from basketball in 2017 after a 10 year professional career. You played 5 seasons in Germany. What do you remember being your fondest moment on the court with the Telekom Baskets Bonn?
I loved playing for the Telekom Baskets – great organization and great fans and I loved the fact that they would fill up the dome which made it very fun to play! Man every season was so different and it seemed we just could not make it over the 1st round of the playoffs which was disappointing. I remember my 1st season we had a hot hot start and then after a couple injuries got out of rhythm but still made a great playoff series vs Bamberg which were in an unbelievable shape that season. It’s unbelievable they didn’t lose another game in the playoffs and we had a chance to beat them twice if I made the last shot in that game 4. The 2nd season was tough. We had a lot of talent but would not mesh at all until like new year when the team made a few changes to the roster – after that we really clicked as a team and played great. We were looking forward to play Oldenburg. But unfortunate for us we lost one of our best scorers just before the series started. We tried to adjust and still made it an unbelievable series but man came short . Our 3rd season again we felt really good and had a great team and we were looking forward to the playoffs especially vs Oldenburg. I felt like we had a chance but with a few decisive plays in the game 5 just came short. The fourth season was great. We felt really good as a team we were playing amazing the whole season and felt great going into the playoffs. We thought this was the year we had home court advantage vs Ulm. It didn’t end as we wished which was heartbreaking to that great great season .
Rickey Paulding played his farewell game on June 4. What is the first thing that you think of when you hear the name Rickey Paulding?
I didn’t think Ricky would retire – consistency comes to my mind when I think about him, he was always in a top notch, always producing and punishing the other teams and very professional the way he carried himself on and off the court.
Have you ever seen a player who has been able to play so well at a high level at his age?
I think the only other player that I could think of that played so well for so long would be Rimantas Kaukenas from Lithuania. It’s like they were both basketball iron men – they were playing at the highest level even at the end of their careers .
What was your first impression when you saw him on the court? The first game with Bonn you won 81-79 and he had 9 points. What was the first thing that really stuck out?
I remember that game – he had a great play and a steal at the half court and a thunderous dunk with Tony Gaffney chasing him down – I thought I better watch out for that very athletic guy.
You played 5 seasons against him. Do you believe your record was above or below 500?
I think it was below because we lost to them in the playoffs twice . And that hurt .
You had a 10-10 record. You lost back to back 5 game playoff series to Oldenburg in 2013 and 2014. What was always the toughest thing about playing against Rickey Paulding?
They were tough losses. We just could not get a win in Oldenburg. Ricky could go off at any moment in the game – very streaky shooter could catch fire in seconds and then you were in trouble. The biggest thing for us was always knowing where he was on the court because if you fell asleep he would punish you right away his play and athletic abilities made it very hard to stop.
What memories do you have of the exciting 5 game series in 2014? Game 3 and 4 were both 72-71 results.
Crazy ain’t it . I wish we won both of them – but unbelievable we split with exactly same score.
What kind of legacy do you believe will he leave in the EasyCredit BBL? Do feel that there will ever be another American that will be able to reach his longevity in that league?
He set a very high standard. It’s amazing he stayed with Oldenburg for that long which shows the bond and relationship he had with that team. Great guy on and off the court and the great example for the rest of the players. I believe there will be another Ricky in Germany but it will be very hard to follow in his footsteps. I mean how many players get their city names changed to Pauldingburg.
Please leave some closing words for Rickey Paulding.
I wish him much health and good luck for him and his family in the next chapter after basketball. I really enjoyed competing against him ! Good luck Ricky