Florian Wendeler (205-C-1993) is a 29 year old 205cm center playing his 5th season for the Dragons Rhondorf and currently averaging 5,0ppg and 4,1rpg.. He began his basketball career with the Bayer Giants Leverkusen. He also has played with teams Cuxhaven, Bochum and Cologne. He is in his 10th Pro B season and has played more than 200 pro B games. He spoke to germanhoops.com last summer about basketball.
Thanks Florian for talking to germanhoops.com. Welcome back to Rhondorf. You played there from 2013-2017. What did you miss most from having the Dragons jersey on?
Definitely the atmosphere in a packed DragonDome and the great fans supporting the team. From what I’ve seen in my two games in Rhoendorf last season, there are mostly the same guys who already been there five years ago, so I think it won’t be too hard for me to reconnect with the fans.
After leaving the Dragons you went to raise your game in Cuxhaven, Bochum and Cologne. Your 28 years old. What were the main reasons for coming back? Could you imagine ending your career with the Dragons?
I had a great time playing in Rhoendorf and met a lot of great people there that are still good friends, so I always kept Rhoendorf in great memory. Now I got a good opportunity to find my way back to Rhoendorf and I have a good feeling that we will have a great time again next season. Since my focus already shifted a little bit towards my career after Basketball and I don’t know how many years I got still left to play on a professional stage, I can very well imagine my self ending my career in Rhoendorf.
When you played with the Dragons you never averaged more than 19 minutes and was a role player. With what kind of expectations are you coming back to Rhondorf?
I just want to find a good role for myself that I feel comfortable with and that helps my team to win games. I won’t care too much about playing lesser minutes if that’s what it takes to be successful as a team. But I definitely think I am a better player now than when I left and I can probably call myself a veteran by now so my role will definitely change to my first stay in Rhoendorf.
Do you feel like you are ready for a bigger offensive role or are you happy with the smaller role?
Like I just said, I take it as it comes and just want to contribute as much as I can. But I think I already showed especially in Cuxhaven and Bochum that I can raise my numbers with a bigger role so I would definitely be ready for that.
How excited are you to be playing together with the Senegal sensation Ousmane Ndije? He could be the next NBA player?
Since we played him last season I know what big of a talent he is and he could definitely be one of the best young players in Pro B. So, if we actually play together next season, I would definitely be excited to see him help us win games.
What kind of player were you in 2017 when you left Rhondorf and what kind of player have you become in 2022?
In 2017 I was still a young rather unexperienced player with a lot of upside who wasn’t really sure what basketball still had left for me. Now five years later I am definitely a more complete player who knows his strengths and weaknesses and how to help a team. I probably improved in all aspects of the game and still got the same fire and hustle in me to bring that on the court.
Your 28 years old now. Would you say that you are in your prime now? What kind of a player do you still want to become?
Since I started playing basketball rather late, I think there is still a lot for me to improve on. I feel like I still got a lot of potential left when it comes to basic basketball skills like shooting or ballhandling. And I can still run and jump and got the same power so there is definitely still some upset left.
You played the last two years with the RheinStars Cologne. How tough were these 2 years for you with Covid? Do you feel like your game could still grow despite the tough times?
Covid was definitely tough for everybody. At least in professional sports we were lucky enough that we could still play and fulfill our job. But it obviously wasn’t the same with limited or no fans at all. But basketball wise I don’t think that much changed. We still had the same practice schedules and routines than we would have had without covid. Motivationally it was tough for me because just like most athletes you go through your practice week with the goal to be ready to perform in front of a big crowd and do your best to win games. Games with a great atmosphere in packed gyms is the highlight for every athlete.
What kind of an experience was it being teammates with Vincent two two Golson? He has made the next step to France. What do you remember being your most fondest moment with him?
Two two is a great guy and obviously a really talented basketball player. It is crazy to see him breaking defenses apart with his speed and skill level and get all kinds of finishes around way bigger guys. Already in the first season we played together he was one of the best players in Pro B until his injury and when he came back last season he was an even better player. He got a great work ethic and I wish him all the best for his future career.
You also played 2 seasons in Bochum. In your first season you averaged 13,6ppg. Did you realize in that season that once you get more minutes and trust from your coach that you can be avery good player?
My first year in Bochum was the best season of my career no doubt. We had a great team chemistry with amazing guys in and around the team so for me playing basketball was a lot of fun that season. I am very thankful for Gary Johnson (who was a big reason to convince me to come to Bochum) and my teammates that year because they always trusted and supported me 100% which was a big factor why I could put up these numbers. I actually realized that already the year before with Cuxhaven but Bochum was the next important step to perform even better with a better team and a well-functioning club.
In Bochum you were teammates with oldie Marco Buljevic and talented American Montrael Scott. Talk a little about your memories of these guys and their importance then to the team?
Marco and Monty are both great guys and I really enjoyed playing with them. Marco helped us probably more with his experience and his character. He is just a really funny guy who is absolutely great for the atmosphere around the team. Unfortunately I didn’t play that many games with him because of all kinds of injuries he had during that time but he is still an amazing and absolutely reckless shooter and could also help us on the court in the games he could play. Monty on the other hand was a more quiet but still funny and nice guy and obviously talented basketball player. Since we struggled a bit with injuries on the guard position in that season, he was really important for us as a ballhandler and playmaker and did a great job with that.
In 2017-2018 you played for Cuxhaven averaging : 9.2ppg, 6.4rpg, 1.2spg, FGP: 55.4%, 3PT-3 (57.1%), FT: 67.2%. This was your break out season. How important was this season for your self-confidence?
Yes I would definitely say, this was my breakout season. To move to Cuxhaven was a very important step for me personally and basketball wise. I knew that I had to change something after my last season in Rhoendorf and Cuxhaven gave me a great opportunity to get a fresh start. Just like in Bochum I had a coach in Markus Roewenstrunk (now Jackson) who gave me a lot of trust and confidence. That combined with a bigger role and more minutes was a big confidence boost for me. Although we weren’t successful as a team, it was still a great season for me personally because I finally knew how good of a player I can be in a bigger role.
You were a young player with Rhondorf the same way Viktor Frankl-Maus was. How was it for you guys in those early days. What kind of a relationship did you have with him on and off the court?
It was a really great time back then. We had a great mix of older experienced and young but talented guys. For the younger guys like Vik and me we had to show in every practice and game that we were ready to play and deserve more minutes from the veteran guys. So we worked hard and had a great competition within the team which I think helped everybody a lot. And the veterans helped us with their experience just how it should be in well working teams. Since we also lived together for two years together with Sascha Tratnjek we had always had a close and good relationship and I was really looking forward to play with him again in Cologne. Unfortunately that didn’t work out as planned due to his injury.
You were also teammates with a young Kostja Mushidi who had a tough youth but now has made it into a good BBL player. Did it surprise you that he was able to overcome all adversary and become a good player after all?
He was one of the biggest talents in Germany back then. So I would have been more surprised if he wouldn’t have made it into a good BBL player. But of course it wasn’t always easy for him to find his spot but he seems to be on a good way now.
How important were coaches Boris Kaminski and Christian Mehrens in your early development as a player? How did they help you most?
They were both very important for me. Boris Kaminski gave me a chance to play major minutes in a very good Pro B team when I was still a young and raw player. And Christian Mehrens is probably the biggest reason why I developed some kind of Post-Up game and footwork by now. He really taught me a lot in my early career and was the best big man coach I could hope for. But one other Rhoendorf coach was even more important for my basketball career. Matthias Sonnenschein was the reason why I actually started playing basketball with 15 years old and put a lot of effort in to get me to a level that allowed me to move on to play NBBL in Leverkusen and start my professional career.
What was it like battling Aaron Nelson on a daily basis? Did you win any of the battles?
He was definitely a tough matchup who was really hard to stop offensively. He had various ways to score and most of the times found the right way to score. So he might have won most of the battles in practice. But I definitely found my ways to score as well so I tried to make his life in practice as hard as possible. And I made sure that I won a couple of battles too.
You begam your basketball career with the Bayer Giants Leverkusen. You lost by 40 points to the Fraport Skyliners Juniors and played against future Euroleague players Johannes Voigtmann and Danilo Barthel. Would you have thought then that they could reach that level’?
They were amazingly talented at that time and already great players in their young age. And Frankfurt showed to be a great club developing young German big guys which they definitely did with these two. So yes I thought that they could have a great career in basketball. But it takes a lot more than talent to become a high level Euroleague player and they managed to do just that so nothing more to say than congrats on a great career so far. And I can still enjoy watching them play on TV now.
Who was the toughest player that you have faced in your career on the court?
I have faced a lot of great players over my career like current NBA players Dennis Schroeder or Daniel Theis (who was a really tough matchup in my first seasons in the pro B) or like you just mentioned current national team players Joe Voigtmann and Danilo Barthel. But the matchup that was the most memorable was probably in my Pro A season with Rhoendorf when we played Baunach (Farm Team Bamberg) with Johannes Thiemann and Leon Kratzer. They were both still young but already very talented. In the end we lost the game by more than 40 points and the two bigs combined for over 50 points and 25 rebounds and we stood absolutely no chance.
Please name your 5 best teammates of all-time?
Basketball wise I definitely have to mention Josh Parker in my first Pro B season with Leverkusen where he won the MVP and had the biggest impact that we won the championship. He’s the player who impressed me the most over my career. Another great player and human being I had the joy to play with is Fabi Thuelig who was our absolute key player in my first time with Rhoendorf. But when we talk about being a great teammate on and off the court I got to name Felix Engel and Mark Gebhardt from my time in Bochum just to name two alongside a lot of other amazing guys I had the pleasure to call my teammates. But like I already said this season really stood out for me and these two are just players that every coach and player would love to have in their team.
How far will Germany get at the 2022 European Championships?
I think Germany got a strong roster right now and it seems like all the guys want to play the European Championship. So I really think Germany could be ready for a surprise. I would like to see Germany maybe compete for a medal and I think it’s their best chance over the last couple years.
Thanks Florian for the chat.
Tags : FLORIAN WENDELER, DRAGONS RHOENDORF, GERMAN BASKETBALL