I don’t know how it is for other spectators but for me the first thing I look for when covering overseas basketball when I visit a game is how many NBA players are on the court. I guess those 3 magical letters NBA have this force that just engulfs people more than actually noticing other players first. Recently I visited a Basketball Champions League game between the Telekom Baskets Bonn and French club SIG Strasburg where they had 2 ex NBA players with American guard Tim Frazier and Latvian forward Rodions Kurucs. Combined they had had 11 years in the NBA and now were overseas continuing their basketball journey. Of course these 2 players are very talented and deserved to be in the NBA. But it isn’t always about those former NBA players. There are enough other great players playing overseas and hundreds and probably even more that could play in the big show, but can’t because there just aren’t enough roster spots. But in this game there were 2 other players that were without a doubt the 2 best players on the floor for their respective teams. And both only measured to 175cm. I’m talking about TJ Shorts who has made waves ever since turning professional some years ago and is on MVP course in Germany and Marcus Keene (178-PG-1995, college: CMU) who like Shorts is a bundle of energy who is third in scoring in France and top 10 in the Basketball Champions League. Both guys dueled in game 1 as Keene got the best of Shorts with 26-24 points and won round one in a classic nail bitter 77-76 win. After the loss TJ Shorts tipped his hat to Keene. ”He is a scoring machine at all 3 levels. We watched a lot of film on him and will watch even more film now. You have to make it as tough as possible against guys like that’, stated TJ Shorts. The respect for the diminutive Shorts is mutual. ‘It is always motivating for me to play against very good guards. He has made a name for himself in Europe. It’s exciting for me to battle the possible MVP of Germany’, stressed Marcus Keene. The American knows small guards like them will always get underappreciated and their chips will never leave their shoulders. ‘The game keeps changing. You see bigger guards in the NBA and overseas and everyone is switching. You see teams like Monaco, Olympiakos and Partizan going this route. Teams in Europe pay more attention to defense. Smaller guards get overlooked. We are effective on offense, but aren’t bad defenders. My chip will always be there even when I get to where I want to it I was never highly ranked. I hope to reach the Euroleague. Then my chip will be even bigger. It is all about proving people wrong’, warned Marcus Keene.
Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and TJ Shorts in the BCM in Frankfurt, Germany in pre season 22-23
Marcus Keene who lists current Boston Celtic Marcus Smart as his toughest opponent ever was born on May 6, 1995 on a military base in Germany. He grew up in Texas and played at east Warren high school in San Antonio. He averaged 25/4/4 stats as a senior and amassed 1600 points there and was the all-time leading scorer. He was named to the all-state, all-city, and Super-City teams. Despite his stellar career he was offered only one Division 1 scholarship from Youngstown State and accepted it. He played 2 seasons at Youngstown State. In his freshman season he played 22 games and averaged only 13 minutes averaging 6.5ppg, 1.9rpg, 2.2apg, FGP: 43.1%, 3PT: 32.4%, FT: 75.7%. In his second season his minutes exploded to 34 and he averaged 15.3ppg, 3.5rpg, 2.7apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 49.1%, 3PT: 40.9%, FT: 78.7%. It isn’t always easy as a freshman to break through. ‘I played behind Kendrick Perkins and coach didn’t trust freshmen. In my second season he let me be me’, said Marcus Keene. But overall he wasn’t content at Youngstown as he wasn’t allowed to play point guard and was mainly used as a spot up shooter. He fell in love with Central Michigan’s up tempo game and then would transfer. ‘Central Michigan was perfect for me. I needed to play point guard. I sat out a year to get my body strong and right’, remembered Marcus Keene. He scored in double figures in 28 of 33 games including stellar games against Illinois State netting 29 points and hitting UNC Greensboro with 28 points. The basketball community at Eastern Washington knew they had something special in Keene when he was ruling practices the season and letting eyes pop out as he was showing his massive abilities. He didn’t disappoint as he exceeded all expectations averaging a ridiculous 30.0ppg, 4.5rpg, 4.9apg, FGP: 52.2%, 3PT: 36.7%, FT: 81.9%. He led the NCAA in scoring and was the first one to do it since Charles Jones in the 1996-1997 season. ‘That season was crazy for me even if my record got broken the next season. Just thinking I was scoring 30 points or more each night was crazy. Getting a lot of recognition and being able to score the ball at a high level helped me a lot’, remembered Marcus Keene. It is no surprise that his favorite moment was rocking Miami at Ohio with 50 points. ‘I had no idea I would score so much. I only had had 13 points at half-time’, commented Marcus Keene. He scored in double figures in all 33 games and scored 20 points or more 29 times. He scored 30 points or more 16 times and cracked the 40 points or more 6 times including 44 points against Montana State. He knows that he wouldn’t of had all that success without the proper guidance from head coach Keno Davis. ‘He groomed me well and taught me how to be a pro. He told me that if you want to be the best, you need to do even more work. You will have even more eyes on you when you do well. You need to work more even if your doing well’, remembered Marcus Keene who remembers teammate Braylon Rayson winning more 1-1 matches back in the day. He was an All-MAC first team selection.
The Texas native who lists Taurean Prince, Braylon Rayson, 226cm giant Sim Bhular, Tim Frazier and Kendrick Perkins as his best teammates of all-time turned professional in 2017. He got a taste of the NBA playing NBA Summer League with the Washington Wizards averaging 11.3ppg, 1.3rpg, 1.3apg, FGP: 50.0%. ‘That was a great experience. I wish I could of played more and had more of an opportunity. I remember my boy Brad Break (Bradley Beal) telling me to be myself and they have to accept it or not!, said Marcus Keene. The American played his rookie season with Cagliari Dinamo Academy (Italy-Serie A2) playing 30 games and averaging 18.9ppg, 4.5rpg, 2.9apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 46.3%, 3PT: 34.8%, FT: 81.0%. One big adjustment he had to make was not necessarily getting a pay check every month. ‘I hadn’t seen that before not getting paid on time. It doesn’t matter if your in the G-League or at Walmart, you get paid on time. I had to learn to stay focused at all times when playing at a high level. Veteran teammate Deshawn Stephens was a big help. He told me not to act up, but just do what your told even if you don’t like it’, remembered Marcus Keene. In his second professional he split time with Mono Vampire Bangkok (Thailand-TBL) averaging 8.2ppg, 2.3rpg, 2.8apg, 2FGP: 50.0%, 3FGP: 27.1%, FT: 77.8%, led the FIBA Asia Champions Cup in scoring at 28.2ppg), 4.6rpg, Assists-2 (6.0apg), 1.2spg, FGP: 54.1%, 3PT: 34.0%, FT: 80.8%, played with the Memphis Hustle (NBA G League) averaging 8.2ppg, 2.3rpg, 2.8apg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 27.1%, FT: 77.8%, and finished the season with KCC Egis (South Korea-KBL) averaging 16.4ppg, 2.8rpg, 3.1apg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 38.4%, FT: 83.3%. For me it was a riddle why a guy with his talent level would have to play in Asia. But sometimes the money is more important than the status. ‘I had agent issues that season. I fired one and got another. He got 2 good deals in Asia in Thailand and in South Korea that I couldn’t pass up. I chased the money more than the dreams’, added Marcus Keene. He was also blessed that he was able to get experience in the G-League playing with the Memphis Hustle. ‘This was a great experience. I proved I could play with and against NBA guys. I know getting to the NBA is about timing, but just knowing that I could compete with NBA guys was exciting. But ultimately I knew that my ticket was overseas where the money is’, stated Marcus Keene. He knows now that his future is in Europe, because he has proven he is worth every penny and wants to keep climbing the basketball ladder. ‘Now I’m in the mode that I want to get better and better overseas. My goal is the Euroleague and to get to the highest level. You see something like 3 small guards in the NBA now while in the Euroleague it’s so much more’, commented Marcus Keene. He scored in double figures in 10 games including scoring 22 points against South Bay and 21 points against Delaware.
The shifty guard who lists Jordan, Lebron, Magic and Allen Iverson on his personal NBA Mount Rushmore played his third professional season back in Asia. Once again he dominated in 2 countries playing with KCC Egis (Korea-KBL) averaging 19.1ppg), Reb-1 (11.5rpg), 2.3apg, FGP: 59.3%, FT: 70.3% and with Yulon Luxgen (Taiwan-SBL) averaging 25.2ppg, 6.4rpg, 6.5apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 54.5%, 3PT: 37.5%, FT: 81.3% and led the league in scoring and assists while playing 37 games. ‘Once again the 2 deasl were too good to pass up. The money was so good. At that time I felt that I could play anywhere. I was thinking I could play in the CBA in China. But then I did find my way back to Europe’, said Marcus Keene. He had some massive games against Taiwan Beer netting 46 points and hit Pauian for 41 points. In Korea he was in beast mode getting 18 rebounds in 2 games. He then made the jump to Estonia playing with BC Kalev/Cramo Tallinn and then his career really took off in Europe. Despite COVID being in full action and having to put up with all that drama, he still was able to focus and help his team win 2 titles and lead the VTB in scoring which is a top 10 league in Europe. ‘That was technically my first season playing at a high level in Europe. I was battling high level guys like Jordan Theodore, Isaiah Canaan and Mike James. I always knew I could play with those guys. I just had to prove it and did’, warned Marcus Keene. He had 3 special teammates with Maurice Kemp, Devin Thomas and Chavaughn Lewis and having that bond helped achieve the success they wanted on the court. ‘They are all my brothers. We were always together that season. We would go out to the beach or kick it at our houses. It was a great season for me leading the VTB in scoring but the best was being able to call myself a champion’, remembered Marcus Keene. He scored 20 points or more 13 times and had huge games scoring 31 points twice against N.Novgorod and 30 points against Enea Zastal. He was 1-1 against top Euroleague team CSKA Moscow scoring 21 points in a loss, but exploded for 26 points in a 107-102 loss where he outdueled ex NBA player Mike James who only had 19 points and is considered one of best Euroleague players since many years. ‘I was super stoked for that game. I knew what he had done in his career and that game showed that I can play against anyone in the world. He is one of my favorite players in Europe. I always try to watch him on TV. It was a fun game. He congratulated me after the game and told me to keep going’, remembered Marcus Keene. Last season he continued his rise playing solid in Slovenia with averaging with KK Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana (Slovenia-Liga Nova KBM) averaging 13.1ppg, 1.6rpg, 4.0apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 59.4%, 3PT: 40.0%, FT: 85.7%, but then taking off in Italy with to Openjobmetis Varese (Italy-Serie A) averaging 18.7ppg), 2.5rpg, 4.5apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 45.9%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 89.0% and leading another league in scoring. ‘Leading the Serie A in scoring was a big accomplishment for me. Being able to do well there helped me get to France’, stated Marcus Keene. He had big games against Sassari with 33 and 31 points and executed 31 points against Trento. It is easy to comprehend that his self-confidence grew and having a teammate like ultimate veteran Jacob Pullen helped him as well. ‘I grew a lot on the court. That was the best league I had played in up to that point. To see myself excel against good teams and players was amazing. That proved to me that I could play in any league, but I did put in a lot of work. ‘Jacob is my guy and we talk to each other to this day. When I first met him I told him I was a big fan of his when he was at Kansas State. I looked up to him as a kid and then being able to be teammates with him was amazing. He taught me so much about the business’, said Marcus Keene.
Miles Schmidt-Scheuber meeting Marcus Keene in Bonn before game 1 of the Basketball Champions League quaterfinals
The veteran guard who lists Michael Jordan as his GOAT and believes that the classic Coming To America movie should have been left alone just continues to chug up the basketball ladder this season playing with SIG Strasburg. The team continues to battle for the Pro A playoffs, but are moving closer to the final 4 in the Basketball Champions League. ‘Consistency has been our problem all year long. We can’t make excuses but we have had injuries or things not going our way. But currently we are on a good way. We have to figure this out and just continue to do our best’, warned Marcus Keene. Recently he got ex NBA player Tim Frazier on board who played 8 seasons in the NBA. Naming him to his best teammates of all-time after such a short time has to mean something. ‘Tim has helped me a lot and brings experience and leadership. I keep telling him that him coming off the bench is like a blessing for us. It is only a plus for us. NBA players that come overseas often need a year to adjust. But I can already say that Tim has led me in ways that I have never been led before’, warned Marcus Keene. It will be interesting to see where the basketball journey of Marcus Keene will continue to go in the next years. The next address can only be the Euroleague. And who knows with a BCL title, he may just get that wish. But for now all he is thinking about is giving his team in France in Success. When your as small as he is and toiled around in Asia, you take nothing for granted. ‘I am so blessed for this opportunity with SIG Strasburg and to just to be able to be who I am for the team’, stressed Marcus Keene But that BCL title is still a ways away, because SIG Strasburg has to first take care of business first in game 2 at home against the Telekom Baskets Bonn of the BCL quarters. I won’t make any bets, but whoever does win this series, you can be sure it will be Marcus Keene or TJ Shorts who will have been most instrumental in helping their team to the series win. You just have to love those small guards.
Tags : MARCUS KEENE, SIG STRASBOURG, GERMAN BASKETBALL