Brian Conklin (201-PF-1989, college: St.Louis) is a 33 year old 201c, forward from Oregon that is playing his 11th professional season and first with FC Porto (Portugal-Liga Betclic). He began his basketball career at North Eugene High School. He then played at Saint Louis University (NCAA) from 2008-2012 playing a total of 133 NCAA games. He turned professional in 2013 and has played in countries like Australia, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, France and Turkey. He has played 400 plus professional games in his career. He spoke to germanhoops.com before a Fiba Europe Cup game in Chemnitz.
Thanks Brian for talking to germanhoops.com. Where are you at the moment and how is basketball life treating you at the moment?
Hello thanks for having me. I’m in Porto, Portugal playing for the historic club FC Porto. In my 11th season I’m having the time of my life.
Welcome back to Germany. You played against Alba Berlin 5 years ago and was in Germany. What memories do you have of playing that historic German organization?
I also Played against Bonn even before that, I’ve always loved playing against German teams in international competitions, I’ve been told my style of play would suit the league. Playing ALBA specially that season was great because my good friend and old roommate from Nanterre Spencer Butterfield was on the team.
I just had a flash back. I actually saw you play in 2017 in Bonn where you suffered a tough 77-76 loss. Do those close loses nip at you for a while or can you forget them?
That certain case didn’t matter as it was the semifinals and you play home and away so it’s like an 80 minute basketball game. Just have to score more than other team in the end.
Your playing your first season with the historic club FC Porto. What have you appreciated most about playing for this organization?
The professionalism and hunger to win championships has been a breath of fresh air and made me want to reach my highest level.
You have won a number of titles in your career. How exciting is it playing for an organization that has won 25 titles and last in 2020 and how hungry is your quest to win again?
I’ve always won championships throughout my career that’s why I always start a season saying #chasingchampionships. It’s what I play for the excitement of the fans in those moments and winning it all after sacrificing so much.
Your a guy that has shown everywhere that you can be adurable scorer and rebounder. What exactly is your role this season? It seems like you don’t have to do as much as with other teams?
I just try to fit in where I best can help the team succeed. Now that I’m older that comes in a mentor/ leadership role by default on the court and off. But on the court nothing has changed that’s scoring the ball, passing out of certain ball screen defenses, creating mismatches or being able to disrupt other teams offenses with my physicality.
The game has continued to evolve and especially guys at your position have incorporated a three pointer. This season you have hardly used it. Why hasn’t the three pointer become more of an option in your game?
I think the 3 pointer is the most overrated shot in the game, you have people shooting 30% from three taking 5-6 threes a game, that’s wasted possessions to me. I’d rather take post ups, mid range at 60% that way putting pressure on the defense and can get to the free throw line, while being able to have a more balanced transition defense.
As the oldest on the team, have you developed a sort of mentor position for some players? What has it been being teammates with ex Auburn player Danjel Purifoy, a guy who plays your position?
Being older you just try to impart knowledge on the younger guys, make sure they understand the business and avoid mistakes maybe you made early in your career.
Last season you had a short stint in Turkey’s first league with Semt77 Yalova Belediye Spor (Turkey-BSL) averaging 9.7ppg, 4.7rpg, 1.2apg, FGP: 48.8%, 3PT: 28.6%, FT: 76.7%. This is an up and coming league. How would you compare it in skill level and competitive teams to the France pro A? Is the Pro A ahead of this league?
I really enjoyed my time in Turkey, it’s a very high level league with a lot of talent. I’d say it’s a more physical league in Turkey where as France is a more athletic league. Turkey you’re playing against a lot of very high level Americans normally as they get majority of the minutes and a lot of plays break down into 1 on 1. France is a faster pace and more system oriented league, you’re going to play pick and roll and attack out of those situations.
In your career you also have had your experiences in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, New Zealand, Australia. Was your time playing competitive games often a better and more comfortable option then just grinding in the gym at home? Was there a particular experience you will never forget playing there?
I prefer to stay in game shape and play year round. This is where I’ve been able to have the most success and stay ready for every facet of the season. Australia and Puerto Rico where I won MVP’s in each league respectively has got to be my most favorite experiences. As well as winning a championship in New Zealand in my first season as a pro and another championship in the Dominican Republic.
You played 4 years in France with Nanterre and Limoges. You put up consistent stats in one of Europe’s best leagues including the Eurocup. Do you feel like you were ever close to landing with a Euroleague team? Has it just been timing and having the right connection that has been missing?
Yeah I’ve always been able to play at a high level, play on EuroCup teams that made their respective Top 16’s even won a French Cup and the FIBA EUROPE CUP. For me I think it was a timing thing and a connection thing. I never truly chased the money, I always had my family with me so I wanted good situations where I’d be paid on time, my kids could go to school and we could be together as a family.
2 years ago you were teammates with basketball’s biggest talent at the moment Victor Wembanyama. Is this kid the real deal. How far can he go?
The Skies the limit for Vic, he was my rookie my second stint in Nanterre and you could see all the intangibles and talent at 16/17 years old. He’s a good, humble kid who knows his worth and where he’s going. Stays focused and true to himself. Very hard worker and addicted to the pressure and perfecting his game.
What was the most amazing thing that you remember seeing him do in a practice that little people saw that made you go wow?
I mean his ability to put the ball on the floor at that size and get to this mid post fadeaway has to be one of the more impressive things in the complete package.
In your first season with Nanterre you were teammates with Mr parking lot Heiko Schaffartzik. Do you ever remember being teammates with a guy that can shoot more crazy deep three’s then him?
Man Heiko not only could pull from anywhere but his ability as a teammate and leader brought the chemistry together that year that helped us win two championships. Between him, Chris Warren, Spencer Butterfield and Hugo Invernizzi all shooting above 45% from 3 any given night you could pick the best shooter on the court.
In your last Limoges gig you were teammates with DeMarkus Nelson and Marcus Ginyard who balled at Duke and Noth Carolina. What memories do you have of these 2 outstanding players. Did that school rivalry sometimes come to life?
They were great talents and leaders helped me to understand transitioning to the twilight of my career how to extend your career and make a difference in a more efficient role. Outside the casual wager when the teams played each other nothing crazy.
In your first tour of duty with Limoges, you were teammates with short point guard Dru Joyce who had a great career overseas. Dru is a very humble guy. How long did it take for you to learn that one of his closest friends is Lebron James who he won 3 high school titles at St Marys?
Dru was a great PG and now I’m sure he’s a great coach at Duquesne. Very knowledgeable about the game and the ultimate professional. I had seen the documentary because he’s around my age so I remember the hype when I was in high school.
You played a season with the Illawarra Hawks (Australia-NBL) averaging 14.6ppg, 5.4rpg, 2.2apg, FGP: 49.1%, 3PT: 10.0%, FT: 71.9%. There you were teammates with David Anderson who played in the NBA, CSKA Moscow and FC Barcelona just to name a few teams. How good was he still at 37 when you were teammates and what will you always remember about him?
Man Dave is the man!!! Never seen someone take such good care of their body, and work at their craft as diligently as him. He was still very good and could go for 13 pts in a quarter before you could blink. Would challenge us to one on one on the block and out of the high post after practice. He was a true professional.
You played 3 seasons with the Townsville Crocodiles (Australia-NBL) from 2013-2016. You put up solid stats but also made some news with the drama concerning Damian Martin and Mitch Creek. What memories do you have of experiencing highs and lows early in your career?
Loved my time in Townsville, it’s a special place with a special fan base passionate about their crocs!!! My son was born there, I got MVP of the league while I played there so nothing but great experiences. I’ve never done anything intentionally, I play hard and physical like any other player. I’ve been hit just as hard or harder throughout my career. It’s an occupational hazard. It was unfortunate what happened and I wear an elbow pad on that left side for this reason, so forbid it ever happening again. I’ve seen guys get their eyes poked out, punches thrown I was never this type of player. Basketball Is a physical sport.
How vital was your 3 years in Australia for your basketball development?
I was able to come in as a youngster and play heavy minutes and be the focal point of the offense in a respected league against some great talent. Learned how to screen, run the floor and create mismatches to my advantage.
How important was Shawn Dennis for you early in your career for your development before reaching Europe?
I would say it was my college coach Rick Majerus who gave me a majority of my basketball knowledge and he was a basketball savant. Thanks to him I’m still playing today. I learned how to play the game and didn’t have to rely on athleticism or skill only.
You were teammates with then rookie Nick Kay? How proud were you of him winning a Bronze in 2021 at the Olympics? Did you see his growth starting in 2015 when he came from division 2?
Nick was a very hard worker and very talented, cream always rises to the top. He got out of it what he put in, never saw him take a day off. Just put in the work.
You played your rookie season with the Zero Fees Southland Sharks (New Zealand-NBL) averaging 22.4ppg), Reb-3 (9.5rpg), 1.4spg, FGP: 61.4%, FT: 74.0%. What do you remember being your wake up call to being a pro down under where you knew that you were far away from home?
We started season 1-3 and coach came into practice read out everyone’s stats up to that part of the season out loud in front of the team. Told me my performance was unacceptable for an import and I needed to figure out how to get it done as a pro. Rest is history, won award for best forward in the league and we won the championship.
You played at St Louis from 2008-2012. What memories do you have of beating Memphis at the NCAA tournament and then losing to Michigan State? Was that your fondest time in the NCAA?
My whole senior year seemed like a blur of excitement. We got nationally ranked for the first time, won the 76 Classic in Anaheim, California against Oklahoma and Villanova teams that were very good. Beat a good Washington team, Xavier, Dayton many fond memories. But the culmination was making the NCAA tournament and beating a loaded Memphis team that was supposed to be to big and athletic for us, then matching up with #1 seed Michigan State and Draymond Green and taking them to the wire.
What memories do you have battling Draymond Greene? He was a beast in that game?. Would you have thought that he would develop as well as he has in the NBA then?
That was a great battle, Rememberd he couldn’t guard me in the post and then tried to post me up and couldn’t get anything easy so they started using him as the ball handler in pick and rolls that’s when I knew he was good.
How did head coach Rick Majerus groom and prepare you best for a professional career?
Like I mentioned above I owe a lot of my success to him. He taught me to be a student of the game, to slow it down and analyze every aspect, sport is a game of inches and he coached to that. If he were alive throughout my professional career I would’ve had a different trajectory, that was the connection I was missing to make the highest levels.
Who won a 1-1 in practice you or Dwayne Evans?
Dwayne was a 3 man all through college and I was the 4/5 never came to that except for the occasional switch. We probably both of differing accounts but there is a reason my nickname was Conk Diesel.
Who was the toughest player that you faced in the NCAA that would go to the NBA?
Lavoy Allen and Andrew Nicholson as far as bigs who I guarded. But Terence Ross hands down for talent.
Please name your 5 best teammates of all-time, as far as on court?
PG- Semaj Christon SG- Kenny Hayes SF- Donte Greene PF- Mam Jaieth C- Willie Reed
Please list your personal NBA Mount Rushmore of past or present heads?
Michael Jordan Kobe Bryant Lebron James Shaq
What is your personal opinion of the neverending debate of who is the greatest of all-time Jordan or Lebron?
Jordan- winning that’s all that matters are you the best when the championship is on the line. 6-0!!!
Did you see the sequel to the classic Coming To America? Shouldn’t they have left it alone?
Didn’t see it, won’t be either. Original is the best. Somethings better left alone.
Thanks Brian for the chat.