Dewayne Russell Powers The Crailsheim Merlins Past The Fraport Skyliners In OT 83-81

It is only February and still a few months left in the regular season for the Fraport Skyliners, but there are most likely some fans who wished the season was already history now. It hasn´t been a disappointing season, but more than that, one to forget and hide in a drawer. Having to change point guards and the seemingly non ending injury woes has hurt the club day in and day out all season long. The biggest hurdle in the last weeks has been not having pure scorer Lamont Jones as well the reborn German Richard Freudenberg who finally has surfaced from his shell in his third season. In the last weeks, they definitely didn´t lack effort as they probably would have won in Vechta had they had had Jones and Freudenberg and in Bamberg had another horrible third quarter where they  suffered 5 treys that gave Bamberg the momentum and led them to coast to the win. After starting 2020 with a massive Hessen derby win against rival Giessen, they then suffered a 4 game losing streak and continue to slip in the standings so badly that they now have to look behind them and be careful that teams like Giessen and Hamburg don´t sneak up and pass them. They won the first contest against the big season surprise team Crailsheim 76-68  despite allowing the raining of 14 three´s. This time the Crailsheim Merlins met a hungry Frankfurt club who controlled the game for the most part, but couldn´t hold on to a 9 point lead halfway through the fourth quarter as they rallied and gutted out a non-pretty 83-81 win. After the win the Crailsheim Merlins celebrated as if they had just won a title and it remained relaxed as head coach Tuomas Ilsalo joked with American Jeremy Morgan telling him each player had got 500 Euro for the win, but since he was late coming from the court he had missed out on the hard cash. It was all in good fun as it is never an easy task winning in Frankfurt. The match winner was American Dewayne Russell who had had a weak first half, but picked up his game hitting a big shot to force OT and hit back to back shots in OT including the winner was all smiles after the victory. “We were without two important players, but we still stuck together for 40 minutes. We showed our toughness and did a good job securing offensive rebounds. Aaron Jones was a key factor today getting 9 offensive rebounds”, stressed ex Grand Canyon(NCAA) guard Dewayne Russell. For the Fraport Skyliners it was another sad ending to a game they should have won. It was especially tough for ex Braunschweig forward Shaquille Hines who had a career day netting 29 points, but couldn´t enjoy a win. “I felt that we played a good game. We fought hard and stuck to the game plan. We played against one of the top offenses in the league and played pretty good defense against them. We ran out of gas and in the end it came to them making shots and we didn´t”, warned Shaquille Hines.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing Shaquille HInes who dropped a BBL career high 29 points in the losing cause

Crailsheim was without top scorer Javontae Hawkins and ex Northeastern center Quincy Ford while Frankfurt was without German Richard Feudenberg. Both teams were feeling each other out in the first quarter as it went back and forth until the Fraport Skyliners could break free a bit and lead by 5 points after 10 minutes. Frankfurt got big man Leon Kratzer going early as he scored with a left and right handed hook shot. Crailsheim big man Aaron Jones had some problems matching the physicality of Kratzer. But he responded with a long three to give Crailsheim it´s second lead after Jeremy Morgan who played at Northern Iowa(NCAA) had drilled home a trey. Both teams traded some leads as Hines and Morgan scored. Russell had 3 early turnovers as he wasn´t an offensive factor yet. Morgan had the hot hand early and drilled home a catch and pop trey giving Crailsheim a 12-11 advantage. But the Fraport Skyliners found some daylight ending the first quarter with key 8-2 run to lead 19-13. In the run, the Fraport Skyliners got key production from Skyliner legend Quantez Robertson who dropped a trey and then made a steal as he was reading passing lanes easily and made a coast to coast sprint for the basket. Ex Michigan State guard Matt Mcquaid added to the scoring frenzy with a three pointer. “Robertson brought energy to the team. His steals helped get transition points. When they got stops, they got transition baskets. Frankfurt controlled the game and defended well allowing contested shots”, stressed Lich guard Jermale Jones. The Fraport Skyliners shot 44% from the two point range and 50% from outside and had 8 rebounds and 3 turnovers while the Crailsheim Merlins shot 50% from the two point range and 25% form outside and had 12 rebounds and 6 turnovers.

In the second quarter the Fraport Skyliners picked up their game and were able to lead in double digits, but too many mental lapses allowed Crailsheim to get back into the game and trail Frankfurt only by 6 points at the break. The Fraport Skyliners got going right away going on a lethal 11-3 run to lead 30-16. Frankfurt did a good job finding their spots and scored in the paint three times as ex Ludwigsburg pure scorer Lamont Jones did it twice including finishing with a very acrobatic lay up while ex Braunschweig guard Joe Rahon also scored. Mcquaid nailed three free throws and Hines also made a lay in. Frankfurt played very good 1-1 on offense in this phase and on the defensive side had no breakdowns and forced the guests to contested shots. But basketball is a game of runs and now it was Crailsheim who got some offensive production going on a 14-5 run to trail only 35-30. Crailsheim was sharing the ball well as Morgan hit a trey and Russell finally got going netting two baskets. His quickness and agility left any defender in the dust as he scored on a lay up and then hit his bread and butter the pull up jumper. Aaron Jones also supplied input making a huge alley-oop dunk. Jones had a big game with 20 points, 11 boards, 2 steals and 2 blocks. His development in the last years has been good as he was a rookie in 2015-2016 in Germany with the Pro A team RheinStars and then had to pay his dues in Bulgaria and Finland, but all the hard work has paid off as he is a solid BBL big man “He does what the coach asks of him and plays his role. He rebounds well, gets loose balls and does the dirty work. He also showed that he plays above the rim with some huge dunks. He just makes good plays”, stressed Lich (Regionalliga 2) guard Jermale Jones. Frankfurt had more mental lapses and just hurried their offense and made dumb mistakes. Frankfurt then was able to get some much needed offensive production going on a 8-3 run to extend their lead to 43-33. In the run they got two massive three´s from Hines and a lay in from ex Berlin guard Akeem Vargas. But they couldn´t keep the momentum as the Crailsheim Merlins  closed out the second quarter with a timely 4-0 run as Aaron Jones finished off another huge alley-oop dunk where he showed beautiful hang time and Dewayne Russell made a pretty left handed lay in at the buzzer. “The Frankfurt defense broke down a few times with the Jones dunks. When Crailsheim started to move the ball better, they got more open shots and became more comfortable. When everyone is feeling it, you will feel more comfortable taking shots”, stressed Jermale Jones. The Fraport Skyliners shot 59% from the two point area and 55% from the three point line and had 16 rebounds and 8 turnovers while the Crailsheim Merlins shot 67% from the two point area and 30% form the three point line and had 15 rebounds and 8 turnovers.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing Dewayne Russell after leading Crailsheim to the win with 20 points

                The Fraport Skyliners continued to control the game in the third quarter and were able to lead by double digits, but also allowed Crailsheim on a few runs to get closer, but Frankfurt had a 9 point lead after 30 minutes. German Fabian Bleck started the third quarter with a lay in, but Frankfurt came back quickly letting it rain three´s going on a 9-2 run to extend their lead to 52-41. Hines continued his shooting onslaught with two three´s while ex Auburn(NCAA) standout Quantez Robertson also hit one. Hines finished with 29 points and couldn´t enjoy his career high scoring game. “I was feeling it early. Lately I have been very confident. I knew that I would play a lot today. I got a little tired at the end.  They made adjustments late not giving me good looks”, stressed Shaquille Hines. The only real Crailsheim bright spot in the Frankfurt run was Aaron Jones who was a beast on the glass making an offensive rebound and put back over three players. Frankfurt continued to stay active on offense and got buckets from Hines who hit another trey and a lay in from Kratzer extending Frankfurt´s lead to 59-45. But Frankfurt would continue to have defensive break downs and a lack of scoring allowing Crailsheim on a 8-0 run to cut Frankfurt´s lead to 59-53. The 7-0 run was German dominated as ex Trier guard Sebastian Herrera scored twice and ex Wurzburg big man Dejan Kovacevic hit a deep three pointer. Frankfurt was scolded for two turnovers in a row that led to instant Crailsheim baskets. The Crailsheim run didn´t derail Frankfurt´s precision outside shooting on this day as Rahon and Hines hit back to back three´s for the 65-54 lead. Frankfurt was unable to close out the third quarter well as another mistake led to an Aaron Jones steal and big two handed dunk as Crailsheim trailed 65-56. “Jones was impressive. Our game plan was not to give him looks, but all he did was live on the rim. His big dunks kept them in the game. A big problem this season has been us losing focus and energy in certain phases of the game. We need to be able to play great for 40 minutes. All it takes is for a team to play one quarter well which could allow them to win the game”, stressed Shaquille Hines. “We never gave up. Whenever Frankfurt went on a run, we came back. We have shown this season that we hold each other´s backs”, warned Dewayne Russell. The Fraport Skyliners shot 46% from the two point area and 63% from the parking lot and had 26 rebounds and 12 turnovers while the Crailsheim Merlins shot 64% form the two point area and 25% from the parking lot and had 24 rebounds and 10 turnovers.

                In the fourth quarter the Fraport Skyliners controlled the game for the first five minutes keeping the Crailsheim Merlins at bay, but couldn´t finish the game allowing them to force OT. Russell began the last frame with a pull up jumper which was followed by Robertson and Bleck three pointers, but that was it as both team´s offenses were sputtering for a few minutes. Frankfurt then got a big hustle play from Marco Voeller making a tip in and got a two handed dunk from Hines for the 74-67 advantage. Crailsheim then got a huge 9-0 run to force OT as Jones made a runner and Russell made a very difficult finger tip role lay in to cut Frankfurt´s lead to 76-71. Frankfurt was defending well, but Crailsheim was making real tough shots. Aaron Jones then made a huge block on Quantez Robertson which led to a Sebastian Herrera three pointer to cut Frankfurt´s lead to 76-74. Robertson then missed a shot leading to Russell making another very difficult lay in to dead lock the contest at 76-76. “Coach has a lot of confidence in me and I believed that I could make that shot”, stressed Dewayne Russell.  With 12 seconds left, the Fraport Skyliners had the opportunity to seal the win, but Lamont Jones missed the shot. “We went on a scoring drought at the end. They never gave up and made hard shots to force OT”, stressed Shaquille Hines. “Our toughness was key and we didn´t give Hines any more good looks”, added Dewayne Russell. The first three minutes of OT was a brick party as no points were scored. Frankfurt had huge misfortune as Leon Kratzer and Lamont Jones missed shots that they would usually make. Crailsheim finally got on the board getting a Herrera free throw and another beast dunk from Aaron Jones who had secured another one of his 9 offensive rebounds for the 79-76 advantage. Frankfurt finally got a huge tip in from Quantez Robertson to cut the Crailsheim lead to 79-78. The game was winding down and it was Dewayne Russell that would become the hero. He was Mr clutch and showed that his 42 points in the NCAA against Louisville was no fluke as he came up big time. He burned Frankfurt with a jumper after penetrating a bit something the defense should have seen coming for the 81-78 lead with 48 seconds remaining. On the next possession it was Robertson who nailed a clutch three tying the game at 81-81 with 29 seconds to go. Crailsheim went to Russell again and he did the exact same thing making a jumper after starting to penetrate for the 83-81 win. “My teammates gave me the confidence that I could make the shot and I took it”, added Dewayne Russell. “Russell is tough to stop. I played against him in college and he was the same way there. Rahon did a real good job on him, but he just made tough shots”, said Shaquille Hines. Frankfurt had another chance to win the game with 12 seconds, but Robertson forced an airball to end the game. “The last play was for Jones on the ball screen so he could decide to score or find open man. Robertson got a good look, but it didn´t want to fall. Jones and Kratzer usually make those shots in OT that they missed. They were just back from injury and they might have had some tired legs which effected those shots”, added Shaquille Hines. “We tried to stay as close to Robertson to make his shot as tough as possible. We were tough at the end and made the right plays”, explained Dewayne Russell. The Crailsheim Merlins were led by Dewayne Russell and Aaron Jones with 20 points a piece. Sebastian Herrera added 12 points and 11 boards and Jeremy Morgan added 12 points and 8 boards. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Shaquille Hines with 29 points. Quantez Robertson added 16 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 6 steals and Lamont jones added 15 points. The Crailsheim Merlins shot 66% form the two point area and 22% from outside and had 50 rebounds and 16 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners shot 36% form the two point range and 56% from outside and had 37 rebounds and 13 turnovers.

The Dragons Rhondorf Let It Rain Three´s Toppling Citybasket Recklinghausen 112-93

It isn´t the dog days of summer yet where the humid air can cause sudden thunderstorms along the Rhein river, but in the last weeks, there has been massive turbulence in the Dragons Rhondorf basketball family as the only thing missing were dark ominous clouds hovering over the Dragon Dome. First star player and top team scorer and rebounderCurtis Hollis  returned back home to Texas sighting personal family reasons and soon after club CEO Alexander Dohms also left leaving the organization and leaving many unanswered questions brewing in the minds of many fans. Despite all the drama, the Dragons Rhondorf didn´t let any of that effect their play as they continued winning games over Hagen Haspe and Herten. It seems like the departure of Hollis hasn´t effected their game in any way as they continue to play as a team and it seems like the whole dismissal of the young American has been like a rebirth. The club showed against Hagen Haspe that they can play defense with passion allowing only 72 points while continuing to score out the lights on offense. They wanted to continue their smooth winning streak against Recklinghausen and sweep the season series after winning the first game on the road 104-80 and won again displaying explosive offensive firepower winning 112-93. The team was able to score consistently over 40 minutes and racked up 29 assists and 15 three pointers. The new American Diijon Allen-Jordan followed up his 19 point debut with 22 points in his home debut and has filled the vacancy of Curtis Hollis nicely as the team has a 3 game winning streak without Hollis. “We came into the game empathizing defense and rebounding. We did a good job with that tonight. We also didn´t let Myers get going. We want to win a title so we have to focus on decreasing the opponents offensive rebounds and getting stops”, stated new Dragons Rhondorf forward Diijon Allen-Jordan. Maryland native Antoine Myers was still shaking his head after the loss in having to accept how deep the Dragons Rhondorf were. “They hit shots well, but really picked it up in the second half. They did a pretty good job taking me out of the game. Our rotations were to slow and we couldn´t get the loose balls and offensive rebounds. They were simply the better team”, stated Citybasket Recklinghausen guard Antoine Myers.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing Diijon Allen-Jordan after dropping 22 points in his home debut in Rhondorf

The Dragons Rhondorf got the offensive spectacle going as fans would see 205 total points scored getting a one handed dunk form ex Iserlohn Center Gabriel De Olveira. But Citybasket Recklinghausen didn´t waste any time getting on the score board as they dashed out on a 5-0 run as Dutch forward Frederik Adriaans made a jumper and veteran Christoph Bruns who has 123 Pro B games on his resume nailed a trey for the 5-2 advantage. Both teams would trade the lead a few times, but then came the turning point of the game as the Dragons Rhondorf would supply some instant offense going on a 15-4 run to extend their lead to 22-12 and from that point would never trail again. In the run the Dragons Rhondorf let it rain three´s as new player Diijon Allen-Jordan hit two trey´s, ex FC Bayern Munich forward Killian Binapfl hit a three and scored back door while Slovenian forward Jure Besedic also dropped a trey. Allen-Jordan and BInapfl carried the team while the team displayed smooth ball movement. The good start by Allen-Jordan would carry throughout the game. “I try to bring defensive energy. My teamamtes did a good job finding me. I took the open shots and´made them”, explained Diijon Allen-Jordan. Citybasket Recklinghuasen were unable to execute consistently on offense and weren´t hitting free throws. The Dragons Rhondorf continued to execute well on offense getting buckets from De Olveira and Allen-Jordan to keep the 27-20 lead after one quarter. The Dragons Rhondorf shot 56% from the field and 50% from outside and had 12 rebounds and 7 turnovers while Citybasket Recklinghausen shot 52% form the field and 33% form outside and had 5 rebounds and 2 turnovers.

The Dragons Rhondorf did a good job holding the lead and led by as much as 17 points, but allowed a disappointing 11-2 run in the last minutes to lead only 50-42 at the break. Even if it had rained three´s in the first quarter, the Dragons Rhondorf attempted to play inside out basketball and got some good work from Allen-Jordan who made an offensive rebound and put back and De Olveira continued to take advantage of the guests having no real big man by scoring over the mismatches. Twice. The guests got a trey from Dutch man Adriaans to cut the Rhondorf lead to 36-27. The Dragons Rhondorf were moving the ball well, but here and there suffered small stupid mistakes which cost them not having a more comfortable lead. Allen-Jordan continued to be aggressive on the offensive end attacking the rim and scored 4 points. Ex Bochum guard Niklas Meesmannn dropped a trey cutting the Dragons lead to 41-30. It was the second possession in the second quarter where the Dragons Rhondorf had failed to secure a loose ball which led to two three´s from the guests. The Dragons Rhondorf had so many weapons on this night and everyone produced. Now it was Besedic scoring 5 points for the 48-31 lead. It looked like the Dragons Rhondorf would cruise into the break with a huge double digit lead, but Citybasket Recklinghausen had other ideas. The guests closed out the second with a 11-2 run to trail only 50-42. In the run the guests got a trey from Meesmann and lay in by Myers and got two baskets from 33 year old veteran Jan Letaileur who had done a great job crashing the boards and getting baskets. This was the game´s worst phase for the Dragons Rhondorf as they couldn´t execute the way they wanted to on both ends of the court. The Dragons Rhondorf shot 56% from the field and 50% from the three point line and had 23 rebounds and 11 turnovers while Citybasket Recklinghausen shot 43% form the field and 31% from the three point line and had 15 rebounds and 4 turnovers.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing Antoine Myers after dropping 29 points in the loss

In the third quarter the Dragons Rhondorf continued to have the lead and tame Citybasket Recklinghuasen. Citybasket Recklinghausen did a good job matching the intensity of the Dragons Rhondorf and didn´t allow them to run away with the game as they were always in striking distance. The problem for the guests was just the Dragons Rhondorf had no breakdowns on offense being consistent. The Draagons Rhondorf would close out the third quarter strong and the quarter belonged to Gabriel De Olveia. One player that was a real pest for Rhondorf was Jan Letailleur who scored at ease and in moments where the Dragons Rhondorf wanted to break away. The German veteran did with this three and aggressive work on the glass. Letailleur cut the Dragons Rhondorf lead to 56-51. Binapfl then had two great plays in a span of a few minutes. First he made an alley-oop tap in off a perfect pass from Allen-Jordan and then made a massive one handed dunk in the zone for the 62-54 advantage. “We didn´t practice the alley-oop. We both have high IQ´s and we just know what the other will do. I saw where he was and just threw up the ball and he finished”, stressed Diijon Allen-Jordan. Bruns then nailed a clutch three pointer to cut the Dragons Rhondorf lead to 62-57. But the third quarter belonged to De Olveira who would finish with 15 points in the quarter. He would score the next 5 points and four more a bit later. Rhondorf also inserted Pal Ghotra who has had injury woes all season long, but he looked very fit, anxious and focused as he nailed a trey . He saved his best for last dropping a buzzer beater trey. You knew right away that the basketball God was on Rhondorf´s side on this day as his trey was off the mark, but got a lucky bounce to fall in. The Dragons Rhondorf led comfortably 81-64 after 30 minutes. “We stuck to what was working and kept going inside. When a guy like Gabriel is dominating, then you want to continue to go inside”, stressed Diijon Allen-Jordan. “We prepared all week in trying to stop a 10-12 man roster, but it was tough. Usually you focus on trying to stop 4-5 players, but everyone was hitting three´s tonight. We tried to change the pick and roll, but they kept hitting three´s”, added Antoine Myers. The Dragons Rhondorf shot 63% form the field and 47% from the parking lot and had 30 rebounds and 15 turnovers while Citybasket Recklinghausen shot 43% from the field and 35% from the parking lot and had 23 rebounds and 8 turnovers.

The third quarter belonged to Gabriel de Olveira while the fourth quarter belonged to Simonas Lukosius who dropped 14 points including the 100 point mark which left him with the traditional duty of having to buy drinks for every player. The Dragons Rhondorf continued to score consistently, but also allowed the guests to score regularly. The Dragons Rhondorf began with a 11-5 run where Lukosius scored 8 points including two three´s while Anish Sharda also hit a trey. Sharda would hit another three pointer as did ex Giessen 46er Jeffrey Martin as the Dragons Rhondorf led 98-76. The Dragons Rhondorf continued to have good team play and show that unselfishness while the guests were playing too much 1-1, but surprisingly outscored Rhondorf 16-14 down the stretch. Lukosius´s third trey of the fourth quarter gave the Dragons 101 points. Myers continued to be aggressive and visit the free throw line a lot as he finished shooting 13/17 from the free throw line. Marek Kotineo came in and scored two buckets while the heart and soul of the team Lotola Otshumbe also scored for the 112-93 final score. The Dragons Rhondorf had 10 guys that were able to score. “I have been part of teams where there were short rotations. It is tough having so many guys play 35-40 minutes as it tears at your body. But here we have a 10-12 man rotation where each guy can play 4-5 minutes of good basketball. De Olveira´s strong third quarter gave us confidence as we did rapid fire in the fourth quarter hitting shots”, stated Diijon Allen-Jordan. “We had injured players playing today. We got a little tired at the end. I took matters into my own hands. I had to do a bit of everything. I was tired, but then again not tired”, stressed Antoine Myers. The Dragons Rhondorf were led by Gabriel De Olveira with 24 points. Diijon Allen-Jordan produced 22 points while Killian Binapfl added 15 points and Simonas Lukosius had 14 points. Citybasket Recklinghuasen was led by Antoine Myers with 29 points. Jan Letailleur added 19 points while Niklas Meesmann had 13 points and Fredrik Adriaans had 10 points. The Dragons Rhondorf shot 66% from the field and 53% from outside and had 35 rebounds and 19 turnovers while Citybasket Recklinghausen shot 49% form the field and 46% from outside and had 27 rebounds and 10 turnovers.

The Miles Basketball Minute: DeWayne Russell(Crailsheim Merlins) Is Focused About Winning And Not About Individual Stats

When Dewayne Russell attempts to look back to last season where he played his first season with the Crailsheim Merlins, he remembers a lot of hardship as a result of many losses and long losing streaks of 9 in the first half of the season and 7 loses in a row near the end, but in the end the team was saved staying in the easyCredit BBl for another season. But all in all it was a tough season for him and the club despite him averaging 11.3ppg, 2.1rpg, 4.2apg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 37.0%, FT: 75.0%, very respectable stats for a BBL newcomer that arrived from Nancy in the France Pro B. The American who was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Peoria, Arizona returns back to Frankfurt today and will have a lot of confidence and only fond memories as he was a key contributor in the Crailsheim Merlins fancy 91-77 victory last season. It was a turning point in their season as they were 1-10 coming into the contest and then would win the next weekend against Braunschweig. In the win in Frankfurt, Russell steered home 22 points and was the match winner as he scored 10 points in a row in the third quarter breaking a 50-50 tie and the Merlins would never look back cruising to victory. There is another reason why Russell and Co will arrive in the game with self confidence despite losing their first meeting in Crailsheim this season 76-68 is their current record. It has been like day and night between last season and last season as currently Crailsheim is resting in sixth place and there is serious talk in the Merlins community of the playoffs becoming a reality. The Crailsheim Merlins have been the little darlings of the league surprising everyone with their ambitious and aggressive play which has led to a brutal offense wiping away opponents at times like a lethal tornado causing havoc on the Oklahoma prairie land. The Crailsheim Merlins come to Frankfurt seeking revenge, but will meet a more healthy team as some of the walking wounded of the Skyliners are expected to be back. That first loss really hurt badly, because Crailsheim drilled home 14 three´s, but in the end still had a long bus ride home having the loss in the back of their minds. The club knows exactly what they need to do not to get swept. “It’s just going to come down to the basics for us. We need to follow coaches game plan and play as hard as we can. All of us being the same page is key and staying disciplined to our principles”, warned Dewayne Russell. It will also be like going back to school for the American as he loves competing against the Skyliner legend Quantez Robertson. “He is a great defensive player. I always try to learn from good Vets that have played in the BBL for a long time”, stressed Dewayne Russell.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and Dewayne Russell in Frankfurt in the 2018-2019 season after a Crailsheim win

            Coming into the 2019-2020 season nobody expected much from the Crailsheim Merlins after their finish last season. Also in a way the club´s claim to fame continues to be their embarrassing bus ride in the snow to Giessen some years ago which they never reached. People will always remember seeing the photos of players posing for selfies on the German Autobahn on social media. But those days are long forgotten. This season´s club is for real. They quickly rattled off a five game winning streak to start the season. The quick start didn´t surprise him at all. “I saw the potential during preseason and we worked really hard during the off season. We still have a long way to go. I’m excited for the remainder of the season. It has been a very interesting season so far for the Crailsheim Merlins”, warned Dewayne Russell. They beat Giessen in the first game and then followed Bayreuth. The BBL slowly started to take notice after they dismantled the Telekom Baskets Bonn a team that has been in the cellar, but at the start of the season was a sure playoff team on paper. The team belongs to the top offensive teams in the BBL averaging 89 points, but haven´t put it together on the defensive end yet allowing 85 points per game. Russell sees the team success as being something that should always be there on a daily basis. “I don’t think there’s really a secret. Our team just works hard. We’re just trying to be at our best every day”, warned Dewayne Russell. Then the team struggled suffering five loses in six games. They played Oldenburg and Wurzburg tough, but had misfortune in crunch-time not getting the needed bounces, shots and stops. But since that losing streak, the team has been having good times again having won five of the last six games. They won two shoot outs against Braunschweig and Hamburg and then beat strong teams ratiopharm Ulm and Bamberg back to back. They held Bamberg to only 69 points as their defense seems to be making strides at the moment. “ We just want to take it one game at a time making sure we handle all of the little details. We are definitely getting better defensively. We know we can score with anyone in the league, it just comes down to us getting stops”, warned Dewayne Russell.

            What has been amazing with the success of the Crailsheim Merlins this season is how they have managed to be so successful. On paper, they surely aren´t a playoff team, but that didn´t bother any of the players as some have exceeded expectations something the club couldn´t do last season. From my view point, the team was more talented last season and had so much more experience with 6 players above the 30 year old mark. “This years team has a lot of talent. Last years team had more experience with the older guys but this years team is much younger and just as talented”, added Dewayne Russell. But last years team just wasn´t able to gel and play together and consistently, but this year´s team is totally different. They usually have a 9 man rotation, but six players average double figures and Jan Spahn is at 8,9ppg. That demonstrates a team that is unselfish and enjoys sharing the ball. The idea that the club needs to rely too much on the starting five to be consistent isn´t something that the club listens to or is afraid of. “We don’t look at it as a starting 5, we look at it as a collective whole. We all play together at some point during the game”, stated Dewayne Russell. Not to forget a lot of the players have no BBL experience and came from lower leagues, but that didn´t haunt head coach Tuomas Iisalo who took what he had on the court and quickly formed it into a winning culture. The coach is a candidate for coach of the year at the present moment. “He has been great for the entire club. He is more than just a good basketball coach, he is a great leader, mentor and developer”, stressed Dewayne Russell.

            The club´s leading scorer is ex Fordham(NCAA) stand out Javontae Hawkins who has been climbing the basketball ladder the last years as he had a solid rookie season with the Salon Vilpas Vikings (Finland-Korisliiga) and last season made the next step with Holargos B.C. (Greece-A1) averaging 11.7ppg, 3.9rpg, 1.2apg, FGP: 53.4%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 77.5% and averaging double figures in scoring against Euroleague team Olympiacos for 13 and 15 points in losing causes. This season he has made another big step up the basketball ladder with Crailsheim averaging 16,4ppg, 4,5rpg and 1,4apg. He hit Bayreuth for 25 points, Braunschweig for 24 points and Ludwigsburg for 23 points. “Hawk is a really big piece to everything that we do. He is one of the best scorers in the BBL and does a great job defensively. Hawk’s going to continue to be good for us all year”, stressed Dewayne Russell. Another key player to the success has been Chilean-German guard Sebastian Herrera who continues to make huge strides despite being only 23 years old. He got his first few years of experience with Trier and is in his third season with Crailsheim. After having a very good Pro A season in 2017-2018 where he averaged  7.6ppg, 3.5rpg, 1.3apg at age 20, he had growing pains in his first BBL year averaging 4,5ppg, but this season has had his absolute breakthrough. He currently is averaging 13,1ppg, 2,7rpg and 2,7apg while shooting a refreshing 46% from the parking lot. “Seba has also been a great leader for us. He is the captain of our team and always makes sure the team is organized. That’s what I appreciate the most about him”, said Dewayne Russell. One guy who could make that final difference between playoffs and not is experienced German Maurice Stuckey who brought 284 BBL games experience to Crailsheim, but so far has only averaged 5,4ppg in 12 minutes per game. He is still looking to crack the offensive rotation” His on ball defense and 3 point shooting is going to help us in the long run. He is going to continue to play more and more as the year progresses., stressed Dewayne Russell. Russell has been sharing minutes at the point with experienced Slovenian Jan Spahn and combined give the club 10 assists per game. Russell and Spahn are a very underrated duo, but have been getting the job done consistently. Russell knows that there is always something you can learn from a teammate. “I love having Jan as a teammate. It has been good for me to pick his brain and learn from him. I’m working on learning his step back from him“, added Dewayne Russell.

            Last season, it seemed at times that Russell got lost in the team shuffle with so many guys and this season he has increased his minute from 21 to 26 and is almost averaging 6 assists per game. But looking at his own stats has never been a priority for him. “I’ve been happy so far because we have been winning. I haven’t really thought about individual stats, just trying to win each game”, warned Dewayne Russell. He started the season solid, but did have some tough games against MBC, Goettingen and FC Bayern Munich, but since December 27 has scored in double figures in 6 straight games. Currently he is averaging 12,5ppg, 2,9rpg and 5,9apg and has improved his shooting from 37% to 41% from outside. The American who averaged 21.2ppg, 3.8rpg, 5.4apg, 1.5spg, FGP: 40.2%, 3PT: 39.7%, FT: 75.8% as a senior at Grand Canyon(NCAA) explains his secret to further development and his improved three point shooting and stellar defense. “I’m just focusing on what I can do to help our team to win. Whatever coach needs me to do, I’ll do it. I focused on taking smarter shots this year. I still have more to improve on from behind the arc. I’m focusing on communicating more with my teammates on defense and giving maximum effort”, warned Dewayne Russell. When Russell walks on the floor in the Fraport arena on Sunday, it will be two weeks since the death of Kobe Bryant. He found out of his passing in Berlin and the news is still very difficult for him to take. “I was in the hotel room in Berlin getting ready to play Alba. He meant a lot to me because I consider him to be one of the greatest players ever. Growing up, he was one of the first players I watched that made me fall in love with the game”, warned Dewayne Russell. Russell surely has a deeper connection to Kobe Bryant now. You never forget when you fell in Love for the first time especially for a basketball player and the game.

Kendale Mccullum(Uni Baskets) I Appreciated Kobe Bryant´s Competitiveness And Passion For The Game

Kendale Mccullum is a 185cm guard from Elgin, Illinois that is playing his rookie season in Germany with the Uni Baskets Paderborn (Germany-ProA)currently averaging 18,1ppg, 5,5rpg and 6,9apg. The Uni Baskets Paderborn have had many very talented point guards in the last years, but none better than Kendale Muccullum. He has had an enormous impact on the success of the club as he is the third best scorer in the league and leading the league in assists and steals. He also is shooting a very respectable 43% from outside. He registered a rare triple double against Schwenningen with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists. He began his basketball career at Larkin High School and then played three seasons at Wisconsin Parkside (NCAA2) playing 73 games. In his last two seasons there he averaged 15.0ppg, 5.0rpg, 5.1apg, 2.1spg, FGP: 49.6%, 3PT: 41.1%, FT: 76.7% and 15.5ppg, 4.9rpg, 6.2apg, 2.7spg, FGP: 53.3%, 3PT: 30.4%, FT: 76.4%. He played his last season of college ball at Lewis (NCAA2) playing 31 games averaging 16.4ppg, 5.5rpg, 6.3apg, 2.8spg, FGP: 52.1%, 3PT: 40.5%, FT: 80.2%. He spoke to and shared his memories about Kobe Bryant

Where were you and how did you find about the death of Kobe Bryant? 

I had just got back from practice and someone in group chat with my friends from home went a tweet about it. 

When I heard about it, I thought it was a hoax. What were your first thoughts when you heard about it? 

I didn’t think it was true because I have this image of Kobe where he is like invincible. Nothing could hold him back or bring him down. 

How much of your day the day after did you take informing yourself about his death and watching videos? 

It still hasn’t hit me yet that Kobe or his Daughter GIGi are not here on the earth today. Watching those highlights and videos shows how untouchable he was and that’s why it’s hard to believe he’s actually not here with us anymore. 

You were born in 1996. Can you remember about when you first knew about Kobe Bryant and what was your first impression of him as a kid? 

The way Kobe carried himself, his competitiveness, his drive, his passion, his fear to not back down from anybody. I wanted that type of personality. 

How did your love for Kobe Bryant develop over time as you got through childhood and high school? You were too young for his first wave of titles with Shaq around the millennium, but you must have witnessed the 2010 title against my Boston Celtics. 

I was never a big big Kobe fan, but I would never bet my money against him! That’s for sure. I enjoyed watching him put on a show during crunch time and just taking those big moment shots and knowing he was going to make a play to win the game. 

Kobe Bryant was for so many the greatest ever. What did you appreciate most about his game? Was he a guy that you pretended to be on the playgrounds?

I appreciated his competitiveness and his passion for the game. Kobe, is the reason why whenever you do any basketball moves on the court or off the court you said his name. Shooting a turn around jumper with a balled up piece of paper into the trashing can screaming ‘Kobe’. Or counting down the shot clock ‘3, 2, 1.. and the shot is good’ 

Kobe Bryant had so many amazing games like his 81 points and countless other games where it was lights out as well as winning 5 titles. What is your fondest memory of him of what he did on the court? 

Shooting those free throws with a torn Achilles. Most players would of walked off the court and not shot those free those. But Kobe did. 

The outpouring of sadness was incredible in the last 24 hours. Guys were crying and leaving heart felt messages on Social Media. How long do you think it will take until the basketball world comes to terms with this tragedy? 

I think that’s just something that will last for a very long time. Just because of the way he impacted people on and off the court. He wasn’t just a very good basketball player. He was more than that. And that’s why everyone is hurt by this tragedy. 

When you look back in 20 years on the career of Kobe Bryant how will you remember his legacy best? 

Definition of a true competitor, global icon, a winner, a person who wasn’t ashamed of being a girl dad 

One of my last questions in my standard interviews is what is your opinion of the neverending debate of who is the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan or Lebron James. Often players remind me that I left out Kobe Bryant.I have been thinking about this a lot in the last. How worthy is a Kobe Bryant to be seen as the greatest of all-time?

I think people shouldn’t debate anymore about who’s the greatest. I think we should just accept that those 3 are the greatest of all time. Doesn’t matter who’s 1st, 2nd or 3rd! We should be blessed to be in an era with those guys. 

My last question isn’t what is the last movie you saw, but what video of Kobe Bryant will you take a look again when you have some time to look back at his great career? 

Probably the mamba mentality video

Thanks Kendale for sharing your memories of Kobe Bryant.

Javontae Hawkins(Crailsheim Merlins) Is Big On Support Because It Helps Coaches Trust Players In Tough Game Situations

Javontae Hawkins is a 25 year old 196cm forward from Huntigton, West Virginia playing his third professional season and first with the Crailsheim Merlins currently averaging 16,4ppg, 4,5rpg and 1,4apg. Last season he played with Holargos B.C. (Greece-A1) playing 29 games averaging 11.7ppg, 3.9rpg, 1.2apg, FGP: 53.4%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 77.5%. As a rookie he played with the Salon Vilpas Vikings (Finland-Korisliiga) playing 54 games averaging 14.3ppg, 5.1rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 54.9%, 3PT: 40.6%, FT: 79.9%. He played NCAA basketball at three schools with S Florida from 2012-2014 playing 54 NCAA games, then had his break out season with Eastern Kentucky (NCAA) playing 30 games averaging 17.0ppg, 4.8rpg, 2.1apg, FGP: 56.4%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 76.5% and finished at Fordham (NCAA) playing 31 games averaging 14.0ppg, 4.9rpg, 1.0spg, FGP: 46.5%, 3PT: 35.2%, FT: 84.3%. He spoke to last summer about his basketball career.

Thanks Jovantae for talking to Congrats on signing with German BBL team Crailsheim Merlins. After coming from the competitive Greek league, you now seek the next step in the BBL. What do you know about this powerful league and have you had friends, ex teammates or opponents play here? 

I know this is a popular, competitive league in Europe. I’ve had a college coach/mentor Michael Bradley who played for Berlin some years ago, and I have a former college teammate Jarelle Reischel who played last year in BBL. Also Christian Sengfelder my teammate at Fordham. 

The Crailsheim Merlins like that you can play various positions as well as your athleticism and defense. How much of a deciding factor that allowed you sign for your third professional season with them was having your ex teammate Aaron Jones on board? 

That was huge, me being humble and confident in what I do on the court I feel that my versatile game as a shooting guard, small forward and even a power forward (if asked because of team circumstances) are rare in Europe and I’m willing to do whatever coach ask of me as well as showcase my ability and talent to help the team win games. Aaron Jones was a major factor in me coming here to Crailsheim. He’s been like a brother to me ever since we were teammates in Finland, and we stayed in contact almost every other week for two years and I believe that with us 2 having the chemistry we have along with Joonas who was our head coach in Finland’s top pro league and the system of Coach Tuomas we are in a position to do great things in the BBL this year. 

Let’s talk about your game. You’re an allrounder that can do it all at both ends of the court. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would best fit the description? 

I really don’t get into comparing my game to anyone particular because I just love to enjoy the game as well as win games. But I look at how guys like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Andre Igudala, and Kawhi Leonard approached the game throughout their careers as two way players and they did it by having a competitive, intensified approach every night by guarding the best player and then being able to make plays on the offensive end as well. 

You are a dangerous scorer, can rebound and also set up your teammates. What other strengths does your game possess that fans will be able to witness this season in Germany? 

I feel like the support of my teammates is something that the fans will be able to witness. I’m big on support and recognizing it as a strength because it helps not only the players but the coaches to trust players in tough game situations. It builds the confidence in every player as a unit. And bringing energy and being a leader.

Coach Tuomas Iisalo likes your defense. Do you envision yourself being a defensive stopper for the Crailsheim Merlins as well as being a main contributor on the offensive end? 

Yes, I consider myself as a basketball player. Someone who just works hard even in uncomfortable situations. I am looking to be the best that I can be on the defensive end as well as the offensive end. It’s important when looking to win games. 

Your a player that can fill the stat sheet with ease, but what do you feel is a hidden strength in your game that isn’t always seen by others on the court?

I feel that when I am in the right situation with the trust of a coach and teammates and also teammates and coaches being able to trust me then I can thrive to be the best that I can be. 

Last season you played with Holargos B.C. (Greece-A1, starting five) playing 29 games averaging 11.7ppg, 3.9rpg, 1.2apg, FGP: 53.4%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 77.5%. What kind of experience was it playing in the competitive Greek league and how do you feel did your game grow in your second season? 

It was an experience that I learned how to deal with adversity with an organization and league as a whole and figured out how to bring out the good during bad situations. Being in the Greek league helped me grow as a person and player. 

You played very well and consistently against Euroleague powerhouse teams Olympiakos and Panathinaikos. What kind of experience was it playing against the top Euroleague player Keith Langford? Is he a guy where you tried to soak up as most as possible just from seeing his game? 

It was a great experience. When I see guys like Keith Langford and knowing how good he is and the type of resume he holds throughout Europe it only gets me in a state of mind that I have a chance to do what he’s done and does currently. Playing against him really helped me focus on the importance of being valuable to a team and being valuable in general. 

As a rookie you played for the Salon Vilpas Vikings (Finland-Korisliiga) playing 54 games averaging 14.3ppg, 5.1rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 54.9%, 3PT: 40.6%, FT: 79.9%. What was your wake up call to being a rookie in Europe where you knew that you were very far away from home? 

I didn’t really have a wake up call at all. I’m from Flint, Michigan, I grew up with nothing so I know what it takes to grind even when things may feel uncomfortable, I knew and know there are going to be times that are good and times that are bad but I always knew and know that the good will always outweigh the bad it’s just about being patient and having perseverance. 

How enjoyable and profitable was this rookie season playing many games and playing 14 playoff games. Was the game six 99-96 loss to Kauhajoki one of those games that you will never forget?

I will never forget that game me, Tobin Carberry, Aaron Jones and Jaylon Brown talk about it all the time! Must respect to those guys at Kauhajoki they were the best team. I’m not a man of excuses or a guy to complain. But I was ruled out of the playoffs in the first round due to a really bad ankle sprain that even kept me sidelined most of summer 2018 and lingered into my 2nd professional season in Greece, we also had Aaron Jones who was hurt with a knee problem at the time also the death of a close family member and EuroLeague point guard Teemu Ranniko being out throughout the whole playoffs. I feel like if we were 100% healthy at the time it would’ve been a different story but hats off to the Kauhajoki team, they played exceptionally well the whole series. 

You began your NCAA career with South Florida (NCAA) in 2012 playing a total of 54 games, but never averaging more than 4,7ppg. Despite not playing much and having a less of a role, what positives did you pick up from this season that allowed you to shine at Eastern Kentucky right away?

The positives that I picked up when I left South Florida was to never give up and God is going to carry me through my whole career if I just have the faith and mindset to know that my career is going to be great. I worked extremely hard the year. I had to sit out. It allowed me to regain focus, to develop a skill set and to trust the process through the good and bad. 

What memories do you have of the 61-58 victory against Georgetown and Otto Porter where you scored 13 points? Was this one of your most memorable wins at South Florida? 

For sure! That was a memorable game for me. I was a freshman only 18 years old and I was going up against a future lottery pick and helped my team seal the win. 

After sitting out a season due to transfer rules, you blew up at Eastern Kentucky (NCAA) playing 30 games averaging 17.0ppg, 4.8rpg, 2.1apg, FGP: 56.4%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 76.5%. Did you learn anything about your game during that season that you hadn’t known before?

I learned how to never let anyone or any circumstance derail my confidence. I learned how to separate myself away from all negativity and focus on the goal I had and that was to be a pro. 

In the 97-81 win over Tennessee State you exploded for 36 points. What do you remember most about this game and do you feel like this truly put you on the NCAA map? 

This game was a great game. Tennessee State was one of the best teams in the OVC and I honestly felt that I couldn’t miss that game. At one point I think I had 12 points in 1 min. I always go back and watch that game on YouTube. 

You were teammates with German Jerelle Reischel who has BBL experience. What do you remember most about his game and what was your fondest moment with him? 

That’s my guy till this day. He is very talented, he can play multiple positions and he has a smooth jump shot. My fondest moment was just always being at the apartment in college playing video games, and watching NBA highlights. We we’re always around each other back at Eastern Kentucky. 

You played a last year at Fordham after graduating from Eastern Kentucky. Why did you do that? You had had a great season at Eastern Kentucky and could of started your professional career sooner? 

A lot of people ask me this question. But when I left South Florida I signed with Eastern Kentucky under head coach Jeff Neubauer, well after I sat out that one year he left Eastern Kentucky and took the head coaching job at Fordham, I tried to leave with him right away because of the player-coach relationship we had and still have till this day and the NCAA denied it unless I graduated that summer. However I didn’t have enough college credits to graduate that summer because I was only a junior in college so I had to play one year at Eastern Kentucky in order to graduate and transfer to play right away without sitting out at Fordham the next year. The reason I left EKU is because I met people at Fordham who I knew I could have and leave an impact on till this day vise versa. And also that’s where I picked up my defensive principles and having a defensive mindset under Jeff Neubauer and every year I thank him for that. 

In your last season you were teammates with German Christian Sengfelder. Would you have thought then that he would develop so well as a player? And how excited are you to be playing him this season and do you have any friendly bets already going?

Big C! That’s my guy, every since I’ve known Chris he’s been an extremely hard worker; I knew once we were out of college he was going to thrive in being a professional, we have no friendly bets but I’m looking forward to playing against him and talking with him as well. I wish him the best success this year. 

How did head coach Jeff Neubauer give you that last push in helping you be groomed and prepared best for a professional career? 

He helped me with having a defensive mindset, He always helped me with being a leader and doing the right thing by making the right choices, I will always appreciate him for that. 

Who won a one on one in practice you or Will Tavares?

I did. 3 dribbles max. 

Who has been the toughest player that you battled in the NCAA that is in the NBA or in Europe?

Toughest player I had to battle I would say Russ Smith at Louisville. 

Please list your five best teammates of all-time?

Zach LeDay Andrew Wiggins Aaron Jones Tobin Carberry Jaylon Brown 

Please name your personal own NBA Rushmore. Which four heads would you pick past or present for your list?

Michael Jordan Kobe Bryant Magic Johnson LeBron James 

What is your personal opinion of the never ending debate of who is the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan or Lebron James?

Michael Jordan not because of the rings but because he retired twice and still has the stats he had. Just imagine if he never retired. 

What was the last movie that you saw?

Lion King

Thanks Javontae for the chat.

Kevin Franceschi(Vivechrom A.O. Agriniou) The Mamba Mentality” Is Something Everybody Should Adopt Into Their Daily Lives

Kevin Franceshi is a 26 year old 190cm guard from Argenteuil, France that is playing his third professional season and first with Vivechrom A.O. Agriniou (Greece-A2) currently averaging 15,9ppg, 2,9rpg and 1,6apg. Last season he played in Germany with Pro B team BBC Coburg averaging 15,3ppg, 4,4rpg and 2,4apg. As a rookie he played with BEHAPPY2 – CB Myrtia (Spain-LEB Silver) playing 30 games averaging 9.8ppg, 2.8rpg, 1.2apg, FGP: 49.2%, 3PT: 31.1%, FT: 62.2%. In the states he played with three schools with Weatherford JC (JUCO) playing 9 games averaging 5.6ppg, 1.7rpg, 2.0apg, FGP: 37.5%, 3PT: 10.5%, FT: 22.2%, UMKC (NCAA) playing 25 games averaging 2.6ppg and with Oklah.Baptist (NCAA2) playing 22 games averaging 13.9ppg, 4.9rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 38.9%, 3PT: 21.5%, FT: 82.7%. He spoke to about his memories of Kobe Bryant.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and Kevin Franceshi in Frankfurt in 2019

Where were you and how did you find about the death of Kobe Bryant?

I was on the phone with a close friend of mine when my big brother texted me ‘Kobe just passed away’. It Still feels unreal… My Thoughts are going to all the victims and their family. 

When I heard about it, I thought it was a hoax. What were your first thoughts when you heard about it?

I never had this feeling before, where you just sit there and can’t react. I didn’t want to believe it. I never met him but I feel like I knew him, watched him so much playing and doing interviews etc…

How much of your day the day after did you take informing yourself about his death and watching videos?

I Watched mostly a lot of tributes to him, and heard new stories about him from the best players around the NBA. I didn’t want to learn about the way he died and the details necessarily.

You were born in 1993. You were 3 when he began with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1996. Can you remember about when you first knew about Kobe Bryant and what was your first impression of him as a kid? 

The first NBA jersey that I bought was his jersey (#24 in white) He was my favorite player with MJ and Iverson. I binged watched his highlights and try to imitate him at the playground growing up 

How did your love for Kobe Bryant develop over time as you got through childhood and high school? How do you remember following his career?. You were in high school when he won again in 2010

I loved everything about Kobe, his work ethic, determination, how he carried himself professionally a great role model. He inspired me to work harder, stay curious about the game, and that’s how I developed a true love for the game. I remember his finals run from 2008 to 2010, I watched all the games during the playoffs. I watched his last game against OKC in Oklahoma at the Chesapeake arena, during his farewell tour. Just watching him warm up was amazing for me. A True legend for us. 

Kobe Bryant was for so many the greatest ever. What did you appreciate most about his game? Was he a guy that you pretended to be on the playgrounds? 

I appreciated everything. He didn’t have any flaws, and he was a 2 way player, playing defense and offense. 12 times selected in the all defensive teams… as a pure scorer. Nowadays scorers don’t play defense anymore, the mentality is different. All of us tried to imitate his shots, his dunks, his game winners.

Kobe Bryant had so many amazing games like his 81 points and countless other games where it was lights out as well as winning 5 titles. What is your fondest memory of him of what he did on the court? 

My favorite memories were when he had the afro and #8, my favorite version of him. The series in 2001, he established himself as a superstar and carried the team. I still take #8 over #24. More exciting to watch in my opinion. 

The outpouring of sadness was incredible in the last 24 hours. Guys were crying and leaving heart felt messages on Social Media. How long do you think it will take until the basketball world comes to terms with this tragedy? 

The greatest athlete of our generation, everybody knew Kobe Bryant, worldwide. He’s like a God in China, and many other countries outside of his native home. It’s crazy how many people payed tribute to him after his death, we’re talking billions.

When you look back in 20 years on the career of Kobe Bryant how will you remember his legacy best?

I’ll remember him as somebody that gave everything. He had for what he loved the most, basketball. The ‘mamba mentality’ is something everybody should adopt into their daily lives, no matter what kind of jobs they are doing and what they are passionate about. 

One of my last questions in my standard interviews is what is your opinion of the neverending debate of who is the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan or Lebron James. Often players remind me that I left out Kobe Bryant.I have been thinking about this a lot in the last. How worthy is a Kobe Bryant to be seen as the greatest of all-time?

I’ll always put MJ first, but Kobe second and then Lebron. We all have a different opinions on it and I don’t think there’s a ‘right answer’, it’s all about preferences and how you see them as players. Kobe is not only up there with the greatest players, but the greatest athletes of all time as well.

My last question isn’t what is the last movie you saw, but what video of Kobe Bryant will you take a look again when you have some time to look back at his great career? 

My favorite Kobe Bryant videos are called ‘Kobe Bryant Greatness HD’ and ‘Kobe Bryant Clinic’ on youtube, I watch those all the time.

Thanks Kevin for sharing your memories of Kobe Bryant.

Josh Sharma(Proximus Spirou Charleroi) Looks and Plays Like Rudy Gobert

Josh Sharma is a 24 year old 213cm center that was born in Lexington, Mass and is playing his rookie season with Proximus Spirou Charleroi (Belgium-Euromillions League). Currently he is averaging 10,0ppg, 4,5rpg and 1,2bpg in the Euromillions league and 8,2ppg, 6,4rpg and 1,5bpg in the Fiba Europe Cup. He played at Stanford form 2015-2019 playing a total of 120 NCAA games and as a senior 10.2ppg, 7.1rpg, 1.4bpg, FGP: 68.0%, FT: 67.9%. Last summer he as with the Utah Jazz (NBA Summer League in Salt Lake City) playing 2 games averaging 4.5ppg, 4.0rpg
and also played with the Utah Jazz (MGM Resorts NBA Summer League in Las Vegas) playing 3 games averaging 11.3ppg, 3.7rpg, 1.7bpg, FGP: 87.5%, FT: 66.7%. He spoke to about his basketball career before a Fiba Europe Cup game against medi Bayreuth in Bayreuth.

Josh thanks for talking to Where were you when you heard about the death of Kobe Bryant and what did he mean to you as a player?

I heard about his death after practice. We were in the locker room. I didn’t believe it at first. Kobe meant so much to me as a player and person. It was really hard taking the news. 

Welcome to Germany. Is this your first time in Germany or have you been here before and what do you know in general about the country Germany and it’s basketball? Did your ex Stanford teammate Oscar Da Silva give you the lowdown on German basketball in the two years where you were teammates?

This is my first time in Germany. I don’t know too much. My ex teammate at Stanford Oscar da Silva told me a little about the country. He did tell me that the October Fest is a must see. 

Your playing your first season for Proximus Spirou Charleroi (Belgium-Euromillions League). What kind of experience has it been playing for this club. What have you appreciated the most about your overseas experience so far?

It’s been a good year with the usual ups and downs something rookies encounter. I have taken the whole experience as a learning experience. This the first time that I have lived on my own in a foreign country. I have been very fortunate that my teammates have helped me through the process.

Proximus Spirou Charleroi (Belgium-Euromillions League has been struggling a bit so far in the country league. Is this a classic example of a club still trying to find itself with 7 new imports?

We started off the season slow, but in recent weeks have stepped it up and turned the corner. We made the cup final and beat Limburg last weekend. We are headed in the right direction and want to finish the second half strong.

How much potential do you feel does the club have? Where is the biggest strength of the team and what is the biggest part of the game that the team has to work the most on?

If we can continue to play with confidence the way we did in the last games, then we should be ok. We have to play more consistent defense.

Let’s talk a bit about your teammates. There are some experienced Americans on the team, but no one is more experienced than Belgium player Alex Hervelle. What kind of a role model has he been for you and what do you appreciate most about his game?

Alex’s maturity and knowledge has really helped me. He is a guy that always gets us going in practice. He also always competes at a high level. 

Joe Rahon is a very talented point guard, but he departed for the Fraport Skyliners. What has been your impression of new point guard Kenneth Smith? Do you feel like he is the missing piece for new success?

Joe is a great player, but speedy has really helped us out. He showed what he can bring to the table by getting a triple double in the first game. He is a guard that really is able to do everything on the floor for us. 

Let’s talk about your game. You’re a 213cm center. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would best fit the description?

I have heard that I look and play like Rudy Gobert. I have the game where I can score around the rim and block shots.

You’re a player that can shoot, rebound and block shots well. What other strengths does your game incorporate?

I think that my pick and roll on offense is an added strength of mine.

Nowadays more and more big men have developed a three pointer. You have taken many three’s since Stanford. Is developing an outside shot something on your to do list?

Yes that is something on my to do list. I started taking three’s at the NBA Pre draft workouts. I’m not using it as much this season, but will intend to do so and develop it further in the future. 

What do you feel is a hidden strength in your game that doesn’t always get noticed?

My jump shot. I feel that I have a nice mid range game. 

Last summer you played NBA Summer League with the Utah Jazz. You improved your scoring in each game. What kind of experience was it for you and do you feel like NBA teams noticed you?

Yes I think I did. I had something like 13 work outs with NBA teams. It was a learning experience. I got a better feel at what it takes to play at the NBA level. I did improve each game.

Did you have a cool experience from the NBA Summer League? Like meeting an NBA legend or getting some positive input from a team GM or something else?

It was nice to play for the Salt Lake City club. They had their own tournament in Salt Lake City. You felt that you were part of the Jazz organization. We were able to use their facilities. 

You played at Stanford from 2015-2019. How tough was it the first 3 years averaging 9 minutes per season twice and 13 minutes in the other season. How did your role your first three seasons prepare you for your Senior year where you had a bigger role?

I wasn’t an impact player for my first three years. I played behind guys like Reid Traves and Mike Humpfrey. 
Those guys really helped prepare for my time when I got a bigger role as a senior. Seeing their work ethic and athleticism on a daily basis really helped me.

Was your 23/18 game in the 93-86 victory over Long Beach one of your best individual performances?

I remember that game well. That was my first real good game in my senior year. I remember that I didn’t start that game or wasn’t the first guy off the bench. I came in something like with 10 minutes to play in the first half. I was very efficient in that game. 

You were teammates for two years with Oscar da Silva. He is very serious about his studies. Do you see him seriously passing up a professional basketball career for a normal high paying job?

He is a unique interesting kid. He had that special Euro swag. He was one of the smartest kids that I met at Stanford. And that is saying a lot considering how many smart kids go there. It is hard to say if he would pass up a professional basketball career for a normal job. It would have to do with what opportunities he has. But it wouldn’t surprise me if he did. He has strong interests outside basketball. 

How did you see the basketball development of Oscar da Silva? He is having a very good season and is a modern bigman that can do a little bit of everything. Could you picture him as an NBA player after 4 years at Stanford?

Yes I think so. I haven’t watched to much of him this season. He recently had a very good game against Oregon and was player of the week. He can do it all on offense. He was already doing everything for us last season. I think that if he continues to work hard and develop that he can be an NBA player. 

How did head coach Jerod Haase groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?

The most important thing he gave me was letting me know that I have to always continue working through ups and downs. I didn’t have a great Stanford career. I had to put in the work and wait for the right opportunities. 

Who won a one on one in practice you or Oscar da Silva?

He won on the perimeter as I don’t have the best handles and I won inside. 

Who is the toughest player that you battled in the NCAA that made the NBA?

I’m not sure.

Please list your 5 best teammates of all-time?

There are too many.

Please construct your own personal NBA Rushmore of past and present heads.

Lebron James, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Shaq

What was the last movie that you saw?

A fall From Grace.

Thanks Josh for the chat.