Nothing comes easy for BG Halstenbek/Pinneberg in their first 1. Regionalliga North season. Once dubbed an ambitious program with big plans, reality arrived early as the team suffered 12 losses in 13 games until the "Holstein Hoppers" named Mario Protuder a new head coach in January and snapped a 11 game losing streak with a 79-69 win over Bernau on Saturday. "It was a huge relief because as you know we were on a pretty long losing streak so it was good for us to see that our perseverance and hard work finally paid off. Also, mentally it was good for us because they are 3rd in the league so it also gives us a little boost psychologically. As far as personally, it was my best game this season, so I think it's going to help me moving forward to stay hungry and finish out the season strong", Eric Kibi (198-F-90, college: Abil.Christian) said. The 22-year-old Canadian forward paved the way with 30 points, connecting on 68.4% of his attempts (13-for-19), and five rebounds.
But the RLN newcomer still has a huge amount of work to do to climb the ladder. To avoid relegation at least five wins out of the eight games remaining are required. "Of course I think it is possible, but if we begin to think about it in that way it will become difficult. I think that if we just focus on one game at a time and not look too far ahead anything is possible. Even though the season hasn't gone the way we wanted it to, I have a lot of confidence in my team. We have a lot of heart on this team, guys never quit. We have been in almost every game this season, it's just always little mistakes that cost us in the end of games. If we cut down on those, I think we will be right there in the end", Kibi told Eurobasket.com.
Mario Protuder who overtook coaching duties from player/coach Zoran Krezic (190-G-79) earlier this month, seems to have changed quite a bit within only a couple of days. While Krezic opted to focus on helping his team on the basketball court, running the point, Protuder provides experience and knowledge on the bench: "I really like Mario a lot, he is a great teacher of the game of basketball. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from such a great coach like him, he's coached in some of the top leagues so I am excited to learn from him. He has brought a lot of energy and passion to our practices, he's very good at pointing out the small details and making them teaching points. Mario also holds everyone accountable, first thing he told me when I met him was that, he knew that I was one of the league leaders in points and rebounds but that he didn't care and that he was going to hold me accountable for everything - got to love that", Kibi said.
Krezic, who played for SC Rist Wedel in the 2. Bundesliga in the late 90s and then spent two years playing in the BBL at Wuerzburg and BC Hamburg, scored 10 points in the win over Bernau to go along with five assists, three steals and two boards. "I still think Zoran was a great coach", Kibi said who added: "He's a great leader but I think it was just a tough situation to balance out the coaching and the playing as it would on any team with a player/coach. I think with him just playing now, it's a burden off his shoulders. Zoran has 1st league (BBL) experience, played with Dirk Nowitzki in his youth and he can still play so he really helps us at the point where I think we we're very young and struggling a bit. He's a smart player and even though he's not the coach anymore he's still someone I look up to for advice during the game. I appreciate everything he's done for me to grow as a player."
The Hoppers return to RLN play this weekend, traveling to the Bodfeld Baskets who are being paced by the league's leading scorer, Everage Richardson (191-G-85, college: Co.Carolina): "Everage is a great player obviously", Kibi said. "I think he was the top scorer in any league in the world last year. With a guy like that, I think you have to limit his touches and once he does get the ball have to make his shots as difficult as possible. He's obviously going to get his points, but we just have to make it as difficult as we can for him. As far as winning the game, I think it starts on the defensive end, last game we played them it was a shootout - I think both teams scored over 90 points. I think if we play defense and execute with poise on the other end then we have a great chance. If I remember correctly, last game it was maybe a 4 or 5 point game so we were right there. It should be a great atmosphere, I hear they have great passionate fans."
Plenty of work ahead for Kibi and his team - on Saturday and in the weeks to come. On a squad filled with veterans the 22-year-old forward is providing solid showings in his first year overseas. Tallying 20.0 points a game he is shining as the team's leading scorer and also pulls down 9.2 rebounds per outing. But at the end of the day, Kibi's strong performances resulted in only two wins so far this season: "You know I am not going to make excuses, we have to look at ourselves in the mirror. We just haven't executed down the stretch in games. Third quarters have been very tough for us this year. It seems that every third quarter we have a mental let down for some reason, but hopefully that will change in the remaining games. I think our youth sometimes shows on defense with rotations and all that but those are things that we can work on. However, the heart and effort is always there which is a good sign for the remaining 8 games. It's been very frustrating at times, it's hard to work so hard everyday at practice and then your hard work doesn't get rewarded in games. Before the Bernau game we went almost two months without winning a game so that can really test you as player and a person. Fortunately, I have a great support system with my mom and dad who have helped keep my morale up and also here on the team also. I can't tell you how important Veterans like Mac Davis Duah and Ionnis Tringas have been for me, they're guys who have been pros for many years and they've really helped me during some of my lowest times so its been great having them to lean on and learn from. Personally, I'm just trying to make this a learning experience in my career and make the best of the situation", Kibi said.
The Canadian spent his university career at Jacksonville College, followed by stints at Arkansas-Little Rock and Abilene Christian. He averaged 8.2 points and 5.7 rebounds for the NCAA D2 school as a senior and jumped on the chance to take his game to Germany: "The fact that I had a difficult Senior season in college didn't help much", he says. "Zoran and the club were one of the few teams to respond and take a chance on me so I was very grateful for that. I think I have proved a lot of coaches wrong with my play, I've been in the top 5 in the league in scoring and rebounding at 20 and 10. I just wish it would of translated into more wins. As far as my impression of Germany, it's been a great eye-opening experience. To be so far away from home alone really helped me grow up a lot as a man and not take anything for granted. My teammates still consider me young at 22 but I feel that four years of college basketball makes up for that. I've won a conference championship (Sun Belt) and played in the NCAA tournament so that brings great experience but nothing compares to being in a foreign country alone. It's a totally different than college, you have to be really strong mentally, have an open mind and humble yourself when you come out here because everything is different, the food, the language, the culture, everything."
Despite the difficulties, Kibi has developed a liking for playing overseas: "Right now now I am focused on making sure our team isn't relegated and winning as many games as possible in these last 8 games. I am not completely sure of the future yet. Of course as a competitor my goal is to keep working hard to move up in leagues and eventually play in one of the top leagues in Europe - that is a huge dream of mine. Every level I have played at I have always been doubted so that's always great motivation for me to stay hungry and keep pushing. I think this season I've proven I can play at this level and be successful, but for right now I am focused on Halstenbek/Pinneberg and when the season is over I'll get together with my agent and evaluate what next season has in store."
Surrey Scorchers (BBL) strengthened their roster with addition of 23-year old American forward Gabe McCray (201-91kg-94, college: South Carolina State). He supposed to play at SC Rasta Vechta in German BBL league. McCray played in the final of MEAC Tournament. He received All-MDJUCO 1st Team award back in 2014 at his college time. McCray graduated from South Carolina State in 2016 and it is his first season in pro basketball. By Eurobasket Data Center Check also Complete Transfers List... [read more]
Surrey Scorchers (BBL) strengthened their roster with addition of 23-year old American forward Gabe McCray (201-91kg-94, college: South Carolina State). He supposed to play at SC Rasta Vechta in German BBL league. McCray played in the final of MEAC Tournament. He received All-MDJUCO 1st Team award back in 2014 at his college time. McCray graduated from South Carolina State in 2016 and it is his first season in pro basketball.
Will Cummings (188-G-92, college: Temple) is a 24 year old 188cm point guard from Jacksonville, Florida playing his second professional season and first with Aris Thessaloniki (Greece-A1) averaging 15,2ppg, 3,6rpg and 3,7apg in Champions League play. He played at Temple (NCAA) from 2011-2015 amassing a total of 111 NCAA games and as a senior played 36 games averaging 14.8ppg, 4.1rpg, 4.2apg, 1.9spg, FGP: 46.4%, 3PT: 22.9%, FT: 80.8%. As a rookie last season he played for the Houston Rocke... [read more]
Will Cummings (188-G-92, college: Temple) is a 24 year old 188cm point guard from Jacksonville, Florida playing his second professional season and first with Aris Thessaloniki (Greece-A1) averaging 15,2ppg, 3,6rpg and 3,7apg in Champions League play. He played at Temple (NCAA) from 2011-2015 amassing a total of 111 NCAA games and as a senior played 36 games averaging 14.8ppg, 4.1rpg, 4.2apg, 1.9spg, FGP: 46.4%, 3PT: 22.9%, FT: 80.8%. As a rookie last season he played for the Houston Rockets (NBA), released in Oct.'15, then moved to Rio Grande Valley Vipers (D-League): 52 games: 20.5ppg, 3.6rpg, 4.7apg, 2.0spg, 2FGP: 53.7%, 3FGP: 37.7%, FT: 78.5%, in Apr.'16 signed at Dolomiti Energia Trento (Italy-Serie A): 4 games: 9.5ppg, 2.3rpg, 1.3apg, 1.0spg. he spoke to eurobasket recently after Aris had beat the Fraport Skyliners in Germany in Champions League action.
Welcome to Germany Will. Is this your first time in Germany? What do you know about the country and it's basketball?
Yes that was my first time in Germany. I don't really know too much about their basketball since this is really my first year playing basketball overseas. I just know Germany has great cities to live in and visit.
Do you have any other friends currently playing in Germany besides TJ DiLeo? I think another former temple player Ryan Brooks might currently be playing in Germany. I know he has in the past.
Your playing your first complete season in Europe after being a rookie in the D-league last season and then played briefly with Dolomiti Energia Trento (Italy-Serie A): 4 games: 9.5ppg, 2.3rpg, 1.3apg, 1.0spg. What was your wake up call to being in Europe for the first time and playing professional ball?
I would say my wake up call was playing against Milan in the first round of the Italian playoffs. Jumping right into an important and high level situation for your first experience forces you to learn quickly.
This season you are playing for Aris Thessaloniki (Greece-A1). You are playing in a very strong league with many talented imports from around the world. As a point guard what do you believe has been the biggest adjustment for you getting accustomed to the European game? As a point guard I believe the biggest adjustment is learning the defenses that are being played in Europe. I played in the D league for a full season so you get accustomed to the amount of space on the court. In Europe everything is more compact so you have to find ways to still be affective with less space.
Currently the team is in sixth place in Greece and have a 8-4 record in the Champions League. What is the biggest difference for you in style and talent between the two leagues? I would say the biggest difference is the refs from European games and Greece games.
Your rocking in both competitions in the Greek league as well as in the Champions League. Just from the stats would it be fair to say that you a scoring point guard first and playmaker second?
I don't like to label myself. I leave that for other people evaluating my game. I just try to be affective and make plays in each game to help my team win.
When you were growing up who were your NBA role models and to what NBA player would you say does your game now resemble most?
Growing up my NBA role models were Allen Iverson and Chris Paul. I feel like I have a mixture of different players I resemble at different times. I feel like I have my own identity.
How valuable has your teammate Michael Jenkins been for in the first few months in terms of you getting accustomed to the league and life? Has he taken you a bit under your wing?
Mike has helped me a lot getting adjusted to life in Europe. Showing me the in and outs of just living on your own for a long period of time out of America.
How tough has it been with pronouncing the names of your teammates? Do you invent short nicknames for a guy like Vasilis Xanthopolous? But this name isn't even that difficult because many of the Greek names have that Thopolous on the end?
The names haven't been that difficult to pronounce but I have developed nicknames for all of them to eliminate me having to pronounce them.
How do you feel is your game improving on a daily basis when you go head to head each day with Xanthopolous in practice? Do you feel like your basketball IQ is at a different level than what it was before you came to Europe?
Going against Xanthopolous in practice has helped me because he has such a great feel for the game. He makes you figure out ways to try and out smart him. I do feel that I'm learning more.
As a rookie in 2015 you played NBA Summer League with the Houston Rockets and then was signed and played six pre season games before getting waived. Every player I talk with that has been in a NBA training camp has had their story, but how was it with you. How did you learn in this month experience that at the end of the day basketball will always be a business no matter how talented you are? NBA training camp was definitely and eye opener and showed me this basketball is business so it made me a lot stronger and mentally tougher to deal with my new lifestyle.
You were playing against a guy like Patrick Beverly who had played 5 years in Europe before making the jump to the NBA. When you compare your game to a guy like that what do you believe is still missing in your game to reach the NBA?
I don't believe anything is really missing from my game to be in the NBA. I would like to be a more consistent pull up shooter but opportunity just has to be given.
Last season as a rookie you had a very strong season with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers (D-League): 52 games: 20.5ppg, 3.6rpg, 4.7apg, 2.0spg, 2FGP: 53.7%, 3FGP: 37.7%, FT: 78.5%. For a talented guy like you not scoring in double figures in 35 minutes per game is hard, but you still showed immense consistency doing it in all 52 games. Did you feel like you had deserved an NBA call up?
I definitely believe I deserved an NBA call up.
Last summer you played NBA Summer League with the San Antonio Spurs. Is Europe a stepping stone for you to develop your game and continue to try for the NBA in the future? Yes Europe is a stepping stone to still try and make the NBA.
You played at Temple (NCAA) from 2011-2015. How did head coach Fran Dunphy groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career? Fran Dunphy was the best thing that happened to my basketball career. He groomed me into a man and the tough player that I am today. I thank him for that.
You played two seasons with TJ DiLeo who is playing his 4th season in Germany. How annoying was his aggressive defense in practice every day and how do you believe did you profit from his presence on the floor?
I honestly can't really remember practices back. So much time has passed.
You surely had many memorable games at temple8NCAA), but where do the back to back wins against Uconn and Memphis rank towards the end of your senior season?
Those back to back wins get thought about a lot. They are high on my list because I thought those two wins secured us into the NCAA tournament but we were robbed. Also, beating UCONN was on senior night. Having my whole family there was memorable.
You played against many great players in the NCAA, but what player was your toughest opponent that is in the NBA now?
I didn't have any.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Devin Coleman?
Great question. I can't remember but I'm sure I did haha.
Jacksonville seems to be a city that grooms future NFL players with very few basketball people as the most notable are Otis Smith and Dee Brown. If you could have a dinner with Dee Brown what would you want to most about his basketball experience he had?
I would want to know most about his workout habits and what he did to take himself to another leve
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore, which 4 heads would you choose? Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, Kobe, Kareem
Lebron finally brought an NBA title to the Cavs. Where does he stand at the moment in the never ending debate with where he stands as the best of all-time?
MJ is the GOAT.
Where do you rank Kevin Garnett with the best power forwards that ever played the game?
National All-Star Team Schwethelm Kleber Lo Seiferth Heckmann 7 Philipp Schwethelm (201-SF-89) of Oldenburg MVP 42 Maximilian Kleber (207-PF-92) of Bayern 5 Niels Giffey (200-G/F-91) of ALBA 12 Maodo Lo (191-G-92) of Bamberg 11 Andreas Seiferth (209-C-89) of Bayreuth 22 Danilo Barthel (208-PF-91) of Bayern 32 Johannes Thiemann (204-PF-94) of Ludwigsburg 34 Christian Standhardinger (206-F-89) of Vechta 9 Maurice Stuckey (187-PG-90) of Wuerzburg 25 Anton Gavel (189-PG-84)... [read more]