On paper the ProB is just the third league in Germany. But in recent years many great players were able to leave a mark and make themselves a name in this league. The best example is probably Spot Up Medien Baskets Zack Wright. The American playmaker made it from Braunschweig’s ProB team to an All-Star in the first division in France.
This season many great point guards entered the league and their stats could serve them as a stepping stone to a great career in Europe. One of these promising players is former Northern Arizona playmaker Josh Wilson. The 22-year old point guard had a nice college career (All-time Assist leader in NA history) and started his pro career with Erdgas Ehingen this season. On a young team full of german talents Wilson had to show his leadership skills and had an impressive rookie season in Europe.
He took some time to talk to German Hoops about his first experiences in Europe.
After 4 years of NCAA basketball with Northern Arizona you turned pro last summer. Was that something you always planned to do? And how did you end up in Germany?
Becoming a professional basketball player is something that every basketball player dreams about. It’s something I strived for every day in my high school and college career. To be able to see it happen here in Germany has been a very fulfilling experience. I ended up here in Germany through my website, joshwilsonbasketball.com that has video and information about me and I sent the information out to teams. Nico Drmota saw my website and asked my former teammate Kristian Kuhn on the team about me. It ended up working out well and I got the opportunity to come to Ehingen.
In your senior season with Northern Arizona your numbers dropped in almost every category. What were the main reasons for that? And did this hurt your chances on becoming a pro baller?
My last year at Northern Arizona was an extremely difficult one in almost every way. I was hurt pretty much the entire season with, patellar tendonitis, iliopsoas tendonitis, sprained ankle, and I ended the season with a broken right foot. I tried to play through it all but I wasn’t near 100%. It was very disappointing because of our record as a team and my production as an individual. I might have still been ok going pro but I broke my foot a second time in the summer. When the end of the summer came around I thought for sure I wouldn’t get a job due to my injuries but luckily Ehingen took a chance with me and allowed me the time to get healthy. I am very thankful for the opportunity they have given me.
How difficult was it for you to adapt your style to the European game? And what are the major differences between NCAA basketball and Germany’s ProB for you as a player?
Some of the things that I had to get use to are the differences between a travel and what is considered an offensive foul. I’ve been taught my whole life to do things a different way so it’s been hard to do. I’ve definitely had a few more offensive fouls and travels then I would have liked this year. The 24 second shot clock also took some getting use but that is a difference that I enjoy. The game is much faster which makes it fun as a player. NCAA basketball is much more physical and has deliberate style of grinding out each possession. That can sometimes make it more tactical, but in the end basketball is basketball.
I often hear about rookies complaining about being homesick, isolated and bored during their first year overseas. How did you cope with living in another country and being away from home? Or are you the kind of guy who enjoys spending time in Europe?
Being overseas has been difficult as well as enjoyable for me. I feel in college I was able to get use to being away from home so that wasn’t as big of a deal. What has been hard is I recently got engaged and my fiancé is at home going to school which has made me very homesick. That to go along being so far from my family has been a challenge. But it’s something in the end you are grateful for because you learn to appreciate them even more. Dealing with isolation and boredom isn’t really an issue for me because I am pursuing a Masters in Business Administration online, which has kept me busy in my spare time. I want to make sure I am in a good position whenever my basketball career ends, and I believe using my spare time for education will do just that. As far as being in Europe, I love it. I majored in History in college so being surrounded by the history I learned so much about has been an amazing experience.
What did you know about German basketball in general and Ehingen before you came here?
I knew a little bit about German basketball from my college teammate, Kelly Golob, who played here a few years back. My friend Ross Jorgusen currently coaches in Germany for a NBBL team who often plays our youth program, so he was able to reassure me on my decision to come to Ehingen. Other than that the only information I had was what I could find on the internet. Wikipedia said it was close to Ulm where the tallest church in the world is and where Albert Einstein was born. But that’s about it. There wasn’t too much information on Ehingen though, haha.
Erdgas Ehingen/Urspringschule is especially known for its fine youth program. The average age of the team is the youngest in the league with just 19.4 and you are the third oldest player being just 22 years old. But according to your Eurobasket profile your strengths are running a team along with your mental toughness and leadership skills. Was that the kind of role you were hoping and looking for in Europe? Or would you rather have signed with a first division team that offers a backup job for 5 minutes per game?
That role is definitely something I am use to and for the most part enjoy. I believe I did an ok job leading the young guys this year but I feel I could have done better. I saw myself coming to Europe playing with guys much older than me so it was unexpected to be in such a familiar role. My role for Ehingen was very similar to my college role with young players. I believe there have been many advantages of playing with the younger guys that I wouldn’t have had playing on a first division as a backup. I was able to improve my leadership skills, learn from my mistakes, and gain a better perspective on what to concentrate on improving this summer. I don’t believe as a backup I would have had that chance. That being said I probably could have learned a variety of things in the backup role, but I think would have enjoyed my time much less.
At the age of 22 you are still very young and it seems logical that you could have benefited from having a mentor yourself. Instead you need to be a mentor and leader to the young players at Ehingen. Did you experience that more as a challenge or was it sometimes difficult?
It was definitely difficult at times. I often have had to remind myself how young the players I play with are. My patience wasn’t always there which I regret but again I was able to learn a ton from it. The players on my team are extremely talented and I think will turn out to be great players. I think I would benefit greatly from a mentor or a point guard with pro experience. I have never had the opportunity to play alongside an older more experienced point guard. This last summer I got to know Dan Dickau who lives in Vancouver, WA where my family lives, but being injured I didn’t have very many opportunities to play with him. I plan on working for his basketball academy this summer and hope to suck up as much information as I can from him on what it takes to be a point guard at the professional level.
I don’t think it is just the hair. But in some ways your game reminds me of Steve Nash. Is the two-time NBA MVP something of a role-model for you? Or to what NBA player would you compare your game to?
I think any smart point guard would try to take things from Steve Nash’s game and apply them to his own. He is so creative in how approaches the game and his work ethic is something that I greatly admire. If I had to pick an NBA player to compare myself to I would most definitely say I strive to be like Steve Nash. Steve Nash is also a good person and a hard worker. Two things I hope I can become more than any set of basketball skills.
You can shoot the ball, penetrate to the basket, organize the offense and you can even dunk the ball. On what aspects of your game do you still need to improve?
First, thank you for the kind words. I personally feel there is an enormous amount for me to improve on to become the player that I want to be. I am very excited to be 100% healthy and have an entire summer to work on my game. I will go into the summer looking to focus on some key aspects. Number one is turnovers. My turnover numbers were too high and I will not allow that to continue on to next year. I will focus on European footwork, balance, and of course continue to improve ball handling.
I want to concentrate on becoming more athletic in my first step, flexibility, and balance. I will implement some of my old track workouts and football running back drills that I used in high school. I think they worked very well then and from what I’ve been reading sounds like the way to go. Now that I am healthy I have no excuse for being a mediocre defender. Defense is something that has to be worked on just like a jump shot and I will devote a large portion of the summer to defense. Other than that I hope to continue working on all facets of my game to become a well rounded point guard.
There are a lot of good Americans in the ProB this season. Especially on the playmaker position players like Will Chavis, Ahmad Smith or Willis Gardner were impressive. Who was your toughest opponent this season?
It’s hard to say who the toughest player I played against was. Unfortunately, I never got the chance to play against Willis Gardner but I have a very high opinion of the other two you mentioned. You have to respect Will Chavis’s consistency this season. He constantly had one great performance after another. That being said I am going to have to go with Ahmad Smith. He is a very well rounded player, which is obvious if you look at his statistics. As a point guard you’re not use to having the player you guard crashing the offensive glass that hard. He also has great patience in letting the game come to him which reminded me of Rodney Stuckey (Detroit Pistons) who played for Eastern Washington in my college conference. You can never relax when guarding Ahmad. It will fun to see where some of the players from this season end up next year.
Stephen Sir is the only other import player on your team. He has spent his college days at Northern Arizona, too and you were teammates from 2005-2007. Did you recommend the management to sign him? Or was it just coincidence that two Northern Arizona alumnis ended up in Ehingen this season?
I don’t know how, but Steve didn’t have a job in December which worked out great for us after Nolan Richardson left. I wasn’t sure if it would work out but I let our management know about Steve and what great shooter he was. They trusted my opinion and luckily it worked out well for everyone and I got the chance to play with him again. I don’t think many people get the chance to play with a college teammate and friend so I feel fortunate for that. As I said earlier Kristian Kuhn also played with me at NAU for a few months which makes it even more unique.
Sometimes the world of basketball seems very small. Are there some players in Germany you still know from your college days? I think e.g. former Idaho State and MBC player Matt Stucki played in the Big Sky Conference.
There are a few players from the Big Sky that I know are in Germany but I didn’t get the chance to play against or see them this year. J.R. Moore and Andre Murray from Portland State play here and I knew Matt Stucki did as well. Over Easter Steve Sir and I had the chance to go see another college teammate in the Czech Republic, Kyle Landry which was very cool. I kept saying how crazy is this. I’m from Longview, WA you two are from Canada, we went to school in Flagstaff, Arizona and now we are hanging out in the Czech Republic. Pretty crazy. It’s amazing where basketball can take you. It definitely makes the world seem small.
Your teammate Ruben Spoden had some nice words for you when I asked him about you. What do you think about him and his development this season? And what is your opinion about other German talents like Cornelius Adler and Justin Raffington?
Ruben has done an excellent job for us this season. You can easily see the improvements he has made from the beginning of the season until now. Ruben is one of those guys who are in the gym everyday working on his shot, something you have to have in order to be great. I expect big things from Ruben in the future. The other guys are also very talented. Cornelius and Justin have a ton of ability and will only improve with experience. Even the rest of the young guys such as Mario Blessing, Felix Engel, Kevin Bright and Tobias Korndoerfer have very bright futures ahead of them. I know Justin is already headed to University of San Francisco next year, but it will be fun to see where the rest of them end up as well. Our program does an outstanding job in developing young talent.
Ehingen was one of the top teams this ProB season. But you did not make it to the top 2 teams to get promoted to the ProA league. What was the team still missing to reach that goal?
I think what we missed most was consistency. At times we played very well, well enough to beat anyone. But we also proved that when we played bad we could also lose to anyone. If we could have came ready to play every game I feel we would have finished in the top two spots. We definitely had the talent to. I was really hoping to help Ehingen move up and am disappointed that I couldn’t be a part of achieving that. I am fully confident that the management and players here will do what it takes to compete again next year for the top spot.
You averaged 14.8 points, 5.8 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game combined with some decent shooting percentages (FG: 45%, 3P: 40%, FT: 76%) this season. You really left a mark in the ProB. How do you see your future? Are you considering coming back to Germany?
Honestly I am just hoping to be in a good position for my finance and I. I’m not sure what will come up and where that will be but hopefully it won’t be as nerve racking as it was last summer. I hope to end up in a place that fits my style of play and genuinely wants me to be a part of their team. I would absolutely consider coming back to Germany. The people here are very friendly and it’s an easy transition from the states. It seems as if everyone in Germany speaks a little English which makes it extremely convenient for us American basketball players. I also think the first league here in Germany is a great thing to strive for and would love to someday end up there. Like any other person who loves playing the game of basketball I just want to keep playing until I can’t. So hopefully next year I get the opportunity to keep playing the game we all love.
Thanks for the chat, Josh. I hope to see you in Germany again next season.