Bernd Kruel is a 37 year old 209cm center that will be playing his 17th season in Hagen this upcoming season. He started his carrer with Brandt Hagen in 1993 and played there until December 2003 as team withdrew from the Beko BBL. He then joined the Opel Skyliners in January 2003 and helped the team win the Beko BBL title in 2004. He helped the team reach the 2005 Beko BBL final. He then played for the Telekom Baskets Bonn from 2006-2008. In 2008, he returned back to Hagen to play for Phoenix Hagen and helped the team reach the Beko BBL in 2009. The German spoke to German Hoops about basketball during the last season.
Since 2006, you have returned back to Frankfurt many times to play your ex team. Is it still special to return back?
Yes it is still special to come back to Frankfurt. I have many nice memories from my Frankfurt time and I see many old friends.
You are 37 now and you return back each season to continue your career. I guess there are still enough fish in the river Volme in Hagen for the big storch to eat?
Yes there are still many yummy fish in the Volme. I feel good and am fit physically.
What aspirations do you still have at the age of 37? Winning a title won´t be easy in Hagen.
I know that it will be hard to win a title. I just want to help continue to develop the team and be successful. I want to annoy the top teams and not fight against staying in the league like we did last season. That is just too much for my nerves.
How do you see the small ball play with Phoenix Hagen and less emphasis on center play?
I think it is a pity that it is like that here, because I think that it is better to have a balance between inside out play. However we also know that if we hit our shots then we can beat anyone. I am used to this style and if we are successful with it then I am ok with it.
It is no secret that Phoenix Hagen can score with the best of them, but why doesn´t the team come to play defense more often?
We defend ok, but as you saw in Frankfurt then when you give up 100 points on a regular basis then it is still hard to win even if we score a bit more. The problem is that we use much energy with our style on offense. We run much and get up and down and we get tired.
You played together with Ingo Fryer in the 90s with Brandt Hagen. What is your relationship like today?
We have a normal relationship. It is often the case that players might not come to terms with ex teammates that are the coach, but with me its no problem. I am like a second coach to him on the court and when I often see things, I try to give my know how to him and help out.
You are a very versatile big men. What is a strength in your game that doesn´t get noticed right away?
I think that I can read the game very well and that I understand it. I like an organized defense and team play. It isn´t important that I don´t score much, but the most important thing is that we win.
What has been the most amazing thing that you have seen Mark Dorris do on the court?
Just seeing his quickness. So often players think that they have a grip on him, but then he weaves around you without problem. I rather am annoyed and pushed around by big men then having to contain a guy like that.
What is your memory of the Michael Hakim Jordan tirade in Frankfurt in 2010?
That tirade was perfect. I believe each team has one or two speeches like that during the season. I think that they are necessary. There are always guys like Jordan who wake up a team. Jordan was loud and picked the right words. If a player doesn´t get loud then a team can have real problems.
Does Michael Jodan have the talent to go to Hollywood?
He was already in a picture with Phoenix in der asche.
Why was Jacob Burtschi such a good Monopoly player?
I was never at those games, because they take too long for me. He didn´t have much of a chance against me with backgammon.
Who were your basketball idols as a kid?
#23 Michael Jordan. Back in the day it wasn´t like now. The NBA wasn´t on German TV yet. I only was able to see pictures in American newspapers. I don´t have any idols now, but enjoy watching the European style seeing Euroleague games.
You played many years with Brandt Hagen. Why wasn´t there more titles won?
We did win a cup and reached the final. I think that it was another time where there were only two international players allowed and the rest were all Germans. It was similar to today where there were a few top teams that had more money than the rest. We always fought to get good players even if it was hard. I had a lot of fun playing for Brandt Hagen.
You played together with Hansi Gnad. What was the most important thing that you learned from him?
He was a top player at that time. He was your classic center that played physical. Even though I am a center now, I was playing the wing then and he was a center. I just tried to pick up as many things form his game that I could insert into my game.
You came to the Opel Skyliners in the second half of the 2003-2004 season. Did you ever think that you would win the title a few months later?
I never thought that we would win it all. I knew that we had a good team and that I could be a good puzzle piece for success. We didn´t have it easy going to five games in each series. But one saw soon that we had so many weapons and always played hard.
What was your nicest memory of Pascal Roller on the court?
He was a great player. He was so quick and he always had a positive face on the court. It was always fun to play with him and we were successful on the court. He was a great teammate.
How tough was it going against John Bowler in practice each day?
He was a very annoying player that used his body well. He could jump very well for his size.
Who was the best teammate that you ever had in your career?
There have been so many that it wouldn´t be fair to name just one. They all had great characters. If I had to name one then it would be my first point guard in Hagen with Keith Gatlin.
Have you made a bet with Chris Ensminger as to who will retire first?
I think that he will play until his mid forties. I have to see how my bones hold up. I will continue to play as long as I still have fun.
How did you bring Matthias Grothe to laugh?
I don´t do it as much anymore. But back when we played together I would rub his nose when he was snoring on the bus.
What was the last DVD movie that you saw?
The life of Brian. I have seen it three or four times.
Thanks Bernd for the chat.