Matt Howard is a 27 year old 203cm forward playing his second season for Strasbourg IG (France-ProA) and last season played 41 games averaging 7.9ppg, 5.1rpg, 1.7apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 55.8%, 3PT: 25.0%, FT: 71.6%; Eurocup: 15 games: 10.7ppg, 6.9rpg, 2.3apg, FGP: 49.5%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 70.3%; Euroleague: 2 games: 9.0ppg, 7.0rpg, 2.5apg. He started his basketball career in 2007 with Butler (NCAA) where he played until 2011 playing a total of 139 NCAA games and as a senior played 35 games averaging 16.7ppg, 7.7rpg, 1.5apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 48.9%, 3PT: 42.6%, FT: 78.1%. In 2011-2012 he started his professional basketball career with Olympiacos S.F.P. Pireus (Greece-A1): Greek League: 6 games: 4.0ppg, 1.5rpg; Euroleague: 2 games: 1.0ppg, left in Jan.’12, in Feb.’12 moved to EnBW Ludwigsburg (Germany-BBL) playing 13 games: 12.1ppg, 5.8rpg, 2.2apg, FGP: 60.3%, 3PT: 36.4%, FT: 83.3%. IN the 2012-2013 season he played for Chorale de Roanne Basket (France-ProA) playing 32 games: 9.0ppg, 6.1rpg, 1.5apg, FGP: 57.6%, 3PT: 35.5%, FT: 76.8%. IN the 2013-2014 season he moved back to Germany to Ratiopharm Ulm (Germany-BBL): Eurocup: 16 games: 8.8ppg, 5.3rpg, 1.9apg, FGP: 57.9%, 3PT: 30.0%, FT: 68.3%; German League: 35 games: 9.6ppg, 5.1rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 56.5%, 3PT: 14.3%, FT: 78.7%. He spoke to German Hoops before the Eurocup game against the EWE Baskets Oldenburg for the ticket to the 2016 Euro Cup quarterfinals.
Matt thanks for talking to German Hoops. Welcome back to Germany. You played with two teams in Germany with Ludwigsburg and Ulm. What did you learn to appreciate most about the country of Germany?
Germany is a very nice country that is very modernized and for Americans you can always find things that you would get at home. I had good experiences in Germany and it was an easy adjustment coming from home.
However you don´t have the best memories against the EWE Baskets Oldenburg. You are 0-4 against them in your career. How pumped are you not only to get your first win against them tomorrow, but also to win by more than three points?
I didn´t really think about that I have lost against them 4 times, but you are correct. More important than having lost four times against them is getting the win in Euro Cup. Maybe getting the win my third time here will be a good one.
When you played with Ludwigsburg and Ulm you always had good games, but at the end you always left the floor as the loser. What memories do you have of playing this talented team and what will be key to advancing to the Euro Cup quarterfinals?
Oldenburg has always had good teams and especially this season are playing well in the BBL and have been successful in Euro Cup play. Oldenburg have a bit of everything. They can score well inside, but also shoot very well from outside. It is very difficult to take something away from them, because they are so versatile. They have so many weapons as every night a different guy can hurt you. Last week Paulding hurt us. We need to put together a very consistent effort to beat them and too advance.
Recently Strassbourg was unable to defend their cup title from last season losing to Monaco in the semi-finals. Is this a loss that will give the team a chip on their shoulder to win the league title?
It was a big goal for us to win the leaders cup, but at the moment we want to get as far as possible in the Euro Cup. After that we want to win the league title which would be a big step for the organization after coming so close the last few years
By keeping a good core from last season and adding Mardy Collins, Kyle Weems and Rodrigue Beaubois, what does this team have this season that it didn´t have last season?
The team last season had many guys that had been together with coach for a long time and the team was more defensive minded. We are more versatile this season as now the team has moved more to an offensive minded team, but still keeping the defensive principles that we have always had. Especially at the guard position, we have become very offensive minded. It has taken the team some time to figure this all out, but we are on a good way.
You have been a player that has consistently scored and rebounded your whole career. What exactly is your role with Strassburg?
My role is pretty much the same from last season, but just a little different. We have so many scorers that I try to be a good glue guy and play good defense.
You also have been known as being a consistent defender your whole career, but what is a hidden strength in your game that you feel doesn´t get noticed on the court?
Teams know me pretty well in France and Germany. My qualities are defending and rebounding. I don´t really know what a hidden strength is.
Two seasons ago, you played with ratiopharm Ulm. What memories do you remember having with Daniel Thesis battling him in practice and just being teammates?
The physicality of Theis is incredible and is very tall and can jump. He had his coming out season in Ulm and showed his qualities then. I try to watch as many Euroleague games as possible and the games I have seen Theis play, he has held his own against the best. I remember his help defense being incredible and he really developed his offense shooting and posting up.
Thesis played NBA Summer league in 2014 and has NBA aspirations. Is he athletic enough to make the jump to the NBA?
Athletically of course he could. With his wing span and jumping ability he has the physical tools to play in the NBA. The NBA should be his goal. I am sure he is on the radar of many NBA teams and I wouldn´t be surprised if he reaches the NBA.
In your second professional season you played with Chorale de Roanne Basket (France-ProA). After a hectic rookie season where you went from Greece to Germany, how glad were you to play your first full season and get to learn the European basketball further?
There I played in a system unlike any that I had ever played in in my career. I had a different kind of role there unlike any I had ever had. I think that playing in a different kind of system helped me as a player. I look back and see the benefits I had with Chorale. We didn´t play internationally, so I had one game a week and practiced a lot what really helped my game.
People have mixed stories to tell about head coach Luka Pavicevic, but what kind of relationship did you have with him and what won´t you ever forget about his coaching philosophy?
The system of Pavicevic was one that I had never played with before. His defensive philosophy of hedging and always helping from behind was unique. Some teams play like that, but not all. His offense wasn´t great, but his defense system was very good. It was a shame that his system didn´t translate into the playoffs which was a big goal of the organization. It was a great experience for me playing with Chorlae. It was misfortunate that he had to go, but he was smart defensive coach and a great mind. Now he is in a good spot with KK Buducnost Voli Podgorica.
AS a rookie you started your career with Olympiacos S.F.P. Pireus (Greece-A1): Greek League: 6 games: 4.0ppg, 1.5rpg; Euroleague: 2 games: 1.0ppg. When you look back at your five months in Greece, what did you learn from this experience that you believe helped you in your further path as a professional player?
I had a short stay in Greece and didn´t play much behind two of the best four´s in Europe with Georgios Printezis and Pero Antic. It was just an incredible experience as a rookie to be able to practice with them every day. It was beneficial for me to see how guys like that prepared and played. I am still thankful to the organization for the opportunity.
When you look back at the list of amazing player that you played a short time with Olympiacos S.F.P. Pireus (Greece-A1), which player left the most lasting impression on you? I can imagine that Kyle Hines was high on the list?
Kyle was up there. I don´t know if I could mention only one player. One of the most fascinating guys on that team to watch was Vassillis Spanoulis. When you saw him off the court, you would never have thought that he was one of the best players in Europe. Georgios Printezis and Pero Antic were the most influential to play with. Just seeing how these two guys approached and played the game was very beneficial to me. I just tried to ask them as much as I could and take as much with me out of practice.
You played at Butler from 2007-2011 reaching the NCAA Final in 2010. Is there a day now where you don´t think about the final loss to Duke?
People do ask me this every once in a while about the Duke game. It may sound weird, but I don´t think about it so much. It is usually around this time of year when the tournament starts that I get asked questions and think about it. It was a fun time and remains a huge accomplishment for the school.
The 2010 NCAA run was simply amazing. Butler won close games against Murray State, Syracuse, Kansas State, and Michigan State. What made this team at this moment the supreme crunch time team?
We started a streak in December and didn´t lost any conference games and that helped build our self confidence. The Butler game was built on defense and versatility. We had so many guys that could play multiple positions. We had a great system under Brad Stevens and there was much trust. We didn´t shoot well in the tournament around 35%, but in our minds we knew that we could always shut down a team. We knew that we could shut down teams for 5-7 minutes. We knew that if we were up by two points with three minutes to play that we could win. It sounds crazy, but that was our mind set.
What was the most challenging thing that you had to overcome when battling a Gordon Hayward in practice?
I didn´t practice much against him since we played different positions. In practice we usually were on the same team as it was the starting five against the reserves. He was a player great at both ends. He was always a great defender and was so quick. That quickness came from tennis which he played in high school. He also had fast reflexes and you can still see where his agility comes from today on the court. However it was his offense that really developed in his two years at Butler. His scoring and 1-1 play really developed.
How did head coach Brad Stevens groom and prepare you best for a professional career?
Brad Stevens helped me in so many ways. His preparation and mind set were beneficial. He always wanted you to do the right thing. He was a great teacher on offense and defense. He was incredible in preparing you for games. His scouting report was about as good as anyone I have ever played for.
Many were skeptical when Brad Stevens made the jump from the NCAA to the NBA. This season he has made his coaching breakthrough. Do you see him having even more success with the Boston Celtics?
Many have been surprised with the roster of the Celtics this season. He doesn´t have bad players, but to be really successful you need to have certain players and he hasn´t had them yet. He does an excellent job at putting players in the right position. Even if a team has the best coach, if certain players are missing, you won´t be successful. What Stevens has done with what he has has been amazing. But then again, I know his qualities as a coach. I think that if he continues to build a good team that he will be able to push team further up.
How beneficial was the move to the Utah Jazz for Shelvin Mack? Is this the right place for him to make his real NBA breakthrough?
I follow Brad Stevens, Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack, I know that Mack was stuck behind two point guards with Atlanta. The move to Utah looks great. It seems like the team wants to move Trey Burke. When Mack is on, he is incredibly efficient. He doesn´t turn over the ball much and hits shots. He just needed a chance and got it.
Who was the toughest player that you battled in the NCAA that is now in the NBA?
The toughest guy that I battled was Derek Character. I don´t know what happened to him, but I remember that he played with the Los Angeles Lakers. The guy was a rock around 6.10 and weighing 275 pounds and was very skilled. I couldn´t move him and had to guard him 1-1. I needed help guarding him.
Recently ESPN made a top 100 greatest NBA players of alltime poll putting Lebron at #3 before legends Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and BIll Russell. Do you see that as being justified?
Honestly I don´t try to get into that. It is hard to evaluate it since these guys all played in different era´s. I don´t even get into it when guys talk about it on the team. Larry was great. I will let you figure it out.
What was the last movie that you saw?
I watched the TV series Homeland.
Thanks Matt for the chat.