Courtney Belger is a 26 year old 187cm guard from St Louis that just completed his first season with the Itzehoe Eagles (Germany-ProB). Last season he played his second professional season with TV Ibbenbuehren (Germany-Regionalliga) playing 21 games and averaging 23.7ppg, 7.5rpg, Assists-4(6.7apg), Steals-2(3.5spg), FGP: 45.9%, 3PT: 35.3%, FT: 75.2%. He started his basketball career at Quincy (NCAA2) in 2008 where he played until 2012 playing a total of 113 NCAA 2 games. As a senior he played 27 games averaging 11.3ppg, 5.2rpg, 3.9apg, 1.8spg, FGP: 47.8%, 3PT: 10.5%, FT: 72.0%. He improved his scoring and rebounding average each season. He just finished his third professional season in Germany with the Izehoe Eagles and now hopes to continue his rookie season in Australia. He spoke to German Hoops about basketball.
Courtney thanks for talking to German Hoops. You just got off the plane, but instead of setting foot on home soil in St Louis, you have touched down in Australia. Did you kiss the ground for making down under safely?
Haha no I did not but I definitely prayed and gave thanks. That was an extremely long flight.
What has been your first impression of the country Australia?
Australia is great. One of the nicest places I have seen for sure. Nice weather and the people are very friendly here.
After just completing your third season in Germany, you have decided against a month of fun and then back to the grind and getting ready for the new season, but decided to prolong the 2015-2016 season in Australia. Are you still not tired from the last season with Izehoe?
Well I did a decent job of balancing working out and resting since the season has been finished and I feel like the minor aches and pains are starting to leave my body. I actually came to Australia to visit my girlfriend and we are currently looking for me a team to play on. I have been close to signing already but the other player’s who’s spot I was going to take have received their visas at the last minute. I think I have a good chance at hopefully finding a team. It sounds like the coaches here like my highlights from last season. It just depends on who has a spot left. Last time I visited my girl in Germany and tried out, this worked out pretty good for us haha.
After reaching a higher level each season in Germany in the last two seasons, is your goal to reach a new higher level for next season?
I’m a very ambitious person and the game doesn’t change, only the people and the philosophies. Of course I would like to play higher and feel like I can play point guard no matter where it is. I am not ruling out coming back to the pro b though.
You finished the season very strong with the Izehoe Eagles. Are you confident you can take that momentum on to the court in Australia?
I pray that I can get a team here to showcase what I can do. I am healthy finally and really feel that I can benefit a team who is looking for one more import.
Let us talk a little about your last season with the Itzehoe Eagles (Germany-ProB). The club made the playoffs, but bowed out against Ehingen. What was missing in the playoff series to getting a better result as a team?
We weren’t together enough and mentally all the way there it seemed. Everyone got along great and liked each other but on the court we just didn’t work together for 40 minutes like a team that wanted to pull off an upset.
In game one American Devon Moore hurt the team badly. In game two, the club did a better job on him, but couldn´t contain Danny Berger who scorched you for 30 points. Did they just have too many weapons to contain?
In the second half of those games their stats slowed down but it was too late and we had already dug the hole. I don’t think they had too many weapons but I think they were a great team that was focused and ready from the beginning. In both games once we woke up we had some amazing 4th quarters but you have to be perfect at that point. Not just amazing. That’s a great team with good character though and I wish them the best of luck.
You played 24 games averaging 12,6ppg, 5,3rpg and 4,5apg. When you look back at your season and compare the Regionaliga, was your overall performance that what you would have hoped for coming into the Pro B and the skill level that awaited you?
For me it was an up and down season. It was good to see that I could compete in this league, but the numbers don’t tell the complete story. We tried to go with 4 Americans and overload the team but it didn’t work out all the way due to a couple injuries to our German players. I think I could do a lot more, but was only playing half the game. That wasn’t because of something that I was or wasn’t doing. I think people don’t know or see that when they look at the numbers. We had to play like that due to the roster we had. Coach brought in 4 guys and told us he wasn’t going to leave anybody out. I respect him for that. We knew that everyone would look good if we could get rolling and make a run, but it just didn’t work out. I’m a very humble guy, but honestly feel like I was one of the best guards in the league. The hard part was just trying to give us that push in a shorter amount of time on the court compared to the other imports amount of time on other teams.
In the Regionaliga you were the main scoring threat, but with Izehoe had very talented players around you like ex Beko BBL player Flavio Stueckemann and others where it would have been impossible to average 20 points a game. Did you feel like you were able to showcase your overall game as you were second in team rebounding and steals and first in assists?
We had a very talented team and I was able to learn a lot from our veterans. I’m a little disappointed in my own performance this season. I feel like I have a lot more to show than this season but I am grateful for what I was able to do. I think next season will be a lot different. Everyone thought I was an eagle player, but I showed that I could assist and run a team more this year. In the right situation, I think I can have that season that Pat and I both expected this year. I’m very happy about my play to an extent, just not satisfied.
The club had some very good defenders in Flavio Stuckemann and Adrian Breitlauch. Do you feel like your overall play on defense compensated from playing with these teammates?
I think we had very tough defenders and I definitely benefitted from playing with them. Our defense took a major loss when we lost Kosta who is very versatile and clever on the defensive end. Things could have definitely been scary for opposing teams because Kosta honestly can guard 1-4 and I can hold my own as well so with Flavio and Addi that is a very quick and tough line up.
Where do you feel like your game improved the most with the Izehoe Eagles?
I feel like I learned how to give more energy at all times and not just in spurts. I also feel like I learned how to find that balance I spoke about at the beginning of the year. The balance of getting others involved and putting pressure on the other team with my scoring.
Did head coach Patrick Elzie help you become a better player on the court or make you a better character?
Pat was on me tough and straight forward this year because he knew I could take it. I asked him to push me to help me develop. I think he definitely helped me to understand that the circumstances do not matter. You have to always do what you can with what you have. Off the court and on the court he tells me I’m very professional and that I’m a great character guy. I really respect Pat as a coach so that was refreshing to know that he thought of me that way.
What was your personal season highlight? Possibly beating top ranked team Iserlohn early in the season?
Beating an early Iserlohn team didn’t mean much to me. It was the beginning of the season. You don’t really have an identity yet at that point. My highlights were winning close games on the road. I love it. Nothing better. We won a couple tight ones at home, but it doesn’t compare. When your brothers come up to you and thank you for the heart and effort you showed after a win, it’s nothing like it on the road. Schwelm on the road early. They were a tough team early on. Wedel matched up well with us and we came back and won. Won a meaningful game in Stahnsdorf when people were doubting our abilities and Bochum on the road was great. Loved that win
What is the next step for Courtney Belger after Australia? Would you like to return to Germany or are you going to really explore the market this summer?
I am open to anything for next year. Going into my fourth year I just want a good situation where I can showcase what I can do and be able to have my lady live with me if she chooses to. I have to make sure I make the right decision and pray a good situation comes my way.
Where do you rank the Villanova buzzer beater NCAA tournament win in the all-time NCAA finals?
I’m not a person who remembers every NCAA final, but this past one definitely has to be around the top of the list. The back and forth effort and then for Nova to steal it like that made it a for sure classic.
With the Golden State Warriors set to clinch the best NBA regular season record ever against Memphis, how would this great team do against the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls if both played each other?
Chicago Bulls win. No questions asked. Mike is the goat. Love curry but Mike ends that conversation.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Hunger Games. Mockingjay part 2 on the way over here to Aussie.
Thanks Courtney for the chat.