Salmon May Be An Appetizer For Evan Smotrycz(Eisbaeren Bremerhaven), But Basketball Will Always Be The Main Entrée

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Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing Eisbaeren Bremerhaven forward Evan Smotrycz after a game in Frankfurt in the 2016-2017 season

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you happen to grow up in the greater Boston area and are a kid, and if you had somewhat intelligent parents, then there is no way one could ever have been bored at any time even before the current golden age of nonstop electronic gadgets that keep some extremely old school adults continuing to wonder what the world has come to. When looking at the kids best list of best things to do in Boston, you come across many fascinating activities like going on a behind the scenes tour of Fenway Park, visiting the Skywalk Observatory at the Prudential center or visiting the museum of science just to name a few. Of course if your professional basketball player Evan Smotrycz, just going to see the Celtics, Red Sox, Bruins or Patriots Live would have been his constant highlights as a kid. However if you are a Bostonian then there is no way around attaining a craving for sea food something that is served in numerous locations. Another thing on the kid´s best list of best things to do in Boston is to try the chowder that has been served at every presidential inauguration since 1981 at Legal Sea Foods restaurant. It was no different for the ex Maryland(NCAA) forward and new Eisbaeren Bremerhaven American Evan Smotrycz as he also grew up loving the delicacy of fine sea food in the Boston area. Lucky for the American that Legal Sea Foods is a chain of 35 restaurants and enough in his area so that he could feast on his favorite fish whenever he wanted, but then again, if he wanted to get great fish only a few minutes from his home then he could chow down on fish at Lobster claw sea foods in his home town Reading. “I used to go there all the time when I was home more and still go all the time to Legal Sea Foods”, smiled Evan Smotrycz. It doesn´t really matter what local eatery he chooses, fish is the same everywhere as is basketball. In his last two years of college ball, he played at Maryland and the closest body of water to him was Lake Artemesia where he could of caught the finest golden trout, but funny enough as he became a professional last season in Cyprus, water and fish continued to be near him as he lived in Nicosia which is only 15 kilometers from the Mediterranean sea which not only boasts tasty sea food but also various exotic kinds like cuttle fish or baja fish. His basketball journey this season takes him to Germany and not to some remote place like Jena or Braunschweig where one has to take an off day to reach the north or east sea, but to Bremerhaven who are called Eisbaeren(German translation Polar bears)where he will be living on the north sea and having to choose if he will become a regular at the trendy Natusch fish  restaurant or visiting the zoo and falling in love with sweet eight month old polar bear Lili. The American has had much experience in his young life tasting many different kinds of fish, but if he had to choose one that tickles his heart most it would be a classic choice. “I am a big fan of fish and have been lucky to have grown up in a place like Boston that has great fish. I don’t know much about German food, but if Bremerhaven has good fish that would be a huge plus. My favorite seafood now is probably salmon or crab”, added Evan Smotrycz. Salmon may be the appetizer on the menu for new Eisbaeren Bremerhaven forward Evan Smotrycz but basketball will always be the main entrée for him.

Smotrycz is a 25 year old 206cm forward from Reading, Massachusetts that will be going into his second professional season in Germany after playing his rookie season in Cyprus. He comes from a very athletic family as his father played at Middlebury college and sister was a swimmer at Northeastern university. However before turning professional, he went the normal route via the NCAA and played at top basketball addresses Michigan and Maryland. When you see pictures of the long athletic Smotrycz, he looks like a cross between surfer dude Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Saturday night Live legend Will Ferrell and Ted Mcginley of pre Married with children fame when he had that shade of blond in his hair in the 80´s where one could assume some practical joke to pop up at any time, but when it comes to basketball, he is all business. But when practice is over and the game has been won, you might witness that unwanted practical joke, because that is part of his personality. “Evan is more like a Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Evan is more of a dry humor/sarcastic type guy. Very funny, but doesn’t really pull practical jokes”, warned ex teammate Rashaud Park. Before he made the jump to Michigan in 2010, he had to first make a name for himself at Reading Memorial High School where he averaged 14.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists in his career and was a three-year varsity letter winner and three-year starter and was a Boston Globe All-Scholastic in 2008. Then instead of going to the NCAA, he did the more unpredictable and latched on two postgraduate years at New Hampton Prep school. There he was able to continue to work on his game and continue to develop and put up fantastic stats as he averaged 14.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists in his second season and helped New Hampton Prep to a 18-12 record and led New Hampton to quarterfinal of the New England Class “A” Tournament.

He departed for Michigan in the fall of 2010 and knew that he wasn´t going to just any school, but to one of the best programs in the country where success is expected as much as in places like North Carolina and Duke. Right away he was connected to amazing talent like future NBA players Trey Burke, Zack Novak and Tim Hardaway JR. The American never had that wow effect to being a Michigan Wolverine very long. “I had worked my whole life to play at the highest level so I don’t know if that wow moment lasted long because I felt like I was supposed to be there”, added Evan Smotrycz. He held his own and fought himself into the rotation and in his first season averaged 17 minutes a game and had 24 starts which was quite impressive for a freshman averaging 6.3ppg, 2.3rpg, FGP: 40.1%, 3PT: 38.1%, FT: 69.0%. He scored in double figures nine times and had an 18 point effort against Clemson and 14 points against Ohio State. In his second season at Michigan he was able to improve his scoring, rebounding and three point percentage as he averaged 21 minutes per game and played 34 games averaging 7.7ppg, 4.9rpg, FGP: 52.7%, 3PT: 43.5%, FT: 77.6%. He started 18 games and scored in double figures 12 times including 18 point games against Oakland and Bradley. He was the best three point shooter that’ season for the school and was seventh best in the BIG 10. It is often normal that a player will gradually develop and get more minutes as well as responsibility in a normal four year career and Smotrycz was on the best way becoming a major key player for the stretch run in his last two seasons However midway through his second season, he was replaced by guard Stu Douglas in the starting lineup. Despite that he still was a valuable contributor and for many experts could have become an even more important scoring option in his last two years. But out of the blue, he decided to depart and went to Maryland. It was a hard decision for Smotrycz, but in the end he is happy he made it. “I decided to transfer because I felt like I wasn’t developing at Michigan and I wanted more for myself”, stressed Evan Smotrycz.

After sitting out the 2012-2013 season due to NCAA transfer rules, he finished his last two years of school at Maryland between 2013-2015. He came to Maryland to find basketball happiness and did right off the bat as he quickly became a main offensive threat on a team that had scoring talent with future NBA draft pick Jake Layman and players like Dez Wells, Seth Allen and Nick Faust. The experience that Smotrycz brought from Michigan was also beneficial for a guy like Jake Layman who was still in the development phase. “He was a young guy when he got there and I was the oldest most experienced guy on that team so I’d like to think that he learned from me”, expressed Evan Smotrycz. He got the trust right away from head coach Mark Turgeon who was instrumental in keeping the development of Smotrycz continuing until the last siren sounded his senior season. “Coach Turgeon really taught me a lot not only about the game but about life. He was easy to talk to but knew the right buttons to push and how to motivate his team. He had coached a number of pros in the past and definitely prepared me for professional basketball, as well as how to conduct myself as a professional”, stressed Evan Smotrycz. He started 28 of 31 games and started off his career at Maryland with a fine 13 point and nine rebound effort against UCONN. He played 31 games averaging 11.0ppg, 6.0rpg, 1.7apg, FGP: 43.2%, 3PT: 36.7%, FT: 74.6%. He scored in double figures in 19 games and notched three double doubles. Some season highlights as a junior were his 19 points against Clemson as well as registering 14 points against North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh. With a very solid first season with Maryland, the American headed into his senior year with a lot of expectations, but then was hit with every player´s biggest nightmare catching the haunting injury bug which fell upon him twice seriously derailing his last season, but he did the best that he could out of the situation and just kept battling back and finished the season playing 27 games and averaging 4.7ppg, 4.1rpg, 1.3apg. Some of his highlights in his last season was recording 10 points against USC Upstate and having a nine point and eight rebound game in a tight 68-66 victory against Michigan State and showing his old team Michigan his value at both ends of the court as he steered nine rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block in a 66-56 win. Even if his senior season was not what he had envisioned, he wouldn´t have traded his time at Maryland for anything. “My time at Maryland was great. I had a very tough senior season where I broke my foot and then came back and broke my shooting hand and had to play through it. So my numbers really took a hit but I will always cherish my time in Maryland”, added Evan Smotrycz.

His turbulent ridden senior season at Maryland(NCAA) where injuries controlled his season more than he would have ever liked didn´t necessarily help him when he entered the seemingly shark infested type world of professional basketball where the only thing that really matters is winning and what is best for the club. There was no NBA draft party or a limo waiting for him at Madrid Barajas airport to take him to Real Madrid headquarters, but instead he found himself as a rookie joining Keravnos Strovolou (Cyprus-Division A) not necessarily a heralded basketball league in Europe, but moreover third class, but then again the perfect place for him to go berserk on the court and show the world that Evan Smotrycz is a very good player. Leagues like Cyprus bring in very talented players each season and more often than not is a place where they can prove themselves all over again and then make the next step to a higher league and that is exactly what the Reading, Mass native did. With Keravnos Strovolou (Cyprus-Division A), he found back to his old self regaining his self -confidence again  playing 14 games and averaging 16.0ppg, 7.3rpg, 2.1apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 51.2%, 3PT-2(46.3%), FT: 61.9%. He scored in double figures in 13 of 14 games showcasing his all-around consistency. Despite his strong stats, there was one adjustment that most Americans deal with that took time to learn. “The most difficult adjustment was the traveling rules. They called the game very tightly especially for Americans and it took me a few games to change my habits”, stressed Evan Smotrycz. He got a good dose of ex German BBL players in this league as he was teammates with guys like Ron Ross, Kenny Barker and Jake O´Brien. The club made the playoffs, but lost 3-1 to Apoel which ended his season. The biggest plus for Smotrycz besides living in Cyprus and reaping the fringe benefits of great weather and fish and not having a cold winter was having his best friend Richaud Pack along for the ride. They both lived in the same city and almost hung out daily despite playing for rival clubs. Just having that extra special Maryland friendship continue abroad in a foreign country made their rookie season´s long lasting. Smotrycz remembers the game of Pack as well as his importance having him around as a rookie in Cyprus. “What impresses me most about Richaud is he scores in so many ways. It may not feel like it but when you look at the stats at the end of the game it’s like “Richaud you had 30?!?” He is also a great defender and very sneaky athletically. It was so important having Richaud with me last year. We spent a lot of time together and had a lot of fun on our off days going out to eat or to the beach. It was like having a piece of home with me”, expressed Evan Smotrycz. Pack also remembers the good times in Cyprus as he continues to sit by the phone now waiting to get a call from a professional team. “My greatest memory was on the beach with Evan in Cyprus is when he fell off of his jet ski trying to catch a fish with his bare hand”, smiled Richaud Pack.

Smotrycz was invited recently by the Toronto Raptors to play NBA Summer League where he played two games averaging 2,0ppg. It was a short gig, but still a great opportunity to be seen by NBA GM´s, coaches and other important NBA figures heads. “It was a good experience and I learned a lot. I saw that I can definitely play and compete in that league, just from team practices alone. I think what separates me from the NBA is just experience and getting better at what I do best to where I could find a role in the league. I look forward to going back to summer league with a much larger role”, expressed Evan Smotrycz. After the strong season in Cyprus, he was picked up by German BBL team Eisbaeren Bremerhaven. “I am very excited to be in Bremerhaven. I know the BBL is a very well respected league and felt like a great next step in my career. I know that the Germans are very professional with the way they run their clubs and love their basketball. I heard great things about the coach. When we had a chance to talk it sounded like I would be a great fit in the way he was trying to put together his team. I felt as though playing for him would benefit us both. I am very confident I can play well in the BBL. I have played at the highest level through college, but I had multiple injuries my senior year that kept me off the court and my stats suffered. That is why I was in Cyprus, to show I was healed and can still play great basketball”, warned Evan Smotrycz.

The Eisbaeren Bremerhaven joined the BBL in 2005 and reached the playoffs in four of their first five seasons, but haven´t in the last five seasons. The last two seasons were complete disasters as they finished in 15th place twice and despite having a seemingly abundance of budget reeling in ex NBA players like Tyrus Thomas and Deandre Liggins were unable to find the right team chemistry last season. The club wants to find the road to success again this season and with another big house cleaning have reeled in players from all over and as usual an abundance of Americans. Their front court looks very promising as they have reeled in Harper Kamp who was Pro A player and center of the year in 2014 and last season was the fourth leading scorer in the BBL with BG Goettingen. The club also got BBL veteran Ivan Elliot and kept talent Waverly Austin. The fourth figure in this puzzle is Evan Smotrycz. It will be interesting to see how head coach Sebastian Machowski utilizes these players. One thing is for sure, Kamp, Smotrycz and Elliot sprout unending versatility on the court. It doesn´t matter who comes from the bench Elliot or Smotrycz, the Eisbaeren will have opponents in constant fits on the defensive end. Machowski laudes the unending versatility that Smotrycz brings to the court and the American is ready to present himself in the BBL and show that versatility might as well be his middle name. “My game is perfect for the European game. I am a stretch 4/5 man who can do a lot of things with the ball. I can create my own shot and get my teammates good shots too. When I am playing the floor will be very spaced and it will open up a lot for everyone. I think I’m a great passer, and I really enjoy getting everyone involved and being on a team that really moves the ball well. I also think I am a better defender than people may know. I can play any type of pick and roll defense and am very comfortable switching on positions 1 through 5”, warned Evan Smotrycz. His friend Richaud Pack already knows the middle name of Evan Smotrycz. “I think Evan’s biggest asset is his versatility. He does so many things. He spaces the floor out because he shoots the ball so well. He can guard multiple positions and play multiple positions. His Basketball IQ is out of this world. Evan really thinks the game through”, warned Richaud Pack. Not only versatility is a big strength in the game of Evan Smotrycz, but also his self confidence in his own game, but that is a given with any professional basketball player especially when it comes to taking themselves in any one on one game, but when asked if his game is similar to ex Fraport Skyliner Jon Leuer, he even went a step further to elaborate on another big NBA star. “Jon Leuer and I are similar, maybe a Kevin Love, but I feel as though although they are both very good NBA players, I can do a lot of things that they can’t”, warned Evan Smotrycz. The second professional season is only a short time away before the American will say his farewell at Logan airport on August 7th and head over the big pond to Europe to embark on a new journey and challenge in one of the top leagues in Europe with the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven in Germany. Smotrycz remembers the amazing 2008 Boston Celtics title win over the Los Angeles Lakers with Garnett, Pierce and Allen as if it was yesterday while the great 80´s Celtics teams centering around Bird, Parish and Mchale are a You Tube adventure for him while the amazing 9 NBA titles of the Boston Celtics and legend Bill Russell in the 60´s is an evening of astonishment when told by his dad Zee, but many don´t know is that there is a very minor connection between Smotrycz and probably the greatest center to ever play the game Bill Russell. There was a time when Bill Russell lived in Reading the home town of Smotrycz during his Celtics days in the 60´s and left the town in 1969 when he retired from the Boston Celtics. If he would ever meet the NBA legend today over dinner at Legal Sea Foods and salmon, he would ask him this question. “I would probably ask him a lot about the Celtics and what it’s like looking back at one of the most successful basketball franchises and how he laid the foundation”, added Evan Smotrycz. At any rate, Smotrycz has enough stories to tell about the Boston Celtics and what he has witnessed over the years live that could possibly give the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven the needed mental inspiration this season to get back to winning ways something that has so deprived the organization so much in the last five seasons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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