Michael Jenkins is a 30 year old 192 cm guard from Kinston, North Carolina that currently is playing his ninth professional season and first with Aris Thessaloniki (Greece-A1). Last season he played for Turk Telekom Ankara (Turkey-BSL): 17 games: 15.1ppg, 4.0rpg, 2.2apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 55.2%, 3PT: 38.9%, FT: 86.2%; FIBA Europe Cup: 13 games: 12.3ppg, 3.9rpg, 2.0apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 51.0%, 3PT: 41.9%, FT: 88.9%. He played at Winthrop(NCAA) from 2004-2008. He didn´t play as much his first two seasons, but got increased playing time in his junior and senior years. As a junior, he averaged 14.8ppg, 3.8rpg, 3.2apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 45.9%, 3PTConf-1(41.5%), FT: 70.2% in 34 games. In his senior year, he played 34 games and averaged 13.9ppg, 4.1rpg, 2.5apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 41.6%, 3PTConf-6(36.8%), FT: 71.3%: and finished his career as the 10th leading scorer in Winthrop history with 1,253 points. With Winthrop, he was the Big South Conf. Regular Season Champion in 2005, 2006 and 2007 and won the Big South Conf Tournament from 2005-2008. He was named to the Big South Conf. All-Tournament Team in 2007 and 2008. In his first professional season 2008-2009, he was drafted by the Albany Patrons of the CBA and in November 2008 signed with the Albany Patroons playing 3 games and averaging 6.7ppg, 2.0rpg, FGP: 47.4%, but left during the season and moved to BC Buducnost Podgorica (Bosnia-1A) . In the 2009-2010 season he came to Germany and played for the Walter Tigers Tuebingen averaging 14.0ppg, 3.7rpg, 2.3apg, Steals-3(1.9spg), FGP: 47.9%, 3PT: 39.0%, FT: 72.6%. In the 2010-2011 season he played for Belgacom Liege Basket (Belgium-D1) playing EuroCup Qualifying Round: 2 games: 11.0ppg, 2.0rpg, 3.0apg, 1.0spg; EuroChallenge: 6 games: 12.5ppg, 3.5rpg, 1.0spg, FGP: 40.7%, 3PT: 36.8%, FT: 84.6%; Belgian League: 13 games: 12.6ppg, 4.3rpg, 2.5apg, Steals-1(2.8spg), FGP: 43.8%, 3PT: 29.6%, FT: 78.3%. In the 2011-2012 he played for Optima Gent (Belgium-D1) playing 29 games: 13.0ppg, 3.4rpg, 1.5apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 42.2%, 3PT: 33.1%, FT: 75.6%. In the 2012-2013 season he played for Centrale del Latte Brescia (Italy-Lega2): 38 games: 17.0ppg, 4.5rpg, 2.4apg, 1.5spg, FGP: 46.1%, 3PT: 41.1%, FT: 79.6%: In the 2013-2014 season he played for Pallacanestro Cantu (Italy-SerieA) where he played 33 games: 10.0ppg, 2.4rpg, 2.1apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 50.4%, 3PT: 37.8%, FT: 87.5%; Eurocup: 16 games: 11.4ppg, 3.3rpg, 2.1apg, FGP: 39.2%, 3PT: 45.1%, FT: 63.6%.In the 2014-2015 season he started the season with the Oklahoma City Thunder (NBA), released in Oct.’14, in Nov.’14 signed at Oklahoma City Blue (D-League): 14 games: 13.7ppg, 4.3rpg, 3.1apg, 1.1spg, 2FGP: 50.0%, 3FGP: 44.3%, FT: 84.8%, in Dec.’14 moved to Istanbul Buyuksehir Belediyesi (Turkey-TBL) 15 games: 15.5ppg, 3.9rpg, 4.0apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 47.0%, 3PT: 39.6%, FT: 87.0%. Last season he played for Turk Telekom Ankara (Turkey-BSL): 17 games: 15.1ppg, 4.0rpg, 2.2apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 55.2%, 3PT: 38.9%, FT: 86.2%; FIBA Europe Cup: 13 games: 12.3ppg, 3.9rpg, 2.0apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 51.0%, 3PT: 41.9%, FT: 88.9%. He spoke to German Hoops before the Champions League game in Frankfurt against the Fraport Skyliners.
Welcome back to Germany. You have been busy in your career with German Hoops as this is your 18th interview with me. It´s always a pleasure to talk with you. How are you and do you feel that you are in your prime now at age 30?
What’s up Miles, and thank you! It always feels good to be back in Germany whether for a game or just during a layover in the airport. Gives me a chance to buy an apfelschorle and eat some currywurst (lol). I’m doing very well. A lot has changed in my life since we last spoke I’m sure, and being 30 now is definitely one of the biggest changes. I still feel like I’m 26 or 27 on the court though, so that’s definitely a positive.
You last played in Germany in the 2013-2014 season playing Eurocup against Artland and ratiopharm Ulm. Do you remember your record against these teams off the top of your head?
Yea I remember my record from that season in games versus German teams. We split the home and away with Ulm and won both games vs Artland.
Let me help you. It´s 3-1. With what kind of feelings are you returning back to Germany ?
A lot of good memories I have in Germany. Basketball wise and social wise. I usually really enjoy my time when I’m somewhere there in the country.
Your last game here is a little more than 85 months ago back in 2009 at the start of the season where you and the Walter Tigers Tuebingen suffered a bitter 98-66 loss. With all the games that you play, do you have any memories of this game?
Yea, I remember a little from that game. My most vivid memories of that game, however, is how lopsided the score was and how I almost injured myself going for a block on a pump fake. I ended up flipping over the Frankfurt player and landing on the court very hard.
Romeo Travis had a double double with 16 points and 12 rebounds, you had 11 points and Skyliner Derrick Allen led all scorers with 18 points. Allen is still playing at age 36. Do his hectic moves in the post resembling a ballerina still stick out a bit?
Yea you can never forget playing against a guy like Derrick Allen. Very unorthodox but very very affective.
You had some vey talented teammates with guys like Romeo Travis, Dane Watts, Kenny Wiliams and Bane Ratkovica. With what player do you remember having the best bond?
I actually had a good bond with all of those guys. Dane and I were roommates on every road trip. I still talk to most of the guys or we all keep up with each other on social media. I haven’t talked to Kenny since that season though. He may be the only one that I haven’t kept up with from those you mentioned.
You had a stellar college career at Winthrop where you won 4 Big South Conference tournaments. If someone had told you in the summer of 2008 before you embarked on your professional career that you would still be playing professionally in 2016 and going strong at 30 what would you have thought?
I would of told them great, because that was always the plan. To try and play this game for as long as I possibly can.
This season you signed a two year deal with Aris Thessaloniki and this is your first season playing in Greece. Everybody has their own opinions, but after playing in Germany, Belgium, Italy and Turkey, where do you rate the Greek league in terms of talent and level in comparison to the other places that you have played?
The Greek league is very tough so far, but it’s a different kind of difficult from the rest. There are more “talented” players per team in other leagues I’ve played in for sure, but the style of play in Greece differs. They are very tactical here.
Currently the team is in sixth place in Greece and have a 4-1 record in the Champions League. What is the biggest difference for you in style and talent between the two leagues?
The biggest differences for me is probably the officiating between domestic referees and international referees, and the different style of play each team in the group brings being that each team’s style is probably a product of which country they are from.
You have been a scorer all your career, but is your role different this season in Greece in comparison to other teams that you have played for?
No my role is still the same on this team, but I also know and am ok with the fact that I may not always get the most shots or score the most points every night. I just want to do whatever is best for the team on any given night.
Your one of the oldest guys on the team. Are you like a type of mentor for the younger Americans Will Cummings and Devyn Marble who are still getting used to the professional life?
Yea this is the first time in my career that I am the oldest American player on the team. I try to help those guys as needed or if they have questions. I’m not overbearing with it or constantly talking to them because that can be annoying. They just know if they need me I´m here.
The Aris fans are supposed to be the most passionate in the world. Talk a bit about your experience with them and what has been your most memorable experience with them so far?
Yes, the fans here are the epitome of passionate and diehard fans. They are really devoted to the team and it’s honestly something very special. It can be overwhelming at times but it’s a part of being a member of this team so you just embrace it. Would rather have very passionate fans than no fans at all, or fans that bring no energy at all. My most memorable experience with them so far has been when we played the derby vs PAOK. The beginning of the game was just electric! I’ve never seen anything like it!
Head coach Dimitris Priftis is a very respected head coach who has been in talks as becoming the next Greek national coach. What have you respected most about his coaching style?
What I respect most about Coach Priftis’ coaching style so far is just his honesty and mentality. He’s a very sincere person and passionate as well. You can tell he truly loves the game.
You won your only professional title as a rookie with BC Buducnost Podgorica (Bosnia-1A) winning the cup. How much does your desire grow each passing season for that next chip?
It grows a lot. I think about it all the time. I went from winning a lot in college and then winning right away with Buducnost, but since then nothing. It really nags me. I got close to winning the A2 Italian League championship with Brescia but we lost the deciding game 5. I’m itching to win something serious in my professional career. Hopefully I can experience that feeling again before my time as a player in this game is up.
Two seasons ago after a stint in the NBA and D-league you moved to Istanbul Buyuksehir Belediyesi (Turkey-TBL). You came as ex NBA player Alex Acker left. Would you have liked to have had some conversations with him concerning his NBA time with the Detroit Pistons?
It would’ve been nice to meet Alex and talk to him as a teammate, but I also have a lot of friends and guys I know that are in the NBA currently or have NBA experience so I talk to them or can talk to them about those things.
In the summer of 2014 you played NBA Summer League with the Brooklyn Nets and then made the pre-season roster of the Oklahoma Thunder playing all 7 pre-season games. When you look back on that time having teammates like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook passing you the ball, were you in awe at all times or did you get used to them after a while?
Naw once it was time to play on the court with them I was never in awe. I would be amazed sometimes watching them during practices and from the bench during games sometimes because some of the things those guys can do on the court just seems unreal. That was a great experience with OKC. Something I will never forget.
How close were you to the NBA and what did the club tell you why it didn´t work out?
I felt I was very close, but only the Thunder organization knows the real answer to that. They just told me it was a numbers game, and I was unfortunately one of the odd men out. I really don’t have a good answer for this question.
What was your fondest memories with Durant and Westbrook? How did they treat an European journey man looking to make his NBA dream come true?
They were great guys. My locker was right beside KD in the practice facility, and was in between Russ and KD’s in Chesapeake Energy Arena. They treated me like a guy that belonged there. They knew I had been a pro for a while.
How do you feel did your game progress from 2012-2014 in Italy where you played in the Lega 2 and then Serie A leading up to your NBA gig in the summer of 2014?
My game progressed once I started training with Accelerate Basketball during the summers. I really took it up a notch after training with those guys.
In your first season in Italy you played with Centrale del Latte Brescia (Italy-Lega2) and your teammate was JR Giddens who played two seasons with the Boston Celtics. When you saw guys like him and other good players week in and week out that had been in the NBA, did you ever compare your game to them and ponder what your chances could be like reaching the NBA?
Of course you naturally compare or you watch NBA games and see guys your game is similar too and think you can do that given the chance. Everyone has their own routes. Some catch a break and some others don’t.
After your season in Tuebingen you moved on to Belgacom Liege Basket (Belgium-D1). How challenging do you remember it being practicing with strong rebounding guard Nikolas Raivio who is the brother of Derek Raivio that also played in Germany for some years?
I don’t really remember it being challenging practicing with Nik. It used to be fun and competitive. Also his rebounding isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when I think of him as a player. What I remember most was how much of a complete players he was. He was a terrific scorer, he could defend, he could rebound, he could pass, and he was physically strong. I really enjoyed having him as a teammate.
Your 30 now and will play two more seasons in Greece. Where do you see your basketball future going? Do you see yourself playing well into your 30´s?
Yea I’m still feeling great and moving at a high level so I’m hoping to just continue to compete at a high level. I don’t know where my basketball future will be, but I know right now I am playing for Aris and that’s my only concern. Making sure I give this club my everything. Yea the plan is to play as long as I possible can, or until other things in my life take priority.
You played against many great players in Europe, but who would you say has been your toughest opponent in your career?
That’s a tough question to answer. There are too many players I´ve played against to try and pinpoint one as a toughest for my career.
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore, which 4 heads would you choose?
I honestly wouldn’t be able to construct a Rushmore because there are too many players I enjoyed watching. However, my NBA Rushmore, would consist of only players I had the opportunity to truly watch and I thoroughly enjoyed watching. Just to name 4, I would have Jordan, LeBron, Kobe, and A.I.
Lebron finally brought an NBA title to the Cavs. Where does he stand at the moment in the never ending debate with where he stands as the best of all-time?
To me he’s an All-Time great of course, but I will never put him in front of Michael Jordan. MJ is the GOAT, and will always be the GOAT to me.
Where do you rank Kevin Garnett with the best power forwards that ever played the game?
I feel’s he up there in the top 3 to 5 range, but he’s definitely behind Tim Duncan and Karl Marlone to me.
What was the last movie that you saw?
The last movie I saw was the latest Star Trek movie while traveling for Champions League.
Thanks Michael for the chat.