Nik Caner-Medley is a 33 year old 206cm power forward from Portland Maine that is playing his 11th professional season and first with AS Monaco Basket (France-ProA). He played the last two seasons with BK Astana (Kazakhstan-D1) and last season played VTB League: 17 games: Score-3(18.2ppg), 7.9rpg, 1.2apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 58.3%, 3PT: 41.7%, FT: 85.7%; FIBA Europe Cup: 6 games: 14.5ppg, 8.5rpg, 1.7apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 48.8%, 3PT: 44.0%, FT: 73.7%. He has also played in countries like Germany, Italy and in Israel for top team Maccabi Electra Tel-Aviv (Israel-Premier League). He played most of his career in Spain in the Endesa league for six seasons with teams like Malaga, Estudiantes Madrid Gran Canaria, Sevilla and Valencia. He also played at Maryland from 2002-2006 playing a total of 127 NCAA games reaching the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2003. He spoke to German Hoops about basketball.
Nik thanks for talking to German Hoops. Welcome back to Germany. You played as a rookie in Germany for the Artland Dragons and have played in Germany over the years like against Alba Berlin in the Euroleague. With what kind of feeling do you have returning back to Germany?
I have great memories of my time in Germany. Playing for coach Fleming was a great experience, he helped prepare me for the rest of my career in Europe. I have a lot of respect for him as a coach and as a man, great guy and very hard worker. One of the things I remember most about my time in Germany was the fans. All of the teams had great support from their fans and it was really fun to be a part of such a passionate basketball culture.
It was 10 years ago where you were a rookie in Germany with the Artland Dragons. If someone had told you then that a boy from Maine would still be playing professional 10 years later and be living in Monte Carlo what would you have thought?
I had big dreams and goals as a rookie. I have always believed with all of my heart that if you put in the time and dedicate yourself to your craft, you will find success. Over the past 10 years I have worked very hard and I am proud of the results. I am grateful to have played in some great places for some great clubs. If you had told me I would be playing in Monaco 10 years later I would have said I guess hard work truly does pay off.
You are playing your first season with AS Monaco Basket (France-ProA). You have played for top teams in Spain and Israel and seen it all, but how do your previous experiences with homes in Europe compare to where your living now in the glitz in Monte Carlo?
Monaco is a beautiful place. I have been very fortunate to play in some amazing places, Madrid, Gran Canaria, Malaga, Valencia, Tel Aviv, Sevilla, some really nice cities. What makes here in Monaco so special is my teammates and the people in the organization. We have such a great group of guys and we all get along so well, our coaches, the management, our owner, they are such high character people on and off the court, when you combine that with how beautiful Monaco is, it has been a great experience so far.
Monaco is currently at the top of the France Pro A and despite keeping only four players and adding eight new one´s have had little problems meshing. What do you feel has been key for the good start? It seems the team has a lot of experience also
As I mentioned we have a great group. We have some veteran players who understand what it takes to win and how to prepare, as well as some young players who are very talented and coachable. Coach Mitrovic keeps our focus on defense and playing together, he is a great coach and that has helped our chemistry. Most importantly all of us are committed to winning. A lot of teams say they want to win but in reality most of the players are most concerned with their personal stats. We all talk about our roles with each other so its very clear to everyone and we are all on the same page. We have no selfish players in our locker room.
What is also interesting is that Monaco distributes minutes like a Euroleague team with no player playing more than 28 minutes. Plus the club is very deep. How beneficial will this become in the post season?
We play a lot of games and travel a lot. Coach keeps our minutes around 20 minutes to allow us to put maximum effort on defense and help keep us fresh when we have a tough schedule. We have an entire roster who is capable of having big impacts on the game and this is a huge asset for us. We are missing one of the top guards in Europe Jamal Shuler, and one of the best young bigs in Brandon Davies. Having this depth is very key right now and we need to fight for them because we know how bad they want to be back on the court.
AS Monaco has many valuable scoring options. Where are you fitting in this offense at the moment and what is your role?
We talk about how you know never who is going to “get you” when teams scout us. We have a lot of guys who can make plays and that makes us difficult to defend. It obviously hurts us not having our leading scorer with Jamal out, but we have different guys who step up every game. Our scoring is very balanced and we play very unselfish as a team. We want to win a championship. Over the last 10 years I have played with and against some true winners and I have learned a lot from them. My role is whatever the game requires, rebounding is always important, making plays when we need it, or trying to take whatever team we plays power forward out of the game as much as possible. Overall I am committed to doing whatever it takes to help this organization and my teammates find success. My only goals for this season involve winning. I don’t care at all about any personal goals, all I want to do is win championships. I want to see the younger players on this team have a successful season, they work hard and deserve it.
After some years of having solid years, you had a great season last year with BK Astana (Kazakhstan-D1): VTB League: 17 games: Score-3(18.2ppg), 7.9rpg, 1.2apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 58.3%, 3PT: 41.7%, FT: 85.7%; FIBA Europe Cup: 6 games: 14.5ppg, 8.5rpg, 1.7apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 48.8%, 3PT: 44.0%, FT: 73.7%. How refreshing was it having a season like this into your 30´s?
Feeling good as you get into your 30s is all about taking care of your body during the season and during the offseason. I had some up and downs physically in Astana, it was a big adjustment in terms of the travel and took a toll on my body. I learned a lot from that experience and I am very grateful for it. I learned a lot of ways to help prepare your body for long road trips and tough weather, all things that make you tougher physically and mentally.
You have played Euroleague and in the Endesa, but how far away is the VTB league from being in the same level class as them or is it?
The VTB has some tough teams and tough players. It is a very physical league and when you talk about teams like CSKA, UNICS, Zenit, Kuban, and Khimky you are talking about some top teams in Europe. I was impressed with the quality of the talent on the Russian teams. The players are tough, athletic, and they don’t back down. They always come to fight. I see the VTB building a reputation as one of the toughest leagues in Europe.
You played in Spain in the best league in Europe for 6 years. In that time you also played NBA Summer League five times. Did you feel like you were at one time or another close to getting an NBA job?
I don’t know if I was close to getting into the NBA. I thought I had a good shot at it after my career at Maryland and was hoping to get drafted. After that I played in the summer leagues not only to see if any NBA teams had interest, but to also improve my chances of getting good jobs in Europe. I wouldn’t change a thing. My time in Europe has been dreams becoming reality. Where I am from not a lot of players have had the opportunity to play 11 years as a pro basketball player and I feel very blessed and grateful for every minute of this privilege, I had to work for this, none of this was handed to me, so I don’t take it for granted.
You played two seasons with Asefa Estudiantes Madrid (Spain-ACB) and was teammates with ex Skyliner Tyrone Ellis who now after some years paying his dues as an assistant is head coach of the Arizona D-league team. What do you believe stood out most when describing his unique character?
I told Tyrone the impact he had on my career. He showed me what a true pro is all about. Not only his approach at the gym but his discipline off the court as well. He is a great friend, teammate, husband, father, and now coach. I have the utmost respect for that man and I appreciate the time I had with him in Madrid and Sevilla
What was your wake up call to being a rookie in Germany where you knew that you were far away from home? But on the other hand Artland must have seemed as barren as Maine at times? Lol
When I was in Artland I was in the gym. I was coming back from an injury from summer league that caused me to miss most of my rookie season and that was tough. I had a chip on my shoulder and that was a time where I found that I was comfortable with putting in the work it takes to have a chance to be successful. I enjoy putting in extra time. I didn’t have a problem with the small town vibe because all I wanted to do was play and work, I felt I had a lot to prove and I saw a lot of Americans in Europe having great careers and Artland is where I set my goals.
How important was head coach Chris Fleming for you in your first season overseas? What was the most important thing that you picked up from him?
Coach Fleming was a hard worker. I respected how prepared he always was. He took his job very seriously and that motivated me as a rookie. I saw his attention to details and I learned a lot from his approach. I am not surprised at all with how much success he has had because he dedicates himself and he is a great guy.
Adam Hess was tearing up the German BBL when you were there? What do you still remember from his positive character that still stands out today?
Hess was a fighter. He was very competitive and I admired that. He was a fun guy to be around and a great teammate. I mentioned playing with guys over my career that exemplified what winning takes and he is one of those guys. He was a winner, a hard nosed guy who always showed up to fight.
You never made it to the NBA, but did play against Kobe Bryant at the Rucker Park League in Harlem. What did you learn about Kobe the player and person that you hadn´t known before having this experience?
The whole experience of playing at Rucker was a lot of fun. I always tell my friends when I was walking to the court in Harlem a guy across the street yelled “hey mike!” “Mike!!” “Dunleavaaaaayy” He thought I was Mike Dunleavy and I thought that was pretty funny. Playing against Kobe was cool, I matched up against him once and he of course went at me and I just fouled him, I wasn’t trying to be on the AND 1 mixtape that summer.
Who was the toughest player that you played against in the NCAA that made the NBA?
The toughest player I saw in college was my teammate Steve Blake. This week a lot of people have been sending me the video when he got in a little scrap at a pick up game during the summer and that was a quick glimpse of what Blake was all about. He was so competitive, tough and hated to lose. He was a great senior to learn from when I was a freshman. He looked out for me and was a great leader.
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore, which 4 heads would you choose?
My NBA Rushmore would be Jordan, Bird, Kobe, and Lebron. In my lifetime those are the legends that have had the biggest impact on my experience as a fan.
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?
I think when its all said and done you have to put Lebron in the top 5. The impact he has had on our generation of players is undeniable.
Where do you rank Kevin Garnett with the best power forwards that ever played the game?
From what I have seen KG has to rank as one of the toughest competitors of all time. He passion for the game is amazing and how he impacted the way people looked at the PF position is legendary. He was a 7 footer playing like a guard.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Last movie I saw was War Dogs, it was good. I watch a lot of movies when we travel.
Thanks Nik for the chat.