Mr. Smith, last summer you moved from Ludwigsburg to Alba Berlin. Now you have to meet your former colleagues in the semifinals of the basketball playoffs. How special is this reunion for you?
I know John Patrick, I know most of the players, and it’s going to be nice to see them all again. But I tried to keep in touch before the match as little as possible and focus fully on our task. We get plenty of time to chat before and after the matches.
In the main round, you lost twice to Ludwigsburg. Does it still matter?
That was a long time ago and we were sometimes tired of the many Euroleague matches. But of course we have that in mind and are ready to give back.
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How hard was it for you to leave Ludwigsburg a year ago after being named the most valuable player in the Basketball Bundesliga?
It was hard. I was there for two years, developed well in sports, and a home is being built there. It was not easy to leave all that, but I think you can already say that it went pretty well. I went to the big city and now I am very happy in Berlin.
Are you still in close contact with Ludwigsburg?
There is still some contact, especially with assistant coach Tetsuro Miyazaki. During my first year in Ludwigsburg, we lived together and became truly friends. Even though we no longer work together and live far away from each other, we keep in touch. He’s a great guy and I had a great time there.
You came to Ludwigsburg from second division. How important was the team and especially coach John Patrick for your development?
John Patrick just let me play, even though I did not have all the freedom right away. There were a few older players who knew the system very well. But after playing very well in the first year, I took control in the second year and that was when my game really flourished.
After initial difficulties, you played at a very high level again at Alba. Who is the best basketball player, Ludwigsburg or Berlin’s Jaleen Smith?
Alba’s Jaleen Smith because he can shoot much better (laughs). After training, I often work on my throw with assistant coach Sebastian Trzcionka, which has been very good for my game.
“Ludwigsburg always gives 100 percent”
They now had more than a week between the last match against Bamberg and the first against Ludwigsburg. It’s very unusual in the playoffs.
Yes, at least. I’m really very impatient and will finally play again. It’s enough with the training (laughs). But it was also good for us because a few of the guys who missed out on Bamberg are fresh again. I hope we can save our strong run from the last month and a half over this long break. We will definitely be fresh, Ludwigsburg too. I think it’s going to go back and forth at an insane pace.
It should suit you.
Yes, against Bamberg it was one of the keys that we were simply fresher and had a deeper squad. We ran them into the ground and scored a lot. But John Patrick will definitely try to take our rhythm and our pace.
You know Ludwigsburg inside and out. What makes them so hard to play against?
You always give 100 percent. Even if you are past one player, the next one comes and helps, and then the next one again. It’s really hard. Your game looks very hectic, but it’s a controlled frenzy, it’s the game plan.
Who should you pay special attention to?
Definitely on Jonah Radebaugh, he is their rock and scores very well this season. Justin Simon is also a key player and James Woodard brings a new dimension to the team from the bench with his scoring.
How do you win against this Ludwigsburg style?
You have to put at least the same effort as they do, otherwise they will put so much pressure on you with their aggressiveness that you do not have a chance. That is their great strength. If you resist, you can defeat them.
There are rumors that John Patrick could leave Ludwigsburg after nine years. Do you think it can affect the team?
I can not even imagine Ludwigsburg without John Patrick. It would be strange to see them without him on the sidelines and his style of play. But it will not affect them, they will be focused. If he goes, his players will definitely want to see him off with a bang.