heinnews’s David Hein was at the U20 European Championship in Greece and caught up with German guard Philipp Schwethelm before playing against Israel – a game Germany won to remain in the Division A. They discussed fighting against relegation to Division B instead of playing for a medal in Greece; a tough message from men’s national team coach Dirk Bauermann; his expectations for Bauermann’s training camp; Köln 99ers going bankrupt and his plans for next season.

heinnews: Germany finally got an important win by beating Belgium. Now if you beat Israel you stay in Division A. The team has a lot of talent, how big is the frustration there as far as not being able to do what you wanted – which was play for a medal?
Schwethelm: After losing the game against Serbia it was a really tough situation and frustrating. We had thought about reaching the semi-finals or final here. And now we are playing to just stay in the league. That is a tough situation. We didn’t really play well at all against Slovenia but now we are focused and have accepted the situation we are in. We just need to beat Israel to stay in the league. And we are ready for Israel.

heinnews: How tough is changing the attitude within the team of thinking you could play for a medal to playing against relegation to Division B?
Schwethelm: The whole summer dream of playing for a medal was over. So it was really a tough situation playing against Slovenia. Against Slovenia, we were not ready to forget about everything before that. Everybody was thinking, man we have to play Slovenia now, we should have been playing against Spain or Italy or France. So we were not focused and took it too easy. That’s why we lost the way we did. The coaches got really mad and put a lot of pressure on us. Even the A1 national team coach (Dirk Bauermann) talked to us since a couple of guys will be with the A1 national team training camp. But now everyone is ready and recognizes the situation. We have to stop dreaming of a medal. That’s over. We have to accept the situation and just play.

heinnews: So coach Dirk Bauermann contacted you and the other four players heading to training camp after the Slovenia game?
Schwethelm: Yeah, he sent the five players he invited to A1 national team training camp a long message – like five messages – saying that thinking about those last games was something for losers. Crying is for losers. We need to start working to stay in the league. We are still a great team and we need to forget about everything else.

heinnews: You mentioned heading to the 21-man men’s national team training camp in Leverkusen, which starts on July 28. You and four of your team-mates are invited. How does it feel to be part of that at such a young age and knowing that there are chances to get into the national team because of all the changes going on?
Schwethelm: It’s great to come into this situation. I think it’s also lucky for us that we are at this age when about half of the national team has retired. And it’s lucky for us to get to play with players like Nowitzki and Kaman, to get to know them. I think it will be a great experience. I hope that all of us guys will make to at least the practice camps where Nowitzki and Kaman take part, to get to know them and see how they play and how they work and learn from them.

heinnews: What are your expectations of the training camp?
Schwethelm: First we need to beat Israel and stay in Division A. That will make things a lot easier to go to the A1 national team. Otherwise everyone will ask us what happened. Already they will be asking. But it will be embarrassing if we have to go to Division B. As soon as we get to the men’s team we have to forget about what happened here. And focus on the new things and new aims and try to be one of the players to make it to Poland to play another European Championship. That’s what we have to work for and focus on that.

heinnews: There was a few years during which the German basketball system was unable to produce much talent. That has changed and there is a lot of talent coming up. And you are part of a very talented class. What’s it like knowing that as a group you guys could be the next to try and reach the goals that Nowitzki and Femerling and the others did – bronze at the Worlds or silver at EuroBasket?
Schwethelm: Until now we haven’t proven anything. We had a chance here (U20 Euros) to show everybody that we have some prospects. But as (U20 coach) Henrik Rödl says: What does it mean to be a prospect if you don’t win. Until now we haven’t proven anything. So I hope we can make it next year to the A1 national team and prove our game. A couple of guys will go to college now and a couple of guys will be in their first year in German first division. And I hope they get some playing time and get some experience.
I think that’s also a little bit different from teams like Serbia and Croatia. They are playing at a higher level. I think that’s maybe the difference in playing in overtime and losing on a buzzer beater. Some of the guys are playing their first year professionally or in college and working hard. And hopefully that will help us represent Germany better in the future.

heinnews: You and Tibor Pleiß played together a lot at Köln 99ers. What was it like having him on this U20 team with you?
Schwethelm: Tibor and I really didn’t find our rhythm at this European Championship. I think the coaches expected more from us. We just never found our rhythm and didn’t play like we were supposed to play or how we could play like we had proved in the BBL. But Tibor is a great prospect and I hope he can find a good club now after the Köln bankruptcy and get some playing time and experience too. I hope he improves his game and makes it to a good European team or maybe the NBA. That would give us another great player and we could build on that in the future.

heinnews: You mentioned the Köln 99ers bankruptcy. What do you think about that situation?
Schwethelm: It’s a really tough situation. Money didn’t come and franchise players left. And suddenly young players like Tibor and I came in and have a lot of playing time – also in the ULEB Cup and playing against teams from Moscow. It was a great situation. It was tough not knowing what would come the next day. But as a basketball player it was a great experience, playing at the high level in the ULEB Cup and then also more than 30 minutes in the BBL. That really helped a lot and was a great experience. This season was about the same – though we didn’t play EuroCup. We were close to bankruptcy and players were not satisfied. We also lost a lot of games and were playing to stay in the league. Now it’s really sad that the team is bankrupt. We were supposed to have Team Germany with like eight German players. That would have been a great experience and a chance to prove our game. But now we have to find a new situation and a new club.

heinnews: The announcement of course happened while you were here. But what’s your current situation as far as looking for a club?
Schwethelm: I don’t really know yet. I talked to my agent before the European Championship and he had the chance to talk to a couple of teams. But I haven’t talked to him from here because I wanted to stay focused on this tournament. He said there were a couple of teams really interested. So we will figure things out when I come back to Germany and see what team is most interesting for me. And then we can talk.

heinnews: Without naming any teams or where you might want to go, what do you see as the main goal for this up-coming season?
Schwethelm: Money is not that important for me next season or the next two or three years. I want to play and be able to improve my game. I want to play for a team that will go to the playoffs or at least fight for the playoffs. I want to play on a winning team to get the winning mentality that this U20 national team was missing. Almost every player on this team was playing on a team that was fighting to stay in the league. So, I want play for a team that is winning. That is the most important thing for me.

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