Nelson Weidemann calls a play at the 2015 FIBA U16 European Championship.

Nelson Weidemann calls a play at the 2015 FIBA U16 European Championship.

Belgrade (heinnews) – Players make a big jump in their game for a variety of reasons. Nelson Weidemann believes it took him moving out of his comfort zone to become a man – playing against boys with the long-term goal of becoming one of the greatest players in the NBA.

NBA scouts at the Adidas Next Generation Tournament in Belgrade were left shuffling papers and opening up new internet tabs looking for more information about Weidemann, who played at the ANGT on loan with Bayern Munich. And he  clearly left his mark.

The 1999-born Weidemann averaged 17.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.3 steals for Bayern, who finished in sixth place.

“In general, the team performed pretty well, considering we never practiced together before,” said Weidemann, who plays for rent4office Nürnberg in the NBBL, 1st Regionalliga and ProA.

“It can always be better, but I played for the first time at the ANGT and did a pretty good job even though I played for a team that isn’t my home club.”

When told that the NBA scouts were impressed with his game in Belgrade, Weidemann answered: “My thoughts for this tournament were that I was there to play basketball. I just want to compare myself to other great players at my age in Europe. I didn’t really care about all these scouts and agents and stuff like that. I flew over there because I wanted to play basketball.”

So, how does Weidemann think he did?

“I think I compared pretty well. I saw some things I did already good and I saw things I need to improve on. I see myself on top of the point guards from there.”

Weidemann, who stands 1.91m and has a 1.97m wingspan, said some of his top assets were scoring and holding the team together as a leader. The 16-year-old said he still needs to work on his defense and his right hand drive among other things.

Weidemann, whose father comes from Ghana, started playing basketball when he was 7 years old. He grew up in the tough neighborhood of Wedding in the borough of Mitte – one of the poorest areas of Berlin and one of the most ethnically diverse localities of the German capital.

Weidemann eventually landed in the youth ranks of Alba Berlin. His talent earned him a spot on Germany’s U16 national team for last summer’s European Youth Olympic Festival and the U16 European Championship.

Germany came up with a great showing at the EYOF, finishing in third place with only a loss to eventual champions Bosnia and Herzegovina. That gave the Germans confidence ahead of the U16 European Championship just a few days later.

“We were really ready for the European Championship,” Weidemann said.

In the quarter-finals though Germany lost again to Bosnia, who eventually claimed the U16 Euros titles as well. But the big loss came in the next game against France in the 5-8 classification round, meaning Germany could not finish in the top 6 and qualify for the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championship.

“It was really disappointing for us because we really wanted to play the world championship and play against teams like USA, Argentina, Spain etc,” said Weidemann, who led Germany in scoring (11.5 points) and was second in assists (1.9) and steals (1.4) at the U16 Euros.

“But there’s the FIBA U19 World Championship next year so we swore to ourselves we will practice even harder and that this kind of loss would never happen again. Our main goal is to play the FIBA U19 World Championship next year.”

To do that, Weidemann will have to help Germany to the top five at this summer’s U18 FIBA European Championship.

“I think it’s really realistic because the roster is great. Germany is a really serious opponent to watch out for,” said Weidemann, who was included in the 14-man preliminary roster for the late March-early April U18 Albert Schweitzer Tournament.

Weidemann has really taken his game to a higher level since last summer. And a major part of that was moving from Alba Berlin to the club in Nürnberg, where he was able to take on a bigger role in his teams and also get a few appearances in the second division ProA.

“My decision, or better said the move, to leave Berlin for Nürnberg was because I wanted to have a major role in the NBBL and the Regionalliga and even have a chance to play the ProA,” said Weidemann.

And when asked why Nürnberg, Weidemann said clearly: “(Head coach) Ralph Junge is here and I wanted to learn from Ralph Junge, and only from Ralph Junge. He’s the major point that brought me here.”

Junge is well known in Germany for developing young German players from his time at Ehingen/Urspringschule, including Nicolai Simon, Lucca Staiger, Christian Standhardinger, Maurice Stuckey, Akeem Vargas and Kevin Bright.

Weidemann says his move away from home has helped him just as much as the move to Junge’s tutelage.

“The real difference is that I’m becoming a man mentally. And every day I’m getting tougher and tougher. Because in Berlin I had my mom there and all my friends. I really didn’t have to worry about taking care of anything. But now I’m starting to become a true man because over here I’m alone,” he said.

“My mother is in Berlin, so I have to take care of my stuff all by myself. I have to organise myself for school, I have to care about my food all by myself. I have to organise my practice and stuff like that. I just think the difference is mentally I’m acting like a man.”

And that is showing on the court too.

“In my head maybe I’m 27 or 28. And that’s the way I’m playing. I feel like a man on the court playing against kids. And that’s the big difference.”

Where can this lead?

For now, Weidemann is not looking to the NBA for role models – but to an American star in Europe, Malcolm Delaney.

“He’s a tall point guard with good, high basketball IQ and good shooting. I want to be like him in the near future because I see my game when he plays. He shots a lot and he’s a great leader. The way he leads the game is … just wow. I want to play like him. He’s one of the best players I ever saw,” Weidemann said of Delaney, who played one season in Germany with Bayern Munich in 2013-14.

Weidemann said he likes going to school in Bavaria – which he said is a much more difficult school system than the one in Berlin – and he could imagine heading to the U.S. to further his education.

“Yes, of course if the opportunity is there I would probably go to college.”

Long term though, the goal is the NBA.

“Of course I want to go to the NBA, but I just don’t want to go to the NBA and play. I want to be one of the greatest players in the NBA one day. I have the potential for that. I am a tall point guard, my body is ideal for the NBA. I just have to work hard and be mentally fit for the NBA.”

The first jump has been taken but the next jump from prospect with potential to legit star is the one where so many fail. We’ll see over the long haul if Weidemann has the mental toughness to get there.

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