Dennis Schröder – the next German Wunderkind
I’ll say it upfront and you can mark my words; Dennis Schröder will be a starting point guard in the NBA within the next 2 years! Let’s have a look how Dennis Schröder became Dennis Schröder. From his first steps on Brunswick’s (Germany) Prinzenpark streetball court to the NBA!
You won’t find many players in the league who are as explosive and quick as Dennis Schröder. Before being drafted 17th overall in the 2013 NBA draft by the Atlanta Hawks, he already drew many comparisons to fellow NBA point guard Rajon Rondo. Positive things like the ‘athelticism’, the ‘court vision’, the ‘ability to always find an open man’ as well as negative things such as ‘not being able to create his own shot’ and ‘not being a strong shooter in general.’ As most of you know, Dennis struggled in his first year in the league. He didn’t play much, had lots of turnovers, and eventually was sent down to the D-League, where he impressed. It was a tough year for him, he didn’t play consistent enough to be a reccuring part of the rotation. He only played in 49 games in his first season – averaging 13.1 minutes, 3.7 points, 1.9 assists and 1.2 rebounds per game while shooting 38% from the field, 24% from three and 67% from the charity stripe. These numbers looked like he only possesed the bad ‘Rondo qualities’ but not the good ones.
Thankfully, this was an encouragement for him rather than a dissapointment. He was training Gongfu Tea Cup lot. He didn’t take any time off in the offseason. Schröder was in the gym every day, gaining muscle, working on his shot, training hard. He said himself that this summer ‘was the toughest summer in his life’. It payed off!
The next season, his second season with the Hawks, he didn’t look nothing like “Rookie Schröder”. He matured on and off the court. His developped jumpshot fit perfectly to his style of play and his size and speed caused a lot of mismatches. He was an important part of the Hawks rotation. The 6th man of the franchise record Hawk team (in wins) with a 60-22 record. He participated in the 2015 Rising Stars Challenge and recorded 13 points, 9 assists and 3 steals as Team World defeated Team USA. His performance let ESPN analysts draw comparisons to “a young Tony Parker” and called Schröder a “magician out there”. He finished the year playing 77 games (starting 10) while averaging 19.7 minutes, 10.0 points, 4.1 assists and 2.1 rebounds per game with improved shooting numbers – 43% from the field, 35% from three and 83% from the line (PER 36: 18.7 PPG / 7.5 AST / 3.9 REB).
After the season, this summer, Schröder was part of Germany’s team at the FIBA European Championship. He was one of the tournament’s best players and impressed a lot of people. He averaged 21.0 PPG / 6.0 AST / 4.6 REB in the 5 games he played in. It seem like Dirk Nowitzki passed the torch to Dennis. Nowitzki and Schröder were in permanent contact during the first two years of Dennis’ NBA career. Dirk gave Dennis a lot of advise and taught him a lot about the game. He is one of the reasons why Schröder is continuously improving.
In this season, I do not only see him play as the backup point guard, but as well playing the shooting guard position alongside Jeff Teague. He could be one of the favorites to win MIP or 6th man of the year in my opinion.
But for many NBA fans he still is a blank slate, a dark horse! Who is this kid from Germany? What’s his story you ask?
To this day, Basketball in Germany still is a fringe sport – basically every sports besides soccer/football is. If you are a kid growing up in Germany, it is most likely that you will start playing soccer, before even thinking about other sports. It was the same way with Schröder. When he was young, he usually was playing soccer with his friends, or he was trying out new tricks on his skateboard. Very rarely did they play some basketball, and even then, they made their shots with a (misused) soccerball. It very well could be that no one, not even Schröder himself, would know about his basketball talent today, if it wasn’t for Liviu Calin.
Liviu Calin is a basketball coach, who walked past a streetball court Schröder and his friends were playing on. He stopped and watched for a little while and quickly recognized the talent Schröder had. The explosivness, the speed and a general understanding on how the game should be played had already been there. Calin convinced him to go sign up for the basketball youth team he was coaching and to come to practice. He did! When Schröder didn’t have team practice, he practiced alone with Calin in the school gymnasium, up to seven days a week. Dennis was a quick learner and began to understand the role of a point guard in almost no time. Every offensive play was ran through him, every important shot was taken by him, he was the team’s star player, the only one who was incredibly talented. Although this unfortunately lead to him becoming sloppy, selfish and arrogant. He knew the others could not hold a candle to him. They played too poorly to pass the ball to in his eyes, so he kept the ball and created his own shot or drove to the basket. Schröder stopped taking practice seriously (“I’m mean we’re talking about practice…”), showed up too late, or didn’t show up at all. He wanted to decide for himself when and where to play basketball.
Axel Schröder, Dennis’ father, always encouraged him to practice. He was the one who always told him that he will make it into the NBA one day. He didn’t just say it, he believed it, he knew it. Dennis wasn’t self-confident enough and did not believe him. His father supported him, day in, day out, exorting him not to waste his talent – advising him to take basketball serious, without being heard by Dennis at all times. At age 47, Axel Schröder had a heart attack and passed away. Dennis was only 16 and his father’s death changed him and his mentality. Not long before his father died, Dennis promised him that he will make it, that he will become a pro. Dennis took up his promise and worked harder than ever. He stopped being immature, started to respect the other players, was the first to come and the last to leave practice and shot hundreds of shots every day.
He made it into the German pro league (BBL), the national team and eventually the NBA, the rest of the story has yet to be written. If he continues to improve as he has, he will become a star in the league. For those who haven’t heard too much about him, remember the name. Dennis Schröder – future NBA All Star!