Dennis Schroeder, who grew up in Braunschweig to a German father and a Gambian mother, can pinpoint the exact moment that he began taking basketball seriously and setting his sights on the NBA.
Three years ago, when Schroeder was 16 years old, he found out that his father was dying of heart failure. Suddenly, the young boy who spent his free time skateboarding, playing basketball and hanging out with friends was forced to mature and become a man.
Schroeder comes from a large family, with two brothers, two sisters and plenty of other relatives in Germany and Gambia. When he found out about his father’s illness, he helped raise his siblings and worked to support his family. Schroeder understood that it would be his responsibility to become the family’s provider once his father was gone. Realizing this, he made basketball his top priority.
Just before his father passed away, Schroeder assured him that he would take care of his mother and siblings. He also made a promise that would drive him for the next three years.
“I promised my dad that one day I would be in the NBA so that I could help my family a lot,” Schroeder told HOOPSWORLD.
Now, Schroeder is on the verge of fulfilling that promise to his late father.
On June 27, Schroeder is expected to be a mid-first round pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, and there’s a chance that he may even be a lottery pick. Teams such as the Dallas Mavericks (No. 13) and Utah Jazz (No. 14) could certainly use a point guard and he’s one of the best floor generals available in the draft.
While Schroeder’s story is incredible, it’s his three-year journey from Germany to the NBA that is even more remarkable. When he made that promise to his father, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that he would eventually be starring in the NBA.
Schroeder began playing for the New Yorker Phantoms of the Federal Basketball League – the most competitive league in Germany – during the 2011-12 season. He was a bench warmer, averaging just 2.3 points, 0.7 assists and 0.8 rebounds in roughly eight minutes per game. It wasn’t until Schroeder’s second season with the Phantoms that he shined. He was given an opportunity to play more and had a breakout campaign, averaging 12.0 points, 3.2 assists and 2.5 rebounds in 25 minutes per game.
Schroeder was identified as one of the best young players in Germany and he got his big break several weeks ago when he was added to the World Select Team at the Nike Hoops Summit in Portland. Playing alongside international stars such as Andrew Wiggins out of Canada and Sergey Karasev out of Russia, Schroeder stole the show. The point guard put up 18 points and a game-high six assists in the World Select Team’s 112-98 victory over Team USA.
This performance not only put Schroeder on the NBA radar, but helped his draft stock significantly.
“I’m confident right now because the Hoop Summit game was very nice for me,” Schroeder said. “I think that I got more confidence now than I had before the game… Now, I hope that I get drafted in the first round.”
At this point, the 19-year-old seems like a first-round lock. He’s being discussed as the third-best point guard in this class, behind only Trey Burke out of Michigan and Michael Carter-Williams out of Syracuse. While Burke and Carter-Williams are familiar to basketball fans because of their NCAA success, Schroeder believes his experience playing professionally in Germany separates him from the other point guards in this year’s draft.
“Playing two years in a professional league helped me a lot and got me ready for the NBA,” Schroeder said. “It’s a very good league because you’re playing against men. I think I got an advantage because coming here I’ll be playing against men too. I got an advantage playing in the German League.”
Schroeder has drawn comparisons to Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo because of his quickness, defense and length. At the NBA draft combine in Chicago, Schroeder measured in at 6’2, with a nearly 6’8 wingspan. He, like Rondo, also has enormous hands, which help him play the passing lanes and handle the ball. Schroeder’s hands were measured at 10.5 inches wide, bigger than any other guard in the draft. Only four players had wider hands than Schroeder and they are all big men (Steven Adams, Brandon Davies, DeWayne Dedmon and Trevor Mbakwe).
“Everyone says I play like Rondo,” Schroeder said. “I play like him a little bit – the defense, the long arms, after the pick-and-roll he finds the opens guys. I think I play like him. I see a lot of NBA games. I try to see him, Chris Paul and every team that has a good point guard.”
Schroeder is the first person to admit that he still has a lot of work to do once he lands on an NBA team. He also acknowledges that he specific areas where he really needs to improve, specifically “finishing with contact” and “shooting off of pick-and-rolls.” With that said, Schroeder has more potential than most players in this draft, which is why there are so many executives intrigued by him.
Some team is going to fall in love with Schroeder and select him on June 27. In fact, rumor has it he may already have a promise from a team early in the first-round. That could be why he didn’t participate in the combine drills in Chicago (rather than the toothache excuse he gave reporters) and why he plans to skip adidas’ Eurocamp in June.
“I think when they call my name, it’ll be a good feeling, I can’t even describe it,” Schroeder said with a smile. “I worked for this every day. Hard work pays off.”