Weidemann hitting the big time with third 'Big B'
To encourage the development of more young local talents, the Basketball Champions League requires its teams to register at least 5 Home Grown Players on the game score sheet (if 11 or more players listed, otherwise 4 if roster has 10 or fewer players). Many of these players are considered top level talents in their respective countries and I will be taking a look at some of them over the course of the season.
BAMBERG (Germany) - Nelson Weidemann has a strong connection to the "Big Bs" in Germany as he has played or all three of the country's top clubs, and he’s shining bright in his early months with his third B: Brose Bamberg.
Weidemann suffered an right ankle injury and played in the first nine games of the Basketball Champions League Regular Season. But the 20-year-old guard has shown strong glimpses of the promise that has had Alba Berlin, Bayern Munich and Bamberg bring him in their system. Weidemann averaged 2.4 points, 0.4 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 0.6 steals in 9.0 minutes in the BCL, and he collected 5.0 points, 0.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists in the German BBL.
Das Career-High (14 Punkte) eingestellt, acht Zähler alleine im ersten Viertel erzielt und insgesamt 21 Minuten (neuer Bestwert!) lang Vertrauen erhalten:— Brose Bamberg (@BroseBamberg) November 23, 2019
Nelson Weidemann ist euer @PUMAHoops-Man of the Match! 🔥
Herzlichen Glückwunsch, Nelson 👏🏽 und weiter so! #basketballherz pic.twitter.com/ghVNX0gdHD
The BCL has impressed Weidemann, who admits to being a new observer to the league after Alba and Bayern played in the EuroCup and EuroLeague, respectively.
"Playing in the BCL is different because I’ve never really watched the BCL, so it's kind of interesting to get a lot more teams to know that you usually don't see. I mean there are so many good and tough players in the BCL that I didn't even know before," Weidemann said.
He said the toughest aspect of the BCL is the travel.
"This is really the first time I have to travel that long and that far to play 40 minutes of basketball," said Weidemann, who has played road games in Nymburk, Gaziantep, Riga, Tenerife and Nizhny Novgorod.
Staying out of trouble
Weidemann didn't have to travel long to play the game as a youngster growing up in the German capital Berlin.
"I started playing it because of the street ball court around the corner and because my cousin and my mother were always basketball fans," Weidemann recalled of his beginnings in the game in 2007. "There was also the Max Schmeling Halle around the corner where Alba used to play back then, so I was always kind of excited about basketball when Alba had a home game."
Weidemann grew up in the neighborhood of Wedding in the borough of Mitte, one of the poorest areas of Berlin with quite a bit of crime. And basketball helped him avoid problems.
Nelson Weidemann's road to the BCL started in Berlin
"Basketball always kept me out of trouble in my borough, so basically I didn't notice any crime or stuff like that. It was not always easy," he said.
Weidemann credits a big part of his success to his cousin Bill Borekambi.
"He just inspired me with his work ethic. We spent a lot of time on that street ball court where he taught me in my early years that I should work hard always no matter what happens," Weidemann said of Borekambi, who has played in the German second and third divisions for more than a decade.
Weidemann started with Alba's junior teams in 2013 and his talent was clear enough that he played for Germany at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2015. And he played for Alba at the JBBL U16 level. But in 2015 he felt it was time to move on from Alba, which meant leaving his family and borough.
"I just wanted to get better and play at a higher level, and at that point Berlin was just not the right situation for me anymore. And it was super tough to leave home. Especially the first couple of weeks I was home sick. I was separated from my friends and family and I kind of underestimated that. But at the end of the day this made me mentally tougher," said Weidemann, who moved to Nuremberg.
Nelson Weidemann is full of energy - in the game or off the bench
Weidemann wasn't entirely without family in Nuremberg - located almost 400 kilometers from Berlin. His cousin Borekambi was also there as he played in the same Nuremberg club in the second division ProA.
"He just kept an eye on me. He made sure that I was going to school, eating well and of course working hard every day," he said.
Weidemann's 2016 turned out to be a real breakout. In February, Bayern brought him in for the U18 ANGT European club tourney in Belgrade as a guest player and despite not really practicing with the team beforehand he averaged 17.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.3 steals.
About a month later, he helped Germany win the biennial Albert Schweitzer Tournament, a U18 national team invitational hosted in Mannheim, Germany.
"It felt great, but we kind of knew we were going for the championship. It was very special and cool but not surprising for us because we had a great team," recalled Weidemann of Germany winning the event for the first time with the likes of Philipp Herkenhoff, Louis Olinde, Richard Freudenberg, Kostja Mushidi and Lars Lagerpusch.
Guest player turns into dream come true
In August of 2016, Weidemann took the next step in his basketball development and moved again - this time from Nuremberg about 170 kilometers further south to Bayern Munich.
"I played the ANGT with Munich that year and it just felt right to play for them," he said. "So when I had to make a decision that summer it was really easy for me to decide for Munich, and to the be honest it was a dream of mine to play for Munich one day."
The calendar year continued with Weidemann being selected for the Basketball Without Borders European camp in Finland in September. And then in December, he helped Germany reach the Semi-Finals of the FIBA U18 European Championship 2016 and finish fourth.
"It was a similar feeling like the AST because we knew we had a great squat again, and we knew that we are better than most of the other teams in Europe," said Weidemann, who helped Germany reach the top four in Europe at the U18 level for the first time since 1986. "And it was not disappointing for us that we ended up being fourth because our main goal was to qualify for the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup in Egypt the following year."
More success: MVP as champ and U19 World Cup
The successful run continued in 2017 as he helped Bayern win their first youth national title with the NBBL U19 league crown, with Weidemann taking MVP honors of the final four. And in the summer, Germany took fifth place at the U19 World Cup in their first appearance in the competition since 1987.
"We went there with the goal to compete and we ended up being fifth so in my opinion we did a pretty good job," said Weidemann, who averaged 5.0 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists.
One game of note was the Quarter-Finals - an 81-59 loss to the United States. And while the Americans did not win the tournament - losing spectacularly in the Semi-Finals to eventual champs Canada - eight of the players from that USA team have already reached the NBA.
"I remember that game pretty well because it was really frustrating for me that I didn't have a great night," he said, referring to his 0 points on 3 missed shots, 4 rebounds and 1 steal in 18 minutes. "But it also motivated me to work even more and harder. Still, it was a great experience to compete against Team USA. As you see they have eight current NBA players from that roster, so it was pretty cool afterwards."
First European medal for Germany in 35 years
The next time Weidemann put on the Germany jersey, he helped make history for the country. In front of the home fans in Chemnitz, Weidemann and Germany took third place at the FIBA U20 European Championship 2018 - the country's first-ever U20 European medal and first time they reached a continental podium since back-to-back third-placed finishes in 1981 and 1983.
"That tournament was a little bit frustrating because so many people, including us as a team, expected us to win it. But at the end of the day we made the best out of that and it still feels special to me," Weidemann said.
It was also a big step for a German youth system that continues to develop more and more players with potential but had not collected the hardware.
"It was very important because we showed that Germany is going in the right direction and that there's more to come," Weidemann said.
As Weidemann made his way up the ranks of Germany's youth national teams, he also got closer and closer to the Bayern senior team, and the big day came on March 17, 2019, when he made his BBL debut against MBC.
"It felt so weird but also so satisfying that moment because I finally got to play in the BBL," he said about picking up 2 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal in the game. "But it is also unreal at the same time because I accomplished a dream that I used to dream when I was younger: playing for Bayern in the German BBL. Afterwards I was like damn I really did this. I was just like, finally he calls my name and finally it's my turn."
Weidemann ended up playing three games in the BBL.
In the 2019, Weidemann took time away from the national team and worked on his body, getting stronger and faster. And his club situation changed as well on July 28, 2019 when it was announced that he would be heading to Bamberg on a two-year loan from Bayern with a third year as an option for Bamberg to buy out the final year of his deal.
"I knew I was leaving Munich that summer so I was just patiently waiting for the right team to pull up and when I heard that Bamberg was calling I decided right away. It was a no brainer for me," he said.
By playing with Bamberg he became the seventh player to play for all three "Big B" organizations Alba Berlin, Bayern Munich and Brose Bamberg - along with current Bamberg teammate Bryce Taylor.
"I can say they are all very professional and create the best circumstances for each player to improve themselves. But it's still kind of special to play for Bamberg because of the history of the club."
Reward if deserved
Weidemann arrived in Bamberg in a time of change as the head coach Roel Moors came in after guiding Telenet Giants Antwerp to the BCL Final Four last season. And Weidemann heard right away from his coach that he would get the playing time if it was deserved.
"He said in the summer he’s going to reward me with playing time if I show him I deserve it, so I just focused on that and everything else came from itself," Weidemann said. "I'm happy but not satisfied with the season so far. It's good for me to see that I'm able to compete at this level but this is not the level where I want to be in the future."
Weidemann hopes his time with his third "Big B" will bring him to the big time.