Jacob Patrick awaits consistency - once school is complete
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 the 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.
LUDWIGSBURG (Germany) - Jacob Patrick can't just concentrate on MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg's pick-and-roll defense or where he needs to be when an opposing team imposes a press after a made basket. Instead, the 18-year-old still needs to worry about German, math and physics lessons. But Patrick's school days are almost over - and he cannot wait for that day.
"I will be very happy and very, very relieved to have that sealed and really just focus on basketball," Patrick said about the perspective of taking his high school Abitur equivalent exams in June.
"I've had a few good games and a few more shallow games, and I just want to be more consistent. And what's keeping me from being more consistent at a higher level is probably that I have that school going on. So I will be very happy if I have only basketball to focus on."
Patrick admitted that German classes are pretty tough for him while English, physics and math are more his stronger subjects.
"I'm a decent student, so I get through pretty good actually," Patrick said.
The 6ft 4in (1.94m) guard may be just about done with his school education, but he is only at the beginning of his basketball education. And Patrick could not have a better teammate to be exposed to and observe from than Tremmell Darden.
A veteran like Tremmell Darden is a god-send for a young talent like Jacob Patrick
"Tremell is really, really professional about basketball. He comes in before every practice and does his warmup routine … He has his routine down. He does it every day, and he is 40 years old and playing like that says something about him," Patrick said. "But also talking to him about his history in basketball. He's been on huge teams. There is a lot to learn about being professional from him."
Patrick is spending already his third season working at least partially with Ludwigsburg's pro team. And Darden is just one of many guards from whom Patrick has had a chance to learn and be challenged in a major way - others being Marcos Knight, Nick Weiler-Babb and Jaleen Smith.
"They always went really hard. That was the first thing I noticed from playing U19 to being on the pro team - how much faster and harder the game is, how much harder it's played. That was the first thing I learned from those guys. How hard they play and you can't relax on the court and you always have to be aware of what's going on," Patrick said.
Basketball ever present growing up
The orange leather has been an integral part of Jacob's life for nearly his entire life. His father John Patrick is already in his ninth full season of coaching at Ludwigsburg before which he was head coach at BG Göttingen whom he guided to the FIBA EuroChallenge title in 2010.
"I was there for the celebration at the marketplace in Göttingen. That was pretty cool to see - all the people gathered to see the trophy," said Patrick, who was 6 years old back then.
Papa Patrick started in Göttingen in 2003 - the year Jacob was born - and also coached in 2005-06 in Japan.
"We had a hoop in front of the house. I still know my first make was on that hoop. It was a grandma shot between my legs," Jacob remembered. "We used to play a lot of two-on-two: me and my father against my two older brothers. A lot of great memories from there."
The fourth of five siblings - three boys and two girls - Jacob Patrick has already made some great memories in professional basketball. In the Basketball Champions League, the shooting guard is averaging 5.0 points, 1.0 rebounds, 0.3 assists and 0.4 steals in eight appearances.
"It's my first season playing internationally and I was excited about that - to learn about other styles from other leagues and how they play in different countries," he said. "I just wanted to be decent at first, just to get the feel how international basketball is."
Patrick has scored in seven of his eight BCL appearances - also playing at least 12 minutes in six of them. His highlight thus far in the league has been pouring in 13 points in a 99-83 Gameday 5 road victory over Lenovo Tenerife.
"The trip there the day before we pretty long from Stuttgart to Frankfurt to there. On the game day I felt pretty good. At the shoot-around I thought I had a good touch. Once the game got going and I got subbed in it was a great crowd, I was excited to play, it was really fun. Things went well for me, and we got to win," said Patrick, who made 5-of-12 shots - 1-of-5 on three-pointers - with 2-of-3 free throws while grabbing 1 rebound and 1 steal in 19 minutes.
Another highlight for Patrick this season came on January 15 when he drained 4 three-pointers in scoring 14 points to go with 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal against EWE Baskets Oldenburg in the German league.
"I would say that was a pretty solid game. That's kind of the way I want to be successful at - that kind of level. Just play decently solid defense, get buckets on offense, not too crazy every night - like 10 to 14 points. If I could be consistent at that level that would be my next step, my next goal," said Patrick, who has scored in double figures in three games in the German league while averaging 5.5 points, 1.4 rebounds, 0.4 assists and 0.8 steals in 14 minutes. "That was a game where I can see I am definitely capable of doing that. I didn't hit crazy shots or anything like that. I got good shots and I made them. I think it's very accomplishable what my goals are. I know I can do it."
Patrick knows anything is possible - also because he already is a record holder in German basketball. At the German league playoffs bubble in 2020, Patrick became the fourth youngest player in league history and the youngest player to ever score at 16 years 6 months 19 days.
"I was very excited getting into the game. I have to say I was very nervous, but I said to myself: You can score. You know how it is. You've played basketball your whole life, just go out there and play," he recalled about the game against Fraport Skyliners. "I remember I got the ball in the corner. I told myself before the game if you get it and you're open you just have to shoot it. It will go in any way. You know how it is. I got it and I made the shot. I was very relieved and very happy when it went it. We won that game, I had eight points and I was very excited about making my real first step into pro basketball."
Calm, cold-blooded sniper
While he was excited, Patrick really didn't show it that much. In fact, he kind of has the look of a cold-blooded sniper, showing very little emotion. He really just presents himself in a calm manner.
"I'm just kind of like that," he says, though cracking a smile and a slight laugh. "But I am nervous before some games. I am able to hide it on the court. When you're on the court it goes away, you just play. But before the game you just have to talk to yourself to calm yourself down and think to yourself that you know how do things. You spent all your life playing basketball. You know how it is. It's just a basketball game, do your best, nothing can happen to you. It's just a normal basketball game and everything will be good - stuff like that," he revealed.
Patrick added: "But I am kind of calm because I don't think it helps to stress. I'd rather stay calm and work things out in my head than be stressed all the time. That's why I am always so calm - or try to stay calm."
Patrick also can be calm because he has the peace of mind that his coach knows how to get the best out of him.
"He probably knows my potential the best besides myself. He pushed me more than a normal coach would. We go to the gym a lot on free days. We always go up there and do some stuff," Jacob said when asked what advantages he has playing for his father. "It makes it possible for me to be on a pro team as a student. Because most of the time I miss the morning practices but probably many coaches wouldn't tolerate that. But since he knows my potential and knows that I can help the team that is accepted and I am still a part of the team."
There are also disadvantages to having your father be the play-caller and man barking commands and pointing out things you do wrong as a player.
"You are more and quicker annoyed by things that he says. But you just gotta ignore it sometimes - take what he means from a basketball standpoint and blur out the other stuff," Jacob said.
Disappointment with Germany
Patrick's career has not only been highlights. He suffered a major disappointment in the summer of 2019 when he was part of the German team that was relegated to Division B of the FIBA U16 European Championship after finishing 14th in the tournament in Udine.
Germany lost the opener to Italy by three points and then fell to Russia by five points and Croatia by eight points to finish the group stage 0-3.
"The first game we were up the whole game and ended up losing. After that we were very frustrated and then we couldn't get out of that low. We kept losing close games - it was really disappointing. We kind of thought we would win a game at some point," said Patrick, who averaged 9.9 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.3 steals.
Jacob Patrick playing for Germany at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2019
In the Round of 16, Germany lost to eventual champions Spain by two points and then lost to Slovenia by seven points in the Classification 9-16. Patrick poured in 22 points in a victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina to set up a do-or-die game with Latvia for 13th place. But the Germans lost 79-67 and were sent to Division B.
"We were better than other teams, but it just didn't happen. Looking back I think I have to take more responsibility on the court, be more active and be in the moment. Don't think about other stuff, just play the game you are in and give it your best. Don't think about having so many games in a short time. You have to give your all on the court when you're on the court. That's what I took out of it. Anything can happen in basketball if you're not fully into it," he said.
When asked where that result ranks, Patrick said: "Probably the worst."
Watching Ludwigsburg in BCL Final Four in 2018
He hopes this season can bring more highlights. The 2020 bubble Play-Offs saw the club reach the German league finals for the first time in club history and of course Patrick's father helped Ludwigsburg reach the BCL Final Four in 2018. Jacob was not in Athens for the games but he watched them from home.
"The crowd was amazing to see. It would be really great to be play in front of such a crowd like that for a title," he said.
Patrick picked up six points, 1 rebound and 1 steal in Ludwigsburg's Game 1 loss to U-BT Cluj Napoca. But he still has high goals.
"I want to win a title for sure. That's what every basketball player plays for - to win, especially win big titles, which is what the BCL title is. That would mean a lot to me, something big to accomplish and look back on the rest of my life."
But there is still that small matter of studying German, physics and math for a couple more months.