When the 2013 Nike Hoop Summit tips off on Saturday, April 20 at the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore., the 16th annual event will feature some of America's premiere senior high-school players versus a World Select Team comprised of international players age 19-years-old or younger.
And while all eyes will be on Canada's own Andrew Wiggins after the small forward lead the World Team with 20 points in the 84-75 win over Team USA, there is a point guard from Braunschweig, Germany who could easily steal Wiggins' thunder this year
Dennis Schroeder is simply that good.
At 19-years old, Schroeder was recently named the "Best German Youth Players Under 24" by a panel consisting of Germany's BEKO BBL coaches, German national team coaches and BBL executives, in addition to being selected as the BBL's Most Improved Player award.
The honor is much deserved.
After appearing in 27 games at 8 minutes per game last season for the New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig, Schroeder's averages jumped from 2.5 points and 0.7 assists per game in 2011-12, to a team leading 11.9 points and 3.3 assists per game, to go along with 43.6% shooting from the field and 40.2% from 3-point. Such production also earned Schroeder a trip to the 2013 BEKO BBL All-Star Game where he was the youngest player in the history of the event.
It's no wonder why top BBL teams such as Bayern Munich have shown interest in Schroeder to join their organization for next season and a number of NBA scouts have flocked to Germany this season to take a closer personal look at the lightening quick point guard. What all parties have witnessed with Schroeder (who is listed at 6-foot-2 but is actually closer to 5-foot-11) is not only the future of a German national basketball pride both on an international level, but knowing his skill set likely the next in line to make an eventual transition to the NBA.
From a scouting standpoint, the tools are there even if unpolished at times (his 2.3 turnovers per game are the red flag at this stage of his development). Schroeder's quickness in the open floor has already been noted, and his overall athletic ability is highlighted on drives to the hoop and handling the ball even in pressure situations. He's also worked diligently in getting his jump shot off after penetrating and knocking down open looks from beyond the arc.
Fearless; Schroeder may be small in stature but he is big on confidence in taking the ball into the paint and attacking. He also possesses a finesse game and is mastering avoiding falls with a long-step to the rim for layups. Yet what makes Schroeder such a find is the knack for knowing when to switch speeds and utilizing his explosiveness. Yes, Schroeder's decision making needs to get better and should be a focus going forward. Because at 19-years old, you can imagine it can be difficult trying to get a ultra-talented kid to tone down the need for highlight reel passes and drives. At times, passes can be forced. Others, teammates may not be able to handle the bullet pass. But the more experience Schroeder gains, the more he will learn how to control and master that part of his game. It will take time.
On the defensive end, there are both positives and negatives. The bad: upper body strength just isn't there yet. Bigger opponents can be hard to handle, particularly off of the ball. The good: he will not let up with his on the ball defense. Schroeder's quickness and wingspan at times make it easier to overlook the weaker parts of his defensive game.
But like with every player, basketball is only one side of the story. And nothing is further from the truth with Schroeder.
The son of a German father and a mother from Gambia in West Africa, Schroeder grew up in Braunschweig and was spotted at 11-years old playing pick up ball and skateboarding with some friends by current Phantoms assistant coach Liviu Calin. Calin -- who was a youth coach at the time -- was enamored with the kids' quickness and athleticism. For Schroeder, the joy of basketball would soon help mask the pain caused by a passing. Sadly enough his father passed away three years ago from heart failure and Dennis has had to mature quickly. Whether helping cut hair at his mother's hair solon or taking care of his four siblings, Schroeder should be applauded for always delivering a timely assist for his family.
So when questions arise about why Schroeder keeps making it the NBA as his dream, the reasons are two fold: for his dad and for his family.
Schroeder's contract in Braunschweig runs through the 2014 season and he would most certainly benefit from playing on an upper echelon BBL team (Braunschweig is 12-19 and facing relegation to the Pro-A) or even a team competing in EuroCup, EuroChallange and/or Euroleague. From there, the goal of reaching the NBA is ever before him.
But first thing is first: the Nike Hoop Summit.
Dennis Schroeder may be only the sixth German to be invited to play at the annual event in Portland, but he's certainly one of the more compelling basketball stories and promising players coming out of Deutschland.