Christian Standhardinger: “The chance of me playing in Asia is at 90%“

Christian Standhardinger is a new member of the Philippines national basketball team. The BBL Allstar explains the reasons behind that und the meaning for his future. Standhardinger talks about his video project Ballers Club as well. I was pretty surprised seeing on Twitter that you’re playing for the Philippines national basketball team now. So I wasn’t up to date? Or didn’t you want to spread it around?

Christian Standhardinger: I just didn’t consider it that important to get much attention. Now it’s important because the Filipinos are going crazy. So I’m more active on my facebook page. I just get the feeling that a lot of people are interested in what I’m doing.

I have to admit the circumstances here are a lot worse than in Germany – basketball means joy for the Filipinos. So I love to keep them updated. But to be honest: Who really cares in Germany if Christian Standhardinger is playing with Philippines national basketball team right now. (laughs)

I care. So let’s start with the process: Did you approach the Philippine basketball federation? Did they approach you?

That’s a funny story. They did approach me and heard about me somehow. I mean I played pretty good in Germany’s first division. They were interested in me and started to talk to my agent Bennet Ahnfeldt back then. Then my agent asked me if it’s possible to play for the Philippines. I don’t think that I would’ve been nominated for the German national team in the near future so I said “sure, no problem”. My mother is incredible proud of that.

And then nothing. Just two weeks prior to the Jones Cup they asked me if I can join them and if I’m able to arrive in one week. So I dropped everything and flew to the Philippines. Then I started to practice with the team for one week and we flew to Taiwan for the tournament. And then the whole fun started. It’s crazy here. You realize that basketball is by the far the most popular sport. In Germany basketball is maybe the third or fourth most popular sport – though I’m not even sure of that.

That’s true. There’s first division soccer, second division soccer, third division soccer and then there’s maybe basketball along with handball and ice hockey.

I recently read that Dirk Nowitzki’s last game with the national team at the EuroBasket 2015 got lower ratings than a female national soccer game – that’s impressive. Nothing against female soccer but I don’t think it’s such a big sport actually – but in Germany apparently it is.

“It’s awesome how people are in love with basketball here”

Once soccer is on television people seem to watch it – whether it’s first division, third division or female soccer. But it has to be great for you being in a country in which basketball plays a more essential role, right?

Yeah, sure it’s a great. But there are some drawbacks to it. I’m a person who values his privacy and peace when I need it. Yesterday I was in the mall. It’s so crazy: I played in one tournament and I can’t go shopping without taking a hundred pictures already. The people are approaching me all the time. But I’m glad that I can make people happy of course. Thereon you can see the significance of basketball.

Basketball is the number one, number two and number three sport here. I’m not even sure what other sport is here. I guess volleyball is coming slowly. But so far I haven’t seen any volleyball courts – just basketball courts. There are hoops everywhere. In Germany you can be glad if you find a basketball court without soccer goals – here there are no soccer goals just basketball hoops. At every turn. It’s awesome how people are in love with basketball here.

Back in 2007 you played for the German Under-18 national team. How difficult was the whole bureaucratic process to able to the play for the Philippines now?

I didn’t notice much of the bureaucratic stuff. My mother arranged for me to get the Philippine pass. My agent Bennet Ahnfeldt arranged everything regarding the FIBA stuff in cooperation with the Philippine basketball federation. Bennet did a fantastic job and worked his tail off. I’m really thankful of that. I learned that it was a huge effort just afterwards – it’s not that easy with Asian countries.

“I agreed immediately”

Were you thinking about playing for the Philippines during your time as youth player already?

I’ve always been a player who cares about getting appreciated. I know I work hard to deliver the performances I do. Then you like to get appreciated. It wasn’t a topic because the Philippines never gave any indication that they want me to play for them – I don’t know if they weren’t aware of me. I mean I was part of the First Team of the Big West [Conference of the NCAA] – so I wasn’t an unknown player.

I think I’ve played pretty well in Germany as well. But you have to admit Germany’s first division is pretty far away from the Philippines. You can’t hold that against them. But still: Because they didn’t give any indication I assumed they have their players and are happy with them. But as soon as they approached me I agreed immediately.

You talked about your experience in the mall and the many basketball courts. Did you make any other experiences regarding the significance of basketball in the Philippines?

Recently we’ve been to Taiwan. There has been a crowd of like 100 people, all Filipinos. We left [the arena] and had to edge ourselves through the crowd – after every game, no matter what time. We’ve taken pictures, signed autographs. My team-mates said “don’t be surprised – no matter where we play that many people will stand outside waiting for us.” Filipinos are everywhere. In France, Germany, in the USA in Hawaii, there are huge Philippine communities. And they’re all crazy about basketball.

“Every Filipino plays fired up”

How much do you see yourself as a Filipino?

I’m someone who plays fired up. Here everybody does, with no exception. Many German players are experienced with solid fundamentals whereas I’m running up and down wildly trying to pull something out of my hat. (laughs)

You see that on the style of the Philippine national teams as well. We’ve got a center in the middle and the rest of us four are cutting through the paint. We’re tough defenders and if we have to we play even tougher on the thin line between dirty. And every time we’re fired up. Sometimes we lose because of that. (laughs) But sometimes we win games we shouldn’t have won.

The last three years you’ve played in Germany. How hard was the transition regarding the style of basketball?

It’s definitely an adjustment. I’m the tallest player of us so I play on the five. Sometimes it’s a struggle to compete against natural fives. I’ve needed five, six games to get adjusted. But now I have got the knack.

Offensively it’s just “fill the lane”. You drive, kickout and move to the open space. The other players cut accordingly. The center is down low and follows the ball. That’s it. I can help my team-mates driving. My experience in Germany’s first division really helps.

Does the enthusiasm of basketball in the Philippines reflect in the professionalism as well, for example regarding the staff?

We have one head coach, three assistant coaches plus another assistant coach who was one of the best Philippine shooters ever. Then we’ve got five more people on the staff, plus the physio. We got nearly more people on the staff than players. At the Jones Cup we’ve been the only team with 16 players on the roster, four had to sit out. There is not a lack of money in the Philippine federation, that’s for sure.

But they’re getting sponsored as well. And the Gilas are getting on TV everywhere. You have the sponsors, the pride, everything. No matter where we play and no matter if the first or the second national team you can watch us on television on the whole Philippines. In Germany that’s not the case. Imagine the second German national team is playing: Do you think you could watch them somewhere on television?

What about your future regarding a club? After three years in Germany’s BBL, most recently with RASTA Vechta, including two Allstar nominations they should have been many interested teams in the BBL.

I’ll be playing in Asia at 90 percent. There’ve been many interested BBL clubs but to be honest: No one was willing to offer me the kind of money I think I deserve. In Asia they offered more – that was a no-brainer.

With the Philippine passport I can play as a naturalized player, like an American-German player in the BBL. A big German power forward in Asia is not something special, a big Asian power forward is something special however.

Where do you see yourself in the middle-term? Do you want to stay overseas for an extended time?

I want to stay where the circumstances are the best, where I feel appreciated and where I know the people want me (pauses) Well, I don’t really want to talk about financial things. But there are some things that tick me off however. There are many teams explaining to you: “if you play in this or that competition you can prove yourself again. And then you can prove that you’re a good player.” I know that I have to prove myself still every day. But the time for me to look for a situation where I prove myself and take less money, that time is over.

I’m 28 years old and I’m not going to play for that many years. If a team really wants me they have enough games in which I performed to get an idea of me. If I haven’t met your standards already I’m probably not going to do that in the future. If I met these standards don’t say to me I have to prove myself.

“Nobody wants to reveal they miscalculated”

You just don’t want to sell yourself short. The time of a professional pro sport athlete is limited. So it’s only fair to look for making the necessary money.

I learned one thing in professional sports: Be aware of your own value and demand that value. That whole bullshit of “hey you can prove yourself now” or “you’re getting less money but therefore we give you playing time”… this just causes for you to be unhappy during the season. Most of the time there’s a direct relation between playing time and the money you get. If you’re the best paid player and do your job it’s unlikely you play less than 20 minutes.

If you’re the worst paid player and do your job it’s unlikely you play more than 20 minutes. Coaches or GMs don’t look good if their boss thinks “why does this guy play so much who makes one or two thousand euros a month? And the American who earns seven, eight or nine thousand a month plays less? That can’t be true. That means we miscalculated.” Nobody wants to reveal they miscalculated and were wrong.

There are few coaches who say “I have a German youth player who performs like an American so I’ll let him play 30 minutes now.” Even though this player earns seven thousand euros less. The fewest coaches will do that, that’s just my experience. If I could give a youth player something to take with him it would be: Be aware of your own value and demand that. If they don’t want to give you that you have to go somewhere else.

“Be aware of your own value – and demand that value”

Right how you’re in the Philippines. You played college basketball in the US – first in Nebraska, then in Hawaii. It seems you like to use basketball to see the world as well. Is that true?

I think a lot of basketball players – especially youth players – make the mistake to give up a lot for basketball. If it works out, fine. But if it doesn’t work out they find themselves out of anything because they sacrificed everything for the sport. Yes, I love that sport and I love it even more competing with others. But I’ve always seen that sport as a stepping stone.

I went to the US, I was able to see the country and graduate on business administration without any further costs. Then I went to Germany and earned some money. I’ve set up my own YouTube channel, Ballers Club. I was able to read the books I wanted to read because I had more time than with the average nine-to-five job. And right now I’m on the Philippines; I can make my mother proud and play for the Philippines with pride while I’m producing cool videos for the Ballers Club.

Besides the people in Asia can see me play. In Asia I will hopefully earn a better contract. And some time in the future I will hopefully earned as much as to have purchased my freedom. As long as that’s given everything is okay. Basketball is a stepping stone. If not for basketball I would know what to do. But then it would perhaps take a little bit longer to achieve financial independence.

“I could fill an arena with the people who watch my videos”

You mentioned your YouTube channel, the Ballers Club. Talk a little about that.

Ballers Club is one of the most successful basketball channels in Germany right now. We’ve got a modest 5,000 subscribers but we have the community. Every video gets about 10,000 views – so I could fill an arena with the people who watch my videos. It’s really going well, we grow fast. That obviously makes me proud. I basically launched a channel because I wanted to give the youth players a piece of advice. I know which moves work, which moves don’t.

The guys in Germany really get the short end of the stick. They have a hard time establish themselves. That always captured my heart. Basketball in Germany falls short: regarding television, the promotion of young German players and their playing time. You can play with six Americans and you have six Germans. And two of them are Americans with a German passport – that doesn’t make sense. We don’t look out for ourselves. The young German player really gets the short end of the stick.

So the only thing I want to accomplish with my YouTube Channel is to give the German speaking young people who love basketball good content and some advices so they can improve themselves. And maybe they can establish themselves in the first division.

Before your move form the NBBL to the NCAA the current 6+6 rule wasn’t installed so more foreign players were playing in the BBL. There’s often the talk about the lost generation because of the removal of the restriction of foreign players. Was that a reason for you to do something for the youth players because bach then there was nothing going on for them.

Yeah, there was nothing going on. You really have to give the players credit who established themselves. It’s obvious that a 18 years old player grown up in Germany won’t play better than an 25 years old American. But it’s not about that. It’s about the fans having fun. Of course they want to see dunks and a show but if you could only have two Americans for the example, they automatically would be better. And so you could invest more. And they still would do the spectacular plays and fill the arena. And then you would a have team people could identify with better. Fans want to talk to you, get autographs and build a connection. That’s hard to do if you can’t speak the language. The recognizability is getting lost

“The young guys in Germany really get the short end of the stick – that always captured my heart”

You talked about basketball getting short, including television. Isn’t the internet the only way then?

You know: I once was in a mall in Berlin. A young guy approached me and asked about a picture. I said “yeah sure”. I thought he just knows me from the first division. Then he said “you’re making such great videos”. I have 5,000 subscribers and that young man doesn’t know me because I’m a two time allstar and ProA league MVP but because of my YouTube channel. Can you imagine that?!

Who’s supporting you on the Ballers Club?

I’m responsible for the channel but I’m getting supported by Robert Zinn – who plays in Tuebingen and is a good prospect – and Alex Bangula. He’s a professional YouTuber with his two channels Mr. Helfersyndrom and Elektrisiert with more than 130,000 subscribers. He’s a streetballer with blood, sweet and tears. They’re both really cool guys and my best friends.

I love to have a project which lies at my heart and working with people who lies at my heart. It’s fun. And I think people see that, otherwise the channel wouldn’t grow the way it does. You see that we like to make fun of each other and play one-on-one.

As I watched some clips I got a sense of a mix of tutorials and entertainment with a DIY style which fits the young generation well.

Exactly. Instead of doing something mundane we’re doing something which really helps your game. The goal is to entertain you while we bring your game to next level. If we accomplish that we’re happy.

Where do you want to go from there? Or is just about trying stuff right now?

The goal is to reach the young basketball players in Germany. If we reach them we can do a lot of good things. Robert had the idea to host actual camps. We know exactly what to watch out for. We both attended millions of camps in our lives.

But our first goal is to bring the people fun. The second goal is to improve the game of the people. And the third goal is to build a certain reach to give the people an added value. Maybe a dream faraway which comes to my mind right now: If some day a successful first division player says “Ballers Club is a cool thing because they brought me into basketball and I learned a lot from them”. Even if it would be just videos that would be a dream.

Are you going to do some videos on the Philippines as well?

It keeps going and going. Right now we have one video per week but we’ll push it to two videos per week because it’s going so well. I’ll do a gameday blog. And if it’s going even better maybe we’ll invest more time – we’ll see. The more people you reach the more motivated you get.

When you’re on the Philippines and the Filipions see the videos that that will push your channel as well.

Yeah it could but I don’t do that at all. I’m sure I could get like 15,000 subscribers. But I care about the community where the basketball players can help each other. It’s about building the community – and I can’t do that if the people can’t speak German.

The YouTube channel is really for German-speaking basketball players. We want to reach the people who can build a community and help each other. It’s not about getting as much subscribers as possible. Long-term thinking instead of short-team thinking.

You mentioned Robert Zinn who supports you at the Ballers Club. He has a YouTube channel himself, WHO’S NEXT. He gives German rappers and singers a platform. Are you going to be a guest on one of his shows and sing or rap?

(laughs) Unfortunately I’m not that gifted in music otherwise I would definitely be a guest. But I’m not that into rap. If he would launch a channel on self-development and logical business thinking then I’m on immediately.

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