After making his Euroleague debut with Olympiacos Piraeus last season, young Vanderbilt alumni Wade Baldwin IV shows his potential with FC Bayern Munich with club record performances for his new team. Read below as Baldwin IV discusses his progress this season.
You have truly exploded on the Euroleague scene this season. After a not so special period with Olympiacos you seem to have found a team and coach which allows you to show your full talent. What is so different at Bayern that allows us to finally see your full potential?
I think each situation is different, each role is different. Over the summer the role which I was given was the role of one of the leaders of the team. The ball is going to be in my hands to make decisions and I was given a lot of confidence by the coaching staff. They liked my approach to the team. This approach allowed me to play hard, play free and when that happens I have high praise of myself, I have high confidence in myself that I can compete with anybody,
How would you asses your season as a team so far? You came to Bayern at a very difficult moment. The team was trying to rebuild after a very unsuccessful season both in Euroleague and domestically with a new coach at the helm. So surely it wasn’t easy, at least at the beginning?
The season is far from being finished, in Euroleague we have played 22 games and we have another 12 to play. With such close rankings with one poor game we can go from sixth in the Euroleague to being completely outside of the Play Offs. The job is not finished and never will be finished till all 34 rounds are done. Then we move from there. We’ll have this conversation after end of the season where we see how far we have come.
How difficult was it for you to adapt to the European style of basketball, and what aspects of your game would you like to improve even more?
The adaptation was difficult in the sense of the mental approach due to political things which go on here in Europe. The expectations here are different. Little things are different. You have to take certain shots, use fouls properly, defend guards differently. It was slightly different to what I was used to. Olympiacos was a good experience for me. I went through a lot of downs with that team last year. We weren’t very good. I wasn’t very good at all but that only built confidence for me to come back this next season stronger. If you compare these seasons it’s like taking a bad shot and then following it up with unbelievable play. I always want to improve. Last season I was averaging terrible, this year my numbers are better and the team is winning. So next year I must do it again, numbers must go up, winning must go up. That is my mentality.
Do you think that Euroleague referees sometimes mistake your passion for the game and “no prisoners” attitude for aggressive behaviour and penalise you with technical fouls? These fouls perhaps wouldn’t be called on other players.
Listen I’m a hard guy to officiate. I’m different type of guard out here. I’m bigger. faster and stronger than most of the people I’m guarding. I have to be understanding of that because sometimes my strength can overpower people and the bump which the referee sees can make them give the call. I have always been misunderstood. I have edge to me, I have competitiveness level which my team and the people who are around me every day understand. They expect it and they love it. People who are not around may not have this understanding which we have inside our circle here. When these things happen and I go back to training next day, my teammates, my coaches and everybody else are positive. Nobody is negative, they say don’t worry about it, do what you are doing, keep playing hard, play smart be a good teammate. And that is what I do.
What is your view on leaving Vanderbilt after only two years? Were you truly ready for life in the NBA?
I would say it was the right time. The NBA is very much about timing, it’s a business. I had a fantastic sophomore career. In the draft I end up as a second point guard taken. At that time Jamal Murray was considered a two guard. So, when you count him out that was only Kris Dunn ahead of me. It was my time to go. When you get to the NBA everything is situational. I have walked into the situation when Mike Conley was making 153 million dollars. The organisation used me in the way I kind of disagree with. That is what it was and you have to move on from there. The following year if the people look at it they had Markelle Fultz, the had Lonzo Ball, they had De’ Aaron Fox so they had a lot of guards who played my position. My spot in the first round would have been altered because of these guys. Maybe I wouldn’t have a 17th pick in that draft as they already had four point guards being taken by teams. You need to be really strategic with those things and the people advising me at that time did a really good job.
Do you think that a successful period in the Euroleague will make you far better equipped for a successful return to the NBA?
Absolutely. There is a couple of steps I need to take. My first step in Europe last year was a learning curve. This year is about taking my team to the better standard and elevating the team and my game. I think I’ve been successful at that so far, but how I said it’s not over yet. We have to win the Championship here in the German league and make a big strides in Euroleague. The job is not over, when this season is over in June then I will evaluate what I have achieved, then I will plan the future, decide what team I’m talking to. Whether it will be here, whether it will be back in America. A new plan must be processed every year with the blueprint of what you need to do. Then you execute it. Having said that I’m at Bayern right now and I’m fully focused on the job. I don’t talk to any other teams, as I said June is the time to make such decisions.