BOSTON (CBS) – Boston Celtics center Greg Stiemsma joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher and Rich Wednesday morning, as he will each Wednesday at 9 am during the season, and talked about his interesting journey to the NBA.
After a four-year career at Wisconsin, Stiemsma had to hit Europe before finding his way to the NBA. With stops in Turkey and South Korea, Stiemsma has seen a lot.
“It’s been a journey. After college I still wanted to pursue the dream and keep playing ball, so I took a job in Turkey my first year. That was quite an experience for a small town kid from Wisconsin to live abroad in Turkey,” he said, adding he did not see the movie Midnight Express until after he lived in Turkey, and swore he would never return.
In South Korea, Stiemsma said basketball has gained a lot of popularity over the past few years and they are trying to emulate the NBA-style. However, they do have some interesting rules when it comes to American players on the court.
“Only one American on the floor at the same time, only two per team and they can only play together in second and third quarter,” said Stiemsma, adding that the Americans usually guard each other.
But that isn’t the oddest part of the South Korean game.
“At times there were as many mascots and cheerleaders on the floor as there were players,” he said. “(There were) at least six or seven of them roaming around the gym all the time.”
Gallery: 2011-12 Boston Celtics
After playing overseas, Stiemsma went to the NBADL where he was named defensive player of the year for Sioux Falls. He knew before the NBA lockout he would receive some invites to training camps, but did have a feeling that his path to the NBA might never appear.
“There were definitely some times of doubt; even if I wanted to keep playing, keep putting in the work. But I have a great support staff around me, I have great friends and family that have been nothing but supportive,”
“My brother-in-law said to me ‘you have to suck it up. Keep grinding and believe there is path laid out for you. Follow that through the tough times and it will lead you back to the good times.’”
Now he is wearing Celtics green, and playing very well off the bench. He broke out with a six-block performance against the New Orleans Hornets in the third game of the season, and has been a steady force below the basket. His 2.17 blocks-per-game average is sixth in the NBA, and his 13 blocks in six games ranks among the league leaders.
Stiemsma said he has received great support from his teammates, pointing out that Kevin Garnett has shown him the defensive ropes in the NBA, and Paul Pierce was the driving force behind his nickname “The Stiemroller.”
Head coach Doc Rivers has also done a great deal to get the rookie some confidence on the offensive end. After passing up on open jump shots in training camp, Rivers made him stand in front of the team and say he was a jump shooter over and over again. When he said it too quietly, Doc made him scream it louder.
“It was kind of lightheartedness, to make me realize what I had to do,” said Stiemsma. “It kind of made me get a little more comfortable and relaxed a little bit. I think it was two plays later I did knock down a jump shot, so everyone got a good laugh out of it.”
Stiemsma has hit eight of the 14 shots he has put up so far this season.
And then there are the comparisons to Bill Russell, which color man Tommy Heinsohn threw out there after just a few games of Stiemsma on the court.
“I don’t think I’ve watched the tape or heard it. I had some friends that heard it live and were fired up about it,” he said. “Just to have that though go through someone’s head is an honor for me. Hopefully I can live up to any sort of relevance to that. That would be a career move for me.”
Tune in to Greg Stiemsma on 98.5 The Sports Hub every Wednesday morning at 9am on Toucher & Rich.