The mature leader: Dennis Schröder at the basketball championship - Sport

The first way after each game led Dennis Schroeder to his family. To his wife, his two children, his mother. They sat in the front row of the Cologne Arena, where the German national team played so furiously through the preliminary round of this European Championship. They will also be there in Berlin, in the round of 16 against Montenegro. The family gives Schröder support, he has often emphasized that, especially since his father died.

Schröder was 16 at the time, and shortly before his death he had promised his father that he would make it into the North American professional league NBA. Basketball Promised Land. Schröder said that too often - and he kept his word.

He is also the most prominent player in the German national team these days, media, fans, everyone is looking at the 28-year-old, Schröder is leading the selection. National coach Gordon Herbert made that clear early on, and no teammate leaves any doubt about that. Born in Braunschweig, who found his sporting fortune overseas in the strongest basketball league in the world, he is the undisputed leader.

"Basketball Germany can be happy to have a Dennis Schröder," says teammate Maodo Lo

Schröder is an extrovert, one who polarises. He's made millions in the NBA, he lives in luxury, and he likes to show what he's got. In Germany, that's too much glamor for many, too much bling bling, too much egocentricity. Especially when things aren't going well, the critics are quick to act. When Schröder gambled away in contract negotiations last year and turned down an $84 million offer from the Los Angeles Lakers, there was great malice. Eventually he was hired by the Boston Celtics on sensitively worse terms. Sensitively worse, that means in the NBA: almost six million dollars for one season.

He is currently looking for a club, but there is no need to worry about the Schröder clan, in the NBA even smaller engagements are paid in seven figures. "My advisor is already doing his job, I'll let him," explained Schröder in Cologne, "I'm doing my job here."

Here is at the EM; the goal is a medal. Schröder's team completed the preliminary round with flying colours, four wins in five games, and the round of 16 was booked in quick succession. That was not necessarily to be expected in this sovereignty, also because you didn't know beforehand how the team works - and above all how their leader works.

As early as 2015, Schröder had the task of leading a team to a medal at a home European Championship, although a certain Dirk Nowitzki took part, although he was in the autumn of his career. It ended in fiasco, the team failed in the preliminary round, Schröder criticized the coach at the time, Chris Fleming, and later slid into the center of criticism himself. It was similar in 2019 at the World Cup in China, the highly praised team with many NBA players failed again prematurely. Schröder criticized his colleagues, identified atmospheric disturbances in the selection, and set conditions for staying in the national team.

That didn't go over well. The then point guard of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who caused a stir in the NBA, was accused of selfishness. At the time, many people thought he wasn't able to lead a group. That doesn't bother the often scolded: "I'm built for criticism," he said at the time.

Schröder also seems more mature away from the parquet

Even the national coach was not interested in all of this. Gordon Herbert was not in office for long - and first sought a conversation with Schröder, as he said. After two hours of exchange, it was clear to him that he had found his "leader on and off the field". Herbert appointed Schroeder to be the captain of a tremendously talented collective - and Schroeder delivered. The captain spoke strongly to the squad when there was a hail of cancellations and injuries from prominent NBA forces: "We don't need to hide from anyone in Europe. We have a lot of quality."

At the European Championships, he proves that himself on the field. His long-range throw doesn't want to be a high percentage yet, so Schröder adjusts his game. He doesn't lose himself in obstinate gambling, but concentrates on leading the game, sets the pace and puts his fellow players in good throwing positions. Thanks to his class, especially in one-on-one, the lightning-fast guard can hardly be stopped, he reliably scores in the double-digit range - as the only one in the team. And he defends at a high level, which is often overlooked.

Schröder also seems more mature off the stage, he speaks more reflectively and takes on responsibility. The defeat against the Slovenians, the only one in the tournament so far, should only be explained by co-captain Johannes Voigtmann. It was then Schröder who sat in the press conference and answered the unpleasant questions.

Dennis Schröder at the European Basketball Championship: After a two-hour conversation with Dennis Schröder, national coach Gordon Herbert (left) was certain that he would transfer responsibility for his team to the NBA professional.

After a two-hour conversation with Dennis Schröder, national coach Gordon Herbert (left) was certain that he would transfer responsibility for his team to the NBA professional.

(Photo: Federico Gambarini/dpa)

To understand what role Schroeder plays in the team, you just have to listen to his teammates. His deputy Voigtmann, for example, a reflective professional who has never shied away from uncomfortable truths. Now he says: "Dennis is our leader, on and off the field, he leads the way in every respect."

Or Maodo Lo. The director of the German champions Berlin is Schröder's backup player at the European Championship. He had no problem with that, he let it be known before the tournament. In the meantime, his playing times are increasing, Lo is playing a strong tournament, hitting great from a distance, but he says: "Dennis is the linchpin of our team, both offensively and defensively. Dennis is the best point guard in Europe, one of the best in the world. He leads us to victories." He's having a lot of fun at this European Championship, says Lo, especially in interaction with the boss: "Basketball Germany can count itself lucky to have a Dennis Schröder."

Or as Franz Wagner, NBA professional of the Orlando Magic and so far the discovery in the German team, put it after the win against France: "It's not the team with the best individual players that wins here, but the best team." In his first tournament for Germany, he will also benefit from Schröder's experience.

He says he's never felt "such good team chemistry" in a national team. And that his path at the European Championships is not over yet.

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