2014 USA 3x3 National Championship
Colorado Springs, Colo.
May 9-11
2014 USA 3x3 National Championship
Colorado Springs, Colo.
May 9-11

Gregory Stiemsma Looking To Block Opponents From Gold

October 23, 2011 • Tulsa, Okla.

2011 USA Men's Pan American Games Team Roster
2011 USA Men's Pan American Games Schedule
2011 USA Men's Pan American Games Features

Greg Stiemsma (Wisconsin '08) brings a distinct defensive presence to the USA Pan American Games team. Stiemsma earned NBA Development League Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2009-10 with the Sioux Falls Skyforce after he averaged a league leading 3.6 blocks per game.

Sam Miller spoke with Stiemsma , a 6-11, 260 pound center, for USA Basketball. Stiemsma shared his thoughts about defense and gelling as a team primed for the first United States Pan American Games gold since 1983.

How important is defense to this team?
Coach Tibbetts has stressed from the start that we’re going to go down to Mexico looking for a gold medal, and defense is going to be a big part of that. We’re going to be playing against national teams who has been playing together for a lot longer than 10 days like we have. Defensively is where it’s going to start. If we can get stops, we have a lot of talented guys on offense that are going to be able to get up shots and score points. We can put up points with the best of them, but defensively it’s going to be important to get stops when we need to.

How do you gel when you have only been together as a team for 10 days?
I think all of us have played together or played against each other before. We’ve known each other for a couple of years now. We all came in with one common goal, and that’s to win the gold medal. At the professional level, you’ve got to react quickly, and we have the right guys to do that. We’ve got unselfish guys who want to win and are willing to accept their role, whatever that may be to get that gold medal.

When did you first realize that you were particularly skilled on defense?
It started as a little kid. I was blocking a lot of shots when I was young, and it continued when I was older. I got a little bit of athleticism. At an early age, I always used to block my friends’ shots. They would create ways to get around me, and I’d find ways to get them back. I had really good coaches growing up. Offense was kind of secondary for me. Defense was always important, and I kind of took it personal if someone scored on me.

When did you first realize that defense takes more than raw ability?
A lot of that came in high school and college. Even when you do have the timing down with shot blocking, it doesn’t do anybody good to block the shot 10 rows into the stands. After I heard that, I started trying to control my blocks and grab some of them out of the air. It is a lot more than being tall and putting a hand in someone’s face. At this level, there’s a lot of guys who can jump incredibly high and know how to finish. I don’t have to meet them 12 feet in the air. I just have to meet them at the rim and get my hand in front of the rim at the right time in the right spot.

How do you balance being a key player on defense and getting back on offense?
Good defense can really spark some good offense. If we can get some stops on the defensive end, that can get our transition game going and it can fire guys up. You get a couple of stops and your guards are a little more willing to put some more pressure on, knowing that they have some help in the back. At times, they can take a few more chances with that. It’s all about give and take and playing together and getting some experience.

How have you grown as a defensive player?
Just trying to do what I can do. Staying within my boundaries, working on staying low, staying quick. My court awareness too. It’s not all about blocked shots. I still have to be in help position. I have to close out. Being athletic, staying low and blocking shots at the right opportunities. There’s no point in trying to block every shot when I know there’s not a chance I can get it.

What’s it feel like to put on that USA uniform?
It’s an honor. It means a lot to me and my family and to my hometown. I feel privileged to be put in this position, to represent so many people and such a great country and wear the jersey proudly. Playing overseas, you’re always going to stand out as an American. We all feel that sense of pride, and we’re all looking forward to having the opportunity to make a lot of people proud and to make some history.

Gregory Stiemsma Bio Notes: Played in 2010-11 with with Turk Telekom Ankara (Turkey) and in 29 games, averaged 6.0 ppg., 4.0 rpg., led the league in blocked shots averaging 1.8 bpg., and shot 60.3 percent from the field and 69.7 percent from the foul line. Played in 2009-10 with the Sioux Falls Skyforce, played in 47 regular season games, averaged 9.1 ppg., 7.3 rpg., 1.2 apg., led the league in blocked shots averaging 3.7 bpg., and shot 54.3 percent from the field and 84.9 percent from the foul line. Has also played in Georgia and South Korea. Attended the University of Wisconsin and played four seasons. Ranks as UW’s 5th all-time leader in blocked shots (96). Helped lead Wisconsin to the 2008 Big 10 Conference regular season championship, Big Ten Tournament title and the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Attended Randolph High School (Wis.) and helped lead led the Rockets to three consecutive high school state basketball titles in Division 4.