Germany's Isaiah Hartenstein Returns To Birthplace For Nike Hoop Summit
Isaiah Hartenstein may be playing for the World Team in the 20th annual Nike Hoop Summit at Portland’s Moda Center, but his return to Oregon will mark a homecoming for the German national team player.
The 7-foot-1 forward was born in Eugene, a little more than 100 miles from Portland, where his father Florian had been a stand-out player at the University of Oregon.
Isaiah spent the first 11 years of his life in Eugene before his family moved to Germany, where his dad enjoyed a successful basketball career, first as a professional player and now as a coach.
With one foot in the USA and one foot in Europe, Hartenstein now feels he belongs to both countries - especially because he has enjoyed a successful international career with the German national team at U16 and U18 level.
But, while there promises to be some familiar faces in the Moda Center crowd at the Nike Hoop Summit on Friday, April 7, Hartenstein will have only one loyalty when the game tips off.
“My mum Theresa is from here, and most of my relatives still live in Eugene,” explained Hartenstein. “So I need to find at least 10 tickets for the game.
“It will be kind of weird, being on the guest team in the USA, when it will really feels like I’m back home.
“But Germany is the only national team I have played for, and preparing for this Hoop Summit game feels just like playing for them. I’m more German right now.”
That was not always the case.
As an 11-year-old who did not speak a word of German, moving to a small town in the north of the country, where his father was a star with the Artland Dragons team, was tough.
But, having been given a six-month deadline by school authorities to learn the language, Hartenstein did just that, and from a basketball standpoint, he has never looked back.
“The move was kind of hard on me in the beginning,” he said. “All of my friends were back in the States, and basketball wasn’t the biggest sport in Germany.
“But, for me, the most important thing was the family being back with my dad. That made all the bad things even out.
“I’m blessed that I got my dad’s height, but the big thing was growing up around basketball, talking to not only my dad but his teammates, learning what to do, what not to do, to be professional.
“Then, for about three years, my dad was my coach on the Dragons junior team.
“We’ve always had a great relationship but he had to be that bit harder on me so the other kids didn’t think I was being given anything. So, I had to put more work in, and that helped me a lot, not just on the court but off it.”
Hartenstein senior certainly can be proud of the coaching job he performed in helping junior develop.
As well as a key player on his national team, Isaiah has signed with the legendary Lithuanian ball club Zalgiris Kaunas and has seen action this season, not only in the domestic league but in the Euroleague, considered the world’s top club competition outside of the NBA.
“I had offers from U.S. colleges and other European teams, but I thought Zalgiris would be the best fit for me,” said Hartenstein.
“It was where I could learn the most and have an opportunity to play at a high level, to polish my game.
“I’ll make a decision at the end of the season what is next. The NBA has always been my goal, since I was little, but first I want to concentrate on the Hoop Summit and then the rest of the year with my team.”
But first, he had better concentrate on finding all those tickets for his family.
Get your tickets to see Hartenstein and the World Select Team take on the USA Junior National Select Team in the 2017 Nike Hoop Summit at bit.ly/HoopSummitTix.