It’s almost three years to the day since Dennis Schröder was at the lowest point in his national team career. At the World Cup in China, the German team surprisingly lost to the Dominican Republic and failed in the preliminary round. Schröder and his teammates stood in disbelief on the arena floor in Shenzhen and became – not entirely unjustly – the main target of criticism. In 2019 he was by far the most talented German player and as a point guard he directs the team, determines the pace and style. In China, the German game was characterized by a frightening lack of imagination. Either Schröder tried it alone or he looked for the pick and roll with his buddy Daniel Theis.
The two Braunschweig NBA professionals are still essential parts of the national team, but that’s where the parallels to 2019 end. Because the first days of the home EM in Cologne were one big party for German basketball – and Schröder played a big part in that as the pacesetter. After the opening win against France, there were successes against Bosnia and after double extra time against Lithuania. Three victories to start a European Championship, the selection of the German Basketball Federation (DBB) was not even successful with Dirk Nowitzki.
Schröder and Co. have already secured one of the first four places in the group of preliminary rounds with vice-Olympic champion France, European champion Slovenia and basketball nation Lithuania. “It means a lot to us to go to Berlin in such a tough group. That was our goal. It’s amazing that we’ve achieved this,” says Schröder. The finals will take place next weekend in the Arena am Ostbahnhof. As the DBB announced on Sunday, the German team will play their round of 16 on Saturday at 6 p.m. The opponent has not yet been determined and comes from Group A. With a win against Slovenia and NBA superstar Luka Doncic on Tuesday (8.30 p.m., free of charge at Magentasport), the German team would already be the group winner.
Schröder has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years. His commitment to the national team was never in question; whenever he could, he was there in the summer. But his body language is now completely different. He used to seem annoyed that his teammates weren’t always at the level that he’s used to in the NBA and that he expects. He also found it difficult to delegate responsibility.
His ego is certainly no smaller today than in previous tournaments and his appearance with a lot of bling-bling continues to divide opinions, but Schröder seems to have matured as a leader. It is very noticeable how he encourages his teammates on the field, but also in interviews. He described Maodo Lo as the “next German in the NBA”. He also praised Franz Wagner, who was outstanding against Lithuania, in the highest tones. “If he continues like this, he will become a big one.”
Schröder has understood that he cannot carry the team through a big tournament alone and integrates his fellow players better. Lo and Wagner as the most talented scorers next to him, but also the rest of the squad up to Christian Sengfelder, who has not yet been used. National coach Gordon Herbert’s decision to promote Schröder to captain after the controversial ousting of Robin Benzing has paid off in full. “Dennis is our leader. He’s the lynchpin of our team and he’s gotten more experience over the years,” says Lo. “Basketball Germany is lucky to have a Dennis Schröder.”
In terms of play, the 28-year-old now understands it better to step aside at times. Schröder still likes to have the ball in his own hands and is one of the fastest basketball players in the world. He has currently found a good mix of his own move to the basket and the use of teammates. A few years ago it would have been difficult to imagine that Lo could look for a one-on-one in two consecutive attacks, as he did against Lithuania in the decisive phase of extra time. Wagner also benefits from the fact that Schröder opens up spaces for him with his speed and then willingly gives him the ball. The only small point of criticism remains Schröder’s litter selection. In three games he has already attempted 19 three-pointers and only hit a measly three of them.