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Ben Smith

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If you go
What: Chris Kramer’s Skills Academy
When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 24 for grades 3-6, and July 25 for grades 7-9
Where: Huntington North Fieldhouse
Cost: $30
Deadline: Tuesday
Photos courtesy of Ulf Duda
Chris Kramer’s gritty play, shown here by him diving on the floor for a loose ball, made him a favorite at Purdue and is leading to success in Germany.

Germany all good for former Boiler

Kramer averaged 8.3 points, 4.7 assists and 3.9 rebounds last season for Ewe Baskets Oldenburg in the German Bundesliga. His team also reached the league championship.

– The guy on the other end of the line is talking about giving back, on this fine July day. He’s talking about opportunity. He’s talking about finding something he feels has been lost, or at the very least has been occasionally misplaced.

It is not quite a These Kids Today sighting. But it’s close enough that you can feel the air stir as it passes.

“I want to show kids that this game, or whatever you want to do, it’s an opportunity,” Chris Kramer says now. “You have a window to be successful. You can do whatever you want if you set your mind to it. I want to show them the opportunities are there if they want to go for them.”

And, well, he should know.

It’s summer now and Kramer, 25, the former Huntington North and Purdue standout, is talking about his upcoming basketball camp July 24-25 at his old high school, a first for him. But he’s also talking about playing basketball in Germany the last two winters, an opportunity that was there for him and that, yes, he went for.

You take your chances where you find them in this life, especially when you’re young and you’re better at what you do than most. And so after knocking around the D-League with the Mad Ants for a year, trying to get a look or something more, Kramer turned his gaze overseas.

Basketball is, after all, an international game now. So why not take it international?

“It’s a pretty easy transition, actually,” says Kramer, who averaged 8.3 points, 4.7 assists and 3.9 rebounds last season for Ewe Baskets Oldenburg in the German Bundesliga and has already re-upped for next season. “There’s six Americans on the team, and that makes it a little easier. The game is kind of similar, too. The way they look at basketball is a little bit different and some of the concepts are a little bit different, but it’s a Big Ten, physical, defensive game. And that kind of fit my style and some of those things that made me successful in the past.”

Like a glove, frankly. Think Kramer, after all, and you think human floor burn: lockdown defense, blue collar mentality, connoisseur of all those small skills that might not plump up your stat line but make the scoreboard look good at the end. And so you will not be surprised at all to learn that Oldenburg reached its league championship before bowing out.

“It was a good season,” Kramer says.

And it needed to be. If the upside of playing overseas was finding a good fit for his game, the downside is that, as an American player, you’d better find the game a good fit. Otherwise it can lonesome in a hurry with an ocean and half-a-continent between you and home.

“Yeah, the Americans are normally your go-to guys per se,” Kramer says. “They’re the ones normally that they’re going to score the points, they’re going to do all the things the team needs. It’s fun. You’d rather have that role instead of just being another guy.”


“Well, the ball’s in your court, and if you go out there and perform, you see your team win, and everything is good,” he goes on. “But you can also see when the Americans don’t play well and your team loses, then you’ve kind of got to figure things out.”

That part, it seems, is taken care of. Eleven of the 12 players on Oldenburg’s roster are returning next season, the coaches all speak English and won’t have to familiarize themselves with anyone, and the goal is self-evident.

“We’re hoping to get back and have a different outcome this time,” Kramer says.

Opportunity knocks again.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.