Paul Stoll (180-PG-85) is a 35 year old 180cm point guard from East Lansing, Michigan that has played 13 years as a professional player. He began his basketball career at East Lansing High School and then played at Lansing Community College (JUCO). He finished his college career at the University of Texas Pan American (NCAA) playing 31 games averaging 14.2ppg, 2.6rpg, 7.2apg, 2.5spg, FGP: 48.6%, 3Pts: 47.5%, FT: 85.1%. He turned professional in 2008 and played the first four years of his pro career in Mexico and briefly in Venezuela. He finally made the jump overseas in 2012 and with a one year break in Mexico has had a very fruitful career in Europe. He played Euroleague and in the best club league ACB in Spain and also played VTB. He has played in countries like Israel, Italy, Turkey, Russia and France. He spoke to eurobasket before a 2021 Olympics qualifying game against Germany.
Paul thanks for talking to eurobasket.com. Where are you at the moment
I’m in Split, Croatia preparing for the Olympic qualifying tournament.
Before we talk about basketball I have to ask you how you experienced COVID-19 in the last year. What was the most challenging thing that you witnessed in this time?
COVID was hard on the basketball world in the last year and a half. I was lucky and was able to play in different places. I made the best out of it. The most challenging thing was that my workout routine was thrown off for a while. For a while it was tough since I’m a gym rat. But what helped was that I played in the bubble in Israel for two months. There I had access to a gym.
With everything you have seen during COVID-19 off the court, how do you feel has it made you stronger as a man?
I think with COVID you really find out how tough you are.The whole experience taught me to do things the right way.
You are with the Mexican national team playing in the Olympic qualifying tournament against Germany and Russia. How exciting is it being able to play for the ticket for the 2021 Olympics?
This is a very strong tournament with strong teams. Only one team will go to the Olympics. Our goal is to win the first game against Germany and then advance. We want to take it one game at a time. For me it’s cool that I can still compete at this level. My body still feels great. I take a lot of pride in always being ready.
Talk a little about the Mexican national team. What can we await from the squad in this tournament?
We always have a different mix. We have a good group of guys. We have Paco Cruz, Gustavo Ayon who played with Real Madrid, Orlando Mendez as well as Daniel Amigo who has a lot of potential. We have young talented Diego Willis who will transfer to SFA (NCAA) and finish his last two years there. We also have Fabian Jaimes who I always call Dennis Rodman.
You are the oldest guy on the team. What exactly is your role on the team?
My role is to run the show and create for others. I bring energy play hard defense and get guys in their spots.
How big is Juan Toscano-Anderson as a role model for young Mexicans. He had to pay his dues 4 years in Mexico before making the NBA with the Golden State Warriors.
He isn’t with us this time. He is my boy. We have a good relationship. It took a lot of hard work for him to get to the NBA. The NBA now is all about athleticism and position less basketball. He is a big athletic player with a lot of potential. I’m happy for his success.
Germany played a horrible 2019 World Cup, but just recently won the Hamburg Cup despite not having many of their NBA players. How good is the German team from your perspective?
Germany looks really good. They play solid and together. It will be a very tough game. They move the ball very well and look dangerous.
Let’s talk about your basketball career. If someone had told you in 2005 when you were at Lansing Community College (JUCO) that you would still be playing pro ball in 2021 and have played overseas and in the Euroleague what would you have said?
My competitive side then would of said yeh yeh I will play a long time, while my realistic side would have been like really? When I look back on my career, I have been very blessed. A lot of hard work has allowed me to play so long. I would never have thought then that I would still be playing today.
Every guy I speak to say how important the JUCO experience was. How was it for you at Lansing Community College (JUCO) before you reached the NCAA?
It was a really good experience for me. I was really fortunate that there was a Junior College in my city which made the adjustment a lot easier. Plus my dad had been an assistant coach there. I also had known the program. JUCO isn’t easy as one day you may play and not the next day. Every guy is there for a reason and there are many talented guys playing there. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I feel like a certain level of toughness came with me with in this experience.
You played at the University of Texas Pan American (NCAA) from 2006-2008. How important were these two years and how did head coach Tom Schuberth groom and prepare you best for a professional career?
Words can’t describe how important he was for me. He gave me a chance when nobody else did to play division 1. My mentality then was too never let him down. I always wanted to make sure that he knew that I did everything possible. We had a very good relationship. The summer before my senior year we went to China for two weeks. Our relationship grew even more then. We still talk to this day.
Who won a one on one way way back in the day you or Brian Burrell?
I don’t think that we ever played. He was a good player though that was very athletic. I think that I would have beat him.
After a very solid career in the NCAA at University of Texas Pan American you played four years in Mexico and Venezuela before finally reaching in Europe and having played here for 8 seasons including the Euroleague and ACB. Are Mexican players and their skills not taken more seriously overseas?
I feel like there is a big perception. People just think aw he is just a Mexican. But there really is an issue with the passport. Mexicans have to play as an import whereas guys from Columbia, Argentina or Brazil don’t have that problem. If a Mexican player isn’t a top level player then it will be difficult to come overseas. I think that if they could play as a local player then those role player type guys would get more of a chance.
Were those first few years tough playing in Mexico? Europe must of always been your number one goal. Why do you think it took you so long to finally make the jump to Europe?
It was more money why I stayed in Mexico. I had really good offers in low leagues in Mexico and didn’t get good offers from lower leagues in Europe. After my second season in Mexico I was called to play for the national team. Then I got even better offers. Then I played in Venezuela which was my first time away from Mexico. Then I realized that I could play away from home. I always had a lot of confidence in my abilities. It was all about getting an opportunity.
You played your first season overseas in 2012-2013 with Maccabi Bazan Haifa (Israel-Premier League) averaging 14.5ppg, 2.9rpg, Assists-4 (4.8apg), Steals-2 (2.4spg), FGP: 43.3%, 3PT: 43.1%, FT: 85.1%. What do you remember being your wake up call to being a rookie in Europe where you knew that you were very far away from home?
The only wake up call was the time difference. I had been living in Las Vegas and when I woke up in the morning in Israel, I wanted to call my people back home and no one responded because all were sleeping.
In your rookie season you had some serious veterans with some having NBA experience like Donta Smith, Pat Calathes, Corry Carr and James Thomas. Did it feel like being in a candy store? Could you have had a better first time in Europe anywhere else?
It was really good playing my first season overseas in Israel with this team. I had a good relationship with all those players. I’m one of those guys that knows how to interact with different types of people. They all gave me tips. Corry Carr and James Thomas had the biggest impact. They were the oldest. One guy was a guard and the other a big man. They both had different perspectives about their positions. Coach Brad Greenberg was also very important. He was really helpful. I was young then and was Firey. I have always been like that. I wasn’t always easy back then.
You played against Maccabi Tel Aviv four times that season. You held your own. How vital was it knowing right away you belonged being able to play so well against a Euroleague powerhouse?
When I played well against them, I felt like I could play at that level. I wanted to use my opportunity overseas and prove I could play. Since then I always want to see at what level I can get to. I have always bene the type of player that gets on the court and then it’s let’s see what will happen.
In 2014 you played against USA in the World Cup. You scored 5 points in 15 minutes against Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Anthony Davis, Derrick Rose, Klay Thompson and Rudy Gay just to name a few. What will you always remember from this game?
It was a very good environment. We played in Barcelona. I wasn’t in awe. We actually had played against Curry and Thompson and the Golden State Warriors as well as the Timberwolves in a pre season game. I had played pretty good against the Warriors. The game was really important to me because I wanted to show that I could paly against them. At home everyone was oh my God your on TV:
You have been an incredible shooter your whole career. As a great shooter do you look at games form other great shooters and continue to try to learn? One of those great shooters of course is Steph Curry.
Not really. I just shoot the ball and have always put in the work. I have always felt like I have had the best shooting coach with my dad. Now when I watch guys play, I don’t take things, but moreover critic their shooting. That is something that I have caught myself doing
I read you were a shooter first and became that great point guard later. But you already averaged 7 assists as a senior in the NCAA.
That is a huge misconception. I have played point guard my whole life. When I went to Israel the team had only won 5 games the year before. We started well going 4-2 early. Gal Mekel was there and wasn’t a great shooter but more a great pick and role player. The coach told me to play the two position. Suddenly everyone saw me coming off staggers and everyone called me an undersized two. Everyone thought I wasn’t a point guard. That was the only season here I didn’t play point guard.
In 2014-2015 you were back in Mexico with Halcones Rojos de Veracruz (Mexico-LNBP).Why weren’t you in Europe?
I got offered a lot of money. So I went back to Mexico. The team folded soon and I only played a few months there. I then went back and played in Russia.
In 2015-2016 you played with Avtodor Saratov (Russia-VTB) and had possibly your best season leading the VTB in assists with 7 and second in assists in the Eurocup with 7. What happened in this season that made you explode on the scene?
I was just very hungry. I was very mad with what had happened in Mexico. When you play in Europe and say no and return to Mexico, your taking a huge risk. It’s never easy getting to Europe. I was very frustrated and wanted to show back in Europe what my game was made of. The Eurocup was a competition that I had never played before and was the perfect stage for me.
In 2016-2017 you played with Unics Kazan (Russia-VTB) and played in the Euroleague. What were your first thoughts when you saw Luca Doncic play? Did you know then that he would dominate the NBA so quickly?
No. I knew he would be good though. He had a big body. I was surprised how big he was. I didn’t think that he would dominate as much in the NBA. But the NBA has changed a lot. He has the ball in his hands each possession.
You played with one of the more consistent Euroleague players Keith Langford. Is he one of those guys that you will remember as a teammate 20 years from now?
Keith can score on anybody. I have played with many great scorers like a Gary Neal. I saw Keith have many great games. He could score in so many different ways.
In the 2017-2018 season you played in the ACB with Tecnyconta Zaragoza (Spain-ACB). What was most challenging for you to play in the best league in Europe?
The biggest challenge was the coach letting me play. That was really the hardest part.
In 2018-2019 you played with Maccabi Ashdod/Be’er Tuvia (Israel-Winner League) averaging 15.3ppg, 3.4rpg, Assists-1 (7.7apg), Steals-1 (2.9spg), FGP: 50.5%, 3PT: 35.2%, FT: 85.0%. This was a very good season for you. Was your 30/5/10 game in the narrow 104-100 loss to Maccabi Tel Aviv a top 3 personal game in your career?
I would say so. It was a game against Euroleague team Maccabi. I was in a good zone that day. I did get tired at the end. The game went into double OT. We should of won that game. We turned over the ball to send into double OT where we lost
You were the best player on the court. Did a game like that show you that you are as good in skill or close to a guy like Scottie Wilbekin who I feel could play in the NBA?
Yes I feel like that. For a long time I didn’t get opportunities like this for a long time. I feel like if I get the opportunity then I can thrive in many ways. The Euroleague was tough because I didn’t get the minutes. But if you look at my career, where ever I got decent minutes, I played well. It is all about if the coach has confidence in me to give me minutes.
In the last two seasons you continued to put up very good stats in France and especially Israel. Your turning 36 this year. How much longer do you still want to play
I remember when I first started to play in Lansing, I said that I would play until I’m 40. Funny is now I’m chasing it. I want to play until at least 40. I won’t be playing if I feel like I can’t compete anymore. I’m too much of a competitor and still want to make a difference.
Who is the best player that you ever battled that played in the NBA?
That is too tough to answer. But I can cheat a bit. My family knows Magic Johnson. So I would say Magic. I played some open gyms against Magic when I was a kid whenever he came back to Lansing..
Please name your five best teammates of all-time?
I can’t answer this. I have had a couple of guys on each team that I have played on.
Please list your personal NBA Mount Rushmore?
Jordan, Magic, Bird, Lebron and Shaq. I would add a Reggie Miller and Steve Nash because I loved watching them growing up.
What is your personal opinion about the neverending debate of who is the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan or Lebron James?
I feel like Lebron is the best but with Jordan’s career he is the greatest. It is a hard judgement. Jordan is 1A and Lebron 1B.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Thanks Paul for the chat.