Jan Jagla, DKV Joventut

Apr 02, 2008 by Javier Gancedo, ULEBCup.com Print
Jan Jagla, DKV Joventut
Jan-Hendrick Jagla - DKV Joventut The road to European basketball prominence is rarely easy. A few players might get fast-tracked to fame, but many need to climb a step at a time. Jan-Hendrick Jagla of DKV Joventut falls into the latter category. At 27, Jagla has worked his way up through six teams in five countries on three continents since 2004. Now, his determination is paying off big-time as he fills a major role for a ULEB Cup title challenger headed into next week's Final Eight in Turin, Italy. In his first season with the team, Jagla has started more games and pulled more rebounds than any Joventut player while ranking second on the team in scoring and second in minutes played. That has been an eye-opener for many fans who had not heard of him as he went from his native Germany to a university career in the United States. He turned pro just four seasons ago but has since played in Greece, Germany, Turkey and the Spanish second division. DKV Joventut saw enough in all that, not to mention his German national team stints, to sign Jagla last summer. A natural mismatch with the size of a center and the soul of a shooting guard, Jagla has already proved a perfect fit, helping Joventut lift the Spanish King's Cup for the first time all decade. Now, Jagla and Joventut want more, as he told ULEBcup.com. "I hope to keep winning titles no matter what, hopefully here with Joventut because I really enjoy being here. I play basketball to win and that is what I want to do."

Born in Berlin, Jagla started his career at TuS Neukolln before moving at age 14 to TuS Lichterfelde – a youth team affiliated with Alba Berlin – and showing his promise by averaging 15.7 points for the team over two German second division seasons in his late teens. He even made his debut in European club competitions, taking part in one game with Alba Berlin in the 2001 SuproLeague against Lietuvos Rytas. Soon his basketball career hit a crossroads and Jagla decided to take an offer to study and play at Penn State University, where he arrived for the 2001-02 season. "I loved to play at Penn State," Jagla recalled. "The school was great, the people were really nice to me and basketball was okay, as we played in a big conference. I was on the floor a lot and that's where I developed and got better, because I got a lot of playing time. I could make mistakes on the floor and learn from them."

Playing as a face-up power forward, Jagla was among the conference leaders in rebounds and blocked shots even as a freshman. He added 10 kilograms of muscle for his second season, but remained a hard-to-guard player scorer. He was quickly becoming a fan favorite, too. Things got even better in his junior year as he led his team with averages of 13.4 points and 7.9 rebounds in 28 NCAA games and started drawing comparisons with countryman Dirk Nowitzki due to his frame and versatility. By then, Jagla had decided to try his luck as a professional. "I was getting old and it didn't make sense for me to stay in school for another year," he explained. "I was very happy to come back to Europe because that is really what I wanted."

Jan-Hendrik Jagla was the first international player for Germany to sign with the Artland Dragons (Photo: Artland Dragons)Jagla signed first with Greek club Panellinios, but did not find a good fit there and was released in November. He moved back to Germany, joining Artland Dragons. He averaged 6.7 points and 3.3 rebounds in 26 games that season, but concluded that he needed to play big minutes. For that reason, he joined Spanish second division team Inca the next season. "I left early from college and I didn't have a big name in Europe." Jagla explained. "For me, it was very important to find a team in which I could be on the court and be a major contributor so that bigger teams could see what I do. I got some exposure there that maybe opened the door to the job I have now." Jagla helped Inca advance to the Spanish Prince's Cup final and to the second division playoffs, averaging 11.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 28 games.

Among those watching Jagla improve was Turk Telekom, which signed Jagla for the following season. "It was the logical step up after I left Inca," Jagla said. "I went there with the chance to play against very good teams like Fenerbahce and Efes Pilsen, and also with the chance to play in the FIBA EuroCup. It was important for me to play in an international competition. It was huge for me and probably the breakout year in my career." Jagla was a major force for Telekom, recording big games in the EuroCup before his team reached the Turkish League playoff semifinals and finish third, its highest position since 1997. Jagla averaged 14.3 points and 5.7 rebounds in 37 Turkish League games.

Jagla's improvement certainly got him noticed back in Germany, where national team coach Dirk Bauermann chose him for the 2006 World Championships team as Nowitzki's backup. He would repeat the experience, with more playing time, at the European Championships in 2007. "Playing for the German national team on regular basis has been very important to me," Jagla said. "I was still young in the beginning and even when I wasn't playing in a top league, I got the trust from the national team. Being a part of that is very important because you get to learn a lot from the more experienced guys. There's a different feel when you are around friends who speak the same language as you, it makes it a lot easier to learn things and improve."

Jan-Hendrick Jagla - DKV JoventutJagla brought the confidence he gained with Team Germany into this season, his first with Joventut. In head coach Aito Garcia Reneses's flexible system, he has proved the perfect complement to other versatile players. His overall performance has been nothing short of extraordinary, as he helped Joventut to win the Spanish King's Cup – 11 years after its last domestic title – by averaging double digits as a scorer. "When you are a professional basketball player, you play to win games and also to win titles," he said. "I was able to finally get that first big title and winning the King's Cup was huge."

Jagla has been similarly impressive in the ULEB Cup, averaging 11.9 points and 6.6 rebounds in 14 games to help Joventut advance to the Final Eight. "It is great to see that I can compete at this level and be a good contributor for a team like this," Jagla says. "This is very important for me, the team is really excited to go to the Final Eight and will hopefully be able to win three games over there. I love playing the ULEB Cup and the ACB. It is a huge challenge for me, to be able to play this well. The way we have played in the ULEB Cup, we cannot be happy if we don't win the title."