For a young man whose roots are planted deeply in Indiana, former Huntington North High School and Purdue University basketball standout Chris Kramer has found a second home in Germany playing the game he loves.
Now 26, Kramer, who spent the 2010-11 season playing with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, is preparing for his third season with the EWE Baskets in Oldenburg, Germany, where he has a two-year guaranteed contract that will pay him about $200,000 a season.
Kramer, a two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year at Purdue, made another run at an NBA roster spot this summer, playing with the Houston Rockets in the Orlando Summer League.
The Boilermakers’ career steals leader with 274 still dreams of playing in the NBA, but with each passing year, he has become more of a realist.
“I am getting older, and the NBA is getting younger,” Kramer said Thursday in a phone interview from Germany “Obviously, the NBA is the ultimate goal, but I look at it now as if it happens, it happens. I am not going to continue to give up my summer to go and just get a chance to make it.
“If one year I come over here and (dominate) and things work out that an NBA team would give me a guaranteed deal, then it becomes a different story. But just to go to workouts and play in the Summer League, it’s kind of hard to give up guaranteed money here in Germany. If I was a little younger, I might give up that guaranteed money. But at 26, you change that perspective.”
Purdue coach Matt Painter, whose teams won 96 games during the four seasons (2006-07 through 2009-10) that Kramer was a Boilermaker, says the 6-foot-3 guard has made wise career decisions since college.
“He has put himself in a great position,” Painter said. “He is in a place that is enjoyable to live and is with a team that he has played for. And he is with a good team that values what he does. A lot of times, that is not always the case.
“European teams usually need their American players to be that leading scorer. If an American doesn’t do that and his team loses, then it is his fault. Chris’ team understands that he does a lot of other things that affect winning. He gets loose balls, dives on the floor, takes charges and plays great defense. He also really has improved offensively in the half court.”
After one professional season in Fort Wayne, Kramer took a leap of faith to play in Germany, spending the 2011-12 season with the S. Oliver Baskets in Wurzburg, averaging 11.2 points while helping the team advance to the playoff semifinals in the German Basketball Bundesliga.
He needed a year to adjust to German culture and food, but once he did, he decided to return for another season in Germany, making a jump to the traditionally strong team in Oldenburg.
When the 34-game regular season begins Oct. 5, it will be Kramer’s third with the EWE Baskets, where his teammates include former University of Missouri standout Rickey Paulding, who was once drafted by the Detroit Pistons.
“I basically have gotten to see the world while playing a game that I love,” Kramer said.
Kramer averaged 10 points, five rebounds and 3.5 assists a game last season, alternating between shooting guard and point guard. In addition to 34 regular season games, Kramer’s German League team will participate in the Euro Cup and likely the German postseason.
Kramer left the United States for Germany in mid-August and has been in preseason training camp for two weeks.
“The league is kind of up and coming,” Kramer said. “It’s nice here in that we are allowed to have as many as six foreigners, so most teams have four, five or six Americans. I have gotten to be pretty close with some guys on my team.
“They keep coming back, so it makes it pretty easy for me to come back. We play in the German League, and we also play teams from other parts of Europe. So the season doesn’t seem as long as it would if we were playing just one game a week. We have one of the best gyms in the league, so they make it pretty easy for me to keep coming back.”
Hearing that Kramer is enjoying life in Germany makes Painter happy.
“You want a quality of life,” Painter said. “You want a great basketball situation, and he has a great setup there, on and off the court. He has been able to make good money when the money overseas simply is not that good any more like it was 10 or 20 years ago.
“He is close to $200,000 a year with bonuses and has a two-year deal. So, he is in a great situation. Your goals always are to make it to the highest level, but you also have to be realistic when you are getting older.
“You need to make the best decisions for yourself. The challenge then becomes what does he do while he still is playing to prepare himself for life after basketball. He is doing the right things. I am happy for Chris.”