Jason George is considered by many to be one of the top talents in an ever-growing pool of German prospects. The versatile wing is now banking on his move to U18 FC Bayern Munich to take his game to the next level, which he will get a chance to experience at the Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament Finals in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain, in May.
George averaged 15.0 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game earlier this season at ANGT Munich, where he garnered a spot on the All-Tournament Team even though the home side slumped to a fifth-place finish.
The 2.01-meter George was thrilled when he heard that Bayern received one of the four wild cards for the ANGT Finals: "I was excited, like all of us. I wasn't sure if we would get a wild card after finishing fifth at the qualifier in Munich," he said.
"I'm looking forward to seeing the best European teams and players, but especially the atmosphere. This will be a great experience," said George, who was second on Bayern in scoring and third in rebounding at the qualifying event.
Germany is a multicultural society, but one may wonder about the origins of someone with the name Jason George. He grew up in Manchester, England, and has Nigerian roots from his father. And like any British youngster, George's first team sport was football.
"I started with soccer, but I always had to be the goalkeeper because of my height and I didn't really like it, so my mom asked me if I wanted to play basketball. I think I was 9 when I started with basketball," George remembered.
The family moved to southwest Germany near Ulm and George enrolled at Urspringschule, an organization in a village near Ulm with a full-time school and boarding school. He put up big numbers for the U16 and U19 teams and also played in the fifth division Second Regionalliga in 2016-17. The following season, George had moved on to ratiopharm Ulm and its youth system, where he played despite being two years underage and averaged 8.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in the U19 NBBL league. George also appeared in 11 games in the second division ProA. He appeared at ANGT Munich in 2018. where he posted 8.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists for Ulm.
In late November, George decided to leave Ulm and sign with Bayern, with which he would play this season in the U19 NBBL league and the third division ProB.
"Bayern is one of the best organizations in Europe with a winning culture and we have great coaches, individual coaches, medical staff and more. It was the whole package," George said in explaining the move.
While things have gone well for George at the club level, he has been less fortunate with the German national team.
In 2017, Germany was stacked with talent at the FIBA U16 European Championship and considered a serious contender for a spot that would qualify it for the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2018. But Germany lost to Serbia in the Round of 16 and then needed to beat Sweden in the game for 13th place in order to stay in Division A.
When asked what he learned from that experience, George, who averaged 4.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.0 steals at the tourney, said: "Just talent isn’t enough to be successful. You have to work hard and be prepared. Every day."
Last summer, George played at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2018 and Germany was on the verge of qualifying for the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2019. After losing to Serbia in the quarterfinals, George helped Germany beat Montenegro to set up a date with Lithuania for fifth place and a spot at the U19 World Cup for the winner. However, Germany really didn't put up much of a fight, losing 83-55.
"The U19 World Cup was one of our goals, so it was very disappointing because opportunities like these do not come around often," said George, who averaged 7.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in the U18 continental tournament.
Last summer also saw George honored with a spot at the Basketball Without Borders European camp in Belgrade, which included a number of NBA players and coaches as teachers.
"We had off-the-court lessons like how to manage basketball and life. Some current and ex-NBA players talked about what it takes to get to the highest level and they told their story. I also had a chance to talk to Gregg Popovich," added George.
Those experiences have helped George become a leader on the Bayern team at this season's ANGT Munich. He feels that the team's experience from that tournament will be important when it faces U18 Zalgiris Kaunas, U18 Mega Bemax Belgrade and U18 Maccabi Teddy Tel Aviv in Group A at the ANGT Finals.
"The team got a better view of international basketball, especially those guys who didn't have national team experience," George said. When asked about Bayern's expectations in Vitoria-Gasteiz, he added: "To be competitive in every game and try to win as many games as possible."
Winning is something that George expects during his career with Bayern. It's why he moved to Munich.