It's not often that basketball players can combine getting a higher education degree and playing professional games. But that is exactly what ALBA Berlin is offering to players such as Tim Schneider with the ALBA Berlin College.
The 20-year-old Schneider is the second ALBA player to take advantage of the German club's collaboration with the BiTS Berlin campus of the University of Applied Sciences Europe in working toward a bachelor's degree in sports and event management.
"For me, it's a perfect opportunity to combine playing professional basketball and studying at the same time. It was very important for me you get this opportunity to do both because knowledge is very important," Schneider said.
Schneider started the four-year program in August as part of the second class of students at the ALBA Berlin College.
"ALBA Berlin College offers professional athletes ideal opportunities to effectively and sensibly combine the fully-packed everyday sportsman's life with studying," ALBA Berlin club general manager Marco Baldi said. "It is a valuable commodity when you can prepare for life after a sports career already during your competitive career."
There are 10 students in Schneider's class, making 15 total from the first two years. In the preseason, there were classes five days a week, but since the season started in October there is only one day of class weekly. All of the theoretical course work is done at the BiTS while the practical experience is gained at the ALBA Berlin club.
While Schneider practices as a professional basketball player with ALBA Berlin, his classmates spend their non-classroom days either at the club offices or working as coaches and referees in ALBA's youth system.
"It's for all basketball-minded people: players, referees, coaches, sports managers; and we integrate them all into our club," said Daniel Endres, who is responsible for finances and marketing with the youth program for ALBA Berlin.
"We have a huge youth program in our club, and we wanted to give the chance to players and people in our club to continue with their education."
ALBA veteran guard Akeem Vargas has been studying at BiTS since March 2015, but had joined before there was the official collaboration with the club, wanting to further his education.
"Some of our players, such as Akeem Vargas and Tim Schneider, are already using this offer and certainly more will follow," said Baldi.
This collaboration is not solely about basketball players. A major function is to directly assist in educating and developing a new future workforce to fill needs within the club.
"We are always looking for well-educated coaches and managers for the office and the goal is to integrate them into the office because the program lasts four years. You want to integrate them into the company and build up your base of employees in different fields," Endres said.
He also called the college a recruiting tool, since all the classes are in English.
"Looking into the future, it could really give us an advantage over other clubs in Europe," Endres said.
"Kids from everywhere in Germany and in Europe can see this is a chance for them to connect studies and becoming a pro player. Besides the U.S., this is the only place where you can do this in Europe. Also, this is not like other universities where you study online. Your classes are in your whole group. So this should be much more attractive for higher potential talents to come here."
ALBA Berlin also hopes the college can assist in keeping some of their own young talents in Berlin. The club had seen numerous players from its youth system - such as Niels Giffey, who returned to become the team captain, and Moritz Wagner, now playing at the University of Michigan - leave in the past for the United States to combine college basketball and higher education.
Endres said the club figured this collaboration was a different way of doing things than elsewhere in Germany or Europe. "You have to be creative to come up with new ways to bring in new players and new employees," Endres said.
For Schneider, college in the United States was never really an option, also because he knew of the ALBA Berlin College. But the young talent believes it will help the club attract more top players in the future:
"I think it's a big advantage for ALBA to give young players a chance to stay at home in Germany and give them a chance to play high-level basketball and also to study."