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When the season finally started, Nowitzki struggled.
Played as a power forward by coach Don Nelson, the 20-year-old felt overpowered by the more athletic NBA forwards, was intimidated by the expectations as a number nine pick, and played bad defense, causing hecklers to taunt him as "Irk Nowitzki", omitting the "D" which stands for "defense" in basketball slang.
In the next 1995–96 Second Bundesliga season, Nowitzki established himself as a starter next to Finnish star forward Martti Kuisma and soon became a regular double-digit scorer: after German national basketball coach Dirk Bauermann saw him score 24 points in a DJK game, he stated that "Dirk Nowitzki is the greatest German basketball talent of the last 10, maybe 15 years." DJK finished second in the South Division, but could not earn promotion after losing, 86–62, in the deciding match versus BG Ludwigsburg: in that game, Nowitzki scored only eight points.
In the 1996–97 Second Bundesliga season, the team's top scorer Kuisma left the team, and Geschwindner replaced Pit Stahl as head coach.
Filling the void, Nowitzki averaged 19.4 points per game and led DJK again to second place after the regular season, but could not help his team gain promotion.
In the following 1997–98 Second Bundesliga season, Nowitzki finished his "Abitur" (German A-levels), but had to do compulsory military service in the Bundeswehr which lasted from September 1, 1997 to June 30, 1998; Nowitzki described this period as "a tough time at first; we had no privileges and had to participate in all the drills...later (after finishing the tough "Grundausbildung", the most intensive initial part of the service) it was much more relaxed." Concerning basketball, the 18-year-old, who had grown to 6 ft 11 in (2.11 m) tall, made progress, leading DJK to a 36:4 point total (in Germany, a victory gives 2:0 points and a loss 0:2) and ending as leading scorer with 28.2 points per game.
Geschwindner let him train seven days a week with DJK Würzburg players and future German internationals Robert Garrett, Marvin Willoughby and Demond Greene, and in the summer of 1994, then 16-year-old Nowitzki made the DJK squad.