When Yves Defraigne joined TBB Trier in December 2007, all he found was a roster full of players who were interested more in their egos than in teamplay. Defraigne had taken over a team that was build up in a way he never would have done it.
But with no possibility to sign new players during the season he just had to deal with what he had.
Trier finished the season on 17th spot. Second last meant that the dinosaur team would have been relegated to the second division. But Cuxhaven’s decision not to make it from the second division to the BBL allowed Trier to gain a wildcard and remain in the league.
Now it was Defraigne’s turn in the summer of 2008 and he made some decent moves to create a team that will now play the second season together.
With center George Evans, Defraigne signed a big man who had played for him some years at Dexia Mons-Hainaut. The 38-year old veteran, who is the oldest player in BBL, missed some games at the beginning of the season, but had a decent first year in Germany. Surprisingly he did not dominate the boards as much as one would expect it when you see his big body. 3.6 rebounds sound poor for a big man who averaged more than 25 minutes. But Evans knows the game, can play the pick and roll properly, uses his body cleverly in the post and is an example for ever other team mate. No wonder Trier handed him a 2-year contract.
The other player, who has signed a 2-year deal in the summer of 2008 is a point guard, who was born in Belgium, Defraignes home land. Derek Raivio’s father was a professional basketball player and played 11 years in Europe, before the family returned to the states.
Knowing his father might have been a nice anecdote, but it certainly was Raivio’s game that was decisive for Defraigne’s decision to sign the son now. For sure Raivio looks like a 12-year old boy and he is probably asked to show his passport when he buys some bottles of beer (something the author of these lines has experienced for some years of his 20s too…), but he really has developed into a decent point guard in the last two years. When he had his first few games for Cologne in 2007, I would not have expected him to learn so quickly. Derek is much more than “that guy who led the whole college nation in free throws” in his senior year with Gonzaga (making 96.1% from the charity stripe). He runs around screens, makes the open three pointer and has a nice way of involving his team mates. Around the league his development got honoured with an All-Star appearance last season.
Defraigne landed two steals in the summer of 2008.
Chris Copeland had a nice season in holland’s Eredivisie where he averaged 18.0 points and 7.6 rebounds. But I would not have expected him to be that good and versatile on BBL level. When Evans was injured at the beginning of the season, Copeland was able to step and was the teams topscorer in the first three games (making an all team season high 31 points against Paderborn). Copeland has a nice repertoire on offense: he can shoot the ball from outside, has a quick first step and a nice spinmove to the basket and if you double team him, he often finds the open team mate. His transition from Holland to Germany worked pretty well as he produced 13.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.
Brining Copeland back for the 2009/2010 campaign was great move. For sure many other teams wanted to sign him this summer, but Chris decided to stay. Now I’m really curious to see if he can step up in his second year and become one of the leagues finest players.
The other steal came straight out of college: Former VCU-guard Jamal Shuler could have been a nice pick for the award sixth man of the year. Typical for a rookie he had his ups and downs, but his athletic style and his tough defense seem to fit well into this league. The 23-year old still needs to improve his outside shot, but overall he is a player you should keep an eye on. Just take a look at his season-highs and it gives you a hint of what he could be capable of in the near future: 29 points (against Tübingen), 9 rebounds (against Düsseldorf and Cologne) and 6 assists (against Ulm).
Trier had a team option to extend Shuler’s contract for one more season. It must have been a no-brainer to do so.
Fan favourite and veteran James Gillingham had to deal with several injuries again last season. For the first time in his career at Trier he averaged less than 11 points. But he had his highlights scoring 25 against the Artland Dragons and he finished the season with 23 points against Bremerhaven (making all of his 5 threepoint attempts). If he stays healthy he should become very important for the team.
Because compared to last season’s roster, there is gap on the positon 3 that needs to be filled.
Ex-NBA player Norman Richardson left the team and his position was not really replaced. Richardson was a key-player last season and started most of the games on Small Forward position.
When James Gillingham got injured, TBB signed guard Brian Brown. The 30-year old american is a familiar face for Trier fans, because he has spent two seasons at the Mosel from 2004 to 2006. The addition of comboguard Brown worked out well as he averaged 10.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists. It looks like the management was so convinced of Brown’s ability that they decided to make a major change on the rotation for 2009/2010. With Richardson leaving and Brown being the first player to get a contract extension, Trier clearly lost some height. Brown will support and backup Raivio on the point, but he can also play on the shooting guard position. That means that uprising Jamal Shuler could become a starter on position 3 and Gillingham the veteran backup for the positions 2 and 3.
One of the crucial questions of Trier’s season will be if this works out.
I asked Chris Copeland about Richardson’s role on last season’s team and how the void of his departure could be closed. Copeland made it clear that Richardson will be missed: “Norm was a huge part of our team… No one guy could fill that gap he brought too much to our squad… We all will have to all chip in as a team to try to make up for what we will be missing from Norm…”
Jamal Shuler knows that Gillingham and he will be the ones to play Richardson’s part: “We’re going to miss Norman a lot. Not only his play but his leadership and his calm attitude really helped us through a lot of tough times. So he is definitely going to be missed. I think Gilly and me have to step up to fill that void at the 3 spot, just like we did when Norman went out with an injury during the season. And I think we will be ready for the challenge!”
Another player that had to leave is Tyrone Riley. The 27-year old could surprise opponents with his threepoint shot now and then and was a solid role-player. But Trier has one of germany’s biggest talents to replace Riley. Maik Zirbes dominated each youth competition and was voted for the MVP of Germany’s U20 league NBBL. He also had some nice games at the European Championships U18 in 2008 averaging 16.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and a tournament-high 72.4% field goal percentage! Zirbes should be ready to play BBL now and his team mates stressed that they are very confident that he will do well. Copeland said: “Maik is a hard worker and tough competitor… Combine that with the god-given talent we all know he has I am sure he will do well in the BBL…”
Zirbes and Maksym Shtein will be the backup players for Evans and Copeland. The german-ukrainian Shtein had his best BBL season so far averaging 7.7 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. Shtein is a player, who knows exactly what he can do and what he can’t do. In offense he is above average and will give the team some nice production from the bench. Just remember that he had his best game against the championship team of Oldenburg when he scored 22 points and grabbed 9 rebounds.
I wondered what impact youngsters Samy Picard and Alexander Andreev could have on the team. Picard has stood out in Luxembourg and averaged 21.4 points per game during the regular season. The talented Forward was named Eurobasket.com All-Luxembourg League Domestic Player of the Year 2009 and signed a three-year deal with Trier.
But how good can a player, who dominated in Luxembourg, be in Germany’s first division?
The same goes for 18-year old german Alexander Andreev, who spent the last two seasons with Badalona’s youth teams.
I decided to ask someone about both players, who is a real expert when it comes to young European talents: Christophe from Europeanprospects.com was kind enough to give me his opinion on both players:
“Samy Picard and Alexander Andreev are two young and talented players that join TBB Trier this season. But they come from very different backgrounds. While the first one moves over the German border from his homecountry Luxembourg for a first professional experience, the second one has already visited the famous Spanish basketball school of “La Penya” Joventut Badalona.
Picard has established himself as an interesting name in the different European Youth Competitions as he finished top scorer of the U18 European Championship B Division in 2006. Since then, he has improved every year in his team in Luxembourg as finished the 2008/2009 season as best national player in the small country. For his first step on the professional level, he should be able to see limited minutes with Trier this season but the roster set-up of Yves Defraigne’s team shows that Picard will see most likely more than just Garbage minutes.
Alexander Andreev has a very different background to Picard as he moved abroad at a very young age. After a promising U16 European championship in 2007, the forward was recruited by Joventut Badalona where he never made the break into the rotation of the different youth teams (that are very strong though). His move to Trier was a surprise for me as I did not think that any team from Germany was actively recruiting him. But I think that Trier has made an interesting move here as they signed him for 4 years. He will mainly play NBBL this season and may get some garbage minutes with the pros. I see him in a similar situation to Maik Zirbes last year where he lead the NBBL team. That’s what we can expect from Andreev this season in my opinion.”
German Kosta Karamatskos could earn some minutes on the shooting guard position too. But the greek-german guard will only have a minor role. Probably smaller than Picard, but bigger than Andreev.
PG Derek Raivio/Brian Brown
SG James Gillingham/Kostas Karamatskos
SF Jamal Shuler/Samy Picard
PF Chris Copeland/Maik Zirbes/Alex Andreev
C George Evans/Maksym Shtein
New players bold
As I mentioned before, I think that we will see Brown and Raivio together on the court. Brown can easily play both guard positions and be a scorer. It would simply be a waste if he was only a backup point guard.
Just like last season Trier will have its problems with rebounding. They were the worst rebounding team in the league last season and losing height should not really help them work this out. But on the other side TBB Trier had its best moments in 2008/2009 when the could play their fast game. With the addition of Brown and Shuler playing mainly on position 3 they could play this style even more intense.
Outlook: Consistency was Trier’s main aim this summer. And they succeeded to bring back players like Brown and Copeland. Last season Trier already could have been a play-off team, but all those ups and downs did not really help. At times the team seemed like a loose cannon. They lost e.g. against a weak team like Giessen one week and while just a few weeks before they were able to beat teams like Oldenburg, Artland or Bonn.
It should definitely help the team that they are in their second year. The lack of consistency of last season could be overcome by that fact, because the players mature and they should understand their coach’s language much better.
If Trier stays out of injury trouble and if they can work out there problems with consistency, they could really add those 10% of performance and become a serious play-off contender. A team that re-signed most of its players last season was Oldenburg – and we all know how much they benefited from that…