Teamcheck: Paderborn Baskets

The past three years the Paderborn Baskets have done a terrific job in working very efficient with a limited budget. While the average paderbornbudget in BBL should be something on the better side of 2.5 million €, Paderborn had to deal with the minimum budget of about 1 million €uros.

Still it did not prevent Coach Doug Spradley from forming decent rosters that never even had to fear facing relegation. In Germany’s second division Spradley’s team had a sensational 2006/2007 campaign when they remained unbeaten for the whole season and got promoted to BBL. If you count the wins of the 05/06 season and add them up with those wins of the next season, the team had an unbelievable winning streak of 50 wins in a row before playing BBL.

But no one was surprised when that winning streak could not last in Germany’s first division. Of course you can’t buy success with money, but it surely makes things a lot easier.

If your financial situation does not allow you to sign players that almost guarantee you quality you have to do some nice scouting work.

When Paderborn entered the BBL many experts had their doubts if the star players that made the promotion to the first division happen would really be competitive enough to help the team.

Tim Black? Aha… Nice scorer in the second division. But BBL? Much too slim and small!

Steve Esterkamp? Perhaps a role-player with a minor scorer role…

Marius Nolte? No way, that he can compete in BBL!

But all three mentioned proved that they were a big help for Paderborn. Especially Tim Black surprised many fans and experts. After a slow start into the 07/08 season due to an injury, Black showed impressively that he belongs to this league. His second year in BBL was simply breathtaking as he became the league’s best scorer overall with 21.3 points per game! He even combined that with 4.1 assists and tried his luck in for NBA team Indiana Pacers later that summer. He could not convince the Pacers or any other NBA club to sign him, but Black had simply outgrown from his role in Paderborn. In 2007 he decided to join Belgian club Antwerp Diamond Giants.

With Black’s departure there were just two of the three musketeers Black-Esterkamp-Nolte left. Of course the team had seen other nice players like Greg Jenkins (now Frankfurt Skyliners) or Nathan Peavy (signed with Artland Dragons this summer), but that trio was something like a signature for the clubs success in the past years.

Again in 2008 people were sceptical if the loss of Black would be too tough for Spradley’s team that was able to finish its first two seasons in BBL as a solid mid-fielder on 11th spot.

At the beginning of the 2008/2009 campaign it looked like for the first time in two years all the critics could be right about Paderborn missing enough quality to stay in the league.

Combine Black’s departure with Nathan Peavy’s injury and two mediocre new acquired centers and you have 7 losses in the first 9 games.

But than everything just turned around: Paderborn signed a man who had been in the league for many years, but surprisingly could not find a new club at the beginning of the season. Bamberg decided to give german talent Tim Ohlbrecht a bigger role and therefore veteran center Chris Ensminger had to go. Known for his fighting spirit and his will to succeed (he sometimes does not bother to throw an elbow if that helps to win…) teams must have thought that the 35-year old has already passed his prime. Perhaps that is what really motivated him to come back even stronger than ever before. Well Ensminger is a player you really love to see on your team and you hate him when he wears the opponents’ uniform. If you have not seen him play, the best way to describe him in an NBA comparison is former Detroit Pistons center Bill Laimbeer.

The signing of Ensminger and the comeback of Nathan Peavy made Paderborn a winning team. It also helped to put some pressure of Steven Esterkamp. All players benefited from this new situation and throughout the season they all had their highlights to help the team in different ways. Backup Point Guard Steven Wright hit big shots and had a game winner during the season. Lavelle Felton and Bryant McAllister contributed better and better and even problem child Nino Garris had 22 points against Nördlingen.

At the beginning of the season Spradley’s squad looked like a team that had to face relagation, from mid season on they certainly looked like play-off team. Nothing to worry about in sport terms, but suddenly the team announced to have some serious financial problems. At some point of the season players and coaching staff had to face salary cuts to keep the club alive. It really seemed schizophrenic as the team was about to seal the club’s biggest success ever in sport terms and had to deal with the fear of announcing bankruptcy.

One really has to praise the whole organisation that those problems of the economical side did not harm the teams success on the court.

On the last game day in the regular season Paderborn had to face Goettingen and only a win would seal the deal of playing post season for the first time in club’s history. It was a very close game, but American Lavelle Felton stepped up, showed no fear and sunk the decisive free throw to secure the victory. (video)

Paderborn’s success was a bit in the shadow of Goettingen’s decent season as John Patrick’s team, that works with a small budget as well, was able to finish the season 2nd. But still one cannot pay to much respect to what had happened in Paderborn. And while many critics saw the team getting sweeped by Alba Berlin, Spradley’s guys made clear that they would not be an easy opponent for the 8 time BBL champion. Again it was Lavelle Felton who sunk a game winning three pointer against Berlin (video) and it took five hard games for the reigning champion to beat the underdog.

Even before the play-offs had started Doug Spradley was announced the new Eisbaeren Bremerhaven coach. After 8 years of coaching Paderborn and 5 years of playing for the team back in the nineties, Spradley’s departure for sure ended an era.

While Paderborn was able to resolve their financial troubles during the summer, they now produced negative headline in sport terms.

One of Spradley’s favourite players and fan favourite Steven Esterkamp followed the coach’s path to Bremerhaven. Chris Ensminger had signed a contract with vice champion Telekom Baskets Bonn very early this off season and secured a two-year deal. And with Marius Nolte another familiar face, who had been a team member for 8 years decided to leave the club.

Nathan Peavy’s market value had grown so big last season, it was a matter of course that he would not return to Paderborn. Instead he opted to sign with the Artland Dragons.

With other valuable player like Steven Wright, Lavelle Felton and Bryant McAllister not returning to Paderborn, it became clear that there would be a whole new Baskets team this season.

But the saddest day this summer for every Paderborn and BBL fan certainly was the 13th of August. 29-year old American Lavelle Felton was killed in his hometown Milwaukee. He was shot in the head while sitting in the driver’s seat of a vehicle at a gas station.

After that senseless crime that cost the life of a young man all one has to hope for is the best for his girlfriend and his children.

The world is still spinning and there will be a new basketball season.

Paderborn’s new head coach Olaf Stolz had been coaching SOBA Dragons Rhoendorf the past two seasons. He lacks experience in BBL and with all signs set on a new start it will certainly not be an easy season for him and his new team.

Paderborn had to sign a whole new starting five as all key-players of last season decided to leave the club.

On the point guard position the Baskets will be lead by American DeAndre Haynes next season. The 25-year old has already played basketball in Europe, but with stays in Belgium and Hungary has not seen as much competition as he is going to see in Germany.

Haynes had nice season in Hungary and averaged 13.6 points, 3.4 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game for his team Kecskemeti Univer KSE. The numbers look nice, but especially on the point guard position it is risky to try your look with a player from Hungary’s first division.

A player who made the transition from Hungary to Germany easily was Winsome Frazier, but it is still not predictable what Haynes can do in BBL.

Haynes backup on that position is a german player who was on his way to become national player a couple of years ago. But Nicolai Simon’s development was stopped by serious back problems.

Some years ago Nicolai Simon and Lucca Staiger were known around Germany as the biggest talents. They had been on the cover of the magazine Basketball and had nice stats in Germany’s second division with Urspringschule/Ehingen being just 16-years old.

Simon averaged 13.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists during the 2005/2006 campaign with Ehingen and soon afterwards signed a contract with Alba Berlin. Right after his first season with powerhouse Berlin, he was named the Rookie of the Year and his future seemed so bright. But then his back caused serious trouble and Simon lost almost the entire 2007/2008 season. There were rumours about Simon having to quit Basketball, but in 2008 he came back to where his career started. With Ehingen he had a solid season in ProB (Germany’s third division) and averaged 8.9 points, 2.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game.
For Simon this was a year important to prepare his comeback into professional basketball.

Looking back at last season Simon is grateful for the opportunity to gain lots of playing time with Ehingen and feels ready for a return:

“It was a good step to go back to ProB to be on the court and play lots of minutes. After my long injury I needed something to get into a rhythm again. I feel good now, had a good summer and feel ready for BBL.”

Simon denies that he considered finishing his career during the long-time injury:

“I never ever thought about quit playing basketball and worked really hard to get back on the court as quick as possible.”

Simon has been away from BBL courts for almost two years. If you consider his fast development from 2005 and 2007 one really has to think about where he could be now. National team is my first thought and all the nice words everyone has for Per Günther right now could be said about Nicolai Simon.
It will be interesting to see if and how fast the 22-year old will be back to his old strength again. But with Simon being a bench player with not too much responsibility this could turn out to be a win-win situation for both parties.

18-year old Paderborn-native Dominik Malinowski is still developing and one should not expect him to see more than just some garbage minutes now and then. He will also play in Regionalliga with Paderborn’s second team.

On the Shooting Guard position Paderborn relies on a 25-year old rookie, who spent his college days with the Utah Utes. Lawrence Borha improved in every year he played for the Utes and finished his senior season with 11.7 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game.

Primarily Borha is a decent shooter as he made 39.9% of his three point shots last season, but besides his natural position he can also play some minutes as a playmaker.

Similar to his backcourt team mate Haynes one can hardly predict what impact Borha could have on BBL level.

With Robert Hueslewede (19-years old) and Thomas Gajda (20-years old) there are two youngsters that could see minor minutes behind Borha.

Paderborn’s management still seemed to look for an addition to this backcourt group of players and allegedly plans to sign a familiar face with Malik Moore. The 32-year old veteran would perfectly fit in this young and unexperienced squad on the guard positions. He has spent the 2007/2008 campaign with Paderborn and averged 9.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. Moore is a versatile combo guard, who helped MBC (Mitteldeutscher BC) to win the ProA championship last season. He contributed with 10.4 points, 2.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists and played his part to help the club to return to BBL.

One has to encourage the management to sign Moore as he should be a big asset to this team.

Starter for the Small Forward position will be American Bryan McCullough. McCoullough (video) played in Hungary and Romania the last three years and really had a great season in Romania 2006/07 when he averaged 24.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.8 steals per game. In his second season in Hungary he averaged again 20+ points and became the leagues second best scorer overall. He had an unfortunate year in Hungary last season as his numbers dropped a lot and he had to change the team as well. But since the Romanian and the Hungarian league are quite on the same level, on should expect that McCullough just did not find the right situation in Hungary. On the wing he should be Paderborn’s first scoring option and his versatility could also help to fix possible problems on the positions 1 and 2.

With Daniel Lieneke a familiar face returns to Paderborn. The 28-year old had been a member of the Baskets ever since 2001. He also played one season in BBL, but averaged just 1.0 point per game. In 2007 he returned to Baskets Salzkotten (Regionalliga) where his career started in the late 90s. Lieneke can give the team identity since he was a member of that great Spradley team that remained unbeaten for 50 straight games and promoted to BBL. Don’t expect Lieneke to be more than a player who gives the team a few minutes and McCullogh a short break.

Another inexperienced player, who comes straight out of school is American forward Kevin Langford (video). German Hoops NCAA expert Mario has his doubt whether Langford can fill the gap Nathan Peavy left:

“Kevin Langford joins Paderborn as a rookie out of Texas Christian University. At 6-8 and 245 lbs., he is a physically strong power forward. He started his college career at Cal, but saw little playing time as he was stuck on the bench behind DeVon Hardin and Leon Powe. After his transfer to TCU, he immediately became a contributor on the court. For Paderborn, Langford will be the starter at the four spot and will be asked to play a lot of minutes right away. It will be interesting to see how he handles the burden of being the main inside option for a professional team, since Langford was not exactly a model of consistency. During his college career, he had several excellent games that were followed by dismal performances. Although Langford is solid on the offensive glass, he is not as good a defensive rebounder as Paderborn might like him to be. If coach Stolz gets Langford to live up to his potential, he can be a valuable asset for the team. At this early stage of his career, however, it is very unlikely that Langford can carry the team like his predecessor Nathan Peavy did.”

Matt Terwilliger is probably sick and tired of hearing questions about his junior year with Ohio State. Terwilliger was backup to a guy who became the NBA number one overall Draftpick in 2007: Greg Oden. And if you just imagine the figure of both players one can easily imagine that practice with Oden must have been a torture for slim shooter Terwilliger.

The 23-year old American had a nice start into his rookie season as he was the topscorer in Paderborns first game of the season. But with the signing of Chris Ensminger and the return of Peavy his minutes dropped and it seemed like Terwilliger was almost out of the rotation.

But surprisingly the American stepped up in the play-off series against Alba Berlin and had a BBL career-high in both categories scoring (13) and rebounding (7) in the post season.

Terwilliger still is quite one-dimensional, but his nice shooting touch could help the other big man on the team to get some open spaces on the floor (video).

I expect Terwilliger to be the first backup for both positions , power forward and center.

The starting center for Paderborn’s new team should be American Nate Gerwig.

Gerwig lacks BBL experience as well, but he has proved to be a big contributer in ProA. He averaged 15.6 points and grabbed 8.5 rebounds per game last season and was the key player for Chemnitz 99. Again it could be risky to sign a ProA player as a starting five player.

Gerwig will have to deal with a more physical game in BBL, but I expect him to make that transition and become a solid BBL center.

German talent Robert Oehle saw not many minutes last season. But this season he can really hope for more minutes. For sure Gerwig will play most of the minutes and Terwilliger is the first backup. But since Terwilliger could as well backup the power forward position, Oehle could see some minutes now and then. The 21-year old still needs some time to develop and via double licence he should again play at Paderborn Baskets II (2.Regionalliga).


PG Haynes/Simon/Malinowski

SG Borha/Huelsewede/Gajda

SF McCoullough/Lieneke

PF Langford/Terwilliger

C Gerwig/Oehle

New Players bold

Germans italic

Outlook: It is not very inventive and people say it ever since Paderborn returned to BBL in 2007. But I think this time it should be really very difficult for Paderborn to stay in the league. Hardly any other team in this league is as inexperienced as this new Paderborn squad: new coach, Americans from minor European leagues, Americans straight out of college and german players that need to prove that they belong to this league.

It was a great achievement for the Paderborn management to avoid bankruptcy. That probably was the biggest success one could hope for. From Game Day 1 it should be a tough fight for Paderborn to remain in BBL. Even if all question marks become exclamation marks Paderborn should be nothing more but a team in the back group of the mie-field.

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