EnBW Ludwigsburg are looking to land back in the playoff places in 2009-2010 and want to find some of that magic that was present some years ago as ex coach Silvano Poropat led the team into the playoffs.
Since then Poropat was dismissed and Rick Stafford was unable to form a consistent team last season missing the playoffs. Since their spectacular 2006-2007 season, where they finished the season at position 2 with a 25-9 record, not much greatness was able to follow the last two seasons except a 13th place finish in 2008 and 11th place ending last season. The most notable highlight was reaching the BBL cup final in 2008 losing to a motivated Artland Dragons. This season will see some changes, besides a good room cleaning with the roster, a new coach has come with the Regional train from Tuebingen with Tolga Öngören and the team say goodbye to the small and cosy Rundsporthalle as the team will move into a new arena.
What many couldn´t understand 12 months ago was, why fire Silvano Poropot after he had brought development into EnBW Ludwigsburg through some years, despite not reaching the playoffs in 2007-2008. Ludwigsburg management countered by explaining that they had not been content with the way, Poropot had been preparing for the upcoming 2008-2009 BBL season, so they fired him and replaced him with ex Bamberg player Rick Stafford as coach. Many questioned making him head coach so soon after having limited coaching experience with Breitenguessbach and one season as assistant coach under Dirk Bauermann with The Brose Baskets Bamberg.
Stafford, who was known as being a hard style coach, who wouldn´t shy away from having loud discussions with media members, started his job in Ludwigsburg with an average team, nothing more and nothing less. The biggest thing lacking with this team was possibily one or two more experienced players and going on a run during the season, which could of heightened their confidence as it was never really able to grow throughout the season.
The team finshed the season in 11th place, two wins from the last playoff place with a record of 16-18 and was knocking on the playoffs door in the last month, but finished the season losing three of the last four games including a 103-66 shell shocking to Ratiopharm Ulm, which left the question, how can a team lose so badly, when it should be totally focused to reach the playoffs when it is so close.
Ex Ludwigsburg shooting guard Gordon Scott, who played for Ludwigsburg from 2005-2007 and now plays for PRO A team Kirchheim still follows his ex team and had his own version of the teams demise:
“It seemed like the team was not having fun on the court. I did not see them as a unit and that would be a problem for any team”, stated Scott.
The team only had two winning streaks of three games at the start and four near the end, but couldn´t do any damage in the middle. The highlights of the season was the home win against Alba Berlin as well as sweeping Bamberg and beating The Telekom Baskets Bonn.
The team showed that there were some pieces missing to being a real playoff team by their mediocre 4-11 record against playoff teams. The Deutsche Bank Skyliners were able to dispose of Ludwigsburg twice including a defensive masterpiece in Ludwigsburg where the team gave full court press a whole new definition and Skyliner Derrick Allen remembers that two things were missing from the team.
“They were not playing very well at the time and were lacking confidence and we took advantage of that. They were also missing an inside presence”, stressed Derrick Allen.
Another funny experience rather then highlight was their 1-0 win against The Giessen 46ers and no, the two teams didn’t insert kids on the floor or play blindfolded, because no shots were fired, because the Giessen 46ers were stuck in traffic and never even made it to the Rundsporthalle.
The team last season had a healthy mix of nationalities, young Germans, American rookies and veterans, but the roster was unable to transform what coach Rick Stafford wanted to achieve over a period of 9 months. At times scoring and rebounding was a problem that couldn’t be compensated in other areas.
There are quite a few players that wont be returning like Brian Jones, who was brought in to lead the point guard duties, but half way through the season, it seemed liked he landed in Rick Staffords dog house with his head sticking out, but he really wasn´t in the coaches plans in the last few months as the team was looking to make the playoffs. He averaged 7.2ppg, 3.6rpg, 2.7apg, FGP: 40.8%, 3PT: 22.7%, FT: 72.2% and couldnt full fill the expectations.
American BBL rookie Dane Watts was one of the real bright spots on the team as he came to play every night averaging in 32 games: 8.9ppg, 3.8rpg, FGP-1(68.4%), 3PT: 30.8%, FT: 68.7% . That he led the BBL in field goal percentage was about as well hidden as the whereabouts of the Lochness monster. He may of only scored in double figures 14 times, but when he did score and didn’t, he was the missing link under the boards always helping out on rebounding and doing a good job.
American Christopher Schlatter came in December and developed into a role player coming from the bench averaging 4.5ppg, 2.4rpg. He wasn´t able to really crack the rotation of Stafford often electing to take the outside shot then do more with his strength inside. His 21/61 of 34% shooting from the parking lot didn´t really impress anyone.
Lithuanian Tomas Nagys was brought in to help with rebounding averaging 9.4ppg, 4.6rpg, FGP: 47.5%, 3PT-2(46.7%), FT: 68.2%, but often opted to step out and bury the three pointer, which he did with efficiency as he was the second best three point shooter in the league, which made him a bit more absent from the banging underneath.
What Ludwigsburg lacked was the strong rebounding player that would dominate the paint and with American Kelvin Gibbs, they got a big body that was fit for football as well. He averaged 8.6ppg, 4.5rpg, FGP: 43.7%, 3PT: 29.3%, FT: 70.7%. For a guy that mostly was roaming around inside and taking close shots, his 43% shooting percentage was simply to low and when he did step out to take a shot from downtown, he averaged only 29%. There was simply no harmony between Gibbs and Nagys down low which was a big reason why the team had difficulties dominating in the paint.
D’angelo Alexander who once scored 27 points in high school against NBA star Chris Bosh, came in with a lot of expectations, but could never full fill them as he was out for a few months and could only play 14 games averaging 8.6ppg, 4.5rpg, FGP: 43.7%, 3PT: 29.3%, FT: 70.7%. He is a player that I would have liked to have seen throughout a whole season.
Shooting guard American Frank Robinson was brought in in the playoff race, and made an impact playing 11 games and averaging 11.0ppg, 4.9rpg, 1.4apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 53.2%, 3PT: 27.0%, FT: 73.5%, but he seemed about a month too late as he might of helped win a few more games earlier.
The biggest loss that the team had to withstand was losing two year man American Brandon Woudstra.
At times two seasons ago, he was leading the team in points, rebounds and assists. However one was able to notice last season that he was not as comfortable playing under Rick Stafford. Shortly before the Allstar break, he was benched and seemed not to be getting the green light to shoot anymore. His overall importance as a scorer seemed to totally go to waste last season. Woudstra is an allrounder that can play the positions 1-4, but is known as scoring, but seemed like his hands were tied last season. After averaging 15.2ppg, 4.4rpg, 3.8apg two seasons ago, his stats dipped last season to 11.5ppg, 2.7rpg, 2.2apg. In 63 games in two seasons, he averaged 13,3ppg, 3,5rpg and 3,0apg.
For the upcoming 2009-2010 BBL season, the team has kept a core of players from last season including the always affable American combo guard Domonic Jones and the young Germans David McCray, Marco Sanders, Tim Koch, Philipp Heyden and Ziyed Chennoufi.
Jones will be playing his second season in Ludwigsburg and he had a solid season last year averaging 11.5ppg, 2.4rpg, 1.6apg, FGP: 58.1%, 3PT: 32.8%, FT: 78.1%. In five BBL seasons, he has always been able to score in double figures and is a player that any coach can rely on to get production day in and day out. He is a versatile combo guard that can shoot, penetrate and use his strength to his advantage. Ricky Hickman has fond memories playing against the American:
“He always plays hard and is always a threat on the court at anytime and can do a bit of everything”, said Hickman.
A guy to watch will be 22 year old German David McCray. He might only have averaged 2.1ppg, 1.6rpg last season, but he showed flashes of brilliance like his 13 points in 15 minutes vs The Telekom Baskets Bonn and was still able to play 10 minutes or more 17 times. He is a very athletic player that knows how to defend and wont shy away to scream in the face of a 30 year old veteran when he gets out of line or is dogging it in practice. He plays with 180% heart and wants to win and is the teams second hidden coach.
German American Marco Sanders averaged 5.0ppg, 2.9rpg last season and is a typical role player, but really saw his playing time increase last season as he started many games and averaged 17 minutes per game. If his role will increase any this season is the question since he will split time with Michael Haynes, but he is versatile as he can help out on the 2 and 3 positions also.
Young Germans Tim Koch and Phillip Heyden got some garbage minutes last season, but if they will play a bigger role this season is doubtful. Even though Heyden is a big German talent that could become a player that could get additional minutes if an injury occurs. But at this point, it looks like Öngören is going with Heyden as the back up to Visser so he may see 10-13 minutes per game.
The team was strengthened with four very solid Americans with Kyle Bailey, Kyle Visser, Michael Haynes and Michael King.
It seems like Ludwigsburg has stayed a way to a BBL trend of getting young players and NCAA rookies and getting two guys over 30 with Haynes and King and a very experienced guy with Bailey.
It was not a real surprise that Tolga Öngören brought American forward Michael Haynes with him, because what team wouldn´t want the services of a player that is a strong rebounder, has a good court vision and passes well. He very well might have had the most explosive penetration drive from the wing in the BBL last season. Last season, he averaged 14.4ppg, 4.8rpg, 1.3spg, FGP: 51.7%, 3PT: 34.8%, FT: 71.6% and can easily be called one of the stars in the BBL. He scored 20 or more points eight times and struck Ratiopharm Ulm with 32 points. It didn´t take ex Giessen 46 guard Ricky Hickman long to describe the 203cm forward:
”He is a very talented wing player that can go inside/out. He is a physical player that plays hard every night”, warned Hickman.
While most BBL teams were sleeping, Ludwigsburg snatched away point guard Kyle Bailey. The 27 year old 188 cm point guard easily belongs to the top five point guards in the BBL. He played two seasons in Goettingen, once leading them into the BBL and last season keeping them in first place for many months. He is simply a winner that knows how to lead a team. Last season, he averaged 14.4ppg, 4.3rpg, 3.3apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 43.5%, 3PT: 32.1%, FT: 74.2% in 23 games. He missed the last few months due to an injury. Many critics have been sceptical about his ability to stay injury free, but Bailey has been working hard this summer and is 100% again.
“Kyle is a good guard that can be you in many different ways. He just knows how to play the game”, added Ricky Hickman.
The team found its inside strength for the 2009-2010 BBL season with ex New York Phantoms Braunschweig center Kyle Visser. Since coming into the BBL from Wake Forest two years ago, he has had a solid BBL career and was able to develop further in the Volkswagon town as his stats increased from 9.8ppg, 4.3rpg, 2FGP: 58.3%, FT: 67.6% in 2007-2008 to 11.2ppg, 5.8rpg, FGP: 61.6%, FT: 57.9% last season.
The team also got American Michael King, who will share the shooting guard duties with Domonic Jones. King brings everything to the basketball table except for maybe saying that Bernard King was his brother as he is a very athletic, a versatile combo guard who can make all those little things that help any team. He is a very good defender that can spend time even in the 3 position if needed. He has a knack for scoring and knocking down the BIG shot. He is a high percentage shooter from two point range and three point range. He is a good finisher as well and just a smart basketball player with a HIGH basketball IQ and can defend with the best of them. He has been a basketball nomad having played in 6 different countries since 2005 having a preference for Greece and Cyprus where he has played more than once. Last season, he played for Athienitis Larissa in Greece playing 16 games averaging 15.1ppg, 3.9rpg, 2.0apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 47.9%, 3PT: 36.0%, FT: 76.7%: and in EuroChallenge Cup averaging 16.6ppg, 2.6apg, 3.8rpg 2FGP: 48.0%, 3PT: 48.0%, FT: 92.0%,.He had a memorable game against The EWE Baskets Oldenburg scoring 26 points and grabbing 7 rebounds.
The team also picked up 24 year old American Rashaun Freeman who is an extremely talented post player, a great one-on-one player, and he’s very tough to stop. He had an incredible career at Massachusetts playing 33 games in his senior year and averaging 14.7ppg, 8.3rpg, FGP: 60.9%, FT: 57.4%.. He never averaged less than 7,8rpg in any season in the NCAA. It is a bit of a riddle why there wasn´t more interest from the NBA. He has played two seasons in France playing for Hermine Nantes Atlantique in the PRO B two seasons ago playing 34 games and averaging and leading the league in scoring 1(19.8ppg), Reb-2(9.9rpg), 1.6spg, 2FGP: 57.7%, FT: 71.2%. Last season, he made the jump to the PRO A and played for BCM Gravelines Dunkerque Grand Littoral playing 30 games and averaging 9.3ppg, 5.4rpg, FGP: 62.9%, FT: 72.6%.
new players bold
The team is possibly still looking for another addition on the Small Forward position, but could as well start into the season with this roster!
This is another one of the many middle of the standings9-13 place teams- possible playoff teams that are present in the BBL. The team has a new coach with Tolga Öngören who will try to build Ludwigsburg into a playoff team. He showed signs that he could have an impact on a team as he finished the 2007-2008 season strong guiding Tuebingen away from the deregulation spots and last season even flirting with the playoff places. Ongoren is a players coach that loves the game about as much as anybody and that is felt by the players.
“Tolga is a very good and positive coach. I played for him in a summer league a few years ago and he showed that he truly believes in his team and you can feel that from him”, stressed Kirchheim Knights American Gordon Scott.
However another player that wanted to be left anonymous stated that “Öngöen liked the big players and hyped guys like Katic and Haynes and forgot about the smaller sized players”.
The team will be playing in a new state of the art arena and will want to shine in front of their faithful fans and sponsors. They will have a very potent starting five, but will the bench be able to supply not only the needed punch on the court with overall play, but scoring efficiency and Öngören will have the task of making these role players bring the 180% needed. The team has ten players now, but if they all get suitable playing time is not realistic.
It looks like Ludwigsburg has a solid seven man rotation. Öngören can not make the same mistake as in Tuebingen by not playing German players. He will have to keep developing these players. A big difference that this team could have over last years troops is simply that Ongoren might have gotten a few more character guys on the team that was lacking last season.
Last season, there was talent abundant, but it seemed like many separate individuals running around the floor. With guys like Bailey, King, Visser, Freeman and Haynes, the team has guys that are winners and could bring the needed stability for the mentality and chemistry of the team to start taking a healthy flow in training camp.
This will be an interesting team to watch, but I don’t predict any miracles. I see ENBW Ludwigsburg somewhere between 7-12. It would be great for the development of German young players that Ongoren get guys like Koch and Chennoufi more into the rotation.
Guys like McCray and Heyden will get their minutes.
New Ratiopharm Ulm German Jerome Bridgewater who grew up playing for SG Uhrsprungschule and for BSG Ludwigsburg has been following ENBW Ludwigsburg for years and has his own thoughts about where the team will land.
“By losing their captain Brandon Woudstra, they lost one of their key players and it will be hard to fill this hole. They got a strong replacement for Brian Jones with Kyle Bailey and he will surely bring new wind into the team. Other key players are the arrival of Visser and Haynes. It is hard to rate King since it will be his first season in the BBL. The arrival of Freeman could be key to how well the team can add rebounding stability through the course of the season. Phillip Heyden has to be integrated more into the team, but he is prone to getting injured. The fans and management want the playoffs, but I think they will end this season somewhere in the middle with the maximum 8th place could be reached. They also have to improve their weak road record. The team owes a lot to the city since at the end of the season the fans were booing Rick Stafford”, commented Ratiopharm German Jerome Bridgewater.
Despite the mixed views of where ENBW Ludwigsburg will land, Deutsche Bank Skyliner coach Murat Didin and friend of Tolga Öngören shares a positive view of what the team can do this season:
”I think that they will play pretty good ball. Tolga works hard and has much pleasure being a coach. I think that they will have stability and make good results”, stressed Murat Didin.