Introducing: The German National Team 2009

After 10 years of constantly playing for Germany Dirk Nowitzki won’t be a part of the national team this summer.DBB-Logo_0

No one in Germany is complaining about that because Dirk was always willing to spend his summers playing with old friends instead of just lying on the beach and be lazy during the off-season. If one just thinks about the long, exhausting NBA season with 80-100 games Dirk has to play between November and May/June and you see that hardly any other NBA player is playing for his national team each and every summer on can’t praise Dirk’s effort high enough.

Nowitzki even turned 31 this summer and you don’t need to be a medical scientist to realise that his body needs the summers now to regenerate more than ever.

The Dallas Maverick also had planned to marry his fiancé this summer, but as we all know thanks to the gossip press this issue has sorted itself out.

So Dirk really intended to play the European championship this summer, but Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban refused to let him play. Cuban allowed Dirk to follow his big dream of playing the Olympics for many years. Now that he has been there last year, Cuban reminded Nowitzki of a promise he gave to sit out the next summer – and Dirk accepted that.

No one knows if Nowitzki will come back next summer or if he has already played his last game for the national team.

Many people saw in Germany a one-man-team. “If Nowitzki would not play for them, they would not even deserve to be in the tournament”, thought many fans and observers during the last few years.

This summer we will see how competitive the german national team can be without Dirk.

But it is not only Dirk’s absence that hurts the team. Neutralized center Chris Kaman always made his appearance dependant on Nowitzki’s decision. So with Dirk out Kaman is also not available for head coach Dirk Bauermann.

The second tough cut for the roster is that a big part of the “silver generation” decided to resign from playing for the national team. With Pascal Roller, Mithat Demirel, Stephen Arigbabu, Robert Garrett and Ademola Okulaja some key-players of the last few years are not playing anymore.

Dirk Bauermann can call himself lucky that Demond Greene and Patrick Femerling decided to come back to the team. Greene had originally planned to regenerate and spend more time with his family this summer. After his contract with Brose Baskets Bamberg was not extended, he might have changed his mind and wants to promote himself while playing with the national team. Most-capped national player Patrick Femerling had resigned from playing for Germany after the Olympics last year, but was willing to help the team compensating the loss of Nowitzki and Kaman. Femerling is as well looking for a new team and probably sees this as an opportunity to show his skills during the European championships.

Another factor that makes this summer difficult for the national team is that Dirk Bauermann tended to stick with the more experienced players in the last couple of years. If he had the choice between a young uprising player and a more experienced man from the “silver generation” he generally opted for the latter. Now that many players resigned there are many new faces on the roster and I’m sure if you’re not a die-hard follower of german basketball you don’t know many of those young guys.

During the preparations for the European Championships the new team Germany had started with a win over Serbia. But against other top teams like Croatia and Serbia the team had to deal with losses.

So it’s time to get to know the new german national team. Here is an introduction to the final 12-man roster.

Guards:

Steffen Hamann – 194cm / 6’5” – born 1981 – Alba Berlin

Steffen Hamann is a familiar face in the german national team. During his time with Bamberg head coach Dirk Bauermann helped to develop Hamann from an average talented player to one of the finest domestic guards in the german Bundesliga.

The 28-year old knows Bauermann’s style and was a starter in the last few years. With his old competitors Mithat Demirel and Pascal Roller resigning from the national team he should be the starter once more.

You don’t have to like him, but Hamann is the perfect example of a mediocre talented player, who was willing to work hard to get the best out of his abilities. Probably there were guys of his generation that were more talented, but they lacked the working ethics of Hamann.

For sure he is not a typical point guard, but his passing skills certainly improved through the years. His best offensive move is penetrating to the basket. He likes to pass the ball outside to the open team mate, but he can as well finish in heavy traffic (video vs Team USA). What he lacks is a solid shot from outside. His inconsistent three pointer makes his defenders tend to give him a little more room or even offer him the space to take a shot.

Defensively Hamann can be nightmare for any BBL point guard but as well on international level. His size combined with his quick feet and hands make him a tough cover.

And if you think that some of the Spaniards are bad floppers, you probably haven’t seen Hamann yet. He knows all the tricks in defense and is willing to do whatever it takes to stop his opponent. Alba Berlin fans really hated Hamann when he was wearing a Bamberg uniform, but ever since he signed a well-paid contract with Berlin, he became a fan favourite.

And maybe that’s the best way to describe him: A player you really when he plays for the opponent’s squad, but you certainly love if he’s on your team.

Heiko Schaffartzik – 182cm / 6’0’’ – born 1984 – New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig

The Berlin-native Heiko Schaffartzik has been close to the national team for several years, but with experienced players like Pascal Roller, Steffen Hamann or Misan Nikagbatse ahead of him he had to watch the national team on tv just like any other fan.

After a great season with Giessen 46ers that made him the domestic topscorer of the BBL with an average of 11.4 points per game. Schaffartzik’s invitation to the national team was well deserved. It took some years and teams for him to find the right spot in this league. The 25-year old declined offers from better teams and decided to play for as a starter for a low-budget team. This certainly paid off as he played his best season so far and was honoured with his first BBL All-Star nominee.

Schaffartzik has always been a good shooter, but he had difficulties with his shot selection and never shot better than 40% in his first four BBL seasons. Last season he could improve that and shot 45% from the field and made 39.7% of his three point attempts.

His ability to catch and shoot, his off the dribble shot (video) and his long shooting range make him a perfect complement to Steffen Hamann. As a combo guard Heiko can play next to Hamann and be his backup.

Demond Greene – 185cm / 6’1’’ – born 1979 – currently free agent, 08/09 Bamberg

There was a time when Demond Greene was a sensational athletic player, who was nearly unstoppable when he penetrated to the basket. Ever since he broke his leg in 200x (video – don’t watch this while eating! ) he lost a lot of that energy and had to focus on other aspects of his game.

He is still a great defender, probably the best on the whole german team. Ask Dwyane Wade how it feels to be on the wrong side of the poster… (video)

Originally Greene had planned not to play this summer, but it really is a blessing that he returned. All other options on the shooting guard position are not even close to his level of performance. Youngsters like Staiger, Schwethelm or de Mello are still too unexperienced.

Also Greene’s three pointer could become a very important weapon for the team.

Lucca Staiger – 196cm / 6’5’’- born 1988 – Iowa State University

It is not that long ago that Lucca Staiger and Nicolai Simon were the two top names when it came to talk about german talents. Both experienced that the road to a successful development can be hard. While Simon had to face a serious back injury that cost him a whole season, his former team mate at Ehingen/Urspringschule Lucca Staiger had to sit out a whole year as well because the NCAA decided that he is not eligible to play (check out freelucca.com for further informations on that topic!). His first college hoops season was a good one as he averaged 8.2 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. He received two BigTen Rookie of the Week  awards and was ISO’s top three point shooter making a team-high 74 treys in 192 attempts.

After being nominated for all national teams since U16 this is Staiger’s first summer with the senior national squad. It really speaks for itself that Bauermann preferred Staiger to the 3 year older de Mello and if Demond Greene resigns from the national team one day, I see Staiger as the first option for the starting spot. I have not seen him play ever since he decided to play in the States in 2006. The 21-year old looks a lot more muscular ever since that. One the one hand that seemed to slow him a little bit down when it comes to run around screens, but his penetration moves to the basket can’t be stopped so easily now. And his three point shot has been as deadly this summer as it was ever before. Staiger has the opportunity to learn a lot from Demond Greene this summer. He won’t see a lot of playing time, but for sure it is a wonderful experience for him to be part of that new national team.

Forwards:

Konrad Wysocki – 202cm / 6’8’’- born 1982 – Turow Zgorzelec (Polish first division)

Konrad Wysocki had been one of the rising BBL players during the 07/08 campaign. Under the guidance of head coach Mike Taylor he developed from a backbencher into a top performer for ratiopharm Ulm. The 27-year old had a nice first summer with the national team in 2008 and made it to the Olympics.

His decision to join Skyliners Frankfurt turned out to be a bad career move. Head coach Murat Didin wanted to transform him into a typical wingplayer. This is not really Wysocki’s biggest strength as he is more productive when he plays near the basket. So his production for Frankfurt was by far not that good as it was for Ulm. Statistically he played his worst BBL season ever.

As a player he might have developed, because he had to focus on his shot a lot more than he had to in the past. But generally Wysocki’s place is safe because there are hardly any other players on his position that could take his position. Philip Zwiener did hardly get any playing time with Alba Berlin, Ademola Okulaja had to fight cancer and was forced to sit out and Johannes Lischka lacks experience in international games. So Wysocki’s choice is no brainer for Bauermann. He simply needs an experienced guy next to Benzing and Harris.

But to turn towards positive aspects: Wysocki is a typical hustler, who is willing to fight for any loose ball and who does not fear to jump in the audience if it helps his team. He also is a great rebounder and can give the team a little bit of everything.
Elias Harris – 199cm / 6’7’’ – born 1989 – Gonzaga University

One of the big winners of this summer is Elias Harris. The 20-year old forward is gifted with a lot of athleticism. Compared to other german talents he benefited a lot of that advantage and in some youth games he was simply unstoppable due to the fact that he had a physical advantage. He simply loves the physical game and knows how to use his body to dominate the paint. For a player of his age he has shown a nice knowledge and feel of how to create a good position under the baskets. In the last two years he has simply been outstanding in ProB (Germany’s third division) averaging almost 20/10 in two consecutive seasons. He also developed a solid shooting range, but still lacks a reliable shot from downtown.

Defensively Harris benefits as well from his gifted genes and his superb athleticism and he is able to defend any kind of player from position 2-4. This could be one of the main reasons why Dirk Bauermann decided to keep him and cut Johannes Lischka.

Generally it will be interesting to see if Harris can establish a reliable shot from long distance. If he adds this to his arsenal of offensive weapons, he could become a really great player.

Highlights NBBL All-Star Game: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_i9q5mGTGU
Robin Benzing – 208 cm / 6’10’’ – born 1989 – ratiopharm Ulm

Next to Elias Harris the 20-year old Robin Benzing has been the sensation of the summer. He had a decent season for ProA club TV Langen (Germany’s sexond division) and crowned himself the topscorer of the U20-European championship.

But hardly any expert would have guessed that Benzing could make an impact on the senior national team this summer. He proved us all wrong and showed that he has developed a lot last year. Ulm’s head coach Mike Taylor can call himself lucky that Benzing will be a member of his team next season.

Robin Benzing is a one of those big men who have quite similar abilities like a young Dirk Nowitzki. His size helps him a lot to shoot the three over his defender and he established a very reliable shot. Still he is too skinny to really battle for rebounds under the baskets, but his quick first step combined with comparatively nice dribbling skills for a big man make him a serious thread in offense.
Defensively he is quite inexperienced and sometimes knacks to commit silly fouls. But with a little more experience, he should learn all those things on the defensive end.

Jan-Hendrik Jagla – 213cm / 7’0’’- born 1981 – currently free agent

Jan Jagla has found the perfect situation with DKV Joventut Badalona. He established himself into a nice ACB player and fits really well into that fast style that is played in Badalona.

On the national team he had his ups and downs but could not really have a break-through summer so far. But that is no surprise because he not only plays Dirk Nowitzkis position, but is also a similar kind of player.

But also with the absence of Nowitzki Jagla could not really become a leader this summer. Still he tends to shoot the ball too forced from the three point line instead of taking advantage of his size and show some of his nice spinmoves. Sometimes he tries to force things and that results silly fouls and acts counterproductive to the team’s aim.

But in general the german national team can call itself lucky to have a player of Jagla’s calibre on its roster. He is the only german to play in Europe’s elite league ACB – and he plays successful there. The ability is there and with Nowitzki’s absence the playing time is available for Jagla as well. So it is up to him to show his skills, because the team would really need his scoring abilities.
Sven Schultze – 208cm / 6’10’’- born 1978 – currently free agent

Just like Jagla Sven Schultze has made himself a nice name in southern Europe and played in Greece and Italy last season. He has been around the national team for several years, but still lacks the acceptance of many fans. The 31-year old is a kind of player who comes from the bench and brings a lot of energy to the team. Schultze does all those things you cannot find on any stats sheet and on some days can also be productive in offense. His shot from outside is stable and he knows how to play the pick and pop properly.

Defensively Schultze is a tough worker and does not shy away from staying aggressive even if this means that he could be fouled out.

It is no coincidence that Dirk Bauermann named Schultze and Hamann the captains of the team. Especially Sven is sort of a clue guy to the team and is used to put his own interest aside to help the team.

Centers:

Patrick Femerling – 216cm / 7’1’’ – born 1975 – currently free agent

No other player in the history of german basketball played more games for the national team than Patrick Femerling. He had resigned from the national team after the Olympics last year. But after the absence of Nowitzki and Kaman the 34-year old was willing to come back and help the young german front court with his experience.

Evan though Femerling missed almost the entire season due to injuries, Bauermann had to reactivate Femerling. All other centers are too inexperienced and do especially not know how to defend players in international competitions. Of course Patrick has passed his prime some years ago, but he has got the size and the physical ability to be a good defender in the post.

Tim Ohlbrecht – 211cm / 6’11’’ – born 1988 – Telekom Baskets Bonn

There were times when Tim Ohlbrecht was predicted a second round pick on several mock draft pages. But the last two seasons were a disappointment for the 21-year old as he could not manage to gain a better position on Bamberg’s roster. The Brose Baskets’ decided to part with veteran center Chris Ensminger to give Ohlbrecht enough playing time to develop. But Ohlbrecht could not fulfil Coach Chris Fleming’s expectations and saw only minor minutes. In just 11 minutes per game the young prospect averaged just 3.2 points and 2.4 rebounds.

There are various voices around Bamberg that Ohlbrecht is simply not focused enough, others say that he is too much of a nice guy to get the best out of his talent.

But with this summer a new beginning could be possible for Ohlbrecht. He decided to join Telekom Baskets Bonn for the upcoming season and head coach Mike Koch has planned to give him a starting five spot.

If he was given the opportunity and felt the confidence of his coach Ohlbrecht has already shown that he can develop into a decent player. He just lacked consistency and did not find the right position in Bamberg. If he manages to become tougher mentally and realizes the big chance he gets on the national team and in Bonn, he could finally make the step from a talent to a good player.

Tibor Pleiß – 214cm / 7’0’’ – born 1989 – currently free agent

Unlike many other talented players Tibor Pleiß already gained a lot of playing time at a young age. Even though the 19-year old lacks weight and is simply too skinny to be a post presence, Pleiß averaged 5.0 points and 2.9 rebounds with Koeln 99ers last season. Those numbers are especially interesting because Pleiß played as many minutes as Ohlbrecht did. His long arms and his quick spin moves combined with his size make him hard to defend. Pleiß also has a nice mid-range shot, that allows him to shoot over the defender.

But he simply has to work on his post moves as well as on his weight. If he is able to gain more pounds and muscles and his strengths do not suffer from that, he could become a very good player.

Defensively it will be tough for Pleiß to step up and defend experienced European centers. He is too inexperienced and too skinny to keep opponents out of the paint.

But with the strengths he already has at this stage of his career, he looks like one of the most promising big man in Europe.

Outlook for the European Championships:

It will be very tough for this new team Germany to make it to the quarterfinals. Surviving the first goup stage looks like a realistic goal.

But with France, Russia and Latvia in the group, it will be a very tough challenge for this young team.At least one win against those teams has to be achieved to have chance to make it to the second group stage.

Bauermann has at least one experienced player on every position, but with so many new and inexperienced guys on the team. The german media and the fans are spoiled by success and has to understand that one or two wins are a success for this new squad.

At least it is fun to watch this new team as many players look much more self-confident now. With Dirk Nowitzki on their side many guys seemed a little awed and afraid of making mistakes. Now the team plays much more team-oriented and guys like Harris or Benzing show that there is a nice squad that is growing to adopt the legacy of the silver generation.

3 comments

  1. Nice report on the national team.
    I really liked the way they played without Nowitzki. Nice to see young guys like Harris and Benzing come in and contribute well.
    But what exactly happened to Misan Nikagbatse? Why is he not a member of the team anymore?

    1. Yeah, I really liked what I saw this summer too. Without Dirk there was a much more team oriented style and the games were really fun to watch!

      Misan Nikagbatse? Well Misan was tested positive on Marihuana abuse at the end of the 07/08 campaign and lost his job with Koeln 99ers.
      Ever since that Bauermann did not nominate him for the national team. Somehow Misan does not fit into Bauermann’s philosophy and to me it seems like they do not really like each other.
      Misan spent last season in Italy’s lega duo and his team got promoted to the first division. I still think that he does a lot better than many people think, but it seems very unlikely that we will see him playing for the national team in the next summers.

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