Teamcheck: MEG Goettingen

If you would have asked the 18 managers of the BBL teams before the 2008-2009 BBL season, which team would be a top the standings at goettingenthe Allstar break, I am sure no one would have predicted that MEG Goettingen would be there, but they were. A spectacular result like this could be comparable to unimposing Formula One racer Nelson Piquet junior as if he had come from nowhere to win 3-4 races and be challenging a Lewis Hamilton or Kimi Raikkonen near the top of the drivers list. Nobody had expected this bunch of relatively unknown players to be so strong and dominate the league. It was refreshing and something that was positive for the BBL. At times it seemed like the Goettingen players had to pinch themselves just to be certain that it was not all a dream:

“Honestly, I wasn’t sure, you read enough of the papers and listen to what people say about you, you can really start to believe that maybe “Gottingen was lucky that day” or maybe our opponent did “just have a bad shooting day.” But Ben Jacobson and John Patrick did a good job at having everyone on the same page and working hard everyday and we eventually realized that winning was an attitude and we should go into every game expecting to win with the way we play”, stressed American Jason Boone.

After starting the season 1-2, the team went on a basketball bashing getting rid of almost every team that stood in their way winning 16 of 18 games and were the top team at the start of March 2009. The team then lost 3 of 4 games before winning five in a row without Kyle Bailey and Charles Lee who were nursing injuries. They finished the season at 2-2, and with a season performance like that, had gotten more respect of the league even if it took a while. John Patrick’s team was able to sweep the season series against 2009 BBL champion EWE Baskets Oldenburg as well as beating, Bonn and Bamberg. Goettingen finished at position five and had to play the playoffs against the Brose Baskets Bamberg without their key players Kyle Bailey and Charles Lee losing to Bamberg 3-1. A team should always take and work with what they have, but team and fans surely were thinking at one point last summer what could have been if the team had been healthy in the playoffs.

“This is a game where 1 loss can easily turn into 4 or 5 losses if you’re mentally drained. So what I try to do is accept a loss, learn from it, and forget about it. I would like to think the outcome would have been different if we had our two leading scorers and captain but it was a chance for other guys to step up and show what they had. Chris Oliver really single-handedly won/kept us in games but unfortunately the stars didn’t align for us. It definitely makes us hungrier this season though”, stressed Jason Boone.

Playing 40 minutes of strong basketball is difficult enough especially when a team needs to execute and try to get everything else on the court flowing. The 40 minutes of basketball hell was really the last thing that opponents wanted to put up with but had to. Playing against a hungry and sometimes seemingly pack of wolfs on the court, the opponent often had to succumb to this tricky playing style from John Patrick. The quick paced game and full court press defense of MEG Goettingen was about as tough for opponents as would be if a Lance Armstrong was struggling up the Pyrenees stage in the Tour De France and had to dodge around angry coyotes going at him and nipping at his feet.

This style of basketball was often effective being successful, but also wore the team out as the season progressed. Even though the style brought many wins for Goettingen, playing it and practicing it daily surely was not always popular with the players, but in the end, it did bring the necessary results.

“Well I don’t think it was tough at all last year for the team to adjust to the style of play due to the unselfishness and closeness of the team and the personnel that we had”, stressed American John Little.

The opponents will have taken notes and will probably be ready this season to have some kind of resistance, but keeping the respect.

“They showed last year that they could play well for 40 minutes with pressure, but I think it is probably better for them to distribute their energy over a course of a game better. We saw what happened last year in the playoffs as they got tired and had two key players injured”, warned Artland Dragon Afghani-German guard Achmadschah Zazai.

The 40 minute press press press play is something that only really works if the players believe in it.

“The press is a tactical style of basketball that can only be used if every player buys into the system and works hard in it. We know that playing that way will tire us out, but not nearly as much as it tires out our opponent and as long as we practice as hard as we play, we are confident that our conditioning will prevail”, added Jason Boone.

After the successful season last year, it was no surprise that some guys would be able to use their own strong stats and test the basketball market. The team received a huge blow losing 27 year old point guard Kyle Bailey, who had always had success with Goettingen leading the team into the BBL in the 2006-2007 season and leading the team into the playoffs last season. He played only 23 games, but was very dominant in this time averaging 14.4ppg, 4.3rpg, 3.3apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 43.5%, 3PT: 32.1%, FT: 74.2%. At the end of June, there was speculation that Bailey might stay. “We are doing everything possible to keep him”, stated Goettingen’s Marc Franz at that time, but unfortunately in the end, Bailey left for EnBW Ludwigsburg.

The team also lost 24 year shooting guard American Charles Lee to the Artland Dragons who averaged 13.2ppg, 4.4rpg, 2.0apg, Steals-4(1.6spg), FGP: 46.2%, 3PT: 33.5%, FT: 75.0% and after a slow start finished scoring in double figures in 20 of the last 24 games and so often hurt teams with his deadly shooting.

Another blow was losing new BBL star in the making Rocky Trice who will play in Ulm this season and be an attraction in BBL arenas. He averaged 11.7ppg, 5.4rpg, 1.5apg, Steals-1(2.6spg), FGP: 49.0%, 3PT: 26.7%, FT: 69.6% and time in and time out showed that he is one of the top rebounders for his size at 191cm.

The list goes on and on as American Clif Brown also left. He averaged 11.4ppg, 5.8rpg, FGP: 49.6%, 3PT: 27.0%, FT: 69.2%. He started the season strong and finished scoring in double figures in 17 of 33 games. Even though, many will remember losing Trice, Bailey and Lee the most, the absence of Brown will be still be felt.

“Losing Clif will definitely hurt because he had a motor that never stopped and forced me to play my hardest everyday. But I go into every season putting the team first, whatever coach and my teammates need me to do, I will try to do it the best way I can. Whether it’s getting rebounds, patrolling the paint, or being an inside scoring presence”, said Jason Boone.

Losing these four players will hurt since they averaged a combined 50 of the 74 points that Goettingen averaged per game. The team also lost three Germans with Marco Grimaldi(6 years in Goettingen) Peer Wente and Robert Dill, who gave a spark to the identity of the club.

On a positive note, the team was able to hold some important players to help round out the 2009-2010 roster.

The biggest keeping was 24 year old forward Chris Oliver who had come from the Pro A Kaiserslautern Braves having averaged 20.5ppg, 9.0rpg, 1.2apg, 1.3spg, 1.7bpg, FGP: 56%, 3PT: 25.0%, FT: 79.6% tearing up the league two years ago. He showed that this was no fluke coming into the BBL and playing a strong rookie season averaging 10.6ppg, 5.2rpg, 1.4spg, FGP: 46.4%, 3PT: 37.0%, FT: 75.5%. In the second half of the season, he was the secret spark plug of the team and took a load off the team as Bailey and Lee were out. He scored in double figures in 8 of the last 9 games.

The team was also able to hold 25 year old quarterback Ben Jacobson who will start his third season and was able to keep together the team. He is a big time point guard, is a very good defender and a great scorer who can create his own shot. He averaged 10.7ppg, 2.9rpg, 1.5apg, Steals-5(1.5spg), FGP: 46.2%, 3PT: 32.6%, FT: 74.7%. Not only on offense was he a thorn in the side of opponents, but also on defense he was like  a pesky black fly that would not get of the faces of the foes. “He is like a second coach on the court”, warned Ratiopharm Ulm coach Mike Taylor.

The team also kept 24 year old guard John Little who averaged 4.1ppg, 1.3rpg last season. He may not have played much averaging only 14,5 minutes per game, but with his coaching experience at Northern Iowa gives Goettingen some extra intelligence when he is on the court at critical moments of a game. He also hopes to increase his role this season:

“My expectations for next season is to just move into more of a leadership role with the team and build upon different aspects of my game from last season and having a season under my belt in the BBL and back playing for MEG this only bring more confidence to my game.  My goal for the team for next season is to make it back to the playoffs and the way to do that is take it practice by practice and game by game”, expressed American Little.

Still with Goettingen is affable 23 year old 198 cm Jason Boone, who startled the BBL two seasons ago as he snuck into the Goettingen team via Bernbau in the Regionaliga, but has been a solid role player always giving unending energy on the court. He is also smart enough to know what he still needs to work on.

“It’s hard to simulate game situations in practice sometimes, but this summer I’ve been working on my FT’s a lot. What I’m starting to learn is that it’s important to do the same thing in practice as you do in the game. Obviously that’s easier said than done but in the game I’m usually tired and have just gotten fouled hard, so I think I’m going to have John Little foul me as hard as he can before I take any FT’s in practice so I can get used to it. I think he’ll like that idea and hopefully they’ll improve”, stressed Jason Boone.

The team also kept sunny boy 23 year old 191 cm guard Robert Kulawick. He will continue to fight for minutes this season. Last season, he averaged 3,4ppg in 10,8 minutes per game. Coach John Patrick showed that he had a lot of confidence in the young German giving him 20 minutes or more minutes in 8 games. He showed also how much potential he has scoring 16 points in 20 minutes against Tuebingen.

With a good production of the team gone, it was no easy task for MEG Goettingen to go into the summer and look for more than just adequate replacements when they had less than a moderate budget. But despite all this, coach John Patrick and manager Marc Franz did a pretty good job finding young players, but what was lacking a bit was not bringing in more players with experience except for German-American Cody Toppert and to a degree German Chris McNaughton.

By getting three new guards, it already leads to speculation that John Patrick will stick to his never die, hustle and work out basketball of 40 minutes. The team brought in 26 year old 193cm guard American Cody Toppert who recently received the German citizenship. When looking at his foto, he looks like the friendly kid from next door. He is a player that should fit in perfectly to the John Patrick philosophy since he can do so much well. He is a left-hander that is quick enough to drive past a defender and strong enough to finish in the lane. His toughness and nose for the ball have made him an effective rebounder. He has an incredible ability to shoot the basketball as he showed in 2006 averaging 22ppg in New Zealand. He can create for both his teammates and himself and is extremely intelligent and hard nosed player that shows no fear on the court. He has an incredible work ethic and positive personality and is an ambassador of the game, on and off the court. Last season, he played in the CBA for The Great Falls Explorers averaging 13.6ppg, 2.5rpg, 2.0apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 44.4%, 3PT: 35.7%, FT: 75%. The only question mark is why he didn´t play last season.

An interesting pick up is 23 year old 188cm guard Chester Frazier who is a BBL rookie having played at Illinois University. In his senior year, he averaged 5.7ppg, 4.8rpg, 5.3apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 44.8%, 3Pts: 38.2%, FT: 66.7%. What really stands out is his low scoring production which won’t even come close to matching the scoring that Bailey did, but his strong assist average should be enticing. He should also be a big plus in the defense as he was a top defender in the BIG Ten being named to the all defensive team in 2007 and 2009. The question will be if he will be more of a shooting guard or point guard considering he is not known as a scorer, but has good competition at the point guard position.

The team also signed 24 year old 185 cm guard Taylor Rochestie who comes from Santa Barbara, California. He is also a BBL rookie and is a classical point guard more in the mold of a Kyle Bailey. In his senior year at Washington State, he averaged 13.2ppg, 3.6rpg, 4.5apg, FGP: 39.2%, 3Pts: 37.9%, FT: 89.1 and should be a wish candidate to be on the foul line in crunch time. He reached the NCAA Sweet 16 with Washington State in 2008.

25 year old 198 cm Brandon Thomas, who is American, but was born in Bitburg, Germany also joined the team showing his scoring qualities last season In Austria with Kraftwerk Wels playing 45 games and averaging 20.2ppg, 3.2rpg, 2.5apg, 1.0spg, 2FGP: 66.6%, 3PT: 38.8%, FT: 68.5%. He also showed his scoring two years ago in Denmark with FOG Naestved playing 24 games and leading the league in scoring with 24.5ppg, 4.6rpg, 3.2apg, 2.0spg, 1.0bpg, 2FGP: 61.2%, 3PT: 40.0%, FT: 71.0%. Besides being able to put the ball in the hoop, he also is long and athletic and capable of defending anyone on the floor and has the ability to accelerate and finish around the basket and possesses an outstanding basketball IQ. The question will be if he can continue to score in the BBL which is a level above Austria and Denmark.

Another new player is talented 23 year old 203 cm forward Taj Finger from New York. He played at the well known Stanford University that has developed various top NBA players the last years and Finger didn´t play a huge role, but was a part of the team averaging 5.9ppg, 4.4rpg, FGP: 55.2%, 3Pts: 22.2%, FT: 75.0% .In his senior year. Last season in his rookie season, he played in Norway exploding for Tromsø Storm playing 21 games and averaging 18.0ppg, Reb-1(10.7rpg), 2.2apg, 2.0spg, Blocks-2(1.9bpg), 2FGP: 56.1%, 3PT: 28.6%, FT: 71.0%. The question will be if the American can adjust to the more physical BBL and be dominant under the glass the way he was in Norway?

The team also signed 23 year old 206m center German Wolfgang Gieler who played in the PRO B last season for ASC Theresianum Mainz averaging 13.9ppg, 7.3rpg, FGP: 52.4%, FT: 64.2%. He is a young talent that will be able to develop in practice and could get more than just garbage minutes for John Patrick.

Management had to react quickly after losing Urule Igbavboa, by signing German big man 211cm Chris McNaughton. This is a classic back to the basket player and even though this will be only his third professional season, he has experience having led Bucknell to two NCAA tournaments as captain and playing  a central role for the team for four years. The last two years, he played in Spain in the strong LEB gold and silver leagues gaining further experience. With McNaughton, MEG Goettingen doesn´t have to be only a run and gun team, but can mix it up more inside which will make the club more unpredictable. It will be interesting how Mcnaughton and Oliver will harmonize under the hoops?

“Chris is a very very skilled low post player that can score in 1 on 1 situations and passes well out of the double team. I feel he will compliment my game very well and he has great hands and a great basketball IQ as well”, added American Chris Oliver.

Lineup:

PG Rochestie / Little / Welzel

SG Frazier / Jacobsen / Kulawick

SF Thomas / Toppert

PF Oliver / Finger

C  McNaughton / Boone  / Gieler

New players bold

Germans Italic

Outlook:

There is not much math to do here when looking at the roster, it looks like John Patrick will stick to his style and continue to try to wreck havoc this season with his 40 minutes of hell. Jason Boone also expects that coach will stick to this style in 2009-2010.

“Being an inexperienced guy myself a few years back, you are willing to work a little harder, in my opinion, because the only thing people are going on, is your work ethic. If you look down our roster and don’t see a major d1 standout or German national team player, but we still have success, it’ll come from everyone buying into a system. Now whether or not that system will be the same as last year, I do not know, but I do think it will be a higher tempo than most teams because of our depth at the guard position”, warned Boone.

The team kept a core of guys from last seasons team with Oliver, Jacobson, Boone, Little and Kulawick and added five new Americans. This will be an interesting team and surely not as talented as last season on paper, but the team has coach John Patrick who will have tricks up his sleeve and form the team as best he can with the talent he has. This team has a good mix with old and new players. With the new players, there are a few rookies coming into the league, but also a veteran with Toppert who has been around the block the last years.

The question will be how many of the new players can give scoring input since some of the early season scoring chunk will be needed from guys like Oliver and Jacobson.

Oliver could become a very very important player and possibly into a go to guy. He is confident that the team will not disappoint:

“I feel that as a team we will be successful. Everyone has been working very hard and is very competitive and has had success other places that they have played and bringing back a core of guys with me, Boone, and Jacobsen, and Little, I feel very good about the season. We have only practiced a few times together, but we play very well together already and everyone is ready to play our style of defense”, stressed Oliver.

Goettingen will defend, defend, defend until the last paramedic is busy and on offense they will a team that will find ways to score.

“I think the team fits well, pretty good after playing very well together last season. They also brought in some new talent. I think that they will be able to surprise some teams”, warned Artland Dragon Achmadschau Zazai.

This is a team that wont have any business with having to fear to depart the BBL, but won’t be a clear playoff team. However Chris McNaughton could be the X factor. His signing brings a total new dimension to this usually run and gun team. They will land somewhere between 10-13, but if this team goes on a run, then it should not surprise anyone if they slip into the playoffs, because John Patrick is a guy that knows how to make the most of adequate talent.

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