Since coming into the BBL in 2004-2005, the Walter Tigers Tuebingen have been treading water in the BBL middle standings and at times scrapping the deregulation area. The best finish of the club was 2006-2007 as they finished in 10th place. The Tigers have been more a harmless creature that seems to have their mouth sealed with little power escaping instead of showing their absolute unconquerable qualities of a tiger on the court.
The team has been known for developing a healthy fan base and letting guys like Rasko Katic and AJ Moye (his first year) develop into top BBL players, but then again also have gone the usual BBL route of signing an abundance of Americans and closing an eye for further developing German players and the organization also has been prone to getting involved with minor scandals like in 2006 with Tamien Trent and Mike Moten who were banned by the German basketball federation following a drug test. Making the jump to the BBL is not easy and if one were to ask experts in the Tuebingen surrounding, one would always hear three things. A lack of management know how, a slim budget and not getting the right mix of players. Ex coach Tolga Öngören came in the middle of the 2007-2008 season and started getting the team in a right direction.
Last season the team struggled again landing at 13th place. It was never able to go on a big run being able to only go on a three game winning streak. The six game losing streak in the middle of the season hurt their chances considerably for reaching the playoffs and finishing the season losing five of their last six games didn´t necessarily speak for the nerves or stability in the team either.
Despite not winning much, they had some highlights including beating the 2009 BBL champions EWE Baskets Oldenburg on Eurosport, sweeping the Artland Dragons season series as well as the TBB Trier season series including an exciting 102-100 win in Trier as well as a 98-95 nail bitter in Ulm. Their 5-12 road record was miserable and their knack for losing five close games by a combined total of only 13 points didn´t speak positive of displaying nerves of steal in crunch time. The team had talent, but may not have had the right ingredients in the game plan in the offense to be successful on a consistent basis which is needed in the BBL.
“It seemed like Öngören liked to hype the big man play which didn´t really allow any of the guard play to be featured in scoring. The team had Katic and Haynes in the top ten scoring of the league. The team also didn´t have a deep bench”, stressed Ratiopharm Ulm German Jerome Bridgewater.
Just as American Brandon Woudstra will be a big loss fro ENBW Ludwigsburg so will center Rasko Katic, who played four years in Tuebingen and was the fan favourite. He averaged 14.8ppg, 7.1rpg, FGP: 50.0%, FT: 55.2% in his last season.
From 2006-2008, he was the second best rebounder in the BBL. He showed again how dominating he can be last season scoring in double figures 29 times and registering nine double doubles. Fans were hoping that Katic could possibily stay for another season as he had always stated how much he liked living and playing in Tuebingen, but in the end, he decided to return home and play for top team KK Hemofarm Stada Vrsac.
“For fans, it is often harder to forget the departed players like Katic, Nixon or Moye than the players. But since the team will be new again, it will be new for team and fans”, stressed Tubingen German Jay Thomas.
For the fans that can´t get enough of Michael Haynes´s flights to the hoop, they can see him in the region as he left for ENBW Ludwigsburg. He played 34 games last season averaging 14.4ppg, 4.8rpg, 1.3spg, FGP: 51.7%, 3PT: 34.8%, FT: 71.6%. He had a solid season scoring in double figures in 25 games and scored 20 points or more eight times including a 32 point outburst against Ratiopharm Ulm.
26 year old combo guard Jermaine Anderson also said farewell to the club going to Cedevita Zagreb. Last season, it sometimes seemed like he and the club seemed unclear how the guard position was best for him. He still had a strong season averaging 12.8ppg, 3.0rpg, 3.6apg, FGP: 49.0%, 3PT: 30.1%, FT-2(89.6%). He was able to score in double figures 25 times and had eight assists against Braunschweig and Cologne. He was one of the rare players that found ways to score despite the dominance of Katic.
27 year old 193cm guard AJ Moye also left the club after three years. After tearing up the Iceland league in 2005-2006 for Keflavik averaging 28.9ppg, 10.7rpg, 2.6apg, 1.7spg, he came to Tuebingen with big expectations and had a strong first year in 2006-2007 averaging 15.4ppg, 5.0rpg, 3.0apg, 2FGP: 49.7%, 3FGP: 32.9%, FT: 77.0%. But in the last two seasons, his scoring stats dipped to ten and eight points per game. He was always a hard worker that gave 100%, but for some reason, he got less playing time and couldn´t produce the stats. He went to Finland and is having a great season averaging 18,5ppg, 5,0rpg and 1,3apg for Kouvot Kouvola.
25 year old 196 guard Richard Chaney also left. In 34 games, he averaged 34 games: 8.0ppg, 5.0rpg, FGP: 54.4%, 3PT: 37.2%, FT: 64.0%. He averaged 24 minutes per game and scored in double figures ten times. He is a player that surely could have brought more to the table having solid games or totally going unnoticed in other games. His best game was against The EWE Baskets Oldenburg as he scored 17 points.
The team also said bye bye to 23 year old 193 cm guard Daniel Fountain. He was a BBL rookie last season coming from the popular NC-Wilmington college that likes sending players to the Duesseldorf Giants. Fountain was never more than a role player from the bench, but was curious when he did get over 30 minutes, he was able to score 18, 17, and 22 points in three of four games. He averaged 4.8ppg, 1.3rpg in 15 minutes playing time, but was too one dimensional with his three pointer that he only hit at 37% accuracy.
The last player to depart was Mirko Anastasov who never really was able to get free from the end of the bench. He will play in the PRO A this season for ETB Wohnbau Baskets Essen.
As is so often the case in sports, in the new season everything is supposed to change and become better.
For The Walter Tigers Tuebingen, it has been no secret that money has not been growing on trees. They saved money by making assistant coach Igor Perovic the new coach.
The team kept some players, but also did a pretty good job getting fortification for this season. Even though the old cliché of a new year better luck will most likely never be erased, ex Wurzburg player Markus Hallgrimson who is the only German player playing in Morocco presently truly believes that a new birth is possible this season in Tuebingen:
“I played with Igor Perovic in Wurzburg and know manager Robert Wintermantel since 17 years who is my brothers best friend. Igor is a very inexperienced, but competent coach while Robert is a proper person and has basketball knowledge. I am sure things will change under this duo”, stressed ex TV Langen player and NCAA three poiner record holder of 16 in a game Hallgrimson.
It seems like coach Perovic has made a lasting impression already early in pre season with the new players:
“Coach Igor is a very good coach with a high basketball IQ. He really knows how to communicate with us and make us feel comfortable while still demanding our very best effort and nothing less”, said new American Michael Jenkins.
30 year old 193 cm forward Jay Thomas will play his fourth season for Tuebingen. He has never really got a big chance to get many minutes, but thinks that he will have a more established role this season.
„Since three years, I have been hearing the same song in Tuebingen. But I think that this season, I could have an even more important role, but my play has to be stable“, said Jay Thomas.
Last season Thomas averaged only eight mintues per game averaging 1,3rpg and 1,0rpg.
24 year old 203cm American Ken Wiliams will return for a second season after playing 34 games and averaging 3.5ppg, 3.1rpg last season. He seems to be a long term project for Tuebingen. Last season, he averaged only 13,9 minutes per game and is primarly there to clean up the zone and pick up the rebounds. He showed some potential last season getting 10 points and 11 rebound in 19 minutes against The Giessen 46ers and eight points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes against the Artland Dragons.
Tuebingen also did a smart thing by keeping 24 year old 193cm guard Branislav Rathkovica. After playing 35 games and averaging 2.3ppg, 1.0apg with the EWE Baskets Oldenburg in 2007-2008, he understood that he would never get minutes, so he left and quickly found a home with Tuebingen averaging 9.4ppg, 2.1rpg, 2.3apg, FGP: 56.0%, 3PT: 28.9%, FT: 63.4% in 25 minutes playing time.
He has already been given the starting point guard reigns and a lot of the success on offense will depend if he can lead the charge in the playmaking.
“I have seldom seen such a clever player like Bane. He usually sees things before they even happen and he is a good defender. I am sure that he will become one of the top point guards in the BBL this season”,added Jay Thomas.
But the only difference is that two of the Americans with Travis and Watts have experience in the BBL and they also added some spice to the American mix by getting another Serb with Aleksandar Nadjfeji who is one of the best pick ups in the history of the club.
Three BBL players with BBL experience, two new Americans, the three players left over from last season and the young Germans will make for an interesting mix of skill.
“The new team is shaping up well. We are young but we all have the desire to learn and we all listen to each other. We are a very hungry squad so we work hard everyday to get better and try to be a threat in the BBL”, stressed guard Michael Jenkins.
It took the club very long, but found a free Nadjfeji, who was one of many great players for Alba Berlin that was not playing as much on account of the deep roster. He is a 203cm forward that still averaged 9.2ppg, 2.9rpg, 1.5apg, FGP-3(67.3%), 3PT: 23.5%, FT: 51.6% in 20 minutes playing time and he continues to shoot very well from the field despite his 32 years of age.
The gregarious Serb is a winner having won two BBL titles with Cologne and Berlin as well as two German cups and will give the team a lot of experience as well as helping the younger German players.
With Romeo Travis, the team has received a guy from the region having played in Ulm last season. The 25 year old 201 cm small forward had a strong rookie season averaging 12.2ppg, 5.4rpg, 1.3apg, FGP: 51.0%, 3PT: 30.8%, FT: 64.9%. in 26 minutes playing time. He scored in double figures 25 times and had two double doubles. He is a very strong player inside and often had to pick up the slack on offense for Ulm when Jeff Gibbs had an off night or was being double and triple teamed. There were numerous games where Travis was a big reason why Ulm won like their big win in Giessen as he scored 20 points in 26 minutes including drowning a few big three pointers down the stretch sealing the victory. It will be interesting to see how Travis will harmonize with guys like Nadjfeji and Watts.
Another big pick up was 23 year old 203 cm Dane Watts, who is a modern day forward doing the job inside and outside. Last season, he quietly had a very solid BBL rookie season in Ludwigsburg averaging in 20 minutes averaging 8.9ppg, 3.8rpg, FGP-1(68.4%), 3PT: 30.8%, FT: 68.7% in 32 games.
It wouldn´t surprise me if most followers of German basketball didn´t even know that he led the BBL in field goal percentage at 68%. He is a team player that still has a lot of potential and could become a scoring option in Tuebingen.
“Dane has a lot of potential and has all the qualities that a big player of today needs. He can shoot, is athletic, has good ball hadling and defends well. I am sure that he will surprise a lot of people except for us“, joked Jay Thomas.
How well will second year BBL players Travis and Watts handle the possible pressure of performing on a consistent rate in Tuebingen?
“Both are playing great and I am sure that both will show a lot this season”, added Jay Thomas. The team also gobbled up 23 year old 191 cm shooting guard Michael Jenkins.
He didn´t play much in his first two years at Winthrop, but finally got a chance in his junior and senior years. As a senior he averaged 13.9ppg, 4.1rpg, 2.5apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 41.6%, 3PTConf-6(36.8%), FT: 71.3% and Finished his career as the 10th leading scorer in Winthrop history with 1,253 points.
In his first professional season, he couldn´t show too much as he split his time between the Albany Patroons of the CBA playing 3 games and averaging 6.7ppg, 2.0rpg, FGP: 47.4%.He left during the season moving to BC Buducnost Podgorica of the Bosnian league. Tuebingen will need him to score.
“Coach brought me in to help the team to the best of my abilities and one of my strongest assets is my ability to score. Obviously he likes the way I play or I would not be here. I am here to score, but I am also here to play great defense and just help win games”, warned Michael Jenkins.
The team also signed 24 year old 196 cm guard Darryl Hudson who is athletic combo guard, that is very quick, explosive and can finish around the basket. His normal position is the point guard position, but played the 2 and 3 position his last two years in college. He is a long guard that allows him to distract his opponents when he is defending smaller guards. A natural leader and a hard worker.
He could be the scoring punch that will be needed to be filled since the departure of Moye. He has been a scorer all his life. At Howard, he averaged 14.4ppg, 5.7rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 51.8%, 3Pts: 44.6%, FT: 68.0% in his last two years. In his first two professional seasons, he scored in Finnland for Karhut Kauhajoen playing 41 games and averaging 19.7ppg, 6.2rpg, 3.0apg, FGP: 52.6%, 3PT: 30.4%, FT: 75.8%.
Last season, he played at Falco KC-Szombathely in Hungary where ex Telekom Baskets Bonn player Winsome Frazier had found the scoring touch some years ago and averaged 13.8ppg, 3.5rpg, 1.6apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 52.8%, 3PT: 34.5%, FT: 79.3%. The question will be if Hudson can make the jump to the more skilled and physical BBL after playing in lower leagues like Finnland and Hungary.
“Jenkins is a great shooter and very good at one on one while Hudson is a very good all around player that also is strong on one on one. Both are strong defenders”, stated Jay Thomas.
Only Unger has breathed BBL air having played a total of seven minutes. The team also has 28 year old 204 cm center Juefan Geiger, who was in the same situation as Unger back during 2004-2006 being the young player getting little playing time, but still appearing in 12 games. Since then, he has played second bundesliga and PRO B for Kirchheim, Freiburg and Speyer.
The attitude of the Americans in the early going is already signalizing that they are there to help the young Germans, but they also have to work for minutes.
“The German players have the same roles as every other player. They must go out and perform to the best of their abilities just like the rest of us. They have big roles just like the rest of us”added Michael Jenkins.
PG Ratkovica / Unger
SG Jenkins / Hudson / Meyer-Huebner
SF Travis / Thomas
PF Nadjfeji / Watts
C Williams / Geiger / Kronhardt
new players bold
The Walter Tigers Tuebingen are a team that have been roaming around the BBL for years without having reached the playoffs and making the playoffs this season will be a reach. The team has a 8 man rotation with some very strong players with Nadjfeji, Travis and Watts, two new players with no BBL experience with Jenkins and Hudson and three guys returning with Williams and Thomas who might need to produce more than ever and Ratkovica who will be thrown into the shark tank at point guard.
This 8 man rotation will have to come up with a way to secure the club with points. The young German players most likely will continue to keep dreaming of making strides on the court, while when they make up realizing that they are tied to the bench. If any player that might get a chance this season could be Pirmin Unger.
“Having Unger and Kronhardt as ninth and tenth man is not enough. The bench is very thin”, expressed Ratiopharm Ulm German Jerome Bridgewater.
What kind of style can we await from The Walter Tigers Tuebingen this season?
“We are going to play a lot faster this season since we don’t have a traditional center. Coach Perovic likes the quick play and that shows with the players that we got this season”, stressed Jay Thomas.
Tuebingen got some strong players, but also lost key players so how will this club look against other teams this season?
“That is difficult to say since the BBL is so balanced. No team has really gotten weaker since last season”, said Jay Thomas.
The big question marks will be the bench and the center position. The loss of Rasko Katic is about as huge as if The Orlando magic suddenly lost Dwight Howard.
“We do not have a true center but we have a few power forwards that can run the floor and makes us a much quicker team”, warned Michael Jenkins.
Tuebingen have an unproven big guy with Geiger, an inexperienced kid with Kronhardt and Williams that could be inserted at center, but no real stability at the position. The other question mark is the bench. If the team sustains any injuries than it could be a very long winter for Robert Wintermantel and Igor Perovic.
Once again the team seems to already have been steered in a positive direction by coach Igor Perovic.
“Our bench will continue to grow stronger as the preseason goes on and hopefully by the start of the season our depth will not be an issue at all. Coach Igor works hard everyday on developing and building confidence in all of us players so that we can be as strong as possible no matter the bench players or starters”, stated Michael Jenkins.
The playoffs would be like a dream, but surely deep down in the minds of the players a goal. For coach Perovic just landing in the middle field would be more fitting for him.
“If the coach can make a team out of this thrown together bunch that has structure and form, then I could see this team having more success than last season, but more realistically is a place between 12-15”, stressed Ratiopharm Ulm German Jerome Bridgewater.
This is a team that will have their big surprises of the season, but also lose their share of games. This team should land somewhere between place 10 and 14. But one thing the Tuebingen fans will see a lot this season is running running and running.
“We have to play consistently, use our strength and just play tempo, tempo tempo”, warned Jay Thomas.
There is nothing wrong with having confidence and Tuebingen will be a team to watch, because they know that they will need to step it up not only on offense, but also on defense.
“Since we aren’t very big, but very quick, you will probably see a lot of pressure full court from us to make up for our lack of size. If we play great defense night in and night out and rebound very well consistently I feel we can be playoff contenders because we can definitely score”, warned Michael Jenkins.