Teamcheck: LTi Gießen 46ers

For the second time in their storied history (after 2004), the Gießen 46ers finished the season in a relegation position in the standings. Giessen-46ersFortunately for the BBL’s lone remaining original team, 2009 also marked the second time that the club stayed in the league even though they did not make it in sportive terms. While in 2004 Hagen and MBC Weißenfels were relegated due to financial reasons this time the BBL provided the 46ers with a wild card. The wild card proved to be the forgiving end to an otherwise very forgettable season. The turbulent year saw, in order, the following strange things: Perennial bench warmer Florian Hartenstein (career scoring avg. 2.8 ppg) started the season on a mean streak, averaging 14.5 ppg through the first two games. Former German international Robert Maras failed to display anything resembling a quality starting center. Longtime fan favorite Gerrit Terdenge just looked old. Both of them have since signed with second division (Pro A) teams. Veteran guard Danny Lewis left the team, feeling dissatisfied with his role. The team brought in two American guards to try out as replacement for Lewis, playing both of them in league games and opted to cut Brandon Worthy in favor of Ricky Hickman. Former scout-turned-coach Simon Cote was fired, head of basketball operations Vladimir Bogojevic took over coaching duties. This meant that assistant coach Gerald Wasshuber had to work with the third coach in less than eight months. Maurice Jeffers suffered a season-ending injury. Since the deadline to sign new players had already passed, Gießen brought back previously cut Brandon Worthy, looking desparately for some offense.

Former german national player Bogojevic could give the team some new inspiration with a two game winning streak when he took over. But in the last 10 games only one more win could be secured. Still german talent Jannik Freese thinks that Bogojevic did a good job and is looking forward to the new season:

“Vladi gave us a new look as a team, we  are more of a defense first, fast break team now, I think thats suits the players we got very well, and if we stick together and play as a team we can be a good team.”

Last season proved to be a struggle from the get-go, as Gießen’s “German” focus did not pay off.

The 46ers had six German players in their eleven-man rotation and lost a lot of close games early in the season. Since-departed point guard Heiko Schaffartzik (now in Braunschweig) was the most talented of the bunch and had a few terrific games. His biggest issue, however, remains his inconstistency. Looking for more stability in its starting five, the 46ers went back to the traditional route, signing a US point guard. Lorenzo Williams comes to Gießen from Slovakia, where he had solid averages of around 17 PPG and 5 RPG. However, it is hard to assess how those stats would transfer to the BBL, since the Slovak league is somewhat of an unknown commodity. Coach Bogojevic, however, is confident in his new point guard:

“Lorenzo has good court vision and is a composed point guard that can really lead a team.”

For the backup position, Gießen has gone to Bogojevic’s home country of Serbia and come away with a young talent. 20-year-old Victor Jacovic has not exactly set the world on fire in his home country and thus far has no real experience at the professional level. The coaching staff sees him as a valuable asset and somebody that can give Williams some breaks.

Also on the team will be Gießen’s home-grown point guard Falko Theilig, who is still a half-year away from his 18th birthday. After a rather underwhelming 18-and-unter Eurobasket, the point guard will be assured a spot on the 46ers’ twelve-men roster. Hopefully, coach Bogojevic will be able to provide the talented and creative youngster with spot minutes here and there. At 5-11 and 160 lbs., Theilig will still need some work to be able to compete physically at this level.

At shooting guard, the 46ers presented the biggest new name in town. 6-5 swingman David Teague joins the team after a good year in France. Teague will be the starter at off-guard and hopefully provide Gießen with solid outside shooting and scoring. If Teague lives up to his reputation, he will be Gießen’s go-to guy as well as one of the top scorers of the entire BBL. What remains to be seen is how consistent Teague will be in the starring role. In the past, he tended to disappear at times. However, it is apparent that with their current team setup, the 46ers will pretty much depend on Teague’s scoring to keep them in games. Teague hat an excellent college career at Purdue and has since developed his game in the Greek and French top divisions.

His backup, Stevan Tapuskovic, is a talent from Serbia just like Jacovic. However, Tapuskovic comes with a better resume, having played for all of Serbia’s youth national teams. Tapuskovic, who arrives in Gießen from Serbian powerhouse Partizan, possesses excellent size for a shooting guard, standing 6-7. While not as talented as former Cologne forward Marko Keselj, Tapuskovic could develop into a solid player who will crack coach Bogojevic’s rotation. The biggest excitement for 46ers fans lies at the small forward spot.

Gießen’s very own Johannes Lischka developed from a talented youngster into a solid BBL player over the last two years. After a stint with the national team, where he was one of the last players cut by coach Bauermann, the 46ers expect the 6-8 forward to take the next step this season. Gießen is planning to start Lischka this year and will put more responsibility on his shoulders. Judging by the end of last season, he appears to be up to the challenge. While his jumper is still a work in progress, Lischka’s driving ability and athleticism make him a mismatch for most of the defenders facing him. He also is a strong rebounder and starting to become an above-average defender, even though he still tends to lose his defensive position at times. While the rest of the BBL talks about what needs to be done to bring up promising talents to the point where they can take on a starter’s role in the league, Gießen’s Lischka is one of the poster boys for how it should be done.

His backup, Max Weber, is an example for how it should not be done. A talented player in his own right, the 6-8 Weber was buried at the end of Deutsche Bank Skyliners coach Murat Didin’s rotation for the better part of three seasons, never really getting over the hump. His fresh start in Gießen is Weber’s big chance to finally come into his own as a player. He will be called upon to play significantly more than he has in the past and might also play some minutes alongside Lischka as he slides over to the two guard or Lischka moves to power forward. Jannik Freese expects Weber to be a n important player:

“Max is a good player, and he is hungry to showcase his skills at the BBL level so I expect him to be a good part of our team and rotation.”

At the Power Forward position Gießen signed an american with Uleb Cup experience. 25-year old Kevin Johnson has shown that he can compete on euporean level as he averaged 12.3 points and 9.0 rebounds playing for austrian team Gmunden in 2007/2008. Last season he played in Poland and finished the season as the league’s third best rebounder averaging 8.5 per game for SPEC Polonia Warszawa. Johnson should give Gießen some nice inside presence and I expect him to be a nice asset after the departure of Corey Rouse.

Joe Werner had a tryout for american football club Green Bay Packers and was really close to make it to the NFL. But when the Packers decided to waive Werner, he started to concentrate on his basketball career. The 201cm / 6’7” forward spent the last two seasons in Australia and simply dominated the second division down under. Last season he averaged MVP like stats with 22.3 points and 13.9 rebounds per game. Of course one should not expoect Werner to produce stats like that in Germany. But as a backup for Johnson Werner could give the team stability in rebounding and defense.

Inside, Gießen has reverted from its “German” path. Last year, Gießen hat four German players manning the inside position in former internationals Gerrit Terdenge and Robert Maras as well as longtime fan favorite Flo Hartenstein and athletic, but oft-injured Corey Rouse. All of these players have since departed, leaving only talented 6-11 Jannik Freese from last season. Freese started getting more minutes toward the end of the season after missing several games with a hand injury. He will be called on to be the primary center backup this year. The 23-year old knows how it feels to sit on the bench as he did not get too much on court time when he was playing with Braunschweig. Last season he found himself in a similar position and had to watch old guys like Maras, Terdenge and Hartenstein do his job. It was a tough season for Freese and things can only get better for  him now:

“It was really tough for me to sit on the bench willing to give everything I have, and leave my heart on the court but did not really get the chance to do so, as a competitior you want to play and help the team, so it was real tough,” stressed Freese.

The starter will be 7-2 Austrian Martin Kohlmaier, who spent last year in Spain’s second division LEB Gold. While Kohlmaier is not expected to fill up the scoring sheet, there is hope that he will provide the 46ers with the inside presence that Maras never could give the team.

Lineup:

PG Williams / Jacovic / Theilig

SG Teague / Tapuskovic

SF Lischka / Weber

PF Johnson / Werner

Kohlmaier / Freese

german italic

new players bold

Outlook:

With Freese and Lischka just two players from last season’s roster remained with Gießen. Vladimir Bogojevic has built a whole new team that is very young. David Teague is the team’s oldest player and he is just 26-years old. All new signed players lack BBL experience so it is really tough to judge this team at the beginning of the season. It is interesting that Bogojevic  signed just four americans and decided to go for an interesting mix of american athleticism, young germans and serbian talents. Besides Oldenburg and MBC Gießen could turn out to become a team that prefers to play in a european style.

The most important factor could be Lorenzo Williams. Bogojevic thinks that the young american is ready to show his skills on BBL level. If he turns out to be a good playmaker, Gießen could surprise some teams in this league. With Lischka and Teague they got two nice offensive players and Kevin Johnson could become one of the league’s best rebounders. Coach Bogojevic is proud of the qualitiy his team has got and if Gießen does not get into injury-trouble they could become a solid team in the mid-field. But still first priority for Gießen is to remain in the league and stay out of financial trouble.

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