EnBW Ludwigsburg Has Many Strong Pieces, But They Don´t Fit Together Yet

Who could forget the 2006-2007 EnBW Ludwigsburg Cinderella team that started the season on a seven game winning streak, winning the first 11 of 12 games and dominating the BBL the whole season until losing in the semi finals against The Brose Baskets Bamberg who would later win the BBL title. There was something so fresh with this team as team basketball had been taught by coach Silvano Poropat and his players had learned it as quickly as first graders do their a,b,c´s. However the last two seasons were a downgrade as the playoffs were missed.

In the 2007-2008 season, the team reached the BBL cup final losing to The Artland Dragons, but management somehow had their differences with coach Silvano Poropat as he had to pack his bags and go. Last season, management brought in ex Bamberg player Rick Stafford as the team missed the playoffs again and were searching for an identity all season long, but never found one. After December 14th, 2008, the team would not win more than one game at a time before losing again. It was a very disappointing and weird season as the biggest highlights were the three B wins against Berlin, Bonn and Bamberg, and then the strange 1-0 win as The Giessen 46ers were unable to get to Ludwigsburg on time as they were stuck in traffic. It also marked the last professional season of allrounder and likeable American Brandon Woudstra who decided to hang up his sneakers and return back to the States to start a new life with his family.

The 2009-2010 season marked a rebirth as a new arena was introduced, a new coach with Tolga Öngören and many new Americans that will hopefully lead the club back to the playoffs. Many fans have to get used to watching basketball in a new state of the art arena as the club said goodbye to the old, but comfy Rundsporthalle that had been alive for 37 years. In the last years, the BEKO BBL has had the luxury to have a few new arenas join as the spectacular O-2 arena in Berlin, the very modern Telekom Dome and the new 5,000 Ludwigsburg arena. It took a while before getting the masses into the new home of EnBW Ludwigsburg, but now more spectators are coming and leave with their thumbs up.

“This is one of the nicest arenas in the area. The spectators are near the court, there is a good atmosphere and people can see play from every inch as there is not a bad seat in the arena. The players were overwhelmed the first time that they entered the arena. Our goal is it to make this arena our new home just like the Rundsporthalle was where it was always hard to play us. Our attendance is rising, but we have to get the arena full night in night out. We are getting over 3000 people per game, but we have to continue to work at getting more people excited for basketball in the region”, stressed EnBW Ludwigsburg sports director Mario Probst.

The new coach is Tolga Öngören, who will have more talent to work with than he did in Tuebingen which is only 55 kilometers away. The club only kept 6 year BBL guard Domonic Jones, veteran Marco Sanders and the three uprising German players David McCray, Phillipp Heyden and Ziyed Chennoufi. Öngören got two athletic ex players from Tuebingen with Michael Haynes and Richard Chaney. He brought in recognized BBL players Kyle Bailey and Kyle Visser and added Michael King and Rashaun Freeman with experiences in Greece and France to his roster. After Freeman’s injury he found Quadre Lollis, a 36-year-old veteran as a replacement and meanwhile the club signed him until the end of the season.

One thing is for sure that this team will score more than last season as the team only averaged 69 points and they will be more athletic and run more than last season. If the team decides to play defense will depend if they land in the playoffs or not. Skyliners coach Murat Didin has been keeping an eye on how friend Öngören´s team has been doing:

“They started well, but have been up and down which is normal. They are a quick team that likes to push the ball forward with Kyle Bailey and Domonic Jones. They have good shooters with Richard Chaney and Michael King. Quadre Lollis is a good defender. Kyle Visser is strong on the boards and has been developing each year. Ludwigsburg is a very dangerous team”, stressed Murat Didin.

The 2009-2010 BEKO BBL season is only one third done and EnBW Ludwigsburg already has shown three faces. The club started the season losing two of their first three games , then went on a six game winning streak including an upset of 2009 BBL champion EWE Baskets Oldenburg and recently have lost five of their last six games including an embarrassing 63-47 loss to The Duesseldorf Giants. Especially on the road, the gang of Tolga Öngören can quickly fall apart or not even get into the game properly as was evident in Duesseldorf some weeks ago.

“We have won only one game in our last six games. And we are not a team yet. In a real team there is a lot of trust in each other and each player can rely on each other. We can only be successful with a shared experience. The losses in Bamberg and Duesseldorf hurt us and the loss of Michael Haynes seemed to have shocked the team. He will not return until the beginning of February”, stressed EnBW Ludwigsburg sports director Mario Probst.

A strong quality of EnBW Ludwigsburg is that despite a strong roster, they have displayed fighting qualities in games where they were trailing and showed it against The Deutsche Bank Skyliners recently losing 68-64. Frankfurt never looked like they could lose the game, but EnBW Ludwigsburg wouldn´t let loose as they stuck to the back of Frankfurt and never let the home team slip away. EnBW Ludwigsburg shot better from the field and outrebounded Frankfurt 38-32, but they were a catastrophe from the parking lot and missed too many free throws.

“We made way too many mental mistakes tonight. Whenever we got close, mental mistakes hurt us and our inability to make free throws killed us. We fought, but we didn´t have that extra push to win. We were missing that killer instinct. When you play on the road, you have to play as a team for 40 minutes”, added Ludwigsburg American Rashaun Freeman.

EnBW Ludwigsburg also seemed perplexed by the aggressive Frankfurt defense as they continued to have problems getting good quality shots and often having the shot clock wind down.
Top scorer Michael King a very athletic combo guard that does all the little things that help a team. He is a brilliant shooter that can´t only shoot out the lights, but likes to hit the big shots. He is a very smart player that also defends very well. However he did not have his best game scoring three points, three rebounds and two turnovers in 17 minutes. At times he seemed and in the fourth quarter he seemed to be in Tolga Öngören´s doghouse as he wasn´t on the floor.

“It was coaches’ decision to keep me out. I would like to have played, but it’s not about me, but what’s best for the team. I cheer for the team if I am on the court or on the bench”, stressed EnBW Ludwigsburg American Michael King.

23 year old 188cm German guard David McCray is playing his third season with EnBW Ludwigsburg. He already made his debut in the BBL as an 18 year old in 2004 with BG Karlsruhe where he played until 2007. He is very athletic and can put the ball in the hoop. He is a very good defender and he is secretly the team’s energizer off the bench. This season, he is averaging 3,9ppg, 1,9rpg and 1,1apg in 12 minutes. He can be very efficient on the court as he scored 13 points in 15 minutes against Bamberg and 11 points in 12 minutes against ratiopharm Ulm. He played a solid game scoring four points, one rebound, one assist and one steal in six minute. If he continues to develop he should be able to increase his role in the future of Ludwigsburg basketball.
28 year old 186 combo guard Domonic Jones is playing his 6th season in Germany and his second season with EnBW Ludwigsburg. He likes to penetrate and is very successful with scoring or setting up his teammates. He is very strong and uses his body to his advantage when scooting into the lane. He played at Virginia Commonwealth from 2000-2004. He played for BG Karlsruhe from 2004-2007 and for Braunschweig from 2007-2008. He played in the BBL Allstar game in 2007. This season, he is averaging 9,2ppg, 1,6rpg, 1,2apg and 1,2spg. He finished the game with five points, one rebound, one assist, one block shot an three turnovers. He is such a dangerous player, but couldn´t execute his weapons against the strong Frankfurt defense.
27 year old 188cm guard Kyle Bailey from Fairbanks Alaska is playing his first season for EnBW Ludwigsburg. He played at Santa Clara from 2000-2005 playing together with Macabbi Tel Aviv guard Doron Perkins. He is a very smart player that handles the ball well and is strong in pressure situations. In his rookie season, he split time between the Florida Flame(NBDL) and BK Riga. Since 2006, he has played in Germany. He helped BG Goettingen reach the BBL in 2007 from the second division. In 2007-2008, he played for ratiopharm Ulm and last season helped Goettingen reach the playoffs averaging 14,4ppg, 4,3rpg and 3,3apg. This season, he has started a little slow and is shooting only 13% from outside and is averaging 8,5ppg, 4,1rpg, 2,6apg and 1,1spg. He has scored in double figures seven times. He finished the game against Frankfurt with 15 points (6/17 shooting) with four rebounds, three assists, two turnovers and one steal in 36 minutes. In the first half, he was very strong and did a fine job with the playmaking, but in the second half sort of disappeared.
25 year old 196cm guard Richard Chaney followed Michael Haynes and Tolga Öngören from Tuebingen to Ludwigsburg. He is a distant cousin of ex New York Knicks coach Don Chaney. He can play both wing positions, runs the floor well and can score in many ways. He played at Utah and finished his NCAA career with Troy in 2006-2007. In his rookie season, he played for Oyak Renault Bursa in Turkey averaging 10,2ppg, 7,1rpg and 1,3apg. Last season, he averaged 8,0ppg and 5,0rpg with Tuebingen. This season, he is averaging 6,8ppg, 4,0rpg and 1,4apg. He has scored in double figures in four games. Chaney was the best Ludwigsburg player on the court as he finished with nine points, 12 rebounds and three assists. He was a huge help on the boards and can always be an important player on any day when the rebounding need help.

“Chaney has been very effective for us. Every player has given a highlight this season and the team shows that each night that another guy can step up”, warned Mario Probst.

25 year old 206cm power forward Rashaun Freeman from Schenectady, New York and is playing his first season in Germany. He played at UMASS from 2003-2007 and never averaged less than 13,6ppg in a season or 7,8rpg in a season. The last two seasons, he played in France for Nantes and Gravelines. He started the season with an injury and just recently came back to the lineup and is slowly being worked into the rotation and is averaging 3,3ppg and 4,3rpg. He ended up with two points, two rebounds, two turnovers and one assist in 14 minutes. He still lacked some explosiveness. EnBW Ludwigsburg will need production from him down the stretch to be successful.
30 year old 202cm forward Marco Sanders is playing his second season with EnBW Ludwigsburg. Considering that he played at Point Park (NAIA), he has had a very long basketball career. This is his seventh season and he has played in countries like Finland, Hungary, Italy and Switzerland. He is very athletic and versatile and can play the 4 and 5 position. He has range up to the three point line. This season, he is averaging 2,3ppg and 1,2rpg. He finished with six points, one rebound and three turnovers in 13 minutes. He is a typical role player and showed confidence in his game and always puts in the hard work.
36 year old 200cm forward Quadre Lollis who played at Montana State and turned professional in 1996. He is a short inside player that can rebound and bang with the biggest beasts inside. He can score in traffic and is at his best when going hard to the hoop or taking the mid range jumper. He can defend man to man or in rotation. He has played five seasons in Turkey, two seasons in Greece, two seasons in Germany with Alba Berlin winning the BBL cup in 2003 and 2006 and BBL title in 2003. He played one season in Belgium and the last three years in Italy helping Vanoli Soresina move up to the first division. He played a season with 2003 Boston Celtic draft pick and ex Skyliner try out player Troy Bell and Rudy Mbemba. This season, he is averaging 7,3ppg, 5,5rpg and 1,1apg. He has scored in double figures three times. He left the floor with ten points (4/12), two rebounds, two assists, two turnovers in 26 minutes. He had a bad shooting day and Frankfurt did a good job keeping him away from the basket.
24 year old 211cm center Kyle Visser from Grand Rapids, Michigan is playing his third season in Germany and first with Ludwigsburg. He played together with NBA top point guard Chris Paul at Wake Forest from 2003-2005. Visser finished at Wake Forest in 2007 and reached the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2004. He came to Germany and played with The New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig from 2007-2009. This season, he is averaging 12,2ppg and 5,9rpg. He has scored in double figures in 11 games. He finished with 10 points, six rebounds, two assists, three steals and one turnover in 25 minutes. Frankfurt did a fine job limiting him to only six shots. A man of Visser´s talent should be able to do more with his body than he does at times.
A few years ago, a team with this talent level might be at position five now, but in the last two years, the BEKO BBL has made a huge increase where teams have added more depth and the ability to beat anyone is about as common as a new woman coming out of the closet to report about her affair with Tiger Woods. The sky is the limit with EnBW Ludwigsburg and the club seems to be fully aware that success can be reached, but that might not occur exactly at the bang of 2010. It is not only the Americans who can produce, but the young Germans are being developed and some are already on a positive route. The club needs more time.

“We have a new team just keeping Domonic Jones and Marco Sanders and we have a solid German group with David McCray, Phillip Heyden and Ziyed Chennoufi. We are happy with our young German players. McCray has been very consistent and is helping the team, Heyden has a good attitude and helped us big against Oldenburg and Ulm and Chennoufi started in Hagen and is on a very good way. We have a lot of hope for the future. It is a process for us”, warned Mario Probst.

The best possible example and role model are The Deutsche Bank Skyliners. The team has found their roles very early and have this blind understanding on the court in crunch time and pressure situations how to free themselves and win. Plus Frankfurt has a Turkish coach with Murat Didin who probably wouldn´t be reluctant to give his friend Tolga Öngören some tips. Perhaps EnBW took something out of the Frankfurt game which could help them in 2010 to get them in the same positive direction as Frankfurt is going.

“We have many good individual players and have been in almost all games. It will be important to play good defense and play team basketball. We have to find a structure to get all our individual players to play team basketball. The BEKO BBL is simply to strong for individual players to carry a team. If we can play good defense and make our shots than we are always capable of scoring 85 points”, stressed Mario Probst.

Perhaps EnBW Ludwigsburg should start puzzling with kids and get a feel of where the pieces fit best, because the more practice they have, the more luck they may have on the court for sorting out their basketball pieces

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