When studying players before an upcoming season, there is usually no reason not to expect spectacular seasons from fabulous athletes like Sydney Crosby from the Pittsburg Penguins, a Lionel Messi from FC Barcelona, a Kobe Bryant from the Los Angeles Lakers or a Tom Brady from The New England Patriots because these guys have been having incredible years with their clubs winning titles and landing at the top of the league leaders in stats. Before the 2010-2011 BEKO BBL season, one might not have doubted a Derrick Allen not having a superb season with Alba Berlin after dominating the league the last 6 years in Germany or a Dashaun Wood who had been the top scorer in Italy for Cantu, however there was a possible cloudy forecast on the horizon for both players as Derrick Allen was going to Alba Berlin where the team is filled with so many players that could be top scorer and a Wood who was hurt with Benetton Treviso in 2008-2009 and didn´t even play last year. However both players seemed to have totally exceeded expectations as Allen has fit into both systems of Luka Pavicevic and Muli Katzurin and is leading the team in scoring and shooting 64% from the field the best in his career and still displaying his ballerina moves despite having a team filled with superstars and Wood has shown no ill effects of a knee injury and is possibly the most unstoppable player in the BEKO BBL in a long time as he has dominated like crazy. It really is no wonder that both players have adjusted so well. “Both players are professionals. Both have always had successful years and they play with the right attitude. One also should not forget that both have played for good teams and good coaches”, stressed Skyliner sport director Kamil Novak. It hasn´t surprised John Bynum either how well both players have developed with their new teams. “Both are great players and are showing why they are premier players in the BBL. I expected D.A. to have a good season because he has been consistent every where he has been at in Germany. I didnt know much about Wood but he is showing why he is one of if not the best point guard in the league”, added TBB Trier guard John Bynum. The duel Allen/Wood will be the highlight in the game as Mr Ballerina Derrick Allen will try to tip toe more gracefully than Mr Road Runner Dashaun Wood can bolt to the hoop. Is this a game where both guys could battle and eclipse the 30 point mark? “Both guys are the key players for both teams. The role of Allen is to score and Wood can score and is the second best assist maker. They are two different type of players that could score 30, but I think it will eb difficult for both to make it in this game”, expressed Kamil Novak.
“Well they play two different positions but it should be quite fun to watch. Both players need to play well for their team to have a good chance to win. Well it is quite possible if both their teams need them to score that they could hit 30, but at the same time I dont think neither one of them have to score like that for there teams to be successful”, warned John Bynum. With Alba Berlin, there is always pressure to perform in each game, because everyone expects them to bring back a sack of titles each season. From 2003-2008, Alba Berlin was only able to win one single league title in 2008, but were unable to repeat in 2009. The pressure for Alba Berlin is so huge and similar to ex Baywatch star David Hasselhoff not falling off a stage drunk, The New England Patriots not making any costly mistakes in crunch time or Paris Hilton not being caught off guard in a limousine. “I can imagine that Alba Berlin has much pressure. It reminds me off our last season in the second Bundesliga. You learn to deal with it and shift it in a positive direction. You learn to make a healthy arrogance which helps strengthen the self confidence. Our five game playoff series against Alba Berlin was a great experience. There were very tight games even though that we were the clear underdog. I think they underestimated us and and as we got hot, we knew that we could beat them”, commented ex Paderborn center Marius Nolte. For Skyliner captain Pascal Roller, the pressure that Alba Berlin has is something he has also felt in Frankfurt. “The pressure with Alba Berlin is very high. They have a big budget, great players and need to always win, but we have had this in Frankfurt also. We have had very good team sin the past and have felt it also. It is only normal to always want to get better, which also gets up the motivation which helps to battle the pressure”, warned Skyliner guard Pascal Roller.
Last season, Alba Berlin were unable to full fill the expectations of winning the title losing to The Deutsche Bank Skyliners in four games in the quarterfinals. There only big accomplishment was reaching the Eurocup final, but losing against BC Valencia. They had some good stretches during the season including a 8 game winning streak and another time winning eight of nine games, but towards the end of the regular season were starting to run out of gas finishing the season with a record of 6-5. Alba Berlin had a very talented roster, but didn´t come to together in the most important time of the season in the playoffs against Frankfurt. Alba Berlin did a house cleaning last summer keeping only BEKO BBL stars Julius Jenkins and Immanuel Mcelroy and future star in the making Luka Staiger. The team has got very strong replacements at every position and could form a more than potent second starting five coming from the bench. Which BEKO BBL team wouldn´t like to start a Heiko Schaffarzik, Bryce Taylor, Patrick Femmerling, Yassin Idbhi, or a Sven Schultze? Alba Berlin is one of the strongest teams in the BEKO BBL now despite going through some changes this season. The team started the season well going 8-1 in the first months losing only on the road to Ratiopharm Ulm. However towards the end of 2010, Alba Berlin went through a small drought period losing three games in a row including a 103-52 trouncing in Bamberg, in which the bus ride home might have felt like an eternity for the team. The air seemed thin along the Spree in Alba world as the team failed to reach the Eurocup final 16 and first got rid of point guard Hollis Price who unfairly was made an escape goat. The club that said farewell to Luka Pavicevic who had been at the helm since 2007 winning two titles with Alba Berlin. The team brought in Muli Katzurin from Israel who had won the Czech league titles and cups from 2007-2010. Since the arrival of Katzurin the team is 5-2 and have won the last four games in a row. The team also have brought in guards Heiko Schaffartzik who still hasn´t found his rhythm, 2010 Eurochallenge winner Taylor Rochestie with BG Goettingen and 23 year old 213 cm Serb talent Miroslav Raduljica to help under the hoop. The team recently also released guard Marko Marnovic as well. Despite the many changes and whirlwind happenings, the team should be playing for the title. “Alba is a solid team and have had ups and downs this season but they are still a team that will be around at the end of the season in my opinion. They have had to go through a coaching change but they have the talent to beat any of the top teams. I think that they have the talent and the players for sure to win the title”, warned John Bynum. With the coaching change, how much has the style changed from Pavicevic to Katzurin? “I think they are more up tempo and not as predictable as they once were. They were running a lot more sets with the old coach but now I think they have more freedom and they have players that can excel more in that style of play”, stressed John Bynum. “Alba Berlin has a different kind of rotation now. One can´t really change so much in such a short time, but I think that they will play quicker and run more. They will be more aggressive and try to get at you before you reach the middle line on offense”, added Kamil Novak.
Sometimes when a strong team like Alba Berlin has so much strength in their game, opponents might not right away be aware that their could be some weakness, but no matter who the team is there is always some achilles heel in a team and if not that then there are always the chance of injuries occurring. If Alba Berlin has a weak spot then under the hoop on defense. Good BEKO BBL centers have to take their opportunity and try to do as much damage inside as possible. Allen has never been known as being the best defender inside and Femerling lacks physical toughness and Idbhi the necessary quickness. “I dont really see any weakness besides a shot blocker down low”, said Quentin Pryor. “Jenkins, Allen, the defense of Mcelroy is the strength of the team. They are a deep team and can score rebound and play with anyone in the league. They defend very well and will be in most games. On offense, they have so many guys that can put the ball in the basket. You can´t focus on stopping only one guy”, I am not to sure about there weaknesses but I would try to attack them inside some kind of way”, warned TBB Trier guard John Bynum. “Berlin has a very balanced team. they have shooters and penetrators to go along with solid low post players”, warned Quentin Pryor.
Alba Berlin is led by 24 year old 205cm Tadija Dragicevic who comes from Serbia. He is a power forward with great talent, who can score, pass and rebound. Some say he is undersized for the four position, and that he will make a successful transition to the three position, thanks to his great court vision and athletic skills. He started his basketball career for Crvena Zvezda Beograd in 2003 and played there until 2010. In this time, he played 42 international games getting useful experience. Last season, he played League: 15 games: 12.6ppg, 4.5rpg, 1.5apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 64.1%, 3PT: 38.8%, FT: 72.7%; EuroCup: 6 games: 13.8ppg, 2.8rpg, 2.0apg, FGP: 43.2%, 3PT: 38.7%, FT: 68.2%, left in Jan.’10, later that month moved to Lottomatica Virtus Roma (Italy-SerieA): 17 games: 8.6ppg, 3.5rpg, FGP: 53.3%, 3PT: 36.9%, FT: 64.3%. He was drafted by the Utah Jazz (NBA,2rd(53) in 2008 and played NBA Summer league last season for the Utah Jazz. Currently for Alba Berlin, he is averaging 9,4ppg, 4,7rpg and 2,3apg he is shooting 46% from the field and 40% from the parking lot.
Derrick Allen is a 30 year 203cm power forward from Gadsen, Alabama that is playing his first season in Berlin. He is a rugged inside player who attacks the glass, will provide help on the boards, is a solid defender in the post, a competitor and hard worker, can score facing the basket and has shooting range to the foul line. He is playing his seventh season in Germany after playing two years in Karlsruhe, one season in Leverkusen and three years in Frankfurt. With the Deutsche Bank Skyliners, Allen reached the playoffs each season and lost a heart breaker fifth game in the 2010 BEKO BBL finals by two points. He played 148 games in his three years and never played a game where he dogged a play. Allen is searching for his first BEKO BBL title in Berlin and is currently their top scorer and is averaging 16,5ppg, 4,7rpg and 1,0apg. He is shooting 64% from the field. His rebounding average may be considerably down from other years, but that is because Alba Berlin has much support inside something which he mostly had to do himself in Frankfurt.
29 year old 187 cm guard American Julius Jenkins has developed into one of the top players in the BBL after first being recognized in the 2004-2005 season as he averaged 27,1ppg in the second Bundesliga for Nurnberg. He played a season in Bree, Belgium getting ULEB Cup experience before coming to Berlin in 2006 where he since has become a household name. His best scoring season was 2007-2008 where he played 45 games: Score-3(18.2ppg), 2.9rpg, 2.8apg, 1.2spg, 2FGP: 57.8%, 3FGP: 42.0%, FT: 81.4%. Last season, he played EuroCup: 14 games: 14.0ppg, 2.4rpg, 2.3apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 43.1%, 3PT: 39.1%, FT: 74.3%; German League: 35 games: Score-5(14.8ppg), 1.7rpg, 2.5apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 50.4%, 3PT: 44.3%, FT: 80.2% He is an explosive scorer from the point guard or the shooting guard position; possesses the ability to score and create his own shot at anytime; Has very long arms and great leaping ability; unlimited range on the jump shot, which allows him to stretch the defense. “You have to pray that he misses. You have to be physical with him and make sure the bigs hedge hard on ball screens”, warned Omari Westley. With Berlin, Jenkins has won a number of awards such as Bundesliga All-Star Game -08 (MVP), Bundesliga Champion -08 (Finals MVP), and German Bundesliga Cup Winner -09 (FinalFour MVP). Currently he is averaging 13,4ppg, 2,3rpg and 2,9apg. He is shooting 46% from the field and 45% from outside.
30 year old 193cm guard Immanuel Mcelroy is playing his fourth season in Berlin and is averaging 10,6ppg, 4,0rpg and 3,9apg this season. He played at Cincinnati (NCAA) and reached the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2001. He already made a name for himself winning titles with Rhein Energy Cologne His overall quickness, combined with his mental toughness, makes him well-suited as a defender in the attacking defense. He is very athletic, a 40-inch vertical jump and a bench press approaching 300 pounds, ability to break defenders down with his dribble and his explosiveness to the basket makes him an effective scorer. He also possesses good court vision and excellent ball-handling skills, giving him the ability to distribute the ball, particularly in the transition game. He is a natural leader who makes others around him better players. He also has very much experience having won three BBL cups and two BBL league titles. “If you want to slow down Mcelroy, you have to deny him the ball and give him the jump shot until he starts to make some”, warned Omari Westley. Mcelroy who has never been known as a good shooter has really improved his shooting the last few and is shooting 51,9% from the field, but has started off slow shooting form the Berlin tower at 22,2%. Mcelroy may not score 20 points every night, but he belongs to the top players in the BEKO BBL, because he can really do it all on the court and is also one of the top defenders in the league.
The team also brought back a familiar face with very experienced Sven Schultze who played many years for The German national team. He is a 32 year old 206cm power forward that was born in Bamberg. He is a very strong player with a deadly shot. With his size, he will post up the opponents small forwards and outrun the opponents power forwards. He is able to defend bigger players, but also agile enough to defend smaller ones. He can drop the three pointer in a variety of ways which gave Luka Pavicevic so many more ways of using him. He also is very dangerous on the fast break as he can with the speed of a point guard and then dunk. He started his career with Bamberg and then played for Alba Berlin from 1998-2002 winning four BEKO BBL titles. He then played for the Bayer Giants Leverkusen until 2005 before going south to Play in Italy in Milian, Udine and Biella. he also played shortly in Greece for Larissa. He finished last season playing for Ferrara (Italy-SerieA): 13 games: 8.8ppg, 3.0rpg, 1.2spg, FGP: 60.6%, 3PT: 41.5%, FT: 75.0%. He won a silver in Belgrad in 2005 at the European Championships and played at the Olympic games 2008 in Bejing. This season, he is averaging 4,1ppg and 2,0pg and can light up a game in an instance off the bench.
The club also brought back a real German legend with Patrick Femerling who is a 35 year old 216cm center who has just about won everything there is to win in European basketball. This is the third tour of duty for the German national player after having played in Berlin from 1998-2000 and from 2007-2009. Between this time, he played for top European clubs like Olympiakos Pireus, VC Barcelona and Panathinaikos Athens and Caja Sevilla. He has won 13 titles in his basketball career including the Euroleague in 2003 with FC Barcelona and winning a Bronze at the World Championships in 2002 and a Silver at teh 2005 European championships. He has won 3 BEKO BBL titles and two cups. Femerling may be 35, but can still give productivity in limited minutes and has the most experience on the team. This season, he is averaging 4,8ppg and 2,7rpg.
The team also added 27 year old 208cm forward/center Yassin Idbihi from Cologne is playing his first season in Berlin. He can score, but is not so fast, but has potent moves. He played at The University of Buffalo from 2003-2007 and finished as the school´s fourth all time leading scorer with 1,514 points and the third all time leading rebounder with 844. He became the first player in school history to score 1,500 points and 800 rebounds. He played with the Cologne 99ers and had some experience playing in France for Limoges. Last season, he help lead The New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig into the BEKO BBL semi finals losing against The Brose Baskets Bamberg. Last season, he played games 39 games averaging 10.7ppg, 5.2rpg, FGP: 56.2%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 80.0%. This season, he is averaging 4,7ppg and 2,4rpg. He has had problems getting playing time, because of the strong and deep Alba Berlin roster.
Luka Staiger who is a 22 year old 196 cm shooting guard returns back for a second season after coming late in the season last year coming from the NCAA from Iowa. He started his basketball career for TSG Ehingen and played there from 2003-2007. He then departed over the big pond to the NCAA to Iowa where he played until 2010. He played 49 NCAA games for Iowa, but was unhappy about how he was being used on the court and decided to return to Germany. Last season, he played 7 BEKO BBL games averaging 3,3ppg. He got his start in the German national team in 2009 in Poland at the European championships and got more of a role this past summer at the World Championships in Turkey -10: 4 games: 7.3ppg, 1.0rpg, FGP: 66.7%, 3PT: 37.5%. He once scored 106 points as a 16 year old. This season, he is averaging 3,1ppg and 1,0rpg.
The team also got some insurance by bringing in 24 year old 196cm shooting guard Bryce Taylor who hails from San Diego, California. He is the son of former NBA player Brian Taylor. He is a great sharpshooter with an aggressive dribble drive and has a keen understanding of the game. He played at Oregon from 2004-2008. In his senior year at Oregon, he averaged 12.8ppg, 3.8rpg, 1.4apg, FGP: 46.1%, 3Pts: 38.2%, FT: 82.3% in 30 games. two seasons ago, he turned professional and played in Italy for Premiata Montegranaro playing 30 games: and averaging 13.0ppg, 2.4rpg, 1.6spg, FGP: 54.2%, 3PT: 36.9%, FT: 82.6%. Last season in Bonn, he played 6 Eurocup games: 18.5ppg, 3.3rpg, 1.0apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 56.3%, 3PT: 36.4%; German League: 34 games: 12.5ppg, 2.6rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 46.8%, 3PT: 31.0%, FT: 81.4%. This past summer, he played NBA Summer league for the Indiana Pacers. he first got a short term contract form Alba Berlin, but recently got a contract extension until the end of the season. This season, Taylor is averaging 5,0ppg and 2,6rpg and 1,8apg.
The team also has young German Andreas Seiferth who is a 21 year old 206cm center from Berlin. He has been a member of the German U-16, U-18 and U-20 national teams and also has a license to play for Alba Berlin 2(Regionaliga). His brother Martin is playing his first season for the University of Oregon.
The team brought back Heiko Schaffartzik recently who is a 26 year old 182cm point guard who is a German National player who has been a BBL traveler who has played for many different BEKO BBL teams like Giessen, Oldenburg, Nurnberg, EnBW Ludwigsburg and Braunschweig. He had his big international breakthrough at the Euro Championships in 2009 averaging 12,7ppg, 2,0rpg, 3,8apg and shot 54% from the three point line. He shoots first and penetrates second. He is a great one on one player. His biggest weapon is his shooting as he loves the catch and pop and off the dribble shooting. He started the season with Turk telekom in Turkey, but enever found his rhythm as he played 10 games averaging 3,8ppg, 1,6rpg and 2,3apg in 15 minutes per game. Since he has been with Alba Berlin it has been sort of a riddle why he hasn´t played more as he is averaging only 6,24 minutes per game averaging 0,2ppg, 06rpg and 0,6apg which is very very hard to fathom.
The team recently also signed another player who was playing in Turkey with Taylor Rochestie who is a 25 year old 185cm guard from Santa Barbara, who is playing his second season in Germany. He played at Washington State and in his senior season played 33 games: averaging 13.2ppg, 3.6rpg, 4.5apg, FGP: 39.2%, 3Pts: 37.9%, FT: 89.1%. Last season with BG Goettingen, he averaged 15,1ppg 2.8rpg, 3.2apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 50.2%, 3PT: 39.5%, FT: 84.1% and in the Eurochallenge he averaged 14,7ppg, 2.9rpg, 2.7apg, 1.5spg, FGP: 47.1%, 3PT: 38.9%, FT: 79.6%. This season he played for Galatasaray Cafecrown Istanbul (Turkey-TBL) averaging 7,9ppg, 3,5rpg and 3,1apg. He has worked his self very nicely into the Alba Berlin rotation and is currently averaging 11,0ppg, 1,5rpg and 3,4apg. He is shooting 50% from the field and 41,7% from the parking lot.
The team recently also brought in Miroslav Raduljica who is a 23 year old 213cm center from Serbia. He played for FMP Zeleznik Beograd from 2005-2010 playing 10 ULEB Cup games, 10 Eurocup games and 10 Eurochallenge games. Last season, he played Eurochallenge 14 games: 13.7ppg, 6.9rpg, 2.3apg, FGP: 55.6%, 3PT: 50.0%, FT: 75.0%; Adriatic League: 23 games: 13.7ppg, 6.4rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 57.6%, FT: 78.2%; Serbian League: 14 games: Score-1(21.1ppg), Reb-1(8.6rpg), 2.6apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 56.8%, 3PT-3(50.0%), FT: 82.1%. The Serb started the season with Efes Pilsen playing only 4 games averaging 3,5 minutes per game and 1,3ppg. In his first two games with Alba Berlin he is averaging 11.0ppg and 1,5rpg.
Since the climatic semi final win over Alba Berlin in 2005, where guys like Chris Williams and Tyrone Ellis led the then Opel Skyliners into the BBL final, Frankfurt has only a 7-10 record against the Albatros, but have built installed a special albatross cage in the Ballsporthalle which has rewarded them with a 5-2 record. One of the biggest and most emotional wins in the last years was the 81-67 trouncing in January 2006 as it was the debut of ex Skyliner coach Charles Barton. It was only a shame that the team was unable to take this big win and grow off it as they won little more that season and had to win on the last day at home against The EWE Baskets Oldenburg to stay in the BBL. Some nice wins in the last years was the 74-58 win in 2008 as American Derrick Allen added 19 points and six rebounds and in 2009, they won 73-66 as ex Skyliner Lorenzo Gordon chipped in with 15 points and six rebounds. Last season, the two teams split the season series 1-1 as Alba Berlin held Frankfurt to 53 points in the Ballsporthalle and winning. Frankfurt returned to Berlin to win 76-70 as Derrick Allen led the team with 18 points. Frankfurt then surprisingly kicked out Alba Berlin in the playoffs 3-1 winning game four at home 69-58 as Derrick Allen had 26 points. In the first meeting this season, Alba Berlin escaped the O-2 World arena with a 81-77 win. Frankfurt led for 36 minutes before Alba Berlin put on the turbo and went on a 8-2 run which sparked the win. Dashaun Wood led all players with 32 points and Derrick Allen chipped in with 17 points for Alba Berlin. Alba Berlin shot 57% from the field and 44% from the parking lot, but Frankfurt had control of the boards 31-21.
The Deutsche Bank Skyliners will be looking for their 8th win in a row and have shown that they can excel with almost perfect team basketball or when they aren´t having their best game, they can win just with heart and all out effort. This is a game where Frankfurt wants to keep their good lead over Alba Berlin at second place and they want to get closer to position two with a win. The Deutsche Bank Skyliners have one focus each week on how they will have best chances to win and every team knows it, but nobody can stop it. “Frankfurt just has to let Wood be Wood like I say every week and on defensive they just have to make other players do what they are not comfortable doing. Alba Berlin has to make other players make plays especially if the game is close. Wood has taken over many times this season and you just have to find a way to make someone else beat you. On offense they just have to execute their sets and make Frankfurt play defense and try and get some easy buckets as well. Frankfurt did a great job last season stopping the pick and roll with Sekulic and Chubb and now must do it again with different players even if the pick and roll is not as central as once with Pavicevic. “Frankfurt has to find a way to control their pick and role”, warned Quentin Pryor. Frankfurt also can´t forget that Alba Berlin wont be doing everything inside. “Frankfurt must attack and be more aggressive. They have to keep Alba Berlin to one shot per possession and guard the three point line because they are dangerous from there”, warned Mark Dorris. “We have to play our game and not let Alba Berlin dictate the game for us. We have to get out to a quick start and be aggressive on defense”, stated Kamil Novak. The Deutsche Bank Skyliners host Alba Berlin March 20th at 17:00.