Justin Gray Makes One Forget The Departure Of Dashaun Wood Just A Bit Leading The Fraport Skyliners Past Japan 89-73

It was 90 days ago where the Deutsche Bank Skyliners were as rudely kicked out of the semi finals of the 2011 Beko BBL playoffs by 8 time champion Alba Berlin in their own living room three times as if society lady Paris Hilton were to be declined a room in a Hilton hotel in Paris and banned to a kitchen closet. With ex Skyliners Dashaun Wood climbing the Great wall of China, Roger Powell getting ready for his first tour of duty as an assistant coach with Valparaiso, Dominik Bahiense De mello looking for a rain coat and playing one on one with ex NBA player Bobby Brown in Oldenburg, Jevohn Shepherd getting ready to take flight in Holland with Leiden and Pascal Roller going about his dad role more thoroughly and giving reliable basketball information on Sport 1, basketball life in Frankfurt was starting all over again now with Fraport on board. Frankfurt played their first official exhibition game in preparation for the upcoming season beating the Japanese national team 89-73, but memories of last season were still around with players. “It is always important to look forward, but we had  a great season last year. We had great team chemistry and 90% of it had to do with Gordie Herbert.  I am very happy for Dashaun Wood and my big brother Derrick Allen for winning the tournament in China. They are great guys and we will always have long term friendships. I think that Muli Katzurin will be able to bring team chemistry to this team. He is laid back, but can be tough to, but he just wants the best out of us. The biggest difference to last years team is that we are bigger inside this year”, stressed Skyliner guard Jimmy Mckinney. “We had good outside shooters last season, but this season with Justin Gray we have a real knock down three point shooter”, stressed Quantez Robertson.  It is always nice not to forget the past, but fans that witnessed the win saw a new team that has a lot of potential. The Fraport Skyliners were never seriously in danger of losing against Japan. “We were unselfish and ran the floor well. We got easy buckets on transition which helped”, stated 2011 Milwauke Bucks NBA draft pick Jon Leuer.  If it hadn´t been for the sharp shooting of Keijuro Matusi´s 26 points, Japan could of gone back to their hotel rooms at half time to watch the start of Germany-Israel as they would have been blown away early. “We gave up too many wide open shots. We played zone, but they moved the ball well. Our defense broke down. We like to play a fast paced game which we did more in the second half. We were more aggressive and got more stops”, stated ex Columbia guard Keijuro Matusi. “We played together as a team, were aggressive and executed our offense”, added Fraport Skyliner guard Quantez Robertson.

The BCM training facility wasn´t filled to capacity, but more than usual came out to support the first official appearance of the Fraport Skyliners and weren´t disappointed as the club quickly led 6-1. It is no secret that the success of a club is based on team basketball, but also quite obvious that  a lot of the success will depend on the strong play of ex NBA player Jermario Davidson and 2011 NBA Draft pick Jon Leuer this season. Both combined for the first three buckets. Both scored inside and one quickly could see the immense athletic ability of Davidson who is nearly unstoppable in the paint.  As quickly as Frankfurt went on a run, Japan countered back with their own 6-3 run to trail only 9-7. Joji Takeuchi scored twice and Takumi Ishzaki scored inside. Last season more often than not it was Dashaun Wood that would get Frankfurt going and half way through the first quarter it was sharp shooter Justin Gray who scored three times from down town as he might have had the BCM rims in good memory after his visit back in 2008 with Nymburk in a test game against Murat Didin. Frankfurt led 15-7, but Japan always had a trick in their pocket as they went on a mini 4-0 run with free throws and Tomoo Amno scoring on a pick and roll closing the gap to 15-11. Having a Dashaun Wood or Justin Gray explode for a quick 5-0 run is as normal as seeing Dirk Nowitzki Di-Ba commercials on German TV, but having German Fabian Franke score 5 unanswered points is a bit harder to believe, but the German was as focused as ever and seemed to have gained some self confidence over the summer as he scored on a back door and then nailed a three pointer with a high rainbow that seemed like it might nip the BCM ceiling as Frankfurt led 20-11. Japan closed out the first quarter 5-3, but the Fraport Skyliners still led 23-16. Frankfurt was shooting 60%from the field and 67% from outside while Japan was shooting only 38% from the field and 0% from outside. Japan had the slight 9-8 rebound edge and four turnovers while Frankfurt had five turnovers.

Even though both teams started out sloppy in the second quarter, the Fraport Skyliners were still better clawing themselves out on a 9-3 run to lead 32-19. Frankfurt was getting production from every one as 4 different players scored starting with a Marius Nolte lay in on the fast break, Quantez Robertson dropping a three point bomb from the corner, Justin Gray showing his speed scoring inside and Jermareo Davidson scoring inside on one of his many lay ins that easily could have been dunks. “I think Davidson is more athletic than most five men in the league. He can handle the ball very well and step away from the basket and shoot it well”, stressed Quantez Robertson.  The Fraport Skyliners continued to work on extending their lead as ex Paderborn center Marius Nolte drew two fouls, but only made 2/4 shots and Quantez Robertson showed a flash of brilliance nailing another three pointer and then splitting the defense getting past three players and scoring on a lay up as Japan trailed Frankfurt 40-27. The Fraport Skyliners went into halftime closing out the scoring 8-5 as American Jon Leuer scored all 8 points. Leuer has the height to get double figure rebounds, but he also shoots unbelievably well for his height from anywhere on the court. All four buckets were on mid distance jumpers and he saved the best for last hitting a beautiful step back jumper showing this beautiful soft touch which one doesn´t see too often at the Beko BBL level. “Leuer is very aggressive on offense and defense. He also is a great rebounder and defender. I would try everything to keep him here if the NBA called him”, warned Quantez Robertson. Frankfurt led 48-32 at halftime. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 60% from the field and 67% from the three point line while Japan was shooting 32% from the field and only 15% from the three point line. Frankfurt had the 20-16 rebound edge, but nine turnovers while Japan had seven turnovers.

In the third quarter, it seemed like both teams had had a short winter hibernation as they came out sluggish on the court and for the first 2.25 minutes there were no points scored, but then a big roar erupted in the BCM gym as if Dirk Nowitzki had just entered the building as Justin Gray lobbed up a pass towards the hoop and Super Tez Robertson took full flight and dunked the ball into the basket as Frankfurt led 50-32. Justin Gray than figured in the next three baskets as he first set up Jon Leuer for a lay up, then nailed a three pointer as Jon Leuer displayed his Harlem Globetrotter skills making a cute behind the back pass at the three point line to Gray and then the Wake Forest alumnist  scored on a coast to coast sprint as the Fraport Skyliners led comfortably 57-36. However from this moment on Japan got more aggressive and made it very difficult for Frankfurt on offense contesting much more shots and limiting them to one shot as they closed out the third quarter with a 17-6 run to trail only 63-53. Keijuro Matusi was very hot in this run continuing his shooting clinic knocking down shots from all over the court. He also scored inside as did Ryota Sakurati as Frankfurt had some let downs on switching. The lone bright spot in this big Japan run for Frankfurt were in the waning seconds of the third quarter as the clock was winding down and Justin Gray  who was being pressured by two defenders nailed a fade away jumper at the buzzer to preserve the 63-53 lead. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 52% from the field and 50% from the parking lot while Japan was shooting 37% from the field and 28% from the parking lot. Frankfurt had the 31-26 rebound edge, but 14 turnovers while Japan had 10 turnovers.

The Fraport Skyliners quickly took care of business in the first few minutes of the fourth quarter as they still had much energy while Japan seemed to wilt like a dying flower as they allowed the German team to go on a 18-3 run to lead 81-56 and decide the game. Jon Leuer started the big run with a jumper. Fraport Sklyiner head coach Muli katzurin then inserted little used German talent Falko Thelig who quickly responded with a sharp pass to Davidson who just had to lay it in. Thelig then got on the board going hard to the hoop from the wing not shying away from getting banged. Justin Gray then scored in bunches with a three pointer, then stole the ball and went to the hoop and demonstrated a slick spin move and quick bucket as Frankfurt led 75-56. Davidson then continued to show his dangerous play in the low post scoring twice as Frankfurt led more than comfortably 81-56. Japan didn´t want to leave Germany with another blow out and found their composure in the last five minutes giving more intensity on defense and closing out the game with a 17-8 run not to totally be blown out of the BCM. Matusi continued to show his shooting skills scoring from downtown a few times and Joji Takeuch scored on a thunderous dunk and Tomoo Amno also scored. With  a few minutes to go, Muli Katzurin filled the floor with German players with Falko Theilg, Danilo Bartel, Jan Novak, Amil Klisura and Tim Oldenburg. Ex USC Heidelberg German Danilo Barthel closed out the scoring with a lay up as the Fraport Skyliners beat the Japanese national team with out any problems 89-73.

The Fraport Skyliners were led by Justin Gray with 24 points, six rebounds and six assists. Jermareo Davidson added 15 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Jon Leuer added 14 points, nine rebounds and five assists and Quantez Robertson contributed 14 points also. The Japan national team was led by Keijuro Matusi with 26 points(8/10 three pointers). Joji Takeuch added 14 points and Kosuke Takeuch added 10 points. Gray has played in Europe most of his professional life, but recently averaged 24 points a game in the Chinese league and seemed at home against the Asian team. “In Asia, the basketball is more open court while in Europe it is more of a half court game. I think that is why many Americans go to China. You have more freedom there and can just shoot when your open”, stressed American Justin Gray.

The Fraport Skyliners did a good job shooting 55% from the field and 47% from outside. They won the rebounding battle 38-32 and points in the paint 44-24, but it wasn´t a real test as Japan wasn´t really very big inside. It is still very early and as the team will depart for Treviso, Italy for a one week training camp, there is still a lot to do and the one thing that still has to improve is the favorite Pat Riley slogan about defense winning championships. “We have enough guys that can score, but we have to work on defense. Defense is always something that we can control”, warned Wisconsin graduate Jon Leuer. The Fraport Skyliners were caught napping a few times and know that they have to get back quicker on defense. “We can work on our transition defense at getting better. Coach is having us work hard. We just have to continue doing that and not get down on ourselves”, added Justin Gray. For Japan national player Keijuro Matusi who lists Kevin Durant as the best player he ever played against was more than impressed with the Fraport Skyliners. “They are a good team despite not being full yet. They are well structured and coached. They have good scorers and their big men finish well”, stressed Keijuro Matusi. For Matusi who will be back in Japan this weekend, he will be following the Euro 2011 in Lithuania especially Dirk Nowitzki. “ I remember watching Germany at the World Championships in 2006 in Japan. I think Germany will do ok and with Nowitzki on board have better chances. I remember when I was at Columbia, the Dallas Mavericks came and practiced in our gym before a New York Knicks game. I remember talking to Nowitzki. He was very friendly and his shooting that day in practice was unbelievable”, added Keijuro Matusi. The Fraport Skyliners depart for Treviso, Italy for a one week training camp that will include games against Italian teams.

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