72 hours ago basketball fans were getting a scrumptious hoops smorgasboard in the 2011 Eurobasket final Spain-France as 11 current NBA players were gracing the floor and doing their magic which is as normal to them as New England Patriot quarterback Tom Brady running his hurry up off, regular good loving parents taking in a broke former Superbowl champion with Chris Mcalister who blew his 55 million contract since 2004, or hackers hacking the cell phones of actress goddesses Mila Kunis or Scarlett Johansson, but the few 100 fans that made the way to the Skyliner practice facility BCM to witness the test game between the Fraport Skyliners and French first division team SIG Strassburg were in for a 2011 NBA draft pick treat. The game may not have been filled with as much glitz and gems as the 2011 Eurobasket final, but the court featured three 2011 NBA draft picks with Jon Leuer(Milwauke Bucks), Justin Harper(Cleveland Cavaliars) and Lavoy Allen(Philadelphia 76ers) which seemed like a mini smorgasboard appetizer. Despite SIG Strassburg winning the NBA draft pick battle 2-1, it was the Fraport Skyliners that were able to win for the second time against the French team within the last 4 days. He might be from the same college class with the 3 NBA draft pics, but Michael Thompson was in awe. “It was a great experience sharing the floor with the three draft picks. Harper is a great all around player and Allen has that nice mid range shot. I expect them to do big things in France”, stressed Michael Thompson. “All three NBA draft picks have big futures. I keep telling Jon Leuer that the key for him is not to play at the top level in Europe, but to get back to the NBA. If they keep working hard then they have a good chance of getting there”, added Skyliner Justin Gray. For ex BEKO BBL player Chris Oliver who is playing his first season in France, he wasn´t too much in awe about the possible future NBA flair on the court. “There is no difference if they are on the court or not. Everyone out on the court plays well. Leuer is very skilled kind of like Justin Harper, but he handles the ball better while Harper shoots the ball better. I wish all three the best of luck”, added ex Walter Tigers Tuebingen forward Chris Oliver.
The game was extra important for five Fraport Skyliners as it was the first game for Marius Nolte as captain, Jimmy Mckinney was back from his 3 week injury, German national players Johannes Herber and Tim Ohlbrecht were giving their Frankfurt debut at home and it was the last chance for Skyliner try-out player Michael Thompson to dazzle Muli Katzurin and Kamil Novak with his basketball skills. The Fraport Skyliners were able to up their preseason record to 7-1 as they ruined the debut of SIG STrassburg head coach Vincent Collet who had led the French National team to a silver medal at Euro 2011. “It was difficult to come back from Euro 2011, because I am so tired. I will take a few days off and be back for the game on Sunday. It is important to be with the team now and they want me here. The team is young, but I have noticed that it has a good spirit and if they work hard, I think that we can be successful. We had too many turnovers and they had very strong ball movement and seemed more ready than us”, stressed SIG Strassburg head coach Vincent Collet. Collet has only been with the team a short while, but already has respect from his team. “Collet really knows his stuff. He is a very intelligent coach”, added ex BG Goettingen forward Chris Oliver. The Fraport Skyliners were in control of the game and played another steady game with a few defensive lapses, but that is normal in the pre season. “Our key to the win was our good start in the third quarter. We picked up the lead and had a few defensive break downs and gave them easy baskets on transition. We hit our shots when they went to zone”, stressed Justin Gray.
The Fraport Skyliners started off the game with a three pointer from Johannes Herber showing right away that he could also help give support with their strong shooting lineup from outside. However SIG Strassburg quickly took the lead 4-3 as their two 2011 NBA draft picks Justin Harper and Lavoy Allen scored inside. Marius Nolte and experienced Ricardo Greer exchanged hoops as SIG Strassburg led 6-5. However Frankfurt which has an arsenal of scoring talent started to get going as Justin Gray nailed an open three pointer and looks as cool and calm as George Clooney lounging on a boat on the Coma lake in Italy and Jon Leuer hit a turn around jumper to give The Fraport Skyliners a 10-6 lead. The Fraport Skyliners kept the slim lead as German National players Johannes Herber and Tim Ohlbrecht connected inside for the 16-13 lead. Herber then flew around a block and made a pretty catch and pop jumper for the 19-14 Skyliner lead. However Harper showed why he had been drafted in the NBA as he continued nailing jumpers from down town cutting the Frankfurt lead to 20-17. Michael Thompson made a nice floater in traffic and Allen scored inside as the Fraport Skyliners led 22-19 after one quarter. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 50% from the field and 33% from the three point line while SIG Strassburg were shooting 64% from the field and 67% from the three point line. SIG Strassburg had the slim 8-7 rebound lead, but four turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners only registered one turnover.
The second quarter remained very tight as the Fraport Skyliners still had the lead, but SIG Strassburg were creeping closer. When Tim Ohlbrecht has the position then it is really hard to stop him as he scored inside, but SIG Strassburg answered with a Chris Oliver one handed runner which is a lot more difficult than it looks as the Fraport Skyliners led 24-22. For a young player like Danilo Barthel, he will not get many minutes, but when he is inserted then it is key for him to make the most of his time and he did just that scoring inside getting the end one for the 27-22 Frankfurt lead. If there is one play that can change a game quick then it is the three pointer. The game next saw four three pointers as both teams lost and regained the lead. SIG Strassburg retrieved the lead with consecutive bombs from the parking lot from Justin Harper and diminutive American Kevin Anderson out of Richmond(NCAA) as SIG Strassburg led 28-27. The Fraport Skyliners have many weapons, but a Jimmy Mckinney is always capable of scoring in bunches especially from downtown as he sunk two three pointers and two free throws giving the Fraport Skyliners the 35-29 lead. “Me and Jimmy will be a good shooting tandem from outside. A combination of downtown shooting St Louis-Charlotte. I told Jimmy before the game that I was going to get him shots and I am glad I did”, joked Justin Gray. After both teams traded a few free throws, SIG Strassburg went on a 5-0 run to cut the Skyliner lead to 38-34 as Harper drooped another bomb from downtown and Ricardo Greer scored on the fast break catching Frankfurt napping. In the last minute, The Fraport Skyliners got production from new captain Marius Nolte and Jimmy Mckinney closed out the scoring with a coast to coast stomp falling to his right and seeing the ball trickle in looking like a bigger version of Wood from last season. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 47% from the field and 42% from outside while SIG Strassburg were shooting 52% from the field and 50% from outside. Frankfurt had the rebound edge 18-14and seven turnovers while SIG Strassburg had eight turnovers.
Fraport Skyliner head coach Muli Katzurin must of found the right words in the break, because his team came out in the third quarter refocused jumping out on a 7-1 run to take the 49-37 lead. The Fraport Skyliners continued to demonstrate beautiful team basketball as Justin Gray hit a jumper, Marius Nolte hit a seemingly impossible lay up as his head was under the hoop and the angle of making the shot was difficult and Quantez Robertson made a lay up. The Fraport Skyliners continued to keep the comfortable lead as Jon Leuer hit a catch and pop and Michael Thompson scored inside as the Fraport Skyliners led 53-44. However SIG Strassburg continued to fight back and took advantage of Skyliner lapses on defense going on a 11-3 run to cut the Fraport Skyliner lead to 56-55. Frankfurt didn´t achieve much on offense on this SIG Strassburg run except for another Mckinney three pointer. SIG Strassburg played intelligent basketball getting to the free throw line and getting baskets from Greer and Harper. Frankfurt closed out the third quarter with a 6-3 run to lead 62-58 after three quarters. Ohlbrecht made two free throws, snuck inside and dunked and Leuer made a mid distance jumper. Harper as usual in this game kept the French squad in the game with another three pointer.
Just like in the third quarter, the Fraport Skyliners were able to get off to a good start in the fourth quarter going on a 9-3 run to lead 71-61. For Marius Nolte nothing comes easy as he always fights 110% on the floor, but every now and then he is rewarded with an easy bucket especially when a Justin Gray serves him the ball on a platter. Leuer then showed how quick he can score by making one fake and then releasing the ball if there would be no next Christmas and Gray put some more salt into the SIG Strassburg wound with a three pointer. However SIG Strassburg weren´t on the bus home yet as they mustered some last extra energy going on a mini 4-0 run as Greer and Allen scored inside cutting the Fraport Skyliners lead to 71-65. However Frankfurt showed again countless times in this game that whenever SIG Strassburg were threatening to make the game close, that they were capable to extend their lead again to 10 points. “Our offense was key to our defense. Whenever they came back, we settled down on offense which got our defense going”, stressed Justin Gray. It was Jimmy Mckinney to the rescue again scoring six of the next eight Sklyiner points to give his team the comfortable 79-69 lead with time running down. Mckinney is known as a shooter, but seeing him explode to the hoop is always a pleasure as he did on his first basket, scoring inside on his second hoop courtesy of a Super Tez pass and then scoring from the wing with a jumper. That sealed the 7th pre season win for the Fraport Skyliners. Jon Leuer closed out the scoring with two buckets making a left one handed dunk getting a quick pass from Thompson as he had seen him breaking to the basket out of the corner of his eye and a lay up. “Frankfurt wanted it more than us. We were more aggressive and physical than in the first game, but we have to play more together and work on our rotations. We are a young team. When I am the third oldest on the team, then you know that we have a young team”, added Chris Oliver. “We picked up our defense in the second half. We worked on our rotations and they had less wide open three pointers.
The Fraport Skyliners were led by Jimmy Mckinney with 20 points. Jon Leuer added 14 points and 11 rebounds and Tim Ohlbrecht had 12 points. SIG Strassburg were led by Justin Harper with 25 points. Kevin Anderson had 15 points and Ricardo Greer contributed 12 points. Fraport Skyliner Michael Thompson had 4 points and three assists in 16 minutes and is fighting for a roster spot. With his try-out contract ending, he had a positive feeling about his chances of staying. “I have a good feeling. I am playing as hard as I can, but its not my decision whether I stay or not. I hope I can stay”, stressed Michael Thompson. Chris Oliver had been playing against Frankfurt the last years with Tuebingen and BG Goettingen and was very impressed with the club. “Frankfurt will be strong again. They have good guard play and more bigs this year. I think they are collectively stronger than last year. Justin Gray is a different kind of player than Dashaun Wood. Wood is more of a scoring point guard while Gray more of a point guard. Wood might have been the MVP last season, but the Frankfurt fans will soon know who Justin Gray is”, warned Chris Oliver. The Fraport Skyliners play at the Maritim Cup this weekend in Bonn.