Can Michael Koch Lead The Telekom Baskets Bonn Return To The Playoffs With A New Trust And Less Mcdonalds?

Since head coach Michael Koch has had free reigns of gobbling up players each new season, his trust in American players and their abilities has been as strong as the Boston Bruins belief that their 2011 Stanley Cup win was no fluke and waiting another 39 years for the next one is out of the question, American singer Rihanna confident that her new album Talk Talk talk with hit single Take A Bow is a track that many people will rap about for years to come or Lindsay Lohan somehow not abruptly disappearing, but continuing to hang around in the news showing her support for legend Marilyn Monroe in her own essay for a new coffee book. In the last five years with 60 players on the roster, Koch has picked 35 Americans.  It has been no secret that Michael Koch Has had faith in the Americans the last years as much as Skyliner fans have seeing Quantez Robertson take new athletic and breathtaking lift offs to the basket this season, Bastian Schweinsetiger doing some more trick shots with the basketball, or Dashaun Wood feeding Derrick Allen an ally-op pass, but being rejected from behind at the second from Super Tez Robertson. However after not reaching the playoffs last season for only the second time in their basketball existence, the German coach decided to go in another direction supplementing the roster with only three Americans which could give the few Mcdonalds in the Rhine city less business now with less of an influx of Americans playing there. For some Americans going to Mcdonalds is about as regular as Germans going to the beer garden, going to Mallorca for vacation for driving a Volkswagen and sometimes when your in a new country and are shy and see the big yellow arches, one just can´t resist. “I actually only visit Mcdonalds about once a month in Europe, but I think the Americans rather have a greasy Big Mac and French fries then good tasty Wiener Schnitzel”, smiled Steven Wright who is earning his bucks in Finland this season. With less Americans and players from other countries, there might be an influx to taste the real German classic food. “The Mcdonalds might be down, but the Wiener Schnitzel will be up”, laughed EnBW Ludwigsburg Mark Dorris.

The Telekom Baskets Bonn have been in the playoffs since 1997 almost as often as Allen Iverson said “Practice” in his infamous press conference as the club of coach Michael Koch missed just two times in 2005 and in 2011, but have the cruel distinction of not being able to win the big title losing five finals and two cup finals that brings back memories to the NFL Buffalo Bills of the 90s as they perished in four Superbowl finals. The Telekom Baskets Bonn were BBL finalists in 1997,1999, 2001, 2008 and 2009 and Cup finalists in 2005 and 2009. If you lose one final, try try again and if you lose a second consecutive final try try again, but if you reach a third final then the team has to finally win or forever be classified as the German basketball version of the Buffalo Bills football team that had the distinction of being second way too many times. A Michael Phelps has never worried about being second since he has won 11 gold medals at the Olympics, two bronze medals, but no silver medals. Being second hurts about as much as catching someone cheating, but in the BBL with guys coming and going, the trademark of always finishing second shouldn´t really effect a team mentally as much as one might think. “I don’t think that it takes a toll on the team. Teams are usually building new teams each year. But with Bonn that has kept a good core of guys from the last years, that should help the team more than hurt it when it comes to winning a title”, added ex Gloria Giants Duesseldorf guard Steven Wright.

However Last season was a season to forget for the Telekom Baskets Bonn as they finished in 13th place with a record of 14-20. It is always difficult enough to be known as a team not being able to win a title, but not reaching the playoffs is about as unexpected as Bayern Munich soccer team losing games at the moment, Paris Hilton refraining from wearing big sunglasses anywhere as tha fetish seems to have returned to her, or Boris Becker ever forgetting what happened in a London hotel closet. Bonn had a very talented team last season with seven Americans and at times were carried in many games by the trio of Nic Wise, Folarian Campbell and Jeremy Hunt that averaged 38 points out of the team total 71 points per game, however the team play just wasn´t consistent enough. “They had some great individual players, but they just didn´t seem to gell last season”, added ex Phoenix Hagen guard Mark Dorris. Their biggest wins last season have been against BG Goettingen, The EWE Baskets Oldenburg and The Artland Dragons. A big five game winning streak in December helped the team in the first half, but in the second half of the season the team seemed to falter as they finished the season from February to May with a 2-12 record and raised many questions. “I think that they had too many players that wanted to much for themselves than for the team”, remembered ex Tuebingen guard Steven Wright. In those 12 games, the team lost only three games by less than five points and lost the rest pretty easily.

With the misfortune of last year, the club decided to revamp and made a total facelift  saying farewell to 10 players. They kept the support and back bone of the team with Beko BBL dinosaur Chris Ensminger and young Germans Fabian Thulig and Jonas Wohlfarth-Bottermann. The team also kept long time coach Michael Koch who keeps the patience and trust of management and has a contract until 2013. The team brought in versatile power forward Tony Gaffney who has been with the Boston Celtics and Assist magnet Jared Jordan who returns back to the club after a year in Greece to round out the American trio. To help fill the void of new extra Americans, the team got two players from Lithuvania with Simonas Serapinas and Benas Veikalis and Zvonko Buljan. Koch also has trust in Germans Daniel Hain and Andrej Mangold. Koch works now with a 10 man roster and sees his switch from American ball to European ball as positive. “It is easier to integrate Europeans into a team than it is Americans who tend to think I before we”, stressed Michael Koch. So far his tactics have paid off as The Telekom Baskets Bonn rest a top the Beko BBL standings with a 3-0 record. They started off the season with a big 80-76 win at home against new team Bayern Munich, then won on the road against Phoenix Hagen 95-83 and won at home against the LTi Giessen 46ers 83-67. In all three games there have been three different top scorers and three different top rebounders. “Bonn is going in the right direction. I am sure Koch has the players playing their rolls. It is nice that Jared Jordan is back. He will really help them”, warned Steven Wright.

The club did a fantastic job complementing the team with 37 year old 209cm center veteran Chris Ensminger in 2009-2010 and has returned for a third season and just keeps going  is as known in the BEKO BBL as jiffy popcorn in the states. He is a BBL statesman that has won two BBL titles with Bamberg in 2005 and 2007, had season double double averages in the BBL with ppg and rpg from 2001-2005. He always gives 100% with relentless hard work under the hoop and one has to look closely for him to sneak a smile during a game. He is a strong center with fantastic rebound-skills, can score from the low-post. He is right handed, but shoots FTs with the left hand. His biggest success was with Bamberg, but he also played in Paderborn and MBC. Before he came to Germany, he played in the NCAA with Valparaiso from 1992-1996. Then he got his first experience as a professional basketball player in Portugal, France and New Zealand. Last season for Bonn, he played EuroCup: 5 games: 16.0ppg, 10.0rpg, 1.0apg, FGP: 50.0%, FT: 75.0%; German League: 35 games: 12.8ppg, Reb-2(8.5rpg), 1.1apg, FGP: 54.9%, FT: 74.0%. Ensminger may be 37, but his intelligence may out weigh his talent. “Ensminger plays so hard and is always in the right position on the boards. He won´t out jump anyone, but he is pretty smart”, stressed Quentin Pryor. Former teammate Steve Wright has fond memories of the native from Ohio as they were played together in Paderborn. “Chris is smarter than his opponents and always puts himself in the right position. He is extremely disciplined and is a leader. I don´t think there is really a way to stop him as he is very consistent. He was like a big brother for me and when he gave me advice I listened”, added ex New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig guard Steven Wright. The game of Ensminger also seems to have a special taste as he is always a joy to watch. “His hook shot at the 2010 BEKO BBL Allstar game was very nice. He has an old school game so I wasn´t shocked when I saw it. He seems to have a bag of shots like that”, commented Quentin Pryor. Alex King played two seasons with the veteran that plays like a 28 year old. “He is one of the best centers in the league and can do it all under the hoop, pass, and use both hands. He is just a complete player. Of the court he is a quiet player, but one that you can talk to. I have a lot of respect for him”, expressed Alex King.

The team also brought back Jared Jordan who is a 27 year old 188cm point guard from Hartford that understands how to run a team. Has great court vision and leadership. He played at Marist from 2003-2007 and finished his last two seasons as the top assist man in the NCAA with 8,5a nd 8,7apg. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round in 2007. He never played in the NBA, but was always very close as he visited training camps with The New York Knicks in 2007 and New Orleans Hornets in 2008. Before coming to Bonn in 2009, he played for top team Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius (Lithuania-LKL) and had a stint in the D-league for Rio Grande Valley Vipers (D-League): 36 games: 10.9ppg, 3.8rpg, Assists-2(9.0apg), 2.0spg, FGP: 45.9%, 3PT: 28.0%, FT: 70.3%. In his first season with Bonn, he played EuroCup: 5 games: 6.4ppg, 3.4rpg, 4.4apg, FGP: 37.9%, 3PT: 10.5%, FT: 80.0%; German League: 37 games: 9.0ppg, 4.2rpg, Assists-4(5.3apg), FGP: 43.4%, 3PT: 32.1%, FT: 76.8%. Last season, he played for VAP Kolossos Rodou (Greece-A1, starting five): 27 games: 6.3ppg, 2.6rpg, Assists-1(5.5apg), FGP: 52.3%, 3PT: 23.2%, FT: 56.0%. The club also welcomed American Tony Gaffney who is a 26 year old 204cm forward from Berkley, Massachusetts that is a playing his first season in Germany. He is a forward who brings a high level of energy and athleticism to any teams he joins. He is a tenacious rebounder and great defender. He was the Atlantic 10 Conference defensive player of the year in 2008-09, and one of the nation’s leading shot-blockers. He played at Boston University from 2004-2006, before heading west to Amherst to play for Massachusetts (NCAA). In his senior year, he played 30 games: 11.5ppg, RebA10-2(10.2rpg), 1.7apg, StealsA10-2(2.0spg), BlocksNCAA-3(3.8bpg), FGP: 54.2%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 64.6%: Finished career at UMass ranked seventh all-time in blocks (174).In 2009-2010, he got some experience in Israel before joining the Boston Celtics in April 2010. In 2010-2011, he started with the Boston Celtics, but moved to the Turk Telekom Ankara (Turkey-TBL): Turkish League: 8 games: 6.0ppg, 2.4rpg, FGP: 63.0%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 80.0%; EuroChallenge: 3 games: 8.0ppg, 4.7rpg, 1.0spg; left in Jan.’11, same month acquired by Utah Flash (D-League): 38 games: 10.3ppg, 6.8rpg, 2.3apg, 1.4spg, Blocks-4(2.3bpg), FGP: 55.9%, 3PT: 27.8%, FT 66.7%.

The team brought in some real European flair and experience with Simonas Serapinas who is a 29 year old 197cm forward from Lithuania that is a A versatile, gifted swingman who gives his best in outside shooting. Can spend time in the 2 and 3 positions, playes very well without the ball. Thanks to his strong body, he could play even Power forward if needed. He hasplayed in countries like Greece, Ukraine, Poland and Italy. He played for top teams B.C. Zalgiris Kaunas, Aris Thessaloniki and Azovmash Mariupol. He has 53 Euroleague games under his belt, and has won titles in Lituvania and Poland and played at the 2005 European championships where Germany got silver. Last season, he played for Cimberio Varese (Italy-SerieA): 7 games: 3.4ppg, 1.9rpg. The team also acquired Benas Veikalis from Lithuania who is a 28 year old 192 cm guard. He first got experience in the States playing for Metropolitan St. (NCAA2) the same schhol where TBB Trier guard John Bynum played. He played for Nevezis Kedainiai (LKL) from 2007-2009 and the last two seasons for BK Prostejov (Czech Rep.-NBL) where last season he played EuroChallenge: 14 games: 15.7ppg, 2.9rpg, 2.0apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 53.0%, 3PT: 43.5%, FT: 85.7%; Czech Rep. League: 44 games: 13.9ppg, 2.9rpg, 1.7apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 49.5%, 3PT-2(47.1%), FT: 81.3%. The club also hauled in young and interesting Zvonko Buljan who is a 24 year old 206cm forward from Croatia. He played at Texas Christian university and in his senior year had remarkable stats averaging 12.2ppg, 8.6rpg, 2.1apg, FGP: 45.4%, 3PT: 26.0%, FT: 70.1%. Last season as a rookie, he played for Bornova Bld (Turkey-TBL), in Nov.’10 loaned to Cytavision Apoel Nicosia (Cyprus-Division A): Cypriot League: EuroChallenge: 6 games: 10.8ppg, 7.7rpg, 1.0apg, FGP: 54.8%, 3PT: 28.6%, FT: 70.0%; Cyprus League: 12 games: 11.3ppg, Reb-4(7.3rpg), 1.3apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 46.7%, 3PT: 45.8%, FT: 63.3%, in Apr.’11 moved to PAOK Thessaloniki (Greece-A1).

The team also has their healthy core of young Germans to fill out the roster. The oldest of the bunch is Daniel Hain who is playing his first season in Bonn. After starting his career in 2003 with ETB Essen, and played for Herten from 2004-2007. He then played for the EWE Baskets Oldenburg from 2007-2011 helping win the 2009 Beko BBL title. Who could forget him being the shadow of Pascal Roller during the 2009 playoffs covering him on the court. With Oldenburg, he played 95 Beko BBL games, nine Eurocup games, six Eurocup games and five Eurochallenge games. The team also signed 24 year old 190cm Andrej Magold, who might get his first real chance in Bonn. He has bounced around German yin the last years playing  regionalliga basketball with Hannover and TB Oldenburg and then playing second division ball with FC Bayern Munich from 2007-2009. In 2009-2010, he played for UBC Hannover Tigers (ProA, starting five): 25 games: 8.5ppg, 3.1rpg, 3.0apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 45.7%, 3PT: 35.7%, FT: 69.1%. last season, he played for the Artland Dragons Quakenbrueck (1.Bundesliga): 26 games: 0.5ppg; also a license to play for SC Rasta Vechta (ProB): 2 games: 1.5ppg, 4.0rpg, 2.5apg, 1.0spg. The team also return Fabian Thulig who is a 22 year old 196cm forward who has been with the club since 2006. He made his debut in the Beko BBL in 2008 at age 18. He has been brought along slowly, but has been developing well. Last season, he played 26 games Beko BBL games averaging 2.8ppg, 1.5rpg; EuroChallenge: 6 games: 4.5ppg; also played at Dragons Rhoendorf (ProA)15 games: 9.7ppg, 4.1rpg, 2.2apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 46.7%, 3PT: 25.0%, FT: 78.0%.  Jonas Wolfarth-Botterman is a 21 year old 207cm center that has been with the club since 2007. Last season he played 4 Beko BBL games averaging 1.5ppg, 1.8rpg; also have a license to play at Dragons Rhoendorf (ProA) playing 29 games: 12.8ppg, 7.9rpg, Blocks-1(2.1bpg), FGP: 54.9%, 3PT-1(50.0%), FT: 44.9%.

. In the last five seasons, The Deutsche Bank Skyliners only have a 5-12 record. It doesn´t matter if Frankfurt played at the old gym or in the new arena, Frankfurt is 0-9 in this time. The last time, The Deutsche Bank Skyliners won in Bonn, New England patriot Tom Brady had not sipped champagne yet as a third Super Bowl winner, Jurgen Klinsmann was still coach of the German national soccer team, Paul Potts was still selling cell phones and singing in front of the mirror and the terrifying Tsunami was only a few days old as Frankfurt won in Bonn on January 1st 2005 with a 79-67 win as Chris Williams exploded with 27 points and 16 rebounds.Last season the Skyliners lost a tight 92-89 game shortly before the new year as Nic wise took control in crunch time.The 20 point, eight rebound and seven assist performance didn´t help in the losing cause from Dashaun Wood. Frankfurt got revenge in the return date in the Ballsporthalle as they took apart Bonn 78-60 as Dashaun Wood led all scorers with 20 points and no Bonn player scored in double figures.

Since the big win against FC Bayern Munich on the opening day of the season, The Telekom Baskets Bonn have had little problems disposing of weaker teams Phoenix Hagen and Giessen. The Fraport Skyliners cruise into the game with a two game winning streak and big crunch time wins as Jon leuer helped win the game in Tuebingen and Justin Gray hit an unbelievable buzzer beater against the s. Oliver Baskets Wurzburg. Bonn comes into the Fraport arena with a lot of confidence while the Skyliners not only have self confidence, but a lot of adrenaline still within them after the big win two days ago. Frankfurt had huge problems against Wurzburg gathering rebounds and will need added help form the guards and co against the strong duo of Ensminger and Gaffney. “We already beat them in pre season. We will have to rebound better and make our free throws. I think that as long as we play hard, then everything will fall into place”, stated ex NBA player Jermareo Davidson. Stopping the point guard is always key which no team has been able to do against Bobby Brown so far this season, and the Fraport Skyliners have a big task with Jared Jordan. “Jordan does a lot for that team. We will have to stop him. Defensive rebounding will be huge and we have to execute on offense and defense”, warned Justin Gray. It will take a team effort to stop the defeated Bonn team. “Bonn is very versatile can get the ball inside and they have good shooters. We will have to rebound better and have quick feet and not let them get in the lane. We have to play our style and play as a team”, expressed Michael Thompson. The Fraport Skyliners host The Telekom Baskets Bonn on Saturday October 15th.

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