There was a time between 1996-2003 that the basketball world of Alba Berlin seemed as perfect as the Michael Jordan run with the Chicago Bulls, the seemingly always flawless face of Cindy Crawford even in her rise in age or the breathless scenery of the lake Geneva. In these 7 years Alba Berlin was able to win 10 German basketball titles, including 7 league titles in a row and three cup wins. Alba Berlin ruled the German basketball world and was on top of the world like Dirk Nowitzki currently is after winning his first NBA title, or 19 year old Borrusia Dortmund German Mario Gotze currently is by invitation of the media. However since 2003, the team that plays in the posh O-2 World arena has seemed to lost that magic touch as they have only been able to win 3 titles in the last seven years with the league title in 2008 and two cup wins 2006 and 2009. What have been the main problems? Did the team loose their hunger in 2003 which somehow has been transferred over to the next teams? The Beko BBL has become more competitive and athletic in the last 5 years, coaches have come and gone, and the player transfers have not always seemed to have fit and team chemistry was lacking as well. Despite being only a game away last season from winning their 9th title, Alba Berlin knows that in order not to get passed this season by a Bamberg and Munich, the club had to react and could have heightened their title chances in 2012 with the arrival of mastermind coach Gordon Herbert.
Last season, Alba Berlin rebounded well after not knowing how the coaching change from Luka Pavicevic to Muli Katzurin would end, but the club lost on the road to the always very strong Brose Baskets Bamberg in 5 games in the Beko BBL final. Alba Berlin had chances to win game 5, but some small mistakes and missed shots coupled with some big John Goldsberry three pointers washed out their hopes of bringing the championship back to the Spree. Muli Katzurin did a wonderful job taking over a squad in mid season changing the Pavicevic style and making the Albatros game more fast and mixing up the defensive sets. He led the team from a come from behind series win against the EWE Baskets Oldenburg and a very satisfying win over the Deutsche Bank Skyliners winning 3 games on the foreign floor of the Ballsporthalle. Katzurin brought new life to guys like Bryce Taylor and Heiko Schaffartzik, but somehow despite him saving the season from a possible nightmare had he not stepped up to the helm in January, Alba Berlin was looking in a new direction with Gordon Herbert.
Alba Berlin had had success with Americans Julius Jenkins and Immanuel Mcelroy, but there is always a time for a change, just like when you give your apartment a new new look changing the colours of the living room walls. Alba Berlin did a gradual face lift bidding farewell to ex Beko BBL MVP Julius Jenkins, the best defensive player in the league Immanuel Mcelroy who had won a combined 5 titles in Berlin, 2010 Eurochallenge winner Taylor Rochestie, Serbs Tadijia Dragcevic, Miroslav Raduljica and Germanys leading title holder Patrick Femmerling. Alba Berlin kept a solid core of players with ballerina dancer Derrick Allen, Bryce Taylor whos dunk over Predrag Suput will remain in the heads of many from last seasons final series against Bamberg and a core of Germans including three point sharp shooter Heiko, Mr”when you need a crazy three point bomb give me the ball please” Schaffartzik, Sven Schultze, Yassin Idbihi, and Lucca Staiger.
Alba Berlin didn´t waste anytime getting their most important order of business squared away as they hired Gordon Herbert very early this summer. Alba Berlin see Herbert as being the man to get Alba Berlin back on the title road and not getting run over by teams like Bamberg and Munich. This will be Herberts 5th season in the Beko BBL. He led Frankfurt to their first league title in 2004 and reached the cup final that year. In 2010, he was two points away to getting Frankfurt that 2nd league title as the Skyliners lost a bitter game 5 final in Bamberg. Last season, Frankfurt lost in 5 games to Alba Berlin. Herbert is known as getting the best out of his players, but also known in being able to build a strong and successful team even if talent and deepness is lacking. Now Herbert will have a type of new challenge as the talent will be about as abundant this season for the Canadian as there is with top Israel team Macabbi Tel Aviv. Now all eyes will be focused on Herbert to see how he will make an already very talented club even better.
Even after Alba Berlin had kicked out the Deutsche Bank Skyliners from the playoffs in their own living room, they still had no mercy as they stole Mr road runner Dashaun Wood from the heart of the fans. Despite that Wood had signed a contract to stay with Frankfurt, he did put some clauses in so that he could leave the club. One of those clauses was that he would go where Gordon Herbert would go. A heart of a player can be as big as Mount Everest for a team, but about as often as the sun shines in the Costa De Sol in south Spain, the green numbered paper that rules the world mostly keeps the heart of a player more green than red. Wood who was the leagues MVP in 2011 playing 42 games: Score-1(19.0ppg), 4.6rpg, Assists-2(5.9apg), 1.2spg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 33.2%, FT: 80.3%, will more than likely not be able to post stats like that again with alba Berlin. He will have a different role in Berlin as he will be surrounded by many scorers and not have the burden on his shoulders having to score as he often did in Frankfurt. The question will be how well can his ego get used to his new role, but he has stated that winning is his biggest priority and not scoring 20 points a game. The team brought in European experience with American Torin Francis, athletic ex NBA player Kyle Weaver and a touch of Serbian fire with Marko Simonovic. The team kept a lot of last years success intact with Mr ballerina Derrick Allen, Mr everything on the court and more Bryce Taylor, Heiko “I can hit even from the Berlin TV tower Schaffartzik, inside monster Yassin Idbihi, sharpshooter Lucca Staiger and the glue that holds the team together German national player Sven Scultze.
However despite all this unending talent on board, Alba Berlin have gotten out of the wrong side of the bed this season as they have started with a less than satisfactory 2-2 record. They weren´t given a good role of the dice either getting their first three games on the road. They started with a heartbreaking 71-69 loss in Bremerhaven that probably had Herbert and Wood in long discussions after analyzing ways they could of won the game. Alba Berlin then creamed potential playoff team New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig 87-68, only to go to Phoenix Hagen the enxt week and get their second loss in a row there. Last season 37 points by Derrick Allen couldn´t get a win and this season it was Marc Carter that shot out the lights as Alba Berlin lost again 98-91. They returned to the O-2 World arena for their first home game and got a pesky fight from the Walter Tigers Tuebingen as they stayed close, but the eight time Beko BBL champion closed out the game in style with a 20-5 run to win 76-56. Except for the high scoring game in Hagen, they have defended well in the other three games letting up an average of only 71 points per game. With a new coach, players and system, Alba Berlin is just figuring each other out in the early going not too mention the building pressure to win each season. “Yea it is pressure winning wherever you are at at any level and yea they have more pressure cause the standard is higher in Berlin because of the tradition, but I think all of their players can handle it or else they wouldn’t be there”, stressed TBB Trier guard John Bynum. The season is still very young and despite being at 500, Alba Berlin should be making ground to higher spots as the seasons drags on. “I think they will get stronger as the season goes along and will be a force in the playoffs”, warned John Bynum.
Alba Berlin is led by Kyle Weaver who is a 25 year old 198cm guard/forward from Beloit, Wisconsin. Since graduating from Washington St. (NCAA) in 2008, he has breathed NBA air most of the time except for some short D-league stays and ending last season with TEC Spirou Charleroi (Belgium). In his senior year at Washington State, he played 35 games: 12.2ppg, 5.3rpg, AssistsConf-4(4.3apg), StealsConf-4(1.7spg), FGP: 46.3%, 3PT: 36.4%, FT: 73.3%: Is the first player in Pac-10 history to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 400 assists, 175 steals and 75 blocked shots in a career. Finished collegiate career ranked second in assists in Washington State history with 465, third in steals with 188, seventh in blocked shots with 93 and 17th in scoring with 1,162 points. In his first three seasons as a professional basketball player he has played a total of 73 NBA games for The Oklahoma Thunder and Utah Jazz. Weaver shins with his great defensive play and anticipation skills and is a guy that does many things well including passing and displaying ferocity of attacking the boards. His perimeter shooting has improved since turning pro. Weaver could be one of the new stars of the Beko BBL this season. Last season, he played for Oklahoma City Thunder (NBA), only pre-season, then moved to Iowa Energy (D-League): 21 games: 16.6ppg, 5.9rpg, 3.5apg, 1.3spg, 1.1bpg, FGP: 45.3%, 3PT: 41.6%, FT: 83.5%, injured in Jan.’11, in Mar.’11 signed at Austin Toros (D-League, starting five): 9 games: 13.2ppg, 5.0rpg, 2.9apg, 1.0spg, 1.1bpg, FGP: 38.9%, 3PT: 42.9%, FT: 78.0%; in Apr.’11 signed a 10-Day contract with Utah Jazz (NBA): 5 games: 5.6ppg, 2.0rpg, 1.4apg, FGP: 33.3%, 3PT: 42.9%, FT: 87.5%; later that month agreed terms with TEC Spirou Charleroi (Belgium-D1, starting five): 11 games: 7.5ppg, 3.7rpg, 1.5apg, FGP: 52.4%, 3PT: 32.1%, FT: 64.7%
Dashaun Wood is a 26 year old 185cm point guard from Detroit, Michigan. He has natural leadership abilities, who directs teammates on the floor and takes the ball in clutch moments. Loves to go inside to score, challenging the big guys, but has also shooting range from behind the 3pts arch. Despite lack of size, he can be effective even at the defensive side. He played at Wright State from 2003-2007. He then had a superb rookie season for Tisettanta Cantu (Italy-SerieA, starting five): 38 games: Score-5(16.9ppg), 3.0rpg, Assists-4(3.3apg), 2.7spg, 2FGP:52.1%, 3PT-2(42.8%), FT:77.4%. In his second season he played for : Benetton Treviso (Italy-SerieA), injured in Oct.’08 and was off for 2 months: Eurocup: 12 games: 5.3ppg, 2.0rpg, 3.3apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 40.0%, 3PT: 25.0%, FT: 87.5%; Italian League: 17 games: 7.2ppg, 2.9rpg, 3.2apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 43.1%, 3PT: 35.6%, FT: 70.4%. He sat out the next season due to injuries and The Deutsche Bank Skyliners took a gamble signing him in 2010, but it paid off. Wood who was the leagues MVP in 2011 playing 42 games: Score-1(19.0ppg), 4.6rpg, Assists-2(5.9apg), 1.2spg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 33.2%, FT: 80.3%, will more than likely not be able to post stats like that again with alba Berlin. He will have a different role in Berlin as he will be surrounded by many scorers and not have the burden on his shoulders having to score as he often did in Frankfurt. The question will be how well can his ego get used to his new role, but he has stated that winning is his biggest priority and not scoring 20 points a game. Alba Berlin then got a versatile 4/5 man with Boston native Torin Francis who should be a solid complementary player to Yassin Idbihi at the center position. Francis is a 29 year old 210cm American from Boston. He is a a highly-skilled and gifted athlete with game-breaking ability, versatile all-around frontcourt player who plays both ends of the floor extremely well, has a physical offensive and defensive presence on the court and runs the floor extremely well for a player his size. He is explosive in the post, smart decision maker with the ball and an unselfish player who knows how to distribute the ball. This will be his 6th professional season as the Notre Dame alumnist has played in countries like Italy, Israel, Turkey and Greece. Last season, he played for Bornova Bld (Turkey-TBL, starting five): 13 games: 10.2ppg, 7.2rpg, 1.3bpg, FGP: 48.2%, FT: 61.1%; and in January 11 moved to Panellinios Athens (Greece-A1, starting five): Greek League: 16 games: 12.6ppg, 6.1rpg, FGP: 52.7%, FT: 68.8%; EuroCup: 6 games: 15.7ppg, 8.2rpg, 1.2bpg, FGP: 65.0%, FT: 72.7%. His only rap may be that he has never won a title at the professional ranks.
Derrick Allen is a 31 year 203cm power forward from Gadsen, Alabama that is playing his second 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. As 1/3 of Baldi´s angels, Derrick Allen will have the most zeal to win that title and do what it takes to get that hardware. Last season he played EuroCup: 11 games: 13.0ppg, 3.5rpg, FGP: 57.6%, FT: 80.6%; Euroleague Qualifying Round: 5 games: 15.0ppg, 3.8rpg, FGP: 64.7%, FT: 56.3%; German Bundesliga: 49 games: 13.0ppg, 4.1rpg, 1.1apg, FGP-3(61.0%), FT: 78.7%. For the departure of Serb Tadijia Dragcevic, the team hauled in another talented Serb with Marko Simonovic who seem to be around on the basketball block as much as the buses on Madison avenue in New York city. Simonovic is a 24 year old 202cm forward that is a great athlete with enormous jumping ability and an attractive player with great three point shoot. He played for BC Buducnost Podgorica (Montenegro) the last three years and last season played Adriatic League: 27 games: 13.8ppg, 5.2rpg, 1.3apg, 1.6spg, FGP: 54.8%, 3PT: 37.8%, FT: 69.2%; Euroleague Qualifying Round: 2 games: 8.5ppg, 5.5rpg, 1.0apg, 2.0spg. He may only be 24, but has vast experience for a player of his age having played for teams like Telindus BC Oostende (Belgium)and KK Hemofarm Vrsac. The Serbs in general for European basketball teams seem to be as exchangeable as the women on the side of George Clooney and with Simonovic it won´t be any different as he will help Alba Berlin with his inside out game.
The team brought back Heiko Schaffartzik who is a 27 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 never found his rhythm as he played 10 games averaging 3,8ppg, 1,6rpg and 2,3apg in 15 minutes per game. He had a strong playoff series against Frankfurt and last season played German League: 32 games: 4.1ppg, 1.7rpg, 1.8apg; EuroCup: 5 games: 6.2ppg, 1.6rpg, 2.0apg, FGP: 40.0%, 3PT: 30.4%, FT: 66.7%. The team also got some insurance by bringing in 25 year old 196cm shooting guard Bryce Taylor last season 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. Three 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%. In 2009-2010 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%. In 2010, he played NBA Summer league for the Indiana Pacers. Last season for Alba Berlin Taylor played EuroCup: 11 games: 7.3ppg, 2.3rpg, 1.5apg, FGP: 53.3%, 3PT: 16.7%, FT: 83.9%; Euroleague Qualifying Round: 5 games: 0.8ppg; German League: 49 games: 7.8ppg, 3.6rpg, 1.9apg, FGP: 44.9%, 3PT: 27.5%, FT: 76.0%.
The team brings back 28 year old 208cm forward/center Yassin Idbihi from Cologne is playing his second 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. In 2009-2010, he helped lead The New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig into the BEKO BBL semi finals losing against The Brose Baskets Bamberg where he played games 39 games averaging 10.7ppg, 5.2rpg, FGP: 56.2%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 80.0%. Last season, he got better in the second half of the season playing German League: 43 games: 7.4ppg, 3.8rpg, FGP: 58.3%, FT: 73.4%; Euroleague Qualifying Round: 4 games: 3.3ppg, 3.3rpg; EuroCup: 11 games: 7.0ppg, 3.2rpg, FGP-1(71.4%), FT: 73.9%. Luka Staiger who is a 23 year old 196 cm shooting guard returns back for a third 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. In 2009-2010, 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. Last season for Alba Berlin he played German League: 41 games: 3.7ppg, 1.1rpg; Euroleague Qualifying Round: 5 games: 2.4ppg; EuroCup: 11 games: 3.8ppg, 1.0rpg, 1.2apg, also a license to play for ALBA Berlin II (ProB): 2 games: 18.5ppg, 3.5rpg, 4.5apg, 1.0spg. 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 33 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 the 2009-2010 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. Last season for Alba Berlin he played EuroCup: 12 games: 4.7ppg, 2.3rpg; Euroleague Qualifying Round: 2 games: 3.5ppg, 1.5rpg; German League: 43 games: 3.1ppg, 1.3rpg.
It may only have been 5 months since The Skyliners lost a very bitter 5 game series in which they weren´t able to win a single game in the Ballsporthalle. Maybe the team led by Muli Katzurin will have more luck now as the Fraport Skyliners in the Fraport arena. Derrick Allen who was loved in Frankfurt the way Darius Hall was and still is loved in the Artland region, left on his own terms two seasons ago with the blessings of all fans to win a title which he still hasn´t in Berlin and should get a warm welcome. However the way Gordon Herbert and Dashaun Wood left was not in kind memory by the fans and could get a rude homecoming. The matchup of the game should be the two point guards Dashaun Wood and Justin Gray. “.I think this will be a great match up and very exciting. Both guards play a major role in their teams success so it should be a great match up”, warned John Bynum. Justin Gray is one player that should be very motivated, because in the last games he has been searching for his preseason form and wants to lead his team to victory. “We have to regroup this week an dnot look back at the Ulm game and let it bother us. Coach Herbert is back. This will be a big game. We will practice very hard this week and will be ready”, warned Justin Gray. There are many areas that the Fraport Skyliners can improve on and should be corrected this week in practice. “We gave them too many open looks. That is where our problems start. We can´t let teams get in a flow, because once the ystart to hit shots their confidence grows”, stressed Jon Leuer. If the game is tight, The Fraport Skyliners can´t let a new Dane Watts candidate from Berlin take over in crunch time. Executing on offense and defense down the stretch is key”, added Michael Thompson. Playing a total game and not semi total game also will be vital. “Frankfurt has to come together and take quality shots. They have to make it difficult for Alba Berlin on offense and not get in a hole. They can´t just play for 20 minutes and sit back, but play for 40 minutes”, warned ratiopharm Ulm forward Steve Esterkamp. TBB Trier guard John Bynum hasn´t faced both teams yet, but knows the key for success. “. Frankfurt has to control the tempo and the boards. I think Berlin has to speed up the game and use their depth as an advantage”, warned John Bynum. “You can never completely shut down Dashaun Wood, but just hope to slow him down a bit. But Alba Berlin is not only Dashaun Wood, but it has many quality players. We have to remember that is is Fraport Skyliners against Alba Berlin and not against Dashaun Wood. We improved against Ulm and want to continue that trend this weekend. We also hope to use our big men in the best way possible”, commented Skyliner head coach Muli Katzurin. The Fraport Skyliners host Alba Berlin October 29th.