January is always an interesting month in the Beko BBL as the Allstar break surfaces and the schedule allows many teams to have their two meetings of the season in only a short period of time. After the Fraport Skyliners celebrated a more than satisfying 64-56 win in the always noise infested Osthalle against the LTi Giessen 46ers on January second, the two teams will battle in round two of the 2012 Hessen derby again on January 20th in the Fraport arena. So much can happen in an 18 day span in this huge world like Hollywood actor George Clooney dating half of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleader squad and it somehow not being noticed, Tim Tebow getting one million marriage proposals for his heroic play in the last months and getting the thumbs up from stone cold Steve Austin for duplicating the infamous 3:16 against the New England Patriots which didn´t happen, Paris Hilton setting a new Google record for clicks or Kim kardashian/Kris Humphries continuing to set new news records with their bizarre relationship. However one thing is certain, in this 18 day span nothing will change with the immaculate on going nine game winning streak of the Fraport Skyliners and four game winning streak at home against the LTi Giessen 46ers. The last time that Giessen won in Frankfurt was in 2007 as Rouven Roessler hit a buzzer beater dashing the hopes of the then Deutsche Bank Skyliners. Roessler is now playing for BG Karlsruhe since years and could enter the arena now and remain unnoticed by Skyliner players except for Jimmy Mckinney or sport director Kamil Novak who might cringe at his presence as they were in the arena on that bitter day. No current Giessen player was in the arena in 2007 and surely don´t know about the long losing streak and will be focused on getting a much needed win to stay alive in the standings. “Records are there to be broken. We don’t care what the record is or who the team is. We just want to win”, stressed Giessen 46er Achmadschah Zazai.
On January 20, the Fraport Skyliners will be visited by the LTi Giessen 46ers and a a very big special quality about the Hessen derby is that the two cities are only 65 kilometers apart, which gives fans the opportunity to be at both games. This is a charmed quality of service in the BBL that the distances are not as far, but in the NBA for example in a Lon Angeles-Boston series, it is very rare for fans to travel around the NBA, unless your actor Jack Nicholson, who can travel with a private jet, champagne and some models clinging from his arms. The Frankfurt-Giessen series is so close in comparison to NBA standards as if a kid had to only walk down the street to get some candy in the drug store. The two cities are are in size as different as are the skyscraper Messe turm in Frankfurt and a two story University building in Giessen. The town of Giessen is known as a University location and almost half of the population are students. Giessen is one of the few cities in Germany that has a Budhist temple and one of Electronic music most known German DJs Chris Liebing. Giessen is diminutive, but have a huge heart for Basketball.”Giessen loves Basketball! It is tradition there”, added Murat Didin.
Last season, despite losing eight players including key guys like David Teague, Kevin Johnson, and Lorenzo Williams and only keeping two players with Elvir Ovcina and Jannik Freese, the Giessen 46ers jumped out to a 5-2record and was one of the biggest surprises in the BEKO BBL last season together with Phoenix Hagen in the first two months. The team might not have beat the most glamorous sounding and strong BEKO BBL teams besides the Telekom Baskets Bonn, but they played The EWE Baskets Oldenburg tough and losing a nail bitter to the Brose Baskets Bamberg 81-80, a game where they made a furious comeback and just coming up short. “We started playing defense after 30 minutes against Bamberg”, stressed Elvir Ovcina. Giessen may not have the most talented, but they had achieved one important ingredient early that many teams have problems finding which is that early team chemistry. “We had a complete squad and many people players complimented each other. We had very athletic wing players and big guys with great hands and that take up a lot of space. We knew how to work with each other and we know each time that when we stepped on the court, we were capable of surprising any team in the BEKO BBL”, added Elvir Ovcina. In 2009-2010, the team started 0-6 and after six games last season had 4 wins already. “Management did a good job bringing in new players. Only me and Jannik Freese remained. We might not have good results in preseason, but we always knew that if we continued to work hard, we would have success”, stressed Elvir Ovcina. “I wasnt surprised by the good Giessen start. They had some talent on their team that came together early”, commented Quentin Pryor. “Their strength were their guards who were great and you had a great inside presence with Peacock. As far their weaknesses, I think just consistency”, expressed John Bynum. The question remained how well the Giessen 46ers would play if the team sustained an injury or went into a slump. Misfortune hit the club in Frankfurt as Anthony Smith got hurt in the first half in the 82-64 loss. After this loss, it seemed like some nasty plague was stuck in them as the team went on a 13 game losing streak as the team went from the playoffs places to the back places of the standings as quickly as Marv Albert can yelp yessssssssssssss. The team then made changes and some results started to evolve. The team brought in the fire man Michael Jordan to try to save the season and brought in coach Steven Key. “Giessen had been up and down last season but they became a different team , with a new head coach and the addition of MJ, they can play with anyone on any night just like any other team in the BBL”, warned John Bynum. Since the arrival of Jordan, the team started to win more games and slowly crawled away from the bottom. The team seemed very solid at the start of the season, but with the addition of new coach Steven key and Jordan and Jeffers, the team seemed to be so much stronger at the end. The LTI Giessen season was saved as they finished the season in 15th place with a record of 9-25. They finished the season losing six of their last seven games, but beat MBC on the second to last game day to save their miserable season.
Every new season, a new saying can be, it can only get better as fans can only hope that something will change and some kind of success will come back to the small university town. The club decided to bring in 29 year old Bjoern Harmsen who is younger than the star players Elvir Ovcina and Maurice Jeffers. Harmsen brought success to MBC, so why can´t he do the same in Giessen? Back in the 70s, Giessen had nothing to do with cellar duels as they won many German titles, but any dreaming of that is as distant as Kevin Durnant ever playing for BBC Bayreuth. “Our goal is to stay in the league. If we can limit injuries then maybe we can achieve a bit more”, added Bjoern Harmsen. Harmsen came to Giessen and did a house cleaning axing eight players, but keeping team captain Elvir Ovcina who is getting worse with age, but continues to be one of the top centers in the league, fan favorite and x-factor Maurice Jeffers who can always change a game with his play, young German big man Robert Ohle and young developing German point guard Mathias Perl. He brought in MBC players Wayne Bernard who is a Beko BBL veteran and point guard Radenko Pilcevic. Some players didn´t worl out like Angel Garcia and Bozo Djurasovic, but Harmsen had an ace in his back pocket bringing in more quality with second year man Barry Stewart, athletic rebounder and Euroleague veteran Koko Archibong and flashy Achmadschau Zazai. Harmsen also got a lot of credit for bringing in basketball project Misan Nikabatse who is always remembered for his dunk over Yao Ming in 2002 and seemed to be on his way to the NBA in 2002. His career didn´t quite reach the heights that he expected to and he was saved by Harmsen as the German hadn´t played professional basketball in the last two years.
At the moment, the LTI Giessen 46ers are keeping themselves a float in the middle field of the Beko BBL standings and position 15 and can´t afford to go on a big losing streak as the cellar will creep up faster than Bob Cat guard Kemba Walker can sink a floater in the lane. Giessen started the season slow with a three game losing streak, but then won a wild 110-109 scoring festival in the Osthalle. They won back to back games in Trier and was the frst team this season to beat the Brose Baskets Bamberg at home 68-65. Giessen has been some what unpredictable as they beat Phoenix Hagen at home, but also lost on back to back weekends on the road in Munich and Tuebingen by a combined score of 59 points, but then again should have beat Braunschweig at home losing 63-62 not being able to win game on last possession. In the Beko BBL, any team can beat any team and Giessen has the potential to always be capable of making surprises. “Giessen is a great team that plays tough. They play very well at home and play scrappy. They can move the ball well and have good perimeter shooters with Stewart and Bernard. They also know how to defend and press very well”, stressed ex LTi Giessen 46er Michael Umeh. One thing that Giessen excels at is their guard play. “You need to take away their guard play. They seem to make about 60% of their points from their guards. You also always have to be aware of Elvir Ovcina. I have played against him a lot and he is such a great passer and has great court vision”, warned ex Wake Forest player Kyle Visser. Defense also seems to have gelled in the early going as the yhave allowed 75 points or fewer in eight of the first 14 games. “Our strength is our defense. If we can keep teams at 75 points, then we always have a good chance to win”, added Achmadschau Zazai. Despite the well rounded guard play, point guard Zazai knows where the team can still improve. “We have to have better ball movement. We have the least assists in the league”, warned Zazai. Since the loss to the Fraport Skyliners on January second, the LTi Giessen 46ers have a 1-1 record losing in Ulm and getting abig 76-61 win at home against the Walter Tigers Tuebingen. “We haven´t changed much since the loss to Frankfurt. We have made many mistakes and want to continue to minimize them from game to game”, warned Achmadschah Zazai.
The Fraport Skyliners may not have had the best start this season, but are slowly starting to recover thanks to their extremely strong and proud play on the road as they have won their last five straight wins on the road. The Fraport Skyliners still have some injury woes, but seemed to have played their best when confronted with tough injuries and undermanned line ups. The team has received a big spark off the bench from Devin Gibson. The 182cm rookie played at the University of Texas at San Antonio and recently performed at the San Antonio Spurs training camp. In Wurzburg, he was a big reason for the win getting 11 points and setting the tone on offense with his penetration and drawing fouls and also adding stability to the defense. “If Frankfurt can play like they did in Braunschweig then they will have good chances with their fighting mentality. Having Davidson play well and controlling their guards and denying Ovcina in the low post will be key for getting a win in Giessen”, stressed ex EnBW Ludwigsburg center Kyle Visser. Frankfurt continue to do an excellent job limiting turnovers especially against press defense and will need to do it again in Giessen. “Frankfurt has to take care of the ball and limit their turnovers against the Giessen press”, warned Braunschweig sharp shooter Lamarr Greer. LTi Giessen guard Radenko Pilcevic already did his homework early about how to beat Frankfurt. “We have to play tough defense like we did against Braunschweig. Frankfurt is better with the recent good play of Davidson and Burtschi. We have to stop these two guys”, warned Radenko Pilcevic. If the game goes down to the wire, then Frankfurt should know which 46er will get the ball in his hand. “Jeffers is our x-factor. He will get the ball in the deciding moment”, warned Achmadschau Zazai. “my ex teammate Jeffers brings a difference to the game when it counts”, warned Michael Umeh. Jeffers has been out for weeks and was really missing in the 64-56 loss in Giessen and the team responded by bringing in Taj Mucullough who played at Winthrop with ex Tuebingen American Michael Jenkins and has gained experience having a gig in the Washington Wizzards pre season camp in 2008 and playing in countries like Israel, Latvia and Australia. This season, he played shortly for the Reno Big Horns in the D-league averaging 8,7ppg and 3,3rpg. “He helps us a lot with his athleticism and draws many defenders to him which creates free space for us. He will help us a lot”, warned Achmadschah Zazai. Zazai knows what Giessen will have to do better than what they couldn´t do in the 64-56 loss 18 days ago. “We have to defend consistently for 40 minutes”, added Zazai.
In the last years, The Skyliners have dominated the Hessen derby posting a 11-2 record. Frankfurt has demonstrated a special confidence and calmness that makes the Osthalle in Giessen look more like their own personal lounge area than a hostile Giessen playground with naughty kids throwing sticks and stones. Who could forget the onslaught before Christmas 2005 as Frankfurt routed Giessen 96 to 63 with seven three pointers from Desmond Ferguson. “I had a good rhythm going on in that game and my teammates made a good job getting me the ball. I wasn´t able to find my rhythm much while I played in Frankfurt for various reasons, but that game was probably my highlight playing there”, added ex Skyliner Desmond Ferguson. Three years ago under the guidance of Charles Barton, Frankfurt won a nail bitter 73 to 67 as Frankfurt showed nerves of steal in the dwindling minutes of the fourth quarter. Two years ago, Frankfurt won a tight game, even though it seemed like they were never in any real danger of losing as Derrick Allen led the team with 19 points and an energized Alex King flew into the arena with a specially made superman cape and steered the team off the bench scoring in double figures. Who could forget the buzzer beater by Karlsruhe German Rouven Roessler in 2007? Well that game winning shot that beat Frankfurt was 34 months ago, and Roessler still has the shot dancing in his dreams. “I remember that buzzer beater as if it was yesterday. I got the video clip to the game three weeks ago”, said ex Giessen 46er Rouven Roessler. . In the 2008-2009 season, The Deutsche Bank Skyliners won in Giessen 75-57 getting 19 points form Lorenzo Gordon. In Frankfurt, they pounded Giessen 93-72 as Pascal Roller and in 2009-2010, Frankfurt won at home 80-69 getting 22 points from Derrick Allen. The last game against Giessen was a nail bitter win by Frankfurt in Giessen which was won 69-68 as Pascal Roller won the game with 13 seconds to play with two free throws. In the first meeting last season Frankfurt won 82-64 as Giessen was outscored 48-21 in the second half. The Deutsche Bank Skyliners were led by Dashaun Wood with 21 points and Roger Powell added 18 points. In the second meeting in Frankfurt, Giessen lost 81-62 as Dashaun Wood scored 26 points. The last time that Frankfurt lost was in December 2002 and they have won the last nine games in a row against Giessen on the road and last four games in a row at home against the Hessen opponent.
The LTi Giessen 46ers are led by 32 year old 194cm shooting guard/small forward Maurice Jeffers who is back in Giessen for a fourth season. He played at St Louis(NCAA) and was drafted by The Sacremento Kings in 2001. He played five years in Spain before coming to the Giessen 46ers in 2008. In 2009-2010, he averaged 14.4ppg, 4.0rpg, 1.3apg, FGP: 55.0%, 3PT: 35.3%, FT: 79.4%. Last season he played in Cyprus and Argentina before coming to Giessen where he finished the season playing 13 games: 10.2ppg, 4.2rpg, 1.2apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 47.6%, 3PT: 44.7%, FT: 80.8%. In Spain, he won the Spanish LEB Gold (Cope Principe de Asturias) in 2008 with Leche Rio Breogan Lugo. The team also brought back 35 year old 211cm power forward/center Elvir Ovcina who came late to the Giessen 46ers in the 2009-2010 season and is playing his third season in Giessen. He is a movable center, who passes and scores well. He played at Syracuse (NCAA) from 1995-1999 and played a year together with ex NBA player John Wallace reaching the NCAA final in 1996 losing to Kentucky. He played for the EWE Baskets Oldenburg from 2001-2004 and won the BEKO BBL cup with Rhein Energy Cologne in 2005. He had his most success as a player with one team with Ostende winning the league title in 2006 and 2007 and cup in 2008. In 2009-2010 for Giessen, he played 14 games averaging 14.1ppg, 8.1rpg, 2.8apg, 1.0bpg, FGP: 57.7%, 3PT: 32.3%, FT: 69.4%. Last season, he played 34 games: 11.4ppg, 6.6rpg, 2.4apg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 17.6%, FT: 76.4%.
Barry Stewart is a 23 year old 191cm shooting guard from Shelbyville, Tennessee who is playing his second season in the Beko BBL and first with Giessen. He played at Mississippi St. (NCAA) from 2006-2010 and in his senior year played 36 games: 11.8ppg, 3.6rpg, 2.7apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 37.4%, 3PT: 35.1%, FT: 71.4%. Last season he was a Beko BBL rookie with TBB Trier playing 35 games: 8.8ppg, 3.4rpg, FGP: 35.8%, 3PT: 31.4%, FT: 78.4%. Wayne Bernard who was the 2009 PRO A player of the year is a 30 year old 190cm combo guard from Poway, California who is playing his first season for the LTi Giessen 46ers. He has displayed a knack for knocking down clutch baskets in key situations and is a player that performs at his best in pressure situations. He has superb range on his jumper, and can also drive to the hoop with slashing moves. He is also a capable ball handler. He played at Davidson(NCAA) from 2000-2003. Bernard has very much experience having played in countries like Israel, Greece, France, Sweden and Finland It doesn´´t matter where Bernard has played, he has always been a scorer. in the 2008-2009 season where MBC moved up to the BEKO BBL, he played 30 games: 14.4ppg, 2.3rpg, 2.6apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 56.9%, 3PT: 43.2%, FT: 80.4%. In 2009-2010 for MBC, he played 34 games: 8.6ppg, 1.9rpg, 1.7apg, Steals-5(1.5spg), FGP: 41.6%, 3PT: 33.6%, FT: 80.8%. Last season for MBC, he played 34 games: 11.1ppg, 3.1rpg, 1.8apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 46.9%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 85.7%. . Radenko Pilcevic is a 25 year old 188cm guard from Serbia that is playing his first season for Giessen. He had solid stats at KK Borac Cacak in 2008-2009 playing 31 games and averaging 10.7ppg, 2.0rpg, 2.9apg, 1.5spg, FGP: 54.2%, 3PT: 31.9%, FT: 85.1%. Pilcevic played for MBC from 2009-2011 and in his first season played 33 games averaging 7.4ppg, 1.7rpg, 3.2apg, FGP: 50.7%, 3PT: 31.7%, FT: 72.0%. Last season for MBC, he played 27 games: 7.4ppg, 1.4rpg, 2.0apg, FGP: 37.7%, 3PT: 29.0%, FT: 76.1%.
The team also brought in the very experienced Koko Archibong who is a 30 year old 202cm forward that has the Nigerian/American citizenship and is playing his first season with Giessen and has found a home in Germany as Giessen is his sixth team in the Beko BBL. He played at Pennsylvania (NCAA) from 1999-2003 and was Ivy League champion in 2000 and 2002. He then almost made it to the NBA in 2003 as he was one of the last cuts of the Los Angeles Lakers. He started his professional basketball career in France with Elan Bearnais Pau-Orthez (France-ProA): Euroleague: 13 games: 3.2ppg, 1.9rpg; French ProA League: 21games: 3.8ppg, 1.9rpg. He won the league title and cup in France. Besides playing the 2008-2009 season with Asseco Prokom Sopot (Poland-PLK): Euroleague: 13 games: 2.8ppg, 3.5rpg, 1.1apg; Polish League: 20 games: 6.1ppg, 3.4rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 52.3%, 3PT: 31.3%, FT: 70.6%,, he has been all of his career in Germany. He played for The Brose Baskets Bamberg from 2004-2006 winning the BEKO BBL title in 2005. He played for Alba Berlin in 2006-2007(ULEB Cup: 12 games: 4.4ppg, 4.3rpg, 1.3apg; German League: 37 games: 6.1ppg, 3.7rpg, 1.2apg, 2FGP: 48.5%, 3FGP: 30.8%, FT: 68.6%) and in 2007-2008 played for The Deutsche Bank Skyliners(ULEB Cup: 6 games: 11.3ppg, 6.0rpg, 2.5spg, FGP: 51.4%, 3PT: 45.5%, FT: 83.3%; German League: 41 games: 8.4ppg, 5.1rpg, 1.3apg, 1.0spg, 2FGP: 52.4%, 3PT: 43.4%, FT: 57.0%). In 2009-2010 he had a disappointing season in Duesseldorf playing 33 games: 11.7ppg, 5.9rpg, 1.5apg, FGP: 49.6%, 3PT: 31.9%, FT: 70.2%. Last season, he played for BBC Bayreuth playing 16 games: 8.6ppg, 3.9rpg, 1.5apg, FGP: 53.5%, 3PT: 20.0%, FT: 54.1%.
The team also signed 23 year old 209cm center Robert Ohle who started his basketball career in Paderborn. He already got Beko BBL experience from 2007-2010 playing a total of 35 beko BBL games and already played a Beko BBL game as a 19 year old. Last season, he played a year in the PRO A to sharpen his skills and get more playing time for the : Saar-Pfalz Braves playing 26 games: 8.4ppg, 5.7rpg, FGP: 48.3%, FT: 64.6%. He played at the European Championships U20 Division B in Targu Mures (Romania) -08:(Champion): 6 games: 5.8ppg, 3.2rpg, 1.0bpg, 2FGP: 73.7%, FT: 77.8%. Giessen also hauled in the quick 25 year old 177cm Achmadschah Zazai who has already played for 11 teams in his still young career. He started his basketball career at TUS Lichterfelde in 2003. From 2005-2011, he played for teams like SG FT/MTV Braunschweig, : BSG Ludwigsburg, Bremen Roosters, Horsens IC (Denmark), Telemotive Muenchen, Artland Dragons, TV Langen, USC Freiburg and last season for : BV Chemnitz 99 (Germany-ProA) playing 30 games: 11.6ppg, 2.8rpg, Assists-2(5.9apg), Steals-4(2.1spg), FGP: 51.6%, 3PT: 34.8%, FT: 64.7%. Chad Prewitt is a 31 year old 206cm power forward that was born in Cody Wyoming and is from Phoenix, Arizona. He is playing his first season with the Giessen 46ers. He played at Arizona State from 1998-2002. In his first three professional years, he played two years for the Dakota Wizzards(CBA) and one season for theCedar Rapids River Raiders (USBL). He then came to Europe and played most of his time with the Artland Dragons from 2005-2010. In the 2007-2008 season, he had a short stay with Ago Rethimno (Greece-A1, starting five), only pre-season, then moved to EnBW Ludwigsburg (Germany-1.Bundesliga) playing 12 games: 8.2ppg, 3.8rpg, 2FGP: 52.4%, 3PT: 37.5%, FT: 78.6%; ULEB Cup: 5 games: 10.0ppg, 4.0rpg, 1.8apg, 1.2spg. His best season with the Dragons was 2006-2007 when he averaged 11.3ppg, 5.7rpg, 1.8apg, 2FGP: 44.0%, 3FGP: 40.8%, FT: 81.6%. He is a a great defender and team player who also has a nice shooting stroke. He can shoot the three with consistency, plays hard every night and wins everywhere he goes. He played a total of 175games for the Artland Dragons. Last season, he saw the glitz of FC Bayern Muenchen (Germany-ProA): 28 games: 6.6ppg, 2.9rpg, FGP: 64.6%, 3PT: 37.2%, FT: 76.5%.
The team also got Misan Nikagbatse who is a 29 year old 193cm guard from Berlin that has the German/Nigerian citizenship. He can play both point and shooting guard. Can
also rebound in the traffic. He has impressive physical skills, with an explosive leaping ability. He started his basketball career in 1998 with Lichterfelde Berlin. He already had NBA scouts after him after playing at the Albert Schweitzer Junior Championships in Mannheim (Germany) in 2000 where he was (Best Scorer -27.8ppg): All-Star 1st Team. He seemed to be near the jump to the NBA and went to top Euroleague team Olympiakos Pireus (Greece) in 2000, but never really found his role there as he played only a total of 41 games but got good experience playing 21 Euroleague games before being transported off to Italy. In 2003-2004, he returned to Germany playing with theMitteldeutscher Basketball Club winning the Fiba Europe Cup playing FIBA Europe Cup: 10 games: 9.8ppg, 3.9rpg, 2.7apg, 1.6spg; German 1.Bundesliga: 28 games: 11.4ppg, 3.2rpg, 2.9apg, 1.6spg, 3.0bpg. He then had a steady career in Italy from 2004-2007 playing for Euro Roseto, Cantu and Premiata Montegranaro. He then returned to Germany to play for : Koeln 99ers in 2007-2008 playing ULEB Cup: 8 games: 7.1ppg, 1.6rpg, 1.9apg, FGP: 52%, 3PT: 29.2%, FT: 62.5%; German League: 15 games: 8.7ppg, 2.5rpg, 2.5apg, 2FGP: 48.1%, 3PT: 22.7%, FT: 69.8%. In 2008-2009, he played for Cimberio Varese (Italy-Lega2): 23 games: 6.7ppg, 2.5rpg, 1.3spg, FGP: 43.1%, 3PT: 34.6%, FT: 75.7%. From 2009-2011, he didn´t play professional basketball as he played for DBV Charlottenburg (Germany-2.Regionalliga). Matthias Perl is a 22 year old 188cm quick point guard that is a relentless defender. He has been playing for Giessen teams since 2004 when he started for the MTV Giessen cadet team. He then played for VfB Giessen (Regionalliga) before playing for LTi Lich (ProA) from 2007-2009. In 2009-2010, he played for LTi Giessen 46ers (1.Bundesliga): 7 games: 0.7ppg; also played at Licher Basket Baeren (ProB): 28 games: 5.2ppg, 2.0rpg, 1.9apg, 1.6spg, FGP: 39.5%, 3PT: 31.1%, FT: 73.5%. Last season, for Giessen he played 16 games: 1.6ppg, 1.0rpg. The LTi Giessen 46ers host the Fraport Skyliners on January 20th at, 19:30.