Can Elvir Ovcina Continue To Keep The LTi Giessen 46ers A Float In The Beko BBL?

Every weekend, the Fraport Skyliners meet teams with young hungry athletic players ready to make life uncomfortable for the 2004 Beko BBL champion. In the last weeks, the Fraport Skyliners have tangled with tough players like Mark mr fantastic Dorris who is like an elegant ballerina side stepping into the lane and knows how to drop shots, but just in a less hectic way than 2007 Beko BBL top scorer Derrick Allen, Reggie Redding of the Walter Tigers Tuebingen who is as versatile being able to play the positions one to four like New England Patriots receiver Juan Edelman who is like a swiss army knife being able to play so many positions on the field or FC Bayern Munich forward Robin Benzing who might be the best 208cm small forward in the Beko BBL. However it isn´t only these young players that the Fraport Skyliners have to deal with week in and week out, but also a hand full of dinosaurs  who continue to pop out their heads being just as aggressive as the young guns. Guys like Chris Ensminger who seems to have a special Ohio anti basketball aging gene inside him or ex Skyliner Bernd Kruel who at 36 keeps goin with his basketball Einstein mind even if his body isn´t always on the same page continue to give Beko BBl teams problems. This weekend the Fraport Skyliners meet another grizzled hulk with Elvir Ovcina who is 36 and like Kruel just doesn´t disappear , but just keeps coming back each season for more banging, scoring and rebounding. Ovcina is a big movable big man from Bosnia and Herzgevonia that is one of the better passers and is playing his seventh season in Germany. He played threes easons in Oldenburg,  won a cup in 2005 with Cologne and after seasons in Greece with top team Olympiakos Pireus, the Ukraine and Belgium, he returned back to Germany in 2001 and is playing his third season in Giessen. The last years haven´t been easy for the LTi Giessen 46ers as they have always been near the bottom of the standings and had to fight financial problems, but that didn´t deter Ovcina from always giving his best and coming to play on every night no matter what. The question is why would a player of his caliber and age want to play for a less than average club and risk unwanted grey hairs to appear? “I like the management and people. They are all really nice. I like how the organization is trying to build a winner. The fans are also amazing. I remember when I played with Oldenburg and Cologne, it was always most difficult winning in Giessen”, stressed Elvir Ovcina. Even though the LTi Giessen 46ers have had more hard times on the basketball court than anyone wants in Giessen, there always seems to be a breath of positive hope when Ovcina is on the court. Ovcina is that type of player that brings that special self confidence and calmness on to the court that can carry over to his teammates. It is also a plus when a guy of his age still gets much respect. “Ovcina is the best example like with Chris Ensminger why big men can still play at age 36 and guards can´t. Guards lose speed while old men get stronger. Being strong is more important than speed. It presents even more of a problem when a big man like Ovcina can hit the three as well. He is very smart, is a good passer and has a high basketball IQ. Ensminger is more the banger while Ovcina more the finesse player. He is so dangerous in the set play with his pick and pop and his high passing efficiency”, warned basketball expert Steven Clauss.

In the 2010-2011 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 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 lost a nail bitter to the Brose Baskets Bamberg 81-80, a game where they made a furious comeback and just came up short. “We started playing defense after 30 minutes against Bamberg”, stressed Elvir Ovcina. Giessen may not have had the most talented team, 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  in 2010-2011 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 was younger than the star players Elvir Ovcina and Maurice Jeffers. Harmsen brought success to MBC, so why couldn´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 was playing for BBC Bayreuth. “Our goal was to stay in the league. If we can limit injuries then maybe we can achieve a bit more”, added Bjoern Harmsen at the start of the season.  Harmsen came to Giessen and did a house cleaning axing eight players, but kept team captain Elvir Ovcina who is getting better 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 work 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.

Last season the LTi Giessen 46ers needed to win in Hagen on the last game day, but lost and had a record of 9-25 and luckily were able to remain in the Beko BBL with a wild card. Giessen started the season slow with a three game losing streak, but then won a wild 110-109 scoring festival in the Osthalle against the Artland Dragons. They won back to back games in Trier and was the first team that 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 a 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 last season. 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 they 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 could still improve. “We have to have better ball movement. We have the least assists in the league”, warned Zazai last January. However in the last four months, the team had a record of 4-15 as they couldn´t get around the corner to having more success. They suffered two five game losing streaks and lost their last three games. Their biggest win was a 78-65 win in Frankfurt which in a way always makes their season as they are their biggest rival.

A big problem with the organization LTi Giessen 46ers is simply that they have big problems trying to build a good team identity. It is not secret that players come and go everywhere in the Beko BBL except for maybe Bamberg, but in Giessen a annual house cleaning is about as normal as Kevin Love getting a double double. The team said farewell to 11 players during the season and off season and added eight new players. Before any new players were added, they got a new coach with Mathias Fischer who comes from Germany and won titles in Austria with Gmunden and was coach of the year. He had already got his feet wet in the coaching ranks in the Beko BBL being an assistant with Rhein Energie Cologne. Fischer is a coach that likes to develop young players and has given young Germans the chance to get minutes like with Oskar Fassler.  As is sometimes the case players come a lot quicker than they stay as was the case with Americans Jimmy Baxter and John Fields. Baxter who is a basketball world traveler and had played in more than 10 countries left early as he was unable to get integrated and John Fields left for the Czech Republic as the big man position was crowded, but currently he is producing 17,6ppg and 9,8rpg. The team also has to say good bye ot Austrian Benjamin Ortner that went to Italy early in the season to play for  Montepaschi Siena . The team kept only two players with experienced Elvir Ovcina who still plays like a 28 year old and Achmadschau Zazai who is a quick flashy guard that has been a spark plug in recent weeks. The team added many knows players including a known face in Giessen with Ryan Brooks who had been a rookie in 2010-2011. Last season he was a dominant scorer in Finland. The team took a risk bringing in Dijuan Harris after he had played in lower leagues like Finland and second division Turkey, but he has matured well in the Beko BBL and been solid. The team also brought in some talented Germans with Oskar Fassler who played in Trier, Dominik Spohr who came from Hagen and Andreas Buchert who has Beko BBL experience and played in Ehingen last season in the PRO A. It is never easy filling vacant spots during the season with new players, but Giessen did a good job finding solid players. With three players going the team hauled in inside player Jasmin Perkovic that won the 2009 Beko BBL title with Oldenburg, Laquan Prowell that adds scoring and experience having played in France for the last three years and American Jeffery Bonds like Prowell is another versatile forward that had played in Spain since 2007. The biggest strength of the team is maintaining that fighting mentality that it is known to have. The team is carried by the hardcore fans. The team has talent and can beat any team on any given nigt as was the case with ratiopharm Ulm. They need to find some kind of team chemistry fast if they want to get free from the Beko BBL cellar. Their weakness is simply many no name players, plus the fact that three players left early and three new players came to the team not really helping build the team chemistry faster. So far this season the club has suffered a eight game losing streak. Besides beating Ulm at home, they also were able to beat Bonn at home. A big problem is playing consistent defense as they have allowed 80 plus points eight times. However in a seven game stretch, they allowed only 80 points once. If being near the end of the standings hasn´t been enough of a torture, the fans got a rude Christmas gift as shortly after the big win at home against Ulm, the club announced that it has filled for bankruptcy. The team will be able to finish out the season, but the future of this traditional team seems to be up in the air.

In the last years, The Skyliners have dominated the Hessen derby posting a 11-3 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. Last season, the two teams split the season series as the Fraport Skyliners won in Giessen 64-56 as Jermareo Davidson had 16 points and Michael Thompson 13 points. In the return date, the LTi Giessen 46ers got revenge winning in Frankfurt 78-65. This Saturday will showcase a real cellar duel with the 18th LTi Giessen 46ers playing 16th ranked Fraport Skyliners. The LTi Giessen 46ers have been playing better as of late having won two of their last three games including  a huge win at home against ratiopharm Ulm. The Fraport Skyliners are coming off a loss against FC Bayern Munich and this is another must win for them. The key to success remains their bread and butter. “This is a must win for us. We cut down the scoring average of Munich 36 points. If we can do the same to Giessen then we should have a good chance of winning”, smiled Fraport Skyliner guard Devin Gibson.

The Lti Giessen 46ers are led by Ryan Brooks. Brooks is back in Giessen after playing his rookie season there in 2010-2011 as he played  34 games: 9.1ppg, 2.9rpg, 1.4apg, FGP: 48.5%, 3PT: 28.0%, FT: 75.5%. Brooks is a 24 year old 193cm guard that played at Temple(NCAA) from 2006-2010. In his senior year, he played 35 games: 14.3ppg, 4.2rpg, 2.3apg, FGP: 41.3%, 3PT: 31.8%, FT: 81.0%. He played a total of 127 NCAA games. Last season he played for Namika Lahti (Finland-Korisliiga, starting five): 40 games: 18.6ppg, 5.5rpg, 1.6apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 52.1%, 3PT: 37.1%, FT: 81.6%. Laquan Prowell is a 28 year old 203cm forward from Montgomery, Alabama that is playing his first season in the Beko BBL. Prowell is a superb athlete and leaper, versatile player who can score off the post up, dribble, and also from 3-point range. He played at Furman from 2003-2005 and continued his NCAA career at Auburn from 2005-2008 where he played with Fraport Skyliner Quantez Robertson. He came to Europe and gained experience in Turkey, Greece and played in France the last three seasons. Last season he played for Saint Vallier Basket Drome (France-ProB, starting five): 27 games: 15.1ppg, 6.5rpg, 1.0apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 60.2%, 3PT: 40.0%, FT: 83.7%; in May’12 moved to ES Chalon-Sur-Saone (France-ProA): 6 games: 4.3ppg, 1.2rpg. He played with ex Skyliner Ilian Evtimov helping Chalon win the French PRO A title. 36 year old 211cm power forward/center Elvir Ovcina who came late to the Giessen 46ers in the 2009-2010 season is playing his fourth 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%. In 2010-2011, he played 34 games: 11.4ppg, 6.6rpg, 2.4apg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 17.6%, FT: 76.4%. Last season for Giessen he played 33 games: 11.4ppg, 6.5rpg, 2.2apg, FGP: 49.3%, 3PT: 31.7%, FT: 80.0%.

The team recently acquired Jeffery Bonds who is a 30 year old 199cm forward that is playing his first season in Germany. He is a small forward who can adapt to any style of play. Can shoot the long 3 ball, also can attack inside… all-around player, very good in rebounds. Has the ability to score in a variety of ways. Take pride in defense. He played at Cal-Poly Pomona (NCAA2) from 2001-2005. In his first two seasons as a professional he played in England for the Birmingham Bullets (United Kingdom-BBL) and Sheffield Sharks. He played from 2007-2012 in Spain in the Leb Gold league four years and one season in the Leb silver league. Last season he played for  Knet Rioja Clavijo (Spain-LEB Gold, starting five): 33 games: 10.8ppg, 4.8rpg, 1.0apg, FGP: 42.6%, 3PT: 31.0%, FT: 70.0%. The team also brought in Dijuan Harris who is a 26 year old 175cm gurad from Charlotte, North Carolina that is playing his third professional season and first in Germany. He played for Hillsborough CC (NJCAA) in 2006-2007. He finished his NCAA career for Charlotte from 2007-2010. In his senior year he played  31 games: 8.3ppg, 3.2rpg, 4.6apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 41.4%, 3PT: 32.7%, FT: 73.3%. In 2010-2011, he was a rookie playing for Salon Vilpas Vikings (Finland-Korisliiga, starting five), left in Nov.’10: 11 games: 19.0ppg, 3.0rpg, 4.4apg, 1.6spg, FGP: 55.8%, 3PT: 37.5%, FT: 75.0%. Last season he played for Usak Universitesi Belediye %. spor (Turkey-TB2L, starting five): 36 games: 14.1ppg, 2.5rpg, 3.4apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 50.9%, 3PT: 23.4%, FT: 72.9%. Quick 26 year old 177cm Achmadschah Zazai is playing hiss econd season for the LTi Giessen 46ers 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  BV Chemnitz 99 (Germany-ProA). Last season for Giessen he played  27 games: 3.1ppg, 1.1rpg, 2.0apg.

Oskar Fassler is a 24 year old 198cm guard is playing his first season with Giessen and also comes from the Alba Berlin fraction. He played for TUS Lichterfelde Berlin (Regionalliga) from 2004-2006. He joined Alba Berlin in 2006 and played there until 2009. He also was a young player that didn’t get a real chance as he was sitting on the bench. He only played 22 BEKO BBL games. In 2009-2010, he started with Alba Berlin and then moved to Science City Jena (ProA, starting five): 12 games: 9.3ppg, 2.8rpg, 2.2apg, FGP: 54.9%, 3PT: 27.5%, FT: 77.8%, also played at Mitteldeutscher BC Weissenfels (1.Bundesliga): 4 games: 4.3ppg, 2.0rpg. In 2010-2011 for TBB Trier he played 25 games: 5.8ppg, 2.3rpg, 1.6apg, FGP: 33.3%, 3PT: 41.9%, FT: 59.1%He was a part of the German U-18 and U-20 teams and played at the European Championships U20 Division B in Targu Mures (Romania) -08:(Champion): 7 games: 3.1ppg, 2.0rpg, 1.4apg.  Lasts eason for TBB Trier he played  31 games: 2.6ppg, 1.8rpg. The team also added Dominik Spohr  who is a 23 year old 198cm forward from Hagen. He started his basketball career in 2004 for BBV Hagen (Regionalliga) where he played until 2007. He then played for Phoenix Hagen from 2007-2012. Last season for Phoenix Hagen he played 30 games: 1.9ppg, 1.4rpg; played also for BG Hagen (Regionalliga): 6 games: 13.3ppg, 4.0rpg, 1.2apg. He played a total of 64 Beko BBL games for Phoenix Hagen. The team also added 25 year old 208cm forward Andy Buchert who comes from Trier. He got experience playing in the States first for : Tallahasse CC from 2005-2007. He then played fro Winthrop from 2007-2010. In 2010-2011 he turned professional and played for Eisbaeren Bremerhaven (1.Bundesliga): 1 game: 0pts, 1reb, 1ast, 1block, in Dec.’10 moved to Phoenix Hagen (1.Bundesliga): 9 games: 3.3ppg, 3.2rpg, 1.6bpg; left in Feb. ’11. Last season he played for Erdgas Ehingen/Urspringschule (ProA): 27 games: 11.3ppg, 7.0rpg, FGP: 53.1%, FT: 55.2%.



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