Usually when a new captain is named by a Beko BBL team, there are not more than a few sentences dropped if that, but when I saw the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven announcement back in September that Jacob Burtschi would get the captain duties it pleased me, but on the other hand didn´t surprise me either, because the Oklahoma native isn´t your typical player or captain either. After a NCAA career with the Air Force, he has started his third professional season with the Eisbaeren after showing his talent already with Phoenix Hagen and the Fraport Skyliners and getting a tooth pick taste of how the ACB in Spain works with his short stay with CAI Zaragoza.
As a rookie with Phoenix Hagen, Burtschi played 33 games averaging 14.2ppg, 6.9rpg, 2.5apg, Steals-3(1.5spg), FGP: 56.0%, 3PT: 44.2%, FT: 82.2%. He was honoured by Eurobasket.com with Eurobasket.com All-German Bundesliga Newcomer of the Year -11, Eurobasket.com All-German Bundesliga 3rd Team -11, and Eurobasket.com German Bundesliga All-Newcomers Team -11. Already as a rookie, the charming 198cm forward showed how versatile he can be, but on account of him playing on a team that relied on scoring more than the other team even if it was a 105-102 result to win, his other qualities on the court that were already prevalent for captain qualities seemed a bit overshadowed.
When getting a good definition for the word captain, one stumbles upon a plausible one with “One who commands, leads, or guides other”. Last season with the Fraport Skyliners, the monopoly junkie was able to show signs of what a captain can be even if he wasn´t captain. Last season, the Fraport Skyliners already had a perfect captain with Marius Nolte, but when Burtschi arrived on the Main in December 2011, the season of the 2004 Beko BBL champion radically turned around which made the fans believe in playoffs until the very last game day. The Fraport Skyliners were in 17th place at one point, but as soon as Burtschi came on board their luck changed.
With Burtschi on the floor, Frankfurt had a 14-8 record in the Beko BBL. If somebody had predicted in December 2011 that Frankfurt would beat Wurzburg, Munich, Bamberg, ratiopharm Ulm, Oldenburg and Artland in the second half of the season, one would have been seen as either being an idiot with low basketball competence, being a real visionary or having a bond to God. However Burtschi brought the whole package and was able to infect the team with his playing style and his character. It really didn´t matter who you spoke to at the end of the season, if it was players, management or fans, the name Burtschi popped up most concerning who was most responsible for the season turnaround.
Not to take anything away from the role model duty of captain Marius Nolte who always gives 180% on the floor, off the floor and on the bench as captain, but Burtschi was like a second captain on the court. How often did he get the team into the huddle in tough situations, or who could forget his four dives in the first quarter in a win in Trier. He was body was laying on the floor in Trier that game as much as Boris Becker had tasted the hallowed grass at Wimbeldon in his tennis career. Burtschi will do anything to win and his attitude and manner the way he presents himself is genuine. He is just a player that you have to love. It isn´t just what he accomplishes on the court, but also off the court which gets teammates to just feel comfortable with him. When he is barking his commands on the court people listen. He isn´t always serious, but when he has to be serious then he can. He can unleash a smile with the best of them and just has a very likeable manner that gels with all. Who could forget his amusing interview at a Frankfurt tuxedo shop with Skyliners Jermareo Davidson, Jimmy Mckiney and Quantez Robertson where he stole the show from the rest and was like a MOC. Having that touch of seriousness and just being one of the guys and joking around is what brings a team together. If the famous investment firm Smith Barney would make a jacked up 2012 version of their old add where John Houseman says “We make money the old fashioned way, we earn it” and let Burtschi have a go, it would surely bring results. Burtschi of course would have enough power to say it sternly even if he may need a few takes.
After such a big comeback effort last season which cost so much extra energy for Frankfurt, It could be hard to decide which was more depressing for the fans losing the last game in Bonn where the Fraport Skyliners missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007 or the fact that Burtschi fled to the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven last summer. Burtschi went to a team that moved up to the Beko BBL in 2005 and quickly got used to reaching the playoffs which they did in their first three years, but fans are getting more and more impatient each season as the team missed them last season. Burtschi came to a team that like most every other team has a lot of potential, but still some question marks to where they could end up at the end of the season. Burtschi is leading a team that is as hungry as a malnourished polar bear in the Bremerhaven zoo which got lost and mistakenly gotten locked up in the Stadhalle Bremerhaven. At the start of the season the club had a team building session at the Spadener lake and there was a dirty blond guy with sunglasses that looked like an unshaven ice man from Top Gun, but in reality it was Air Force alumnist Jacob Burtschi. He took that whole team building experience into his own hands and showed his leadership qualities, but at the same time didn´t go overboard with the barking, but also was joking around showing that balance between lets do it/lets have fun. Mr incredible Jeff Gibbs once said that if the Eisbaeren had got by the Deutsche Bank Skyliners in the 2010 semi finals, then they would have won it all against Bamberg. That team was very deep and talented and had many guys responsible for the success. The 2012-2013 Bremerhaven team has quality, but surely not as deep as 2010, but interesting personalities like a Jacob Burtschi. So far this season, the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven have had an up and down season losing their first three games, then winning three in a row including a huge win Oldenburg, but then losing against defensive team TBB Trier. After a three game winning streak in November they have been inconsistent and as of recent have lost six of their last eight games. “We have struggled to close out games and we have come out and played flat and with no energy. You dont win a lot of games when you do this”, stated Jacob Burtschi. Currently the team is in 13th place, one win more than the 17th placed Fraport Skyliners and two wins away from the last playoff spot. Burtschi is itching for that first playoff run and despite the unbelievable talent in the Beko BBL this season, it could occur in Bremerhaven if everything goes to plan and if the team stays healthy, but now is the time for that late season run. Now its his time more than ever to step up and show what kind of captain qualities he has in this current weaker phase that the team is experiencing. Burtschi is currently averaging 10,4 ppg, and 6,6rpg, 1,9apg and an astounding 41,7% from the parking lot. Even when he is as sick as a dog as he was when he suffered food poisoning, he wasn´t to precious to suit up against the Neckar Riesen Ludwigsburg supporting his teammates playing four minutes. Two interesting things could be observed in May 2013. Bremerhaven fans are very friendly and passionate basketball fans and it could be that smiling nonstop and visiting further games in May could be on the daily menu for them and Jacob Burtschi could just belong to a company of players since 2005 with Judson Wallace, Nick Jacobson, Zygimantas Jonusas, Louis Campbell and Torrell Martin who the fans will never forget.