The Miles Basketball Minute: There Is Nothing Ugly About The Phoenix Hagen Season

Since moving up to the Beko BBL in 2009, there hasn´t been too much exciting happening with Phoenix Hagen besides fighting against the moving down from the Beko BBL and piddling around in no mans land. Notable memories for Hagen fans could be the making of the movie Phoenix in the asche and the Michael Jordan locker room  outburst in Frankfurt that was Oscar worthy, beating Alba Berlin three seasons in a row in Hagen, the 35 point effort by Jordan Hasquet in Munich or the last game by ex Skyliner Jon Leuer in Hagen making 27 points before exiting to greener pastures in the NBA. Another nice occurrence with the club is the permanent nesting of German oldie Bernd Kruel  who is known as the bird storch and who is 36 and is playing his 16th season in Hagen with short stays in Frankfurt and Bonn. He is a German basketball dinosauer that is following in the foot steps of ex teammate Chris Ensminger in terms of longevity as a player and must be getting served up a special tasty vitamin enriched diet of fish in the river Volme that keeps his energy alive and kicking. One could find the parallel that basketball and the city Hagen go hand in hand in that they are ugly. It has been stated that Hagen is the ugliest city in Germany and basketball in the past has been farther from beauty than pigs are from flying, but this season there is nothing ugly about Phoenix Hagen basketball.

If one wants to examine closely the reasons why Phoenix Hagen basketball isn´t ugly anymore and is actually successful, one can find numerous reasons for the turn around. For those that have been locked in a closet in the past 4 years won´t know that Phoenix Hagen play run and gun basketball and just try to outscore the opponent. They have scored 80 plus points in 18 of 30 games and average 86 points a game.  One could even be as unfriendly and mention that the team doesn´t play defense in order to conserve energy for their offense. This season, the team continues to play run and gun, but seems to play with a bit more consistency than in the past and the club also has found the word DEFENSE in their vocabulary. They were able to hold offensive teams like Oldenburg and Tuebingen to under 70 points and the s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg who aren´t the strongest scoring team, but are capable of breaking out  especially with a then fit Jimmy Mckinney who logged 34 minutes and was held to eight points. It also helps that the team found their chemistry early and that the players fit together better than in past years and have found their roles better. Head coach Ingo Freyer preaches offense and this season it seems like they are playing a type of Euroleague offense compared to BBL offense the last years.

When looking at the roster, Ingo Freyer has a healthy 10 man rotation where each guy has contributed in his special way. Hagen fans will argue with any one why Davin White shouldn´t get the MVP. He is the top scorer in the league and near the top in assists. White reminds me of Alba Berlin guard Dashaun Wood in that he is having a similar kind of year that he had in 2010-2011 with Frankfurt. He may seem one dimensional as a scorer, but the Phoenix native will pull out his playmaking qualities when called for or if his shots aren´t falling. Phoenix Hagen surely would have 3-4 less wins without him. David Bell is about as pure a scorer that you will ever find. He looks like baby hulk just without the green and could probably hit blindfolded if he started practicing. His dangerous shooting has been key all season long.  American Larry Gordon has been very consistent and is the unsung back bone on defense as he often guards the opponents best player. Adam Hess gives experience, leadership and can still hit from downtown to give his team a boost. Bringing Mark Dorris back helped as he knows the team and Freyer. He can explode on any night like his buddy Quantez Robertson does flying to the hoop. Americans Abe Lodwick who hardly played at Washington state and made the team in a try out phase has had some big games on offense and defense and probably surprised many by his strong and spirited play. American Dino Gregory is the back bone on defense. After playing at Maryland and as a rookie in Sweden, some wondered if he could step up in the better league Beko BBL, and he has. I can remember early in the season, I got a mail from the dad of Gregory asking, “How is my boy doing”, and I responded “Well sir, I haven´t seen him play, but I am sure he will have a good season. It was the usual bla bla, but  papa Gregory can be proud of his son who is leading the league in blocks and plays with a passion that would even have made ex Maryland stand out Len Bias proud. Gregory made 6 blocks against Bremerhaven and guards that penetrate have to always know where the big man is.

With less than a month to go in the season, Phoenix Hagen is in contention of making their first playoffs. The team has had fortune not having serious injury woes and an important aspect to their success is their self confidence which has been increased the last weeks due to big wins against Alba Berlin and the Brose Baskets Bamberg. The team believes in their game and making the playoffs. The question is can they continue to be consistent on offense and will they be capable of playing defense in some games in the last weeks. Just making the playoffs will be an amazing achievement. With four games remaining, they have a super chance. Currently they are in eighth place with one win more than ninth placed Wurzburg. They have three home games left and should be able to beat Ludwigsburg and MBC. They beat Artland on the road, but were slaughtered at home against FC Bayern Munich. If they can win one of these two games then they should be ok for the playoffs.  If the playoffs do happen than Ingo Freyer may get a statue from the city and even if there is nothing remotely beautiful about the city, the Phoenix Hagen basketball fans will feel as pretty as a Picasso painting when it comes to basketball. The city could make a slogan saying “The most beautiful part of the city is on the court in the Enervie arena”.


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