Many May Not See The Artland Dragons On The Playoff Damage Radar, But They May Surprise Some Folks

With the competition getting tougher and tougher each season and top teams like FC Bayern Munich, Brose Baskets Bamberg, Alba Berlin and the EWE Baskets Oldenburg seemingly playing in their own league, one might have predicted and stated the usual blab about the Artland Dragons that they surely will make the playoffs, but exited very early as has mostly been the case in the last years. The Artland Dragons have always had strong rosters, but in the playoffs always lacked suitable mental toughness and that playoff chemistry that the top teams had developed. Ever since 8 champion head coach Chris Fleming brought the only win in 2008 with the cup in Hamburg, the village town of Quackenbrück have concentrated themselves more on planning those weekend excursions to beautiful places and grasping nature instead of the loud basketball arenas deep into May. What Thorsten Leibenath and Stefan Koch couldn´t do in bringing that second title now lies on the shoulders of Tyrone Mccoy. Mccoy had a long basketball career where he was best known for being a scorer and becoming that first superstar to wear an Oldenburg jersey and that last missed layup in Leverkusen in 2008 that gave the Deutsche Bank Skyliners the ticket to the semifinals in the playoffs. Mccoy who will be coaching his second game against his ex team Frankfurt didn´t just become a head coach by flashing his big smile, but had to move up through the coaching ranks as he was two years assistant in Ludwigsburg and the last three years in Artland under Stefan Koch. There can´t really be a better way than to learn the ropes than under experienced Koch. The Artland Dragons started off hot winning seven of their first eight games, but have struggled a bit as of late having a 4-4 record, but they did win two nail bitters with a 83-82 win against medi bayreuth and a 74-72 victory against the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven. The job hasn´t been totally easy for the ex Gmunden player since he did have some players to work with who had been on the team the last years, but also got new players like Lawrence Hill, Antonio Graves, Chad Toppert, Kenny Frease and Bastian Doreth. However he has found a way to mesh those new characters with the new ones that have blended together rather sooner than later. A big plus was bringing back Americans David Holston and Brandon Thomas who know the club and coach. These two players will be the key, if the Artland Dragons want to make some playoff damage this May. Mccoy also has been beneficial to his players for example an Anthony King that made a step in Cyprus and now also in Artland and hopes to make the next step with Mccoy to another basketball dimension. “There were many doubters who didn´t think that coach Mccoy could do job as a rookie coach and playing in Eurocup, but coach and we have done a great job at being successful. A big strength is that we are mentally tough. We won almost every close game in the first half. I am more of a leader now. Coach Mccoy taught me to be more of a leader last year and I have carried it into this season. I am not very vocal, but lead by example. I think my consistency also has helped in my development. He has really believed in my three ball. I feel more confident shooting the three and I don´t hesitate taking that shot. It all has to do with repetition and taking the time to shoot extra. I want to take the next step and I want to be a five man on an Euroleague team and I need the three to earn the respect”, warned North Carolina native Anthony King. The Artland Dragons can make the next step in the Beko BBL playoffs and might want to take a page out of the book of Bamberg and Chris Fleming in that they need to develop further as the season progresses. That has been one of the pluses that Bamberg continue to do each season and this is something that Artland could do if the players continue to take in what McCoy has been giving them.

Last season the Artland Dragons finished in sixth place with a record of 20-14 and as so often in the last years, played a solid season, but not extra special being able to compete with the top teams like Bamberg, Berlin or Munich. They had the ability to go on some winning streaks, but then again also went on losing streaks of three games which is something that shouldn´t happen to a potential playoff team.  They had had some spectacular displays of defense keeping Bremerhaven to 51 points, Frankfurt to 57 points, Alba Berlin to 56 points or FC Bayern Munich to 66 points, but then again on other nights have stunk up the building giving up 104 points to run and gun team Phoenix Hagen, 96 points to Bremerhaven  or 90 points to the Walter Tigers Tuebingen. Artland had their chance at the cup weekend in Berlin to garner that second team title, but were deniedThey came into the Beko BBL playoffs having to face 2012 Beko BBL finalist ratiopharm Ulm and got rudely swept thus ending their season. After three years at the helm, the short Stefan Koch era ended in Quackenbruck. He led the team to three straight playoffs, but the organization didn´t give him the wanted two year deal, so he decided to go. Instead of looking for a new ehad coach, the club promoted assistant coach Tyron Mccoy to head coach. For the American it is the first head coaching job after being an assistant in Ludwigsburg and three years in Artland for Stefan Koch.

There were quite a few reasons last season for the typical blab la season of the Artland Dragons not being able to make a run in the playoffs even though the team remains a kind of dark horse contender each season. The club was deep, but the injury to Demond Mallet didn´t help in shaping an early team chemistry as he missed the first few months. Also players came and went through the season which continued to disrupt the building of chemistry and at times it seemed like the club lacked focus in important phases. Head coach Mccoy opted for a house cleaning saying farewell to eight players like Mallet who went back to Belgium and guys like Bryce Taylor who went to Munich, Branislav Rathkovica to Tuebingen and Johannes Strasser to Cologne. Mccoy kept only two Americans and two Germans. He kept Anthony King who is a 28 year old 206cm power forward/center that got the citizenship of Cyprus in 2012. He played at Miami(NCAA) and as a rookie with Frankfurt. He then did a good job shaping his game in Cyprus and had experience in Greece. This will be his third season with Artland. Last season he played  36 games: 10.8ppg, 6.4rpg, 1.5apg, FGP: 52.2%, FT: 79.4%; EuroCup: 5 games: 11.4ppg, 5.8rpg, 1.0bpg, FGP: 53.7%, FT: 72.2%. He is versatile in the post and could have an interesting pass form the post with Johannes Voigtmann as he is a great passer and belongs to the top 5 big men in the Beko BBL. The club also kept faithful Guido Grunheid who is a 31 year old 208cm power forward that will be playing his third season with Artland. Last season he played  36 games: 4.0ppg, 3.1rpg, 1.2apg; EuroCup: 6 games: 1.8ppg, 3.5rpg, 1.7apg, 1.0spg. He has played in Holland and for Alba Berlin, MBC and Cologne and has won four titles and three cups. He is a great passer as well out of the post and can defend smaller players at the three point line. The team also kept Germans Christian Hoffmann who is a 26 year old 185cm guard that will be playing his third season in Artland. He played in Munich, Trier and Jena. The club also held on to Acha Njei. He is a 28 year old 190cm guard that is alos playing his third season with Artland. He has played for Bremern and Oldenburg. Both guys wil be important practice players and fight for Beko BBL minutes.

The team brought in eight players and besides David Holston brought in an old known player Brandon Thomas. Thomas is a 29 year old 198cm swing man from Texas back for his second tour of duty in Artland after playing there in 2011-2012. He played in countries like  Denmark(league top scorer), Austria and Italy. He helped Braunschweig reach the playoffs twice in 2010 and 2011. Last season he played for FC Bayern Munich playing  40 games: 9.3ppg, 2.8rpg, 1.3apg, 2FGP: 56.0%, 3FGP: 39.0%, FT: 82.1%. He is a pure scorer that will contend with Holston on many nights for top scorer. The club also hauled in Lawrence Hill who is a 26 year old 203cm forward from Arizona that played with the Lopez twins at Stanford. He has substantial experience having played in Mexico, the D-league and Korea. Last season he played for Hapoel Holon (Israel-Premier League) playing  27 games: 12.8ppg, 7.6rpg, 1.5apg, 1.5spg, Blocks-2(1.6bpg), FGP: 52.8%, 3PT: 31.6%, FT: 67.8%; EuroChallenge: 12 games: 13.3ppg, Reb-4(8.2rpg), 3.3apg, 1.0spg, Blocks-5(1.2bpg), FGP: 61.9%, 3PT: 15.2%, FT: 65.2%. Last summer he played NBA Pro Summer League in Orlando (Boston Celtics): 5 games: 5.5ppg, 2.3rpg, 1.8apg. He will help Artland with his hard working, rebounding and defensive focus. He cans core, but might not need to with other scorers on the team so he can focus on other things. The team also got Kenny Frease who is a 24 year old 212cm center from Ohio. He could easily take part at a talent show for being able to imitate a cow chewing on a pasture with normal bubble yum gum. He played at Xavier from 2008-2012 recahing two NCAA Sweet 16 rounds. Last season at Tuebingen he played  34 games: 11.0ppg, 5.4rpg, 1.5apg, FGP: 54.8%, FT: 56.3%. He weighs 129 kilos and is quite agile for a man of his size and likes to ignite bullet passes from the post. It will be interesting if he can make the next step in a deeper and more talented roster than what he had with Tuebingen last season.

The Artland Dragons also brought in Antonio Graves who is a 28 year old 191cm guard from Ohio that played at Pittsburgh and has been a professional since 2007. He hasplayed in countries like France, Turkey, Israel Croatia and Italy as well as giving his five cents on the court in the D-league. Last season he played for  Giorgio Tesi Group Pistoia (Italy-Lega2) leading them to the title while playing 40 games: 15.8ppg, 2.9rpg, 2.3apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 44.1%, 3PT: 41.8%, FT: 75.4%. He is a very athletic combo guard that will score and be  a force on the defensive end. He may have some NCAA Sweet 16 stories form his two appearances on boring nights when Quackenbruck has closed down or on long bus rides during the Eurocup season. The team also added 28 year old 199cm guard that played 106 ACB games the last three years for  CAI Zaragoza (Spain-ACB). Last season he played 40 games: 3.6ppg, 1.8rpg. He played at  N.Mexico (NCAA) from 2004-2009 and is an excellent outside shooter who went from walk-on to scoring 1,000 points and becoming one of the top 3-point shooter in MWC history. After moving to Spain, he improved the other part of the game, becoming a better passer and defensive player and adding some SF moves too. Despite growing up in New Mexico he has the German citizenship and the discipline of a German. The team also added German national palyer Bastian Doreth who is a 24 year old 189cm point guard. He played for teams like Nurnberg, Bamberg, Munich and Trier. He is loaned out a second time from FC Bayern Munich. Last season for TBB Trier he played  32 games: 4.4ppg, 1.2rpg, 1.8apg. He is a very aggressive defender who could probably cling onto Jared Jordan even if he opted to run to Cologne for a Sunday afternoon at the Dome. He is a guard that is rapidly developing and should be a German national player for many years. He played this past summer at the European championships playing five games. The team also added Michael Wenzl who is a 22 year old 210cm center that has 113 kilo. Lasts season he played for  33 games: 6.0ppg, 3.4rpg, FGP-2(69.5%), 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 54.9%.

The Frankfurt Skyliners have a 9-8 record since 2005 playing against the Artland Dragons  and during 2005-2007 Frankfurt losing all four games including being outscored in the Artland arena 172-129. However, the tide turned for the better from 2007-2009 as The Deutsche Bank Skyliners  had a 3-1 record. Four years ago, they celebrated a very big emotional win 87-75 winning in overtime as captain Pascal Roller sparked Frankfurt to the win with 26 points. two seasons ago on the last day, Frankfurt lacked spirit and were beaten in every phase of the game losing 90-69. In 2009-2010, the team lost a thriller 77-76 in Artland as Frankfurt staged one of their famous comebacks despite a late Pascal Roller three pointer, it wasn´t enough as they lost. Frankfurt was able to win at home 77-65 as Pascal Roller scored 20 points. Frankfurt won their first show down in 2010-2011 on the road winning 82-56 coming out of half time with a 24-8 run to easily win. Frankfurt was led by AJ Moye with 18 points and six rebounds and fans will remember a crashing dunk by ex NBA player Roger Powell. Frankfurt also won their home encounter 83-72 as Dashaun Wood had a Derrick Rose type of game making 29 points, 9 assists, five rebounds and four steals. The team lost a meaningless cup game in Bamberg against Artland where both teams played for third place and Frankfurt was without Dashaun Wood. In 2011-2012, both teams played a defensive classic in Frankfurt as Artland won 49-44. Frankfurt returned to Artland winning 66-60 as Jimmy Mckinney led the scoring with 15 points and ex NBA player Jermario Davidson had 13 points, six rebounds and six blocks. Last season, the Frankfurt won their first meeting with the Artland Dragons 89-80 as American Larry Wright who had scored 27 points in the pre season against Wurzburg showed again his shooting touch scoring 21 points. Dion Dowell and Quantez Robertson added 16 points a piece in the offense surge and Bryce Taylor led Quackenbruck with 21 points. In the return game, the Artland Dragons got revenge putting up the defensive blocade winning 62-58 as ex Skyliner Anthony King showed his baby Shaq mood scoring 16 points and grabbing 11 boards. Ex Skyliner Brad Buckmann contributed 14 points and 13 rebounds. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Quantez Robertson with 23 points and 14 rebounds while Zach Peacock chipped in with 19 points. In the first meeting this season, the Fraport Skyliner hammered the Artland Dragons 89-74 as they did a good job controlling David Holston in the first half. Frankfurt had five players in double figures and was led by Andrew Rautins with 24 points and six three pointers while Danilo Barthel chipped in with 18 points. Frankfurt got great support from Jacob Burtschi, Jarred Dubois and Johannes Voigtmann who each contributed 11 points a piece. Lawrence Hill led Artland with 20 points while David Holston added 12 points and Brandon Thomas 11 points. In the return game Saturday in Artland Frankfurt will be without Andrew Rautins and Jacob Burtschi, but will have Quantez Robertson and Dane Watts. It will be another game where the Fraport Skyliners will have to show concentrated basketball and make the best out of what they have on the court. “Artland is a great team and had some missing players in Frankfurt game. We will have to keep Holston and Thomas in check. They play team game and we will have to be ready. Dane Watts will help us much and he is  a great player”, warned Fraport Skyliner forward Danilo Barthel.

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