If one were to ask Missouri native Dane Watts on what day and how many days it took his son to utter the first word or even Da Da that would definitely be a dated mark in the calendar for his wife, but the devoted family father would probably remember that monumental day for a parent as well, but if you were to ask him these days if the number 378 has any type of meaning to him, he most surely will give that gregarious surfer dude smile and whisper softly sure. For anyone else this number may be foreign, but for Dane Watts, the number 378 is the number of days that the ex Creighton forward has been inactive leading up to the game in Artland. The last time that the ex ratiopharm Ulm player played in a professional game, Joe Flaco was still a very good quarterback, but not sharing a Superbowl ring with the likes of greats like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, Tennis sensation Andrew Murray was still having dreams about when he would finally win the coveted Wimbeldon title and the Boston Red Sox were still very far away from that next World Series win as well as getting the famous rocker group ZZ Top some new news time with their outrageous playoff beards that were being grown in the stretch run. The last professional game that Anthony Tolliver friend Dane Watts played was a 95-91 road win in Oldenburg where the American steered six points, five rebounds and two assists while logging 26 minutes. After this came a long road back to recovery as he had back surgery and now finally was the possibility to get back on the floor again and do damage for his new team the Fraport Skyliners. If there is one mean thing to confront in the Artland arena than it could be mascot Tobi the dragon who comes over as scary at times and likes to have the attention as he stole the skate board of FC Munich mascot Berni at the 2014 Beko BBL allstar game, but despite not playing for more than a year, new Skyliner Dane Watts would never show any type of Tobi aggression on the court, but has those cool Kelly Slater surfer looks and makes up for the laid back flair with all business play as he is a scorer and rebounder. Two years ago he helped ratiopharm Ulm beat Frankfurt and took apart NBA player Jon Leuer in crunch time in the old Kuhberg arena and in Artland it would have been nice if he could have helped his new team try and break a two game losing streak, but instead the Fraport Skyliners lost a tough 83-77 game and it was already decided before the game that he wouldn´t play, because the risk of not being fit completely and the Fraport Skyliners not having a last license to get an import player was too great. Seven hours before the start of the game in Artland, Dane Watts had finished his workout in Frankfurt and wasn´t pleased that he wouldn´t be able to help an already injury plagued team, but he found some nice words for teammates Danilo Barthel and Jacob Burtschi who also has a back injury. “I am very disappointed, but in the long run, I think this is better because we have a two week break now where I have more time to get my body ready and know their plays. The last year has been tough as it has been the longest time ever of not playing basketball. The hardest part has been getting my condition and legs strong again, but the plan is too play in Oldenburg. Danilo is a lot taller than what I remember from him. He is becoming more consistent shooting the three and he still has a lot of upside in his game. I told Burtschi that we can do some back exercises together”, smiled Dane Watts.
Sometimes when a team loses and a certain player has an off day, both the team and player want to seek revenge in the return game and that is exactly what the Artland Dragons and American Chad Toppert did in the return game in Artland after losing the first game in Frankfurt 89-74. In Frankfurt, the Artland Dragons were scorched by ex NBA player Andrew Rautins with 24 points and six three pointers and in Artland, there was no Rautins due to injury, but Toppert who went from walk-on to scoring 1,000 points and becoming one of the top 3-point shooter in MWC history at New Mexico and played 106 ACB games for CAI Zaragoza had his best game in the Beko BBL as he scored 21 points nailing seven three pointers from eight attempts. Topper who nailed six in the second half and four in the fourth quarter breaking the back of Frankfurt and at times hit ridiculous three pointers as Danilo Barthel had to have no guilt of being beaten as he was in his face more diligently than nasty flies on a humid summer day. Moments after the win, Dragon Brandon Thomas was joking that there was a Steve Kerr sighting, but really it was another blond haired guy Chad Toppert dropping three pointers as easily as Andrew Rautins can connect from the parking lot. After the win, Topper was very soft spoken, but was also thrilled that his teammates found him in the right situations to light up the scoreboard. “I am happy about my performance and I was feeling very good early. My teammates did a good job making me feel comfortable and finding me. I got into a good rhythm and a good lift on my shot. I remember once making seven three pointers in a D-league game”, stressed Chad Toppert. Artland Dragon Anthony King lauded Topper after the game and was happy that role players were able to step up. “Topper was the difference tonight. As a group we shot ok, but Chad stood out. Our top three scorers can´t always be top scorer so it is nice when another guy can step up”, stressed ex Skyliner Anthony King.
The Artland Dragons entered the game in fifth place with a record of 11-6, but had only had a 4-5 record in the last two months. They beat the Telekom Baskets Bonn before the Allstar break and wanted to return in the second half of the season with a big win and did a good job staying with the Fraport Skyliners and then letting the three ball take control in the fourth quarter helping the 2008 Beko BBl cup winner secure the win. “We played great defense in the first quarter holding Frankfurt to 10 points and then hit a wall. I told you at the Allstar game in Bonn that one of our biggest strength is our mental toughness, but tonight we had some mental lapses. When you have those for 2-3 minutes, they can cost you a game, but we were lucky that we stayed with them and despite them controlling the game in the second and third quarters, we came back in the fourth quarters hitting many shots. Frankfurt killed us on the offensive boards. Usually when you give up 15 offensive boards you lose, but we were lucky”, stressed North Carolina native Anthony King. The Fraport Skyliners entered the game in eighth place with a record of 9-8 and an injury list as long as a five year olds Christmas list for Santa Claus as Andrew Rautins, Jacob Burtschi, Dane Watts, Konstantin Klein and Marius Nolte. The Fraport Skyliners played a very courageous game with much heart, but might have run out of some gas in the fourth quarter and just had no answer to limiting the Artland Dragons long ball. “We gave a 100% effort from start to finish which started on defense and got us at times easy buckets on offense. They shot the ball very well and sometimes better offense beats good defense”, warned Los Angeles native Jarred Dubois. Fraport Skyliners head coach Gordon Herbert was more than pleased with the effort of his team even if a good effort doesn´t always guarantee a win. “I felt that we played hard and the right way. We won the rebounding and they hit big shots in the fourth quarter and ha the momentum. We were missing a lot of players, but other guys stepped up. I was very proud of the kids like Max Merz and Johannes Richter. Jarred Dubois was sick in the second half, but still hit big shots”, commented Fraport Skyliners head coach Gordon Herbert.
Despite all the Skyliner injuries, Fraport Skyliners Quantez Robertson and German Johannes Richter found a little pre game humor in trying to hit bank shots and both had fairly good consistency. However as the game started, both teams became serious and the Artland Dragons got on the score board first as American Lawrence Hill who hit Frankfurt for 20 points in Frankfurt scored on the fast break after Detroit native David Holston got a steal. Johannes Voigtman tied the score with a put back after getting an offensive rebound. Then both teams got the three ball involved as Ohio native Antonia Graves connected and Danilo Barthel who has been neglecting from downtown more than on emight like this season nailed a high rainbow knotting the game at 5-5. Ex FC Bayern Munich forward Brandon Thomas than carried Artland on a 6-0 run as he dropped two consecutive three pointers as the Artland Dragons led 11-5. Then it was time for the Danilo Barthel show as if he doesn´t have at least one dunk a game, you can go home a bit disappointed, but he made nobody sad after ramming home a one handed dunk in the face of Anthony King. Even German basketball legend and Dennis Schroeder agent Ademola Okulaja had a small smile as he witnessed that dunk. “Barthel is pretty athletic, but that dunk didn´t faze me. It was an and one dunk”, commented Anthony King. The Artland Dragon bench did a good job keeping up the offensive pressure as German Bastian Doreth who at times shields his offensive aggressiveness on the court nailed two big three pointers and Toppert hit his first three pointer as the Artland Dragons closed out the first quarter with a 9-2 run leading 20-10. “Frankfurt was playing with a lot of energy and were aggressive. Artland defended very well and hit big shots at the end”, added ex North Carolina Tar heel Ademola Okulaja. The Artland Dragons were shooting 54% from the field and 60% from outside while the Fraport Skyliners were shooting 24% from the field and 17% from outside. Frankfurt had the 10-9 rebound edge, but four turnovers and Artland three turnovers.
The second quarter belonged to the Fraport Sklyiners as they continued their aggressive play with high powered energy, but also connected more on their shots outscoring the Artland Dragons 26-11. The Fraport Skyliners busted open the second quarter with a timely 9-0 run as little used but highly talented young German Johannes Richter blossomed as he scored over Hill and then got a fancy back door pass from Aziz Ndiaje. “Richter really helped us and it was his break out game”, stated Johannes Voigtmann. Dubois also hit a three pointer as Frankfurt trailed 20-19. Lawrence Hill then hit a three pointer as Artland led 23-19. The Fraport Skyliners continued to be consistent on offense as Ndiaye got a dunk and Dubois hit another three pointer as the score was dead locked at 25-25. After King made a running hook shot, it was American Ramon Galloway that connected on a three pointer as Frankfurt got the lead back 28-27 and would never trail again in the first half. German Johannes Voigtmann than had a strong phase as he scored three consecutive buckets ruling the paint area with a two tip ins and a put back as Frankfurt led 34-29. Barthel closed out the second quarter with another thrunderous dunk as Voigtmann set him up perfectly with a nice ally-op pass as the Fraport Skyliners led at the break 36-31. “Nothing really changed with the Frankfurt energy and aggressiveness except that they hit more shots. Artland seemed to be more passive and relying too much on the three pointer. Voigtmann did a great job on the offensive boards. Even though Barthel was blocked a few times, he didn´t hang his head, but kept fighting”, stressed Ademola Okulaja. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 39% from the field and 38% from the three point line while the Artland Dragons were shooting 44% from the field and 41% from the three point line. Frankfurt outrebounded Artland 13-3 leading the boards battle23-13 and had only six turnovers while Artland had eight turnovers.
The Fraport Skyliners had a strong and consistent third quarter, but were unable to shake the Artland Dragons as they stayed on their heels and trailed only 55-52 after 30 minutes. The Fraport Skyliners started off the third quarter like the second quarter with a mini 4-0 run as Voigtmann hit a mid distance jumper and Max Merz hit a floater of the back board as Frankfurt led 40-31. Artland then went on their own 5-0 run as Holston who wasn´t hitting shots, elected to create for others found Graves on the kick out for the easy three and King found some daylight jamming home the ball as Frankfurt led 40-36. Frankfurt then went on another mini 4-0 run to lead 44-36 as Dubois nailed a pull up jumper and Galloway scored inside. Artland was slowly getting hot going on a 8-2 run as Topper connected for two three pointers and Holston went coast to coast as Frankfurt led 46-44. Dubois then nailed a three pointer from the corner while being fouled and made his 32 consecutive free throw as Frankfurt led 50-44. “Sometimes you have to do what it takes to finish the game even if your not feeling well”, stressed Jarred Dubois. Graves and Kevin Bright then exchanged three pointers as Frankfurt still had the lead 53-47. Doreth then hit his third three pointer and Quantez Robertson who was offensively quiet hit a mid distance shot as Frankfurt still led 55-52. “Both teams were playing very well and it was pretty even. Both teams were getting good shot selection and David Holston was doing a good job getting his team involved”, explained Ademola Okulaja. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 46% from the field and 39% from the parking lot while the Artland Dragons were shooting 45% from the field and 48% from the parking lot. Frankfurt had the 27-23 rebound advantage and 12 turnovers while Artland had 13 turnovers.
The Artland Dragons opened up the fourth quarter starting off on a 10-0 run to lead 63-55 and they would never look back. Toppert got going nailing two three pointers in this run, King scored over Richter and Brandon Thomas hit a pull up three pointer on the fast break. Frankfurt would counter, but the problem was they couldn´t fabricate consecutive stops as Artland turned on the microwave at 10 and never cooled down. Barthel and Thomas traded three pointers as Artland led 66-58. The Fraport Skyliners continued to fight as German work horse Johannes Voigtmann scored consecutive buckets with a mid distance jumper and a lay in cutting the Artland lead to 66-62. However Frankfurt just couldn´t get stops as Artland continued to produce on the offensive end as Gum chewing Kenny Frease made a dunk and Topper hit another three pointer as Frankfurt trailed 71-62. “I don´t think that we were tired. Despite not having Klein and Dubois who was sick, we fought until the end and gave full gas”, stressed Johannes Voigtmann. Frankfurt had one last gasp of air as Galloway made a mega dunk after retrieving a Voigtman back door pass and Barthel nailed another three pointer cutting the Artland lead to 71-67. However for each Skyliner comeback effort, Artland had an answer with their young version of Steve Kerr as Toppert hit another three pointer and David Holston connected on a step back as Artland led 76-67. In the last few minutes, Voigtmann and Robertson hit some shots and the consecutive free throw streak of Dubois was snapped at 36, but the Artland Dragons hit their free throws from Brandon Thomas as the Fraport Skyliners lost their third consecutive game. “I give much respect to Frankfurt because they fought hard. We hit many shots, but they kept making plays and coming back. We executed a bit better down the stretch and just continued making big shots”, added Chad Toppert. “They made the plays at the end and finished the game like a veteran team. Toppert hit big shots and had the momentum. He was on fire. We stayed together and fought until the end”, added Jarred Dubois.
The Artland Dragons were led by Chad Topper with 21 points. Brandon Thomas added 15 points. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Johannes Voigtmann with 18 points, five rebounds and five assists. Jarred Dubois added 17 points and Danilo Barthel chipped in with 14 points and nine rebounds. The Artland Dragons shot very well at 51% from the field and 51% from outside while the Fraport Skyliners shot 47% from the field and 39% from outside. Frankfurt won the rebound battle 34-28, but had 16 turnovers while Artland had 15 turnovers. Despite the many injuries, the Frankfurt Germans Johannes Voigtmann and Danilo Barthel continue to be vital players for the success of the team and each new game is a learning experience as they continue to grow and mature as players. It is always beautiful to see when an American player shows his respect with words. “Voigtmann and Barthel may be young players, but they are already big time players and will be a force in this league or where ever they play for years”, warned Jarred Dubois. A little side note to the game, in Artland, there are many talented players, but also very talented young German Isaiah Hartenstein who plays in the JBBL and recently put up 26 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals and displayed at halftime a real knack of predicting correctly as he saw the Artland Dragons winning by six points. But I think his dad Florian Hartenstein will hope his son sticks to just focusing and playing basketball and not relying too much on his correct prediction authority.