One of the many interesting things to observe about basketball players playing in Germany are the few cases of the big heartfelt cinderella stories of guys with big hearts that some how claw themselves from the lowest leagues to the top. In the past one has seen this with guys like Jason Boone which took him only a few months to escape German Regionaliga team LOK Bernau for BG Goettingen or a guy like Richard Williams who went from Pro B team UBC Hannover and made the jump from Pro A team Rasta Vechta to the Beko BBL and now is playing his second season in the highest German league with the Fraport Skyliners. Another great example is Steven Wachalski who played five years in the Regionaliga and two in the Pro B with Osnabrueck before making the Beko BBL with Bayreuth in 2010. He then played two more years in the Pro A with the Mitteldeutscher BC before reurning to the Beko BBL with the Telekom Baskets Bonn. Another guy that belongs to this category of rags to riches is American Zamal Nixon who will be the playmaker for Phoenix Hagen this season. As a rookie in 2011 coming out of Houston(NCAA), he had to slowly make a name of himself in Germany with Hertener Loewen (Germany-PrO B) playing 17 games: Score-1(24.9ppg), 3.0rpg, Assists-3(5.9apg), 1.9spg, FGP: 53.6%, 3PT: 34.2%, FT: 83.8%. There he was able to recommend himself to NBC where he had a very solid season two years ago playing 25 games: Score-5(16.8ppg), 2.6rpg, 3.4apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 54.1%, 3PT: 35.3%, FT: 82.5%. He got added experience last season in a type of Pro A league with WBC Raiffeisen Wels (Austria-A Bundesliga) playing 33 games: 14.7ppg, 3.3rpg, Assists-4(4.8apg), Steals-2(1.9spg), FGP: 53.2%, 3PT: 37.0%, FT: 78.8%. His whole development has been very positive the last three seasons and Ingo Fryer now has given the Brooklyn, New York native the opportunity to lead his team now through the upcoming season. Nixon is excited about getting his chance in the Beko BBL with Phoenix Hagen. „When I was a rookie in Herten I definitely thought I’d reach the BBL. I honestly thought I’d get here a little bit faster then I did. But I’m here now and that’s all that matter.I personally thought the competition in Austria was a little bit better then the Pro A. But this past season I think my shooting got a lot better and my decision making improved as well. I don’t feel any pressure at all. Leading a team is the natural responsibility of a guard & I’ve been playing this game for a while now so this is nothing new to me“, stressed Zamal Nixon. The American has been a scoring point guard all his professional career, but his playmaking will be just as important. „I think it will be 50/50. I’m definitely going to be responsible for running the team and making plays for guys, but some nights we are going to need my scoring abilities as well“, warned Zamal Nixon.
Phoenix Hagen now commence into their sixth season in the Beko BBL and one can say that the club has made strides with head coach Ingo Freyer. Each season the club has a very limited budget, but Freyer still makes the most out of it and mostly has made some steals. The club usually has hung around in the middle of the non playoff spots except for the 2012-2013 season where the club was led by trio Larry Gordon, Bavid Bell and Davin White and not to forget unsung hero Mark Dorris reached their first playoffs and played Bamberg extremly tight winning one game at home, but losing 3-1. Last season the club played tough again, but missed the playoffs finishing the season in 10th place. Losing three of their last four games kind of broke their back, but Freyer could have been very happy as the team defended a lot better giving up only 100 points or more once while doing it five times in the first half of the season. The club also gave up 66 points or less five times in the second half of the season and gave up 10 points less on average. Freyer put on his black cape and did some magic as the run and gun was put on hold and more structure came into their game while on defence the club played less risk basketball. With no real point guard as American Henry Dugat turned out to be more of a two player and less playmaker, they didn´t play that tempo and quick game that the Beko BBL was used to was only an annoying memory for teams that had remembered it from the previous years. Sometimes a coach has to react quickly to the situation that he is presented with and Freyer did a super job last season changing the style. However this season the coach has already mentioned that their style will be quick, dynamic and creative. In the pre season Euroleague powerhouse Macabbi Tel Aviv already got a glimpse of the Phoenix Hagen style. „I think our style of play is still run and gun. I don’t think it’s any secret in this league about how Hagen wants to play. This has been their label for years around Germany. I think it may have been a surprise to Maccabi how we play since they aren’t a team in this league they had no clue what Hagen is about“, stressed Zamal Nixon. So back to the roots for Freyer. It will be interesting to see just how severe this style will be and if the head coach will pull some new magic from his sleeve when there is need for it. „I can’t tell what tricks he has up his sleeve you’ll have to watch us this season to see. But as far as how we will play, I think we will have a good balance between running and gunning & adding a little structure when it’s necessary“, warned Zamal Nixon. Hagen could land near the playoff land or be near the last places. That shows again how competitive the Beko BBL is each season. A lot will depend how well Zamal Nixon can run the team. Freyer will have to play the young Germans, but the bench is thin and suspect when one compares it to the other Beko BBL teams. Bell and Brown have to be consistent supporters for Phoenix Hagen to dream of having a chance for the Beko BBL playoffs. Larry Gordon will make another step this season and be an MVP candidate. „I think we have a great group guys. Everyone works hard, everyone is unselfish, and nobody has an ego on this team. I think if we continue to work hard to get better day by day we are going to have a great year“, added Zamal Nixon.
Phoenix Hagen start the season in Frankfurt. The Frankfurt Skyliners swept the season series in 2009-2010 with Phoenix Hagen stomping all over them in Hagen 93-64 as Derrick Allen led all scorers with 22 points, Aubrey Resse chipped in with 18 points and Grayson Moyer had one of his best games as a Skyliner with 15 points and five assists. In the return game in Frankfurt, Phoenix Hagen lost 89-76. Skyliner captain Pascal Roller led Frankfurt with 18 points and five assists and Derrick Allen produced 17 points. Last season, The Deutsche Bank Skyliners outrebounded Phoenix Hagen 66-49 in both games. In 2010-2011, the Skyliners also won the season series with a 90-85 win as Jermaine Bucknor led the team with 19 points and six rebounds and 92-53 romp at home getting 24 points and eight rebounds from Roger Powell and only six points and seven assists from Dashaun Wood. In the first game in the 2011-2012 season, the Fraport Skyliners romped Phoenix Hagen 83-65 as fans saw the last Beko BBL game of Jon Leuer who erupted for 27 points and Jimmy Mckinney had 21 points. In the return game, the Fraport Skyliners stomped all over Phoenix Hagen 92-47. Five players scored in double figures as the team was led by Devin Gibson with 16 points. Two seasons ago Fraport Skyliners lost the first game against Phoenix Hagen in their own living room in embarrassing fashion 107-102 as they their opponent gave them a display of how to play run and gun basketball. Phoenix Hagen shot an amazing 51% from the field and 60% from the three point line. In the return game in Hagen, the Fraport Skyliners had their nerves under control in crunch time slipping by Phoenix Hagen on the road 81-78 as Frankfurt was led by Dawan Robinson with 25 points and ex Giessen players Ryan brooks chipped in with 14 points and Laquan Prowell with 13 points. In the first game of the season, the Fraport Skyliners squuzed out a 82-79 win at home as Aziz Ndiaye had his best game of the season with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Frankfurt had consistent production form many as Jarred Dubois had 15 points, Andrew Rautins chipped in with 13 points and Germans Danilo Barthel and Konstantin Klein had 12 points a piece. Frankfurt had no remedy for Mark Dorris who poured in 24 points for Phoenix Hagen. David Bell had 17 points and Larry Gordon had 16 points. Last season the teams split the season series as each team won in crunch time with three points. Frankfurt won at home 82-79 as skinny center Aziz Ndiaje had his best game of the season registering a double double with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Jarred Dubois added 15 points. Frankfurt had to remedy to stop Mark Dorris as he poured in 25 points and David Bell countered with 17 points. In Hagen, Frankfurt were wrapped up in their crunch time blues of the second half losing as David Bell had 17 points and Larry Gordon had 15 points. Ramon Galloway led Frankfurt with 15 points.
The club had to say farewell to defensive stopper Dino Gregory, non point guard Henry Dugat, Mr fantastic Mark Dorris who had had some big games in his career with Phoenix Hagen, but wasn´t re kept and the basketball dino Bernd Kruel who moved to the RheinStars and there could still play until he is 50. The most important player the club kept was Larry Gordon who is a 27 year old 197cm forward playing his sixth professional basketball season and third with Phoenix Hagen. He played his first three seasons in lower leagues Holland and Austria and last season made a very good transition to the stronger Beko BBL and in his first season with Phoenix Hagen playing 37 games and averaging 12.7ppg, 6.4rpg, 1.5apg, FGP: 52.9%, 3PT: 43.0%, FT: 83.2%. He received a Eurobasket.com All-German Bundesliga Honorable Mention. Last season the California native improved his stats playing 34 games: 15.5ppg, Reb-2(7.6rpg), 1.6apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 51.7%, 3PT: 36.8%, FT: 89.5%. He was rewarded with a Eurobasket.com All-German Bundesliga 3rd Team -14Gordon is a very versatile player that can do just about everything on the court. He defends positions two to four, rebounds well and scores on a consistent rate. He is Phoenix Hagen´s best player. One can say now after two seasons that he is their identity figure. The team was also fortunate to be able to keep David Bell. Bell is a 33 year old 187cm guard that is the only basketball player on earth that looks like baby Hulk and can shoot out the lights on the court and will be playing his third season with Phoenix Hagen. The Oakland California native has a lot of experience having played in the D-league and in Holland, Switzerland or Finland and last season played 37 games: Score-5(15.7ppg), 2.5rpg, 2.5apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 39.9%, 3PT: 38.3%, FT: 90.1%. If he isn´t consistent then it is harder for the team to win. He great combination of shooting and penetrating and drawing fouls is his trademark. Last season Bell played 34 games: Score-4(16.1ppg), 2.7rpg, 2.5apg, FGP: 30.9%, 3PT: 39.4%, FT: 89.3%. The club also kept Keith Ramsey who is a is a 27 year old 205cm power forward/center from Tennessee. He played at Missouri and as a professional in Spain, Sweden and Israel. Two seasons ago he played for Ironi Kfar Hamaccabia Ramat Gan (Israel-National League) playing 31 games: 12.7ppg, Reb-4(10.6rpg), 2.0apg, Steals-5(2.5spg), 1.3bpg, FGP-1(66.4%), 3PT: 37.5%, FT: 57.1%. Last season for Phoenix Hagen he played 33 games: 7.0ppg, 6.2rpg, 1.0apg, 1.6spg, Blocks-5(1.3bpg), FGP: 61.4%, 3PT: 15.8%, FT: 40.5%. His athletic and strong defense made him a formidable duo with Gregory. He will be the master of defense this season for Phoenix Hagen. The team also kept Nikita Khartchenkov who is no stranger to Germany. He is a 27 year old 201cm forward that has the German/Russian citizenship. He started his career in 2003 with TV Langen and then got experience playing for BC Khimki-2 Moscow. In Germany he is a journeyman having played for Braunschweig, Chemnitz, MBC, Lepizig and Nurnberg. He also played a season in Romania. Two seasons ago he played for Uni-Riesen Leipzig (Germany-ProA): 13 games: 15.5ppg, 4.0rpg, 1.8apg, 2FGP: 42.3%, 3FGP: 36.6%, FT: 78.9%, in Jan.’13 moved to Nuernberger Basketball Club (Germany-ProA) playing 18 games: 14.6ppg, 2.3rpg, FGP: 50.6%, 3PT: 41.0%, FT: 83.6%. His best quality is his deadly shooting and his unorthodox shooting technique makes it hard to defend. He already showed an early knack for dropping bombs from outside nailing 15 three pointers as a junior. Last season for Phoenix Hagen he played 28 games: 4.9ppg. When he did get minutes, he produced netting 21 points against the Telekom Baskets Bonn on 5/7 shooting from outside and 19 points against Oldenburg and 16 points against Braunschweig. The club also kept youngsters Fabian Bleck 20 games: 2.0ppg 10 points Oldenburg and 11 points Ulm), Moritz Krume, Niklas Geske(19 games: 1.3ppg) and Jonas Grof. Guys like Bleck and Geske have developed very well and could get even more minutes this season.
The club brought in four new players with Todd Brown, Urule Igbavboa, Arber Tolaj and Zamal Nixon. Todd Brown is a 26 year old 196cm guard from Canton, Ohio that is playing is playing his fifth professional season and first in Germany. He played at Wright State from 2006-2010 playing a total of 129 NCAA games. As a senior he played : 32 games: 12.6ppg, 4.4rpg, 2.2apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 41.6%, 3PT: 38.6%, FT: 73.6%. He has played in countries like Holland, Austria and Mexico and last season played for Lappeenranta NMKY (Finland-Korisliiga, starting five): 42 games: Score-2(22.2ppg), 6.3rpg, 2.8apg, Steals-3(2.0spg), FGP: 49.1%, 3PT: 37.7%, FT: 81.6%. He is a A rugged competitor who has been described as ‘tough as nails’ by opposing coaches. Has an excellent ability to score at high levels. Plays hard at both ends as seen by the fact that he has been named both all-league and all defensive selections. Can shut down opposing backcourt players if needed or raise his offensive game if needed. Sees the floor well and has spent time at all backcourt positions but is best going between the 2-3 spots. Shoots it well with good range and is quick getting up and down the floor. No weaknesses in his game. Is a great leader on the floor and almost acts as an on court coach. Great team player and a real pleasure to play alongside. The club also added Zamal Nixon who is 25 year old 186cm guard from Brooklyn, New York that will go into his fourth professional season and third in Germany. After a strong season with Herten as a rookie averaging 24.9ppg), 3.0rpg, Assists-3 (5.9apg), 1.9spg, the Houston alumnist played a strong second season in the German Pro A with NBC averaging 16.8ppg), 2.6rpg, 3.4apg, 1.1spg. Last season he gathered further experience in Austria with WBC Raiffeisen Wels (Austria-A Bundesliga) playing 33 games: 14.7ppg, 3.3rpg, Assists-4 (4.8apg), Steals-2 (1.9spg). The team also added Urule Igabvboa who is a 27 year old 204cm forward that was born in Munster, Germany and has the American citzenship and is no stranger to the Beko BBL as he played for SC Rasta Vechta (Germany-BBL) last season playing 30 games: 4.8ppg, 2.6rpg. He scored in double figures five times including a 15 point effort against the Artland Dragons. He started his basketball career in 2005 with Valparaiso (NCAA) where he played until 2009. He has played for teams like Keflavik (Iceland-Express League) as a rookie playimng 19 games: 14.8ppg, 7.5rpg, 1.9apg, FGP-3(65.2%), 3PT: 42.9%, FT: 57.1%. In 2010-2011 he played for SFK Perikos/Arhelaos (Greece-A2) playing 28 games: 7.8ppg, 4.0rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 57.7%, FT: 51.4%. He then played for LF Basket (Sweden-Basketligan) from 2011-2013. He should get more minutes in Hagen then in Vechta and should be a vital player on defense giving energy and support to Keith Ramsey. The club also hauled in Arber Tolaj who is a 20 year old 191cm guard who is making his debut in the Beko BBL and making the jump form the German Pro B. Last season he played for UBC Hannover Tigers (ProB): 9 games: 3.0ppg, 1.6rpg; German ProB: 7 games: 3.6ppg, 1.7rpg, in Dec.’13 moved to MTV Wolfenbuettel von 2012 Herzoege (ProB): 12 games: 16.1ppg, 4.0rpg, 1.3apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 62.0%, 3PT: 31.3%, FT: 82.2%. He started his basketball career in 2010 with the Telekom Baskets Bonn II (2.Regionalliga) and also played with the Dragons, DJK MJC Trier (Regionalliga) and the Giants Duesseldorf (Regionalliga).