One of the great things to observe and get excited about in the German Pro B week in and week out is seeing how well the American imports will do and if there will be a man among boys comparison depending on how much they actually take off on the court. Once called Take Off Wurzburg, their guard Donovan Morris was the oldest player on the court in the BCM training facility of the Fraport Skyliners as he squared off against the Juniors. Donovan who hails from beautiful San Bernadino, California that one can never miss on highway 10 as you drive from Los Angeles to Palm Springs and has the first Mcdonalds restaurant has had a whirlwind career. After setting many school records at Fresno State, he moved to Long Beach state(NCAA) and started his professional basketball career in 2009 with Falco KC-Szombathely (Hungary-A Division) where he put up solid EuroChallenge stats averaging 11.3ppg, 2.8rpg, 1.5spg, FGP: 62.7%, 3PT: 29.3%, FT: 78.4. In the same season he moved to the Giants Noerdlingen (Germany-ProA) playing 6 games: 13.5ppg, 2.5rpg, 2.3apg, FGP: 56.4%, 3PT: 30.0%, FT: 79.2%. His career then stalled for three seasons as he played in the lower league WCBL for the Santa Baraba Breakers and Liepajas Lauvas (Latvia-LBL). It wasn´t until last season that he had a rebirth in his career where he played for TV 1864 Salzkotten (Germany-Regionalliga) playing 19 games: 26.5ppg, 6.8rpg, 4.4apg, 1.9spg, FGP: 64.4%, 3Pts: 49.1%, FT: 92.6%. This season he made the jump to the German Pro B with Take Off Wurzburg that recently changed their name to TG Wurzburg Baskets Academy and stayed true to the old team name taking off against BG Karlsruhe in a 89-83 victory as he exploded for 30 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. He wanted to continue to be on take off cruise in the second game in Frankfurt, but wasn´t as hot as in the first game as his points against Frankfurt got shaved down to 16, but in the end all that mattered was the win as TG Wurzburg squeaked past Frankfurt 71-64. Morris had some mixed feelings about his game, but was still happy about the win. I could go 0/10, and I would still be happy if we won the game. I have to give Frankfurt credit because they played great defense. Im not happy that I missed two easy lay ups and mid distance shots. I know I have the offense, but I have to work on my defense as I missed some assignments”, stressed California native Donovan Morris. It was a hard fought game, but in the end it was the little things that decided the fate of Frankfurt. “In the last four minutes, we finally started hitting shots we usually would have missed. We played better defense and fought harder than they did”, warned Donovan Morris. The Fraport Skyliners move to 1-1 and understand that every game is a learning process. “This was a game with high intensity. I thought that we defended well and that we would win, but Wurzburg had good answers. Nico Brauner hurt us with his shot form the corner. We had our chances, but missed open shots. All in all it was a one possession game”, stressed Paderborn native Marius Nolte.
The game took place on a untypical Tuesday night, but both teams were focused as a defensive battle loomed in the first quarter as no team gave up easy shots. The Fraport Skyliners started off with a bang going on a 8-2 run as their offense clicked right way. Max Merz who played 25 Beko BBL games last season started off the run with a three pointer. Ex Bamberg forward Johannes Richter followed up with another shot from the parking lot and Merz scored on the penetration as his shielding from the kick out or finish is breathtaking. However the defense of Wurzburg started to clamp down better as they got back into the game as they were killing Frankfurt on the offensive board. Christian Wolf scored inside after the third try, but young German Jamin Knothe who was inserted into the starting line up dropped the third three pointer of Frankfurt in the first five minutes as Frankfurt led 11-4. However Wurzburg closed out the first quarter with an annoying 8-4 run to trail only 15-12 after 10 minutes. Wurzburg went on a 6-0 run as Max Ugrai scored inside twice as did Nico Brauner as Frankfurt led only 11-10. Frankfurt did a good job keeping American Donovan Morris off the scoring sheet and keeping Wurzburg off the defensive boards, but had no cure to keep Wurzburg off the offensive boards. Frankfurt then got a offensive rebound and put back from Tim Oldenburg and Max Merz free throws while Würzburg countered with a Corneilius Hoepfner jumper. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were shooting 31% from the field and 43% from outside while TG Wurzburg Baskets Akademie was shooting 33% from the field and 0% from outside. Frankfurt had 14 rebounds while Wurzburg had 11. Frankfurt had five turnovers and Wurzburg had two.
The second quarter was tight as it went back and forth for the first few minutes, but TG Wurzburg Baskets Akademie then got the lead back and kept it until halftime. 28 year old Dominik Schneider gave TG Wurzburg Baskets Akademie the lead 16-15 with two free throws and a lay up. Max Merz got Frankfurt the lead back 19-16 with two free throws and a step back jumper. TG Wurzburg Baskets Akademie then went on a 6-0 run to lead 22-16. Florida native John Florveus hit a fade away, free throws and Donovan Morris finally got on the board with a pull up jumper. After Richter connected on a pretty finger tip roll, it was the Wurzburg Americans again that did damage on offense as Morris hit a jumper and Florveus made an offensive rebound and put back as Wurzburg led 26-21. TG Wurzburg Baskets Akademie was playing smart basketball as Frankfurt was losing concentration too much which led to unneeded turnovers. At this stage of the game Wurzburg was out working Frankfurt as well. Wurzburg was unable to break away as Johannes Richter unleashed his dangerous outside shooting nailing consecutive three pointers as Frankfurt trailed only 28-27. However Wurzburg didn´t allow Frankfurt to take the three point momentum into halftime as Wurzburg closed out the second quarter with a 5-2 run. Ugrai made a catch and pop jumper while Wolf dropped a three pointer. Marius Nolte finished the second quarter scoring with an offensive rebound and put back. “Frankfurt wasn´t finishing their plays and taking bad shots. Morris also hit some tough shots. Frankfurt wasn´t defending as hard as before”, stressed Fraport Skyliners point guard Konstantin Klein. TG Wurzburg Baskets Akademie was shooting 45% from the field and 33% from the three point line while the Fraport Skyliners were shooting 31% from the field and 38% from the three point line. Frankfurt had 19 rebounds and Wurzburg 21 rebounds. Both teams had nine turnovers a piece.
TG Wurzburg Baskets Akademie kept the lead in the third quarter as they were clearly the better team while the Fraport Skyliner Juniors continued to chip away, but couldn´t find a healthy rhythm to regain the lead. TG Wurzburg Baskets Akademie was playing clever using their size and drawing fouls. Ugrai, Morris and Florveus all sunk free throws as Wurzburg held the 41-33 lead. Merz than retaliated with a lay in and free throw to cut the Wurzburg lead to 41-37. However whenever Frankfurt got close to Wurzburg the opponent had an answer being able to make their lead bigger again. Brauner made free throws and Wolf another three pointer as Wurzburg led 46-37 again. However despite Nolte missing two free throws, Frankfurt closed out the third quarter in fine fashion going on a 8-2 run to trail only 48-45 after three quarters. Merz made a floater, Oldenburg two free throws and Fossmann got his own miss off a floater and shot it in. “Frankfurt continued to defend well, but just weren´t hitting shots. It was important that Frankfurt held their composure”, added Fraport Skyliner American Sean Armand. TG Wurzburg Baskets Akademie was shooting41% from the field and 29% from the parking lot while the Fraport Sklyiners were shooting 29% from the field and 28% from the parking lot. Both teams had 30 rebounds a piece, but Wurzburg 16 turnovers and Frankfurt only 12.
In the fourth quarter, the Fraport Skyliners fiercely retook the lead on the help of a 7-0 run to lead 52-48. Young German Lennart Okeke nailed a three pointer which was followed by a Kyle Fossman three pointer. Despite Wurzburg big man John Florveus getting to the free throw line twice, Frankfurt could keep the lead with a Fossman lay in and Merz free throws as Frankfurt led 56-51. However Wurzburg went on a 7-0 run to retake the lead 58-56. It was the Americans Florveus who got to the free throw line and Morris that was clutch nailing a shot from the wing and then somehow sneaking inside and coming up with the ball in traffic and scoring on the fourth Wurzburg attempt. Frankfurt then tied the game at 58-58 with possibly their finest set play of the fourth quarter as Fossman found the hole in the zone and scored with his left hand. The lead now would trade back and forth as Okeke hit free throws for the 60-59 lead. Florveus then made a tip in for the Wurzburg 61-60 advantage. Then it was time for 18 year old Okeke to hit another big three pointer for the 63-61 Frankfurt lead. “He played a good game. He hit big shots. He needs playing time and will only get better like that”, warned Marius Nolte. However the hero of the game wasn´t going to be John Florveus or Donovan Morris, but 19 year old Nico Brauner who played at ASC Theresianum Mainz (Regionalliga) last season showing his scoring qualities averaging 19,5ppg. He nailed a huge three pointer from the corner and then followed with a lay in as TG Wurzburg Baskets Akademie led 68-63 with under a minute to go. Frankfurt did get some free throws from Fossmann, but Florveus closed the door on Frankfurt with two free throws. The unlikely hero was Nico Brauner who knew how to step up. “We have a system that is designed for many players to score. The point guard saw me, found me and I didn´t hesitate and just shot it. This game gives me more self confidence and I am finding my form better from game to game”, added Nico Brauner.
TG Wurzburg Baskets Akademie was led by John Florveus with 20 points and five rebounds. Donovan Morris tallied 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Maxi Ugrai had 12 points and nine rebounds. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Max Merz with 19 points and five assists. Kyle Fossman had 13 points, six rebounds and three assists and Johannes Richter added 11 points and seven boards. TG Wurzburg Baskets Akademie shot 39% from the field and 33% from downtown while the Fraport Skyliners shot 29% from the field and 27% form downtown. TG Wurzburg Baskets Akademie had 44 rebounds while Frankfurt had 39 rebounds. Wurzburg had 18 turnovers and Frankfurt had 16 turnovers. TG Wurzburg Baskets Akademie is 2-0 now and Donovan Morris´s face lit up when asked about the chances of his team. “If we keep fighting the way we did today then the sky is the limit. We will get more confidence with time as the team gets better”, warned Donovan Morris. Marius Nolte was also positive after the loss and the future of the club. “We are a young team and need to grow. It is all a process. We are a very ambitious team that wants to work hard. Pro´s know how to react in low phases while we might hang our heads. We have to learn how to get strong in weak phases. However we always have intensity and heart and that is something you can´t learn by practicing”, warned Marius Nolte.