Antonio Graves (Artland Dragons) Looking To Help Make Those Extra Steps Into The BBL Playoffs

Some Beko BBL teams have nice rosters, but usually you can pinpoint exactly who will be top season scorer simply because of a few top players have those extra scoring qualities like a Justin Cobbs in Frankfurt, a DJ Kennedy in Ludwigsburg or a David Bell in Hagen where seeing them a top of the teams scoring list is as probable as seeing Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul leading the NBA in assists. However when you look at the roster of the Artland Dragons, one has a team that for years has belonged to the deepest teams in the league after the big three of Alba Berlin, Bamberg and Munich were you could flip a coin between guys like Brandon Thomas, Anthony King, David Holston, Lawrence Hill or Antonio Graves. Even guys like Kenny Frease, Dennis Horner or Chad Toppert could be a teams top scorer if they were to get consistent minutes on a regular basis. If you had been stuck in a closet for a few months and been denied any basketball stats one may have the best odds of having chosen a Holston or Thomas who can shot out the lights on a consistent rate, but currently Antonio Graves is the teams top scorer, but he does so much more as he also is able to find his teammates as the 29 year old 191cm shooting guard form Ohio is second in team assists behind Holston. Graves is playing his eighth professional season as has been a basketball nomad usually moving from team to team the way Paris Hilton does from sunglasses to sunglasses as he has played in countries like Turkey, Croatia, Israel and Italy. The American has improved his stats this season from last as experience has helped him grow in his role. “I think that my role is the same. I understand our offense more and what my coaches expect from me. I also am doing a better job of picking my spots and finding my teammates. I think the improvement has come because of another year of experience. I know my situation now and coming to a team is always an adjustment”, stressed Antonio Graves. He also has made strides under young head coach Tyron Mccoy where both have seen eye to eye since the start. “I have learned a lot from him. He has a high basketball IQ. He played at a high level and wants us to play at that level as well. I have learned to be a better player on offense and defense and not just to go out on the court and use my athletic ability, but to be able to take the game two steps ahead and also know when too slow it down”, added Antonio Graves. The Artland Dragons have been very up and down in the last two months, but still very much in the playoff hunt and with such a deep roster Graves is content that the 2008 cup winner won´t miss the playoffs. “We still have many games left to make a turn around. I think that the league is stronger this season, but that isn´t an excuse that we should have. We have underachieved, but we are confident that we can turn it around. We had a nice playoff run last year, but want to do better than last year. Anything is possible. We know that we have the potential and we hope that we can find it in the stretch run. I am confident that we will make a run. Nobody wants to match up against us in the playoffs. We are a scary team and we know it and so do our opponents”, warned Antonio Graves.

The Artland Dragons continue to be a club that is stocked tight with great players each season and belong to the top five teams in terms of depth, but in the end in the playoffs when everything is on the line, they are unable to get over the hump and get past the top teams like a FC Bayern Munich, Bamberg or Alba Berlin. It has been like this for years and with each passing season, the 2008 cup win in Hamburg against Ludwigsburg and only hardware in the history of the organization, the wait seems as endless as anyone being tortured in a monkey ditch at a zoo after falling in by mistake. In the last four seasons the club have finished in 4th place twice and in sixth and seventh place. Last season the team was on the right way as rookie head coach Tyron Mccoy more than earned his pay check for halting the Bamberg dynasty from winning a fifth consecutive title kicking them out 3-1 and then taking Alba Berlin to four tough games. Had they won game one which they lost 81-79 in OT, then they would have had a 2-0 game lead and then they may have skipped to the finals to meet FC Bayern Munich. During the regular season they beat Munich, Berlin and Bamberg so they definitely had some practice, but now the team needs to learn how to beat these top clubs in a five game series which is never simple since the playoffs are a completely new season. Head coach Tyron Mccoy as always had an offensive arsenal to work with, but also carved out a well-oiled defensive structure as the team played defense well for most of the season keeping teams to under 70 points nine times.

Tyron Mccoy did a splendid job not messing with last seasons chemistry and trying to keep as many players intact as possible and did just that keeping nine players and with 29 year old Anthony King and Guido Grunheid going into their fourth season with the team. Just when one thinks that the off season can be a time to catch a small breather, Miami native King really had the club work hard to keep him for a fourth season as for months there was unending speculation where he could end up. King has improved his scoring each season with Artland and really was a guy that they couldn´t or wanted to lose no matter what the price was. Last season King played Eurocup 8 games: 10.4ppg, 5.1rpg, 2.1apg, FGP: 50.7%, 3PT: 50.0%, FT: 57.1%; German League: 40 games: 11.9ppg, 6.4rpg, 1.6apg, FGP: 48.2%, 3PT: 36.4%, FT: 80.8%. Grunheid is a veteran that is the reliable bench player that has won six titles with Alba Berlin and one with Cologne. Last season the the 32 year old 208cm German played Eurocup: 9 games: 5.4ppg, 3.0rpg, FGP: 60.0%, 3PT: 30.0%, FT: 50.0%; German League: 32 games: 2.9ppg, 3.0rpg. The club also held guys like Lawrence Hill who was able to make the transition from Israel to Germany and was so valuable as an inside out player and was third best three point shooter last season in the league. The 27 year old 203cm forward from Arizona who played at Stanford with NBA player Landry Fields and the Lopez twins has much experience having also played in Mexico and the D-league. Last season Hill played Eurocup: 9 games: 9.2ppg, 5.4rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 38.5%, FT: 72.2%; German League: 41 games: 11.9ppg, 6.3rpg, 1.4apg, FGP: 53.0%, 3PT-3(48.7%), FT: 69.9%

The club also held on to American Antonio Graves who has had experience in Turkey, France and Italy. Last season the 29 year old 191cm guard played Eurocup: 9 games: 6.6ppg, 2.9apg, FGP: 41.7%, 3PT: 31.8%, FT: 80.0%; German League: 42 games: 9.7ppg, 1.8rpg, 3.1apg, FGP: 42.0%, 3PT: 35.8%, FT: 81.4%. Brandon Thomas may be 30 and may be in his prime now and is playing his third season for the team. His all around play, scoring(3rd best FG% last season in BBL) and leadership are his biggest attributes. After a rookie season in Denmark where he led the league in scoring and averaging 20ppg in Austria in his second season, he has been a consistent and strong Beko BBL player since 2009 where he led Braunschweig into the playoffs twice. Last season he played Eurocup: 10 games: 11.1ppg, 3.6rpg, 1.9apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 64.3%, 3PT: 28.9%, FT: 85.7%; German League: 38 games: 12.1ppg, 3.9rpg, 2.3apg, FGP-3(64.1%), 3PT: 31.9%, FT: 65.3%. The team also held on to sharp shooter Chad Toppert who when he is hot can cool down the dungeon of Toby the dragon. The club is hoping for more consistency from the New Mexico native this season. After playing three seasons for CAI Zaragoza (Spain-ACB) where he played 106 games, he came to Artland last season and played Eurocup: 9 games: 6.7ppg, 2.8rpg, FGP: 31.3%, 3PT: 42.1%, FT: 50.0%; German League: 42 games: 6.2ppg, 2.1rpg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 43.8%, FT: 90.0%.

The club also held on to German national player Bastian Doreth where one always knows what you get with his controlled point guard play and never ending fierce defense. Shave off the beard and dye his hair black and you have a second Konstantin Klein. After playing with Bamberg, Trier and FC Bayern Munich, the 25 year old 182cm guard will be playing his second season under Mccoy and last season played Eurocup 10 games: 3.7ppg, 1.4rpg, 3.3apg; German League: 37 games: 4.1ppg, 1.4rpg, 1.9apg. The team added four new players including David Holston as well as Andreas SEiferth who was the clubs biggest and most interesting pick up. Seiferth is a 25 year old 209cm center that is a German national player. He learned the basketball trade in with Alba Berlin and then played three seasons for TBB Trier where 1993 NCAA champion Henrik Rodl gave him time to develop. He improved his stats each season and last season played 31 games: 11.8ppg, 4.9rpg, FGP: 58.2%, FT: 65.1%. Ex NBA player Dennis Horner. This is the second tour of duty for the 26 year old 206cm from New Jersey in Quackenbruck after playing three games in 2012. His NBA train after 8 games with the New Jersey Nets may have been derailed and now he is focusing on Europe. Last season he had strong stats in the D-league with the Springfield Armor (D-League) playing 29 games: 15.0ppg, 6.1rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 51.6%, 3PT: 31.0%, FT: 80.8%, in Feb.’14 traded to Bakersfield Jam (D-League) playing 18 games: 12.6ppg, 8.0rpg, 1.6apg, FGP: 50.4%, 3PT: 39.0%, FT: 70.9%. Mccoy adds another dimension to the defense with David Mccray. After playing in Ludwigsburg and Bonn, he is looking to make the next step in Artland. You match up Mccray and Doreth against Justin Cobbs and Konstantin Klein in a defensive battle, you probably won´t find a winner as one will have to let the mascots Tobi the dragon and Dunking Kong battle it out or just toss a coin. Last season with Bonn Mccray played Eurocup: 10 games: 4.9ppg, 1.5rpg, 1.5apg; German League: 39 games: 4.7ppg, 1.2rpg, 1.0apg. The club also added German journey man Tim Schwarz who played 22 Beko BBL games in 2010-2011 with Giessen, but mostly has German pro A experience.Last season the German played for BG Karlsruhe (ProA) playing 28 games: 8.8ppg, 4.1rpg, FGP: 49.5%, 3PT: 35.3%, FT: 87.5%. The club also got Americans Kenny Frease and Terrell Everett late into the season as the club had injuries. Frease is a 25 year old 212cm center from Massillon, Ohio that is playing his third professional season and is playing his second season for the Artland Dragons and last season played Eurocup: 8 games: 9.5ppg, 4.3rpg, 1.0apg, FGP: 54.0%, FT: 66.7%; German League: 40 games: 7.1ppg, 3.8rpg, 1.0apg, FGP: 55.7%, FT: 49.4%. He played at Xavier from 2008-2012 and as a rookie played for Tuebingen. He started the season with Yesilgiresun Belediye (Turkey-TB2L): 16 games: 13.8ppg, 6.7rpg, 1.1apg, 2.2bpg, 2FGP: 59.7%, 3FGP: 66.7%, FT: 44.4%. Terrell Everett is a 30 year old 193 cm guard from Charleston, South Carolina playing his ninth professional season and played a few years with Bremerhaven. He has come a long way since starting his basketball career with SW Missouri St. – West Plains JC via Oklahoma State, he has played in seven countries with Germany, France, Greece, Czech Republic, Croatia, Ukraine and Romania. Last season he played for BC Odessa (Ukraine-Superleague, starting five): 19 games: 11.7ppg, 3.5rpg, 5.7apg, 1.8spg, FGP: 49.6%, 3PT: 34.0%, FT: 74.6%,. He started the season with Steaua CSM EximBank Bucuresti (Romania-Liga Nationala): 17 games: 11.1ppg, 2.9rpg, 3.2apg, 1.1spg, 2FGP: 56.8%, 3FGP: 47.9%, FT: 71.8%.

Currently the Artland Dragons have a record of 12-13 and resting in 10th place one win away from the last playoff spot. At the start of December the team started a six game losing streak and since then have a record of 4-4. The club has been defending better as of late as they have suffered only giving up 80 plus points twice in eight games. “It has taken us longer to get our defensive concept down because we play a certain kind of defensive scheme. We like to take teams out of what they do best and take that pick and role away. Playing this way is unconventional and getting that trust with each other has taken longer. We have practiced it in the Eurocup play and the coaching staff has done a great job with us and having us understand it better”, stressed Antonio Graves. The Fraport Skyliners enter the game with a lot of momentum with reaching the Eurochallenge Final 4 and having won five of their last six games and last won in Hagen 79-70 72 hours ago. It will be the battles of the point guards between Justin Cobbs and David Holston and Frankfurt should have the advantage inside if Anthony King is still out, but will need to combat the fierce three point shooting of Artland who have six guys shooting 40% or better.

The Frankfurt Skyliners have a 9-10 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 the 2011-2012 season, 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. Two seasons ago, the Fraport Skyliners won their first meeting with Artland 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. Last season the teams split the season series. The Fraport Skyliners won their home game 89-74 as Andrew Rautins had a hot night connecting for 24 points and six three pointers. Danilo Barthel added 18 points. The Artland Dragons were led by Lawrence Hill with 20 points. In the return game, Artland won 83-77 as the Fraport Skyliners lost one of their many games in crunch time and also had no idea how to run Chad Toppert cold as he had 21 points hitting 7/8 three pointers. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Johannes Voigtmann with 18 points and Jarred Dubois contributed 17 points. In the first meeting this season Artland won 83-74 as they were led by Brandon Thomas with 13 points. Frankfurt was led by RichardWilliams with 20 points. The Fraport Skyliners host the Artland Dragons Tuesday March 24th.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s