The Fraport Skyliners Looking For Title Number 3 At 2015 Eurochallenge Final 4 in Turkey

For a majority of the history of the Frankfurt Skyliners, they have been used to having success winning the 2000 cup and 2004 league titles as well as two final appearances and many playoff visits since 1999. Except for a short drought from 2006-2008 where the club missed the playoffs and didn´t get back until the return of the babba king Murat Didin where the club reached the next three. However the club has been in a bit of a rut the last three years not reaching the promised land in May playing playoff basketball, but instead being home and testing the old playground rims like a Quantez Robertson did in Cincinnati the last years. There wasn´t really much to cheer about the last three seasons for the Frankfurt Skyliners except for some big wins at home against teams like FC Bayern Munich, Brose Baskets Bamberg or Alba Berlin as consistency was as distant for the club as it is for a Jacob Burtschi not clawing around on the floor for a loose ball or a Justin Cobbs not calmly leading comebacks successfully as he did against teams like Enisey or FC Bayern Munich this season. Of course in the last years there were also many great single game performances from the likes of ex NBA players Andrew Rautins or Jermario Davidson or a Zach Peacock, but all in all nothing that translated into hardware. This season however has been a different story as the Fraport Skyliners have been Germany´s little darling having a season of two tales as they started off slow had to battle injuries and found themselves near the bottom only to benefit off a Richard Williams injury getting rookie Justin Cobbs in November and since his arrival he has led the club when he played to a 28-6 record reaching the playoffs including a perfect 10-0 record in the Eurochallenge as in many moments he was like an offensive magical wizard keeping calm and playing as if has been a seasoned veteran instead of a rookie leading the comeback charge. Other big highlights this season have been the massive come back wins against Enisey where they were down 19 points 44-25 at halftime and pulled out possibly one of their biggest wins in history 85-80 as well as the youngest win the unbelievable fourth quarter comeback against FC Bayern Munich where a Svetislav Pesic looked as pale after the loss like a home grown Siberian citizen does in the dead of winter. Another giant highlight was the breathtaking 36 point 10 three pointer effort from Oklahoma native Jacob Burtschi who literally was in the zone as the hole wasn´t as big as the ocean, but as vast as outer space. Another highlight is during Fraport Skyliner home games to witness a cute little girl not more than five years old doing little cheers with her pom poms behind the Frankfurt bench and dreaming of one day being a member of the Fraport Skyliners dance team. The big season goal of the playoffs has been reached while the next big highlight the Eurochallenge Final 4 in Turkey is happening this weekend.

The Fraport Skyliners go into the Eurochallenge Final 4 coming off a huge 76-73 win against FC Bayern Munich which will increase their self confidence and have won three of their last four games in the BBL. Johannes Voigtmann warned after the victory, that the club can´t get too tangled up in their amazing feat against Munich as head coach Gordon Herbert calls it “winning hangover” and that the team will be mentally ready to compete. Frankfurt who currently is in sixth place in the Beko BBL will face off against Nanterre of France that have had a strong season in the France Pro A and currently are in second place behind Strassburg. Nanterre is an interesting club, because they have slowly moved up the league ladder and were in the fourth division in 2001, moved to the third division in 2002 and to the France Pro B in 2004. They played seven years in the Pro B before moving up to the first division in 2011. In only their second season in the France Pro A and just squeaking into the playoffs at position 8 surprisingly won the league title. Winning didn´t stop there as they won the France cup last season. It was just one of those fairy tale seasons where everything came together as ex BBL players Chris Oliver and Trenton Meacham basked in the limelight and added hardware to their professional collection. The success continues to stay consistent with the French team as the team is a favorite to win another league title and need two wins in the Eurochallenge to win that title. Much of the credit has to be given to 50 year old head coach Pascal Donadieu who has been with Nanterre since the start in 2000 and grown with the club in its rise. Nanterre had a superb Eurochallenge campaign record of 11-3 and swept their quarterfinal opponent from Italy Enel Brindisi 80-68 and 77-72. The club is led by two ex BBL players with ex Bonn forward Kyle Weems who is averaging 12,5ppg, 4,6rpg and 2,3apg while shooting 43,3% from downtown in the France Pro A and in the Eurochallenge is averaging 14,8ppg, 5,2rpg and 1,9apg while shooting 48,1% from downtown and ex TBB Trier forward Jamal Shuler who played two seasons with TBB Trier with current NBA player Chris Copeland, was a BBL slam dunk contestant in Bonn in 2010 competing against Quantez Robertson and is known for the “shot” a breathtaking buzzer beater against Limoges with then team Vicey which had the TV broadcasters in a vocal frenzy after that unbelievable and unexpected finish. Shuler is averaging 13,6ppg, 4,0rpg and 2,8apg in the France Pro A while in the Eurochallenge he is averaging 14,1ppg, 4,0rpg and 2,4apg. The club also boasts solid point guard Phoenix native TJ Campbell who can score and dish depending what the team needs of him on any given night and currently is averaging 11,2ppg and 5,5apg in the France league and 8,8ppg and 5,5apg in the Eurochallenge. Especially in the quarterfinals against Enel Brindisi he stepped up with 13 points twice and six and seven assists. The club also has experienced small forward Mykal Riley who could trade Jermario Davidson stories with Quantez Robertson as he played with him at Alabama(NCAA) as well as ex Fraport Skyliner Junior Demetrius Jemison. The American is averaging 12,1ppg, 4,4rpg and 3,2apg while in the Eurochallenge he is averaging 11,1ppg, 5,1rpg and 3,0apg. The club has only one true tall big man with 20 year old 208cm Mouhammadou Jaiteh who is averaging 11,3ppg and 6,3rpg in the France Pro A and 8,8ppg and 5,5rpg in the Eurochallenge. The x factor could very well be 27 year old 201cm power forward Laurence Ekperigin who had junior and senior stats of 18 and 11 and 21 and 12 at Le Moyne (NCAA2). He averaged nine rebounds in the last two years in the second divisions in Italy and France. He will have to step it up under the basket against the taller Frankfurt inside rotation.

The Fraport Skyliners are looking to bring Germany its fourth international basketball title after Alba Berlin´s Korac cup win in 1995, Mitteldeutscher Bc´s Fiba cup in 2004 and BG Goettingen´s Eurochallenge win in 2010 and are led by Los Angeles native Justin Cobbs who played the last three seasons at California(NCAA). His record of 28-6 speaks for him with Frankfurt and currently in the Beko BBL he is averaging 14,6ppg, 2,5rpg and 4,6apg and even more dominant in the Eurochallenge averaging 17,1ppg, 3,2rpg and 6,4apg while shooting 46% from outside and just owns the competition. He has scored in double figures in 25 of 29 games in both competitions combined. Even though he has struggled a bit in the last seven games with taking the care of the ball as he has had four games where he had five turnovers in each game, he knows what is on the line in the Eurochallenge. Johannes Voigtmann goes into the weekend having won two BBL awards with the most improved the second year in a row that a Skyliner has done it with Danilo Barthel last season. The German big man is averaging 12,4ppg, 5,7rpg and 2,2apg in the BBL. He has scored in double figures 19 times and had a career high 27 points against MBC and had 26 points against Phoenix Hagen. He became a European name as he has dominated the Eurochallenge and has played 15 games averaging 15,7ppg, 7,1rpg and 1,8apg. In Eurochallenge play he has scored in double figures 13 times including three double doubles and had masterful 26 points against Tartu Rock and in the do or die win at home against Enisey. Another key performer for Frankfurt is another rookie with Sean Armand from Brooklyn New York who is currently averaging 12,6ppg, 2,9rpg and 2,6apg and in the Eurochallenge 13,9ppg, 3,6rpg and 1,9apg.He has scored in double figures in 20 BBL games and was a big reason for the team winning against FC Bayern Munich and had big games with 31 against Avtodor and 23 points against Enisey. 6 year man Quantez Robertson who is the minister of defense is averaging 11,3ppg, 4,3rpg and 3,2apg in the BBL and in the Eurochallenge 11,7ppg, 4,5rpg and 2,5apg. He is motor that gets the team going and has become a dependable offensive player in the last years. Other important roles players for Frankfurt are veterans Canadian national player Aaron Doornekamp(BBL 6,0ppg3,8rpg, 1,4apg/EC 6,3ppg, 4,1rpg 1,7apg) and ex Airforce player Jacob Burtschi(99,8ppg, 4,1rpg 1,5apg/EC 9,5ppg, 4,0rpg 2,0apg) as kind of the combo glue players. Both do a little of all and can score if needed as Burtschi showed against Bremerhaven with 36 points and Doornekamp with 22 against Oldenburg and 21 against Den Bosch. Further key players are front court players American205cm forward Mike Morrison(7,3ppg, 3,4rpg/EC 5,3ppg 3,2rpg who played at George Mason(NCAA) and Danilo Barthel(10,2ppg, 5,2rpg, 1,5apg/EC 11,4ppg, 5,1rpg, 1.0apg). Barthel has been struggling a bit since returning from injury where he missed two months as he has been lost a bit in the shuffle on offense, but that is only normal as the roles have developed over time on the team. Morrison is the pivotal man off the bench that will spark the team with a monster block or big dunk to get the team going. When looking at the team stats, Nanterre averages 83 points in the competition and Frankfurt 80 points. On the defensive side, both teams belong to the top defensive teams as they are three and four in the Eurochallenge with Frankfurt giving up 74 per game and the French side 75 points. On the boards, despite having the height advantage Frankfurt is seventh in rebounding at 35 while Nanterre is fourth with 36 per contest. Both teams are shooting 48% from the field and Nanterre is seventh in three point shooting percentage at 37% while Frankfurt is tenth at 35%. Both teams know how to score, but also know how to defend. Offense wins games and defense wins titles and that will be the difference. Frankfurt head coach Gordon Herbert is known for having potent defensive teams and he will have his team ready for Nanterre. Despite both teams having athleticism and Frankfurt having the size and height advantage down low, they will have to be wide awake and ready to match the athleticism of Nanterre all over the court. Slowing down Weems and Shuler will be a tad more than half the rent to victory. Frankfurt has the deeper and more talented roster, but key figures with Cobbs and Armand lacking in international experience in big games. This will be an intense battle with two very hungry teams with the winner most likely winning the Eurochallenge title. The winner will face the winner of Trabzonspor vs Rovinari.

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