When you examine the scalp of Fraport Skyliners head coach Gordon Herbert one sees a white bushel of hair that could substitute for a plate of snow with that touch of dark grey which could have been added in by splatting specs of dirt from a dog playing in that seasons first snow storm or trying to find that bone it buried the summer before. His white scalp was once a more brownish with spots of grey creeping through when he won the 2004 Beko BBL title with the then Opel Skyliners. Since then the coaching of career of Gordon Herbert has brought many playoff appearances and titles in France and Finland, but even with that success has supercharged his scalp in going in the more white direction. Just how much more stress his scalp has taken in the last two seasons is hard to say as it is more difficult to notice with his sea of white which seems unfathomed, but this season the club is going in a new direction to give success a better chance of developing and bearing the 1984 Canadian Olympian less burden upstairs by choosing experience over NCAA inexperience for their season meal ticket. That the Fraport Skyliners have a limited budget is nothing new as they have been doing the best out of their resources and hauling in the best players available for years. They also have started a new trend in the BBL where they give contract extensions as early as possible as Canadian national player Aaron Doornekamp and Florida native Mike Morrison were kept, but wait until very late in the summer when the prices of the players on the market have sunk to do their season shopping. Especially at the guard position, the Fraport Skyliners have gambled the last two years taking NCAA players where one never knows if they will pan out. Two seasons ago, the club brought in Jared Dubois and Ramon Galloway who had some good games, but overall the inexperience especially hurt in crunch time as the club seemed to lose almost as many close games as the German national team did at the Euro 2015. Last season Gordon Herbert did everything right bringing in the correct early season player with Justin Cobbs and scorer in Sean Armand. Herbert had the correct touch adding that cool and calm Los Angeles demeanour of Justin Cobbs and that fierce and tough New York attitude in Sean Armand. The two Americans with a solid supporting cast went from last to the playoffs and a Eurochallenge final 4 berth showing that inexperience can be overridden with skill and effort. This season the club practiced the same procedure waiting until very late to haul in two guards, but this season the two gentlemen didn´t have a college degree, school year book, or school team sweat shirt in their baggage to present, but a Eurochallenge title, wife and baby, NBA Summer league experience and for those long bus trips the ultimate John Patrick stories. The club added experienced guys with Jordan Theodore and BBL veteran John Little in the hopes of bringing consistency at once and not starting the season off on the wrong foot again. Even if new swing man Tomas Dimas is only 21, he has played 24 Euroleague games what no other Skyliner has ever done. With a roster that has continuation and a foundation of chemistry with the German three of Johannes Voigtmann, Danilo Barthel and Konstantin Klein added to veterans Aaron Doornekamp, Quantez Robertson and Mike Morrison, the club will have that needed overall experience for their season meal ticket and the better chances of reaching the playoffs for a second straight season.
One of the big key´s for a successful season for the Fraport Skyliners is their continuity and already existing team chemistry that they have developed over the last years as the club has held on to a majority of key players from the last years. Out of the big German three of Johannes Voightmann, Danilo Barthel and Konstantin Klein it was the Heidelberg native Barthel that made his breakthrough two years ago and last season it was Voigtmann. The big man is a 23 year old 210cm center that started as a hand balller and first started to play basketball at age 15 and will be playing his fourth season in Frankfurt. He has the looks of a young Arnold Schwarznegger and the gracefulness and versatility of a Tim Duncan. He has been able to improve his stats each season as last season he played 35 games averaging 12.2ppg, 5.9rpg, 2.4apg, FGP: 61.2%, 3PT: 36.1%, FT: 79.3%; EuroChallenge: 17 games: 16.0ppg, 7.2rpg, 1.6apg, FGP: 64.8%, 3PT: 28.6%, FT: 79.4%, He made a big jump in his development playing for the German national team and the Euro 2015 playing 4 games: 4.8ppg, 2.5rpg. With the rate of his development he is one of the center´s of the future for German basketball. “Joe had a great experience with the German national team and developed a fine relationship with Dirk Nowitzki. He changed his diet following that of Aaron Doornekamp and lost 12 pounds”, added head coach Gordon Herbert. The development of team captain Danilo Bartlel who is a 23 year old 207cm forward and will be playing his fifth season in Frankfurt was detoured a bit last season due to injuries and will miss the start of this season as well. Last season the German played 30 games: 9.3ppg, 4.8rpg, 1.4apg, FGP: 53.1%, 3PT: 41.5%, FT: 74.1%; EuroChallenge: 10 games: 10.4ppg, 4.6rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 55.6%, 3PT: 37.5%, FT: 81.0%. A positive note was his slick three point shooting accuracy last season in the BBL as the team will need his production very much this season with the absence of solid shooters Jacob Burtschi and Sean Armand. Despite the loss of key players and current injuries, the German believes that it will be a successful season. “We kept last years team together to a degree and our young guys developed further and can make a further step now. I strongly believe that we can build from the success of last season”, warned Danilo Barthel. Klein is a 24 year old 186cm guard that will be playing his fourth season in Frankfurt. He also made a big jump over the summer helping the German A-2 national team to the final of the University games and being one of the 16 German national players despite coming off injuries from last season. Last season in the BBL he played 16 games: 6.7ppg, 2.6rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 46.7%, 3PT: 34.1%, FT: 88.5%; EuroChallenge: 6 games: 6.7ppg, 2.0rpg, 2.2apg, FGP: 44.4%, 3PT: 52.9%, FT: 83.3%. Frankfurt will also need Klein to give much input from downtown which he displayed in the Eurochallenge last season. Head coach Herbert is optimistic that Klein will have his breakthrough this season the way the German twin towers Barthel and Voigtmann had the last two seasons. “Klein had a good pre season. He is playing with a lot of self-confidence. He is the hardest working guy that I have ever coached. You can see him in the gym at 9 AM on Sunday morning”, said Gorden Herbert.
The identity and heart and soul of the Fraport Skyliners is Quantez Robertson. He is a 30 year old 188cm guard that has played in Frankfurt his whole career and is the last remaining player on the team from the 2010 team that lost a bitter 5 game series to the Brose Baskets Bamberg. He has played a total of 212 BBL games and for the most part been free of injury. Last season he played 37 games: 11.1ppg, 4.4rpg, 3.2apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 50.3%, 3PT: 34.1%, FT: 80.6%; EuroChallenge: 17 games: 10.9ppg, 4.6rpg, 2.5apg, 1.5spg, FGP: 55.2%, 3PT: 33.9%, FT: 76.2%. Last season he had his best scoring and assist average in his professional career. He is a freak athlete who is the minister of defense and despite being 30 years old can still battle with the quickest in the league and Herbert believes that the Cincinnati native can still make a further jump this season. “Tez really has improved his leadership. He has been here since the start of training camp and despite injuries and less players, he has played his heart out. He will make another step this season”, warned Gordon Herbert. Canadian national player Aaron Doornekamp is a 29 year old 201cm forward that will be playing his second season with Frankfurt. Last season in the BBL he played 37 games averaging 6.8ppg, 4.0rpg, 1.6apg, FGP: 48.3%, 3PT: 34.2%, FT: 77.6%; EuroChallenge: 17 games: 6.1ppg, 3.8rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 43.9%, FT: 71.4%. Herbert continues to proclaim that he is the most professional player he has ever coached as his habits on and off the court are excellent. With more scoring power last season, he didn´t have to produce as much as his versatility was much more needed whereas this season the club will need more scoring support from him. Mike Morrison is a 25 year old 205cm center from St Petersburg, Florida that will be playing his second season with Frankfurt. Last season he played 32 BBL games: 7.4ppg, 3.4rpg, FGP-1(71.2%), FT: 53.2%; EuroChallenge: 12 games: 6.3ppg, 3.3rpg, FGP: 69.6%, FT: 73.3%. Last season he was the man for spectacular dunks in many variations and often aided the team with his energy when Voigtmann was catching a breather. “Mike came to camp bigger and stronger and has worked hard each day. He has got many minutes in pre season. He has really taken advantage of the many injuries”, stressed Gordon Herbert. Johannes Richter is a 23 year old 206cm center that will be playing his third season in Frankfurt. Last season he had his breakthrough in the Eurochallenge leading Frankfurt past the Baaken Bears denying them their evening dose of honey in Frankfurt netting 15 points and six boards. Last season he played 24 BBL games: 2.3ppg, 1.4rpg; EuroChallenge: 11 games: 3.8ppg, 2.2rpg, played also for Fraport Skyliners Frankfurt II (ProB): 14 games: 13.7ppg, 8.9rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 45.9%, 3PT: 44.4%, FT: 65.2%. Richter will also be a guy who can step up the way he did last season early with the injury plague that the team has at the moment. „He has another big chance to step up. With all our injuries he has played the 4-5. You can see it in his eyes that he wants to play”, warned Gordon Herbert. The club also held Max Merz(10 games: 0.7ppg, played also at Fraport Skyliners Frankfurt II (ProB): 6 games: 14.2ppg, 2.8rpg, 4.8apg, 2.3spg, FGP: 45.2%, 3PT: 26.3%, FT: 66.7%), Niklas Kiel(21 Pro B games averaging 9.6ppg, 6.3rpg, 1.6apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 44.4%, 3PT: 19.6%, FT: 70.8%, and Stefan Ilzhoefer(9 games: 8.3ppg; EuroChallenge: 6 games: 0.8ppg, 3.2rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 28.6%, FT: 72.2%, played also at Fraport Skyliners Frankfurt (BBL): 13 games: 1.2ppg) all who have injury problems at the moment. The club will continue to let these guys get the maximum club experience with practice time in combination of minutes. This season the club brought in four players with John Little, Jordan Theodore, Garai Zeeb and Tomas Dimsa. Little is a 31 year old 183cm guard from Peoria, Illinois that will be playing his eighth professional season in Germany. He won the Eurochallenge with BG Goettingen in 2010 and also has had three years experience with Wurzburg and last season played for the MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg playing 33 games: 7.1ppg, 2.4rpg, 1.4apg, FGP: 43.4%, 3PT: 29.4%, FT: 68.2%. The biggest asset to obtaining Little is his vast BBL experience, his impeccable character and his defense where he roams around the floor annoying every opponent like a nasty pit bull. Jordan Theodore is a 25 year old 182cm guard from New York that played 127 NCAA games at Seton Hall (NCAA). After a strong Portsmouth Invitational Tournament (Pre-NBA Draft) playing 3 games: 13.0ppg, 4.3rpg, Assists-1(8.0apg), 1.7spg, he had interest from the NewYork Knicks, but wasn´t drafted. As a professional he has had experience in Europe playing for losing teams like Mersin Buyuksehir Belediyesi (Turkey-TBL) and JL Bourg Basket (France-ProA) playing 17 games averaging 12.7ppg, 3.6rpg, Assists-2(6.1apg), 1.4spg, FGP: 54.4%, 3PT: 21.6%, FT: 87.2%. He has a good knack of knowing when to score and when to find his teammates. He already showed what he was capable of leading Frankfurt to a pre season tournament win in Holland over Bamberg pouring in 28 points. Ex TBB Trier guard Ricky Harris knows the game of Theodre and reflects on it. “I think Jordan is going to do well. He has that mindset to over achieve which is good and he also has that attitude to prove himself which will help him as well. I think he’ll have a great season and play injury free. I think Jordan is going to have to take on a big scorers role with this rotation because the other two guards are known for other things. His style and his flash its going to be fun to watch”, warned Ricky Harris. The club also added Garai Zeeb is a 18 year old 186cm guard that comes form the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven system. Last season he played for their NBBL team, BSG Bremerhaven (2.Regionalliga and the Cuxhaven BasCats (ProA): 12 games: 3.8ppg, 1.0rpg, 1.8apg. His defense and passing ability is his strength while shooting will be one of his things he will continue to improve on. Dimsa is a very interesting project as he got a three year deal from the club.”He is a top talent with many basketball abilities. He has gone through a top Lithuanian basketball schooling and wants to develop further. He fits perfect to our system and will take on an important role as a shooter. He played well at Creta and we are happy to have him”, stressed Gordon Herbert. The question will be will he not succumb to pressure of having to step up right away?
So what will be the Fraport Skyliners style, goals and where will they end up this season? Fraport Skyliners manager Gunnar Wobke stressed young and sexy which has been their motto since many years as they have continued to make big strides in becoming the top Beko BBL team in the development of young Germans. Wobke said three seasons ago that they want to go this route and annoy and play with the top teams in the third year. Last season the club finished in sixth and made the playoffs. They want to continue this route and their style will be similar to last season. The Fraport Skyliners have been known for some years as having top defensive teams which Herbert started after the departure of Murat Didin in 2010which Muli Katzurin continued which Herbert held on to since 2013. Herbert believes that their defensive success will get a push with their new guard rotation. “I think that we will be better defensively on the perimeter. The addition of Theodore and Little really will help.It is important to be defensively strong from 1-3, if not your in trouble. We will be a fast break team, but not run and gun and will look to score off our defense. We won´t have many plays, but many options. We want guys that will read plays and make good decisions. We will teach them to do this. It will take more time, but in the end we will have better players and results. Last season we had problem with turnovers. Guys can only learn from mistakes and that is how you get better. We won´t have a superstar, but 6-7 guys that can contribute. It will be harder to play against us this way than against just 2 guys that score”, warned Gordon Herbert. Despite the early season injuries and loss of many key players, the goals might not be as extreme as what a Donald Trump expects of himself, but the 2004 Beko BBL champion has high goals as they believe that they will live by their experience which will be their meal ticket this season. “Our goal is to be in the top 5 this season. We also want to qualify for the cup which means that we would have to be in the top 7 teams. We also want to win the Fiba Cup. We want to have an identity as a team. An identity that one will see game after game. We have to be unselfish and want to be a tough team to play against as if the opponent had been in a war”, warned Gordon Herbert. So what will be the fate of the Fraport Skyliners this season? Of course question marks will be can they stay healthy and can they become a shooting team with what they have? Herbert sees the European game now differently anyway as more and more teams are going with two point guards and two combo guards. The position three seems to be evaporating slowly. “My concern is will we have enough shooters? Cobbs was a money shooter and knew when to take the right shots. Now other guys will have to step up like a Tez or Doornekmap. Our big guys can also shoot”, stressed Gordon Herbert. Head coach Gordon Herbert has shown many times what he is capable of putting on the floor despite a limited budget. Herbert has practiced this method many times and is an expert. Why shouldn´t this roster be able to reach the playoffs. The biggest strength of this team is their continuity, team chemistry, and character. Herbert has always had a good feeling of hauling in character guys. The Fraport Skyliners might not be the deepest team or have ex NBA players or have the most skillful players, but the club will come to play in every game. If they can find a way to stay injury free then this team will make the playoffs again. The club has more experience and character than last season and at least with this meal ticket Herbert knows what he will get at all times which should reduce the stress factor and additional snow to his hairline.