Can The Continuing NBA Flair And Hardnosed Defensive Philosophy Of Muli Katzurin Guarantee A Playoff Berth For The Eisbaeren Bremerhaven?

There was a time in the early Beko BBL history of the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven when reaching the playoffs was as certain as it is the unfortunate regularity of a Derrick Rose getting injured again as there seems to be a curse on him of being allowed to play basketball healthy. However since their bitter 5 game playoff loss to Frankfurt in 2010, the Eisbaeren and fans have been dreaming as much of the playoffs as the polar bears are of their daily rations of fish in the zoo. Since then the club have finished 9th, 11th, 12th twice and last season in 15th place. What is even more curious is that the club hasn´t had more success concerning the talented rosters that they have had over the years especially last season. The club has money and bring in talent, but that last needed ingredient of chemistry seems to be missing. The club also is starting a trend of bringing in ex NBA players in hopes of adding some kind of magic to the roster in talent and experience as Americans Jerry Smith and Deandre Liggins suited up for the team last season as both had combined for 69 NBA games and countless NBA stories about their time there. Last season there was turmoil on the club and both came late to the team as did new head coach Muli Katzurin. The club did finish the season a tad better, but all the chaos and movement was unable to bring positive results to the team. This season all this has to change and will change. The club has a top coach in Muli Katzurin in place from the start, has kept ex NBA player Jerry Smith and brought in Tyrus Thomas(402 NBA games) who is the seasons most spectacular signing and rates up with Bostjan Nachbar as being the Beko BBL´s best transfer in the last years. On top of that the team has a roster filled with talent and possibly the best the club has ever had. Now Katzurin has the important task of shaping a talented team into a cohesive unit that will supply consistency over the course of a season. With fans slowly losing patience, this will be a very vital season for the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven as the playoffs need to be reached with the quality of this roster. Even the polar bears are getting restless in the Bremerhaven zoo as that fan dissatisfaction is roaming in the air. If there is one guy that can make everything go well again then its Muli Katzurin who had much success in the Czech Republic with CEZ Basketball Nymburk (Czech Rep.-NBL) with 8 titles in four years. He had disappointment with the Fraport Skyliners recently, but he is overdue again for success.

Last season the 15th place finish by the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven was pretty much paved by their poor start despite winning three of their first four games, they then lost 16 of their next 18 games. A big problem was that the club was never able to establish team chemistry and gave up way to many points with 80 plus points 21 times. They did defend better under Muli Katzurin, but averaged giving up 93 points a game in the last three games. Katzurin did the best job possible coming in as a sort of fireman and dousing the fire and keeping the team in the BBL. A big problem was that they were unable to beat any playoff teams except for Frankfurt and Ludwigsburg and were lacking depth from the bench. This season they will have to come up with some big wins and with added depth have the quality to do so. Bremerhaven has a team with a lot of scoring potential, but will they will be able to build a consistent formidable defense structure? Katzurin is known for having good defensive teams and should have one this season. They are deep at the guard and forward position and not as potent at the center position as other teams, but therefore very interesting as with Jannik Freese and Waverly Austin they have a veteran in Freese that made his BBL breakthrough last season with Crailsheim and is very hungry to keep up his good play and a very exciting young prospect in Austin who is coming off his rookie season with Heidelberg and looking to make the next step in the BBL.

The Eisbaeren Bremerhaven went through a major housecleaning session keeping only Jerry Smith and Jusuf El Domiaty. Smith is a 28 year old 188cm guard that is playing his sixth professional season. He is a powerful combo guard who has great athletic skills and knows how to score. Great personality, he can spend time at the point too, and is an ideal specimen for the 2 spot at European level. Last season for Bremerhaven he played 12 games averaging 11.8ppg, 2.7rpg, 5.1apg, 1.8spg, FGP: 56.8%, 3PT: 16.0%, FT: 76.3%. He played at Louisville and had experience in the D-league, Zealand, Italy and Israel. He also played 5 NBA games for the New Jersey Nets. Jusuf El Domiaty is a 24 year old 188cm guard that brings 99 BBL games experience with Braunschweig and Bremerhaven. His shooting is his trademark. Last season for Bremerhaven he played 27 games averaging 3.3ppg. The club added 11 new players with the most spectacular being Tyrus Thomas who is a 29 year old 203cm forward and has 402 NBA games where he produced 3,093 points with teams like Chicago, Charlotte and Memphis. He played at LSU and was drafted in the first round in 2006 by the Portland Trailblazers. His biggest strength is inserting his athleticism around the basket and consistent mid distance shot. The club also added BBL veteran Larry Gordon who is a 28 year old 196cm forward that played at Cal Poly Pomona (NCAA2) and will be playing his seventh professional season. After seasons in Holland and Austria, he played the last three with Phoenix Hagen and last season played 30 games averaging 14.0ppg, 6.2rpg, 1.7apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 53.2%, 3PT: 34.7%, FT: 72.1%. His versatility has made him a top player in the BBL at the forward position as he can score inside and out. He led the BBL in rebounds a few years ago and will battle with anyone inside. He should be one of the main scoring options with Bremerhaven. The club also added Brandyn Curry who is a 24 year old 187cm guard from North Carolina and will be playing his second professional season. The Harvard grad who played with NBA player Jeremy Lin as a freshman had a great rookie season in Holland with SPM Shoeters Den Bosch (Holland-Eredivisie) playing 33 games: 14.9ppg, 4.1rpg, Assists-2(5.0apg), 2.0spg, FGP: 58.9%, 3PT: 37.8%, FT: 83.7%; EuroChallenge: 12 games: 16.2ppg, 5.3rpg, 2.9apg, Steals-5(1.8spg), FGP: 49.0%, 3PT: 40.6%, FT: 72.7%. He is an allrounder and has a knack for hitting big three´s something the Fraport Skyliners saw twice last season in Eurochallenge play.

The club also added American Tony Bishop who is a 26 year old 201cm forward that will be playing his fifth professional season. He played at Texas State and has experience in Europe in Denmark and Lithuania. He played the last two years in the D-league and left his mark there with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers (D-League) playing 50 games: 15.5ppg, 8.5rpg, 1.9apg, 1.2spg, 2FGP: 54.7%, 3FGP: 35.0%, FT: 78.1%. He also has a complete game and compliments Thomas well under the basket. Teams should not underestimate his precise three point shooting. Kyle Fogg was the last player added shortly before the start of the season and is a 25 year old 190cm guard from Brea, California that is playing his fourth professional season after playing at top basketball school Arizona(NCAA) and has experience in the D-league and Finland and Belgium. He is a very good defender on the perimeter, he is fundamentally sound and can help his team in every part of the game. Offensively, he’s a good scorer and long distance shooter. Last season he played for Port of Antwerp Giants (Belgium-Scooore League): 32 games: 15.4ppg, 3.3rpg, 2.3apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 43.4%, 3PT: 37.5%, FT: 81.9%; EuroChallenge: 12 games: 16.4ppg, 3.2rpg, 2.8apg, FGP: 45.2%, 3PT: 43.8%, FT: 75.5%. The team also added a known face from the BBL with Raymond Sykes who played for BG Goettingen in 2011. The 29 year old 206cm forward has vast experience and has a good stroke facing the basket. Long athletic defender and active rebounder. He played at Clemson and in Europe has played in countries like Poland, Turkey and Russia and also in the Dominican Rebublic and Venezuela. Last season he played for Afyonkarahisar Belediye (Turkey-TB2L): 20 games: Score-3(22.8ppg), 9.6rpg, 1.1apg, 1.4spg, Blocks-3(1.9bpg), FGP: 54.5%, FT: 57.6. The club also added Adam Ariel who is a 20 year old 192cm guard has the German and Israli citizenship. Last season he played for Hapoel Jerusalem (Winner League): 35 games: 2.8ppg, 1.3rpg; Eurocup: 3 games: 0pts. He will fight for minutes and could give added punch with his shooting. The club also added ex German national player Philipp Zwiener who returns back to Bremerhaven where he played from 2012-2014. He brings 274 BBL games experience. Last season he played for the EWE Baskets Oldenburg (BBL): 33 games: 3.5ppg, 1.7rpg; Eurocup: 10 games: 4.6ppg, 2.1rpg, 1.2apg. He started his basketball career with Alba Berlin where he never got a real chance and his career was rejuvenated in Trier where he finally got sufficient minutes. The club also added 22 year old 220cm forward Fabian Bleck that played the last three years with Phoenix Hagen playing a total of 59 BBL games. He made himself into a BBL player in Hagen, but the question is can get minutes with Bremerhaven? He is a smart player that knows how to rebound. The team has German center duo of Jannik Freese and Waverly Austin. Freese is a 28 year old 211cm center with seven full BBL season experience with Giessen, Oldenburg, Crailsheim and Alba Berlin. Early in his career he played 6 BBL games with Braunschweig. He is a big man, that plays with his back to the basket, but who can also step out and shoot the mid-range jump shot. He is an inside force, who makes it extremely hard for any big man to score inside. He is not the typical shot blocker, that blocks the shot into the third row, but due to his length and timing alters many opponents shots. Although he is 211 cm tall, he runs the floor very well. Last season he played for the Crailsheim Merlins (BBL, starting five): 16 games: 12.0ppg, 6.8rpg, 1.2apg, FGP: 47.5%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 68.1%; German BBL: 15 games: 12.1ppg; Euroleague: 3 games: 1.0ppg, 7.0rpg, 1.1apg, 2FGP: 47.4%, 3FGP: 33.3%, FT: 66.2%, in Jan.’15 moved to ALBA Berlin (BBL): 15 games: 1.7ppg, 1.4rpg. Waverly Austin is a 211cm center that played at Palm Beach CC (JUCO) and then 66 NCAA games for Oregon (NCAA). Last season he played his rookie season with MLP Academics Heidelberg (Germany-ProA, starting five): 33 games: 11.1ppg, 6.1rpg, Blocks-1(1.9bpg), FGP: 46.9%, FT: 63.6%. he is a solid finisher and likes to dunk the ball whenever possible.

Since The Eisbaeren Bremerhaven entered the BBL in 2005-2006, they have had some interesting battles with The Skyliners. Bremerhaven have had the number of Frankfurt in the first four season posting a 6-3 record. In the first two seasons, Bremerhaven totally dominated Frankfurt with a 4-0 record. Who could forget the stunning 89-88 Bremerhaven win in their first meeting ever in the fall of 2005 as Brian Jones won the game with a buzzer beater. The Eisbaeren won the return date in Bremerhaven 94-78 as ex Skyliner Nino Garris played one of his few good games for Frankfurt dropping 20 points. However in the 2007-2009 seasons, The Deutsche Bank Skyliners have had a positive record of 3-2 and were 2-2 at home. The curious thing is that the two games at home were decided by one point. In the 2007-2008 season, Frankfurt lost 82-81 in the Ballsporthalle and last season Frankfurt nipped Bremerhaven 66-65 with 16 points and 11 rebounds from ex Skyliner Lorenzo Gordon. In the 2009-2010 season, both clubs played seven games including five games in the playoffs. Frankfurt won the season series 4-3 last season posting a 2-1 record in the Ballsporthalle and posting a 2-2 record in Bremerhaven. The two wins at home remain unforgettable as Frankfurt won the season game 70-69 as Pascal Roller led the charge with 15 points and game two 84-83 as Aubrey Reese poured in 18 points. In the 2010-2011, Frankfurt won 81-66 at home as Dashaun Wood and AJ Moye led the charge with 19 points a piece and they also won in Bremerhaven 71-56 as Dashaun Wood had a Lebron James type game with 25 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Since the Eisbaeren entered the Beko BBL in 2005, the series between both teams has the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven with the 11-10 advantage. In the first meeting in the 2011-2012 season, the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven came to Frankfurt winning 63-55. Torrell Martin hit some big shots leading his team with 19 points. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Justin Gray and Jermareo Davidson with 14 points a piece. In the second game in Bremerhaven, the Fraport Skyliners lost 76-70 thanks to a strong 28 point second quarter sparked by a 25 point Anthony Smith night in which the Skyliners couldn´t recover from. Jimmy Mckinney led the Fraport Skyliners with 16 points and Tim Ohlbrecht and Devin Gibson added 12 points a piece. In the first meeting in the 2012-2013 season the Eisbaeren came away with a 74-68 win as ex Skyliner Jacob Burtschi led the way with 16 points and 12 rebounds. A strong fourth quarter and 41 rebounds helped pave the way for Bremerhaven. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Ted Scott with 17 points and Zach peacock with 14 points points. In the return game in Frankfurt, the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven losing 86-73. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Dawan Robinson with 17 points while Ryan brooks added 16 points. The Eisbaeren Bremerhaven were led by Stanley Burrell with 19 points. In the 2013-2014 season Bremerhaven was swept as they lost in Bremerhaven 95-72 as ex NBA player Andrew Rautins produced a staggering 32 points nailing eight trey´s and the club then lost in Frankfurt 72-65 as Darius Adams was unable to secure the win with his 23 points as Frankfurt buckled down on defense and were led by Quantez Robertson with 15 points. Last season both teams split as Bremerhaven won at home 71-62 as Tyus Mcghee led the team to the win with 17 points and in the return game Jacob Burtschi had the game of his life as he saw nothing but the ocean all night long pacing Frankfurt to the 88-79 victory with 36 points and 10 three pointers. The Fraport Skyliners open the season in Bremerhaven tonight and go in with injury woes with Danilo Barthel out and Johannes Voigtmann most likely also out with a spec possibility of being able to suit up. Bremerhaven is the favorite on paper and have the home court advantage. Frankfurt has been working on their defensive scheme in the pre-season and has been developing nicely and it will have to be working for Frankfurt to have a chance in the season opener. Gordon Herbert knows it will be a tough game, but knows no matter what happens in this game, the season will be long anyway. “We have a tough schedule with two hard road games. I am encouraged with how we played the last games in pre-season. However the preseason doesn´t count, but only everything now in the regular season. We want to keep it simple and focus on what we have done in the last games. It isn´t how you start, but how you finish and about getting better”, warned Fraport Skyliners head coach Gordon Herbert.

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