Ever since Phoenix Hagen entered the Beko BBL in 2009, head coach Ingo Freyer has had as an exciting regular season as summer off season putting together the best possible roster despite having as tight a budget as the trousers on FC Bayern Munich head coach Pep Gaurdiola on the sidelines. Of course it is as exciting challenge for Freyer to pick that perfect missing piece to the puzzle who will steer the playmaking at the point guard position as it is predicting how many goals a Robert Lewondowski will make in the next match for FC Bayern Munich football club. Freyer has had a pretty good feel for hauling in the right point guard over the last years as he reeled in Mr fantastic Mark Dorris from Pro A team Cuxhaven and he was able to become a vital fixture in the success of the team especially in their playoff season 2012-2013. He biggest coup was Davin White who brought much experience to Hagen after having already played 7 professional seasons, but had never played at as high a level as the BBL as he had torn apart the leagues in Mexico once averaging 28ppg and he didn´t disappoint in the BBL as he led the league in scoring and prompt was rewarded with a contract with La Bruixa d’Or Manresa (Spain-Liga Endesa) and this season will play with Iberostar Tenerife CB Canarias (Spain-Liga Endesa). Phoenix Hagen has also been a place for guards who came from lower leagues and were able to perform at a solid standard in the BBL and then remain at a high level as Henry Dugat moved on to France to Le Havre and Zamal Nixon is balling in the first Greek division this season. So who will be the next point guard to keep the reputation of the Phoenix Hagen point guard standing tall? Freyer decided on Brandon Jefferson who is a 23 year old 175cm guard from Flower Mound, Texas playing his second professional season after being a rookie last season with KTP Basket Kotka (Finland-Korisliiga) 48 games: Score-4(18.5ppg), 4.0rpg, 2.4apg, Steals-2(2.2spg), FGP: 45.8%, 3PT: 35.8%, FT: 88.0%; EuroChallenge: 6 games: 13.8ppg, 3.8rpg, 4.0apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 37.5%, 3PT: 29.8%, FT: 88.5%. What really stood out in Finland was his consistency as he scored in double figures in 46 of 48 games. “My whole life, my coaches and parents have spoke to me about consistency. Always take that very seriously and want to bring my A game every time I step on the court. Can still develop it more though. Still have a long way to go though”, stressed Brandon Jefferson played at Metro State(NCAA2) and who looks up to Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas. So far through four games the diminutive guard is averaging 10,5ppg, 2,8rpg and 4,0apg which is very solid considering he came from the weaker Finish league, but his assist rate is as high as it has ever been in his career matching last season in the Eurochallenge. The American has a good head on his shoulders and like any professional knows there is room for improvement, but is on the right way to keep that Phoenix Hagen point guard legacy at a high standard. “To be honest, I’m not very pleased at all. Knowing what I’m capable of doing. I’m not going to make a big deal out of these first four games though. Need to move forward and go back to having fun out there on the court. Be myself. Don’t go into games thinking I need to get my assist up. Just do what the defense gives me. The more experience I gain, the better off I’ll be and my comfort level will be higher. The big men are bigger here in the BBL, but it’s nothing that I haven’t seen before. The biggest adjustment is really is inside my head. The mental focus on the game. Really developing the mental part of my game moving forward”, warned Brandon Jefferson. Phoenix Hagen have some very talented players and guys that can score, but a thin bench and it will be interesting to see how Jefferson can develop through the season with Phoenix Hagen as he balances scoring and playmaking with as many wins as possible.
Last season Phoenix Hagen finished in 13th place in the Beko BBL. They were unable to beat any of the big three with Bamberg, Munich or Berlin, but had nice win against teams like Ulm, Ludwigsburg, Bonn and Artland. There biggest problem continues to be keeping their opponent from scoring many points as they relinquished 80 points or more 21 times and lost most shoot outs, but won a memorable one with 105-104 in Frankfurt in the opener. They did defend better near the end of the season as they kept teams to under 80 points in six straight games, but lost five of the six as for some strange reason they couldn´t get any offense going. Their offense as always was lethal, but then again unable to find a healthy balance with their defense when they were on the same page in a game.
They lost key offense players Larry Gordon and Todd Brown and defensive minded big men Dino Gregory and Keith Ramsey. They kept only one import player David Bell who should he continue to play in Hagen until he retired should have his number retired, because he has without doubt been the identity figure of the club for years and their most consistent offensive players. Other than that Ingo Freyer kept their young Germans with Niklas Geske, Moritz Krume and Jonas Grof with the hopes that they will develop further and aguy like Geske with more trust from the coach have his break out season. Freyer once again brought in interesting players with Adam Hess who returns for a second tour of duty as well as young and talented Americans Brandon Jefferson, DJ Covington and JJ Mann as well as Canadian Owen Klassen. He also brought back BBL veteran Ivan Elliot and basketball globetrotter Tommy Lee Smith. This season the club will continue to play their aggressive out of control defense and hope to force their opponent too as much turnovers as possible. After the first four games Phoenix Hagen is 2-2 and have beaten teams that they should of with Giessen and MBC, but lost to teams like FC Bayern Munich and ratiopharm Ulm. They are averaging 80 points per game and giving up 86 per game. “We have a lot of potential. It’s still really early and we are working day in and day out to improve. Don’t really like how people say “higher teams” and that it’s okay if we lose to them. If you look at the box score or the games, we were in both of those games we lost. We had bad stretches in the third quarter in both games which cost us. That’s the slim margin of error that we can’t have against those teams. A lot of people look at this league and say there are the top 4 teams and everyone else in the league have the same talent level. I look at every game as an opportunity to get better and show how good Phoenix Hagen is. In my mind, when we lose to those so called “higher level” teams, it’s the same hurt that I would have if we lost to the other teams”, warned Brandon Jefferson. Defense also continues to be a lingering theme of improvement and the etam knows that as it has averaged giving up 90 points in a three game margin. “That definitely needs to come down and the biggest improvement we need to make is keeping the ball in front of us. One on one is critical. Take the challenge and keep your man in front of you”, added Brandon Jefferson.
Phoenix Hagen kept baby Shaq David Bell who is a 34 year old 187cm guard from Oakland, California playing his 13th professional season and fifth with Phoenix Hagen. He played at Montana(NCAA) and in countries like Switzerland, France and Holland. He has been top 5 in scoring in the BBL every season and last season played 28 games: Score-2(17.7ppg), 3.7rpg, 3.8apg, Steals-2(1.7spg), FGP: 46.5%, 3PT: 39.7%, FT: 86.5%. His leadership and scoring is his biggest strength. The club also held on to Germans Niklas Geske, Moritz Krume and Jonas Grof. Geske is a 21 year old 188cm guard playing his third season with Phoenix Hagen and played 52 BBL games in his first two seasons and last season played 33 games: 4.8ppg, 1.5rpg, 2.6apg. His speed, athleticism and game intelligence is what should help in his break through. Krume is a 21 year old 202cm forward that is playing his third season with the club and played 31 BBL games in the last two seasons. His inside out game is his biggest strength. Grof is a 19 year old 201cm guard that is playing his second season there and also for farm team Iserlohn and last season played 6 BBL games: 3.3ppg, 1.0rpg.
The club brought back Adam Hess who is a 34 year old 201cm forward from Michigan that got the German citizenship in 2012. He is playing his 12th professional season and eighth in Germany playing four years with Artland and two with ratiopharm Ulm after also playing in the Czech Republic(3 titles with Nymburk), France and Spain. Last season for Ulm he played 36 games: 2.2ppg, 1.2rpg; EuroChallenge: 6 games: 9.7ppg, 3.0rpg, FGP: 30.0%, 3PT: 55.6%, FT: 77.8%. He has been hurting opponents his whole career with his basketball IQ and three point shooting. The club also added Ivan Elliot who is a 28 year old 203cm forward from San Francisco that played at UCSB (NCAA) and has BBL experience with MBC, Wurzburg and Ludwigsburg. He played also in Latvia and Italy. Last season he played for Fileni BPA Jesi (Italy-A2 Gold) playing 28 games: 14.4ppg, 7.9rpg, 1.7apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 60.4%, 3PT: 32.9%, FT: 87.9%. He can hurt you from all over the court and never underestimate his defense. The club also added JJ Mann who is a 24 year old 198cm swing man from Smyrna,Georgia playing his second professional season. As a rookie he played for Redwell Gunners Oberwart (Austria-A Bundesliga) playing 38 games: 13.4ppg, 4.5rpg, 1.2apg, Steals-1(2.0spg), FGP: 46.6%, 3PT: 40.7%, FT: 82.1%. He played at Belmont(NCAA) from 2010-2014 reaching the NIT Elite 8 and is a player that can shoot out the lights, but also play at the shooting guard position.
The club also brought in 24 year old 208cm forward Owen Klassen from Kingston, Ontario, Canada who played at Acadia(CIS) in college and now is playing his second professional season and as a rookie played for KK MZT Skopje Aerodrom (FYR Macedonia-Prva Liga): 8 games: 6.6ppg, 4.9rpg, FGP: 76.7%, FT: 70.0%; Adriatic League: 18 games: 5.3ppg, 5.7rpg, FGP: 54.4%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 50.0%. He can play both big man positions and can make the mid range on a consistent rate. DJ Covington is a 24 year old 203cm forward from Virgina Beach playing his second professional season. As a rookie he played for Basic-Fit Brussels (Belgium-Scooore League): 8 games: 4.8ppg, 3.9rpg, Alaska Aces (Philippines-PBA): 4 games: 22.0ppg, 9.0rpg, 1.0apg, 1.3bpg, and AE Nea Kifisia Dimoulas Athens (Greece-A1): 5 games: 1.2ppg, 1.6rpg. His quickness is perfect for the transition hagen game and he can get physical inside. The team also added Tommy Lee Smith who is a 34 year old 207cm forward from Phoenix, Arizona playing his 10th professional season and third in Germany after playing with the Artland Dragons from 2005-2007. He played at Arizona St. (NCAA) from 1999-2003 and as a senior played 32 games: 11.2ppg, 6.2rpg, 2.7apg, BlockPac-10-1(2.2bpg), FGP: 49.3%, 3PT: 27.8%, FT: 57.4%: Finished his career with 1,123 points, 20th on the Sun Devil career scoring list and second leading shot blocker with 167. He was drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 2004, but never played in the NBA, but was close with the Milwauke Bucks. He has had experience playing in Croatia, Dominican Republic, China, Syria and Qatar as well as playing in the D-league. He is still a solid player at 34, but biggest strength is his experience and character that will help the young guys.
The Frankfurt Skyliners swept the season series in 2009-2010 with Phoenix Hagen stomping all over them in Hagen 93-64 as Derrick Allen led all scorers with 22 points, Aubrey Resse chipped in with 18 points and Grayson Moyer had one of his best games as a Skyliner with 15 points and five assists. In the return game in Frankfurt, Phoenix Hagen lost 89-76. Skyliner captain Pascal Roller led Frankfurt with 18 points and five assists and Derrick Allen produced 17 points. Last season, The Deutsche Bank Skyliners outrebounded Phoenix Hagen 66-49 in both games. In 2010-2011, the Skyliners also won the season series with a 90-85 win as Jermaine Bucknor led the team with 19 points and six rebounds and 92-53 romp at home getting 24 points and eight rebounds from Roger Powell and only six points and seven assists from Dashaun Wood. In the first game in the 2011-2012 season, the Fraport Skyliners romped Phoenix Hagen 83-65 as fans saw the last Beko BBL game of Jon Leuer who erupted for 27 points and Jimmy Mckinney had 21 points. In the return game, the Fraport Skyliners stomped all over Phoenix Hagen 92-47. Five players scored in double figures as the team was led by Devin Gibson with 16 points. In the 2012-2013 season the Fraport Skyliners lost the first game against Phoenix Hagen in their own living room in embarrassing fashion 107-102 as they their opponent gave them a display of how to play run and gun basketball. Phoenix Hagen shot an amazing 51% from the field and 60% from the three point line. In the return game in Hagen, the Fraport Skyliners had their nerves under control in crunch time slipping by Phoenix Hagen on the road 81-78 as Frankfurt was led by Dawan Robinson with 25 points and ex Giessen players Ryan Brooks chipped in with 14 points and Laquan Prowell with 13 points. In the first game of the 2013-2014 season, the Fraport Skyliners squeezed out a 82-79 win at home as Aziz Ndiaye had his best game of the season with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Frankfurt had consistent production from many as Jarred Dubois had 15 points, Andrew Rautins chipped in with 13 points and Germans Danilo Barthel and Konstantin Klein had 12 points a piece. Frankfurt had no remedy for Mark Dorris who poured in 24 points for Phoenix Hagen. David Bell had 17 points and Larry Gordon had 16 points. In the return game in Hagen, Frankfurt once again had their crunch time blues losing 66-63. Phoenix Hagen was led by David Bell with 17 points while Larry Gordon had 15 points while the Fraport Skyliners were led by Ramon Galloway with 15 points and Jacob Burtschi with 12 points. Last season the clubs split the season series as Phoenix Hagen won on the road in a shoot out 105-104 as David Bell poured in 25 points and Zamal Nixon had 22 while the Fraport Skyliners were led by Sean Armand with 27 points and Mike Morrison with 23 points. Frankfurt won in Hagen 79-70 as Johannes Voigtman scored 26 points and had 11 boards while Sean Armand contributed 14 points while Phoenix Hagen was led by Larry Gordon with 18 points and Keith Ramsey with 14 points.
Fraport Skyliners head coach Gordon Herbert won´t publically talk about it, but his team could easily be 5-0 now instead of 3-2 after losing against Oldenburg and Wurzburg on the last possession. Instead the team continued to work hard and have been rewarded the past two games beating Tuebingen and BG Goettingen, teams they need to beat to be a playoff team this season. IN the last two wins, the team buckled down more on defense averaging giving up only 67 points per game. They will have to do the same against Phoenix Hagen who might only be averaging 80 points on offense, but can explode at any time for 90 plus points. Phoenix Hagen have lost three of the last four games and need to get on the winning road again. If Frankfurt can continue to defend the way they do as if they had had gotten a glimpse of the play book as their scouting continues to be a big reason for their success, then they will win. Phoenix Hagen isn´t as deep offensively as in other years and need to rely more on their imports where some are still getting a feel for the style of the BBL with Owen Klassen and JJ Mann. Frankfurt have Germans Konstantin Klein and Danilo Barthel back from injuries and are deeper than ever. Jordan Theodore had his real break out game in the BBL and hungrier than ever. The Fraport Skyliners need this win to have a three game winning streak into the big games at home against FC Bayern Munich and Bamberg. On a very good day Phoenix Hagen have good chances to win, but not against the current accurate scouting of Gordon Herbert and Klaus Perwas.