It doesn´t matter if you take simple baseball or basketball terms, but if Boston Red Sox slugging God David Ortiz goes 0-2 in a tight pitching duel and strikes out at the end losing the game or Fraport Skyliner Mike Morrison who cleans everything around the glass has the misfortune of having to drain two clutch free throws at the end of a do or die game and goes 0-2, both great players will be seen as the goats of their teams, but how must 2000 BBL cup winner Fraport Skyliners feel today after also being 0-2 in important decision making where they had no influence in the last two years as they were shut out again trying to hold an international club tournament Final 4 in their living room. Last season, the Fraport Skyliners were denied the opportunity to host the Eurochallenge Final 4 as Turkish city Trabzonspor won the bid and this year, Frankfurt lost out again as Fiba Europe announced today that the French city of Chalon sur-Saone will be the site from April 29 to May ist. The two semi final games will be the Fraport Skyliners against Russian team Enisey and Chalon against Italian team Varese According to media reports, it was a head to head battle between the Fraport Skyliners and Chalon, but in the end, it was the French city that had their nose ahead of Frankfurt inching their way over the finish line. Frankfurt which is in the center of Europe, has a fine transportation network with one of the biggest airports in Europe and a 5000 seat arena, but in the end, it wasn´t enough as Chalon had huge support from the France basketball federation. There are many interesting little stories behind this year´s event, but one of the most interesting is ex Frankfurt Skyliner Ilian Evtimov having the chance to win his first international title after many tries and the possibility to do it against his former team whom he played for from 2007-2009. “It’s a great opportunity for French basketball to host this event. With great backing from the Federation, the League, and our City, we were able to host this event. On a personal note, this will be my 3rd final four and I am still chasing the title. Winning the title, and possibly playing Frankfurt in the championship will be an amazing thing for my trophy room. I do have great memories from my 2 years spent in Frankfurt, and certainly hope I would be able to face them during this final four. When I reached the final four with Virtue Bologna in 2007, I played against Estudiantes which was my first Professional experience”, stressed ex North Carolina State forward Illian Evtimov.
Both semi final games should be very entertaining and exciting games as Frankfurt is searching for their third club title and first international one while Enisey are still looking for their first championship. Especially the Frankfurt-Enisey contest will have some interesting little side notes. Some of the Russian players like Pavel Sergeev, or Aleksandr Pavlov might be happy that they will be playing in Chalon, because last season, their final 4 hopes were crushed in a do or die game in Frankfurt where they let an 18 point lead slip away in the second half losing 85-80 as German national player Johannes Voigtmann had his international break through finishing with 26 points, while the general Justin Cobbs kept the team calm scoring 19 points and steering eight assists. Another fascinating side note to this new battle will be the meeting with ex Skyliner Tim Ohlbrecht who played for the Frankfurt side in the 2011-2012 season before going to the States and making the NBA and playing three games for the Houston Rockets. Enisey also boasts solid talent with ex NBA player DJ Kennedy as well as American Delroy James who played many years in Italy and American Tony Taylor who played the last two years with top Polish club PGE Turow and hails from Sleepy Hollow, New York and will battle Jordan Theodore at the playmaking position. This season one of the more interesting things before each game of Jordan Theodore is to see if he knows any of his opponents on the court that came from the New York area. The probability that the Englewood, New Jersey knew any player he was dueling against is around 98% even if the estimation isn´t totally accurate. The American just seems to know every guy from the playgrounds as a kid as Englewood is only a 5 minute drive over the Hudson river into the big apple. Enisey is currently in ninth place in the competitive VTB league with a record of 10-16. The Fraport Skyliners were the best team this season in the Fiba Europe Cup boasting a 16-1 record and belong to the top 4 teams in the Beko BBL and this season have the team that could do some serious damage in the playoffs as they beat FC Bayern Munich and the Brose Baskets Bamberg during the regular season and for many are a team that no one wants to face in the playoffs and are considered a dark horse favorite. This semi-final should be a great battle, but in the end the amazing and seemingly unstoppable team basketball of Frankfurt and their bench should be the difference. Ex NBA player Chris Wright of Maccabi Rishon sees it also being a good game and staying faithful to his buddies on the Russian team. “I think Frankfurt could win, but honestly so could Enisey. That will be a good game. I know guys on that team like DJ Kennedy from high school and Tony Taylor from last season and college. They are solid all across the board. Enisey is playing very well at the moment”, added ex Golden State Warrior Chris Wright.
French team Chalon are currently in eighth place in the competitive France Pro A with a record of 17-10. They were always a solid team in the last 20 years, but finally won some hardware in 2011 with the cup and finishing in third place. In the next season, the club finished the regular season in second place, but won the triple with cup, AS cup and league title. However in the last two season´s, the French team that is coached by Jean-Denys- Choulet was only able to finish the regular season in eighth place and each time were swept by Strassbourg. The club is led by solid Americans like John Roberson who won 3 titles in Sweden and at 180cm a bit under the radar, but with a strong Final 4 and title become more of a house hold name in Europe, Jeremy Hazell who was a teammate with Jordan Theodore and left Seton Hall as the third all-time leading scorer and last season had a brilliant season with Granarolo Bologna(Italy Serie A) finishing fourth in scoring, ex Clemson center Devin Booker who is having his break out season in France with 14 and 7 stats in the Pro A and Fiba Europe Cup. He is a raw talent that has been getting some NBA talk as of late, former St Johns(NCAA) standout Justin Brownlee who had NBA Summer league experience with the New York and Charlotte and ex North Carolina State stand out Illian Evtimov who is playing his 10th professional season and still can perform three point shooting battles with the best of them as he is shooting 43% in the Pro A and Fiba Europe Cup. Italian club Varese are currently in ninth place in the Serie A with a record of 11-15. The club has the most history of all teams this season having been founded in 1945 and have won 10 league titles, 4 cups, 5 Euroleague titles and two Saporta cups. The club also has a very solid roster and NBA flair with ex BYU(NCAA) standout Brandon Davies that played 78 NBA games and 71 with the Philadelphia 76ers. Last season he played a few months with Chalon and now meets his ex team in a do or die game. The team also boasts 185cm point guard Chris Wright who played with NBA players Hollis Thompson and Henry Sims at Georgetown(NCAA) and 3 NBA games with the Dallas Mavericks, ex Villanova(NCAA) standout Maalik Wayns who played for the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Clippers and international flair with Latvian sharp shooter Rihards Kuksiks who played at the 2011 and 2013 European championships and 33 year old veteran Kristjan Kanguar who played with the Bayer Giants Leverkusen early in his career form 2004-2006 and overtime made to a Euroleague player with ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne Basket (France-ProA) and EA7 Emporio Armani Milano (Italy-SerieA). This will be a great match up as both teams are scoring power houses with Chalon averaging 90 points in the Fiba Europe Cup and Varese 81 points. Both teams are present on the boards grabbing 32 rebounds per contest and both teams shoot over 40% from the parking lot. The difference in the game could be who takes better care of the ball and who decides to defend more. Varese has the better overall player talent, but in a do or die game like this, it often comes down to heart and Chalon do have the home court advantage. The dream final for the New York area would be Frankfurt-Chalon as that would pit college buddies Jordan Theodore against Jeremy Hazell for the bragging rights this summer.But the American knows that before meeting buddy Hazell, he will need to take care of business against Enisey. ” It would be great but that’s not my focus right now. We play a tough Russian team who shouldn’t be over looked. I also know Delroy James and DJ Kennedy. They will come ready to play”, warned Jordan Theodore.