After the hard fought and down and dirty Fraport Skyliners 59-56 victory against Russian team Enisey heaving them into the Fiba Europe Cup final where the only thing missing had been a Delroy James vs Danilo Barthel stare down in the paint area, Jordan Theodore was stretching after the duel when suddenly a media representative cleared up the Englewood, New Jersey native that he had seen him play when the good spirited point guard had played with Antalya Buyuksehir Belediye (Turkey-TBL). After some small chit chat, both had smiles on their faces for the short break down of memory lane. It had been another normal day at the office for Theodore even if it took him and the club some deep soul searching in the fourth quarter to grind their way into the final. In his first three seasons as a professional in Europe, Theodore had very solid stats, but in the end that didn´t mean anything as he always played on losing teams and went home early to Englewood, New Jersey to catch the NBA playoffs. However this season with the Fraport Skyliners everything has changed as his scoring, assist and steal rate is back up to his rookie season, but the massive difference this season is that he has become a real leader for a winning team and MVP candidate in the German Beko BBL. And a little side note, he has dominated not only the country league and been consistent, but also belonged to the top guards in the FIba Europe Cup competition, the first time in his career that he has played in an international club tournament. He also finally has broken out of his outside shooting slump as he is near 40% while he shot only 25% in his first three seasons. Plus all season long he has matched up against the top point guards in both competitions and looked real good. In the FIba Europe Cup, he battled against guys like Thaddus Mcfadden, Earl Calloway, Mark Lyons and Tony Taylor and stepped off the court as the winner. In his quest to win his first professional title in Chalon, France in the Fiba Europe Cup, the pride and joy of Englewood, New Jersey had to face one last dirty confrontation not with one, but against two strong ex NBA point guards Maalik Wayns and Chris Wright who he also knew well from the NCAA with Villanova and Georgetown as he had played against them with Seton Hall. Theodore put on that last mean Fiba Europe Cup face of the season and went to battle for the title with the Fraport Skyliners and really had to do some serious soul searching and just break out of his shell in crunch-time as he had been taken out of the game well for three quarters, but when it counted most, he stepped up once again winning the battle against the guards of the opponent and led his team to the title. “We didn´t play our brand of basketball in the first three quarters. They played harder and wanted it more. When we were down by nine points after three, my teammates told me not to worry that I would pick up my game. We have played team basketball all season long and showed it at the end. Morrison and Robertson picked it up and we got tougher as a team. We just didn´t want to lose and I knew that we would come back. This is my first title in Europe. It feels so amazing. It is great when hard work pays off. I am so excited. It´s great for the city of Frankfurt and I know Englewood is tearing it up now”, stressed Englewood, New Jersey native Jordan Theodore. Italian team Varese played spectacular for 30 minutes and pretty much gave the Fraport Skyliners a taste of their own medicine playing their brand of defense and beating them with their kind of ball movement, but just couldn´t hold down the fort for 40 minutes as Frankfurt made that last amazing run. “I am so disappointed. We were so close and too lose it like that at the end was very tough. They are a good team and played great. Congrats to Frankfurt”; added ex Philadelphia 76er Maalik Wayns.
The Fraport Skyliners came into the game focused and self-confident and why shouldn´t they have been? Frankfurt came into the Fiba Europe Cup final with a best 17-1 record and clearly had been the best club in the competition. Shortly before the jump ball to start the game, Jordan Theodore looked up to the Frankfurt fans pointing and letting them know in a few hours that title is yours. However the contest didn´t start off well for the Fraport Skyliners as they were halted in their first five possessions as Varese jumped off to a quick 7-0 lead as ex Arizona State snipper Rihards Kuksiks hit free throws and ex Villanova guard Wayns nailed a three pointer and 15 footer jumper. Frankfurt got their first field goal of the match as Quantez Robertson snuck inside and got the back door pass from Aaron Doornekamp. Robertson then served up another back door pass to Johannes Voigtmann who made the easy layup. However Varese had this controlled offense that like Frankfurt featured a structured ball movement and spacing was brilliant as they got many of their big men open for the mid distance jumpers. Varese also had no problem getting inside as their speedy guards Wayns and Chris Wright gave them fits all night long. Wright made free throws and scored inside to extend the Varese lead to 11-4. Varese surprised Frankfurt with their very physical defense as wherever Frankfurt pushed the ball, bump there was the Italian wall. However basketball wouldn´t be basketball without runs and Frankfurt then turned it around after a time out to shock Varese with a 11-2 run to take the short 15-13 lead. In the run, the Fraport Skyliners decided to bang the ball inside which Varese didn´t come to terms with. Frankfurt got key buckets from Voigtmann with a tip in, dunk and free throws and Danilo Barthel nailed a trey and finished off a lay in as the lob pass worked again as Voigtmann served him the pass. However the Frankfurt lead was short lived as with two seconds remaining in the first quarter, Varese stole the lead back 16-15 as ex Georgetown(NCAA) guard Chris Wright hit an amazing buzzer beater as he sped up the court and nailed the shot about seven feet behind the three point line and was caught between two Skyliners. “We expected this game to be low scoring and one usually sees that in a final. They started off well getting stops and getting easy baskets on transition. But we always know that when we play good defense that we can stay with anyone”, stressed Fraport Skyliner Phillip Scrubb. Varese was shooting 35% from the field and 25% from outside while the Fraport Skyliners were shooting 37% from the field and 16% from outside. Frankfurt had the 10-9 rebound edge and both teams had three turnovers a piece.
In the second quarter, Varese continued to have the lead and play their solid offense game while totally stifling the Fraport Skyliners with their aggressive no prisoners defensive approach. Like in the first quarter, Varese jumped on top of Frankfurt going on a brutal 8-2 run to extend their lead to 24-19. In the run, the club got useful production from other players other than their Americans as ex Leverkusen forward Kristjan Kangur gave his team some production with a lay in on the fast break and a jumper while Italian Luca Campani drilled home a three pointer. Varese could have led by more had Chris Wright been more successful from the free throw line as he missed two of three attempts. Frankfurt continued to have massive difficulty finding that offensive rhythm and also were losing confidence as at times they were holding back from taking open shots. Varese was doing a good job keeping Jordan Theodore out of the paint and Aaron Doornekamp had to rest on the bench with three fouls. Varese continued to hold the lead and get excellent support from non-Americans as ex Bologna Italian Daniele Cavaliero dropped a trey and ex NBA player Brandon Davies found Giancarlo Ferrero for the lay in. Frankfurt wasn´t totally shut out as Theodore finally hit his first field goal after 17 minutes in and the German twin towers continued to be aggressive on the offensive glass as Danilo Barthel made a tip in. Wayns took Varese into halftime with a pretty bucket in traffic as Varese led 31-25 at the break. “Varese is a very athletic team and went very hard at us each time we went inside or posted up and that gave us problems. They also moved the ball well and got open shots. Their guards used the high ball screen well and we had to give up the mid distance shot a lot to contain their guards”, said ex Charleton guard Phillip Scrubb. Varese was shooting 39% from the field and 25% from the three point line while the Fraport Skyliners were shooting 30% from the field and 9% from the three point line. Frankfurt had the 21-19 rebound edge and four turnovers while Varese had six turnovers.
The third quarter continued to be a nightmare as Varese continued to close them down on defense and on offense were executing at a solid rate to extend their advantage to double digits as the Fraport Skyliners were unable to get over the hump and go on that much needed run. Frankfurt didn´t execute on their first four possessions, but were lucky that Varese were unable to capitalize on it as all they got was one measly point from Kuksiks from the free throw line. Varese was literary stuffing Frankfurt inside as Theodore ran into a brick wall every time and Barthel and Voigtmann couldn´t get any production inside. Then it seemed like Frankfurt might be momentarily shifting the momentum as Theodore finally nailed his first three pointer of the night to cut the Varese lead to 32-28 and Voigtmann then stuffed Davis inside. The game then really could have turned for Frankfurt had Theodore hit the next trey, but he missed and Varese took advantage of it hitting Frankfurt with a bitter 5-0 run as Kangur connected on a three pointer and Wayns dropped a trey as the Italian squad led by 10 points again. Voigtmann and Wright then traded three pointers, but Varese still led 41-31. Ex Auburn guard Robertson had offensively been quiet all night, but here and there he takes advantage of this athleticism and finished beautifully spinning and weaving inside for the easy bucket, but whenever Frankfurt got some instant offensive production, so did Varese as Wayns who left Morrison in the dust as he sped to the hole for two as Varese led 43-33. Frankfurt did finish the third quarter strong as Mr Canada Phillip Scrubb hit a trey and Mike Morrison made a tip in, but Varese still had the comfortable lead at 47-38.”Coach Herbert told us at halftime to focus on defense and not let our offense effect the rest of our game and not to get down when we miss easy shots. We tried to focus on one play at a time. They continued to move the ball well and get baskets on transition, but we still believed that we were never out of the game”, added Phillip Scrubb. Varese was shooting 41% from the field and 31% from the parking lot while the Fraport Skyliners were shooting 31% from the field and 21% from the parking lot. Both teams had 28 rebounds a piece, but Varese had 12 turnovers and Frankfurt had 10 turnovers.
In the fourth quarter, the Fraport Skyliners who for the most part have won games easily in the Fiba Europe cup and Beko BBL this season, had to show their fighting nature and like against Russian team Enisey in the semi´s fought back and had enough in their energy tank to stage that last run to get back into the game. Frankfurt really tried everything in the first three quarters and head coach Gordon Herbert always had a new idea up his sleeve so at the begin of the fourth quarter the club tried to get Quantez Robertson involved in the low post and exploit the mismatch against Wayns and it worked as he made the easy lay in. Frankfurt continued to keep the pressure on and Morrison stuffed Davies which led to a Scrubb three pointer who found his confidence again after hitting his first three pointer to cut the Varese lead to 47-44. Scrubb had been passing up some shots in the first three quarters that were open, but now he showed his old self again not hesitating, but just firing away. Varese still had resistance as Frankfurt still had a lot of hard work in front of them in their comeback as whenever they were on the verge of tying the game, Varese hit big shots. Varese got buckets from Wayns who caught Frankfurt napping on transition defense as he went coast to coast and Kuksiks hit a three pointer to extend the Varese lead to 52-47. Frankfurt had found their offensive rhythm in the fourth quarter and got heavy production from Robertson and Doornekamp from downtown, but so did Varese form Wright, but Frankfurt was creeping at the door step of Varese now down only 55-53. Morrison gave Frankfurt some sturdy aggressiveness inside scoring twice to cut the Varese lead to 58-57, but Varese still had that extra little more to barely keep the lead. Top players love crunch time and Jordan Theodore had shown time in and time out that he is Mr dependable as he knew time was running out and it was time to go to work. It seemed like Theodore had been stopped in this game in the lane as much as he had in the whole BBL season, but now when it counted most, he was able to execute in traffic as Varese still led 60-59. Wayns then unleased a ridiculous three pointer with a minute and thirteen seconds to go to extend the Varese lead to 62-59. It was Theodore´s time as he next nailed a three pointer from the top of the key and then hit three free throws as his aggressiveness with the ball was too much for Varese as Frankfurt had retrieved the lead back at 65-62. Even if he had been on the moon in the first three quarters, he stole the offensive show of the ex NBA guards Wayns and Wright in crunch time as his big shots lead Frankfurt to the title and racked up another personal victory against two tough guards. “Those two guards hurt us in the first three quarters getting to the rim. They play at a very high level. They really had my number until the fourth quarter. I knew that it was take over time. I had been awful for 35 minutes, but I couldn´t let my team down at the end. There was no way I wasn´t going to help my team win the title”, smiled Jordan Theodore. “I have played against Theodore since sixth grade. I was wasn´t surprised that he turned it up, because he was very aggressive. He has been having a good season. I am happy for my friend”, stated Maalik Wayns. Varese never gave up and had two more chances to send the game into overtime, but their shots fell short. Voigtmann closed out the game with free throws. “We turned up our defensive intensity and did a better job keeping them out of the paint in the fourth quarter. We knew that if we wanted to win that we would have to get the ball to Theodore and Tez on the perimeter, because we rely on them. Our game plan is to get them the ball so they can score or create”, added Phillip Scrubb. “We went back and forth in the fourth quarter, but Frankfurt started to make more shots and get more confident while we didn´t hit shots anymore”, added Maalik Wayns. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Quantez Roberston with 15 points who got the MVP award. Jordan Theodore added 13 points and Johannes Voigtmann 12 points. Varese was led by Chris Wright with 19 points and Maalik Wayns added 16 points. The Fraport Skyliners shot 38% from the field and 34% from outside while Varese shot 41% from the field and 30% from outside. Frankfurt won the rebound duel 37-35 and had 12 turnovers while Varese coughed up the ball 16 times.