Summer is slowly moving on as Fraport Skyliner fans are still trying to digest the departures of players like Johannes Voigtmann, Danilo Barthel and Jordan Theodore, but at the same time having the amazing 2015-2016 Fiba Cup title win in the back of their minds and looking ahead to this season as the 2004 Beko BBL champion Fraport Skyliners will take part in the new competition Champions Cup. There hasn´t been much buzz with new player signings yet for the Fraport Skyliners so the 2016-2017 Champions Cup draw was a refreshing way to dream and predict which teams could be drawn for Frankfurt during the slow and boring draw procedure. As if the basketball God had secretly had his hand in the pot, the Fraport Skyliners got a date with ex Skyliner Jordan Theodore who was one of the key figures for the success of the team last season and will return back to Frankfurt with his new team Banvit of Turkey where he surely will be greeted with a massive ovation. The Fraport Skyliners also drew Aris of Greece, CEZ Nymburk of the Czech Republic, Helios Suns of Slovenia and AS Monaco. Two more teams will be added, but won´t be known until a future date when the qualifying results are in.
The Fraport Skyliners got some very interesting and exciting opponents and will also have many fascinating trips this season including one to the beautiful city of Monte Carlo that is known for being a haven for the rich and famous, the casino, Formula one racing and a royal family that lives in the tabloids. The first club that the Fraport Skyliners drew was Turkish team Banvit. Frankfurt has played against them in the past in international club play. Banvit is the club that ex Skyliner American Keith Simmons feel in love with and played from 2009-2016 with. The club entered the first Turkish division in 2004 and are still looking for their first title. They finished in second place twice in the regular season in 2011 and 2012 and were a league finalist in 2013. They also reached two cup finals and five semi-finals since 2004. The club like Frankfurt is still being built for the upcoming season as Jordan Theodore is the first notable import that they have signed. Known guys that have played for Banvit in the past were ex BBL players Cliff Hammonds and Antonio Graves as well as well as ex NBA player Courtney Fortson
The second team that the Fraport Skyliners drew was Greek team Aris Thessaloniki and they belong to the older clubs in Greek basketball as they were founded in 1914. They were one of the dominating teams in the 80´s as they won 10 titles including six league titles and four cups. In the last 10 years the club took part in the Eurocup five times and Euroleague twice. Some notable players that have played for them is current NBA player PJ Tucker as well as ex NBA players Booby Brown and Aaron Miles or ex Skyliner Anthony King or current FC Bayern Munich guard Anton Gavel. Well known Dutch basketball agent Gerd Hammink who has many clients playing in Germany also played there. This club is also still being constructed, but have ex NBA player Jerel Mcneal on the roster for this season.
Next selected for the Fraport Skyliners to battle was top Czech team CEZ Nymburk who are a club that often groom young talented players to make the next step. In the past, the Fraport Skyliners have had test games with them in Frankfurt and the 5-6 hour road trip could be appealing to some fans to make. In a way they are the Czech version of FC Bayern Munich, but even better even if they can´t match their fan sales, but has FC Bayern Munich won 13 league titles in a row in football or basketball? CEZ Nymburk was founded in 1929 and through the years had numerous name changes, but under their current name won the last 13 league titles dating back to 2004. They also have won nine cups dating back to 2006. EX Fraport Skyliners head coach Muli Katzurin also helped in the title wins winning four in a row before coming to FRankfurt to coach in 2011. Over the years, the club has boasted talented players like Monty Mack who is the pride and joy of Boston and Umass who played a test game in 2006 in the BCM against the then Deutsch Bank Skyliners as well as a bundle of ex BBL players like Tweety Carter, Christian Burns, Terrell Everett, Eugene Lawrence, Michael Meeks or Derek Raivio. The best example of a player growing and making the next step there was Adam Hess who tore up the Czech Republic-NB) league from 2005-2007 and then made the next step to the higher league BBL in Germany where he would become a dominating player over the years. The roster also is still being made, but one will expect another power house team this season as they have held on to ex NBA player Jiri Welsh as well as Cuban talent Howard Sant-Roos who was an unknown Pro B player four years ago in Braunschweig with the Spot Up Medien Baskets and played together with NBA player Dennis Schroeder, but made the step up the latter playing two seasons in the competitive Italy-A2 Gold and last season with Nymburk. The club also retained valuable veteran Petr Benda who will go into his tenth season with the club and is a nine time Czech allstar and has more rings than Michael Jordan having won nine league titles. The team also signed ex BBL player Ekene Ibekwe to bolster their wing position.
Next the Fraport Skyliners drew Slovenian club Helios Suns who were founded in 1949 and have won only three club titles with the league title in 2007 and 2016 and the cup in 2007. The club doesn´t only play in the Telematic league, but also in the highly competitive Adriatic league and always seem to construct competitive teams that can annoy any team on a good night. This is also a club that sets the path for young players to show their stuff and then make the next step. American Hugh Robertson had a huge season last year and this season will play for the RheinStars in Cologne while Richard Shields also has played there from MBC and ex Rhondorf American Cory Remekun plays with them now. Their roster is also still being built, but the most interesting aspect of the new team is the Harvard connection of Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey that will be reunited again. Curry is looking to bounce back from his disappointing season in Germany with the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven while Casey who was one step away from the NBA with the Phoenix Suns last season returns back to Helios after having played his rookie season there.
Last but not least, the Fraport Skyliners will make a trip to the enchanting Monte Carlo where one can bump into Boris Becker practicing with Novak Djokovic at the Monte Carlo country club or bumping into George Clooney trying his luck at the casino and battle AS Monaco that play in the French league. In the 80´s, they were a dangerous team in France, but then after former NBA player Robert Smith left, the club fell on hard times and fell down the ladder. They were in the fourth league for many years the NM2, but then steadily made their way back up the ladder to the third division NM1 winning the title in 2014 and Pro B title in 2015 moving back into the France Pro A. Last season, their fortunes continued as their stellar play rewarded them with first place, but in the playoffs they ran out of gas in the semi-finals against Asvell. On paper this most likely will be the most difficult team that Frankfurt will face. When looking at the current roster, the club has some serious talent as they have held on to ex BBL player Jamal Shuler who has never met a basket he didn´t like in the air and had battles with Quantez Robertson in Bonn and TRier at the slam dunk competitions or Ukrainian national player Sergii Gladyr who was drafted in 2009 by the Atlanta Hawks and played against Frankfurt in the Eurochallenge in the 2008-2009 season with MBC Mykolaiv (Superleague). The list of new players coming in are ex NBA player Brandon Davies who lost the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup to Frankfurt with Varese in Chalon, point guard Dee Bost who has been on the radar of NBA teams for years and was second in assists in the D-league in 2014 with 8,4 and steady veteran Nik Caner-Medley who also played in the BBL with the Artland Dragons.
This is a very exciting and competitive group and at the moment hard to say where the Fraport Skyliners are on paper simply because they haven´t built their whole roster yet. But one thing is for sure, this season won´t be a cake walk like last season where the Fraport Skyliners breezed through the competition with a 18-1 record. This season every game will be a real battle. Fraport Skyliners head coach Gordon Herbert might recalling some of the finest moments of Jordan Theodore in last season´s Fiba Europe Cup and be wondering shortly after this draw if he can magically pull out another Jordan Theodore type player from his coat pocket for this season´s competition?