Around this time of year most BBL coaches are in their offices already scoping together new plays and contemplating which roles each player will perform except for Fraport Skyliners head coach Gordon Herbert who is still looking for a few players to complete the new roster. Even tougher this season is that the Canadian isn´t even at the practices as he has taken a leave of absence recovering from back surgery and given the coaching reigns to assistant coach Klaus Perwass. In the last years the Fraport Skyliners haven´t been complete as their preseason schedule has started and it was no different this season as like last season the club faced German pro A team RheinStars Cologne in a neutral area Koblenz and this season in another unusual spot in Wiesbaden, Germany. Eight year BBL veteran and identity figure of the Fraport Skyliners Quantez Robertson has had his share of photo shoots and checking out runways with a basketball at Frankfurt international airport, but for a change he would also be stepping foot on another airbase in Wiesbaden only 26 kilometers away from Frankfurt international airport as the Fraport Skyliners met the RheinStars in an out of the ordinary place. As part of the Basketball Aid international tour, both teams were taking part in a very good cause to help kids stricken with the horrible disease cancer as all proceeds were going to this charity. The Basketball Aid international Tour had received a blow recently as previously invited touring team Northeastern(NCAA) cancelled their 10 day trip on account of the terrorism in Germany, but Basketball Aid organizer Hans Beth and his crew had done a fine job in a very short period of time finding replacement teams for the Huskies from Boston. It is typical that in the past American players tend to visit American airbases to get that extra special US feeling as well as cleaning out the food markets where they can buy and munch on Pop tarts, Oreo´s or Twizzlers candy and much more, things they would never get in a normal German supermarket. In the past ex Skyliners and two thirds of the then Bermuda triangle Tyrone Ellis and Chris Williams minus Pascal Roller would venture out to Wiesbaden to take in the flair of American culture or a Jimmy Mckinney would make the trip to Heidelberg to visit the army heliport. On a very hot day that had temperatures in the 90´s everyone was relieved to be in the gym at Clay Kaserne as it was air conditioned nicely and after 40 minutes of hard fought pre season basketball, it was no surprise that BBL club Fraport Skyliners had been victorious gliding by the Pro A RheinStars Cologne 77-59. Basketball Aid international tour chairman Hans Beth was pleased with how the first event of the tour went. “It was a good atmosphere and a good game. It was a good start for the tour. The fans saw many young players competing and both general managers of the teams were present. It was obvious that the fans enjoyed the game. I hope to see them at Fraport Skyliner games”, stressed Hans Beth.
For both teams, this exhibition game was just another test for the rigorous upcoming season that both clubs will experience in their respective leagues, but the game also had a deeper meaning as it was in support of the organization Basketball Aid that support children with cancer and the game also gave the American players time to reflect on this cause as well as playing a game on an American army base. “Playing in Wiesbaden was like having a piece of home. I have a German mother and American father and to be able to see the Americana and German flags side by side reminds me of the partnership of both countries coming together as one. This was a very nice gym. Any enjoyment that I can provide while playing for military families is great. I can imagine that their life is stressful at times, but it is nice if they could enjoy a Thursday afternoon relaxing and watching basketball. Win or lose, we did a good thing today and we could leave with a good taste”, stressed RheinStars forward Alex Foster. Fraport Skyliners center Mike Morrison was as usual his laid back self after the win, but when asked about his thoughts about the game and deeper meaning behind the cause of Basketball aid, the Florida native became sentimental. “This was almost like being on American soli. It was cool seeing so many American families in the stands. Being able to help the basketball aid cause is very important. Everybody was a winner today and it was a great day”, stressed Mike Morrison.
Both teams were missing key ingredients to their teams as the Fraport Skyliners were without Mr Canada Philip Scrubb and new player Shavon Shields who had arrived that morning and was battling jet lag while the RheinStars were without the services of big men Amric Fields and 217cm monster Dennis Heinzmann as their inside game suffered without them. The Fraport Skyliners started with their heart and soul with Americans Quantez Robertson and Mike Morrison and Germans Max Merz, Stefan Ilzhoefer and Niklas Kiel. The RheinsTars started with David Downs, Robin Christen, Andreas Wenzl, Alex Foster and Hugh Robertson. The Fraport Skyliners dominated from the get go getting their offensive sets going while getting their staple defense established early as their aggressiveness was a few gears too much for the RheinStars as they trailed 15-3 after six minutes. Frankfurt got their inside out game going quickly as their big men Morrison and Kiel got easy buckets inside while their shooting didn´t lack any fine tuning early on either as Max Merz and Stefan Ilzhoefer connected from downtown. The Frankfurt aggressive defense also led to easy transition baskets as well. At the 4.15 minute mark, huge German talent Isaac Bonga made his professional debut, but before he could make any waves on the court, Cologne got a quick mini 4-0 run with baskets from Lennart Steffen and Tim Van De Velde to cut the Frankfurt lead to 15-7. Frankfurt closed out the first quarter with a Robertson dunk and Garai Zeeb three pointer as the Fraport Skyliners led 22-9 after one quarter. Isaac Bonga was controlling the boards in the first few minutes when he was on the floor. “Frankfurt hit us hard in the first quarter. We weren´t prepared well and need to be mentally focused better. We were unable to meet their aggressiveness on defense with offensive intensity”, stressed Alex Foster.
In the second quarter, both teams continued to sub their players in and out giving everyone their opportunity to work on their game as well as further team chemistry and harmony being developed. The Fraport Skyliners continued to have many more options on offense, worked on their inside out game and didn´t allow the RheinStars much opportunity to get anything going inside. Frankfurt Got a three pointer form Max Merz and a hook shot from Mahir Agva while the RheinStars got trey´s from Downs and Bendict Van Laack. Cologne then got their first solid bucket inside from Steffen who snuck inside finishing with his left hand as Frankfurt led only 27-17. Bonga was back in the game and the 16 year old who measures in at 205cm continued to help on the boards, but his athleticism and quickness was impressive as he showed it on both ends of the court making a quick block from behind on Hugh Robertson and then strolled into traffic and in midair made a no look pass to a streaking Morrison in the lane who finished with a routine lay in as Frankfurt led 31-17. Every once in a while Frankfurt would get careless and the RheinStars capitalized with buckets from a Downs who snuck inside, but overall Frankfurt always came back and had an answer on offense. After the Downs basket, Frankfurt went on a 10-0 run to extend their lead to 41-22. In the run, the Fraport Skyliners got production from Ilzhoefer who had a totally new stroke of confidence and really had the green light in this game as he had that go to guy mentality brewing and connected on another trey, Merz scored inside, Tez Robertson made a steal and dunk on transition and Morrison finished inside for an easy two. In the last two minutes, Cologne got some needed offensive aid form Downs who dropped two trey´s and Robertson scored inside, but the Fraport Skyliners led at the break 44-30. “We were missing Fields and Heinzmann in the low post. It was the first game for Wenzl in 3 years. We have 100% belief that he can become the best center in the Pro A. He was a bit rusty today, but he will be a great player”, added Alex Foster. After 20 minutes the Fraport Skyliners were shooting 59% from the field and 41% from outside while the RheinStars were shooting 39% from the field and 36% from outside. Frankfurt had the 17-12 rebound edge, but 11 turnovers while Cologne had 10 turnovers.
The Fraport Skyliners started the third quarter with a few turnovers and the RheinStars capitalized on it getting a Robertson bucket and Wenzl lay up playing pick and roll with Downs to cut the Frankfurt lead to 45-34, but the RheinStars would never be able to cut the lead under 10 points. However it didn´t take the Fraport Skyliners long to get out of their offensive mini rut as they went on a 9-3 run as the German kids executed nicely with Agva and Bonga to extend the Frankfurt lead to 54-36. Agva was working on becoming that Skyliner beast inside as he scored twice and Bonga connected on a three displaying a smooth stroke in progress. After 30 minutes the Fraport Skyliners led comfortably 54-38. “We stepped up our defense in the third quarter, because we didn´t want to fold. I think that the game was pretty even for three quarters. It was just that first quarter that hurt us. We had more open looks and came together better as a team. Hugh Robertson also hit some big shots”, explained Alex Foster. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 47% from the field and 32% from the three point line while the RheinStars were shooting 38% from the field and 24% from the three point line. Frankfurt had the 29-20 rebound edge and both teams had 14 turnovers a piece.
Both teams found their scoring touch again better in the fourth quarter, but Cologne couldn´t make any ground as they were still outscored by Frankfurt 23-21. The fans also got to see some Tez/Morrison show time as they connected on the alley-oop twice with Robertson being the perfect flicker while Morrison was as tame as a Florida kitten tapping home the ball twice and saving the hard throw downs for the regular season. Hugh Robertson who played last season with Helios Suns Domzale (Slovenia-Telemach League) and can decide a game by himself did his best hitting big shot after big shot cutting the lead down to 60-47, but the Frankfurt bench was too much for Cologne as they stepped up and executed as well. The difference was that in this phase, the RheinStars only had a Robertson who was hitting shots while Frankfurt went on a 7-0 run as Pro B player German Konstantin Schubert hit a 20 footer and a lay it and Quantez Robertson made a three pointer as Frankfurt led 67-50. The game was decided and in the last few minutes Alex Foster did some work for his stat line hitting a three and then making a beautiful off balance shot high off the glass. Frankfurt got last baskets from Agva and Ilzhoefer to secure the win. “We were a bit tired in the fourth, but not physically. It was more mental. The two alley-opp´s were mental break downs. Frankfurt played very physical. We have to emphasis to play harder defense in practice so we can be ready for teams like Frankfurt. Frankfurt played their defensive concept the whole game and we shied away from it. We couldn´t stretch and challenge their defense. This game was part of the process to get ready for the season. I feel we made a good step in the right direction”, stressed Alex Foster. “. “The game went ok. We still need to correct many mistakes on defense. We found our rhythm on offense today. I feel that we have picked up on many things in two weeks. Coach Perwas has done a good job making things clear to each player what he has to do”, added Mike Morrison. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Stefan Illzhoefer with 15 points. Mike Morrison added 14 points while Max Merz had 10 points and eight assists and Quantez Robertson supplied 10 points, four rebounds and four steals. 16 year old Isaac Bonga played 23 minutes scoring six points, hauling down six rebounds, dishing out three assists and getting one steal The RheinStars were led by Hugh Robertson with 19 points while David Downs had 11 points. The Fraport Skyliners shot 52% from the field and 31% from outside while the RheinStars shot 43% from the field and 37% from outside. Frankfurt won the rebound battle 33-24 and had 18 turnovers while Cologne had 21 turnovers.