It may be still very early in the new season, but so far the Fraport Skyliners have been impressive in the pre-season winning their first four games despite having no head coach Gordon Herbert, no American starting point guard, no Philip Scrubb who will be out for some months due to a knee injury, but one thing they do have as usual is an abundance of very many young talented German players who have benefited from the abundance in minutes and the growing team chemistry over the years with guys like Max Merz, Stefan Ilzhoefer, Niklas Kiel and Garai Zeeb. They also have had the monster games of rookie Shavon Shields who quietly has dominated three games and played as if he had been taking apart the league for years. The Fraport Skyliners dismantled the RheinStars Cologne during the Basketball Aid international tour in a neutral spot on the Wiesbaden US Airbase where if a Mike Morrison or Quantez Robertson had gotten bored during their breathers on the bench, they could of tested each other about who knew their respective state flag better than the other as all 50 state flags were on display in the cozy, bright gym. The 2004 BBL champion then man handled the Walter Tigers Tiuebingen who were without Mr pass Jared Jordan and then nonchalantly strolled into France and showed an early harmonized defense as they stayed loyal to their defense roots getting by Lyon 74:69 and Bourg-en-Bress 71:63. The first fans were getting on the bandwagon and already predicting another playoff visit this season. However more often than not, the surprising good play and results due come to a crashing end as the Fraport Skyliners once again defended the way they knew how giving up 63 points to 2016 Fiba Europe Cup semi-finalist Chalon a few days ago , but couldn´t muster a consistent showing on offense producing only 51 points. Rookie Shavon Shields was brought back down to earth being held in check with seven points and six boards. The only real bright spot was Florida native Mike Morrison who tallied 14 points and five rebounds. The Fraport Skyliners now had four days to recuperate from the tournament in France where they played on three consecutive days and next had a real tough opponent with EaysCredit BBL team medi Bayreuth, but were at home again playing in their practice facility BCM. The Home crowd also saw the debut of rookie Shavon Shields and 10 year veteran Antonio Graves who many still had his buzzer beater in their heads from two seasons ago where he spanked the Fraport Skyliners as an Artland Dragon in the Fraport arena. However the Fraport Skyliners couldn´t withstand the Kyan Anderson Show has he poured in 11 points in the third quarter which blew the game wide open as medi Bayreuth was able to extend their lead into double digits and from there on it was cool sailing home as they defeated Frankfurt 75-61.
“We knew that Frankfurt would be physical so we did a good job matching their intensity on defense. Key was having our defensive rebounds result into easy transition baskets”, stressed ex TCU(NCAA) point guard Kyan Anderson. New Fraport Skyliner Antonio Graves made his debut pouring home 7 points in 20 minutes and knows that integration will take some time and executing more consistently for 40 minutes was a problem against medi Bayreuth. “I picked up early fouls and couldn´t get into rhythm. I had only practiced three times with the team. I am still learning the plays and about the team. It will take some time to get better. I felt like a rookie today. We had a good start, but as soon as our bench came in, we lost momentum and I take responsibility for that. We are young and still learning. We were unable to execute the way we wanted to for 40 minutes on offense and defense. We made mental mistakes and need to learn from them”, stressed ex Crailsheim Merlin Antonio Graves.
It front of a packed gym in the BCM, Fraport Skyliner fans saw medi Bayreuth get off to a quick 5-0 lead powered by a Kyan Anderson trey who shot 39,2% from outside last season with Crelan Okapi Aalstar (Belgium-Scooore League) and quickly demonstrated what would be in store for Frankfurt as his scoring would haunt Frankfurt all night long. However this lightening start by medi Bayreuth didn´t impress Frankfurt as they silenced the opponent with a fast 8-0 run as identity figure Quantez Robertson scored in bunches with a trey and lay in and newly reborn Stefan Illzhoefer who is 100% healthy and focused to make his BBL breakthrough this season added on a three pointer from the corner as Frankfurt had their first lead 8-5. Frankfurt was able to extend their advantage to 12-9 as the German kids Niklas Kiel barreled into the zone by Andreas Seiferth like a packed bus past a small van and Max Merz connected on a lay in on transition as Frankfurt always tried to run transition which was due to quick hands and deflections on defense that led to easy points as Frankfurt led 12-9. However medi Bayreuth found some instant spark on offense and stepped up their defense as they closed out the first quarter with a 12-3 run to lead 21-15 after one quarter. In the run, medi Bayreuth was impacted by ex Davidson(NCAA) standout De´Mon Brooks with consecutive buckets and Egyptian Massei Marei who was very active in the post and wrecking havoc with his physical style, fine ball handling and quickness with a bucket and free throws. After one quarter, the Fraport Skyliners were looking behind as they trailed 21-15.
In the second quarter, it looked like medi Bayreuth may run away with the game early, but it was Max Merz who kept the Fraport Skyliners in the game with his hot hand. The two big men Marei and Kiel exchanged buckets in the first minute of the second quarter and Frankfurt continued to come back as it was the energizer Tez Robertson sinking a trey and then causing uproar on the defensive end making a steal and running the break and dishing off a no look pass to Kiel for the dunk as Frankfurt trailed 25-22. However Frankfurt didn´t remain consistent coughing up the ball or not making easy free throw attempts as Mike Morrison missed two. Medi Bayreuth continued to get solid support from big man Marei who scored inside after the no look pass from ex Louisville guard Trey Lewis and then making free throws as medi Bayreuth led 28-22. However of all unlikely figures, it was Max Merz who kept the Fraport Skyliners in the game making back to back three pointers as he cut the medi Bayreuth lead to 30-28. All in all Merz finished with a team high 20 points and as always was as humble as possible concerning his good performance. “It was a long time ago where I hit five three pointers. I am very happy my shot was falling. I worked hard on my shooting this summer and tonight my teammates found me. I had some open looks, but I know that I can hit shots. For me it is important to control the tempo, my playmaking and defense. I hope that I can find my role this season with my intensity”, stressed Max Merz. Antonio Graves is still getting to know his teammates, but he now definitely knows who Max Merz is. “I can tell that Max is a veteran, because he is playing very under control and poised. I need to talk more to him. His shot looked good and he did a fine job running the team”, stressed Antonio Graves. However Frankfurt was unable to get the lead back before halftime as German Robin Amaize nailed a 15 footer and Brooks scored on the break as medi Bayreuth led 34-30 at the break. “I thought that we played solid defense, but they hit some tough shots which kind of put us down. I told the guys at halftime to see what our defense could create in the second half and think about offense later”, stressed Kyan Anderson.
In the third quarter came the turning point as medi Bayreuth was led by the Kyan Anderson show as he was separating his scoring and passing whenever one was needed leading the club on a 13-2 run to totally break open the game. Anderson got medi Bayreuth on the board first as he had some fortune as a loose ball squired out to near center court where he scooped up the ball and was off to the races with an easy lay in as Frankfurt trailed 36-30. However Frankfurt found some momentum going on a 6-2 run to cut the medi Bayreuth lead to 38-36. Anderson continued to eat up the Frankfurt defense as he scored inside, but Frankfurt countered with two buckets from Kiel and a Robertson lay in as Morrison found him back door. However then came the turning point of the game as medi Bayreuth went on a 13-2 run to take the commanding 51-38 lead. Medi Bayreuth was benefited by turnovers and a Kiel air ball for the extra needed possessions. In the run, Anderson added on to his third quarter 11 points with a difficult lay in in traffic high of the glass, another lay in traffic and a three pointer. Anderson was also brilliant in the playmaking department as he whipped a pass inside to Linhart for the reverse lay up. Linhart also displayed his knack of having a keen basketball IQ following up a brick and grabbing his own rebound and finishing with a floater. Merz did connect on another trey, but medi Bayreuth got added production from their kids as Amaize hit a floater and ex Nordlingen guard Moritz Trieb hit a clutch three as medi Bayreuth led 58-44 a after three quarters. “I came into the game trying to be as solid as possible. As our offense was struggling, I took it upon me to get more aggressive on the court. I never try to be selfish, but just take what the defense gives me. I always try to be a pass first guard and try to find that balance between scoring myself and finding my teammates”, added Kyan Anderson. “We had too many turnovers which led too to many fast break points. We had to protect the paint better, but didn´t. Anderson is very talented and played with a lot of confidence. We tried our best to contain him. He was aggressive and that is exactly how he should play in order to get a better feel for the BBL. We had to do a better job on him and protecting the rim especially against a guy his size. He exposed our defense well saw the openings and kept attacking us”, stressed Antonio Graves.
In the fourth quarter, the Fraport Skyliners were able to cut the medi Bayreuth lead down to eight points, but continued to get unneeded turnovers which hindered their comeback attempt. Merz continued to have the red hot hand burying two three pointers to cut the medi Bayreuth lead to 62-50. Frankfurt made one last push going on a 6-2 run to cut the medi Bayreuth lead to 64-56 as Graves connected on a 15 footer, Ilzhoefer finished on a dunk on transition and Garai Zeeb snuck inside for an easy lay in. However medi Bayreuth had seen enough and slammed the door and hopes of the Fraport Skyliners shut going on a 9-2 run to secure the win. In the run, medi Bayreuth continued to get solid support from Anderson with a bucket and free throws and continued to stay aggressive in the paint as Amaize and Marai drew fouls and hit them as medi Bayreuth led 73-58. With a minute left, Graves dropped a trey and Brooks closed out the game with a hard two handed dunk. Medi Bayreuth was led by Kyan Anderson with 20 points and seven assists. Trey Lewis contributed 13 points and Massei Marei scored 12 points and had six boards. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Max Merz with 20 points. Niklas Kiel added 12 points and Quantez Robertson had 10 points. Medi Bayreuth shot 44% from the field and 20% from outside while the Fraport Skyliners shot 43% from the field and 48% from outside. Medi Bayreuth had the 29-24 rebound edge and 18 turnovers while Frankfurt coughed up the ball 22 times. Medi Bayreuth was the first BBL team that came together at the start of August and their team chemistry development shows why coming early has paid dividends. “Coach Korner picked up many character guys. No one is scared to voice their opinion. No one takes it personal. We know that it is in good spirit. We want to make each other better and just continue to grow”, warned Kyan Anderson.