In his first two professional season´s Chris Babb could pf probably mapped out the best fast food stops on the two hour drive from Portland to Boston via Waltham, the training facility of the Boston Celtics as he was a consistent member of D-league team the Maine Red Claws, but also had his stints with the NBA club as he played a total of 14 games for the Boston Celtics and 80 games for Maine. Despite getting his experience in the big show, learning as a rookie from ex ratiopharm Ulm coach Mike Taylor as well as getting important pointers last season from Brad Stevens about always being ready and being that perfect practice player as well as getting those insightful pieces of information from Jeff Green and Rajon Rondo, his NBA dream was put on hold as he came to Europe to demonstrate his game in Germany for ratiopharm Ulm. He did remember how vital these two NBA players were for his early development phase as a player. “I had a great experience with both guys. In my first NBA minutes, Rondo made sure to run the first plays for me so I could get up some shots and get confidence. Green took me under his wing from the start. We played the same position and I could always go to him for advice. It was important for me to be able to watch him play and pick up the little things. It was just a huge experience for me to be able to watch him play”, stressed Chris Babb. Sometimes guys that come from the NBA to Europe stay forever here and never return or there are those like a PJ Tucker in the past that return. If one would have to give a prediction about the future of Chris Babb, one could just say somewhere in between. Babb came over in November 2014 and since then has showed why he played in the NBA and why there is no reason why he can´t return. Last season ratiopharm Ulm was stinking up BBL arena´s in the first weeks as they were giving underachieving a totally new name, but then came the arrival of Chris Babb who turned that whole season around as the team reacted and won 13 of the next 14 games and continued to impress all season rolling into the playoffs and upsetting Oldenburg and Frankfurt to reaching the final where they were swept by the Brose Baskets Bamberg. Even having played in the NBA, there were no signs of ego form his side, but moreover respect and manners how to handle himself concerning the success of Ulm. “I think that after we won our first few games, it was an overall confidence thing that helped the team in the winning streak. Guys started to fall into their roles and we learned what it took to win games”, warned Chris Babb. Last season he played 32 games averaging 10.3ppg, 4.0rpg, 3.2apg, FGP: 41.1%, 3PT: 36.9%, FT: 82.7%,Babb didn´t get cocky and fall in to that mindscape that I was the reason why we won, and resigned with the team to take his game and ratiopharm Ulm to possibly the next step this season. Even if ratiopharm Ulm haven´t found their defensive principles yet as they have allowed an average of 89 points in the first three games, they are still 4-0 and have given Phoenix Hagen some competition in regards to being able to win shoot outs on a regular basis as their 99 points per game has proven that. Babb has been superb, up to now as he is averaging 19,8ppg, 5,3rpg, 2,5apg and 1,0spg while shooting a spectacular 56,0% from outside. Babb seems to be on a mission this season and will try to go a step further from last season and help bring a title to Ulm. At the moment his mind is in Ulm, but there is most likely something else in his heart. “I think that there is a possibility to go back and try the NBA route. My goal is obviously always to try to get back to the NBA, but I won´t force it. If the opportunity presents itself, I will definitely consider it. I could see myself making a career in Europe, but I am not counting out the NBA yet”, warned Chris Babb. Even if he remains cool about the NBA, one is sure that he has the NBA letters somewhere next to BBL and ratiopharm Ulm in his mind vault.
Ratiopharm Ulm has been one of those teams in the last 4-5 seasons that have made great strides, but still seem to have something missing to make that last needed push in the playoffs to upset a Berlin, Bamberg or Munich. Every season they have had a deep talented roster, and have reached the playoffs on a consistent rate the last 5 years since head coach Thorsten Leibenath took over finishing the regular season in 2nd, third, sixth, fifth and in seventh place. In the playoffs, the club was a finalist in 2012 and 2016, semi-finalist in 2013 and 2015. They also have reached two cup finals since Leibenath came aboard. Last season they showed glimpses of being a great team at times in the regular season beating Alba Berlin and FC Bayern Munich and in the playoffs stuck out a hard fought 5 game series over the EWE Baskets Oldenburg and finished off the Fraport Skyliners in four games as they just outclassed and out played the favorite. As always important again this season will be if the right mix of players will get a good chemistry that will build as the season progresses and hopefully sparkle in the playoffs.
A big plus this season is simply that the core of the club was kept together as 8 key players were held and they added 4 new pieces that gives their extra special little spice to the club with Germans Tom Ohlbrecht and Karsten Tadda as well as Americans Braydon Hobbs and Dominique Sutton. The club held on to valuable guys like Per Guenther, Raymar Morgan Da Sean Butler and Chris Babb who fill up a starting five that any big 3 would love to have. Last season they relinquished 80 points or more 21 times in 45 games in the BBL as their defense has been suspect for years. This is an area that the team always wants and needs to improve on. Their offense is never the problem as they continue to have potent scoring attacks as last season they averaged 83 points per game and this season with a deeper roster are the number one scoring team in the league averaging 98 points per game after four games, but at the same time, the club can´t hide the fact that they need to find a defensive identity because they have none. They are in the cellar allowing 89 points per game. One could say they are the new Phoenix Hagen as they have won four high scoring shootouts in Ingo Fryer manner and without their super offense would be 0-4 and would have had their first mini crisis in Ulm. “We obviously have a very good offense, but our defense needs work and we know that. We make too many mistakes on defense and don´t defend 1-1 well. We also need to work on our rotations and securing rebounds better. Overall we are still undisciplined. One needs to have pride on defense and every player needs to develop this to have success”, warned David Kramer. Ulm is a club that will play fun basketball for the fans with much scoring and big time high light plays, but without a defensive foundation intact, they will be stream rolled by a Bamberg or FC Munich once they should meet in the playoffs.
Besides holding Chris Babb, the most important player they held on to was Mr Ulm Per Guenther who is playing his ninth season in Ulm. He is a 28 year old 185cm point guard that was born in Giessen and grew up in Hagen. He has very good speed and can dribble with both his hands he is very good in shooting from the arc and he has very good organizational skills, he watches the court with one glance and can assist his team-mates on a blind method pretending that he will shoot. He has an inborn charisma of a leader from a young age so he leads his team without having any problem. He played for BBV Hagen from 2003-2006 and with Phoenix Hagen from 2006-2008. In his last season in Hagen, he raised eyebrows with his play playing 29 games: 14.5ppg, 1.9rpg, 2.4apg, 2FGP: 55.8%, 3FGP: 35.7%, FT: 80.1%. Last season for Ulm he played Eurocup: 15 games: 8.3ppg, 1.3rpg, 5.1apg, FGP: 55.6%, 3PT: 34.4% and in the BBL averaged 14,4ppg, 2,1rpg and 5,3apg while shooting 41% from outside. The team also kept American Taylor Braun who is a 24 year old 201cm shooting guard playing his third professional season. As a rookie he played for Okapi Aalstar (Belgium-Scooore) 37 games: 15.2ppg, 4.7rpg, 3.0apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 63.1%, 3PT: 29.2%, FT: 73.8%; EuroChallenge: 12 games: 12.1ppg, 3.1rpg, 3.1apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 51.1%, 3PT: 28.9%, FT: 80.0%. He played at N.Dakota St. (NCAA) from 2010-2014 and is a player that likes to drive to the bucket and is a dangerous three point shooter. Last season for Ulm, Braun had injury woes, but still played 38 games: 7.5ppg, 3.5rpg, 1.9apg, FGP: 54.5%, 3PT: 34.4%, FT: 76.2%; Eurocup: 11 games: 8.4ppg, 3.9rpg, 2.6apg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 44.0%, FT: 90.0%. The team also held on to 28 year old 202cm forward Raymar Morgan who is playing his sixth professional season and third in Germany. Last season he belonged to the top power forwards in the Beko BBL as he played 45 games: Score-2(15.5ppg), Reb-4(6.8rpg), 1.5apg, FGP: 56.9%, 3PT: 32.4%, FT: 75.4%; Eurocup: 15 games: 12.7ppg, 5.9rpg, 1.5apg, FGP: 54.3%, 3PT: 25.0%, FT: 78.6%He played at Michigan State from 2006-2010 reaching the NCAA final 4 in 2010 and has played in Israel and Turkey. He is a scoring forward that is an efficient rebounder and can defend four positions.
Da Sean Butler is a 28 year old 201cm forward from Newark, New Jersey playing his fifth professional season and second with Ulm. Last season with Ulm he played 45 games: 10.0ppg, 3.9rpg, 1.5apg, FGP: 50.9%, 3PT: 39.4%, FT: 73.0%; Eurocup: 13 games: 9.8ppg, 3.2rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 43.3%, 3PT: 39.6%, FT: 81.3%. He played at W.Virginia (NCAA) from 2006-2010 reaching the NCAA Final 4 in 2010. He was drafted by Miami Heat (NBA,2rd(42) in 2011, but never fully made it to the NBA. He has played in the D-league winning the 2012 title with the Austin Toros and won the super cup in 2014 with Okapi Aalstar (Belgium-Ethias League). He is a player that is a powerful player that can score, but also create mismatches on defense with his 102 kilo´s. The club also kept Germans Philipp Neumann who is a 23 year old 209cm German center that played 5 seasons with the Brose Baskets Bamberg winning six titles and moved to Oldenburg half way through the 2013-2014 season. Two seasons ago for the EWE Baskets Oldenburg he helped win the cup and played 34 games: 5.4ppg, 3.2rpg, FGP: 50.0%, FT: 82.8%; Eurocup: 10 games: 6.4ppg, 4.6rpg, FGP: 50.0%, FT: 59.3%. He is a physical center that brings a lot of energy and has the unending fighting mentality. Last season for Ulm, the big man played 34 games: 4.0ppg, 2.6rpg; Eurocup: 16 games: 5.5ppg, 4.2rpg, Blocks-5(1.2bpg), FGP: 49.3%, FT: 68.8%. The team also held on to Germans David Kramer and Joschka Ferner. Kramer is a 19 year old 191cm guard playing his second full season with Ratiopharm Ulm (BBL) and also plays for farm team Weissenhorn. Last season in the BBL he played 14 games: 1.9ppg; Eurocup: 3 games: 2.3ppg, 1.3rpg, played also at Weissenhorn Youngstars (Germany-ProB): 26 games: 14.0ppg, 4.9rpg, 1.7apg, FGP: 48.3%, 3PT: 38.5%, FT: 81.3%. Joschka Ferner is a 20 year old 202cm forward with a vicious shot and great basketball attitude. He already played his first Eurocup game with 17 and is playing his fourth season with ratiopharm Ulm. Last season he played 39 games BBL games1.9ppg; Eurocup: 14 games: 1.6ppg, played also at Weissenhorn Youngstars (ProB): 18 games: 13.2ppg, 2.7rpg, 2.3apg, FGP: 49.4%, 3PT: 43.0%, FT: 82.8%.
The club added four new players including Germans Tim Ohlbrecht and Karsten Tadda. Combined they share 11 titles. Ohlbrecht is a 28 year old 2010cm forward that played his first BBL game at age 17 with the Bayer Giants Leverkusen. He has gained experience with Bamberg, Bonn, and Frankfurt in Germany. He played three NBA games for the Houston Rockets and won two D-league titles with two different teams a feat that isn´t easy to do. Last season he played for Enisey Krasnoyarsk (Russia-VTB): 29 games: 11.3ppg, 5.2rpg, FGP: 65.0%, 3PT: 26.3%, FT: 84.1%; FIBA Europe Cup: 18 games: 10.3ppg, 5.2rpg, FGP: 59.4%, 3PT: 25.0%, FT: 80.6%. The German is a player that has the inside/out game and will bring nonstop production from the bench. Tadda is a 27 year old 188cm guard that like Ohlbrecht seems to have been around for ages. He played 8 seasons for Bamberg winning 8 titles and also at two European championships in 2013 and 2015. Last season he moved to the Giessen 46ers (BBL) playing 28 games: 5.8ppg, 2.2rpg, 3.5apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 43.3%, 3PT: 29.0%, FT: 84.6%. He is a great defender, will sink the three and showed he can bring responsibility to the team last season. Braydon Hobbs is a 27 year old 196cm big guard from Ohio playing his sixth professional season and third in Germany. He is a basketball cinderella story as he played in lower leagues in Spain, Hungary and Australia before making the jump to Germany in 2014 where he once again had to prove his worth in the German Pro A with rent4office Nuernberg (Germany-ProA) playing 38 games: 11.9ppg, 4.1rpg, Assists-4(5.9apg), Steals-2(1.9spg), FGP: 55.8%, 3PT: 40.8%, FT: 82.4%. Last season he made the jump to the BBL to the Giessen 46ers (Germany-BBL): 33 games: 10.5ppg, 5.2rpg, 4.8apg, Steals-3(1.7spg), FGP: 49.1%, 3PT: 42.2%, FT: 86.8%. He is a smart player that belongs to the teams top defenders and hits free throws and shines with his basketball IQ: Dominique Sutton is a 30 year old 198cm swing man that is a forward who plays very hard, grabs rebounds, defends, and attacks the rim with great intensity. He is another one of many Ulm players with much experience as he is playing his fifth professional season. He learned his basketball trade at Kansas State(NCAA) and N.C.Central (NCAA). He has had professional experience in places like France, Greece, Italy, Philippines and the D-league. Last season he played for Dolomiti Energia Trento (Italy-Serie A ) playing 32 games: 7.7ppg, 4.7rpg, 1.3apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 47.3%, 3PT: 24.0%, FT: 54.6%; Eurocup: 22 games: 9.1ppg, 4.8rpg, 1.6apg, 1.5spg, FGP: 54.8%, 3PT: 32.4%, FT: 59.4%.
Last season ratiopharm had a positive record against the Fraport Skyliners of 4-2. Ratiopharm Ulm had a perfect 4-0 record at home and totally surprised Frankfurt in the playoffs winning 3-1. Many feel that had Frankfurt won game one at home and not allowed German national player Per Guenther to drain two trey´s in the OT that they might have reached the final. Ratiopharm Ulm come to Frankfurt Sunday with a perfect 4-0 record, but a disappointing 95-58 loss against Valencia in Eurocup action, but are averaging a whopping 98 points on offense while are also suspect on defense giving up an average of 89 points. Ratiopharm Ulm have a lot of confidence despite giving up many points, because they beat top teams Alba Berlin and the EWE Baskets Oldenburg and talented teams Bremerhaven and Oldenburg. On top of that seven players remember the satisfying 3-1 playoff win against Frankfurt. The Fraport Skyliners have the momentum as they might not be even near where they want to be, but their three game winning streak and unending sprit and fighting mentality speaks volumes. The Fraport Skyliners have been playing been playing good defense in the last two games giving up an average of 66 points. If Frankfurt can continue their ambitious defensive ways and ratiopharm Ulm continues not to defend, then Frankfurt will be in the game against Ulm Sunday. “We have to slow up Ulm on offense and control the tempo. We have to execute well on offense and defense and just be able to play our basketball”, warned Quantez Robertson.