That basketball is first and foremost a business is something that repeatedly proved season in and season out in Europe when one observes the fluctuations of players coming and going just like what we have been seeing with the presidential cabinet of Donald Trump in his first year of office. With teams shaping up in the German leagues for the beginning of the regular season, one is able to see how much teams have changed in only a matter of a few seasons. The Fraport Skyliners met Belgium team Antwerpen in an exhibition game in Frankfurt and two players form the visiting squad had had ties to the Frankfurt club in that one player Jason Clark battled against them in the 2014-015 season in the Eurochallenge while American Tyler Kalinoski has never played against them, but witnessed the Skyliners accomplish something that the club has only done three times in club history Clark who learned his basketball trade at the renowned Georgetown University where he never had a shortage of flinging the ball to big men like Greg Monroe, Henry Sims or Hollis Thompson who would later go on to the NBA has played in Turkey since facing Frankfurt, but at least hasn´t bounced around form team to team like many do in the last two seasons as he is going into his second season with the Belgium side. In the 2014-2015 season Clark played for Belgium side Aalstar and faced Frankfurt twice helping crush Frankfurt at home 94-59 where he steered 20 points in 21 minutes for the win, but in the return game was annihilated 80-58 as he managed only 7 points. When looking at the Fraport Skyliners roster now only Quantez Robertson is still there as every other player since the 2014-2015 season has departed. Tyler Kalinoski played his first time against Frankfurt as he was a spectator in 2016 at the Fiba Europe Cup final 4 in Chalon as his team fell in the semi-finals thus not being able to meet Frankfurt who disposed of Italian squad Varese winning their third club title. With many new Skyliners on the floor, Clark surely still remembered Quantez Robertson who has been a menace on both ends of the court since he entered the BBL in 2009 as he filled up the stat sheet with 12 points, seven boards and five assists. After the contest, Clark was stretching and after a short chat with Skyliner Mike Morrison who he knew from battles in Belgium years ago, he reflected how valuable a guy like Robertson is in this day and age where playing for the same organization for many years isn´t typical. “It´s crazy how much basketball is a business. It just shows how much the club and city loves Tez for him to be playing here since 2009. A club doesn´t always keep a player that long like with him, but it shows that Frankfurt is like home for him and the club value him as a good person”, warned Antwerpen Giants guard Jason Clark.
Fraport Skyliner fans saw their team for the first time on their home court at the training facility and got their money´s worth as they saw a hard fought contest that had a certain pattern until crunch-time where they just couldn´t get over the hump as Antwerpen controlled the game.
Then the Fraport Skyliners staged a miraculous comeback only to be denied a win at the end by free throws as the dramatic end couldn´t have been scripted better as the excitement and disappointment just rose as there was no time on the clock as Frankfurt was leading 85-83, but then on account of three free throws lost 86-85 as the BCM gym grew so quiet even after giving their best to make Paris Lee totally uncomfortable, but he nailed the free throws sending the Skyliner fans unhappy into the weekend. After the loss, Philip Scrubb had his usual expression on his face, but like the loss to Giessen the weekend before, he felt like the club made progress once more in their preparation for the regular season. “I thought that we did a good job battling back in the second half, but we had defensive shut downs in the first and second halves. We are still a new team that is getting used to each other. I saw good signs today and we know how to get better”, added Canadian national player Philip Scrubb. One could see for the whole 40 minutes that the Antwerp Giants were further in their pre-season development as their ball movement was excellent and despite almost losing a game that they controlled, Jason Clark was pleased with the play of the team. “We played a well rounded game. I feel that we are catching on faster as a team than last year. The key tonight was sharing the ball. You don´t often see that kind of ball movement by a team in pre-season. That helped us in the end. We were also solid on defense and have many weapons that makes us hard to play against”, warned Jason Clark.
The Fraport Skyliners got on the board first as ex Alba Berlin center Jonas Wolfarth Botterman hit a turn around shot showing his active side quickly. However the Antwerpen Giants showed rapidly how they could get their offense going taking a 9-0 run to lead 9-2. In the run they got heavy production from Americans ex Davidson sniper Tyler Kalinoski and ex Holy Cross forward Dave Dudzinski knock down three´s and 20 year old 206cm beast Roby Rogiers made a tap in. Despite a Scrubb off balance jumper, the Belgium side continued to overpower Frankfurt as 20 year old 205cm Belgium center Hans Vanwijn hit a trey and 20 year old Serb Alexsandar Marelja who last played with Betis Energia Plus Sevilla (Spain-Liga Endesa) made a dunk as the Belgium side displayed fine inside out basketball leading 14-4. The good team basketball and intensity coupled with extreme physicality was something Frankfurt was unable to cope with. Frankfurt took a time out and came back recharged and went on their first run of the game scoring 13 unanswered points to take the 17-16 lead. Frankfurt decided it was time to match the physicality of the Antwerpen Giants and got their front court much more involved as Florida native Mike Morrison scored twice with a lay in and hard dunk as the other two big men Germans Niklas Kiel and Richard Freundenberg supplied him with the passes. Freudenberg then knocked down a trey and made a free throw for the 17-16 Frankfurt lead. Frankfurt couldn´t hold the lead as 23 year old 196cm forward Youeri Schoepen made a tip in as the Antwerpen Giants led 18-17 after 10 minutes.
In the second quarter the Antwerpen Giants took control leading by as much as 11 points, but the Fraport Skyliners were never totally out of the game, but always on the comeback trail. Clark open up the second quarter with a trey which was matched by a Wolfarth-Bottermann tip in as Frankfurt trailed 21-19. Antwerpen then went on a 9-0 run to extend their lead to 30-19. In the run, the Belgium club that have won 10 league titles with their last in 2000 got some serious production from 26 year old 193cm sniper Dennis Donkor who played with all the Belgium youth national teams and was the second best three point shooter in the Belgium league last year hit some two clutch jumpers, Paris Lee who is a rookie and played at Illinois State(NCAA) showed his quickness making a lay up and 19 year old Belgium guard Thibault Vervoort also scored inside. Antwerpen was profiting from their consistent defense and versatile scoring from many players while Frankfurt had lost a little intensity. However Frankfurt showed nerves of steel not to get down, but to fight back as they raced on a 8-0 run to close the gap to 30-27 as Freudenberg and Scrubb nailed three´s and ex Bremerhaven guard Garai Zeeb used his quickness to sneak in the lane for a lay in. Frankfurt finally calmed down a bit on offense getting back to basics and upped their shot selection while Philip Scrubb showed why he has been the anker of the team in pre-season keeping the ship afloat. The Antwerpen Giants recovered from the Frankfurt run keeping the lead and getting their offense going again as Kalinoski, Marelja and Vanwijn scored to lead 38-32. Antwerpen were doing much damage inside as Frankfurt just couldn´t clog the paint area better. In the last minute, Frankfurt got a bucket from Wohlfarth-Bottermann, but Antwerpen closed out the second quarter strong as Donkor and Kalinowski scored to give the Belgium side the 45-37 advantage. The Antwerpen Giants were shooting 55% from the field and 38% from outside while the Fraport Skyliners were shooting 50% from the field and 42% from outside. Frankfurt had the 17-12 rebound edge, but 10 turnovers while Antwerpen only had three turnovers.
In the third quarter, the Antwerpen Giants always had an answer on offense when the Fraport Skyliners were threatening to retake the lead, but just couldn´t get over the hump as the Belgium side retained the lead after 30 minutes. The Fraport Skyliners got ex George Mason center Mike Morrison involved early again as he scored twice easily in the paint as Isaac Bonga and Quantez Robertson supplied him with perfect passes as Frankfurt trailed 47-43. Antwerpen did a superb job just finding every guy on the team. In this phase it was Dave Dudinski who scored in bunches keeping more distance again between Frankfurt and Antwerpen 51-43. However Frankfurt fought and fought as Frankfurt identity figure Robertson got in the lane and at 32 showed he still has the turbo in him scoring on a lay up and then made a trey and then made a heads up quick touch down pass to Morrison who had recived the big mans block on Jason Clark as Frankfurt was right back in the thick of things trailing only 52-50. Antwerpen continued to execute on offense getting a bucket from Clark and Marelja and Frankfurt stayed on their heels as Bonga scored inside cutting the Antwerpen lead to 56-55. Antwerpen came right back going on a 5-0 run as Schoepen hit a three and Marelja made free throws as Frankfurt trailed 60-57. All eyes had been on new Skyliner Tai Webster from New Zealand who had only had one practice in the morning. He had had a difficult time in the first half not finding his shot and seemingly wanting to do nothing wrong. One could see his good eye for his teammates as he wanted to find them first before displaying his own craft. His big strength is his drive which he did well and with 25 seconds remaining in the third quarter scored his first bucket. Frankfurt is looking for that double luck with Webster as they had luck last season finding Shavon Shields and now with Webster have another ex Nebraska player that was teammates with Shields from 2013-2016. Webster finished with 10 points, three rebounds, two assists and one steal in 24 minutes. “Webster was really good. I played against him in an Olympic qualifying game in 2015. I see him creating a lot for us this season. He just takes what the defense gives him. I feel that he will be really big for us”, warned Philip Scrubb. Lee closed out the third quarter with free throws as the Antwerpen Giants led 62-57. “We were executing really well and getting defensive stops. Frankfurt got some good shots as well, but just weren´t knocking them down”, stressed Jason Clark. “They got a lot of easy three´s and offensive rebounds and that really hurt us”, stressed Philip Scrubb.
In the fourth quarter it looked like the Antwerpen Giants wanted to decide the game quickly leading by 12 points, but the Fraport Skyliners never quit and came back to take the lead only to be denied with no time on the clock. Antwerpen jumped on Frankfurt going on a 7-0 run to extend their lead to 69-57 while making four defensive stops. In the Antwerpen run, they got production from Marelja with four points and got a big trey from Schoepen. Frankfurt responded with a much needed 6-0 run to cut the Antwerpen lead to 69-63 as Morrison scored inside and Scrubb and Webster made free throws. However Donkor came up and did what snipers do nailing a catch and pop jumper for the Antwerpen 71-63 lead. Frankfurt had to make a move and did going on a 8-2 run to suddenly be back in the game trailing only 73-71. They were aided a bit by a technical foul against Antwerpen coach Christophe Beghun and getting a flagrant foul where Webster made two of three free throws. Kiel also buried free throws while Quantez Robertson saved a NBA show time moment going coast to coast with the hard lay in demonstrating that his turbo boost is still present. Webster showed some valuable crunch time production making a lay in cutting the Antwerpen lead to 75-74. Then it was time for Scrubb to make his three point entrance as he nailed two three´s back to back to give Frankfurt the 82-81 advantage. Scrubb has been the motor of the Fraport Skyliners in pre season in that when the club needs instant production he is the man for the points. “We became more aggressive on offense and got into transition more getting easy lay ups. Even though my shot wasn´t falling well today, I thought that I had two good looks on my two three´s. I decided just to keep shooting even if it wasn´t my best day”, added Philip Scrubb. After Robertson free throws for the 84-81 lead, Kalinoski made free throws cutting the Frankfurt lead to 84-83. Webster made one more free throws with Frankfurt holding on to the 85-83 lead with 7,3 seconds to go. The Antwerpen Giants had one last play and got fortune as Paris Lee was fouled behind the three point line by Niklas Kiel. There was no time to play, but Lee had three free throws that he iced with nothing but net securing the 87-86 win for the Belgium side. “Frankfurt executed amazingly in their comeback. Scrubb executed well at the end He is a great shooter. Lee did a good job at the end keeping his nerves and making the free throws. He has a lot of routine and it showed at the end on the three and his free throws”, said Jason Clark. The Antwerpen Giants were led by Alexander Marelja with 13 points. Dennis Donkor added 11 points and Paris Lee and Hans Vanwijn produced 10 points apiece. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Philip Scrubb with 17 points. And Mike Morrison added 14 points. The Antwerpen Giants shot 52% from the field and 32% from the three point line while the Fraport Skyliners shot 50% from the field and 32% from the three point line. Frankfurt won the rebound battle 32-27 and had 13 turnovers while Antwerpen coughed up the ball nine times.