The Fraport Skyliners Won´t Be Playing Name That Tune But Continue To Name That Next Voigtmann Or Barthel This Season

The first TV game show might have originated in the UK in 1936, but over the years the most memorable shows have come from the United States like Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune or the Hollywood Squares just to name a few, but another well known show was Name That Tune. This show that ran over a time span of three decades and most successful time was between 1974-1981 had a very straight forward format of putting two contestants against each other to test their knowledge of songs. It would be interesting to see how well an Isaac Bonga or Richard Freudenberg would fair against each other if head coach Gordon Herbert took a break from the pick and role defense and running their newest offensive plays to get Mr Canada Philip Scrubb that open trey every time by picking their brains with memorable 2017 songs like Shape of You from Ed Sheeran, Despacito from Luis Fonsi or Passionfruit from Nelly. When everything works perfectly, the Fraport Skyliners could make the playoffs again after taking a leave of absence last season, but moreover this season will be a time where the Fraport Skyliners won´t be playing name that tune, but playing name that next Voigtman or Barthel. For years the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup winner have been the poster child of grooming and developing young German players as the past has shown as they made the twin towers Johannes Voigtman a Euroleague player, Danilo Barthel a German national player as well as Konstantin Klein. In the last few years they have continued to develop the next wave of young German bucks like Niklas Kiel and Isaac Bonga and with Richard Freudenberg on board this season all are looking to make another jump again this season up the basketball ladder. Just being able to watch this maturation will be a huge treat for fans as seeing just how far a player can go makes that possible non-playoff appearance a little easier to digest. Gordon Herbert could put a starting five of Isaac Bonga, Garai Zeeb, Konstantin Schubert, Richard Freudenberg and Niklas Kiel on the floor having an average of 19 years and might get destroyed by the Bayern Munich starting five, but then again could hold their own against a Giessen, Tuebingen or Gotha starting five. It wasn´t any different for guys like Voigtmann and Barthel in 2014 the way it is for a Bonga and Kiel in 2017, but in 2016 they had both won an international title and move on to Euroleague land and FC Bayern Munich. Just how well this seasons young Germans continue to develop depends on their work ethic, minutes, staying clear of injuries and what is on the menu of the basketball God. One thing is for sure, it will be another exciting season with the Fraport Skyliners as playoffs or not as the current wave of talent will go their way with Niklas Kiel scheduled next in line to make the next pivotal step while many are predicting and hoping that an Isaac Bonga will despite turning 18 in November make another huge step. The next wave of Voigtmann´s and Barthel´s are already waiting in the wings with the likes of Maximilan Begue, Len Schoormann and Calvin Schaum, so with so much talent being bred in Frankfurt the way a Real Madrid has been practicing for years, losing massive talent Jim Gietz in 2016 who belonged to the Jermario Davidson posse in 2011 disappeared to Arizona last year and now secretly has surfaced with FC Bayern Munich hasn´t even been a side note yet, but become totally obsolete in Frankfurt basketball minds with so much talent always coming up.

After reaching the EasyCredit BBL playoffs two straight seasons, the Fraport Skyliners missed them last season finishing in 10th place despite having had the opportunity to have made the promised land for a third time.

They suffered some bitter loses in the last few months to the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg, Eisbaeren Bremerhaven and Telekom Baskets Bonn that cost them the playoffs. Their biggest problem last season was the point guard position. Herbert has had a good hand uncovering guys like Dashaun Wood, Justin Cobbs and Jordan Theodore from his sleeve the last years that led the club to a playoff final, Eurochallenge final 4 and a Fiba Europe Cup title, but last seasons point guards Markel Starks and Kwame Vaughn didn´t function. Kwame Vaughn came to Frankfurt with a great resume having been a scoring point guard wherever he had played in Italy, Israel and Belgium and it seemed like he could be that second Justin Cobbs that Herbert had brought in two seasons ago for Richard Williams. However Vaughn never panned out in the system of Gordon Herbert. He actually had a very strong Champions League season averaging 14,9ppg, 2,9rpg and 4,5apg, but when the team needed that big win against Pinar Karyisaka, they lost by 20 points and he couldn´t bring the game or leadership qualities that a Theodore would have given. In the BBL, he was at best average averaging 11,0ppg, 2,7rpg and 3,8apg. He had some solid games against lower ranked teams, but when it counted most against playoff type teams, he was unable to produce for the team to be successful. One of his biggest problems was simply his inability to get good ball movement going during set plays and forcing the one on one when the shot clock was winding down. Another problem was not having that dominant center as the club held out waiting too long if Danilo Barthel would resign, but it was obvious that he would get offered more money elsewhere and when they finally were ready to get that center, all possible candidates had been gobbled away like Johannes Thiemann who would have looked superb in a Skyliners jersey. The positives of last season was letting Niklas Kiel play 14 minutes a game in the BBL and Isaac Bonga playing huge minutes in the Pro B and NBBL and letting him get his feet wet in the shark infested basketball waters of the EasyCredit BBL at the end of the season where he showed huge potential and upside in his quest of being an impact player at a top level one day.

As is usual after every season, the Fraport Skyliners were unable to hold their two top scoring threats in Shavon Shields and AJ English. Those are two big voids to fill, but nothing new for head coach Gordon Herbert needing to compensate. The most important off season task was holding their three experienced players with Quantez Robertson, Mike Morrison and Shawn Huff. Robertson is a 188cm guard who is the Ricky Paulding(came to Oldenburg in 2007) in Frankfurt who turns 33 in December and going into his ninth season with Frankfurt and is the absolute ultimate identity figure of the club that will most likely finish his career in Frankfurt as long as the NWZ mall is still there a jump from the training facility BCM and see his jersey hanging from the Fraport arena rafters next to ex teammate Pascal Roller one day. He might not have that sheer explosiveness from 5 years ago, but still fills up the stat sheet like no other. Last season the ex Auburn(NCAA) star played 32 BBL games averaging 10.8ppg, 6.1rpg, 3.1apg, Steals-1(2.5spg), FGP: 48.5%, 3PT: 30.6%, FT: 82.4%;In the  BCL, he played 16 games averaging 8.4ppg, 5.4rpg, 3.1apg, Steals-3(2.4spg), FGP: 38.5%, 3PT: 31.3%, FT: 82.8%. The American came to training camp a bit overweight irking Herbert and it will be interesting to see if his input continues to be stable or if his age will start to show it´s ugly side. After getting early experience in Belgium, Cyprus and Finland, the ex George Mason center Mike Morrison has found a home in Frankfurt going into his fourth professional season. Stat wise last season was his best as he played 32 BBL games averaging 8.2ppg, 4.2rpg, FGP: 55.4%, FT: 51.2%; In the BCL he played 16 games averaging 9.9ppg, 5.9rpg, 1.4apg, FGP: 63.1%, FT: 59.2%. He may never score 20 points three games in a row, but he is always able to give the club an extra boost with his energy after another thunderous dunk and he is always good for an explosion like his unforgettable 35 point game against Turkish club Pinar Karsiyaka going 15/17 from the field. Shawn Huff is the other elder basketball statesman from the trio who is going into his second season with Frankfurt. Last season he came in January from France from ESSM Le Portel Cote d’Opale and with Frankfurt played 13 games averaging 10.7ppg, 3.1rpg, FGP: 57.1%, 3PT: 39.3%, FT: 70.4%. He was unable to find his touch from outside his last two seasons with Ludwigsburg where he shot 41,5% from during 2014-2016. Huff who shot 47% from outside in the NCAA with Valparaiso in 2007-2008 played with the Finish national team recently at the 2017 European championships averaging 5.3ppg and 5,5rpg. Herbert relies on his stellar defense and his solid offensive game where his consistent scoring this season will be vital for the success of the team especially if a guy like Phillip Scrubb goes cold. Late in the summer, the club was able to grab back Philipp Scrubb who missed last season due to a serious injury. Scrub who won 7 titles at Carleton University(CIS) and his hardware didn´t stop as a rookie in Frankfurt in the 2016-2017 season as he was instrumental in the club winning the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup averaging 10.0ppg, 2.4rpg, 2.0apg, FGP: 50.9%, 3PT: 44.4%, FT: 83.8%, 2.7rpg, 2.4apg, FGP: 48.8%, 3PT: 52.2%, FT: 90.3% in the BBL and 12,7ppg, 2,7rpg and 2,4apg while shooting 52% from outside In the Fiba Euurope Cup. He has come back stronger and fitter than two seasons ago and has been the motor keeping the club alive in the pre-season. He will become a BBL star this season and be that Jordan Theodore type leader.

The club also held on to their three main young players Niklas Kiel, Isaac Bonga and Garai Zeeb. Kiel came to Frankfurt in 2014 as a 17year old phenom who was seen as one of the biggest German talents form the birth year 1997. He played only 2 BBL games in his first two seasons as he played mostly for the club´s Pro B team while waiting for Voigtmann and Barthel to end their development with the club. The German U-20 national player who recently played at the 2017 European championships averaging 4.1ppg, 4.0rpg broke out last season averaging 14 minutes in the BBL playing 27 games averaging 6.4ppg, 2.9rpg, FGP: 55.9%, 3PT: 32.4%, FT: 79.0%; In the BCL, he played 12 games averaging 2.8ppg, 2.3rpg. He got sparse time in the Pro B only when he had no BBL commitments being able to work on his game against lesser talent averaging : 11.3ppg, 6.3rpg, 1.8apg, 1.2bpg, FGP: 41.0%, 3PT: 35.7%, FT: 80.8%: He showed flashes of brilliance against Vechta scoring 19 points and 16 points against Alba Berlin. He should be able to make another step this season as his solid inside out game should be rewarded with another lift in his minutes. Isaac Bonga continues to be a huge project as he will be turning 18 this November and this season could be his make or break season between being a 2018 first round NBA draft pick or not. He was very high in the NBA mock drafts last season, but fell a bit last summer after his less than spectacular World Cup U19 in Cairo (Egypt) outing averaging 6.6ppg, 3.4rpg, 3.3apg, 1.6spg, FGP: 41.5%, 3PT: 8.3%, FT: 69.2%. Last season he played 14 BBL  games averaging 1.5ppg, 1.3rpg; while with the Fraport Skyliners Frankfurt II (ProB) averaged 11.0ppg, 6.5rpg, 4.1apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 47.1%, 3PT: 23.0%, FT: 71.4% and for Eintracht Frankfurt / Fraport Skyliners U19 team (NBBL) averaged 11.4ppg, 8.0rpg, 4.6apg, 2.0spg, 1.2bpg, 2PT: 56.8%, 3PT: 16.7%, FT: 50.0%. The kid is so young, but the expectations are crazy and it will be interesting to see how he continues to develop this season. Head coach Gordon Herbert is impressed with how he has developed in the last five months and stated that NBA teams don´t always look at stats, but at his unending potential. His shot and ball handling remain his two biggest area´s in his game that he needs to improve as his athleticism continues to explode. Bonga will be one of the most interesting players to watch in the BBL this season as his NBA route continues to unfold. Garai Zeeb is a 20year old 187cm combo guard going into his third season and after playing 6 BBL games with Bremerhaven in 2014-2015 has played 7 BBL games with Frankfurt in the last two seasons. He continues to be a mainstay in their Pro B team as last season he played 20 games averaging 9.8ppg, 1.8rpg, 3.9apg, 1.8spg, FGP: 38.6%, 3PT: 34.8%, FT: 78.0%. He is a controlled guard that can shoot out the lights, but has the routine point guard playmaking skills of a pass first type of player when called upon. He has made considerable strides this summer as he has played very well in the pre-season. This is a make or break season for him between becoming that BBL player or being a second Bundesliga player for the next 10 years. He may look like that obedient kid on the court lacking the needed killer instinct at times, but he let´s his game do the talking and this could be the season where he gets more BBL minutes.

The Fraport Skyliners reeled in three new players with Jonas Wolfarth-Bottermann, Richard Freudenberg and Tai Webster. The club already secured the rights to Richard Freudenberg late last season as his season at ST Johns had ended. Freudenberg who looks like a Zach Morris alias Mark Paul Goessler from the cult show Saved by the bell whos bleached blond hair and mischievous smile was his trademark while the German just wants to let his game do the talking and his looks hypnotize the one or other teenage girl. Freudenberg is another huge German talent that won the 2015 NBBL title hitting Frankfurt with 24 points with FC Bayern Munich and getting the MVP crown. After playing two BBL games with FC Bayern Munich in the 2015-2016 season and not cracking the lineup, he decided to go over the pond and gather NCAA experience with ST Johns. There he played 26 games averaging 1.3ppg, 1.3rpg and was unable to play a role as the club was dominated by guard play. The German didn´t get a chance under NBA legend Chris Mullin and now wants to take the Frankfurt route that Voigtmann and Barthel did. Freudenberg will play for the Pro B program and get BBL Minutes. The 206cm forward is a gifted offensive player that can shoot, but also finish with authority at the rim. He has a huge upside and it will be interesting to see just how well he develops this season as well. The club signed German Jonas Wolfarth-Bottermann early in the summer, not wasting time signing a German big man like the season before, but reeled him in early. Wolfarth-Bottermann may only be 27, but the 208cm forward/center brings 8 BBL seasons to Frankfurt with teams like Bonn, Berlin and Ulm. He brings 39 Euro Cup and 15 Euroleague games experience to Frankfurt. He never averaged more than 5,4ppg and 13 minutes per game in the BBL and is still looking for his major breakthrough and could make it this season. He is good for 20 minutes a game with Frankfurt and 8-10 points and 4-5 rebounds per game. The club waited again until September like so often in the last years getting their point guard and like last season grabbed a player from Nebraska(NCAA). Last season Herbert showed his cleverness getting Shavon Shields who had a stellar rookie season becoming an BBL impact player as a rookie. This season Herbert reeled in New Zealand player Tai Webster who was Shields teammate for three years at Nebraska. He is a 193cm point guard that may only be 22 years old, but has vital NCAA/ international experience. As a senior at Nebraska he averaged 17.0pp, 5.1rpg, 4.0apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 47.8%, 3PT: 29.4%, FT: 74.4%. He has played with the New Zealand national team since years, won a NBL title in New Zealand before going to Nebraska, played at the 2012 Albert Schweitzer Tournament in Mannheim and new teammate Philip Scrubb got a first hand look at his potential and skill set at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila (Philippines) in 2016. There Webster averaged16.3ppg, Reb-3(9.7rpg), 3.0apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 48.0%, 3PT: 36.4%, FT: 86.7% Scrubb and Canada beat New Zealand and Webster 78-72 thanks to NBA player Cory Josepth´s  23 points. While Scrubb´s 3 points remained a side note, the game of Webster caught the Canadian´s eye as he scored 15 points, hauled down 10 rebounds and dished out four assists while the other Webster older brother Corey had 21 points. Tai Webster has all the tools of becoming a stellar point guard as his strength´s are his drive and defense while his outside shot remains a work in progress.

So where will the journey of the Fraport Skyliners go this season. With Gordon Herbert on the sideline anything is possible. Herbert is one of those coaches that is always able to make the best out of the talent that he has. Last season the club averaged only 72 points per game in the EasyCredit BBL and grabbed 28 rebounds per game. On paper the club last season may have been a tad deeper and experienced as this season the club is lacking that extra veteran like an Antonio Graves or Ekene Ibekwe who played with four teams last season and even long after he departed Frankfurt saw action with a Turkish team and then latched on to French team Chalon helping them win the Pro A title. The club should be a better rebounding team this season simply with that extra presence down low with Jonas Wolfarth-Bottermann that they didn´t have last season coupled with the Kiel/Freudenberg duo, always rebound pest Quantez Robertson and strong rebounding guard Webster. The club will be a strong defensive team as always as that is the staple of Gordon Herbert teams. The three factors that will decide if the Fraport Skyliners will be a playoff team or not will start how well Tai Webster can become that dependent consistent player that can lead the team knowing how to separate the playmaking and own scoring to help win games. Webster may not become that second Dashaun Wood or Jordan Theodore, but he has the abilities to be an upgrade to Kwame Vaughn. Second the team will need input from their German players. Vital will be Wolfarth-Bottermann and Kiel being consistent scorers while being able to get further production from a Bonga or Freudenberg would be like an early Christmas present. Third the club has to find a way not to be effected by injuries. This is something that rarely any team is able to accomplish, but catching that serious injury bug has to be avoided. One phrase that is as typical to hear from opposing players after having played against the Fraport Skyliners for the first time as Lebron must have been texted the last 24 hours about wheather he and Lonzo Ball can survive together as teammates is that the club is always very well prepared and coached. The Fraport Skyliners don´t have the most talent or depth in the EasyCredit BBL, but do possess one of the best coaches in the league. It may be difficult to name that next Voigtmann or Barthel, but just as difficult to answer name that Skyliners position ranking on April 30th, 2018 as basketball life will never be boring in Fraport Skyliner country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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