Every summer when the dog days have arrived and EasyCredit BBL teams are wheeling and dealing and attempting to make their rosters to perfection the same way Tom Brady strives to be the best in the game he loves from the nutrition side to the x´s and o´s to the diehard preparation for every opponent or Derrick Allen who at 37 has the body of a 27 year old and never saw a gym that he despised, fans can start to wonder what will be the league allurement´s in the coming season from team to team. Going into the 2017-2018 season, you can check out the top teams and discover very endearing zests that will wet any one´s appetite concerning their season story. In Bamberg there was a major housecleaning seriously disrupting the team´s chemistry from last season and it will be interesting to see if head coach Andrea Trinchieri can build another winner grasping BBL hardware. In Berlin everybody is eyeing the new head coach Garcia Aito Reneses and if he can bring real success back to the traditional team as on paper, his roster looks like a winner already. In Munich the season hasn´t even started yet, but a guy like Marco Pesic must be as excited as ever as this season his mindset about winning the BBL title must be as great as ever as he has held a good chunk of it´s team chemistry of last season plus welcoming back three 2017 Serbian European finalists as the excitement is immense in the Bavarian capital for major success. And in Jena, fans are uttering simply one word. Thank You Basketball God for the three BBL legends. If they made an NBA Rushmore, most fans currently might choose Jordan, Lebron, Kobe and Magic while in Jena they would most definitely have Derrick Aleen, Immanuel Mcelroy and Julius Jenkins for their own BBL Rushmore. Not only in Jena are fans marveling about having these three players on board, but also fans all over Germany as well as the EasyCredit BBL offices in Cologne can be ecstatic about showcasing these three legends as it is just super for the league to not only have them still running up and down the floor, but all on one team. In the 108,000 populated city Jena, you have a beautiful landscape as the city lies in a pretty valley with it´s 160 meter Jentower standing out while local´s flock to watch their most known soccer team FC Carl Zeiss Jena and brag that once German national player Bernd Schneider hails from their town, but there is also basketball team Science City Jena that can boast their three BBL legends. When looking at the three Americans, you see unending experience and three role models combined share 110 years of age. The three players bring combined 43 professional seasons into this season including 38 seasons in Germany displaying their amazing dedication to playing in Germany. The three BBL legends also aren´t short on titles as combined they share 13 professional titles and they share 11 BBL allstar appearances. The three also share 1,163 BBL games, 268 international club games and 66 Euroleague games experience. You could almost call them brothers as all three have a dedication to the game and their body that has allowed them to play so long into their thirties, but all three have different games. Allen who will forever be remembered as Mr ballerina as his crazy tip toeing and head fakes in the paint made one Murat Didin dizzy on occasion more than once was a consistent scorer his whole career, but also crafted a nifty mid distance fade away jumper while Julius Jenkins was the BBL´s prolific scorer for a century and Immanuel Mcelroy the overall good player that could fill up the stat sheet like no other while being the best defender from the trio. Fans will be happy every time this trio visits their BBL arena and the only thing missing to help jazz up their season will be if the three started a friendly wager as to whom would play the longest. It wouldn´t be surprising if fans still said thank you basketball god for the three BBL legends in the BBL even when they are in their forties.
After being in the German Pro A for eight years, Science City Jena made it back to the EasyCredit BBL last year. It is ironic that it was then a 25 year old coaching kid Bjoern Harmsen that had his first experience in the BBL with Science City Jena in 2007-2008 getting axed in mid season and then would get a new chance with the club 6 years later after having gotten further experience in the BBL with MBC and Giessen. After paying new dues in the Pro A for three years he would lead the team back to the top division in Germany in 2016. One has to be honest with the combined 25ppg from the duo of Jenkins and Mcelroy and surprising breakthrough of American Marcos Knight who led the league in scoring last season and was toiling in the Pro B only a few years earlier in Baunach and watching Top club Bamberg on a regular basis and probably wondering what do those players have that I don´t, the club may have had problems staying in the BBL, but their 13th division finish was a huge accomplishment which secured another season of BBL basketball in Jena as well as keeping Jenkins and Mcelroy on board and bringing in Derrick Allen. Their most unforgettable moment last season was their massive 74-73 win against Alba Berlin, but also sweeping ex Pro A opponent Vechta and Braunschweig belonged to their season highlights. One has to wonder if a playoff appearance would have been in their cards had they not finished the season so badly as they lost nine of their last ten games. Plus their nail bitter loses to the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven 83-82 as well as a three point loss to medi Bayreuth and 77-73 loss to Alba Berlin, one really has to wonder where they would really have ended up at the end of the season if they had caught a few more positive breaks.
The two most important players that they could keep on board were Julius Jenkins and Immanuel Mcelroy. Jenkins proved that he could still lite up the scoreboard as he played 26 games averaging 15.1ppg, 1.7rpg, 3.2apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 55.2%, 3PT: 41.5%, FT: 68.7%. He still has the consistency even in his late thirties as he scored in double figures in 20 of 26 contests. He also showed his explosiveness on occasion scoring 20 points or more seven times including a 30 point effort against Bonn as well as 27 points against ratiopharm Ulm and 25 points against the Fraport Skyliners. He also nailed six three´s four times including in three games in a row and five trey´s twice. Jenkins turns 37 in February and his skills haven´t let up and he should still be good for double figure stats this season. Mcelroy will turn 38 in March and he also shows no signs of letting up with age. Last season he played 31 games averaging 10.7ppg, 4.9rpg, 3.0apg, FGP: 48.8%, 3PT: 44.3%, FT: 79.8%. He scored in double figures 18 times including a 22 point game against Wurzburg and 21 point effort against Giessen. His shooting seems to be getting better with age as in the last two seasons he shot a combined 44% from the parking lot something he had never done in his 11 BBL season prior shooting at least 40% from outside. Mcelroy may not be the most vocal, but keeps the club together with his all-around fine game as that does his talking. The team also was able to keep four Germans with Julius Wolf, Oliver Clay, Oliver Mackeldanz and other club legend Ermen Reyes-Napoles. Wolf may only be 24 years old, but the 201cm forward is going into his fifth season with Science City Jena after learning his basketball trade with top German basketball school Ehingen. The German has played 131 games with the club and last season made his BBL debut with Science City Jena playing 26 games averaging 5.2ppg, 2.7rpg, 1.6apg, FGP: 62.5%, 3PT: 27.0%, FT: 83.3%. He proved that he could adjust to the BBL and was a consistent performer for Harmsen and hustled on every play like there was no tomorrow. His best games were against Vechta with 15 points and had 12 points games against Bamberg and Braunschweig. Clay is a 30 year old 207cm forward that has six seasons of BBL experience having played 163 games. In his first five BBL seasons he never averaged more than 11.8 minutes per game, but last season in his sixth BBL season averaged a valuable 13,8 minutes per game averaging 2,6ppg and 2,7rpg and had a 11 point game against Phoenix Hagen. He is a guy that is active on both ends of the court and is a presence in the paint on the defensive end. Science City Jena has the three American legends, but also German Jena legend Reyes-Napoles who has been with the organization since 2004. He was already on board in the first BBL season 2007-2008 playing 13 games. He is the ultimate role player that always gives 100% and bleeds 100% for his team. Last season he got into 32 games averaging 3,6ppg in 13,7 minutes per game. He gave a top 16 point performance in 21 minutes in a crushing loss to ratiopharm Ulm and produced 11 points against Giessen. Mackeldanz is a 27 year old 213cm center that is going into his third BBL season and has played 33 BBL games. He is one of those rare players that has jumped from the Regionalliga to the BBL via Pro B and Pro A. Last season the ex Vechta German played 27 games averaging 3,7ppg and 1,4rpg. He is one of those guys that can always get you instant production as he proved against top teams ratiopharm Ulm where he scored 14 points in 16 minutes and 13 points in 16 minutes against FC Bayern Munich.
The team brought in five new players with Derrick Allen, Skyler Bowlin, Radenko Pilcevic, Maximilian Ugrai and Brandon Spearman .Derrick Allen just keeps chugging along not showing age on the court as he recently turned 37 years old. His production has slipped a bit the last two seasons as he was under 10 points a game, but has averaged double figures in scoring in 9 BBL seasons. Last season with SC Rasta Vechta (Germany-BBL) he played 33 games averaging 8.2ppg, 3.5rpg, 1.3apg, FGP: 51.0%, FT: 67.1%. Last season he scored in double figures in 12 games and demonstrated twice that he could totally go off on the opponent netting 25 points against the Walter Tigers Tuebingen and 22 points against the Telekom Baskets Bonn. He is still good for 8-14 points on a regular basis and will be valuable with his experience and work ethic for the young bucks. Bowler is a 28 year old 191cm guard that is a late bloomer. After being a rookie in 2011 with BG Topstar Leitershofen/Stadtbergen (Germany-ProA), it took him five seasons to reach the EasyCredit BBL via Australia, Austria, Denmark and Sweden. Back in the 2015-2016 season, his German basketball screen test was in Frankfurt in a Fiba Europe Cup game where he produced 18 points and five assists and displayed a knack for hitting deep three´s catching the eye of then Giessen head coach Denis Wucherer. Bowlin didn´t disappoint last season with Giessen playing 33 games averaging 8.8ppg, 2.0rpg, 4.0apg, 1.5spg, 2FGP: 40.7%, 3FGP: 36.3%, FT: 77.6%. His strength is his lethal shooting as he eclipsed the 40% mark in Denmark three times, but is also a solid playmaker, annoying defender and disciplined rebounder who will use his athleticism to abuse smaller guards. The club also brought back Radenko Pilcevic back to Germany who played in Germany early in his career from 2009-2012 with MBC and Giessen playing a total of 89 BBL games. He averaged 7,0ppg, 1,5rpg and 2,8apg in his three years in Germany. In the last five years the Serb played in Serbia, Lithuania, Romania Hungary and Slovakia. He racked up three titles starting with the 2014 Hungarian league title with Szolnoki Olajbanyasz, the 2015 Romanian cup with BC Timisoara and the 2017 Slovakian cup with KB Kosice. Last season he played 42 games with KB Kosice (Slovakia-SBL) averaging 13.0ppg, 3.5rpg, Assists-2(6.2apg), 1.5spg, FGP: 51.2%, 3PT: 41.2%, FT: 84.7%. It was his best offensive season as a professional. The 188cm guard is a solid playmaker that knows how to run a team and prefers the pass first before finishing and will add that needed peskiness on the defensive end. Maxi Ugrai is a 22 year old 201cm forward that is seeking a new chance with Science City Jena after not achieving his break through with Wurzburg where he played 47 BBL games in parts of three seasons. Last season he split time with s.Oliver Wuerzburg (BBL) playing 13 games averaging 4.3ppg, 2.6rpg. He also played with TG s.Oliver Wuerzburg (ProB) playing 30 games averaging 15,8ppg, 5.8rpg, 1.9apg, 1.3spg, Blocks-1(1.7bpg), FGP: 61.1%, 3PT: 32.4%, FT: 74.0%. He is an all-rounder at his position that is burning for his BBL breakthrough this season. Brandon Spearman is another one of those special Cinderella stories where his talent didn´t get noticed in Germany right away as it took him three seasons via the Pro B and Pro A and a very long try-out phase to reach the EasyCredit BBL. Spearman is a 26 year old 191cm guard from Chicago that played NCAA ball in Dayton and Hawaii and played with SC Rist Wedel and with the Gladiators Trier the last two seasons. He was able to improve his scoring, rebounding, assists, field goal, three point and free throw shooting from his first season with Trier. Last season he played 34 games averaging 15.8ppg, 3.6rpg, 1.6apg, FGP: 49.3%, 3PT: 40.1%, FT: 76.6%. He showed his vast consistency in the last two seasons in the Pro A scoring in double figures in 57 of 71 Pro A games deserving a shot at the BBL. The American excels as a scorer and shooter, but is also a solid defender and will profit from Mcelroy´s presence and off the court the most.
So where will the journey of Science City Jena end in the 2017-2018 season? When looking at the stats from last season the club scored 75 points per game, but hauled down only 29 rebounds per game both stats that coach Harmsen would love to have improved. The club did lose some solid players in Wayne Bernard, Kenny Frease, Shaquille Goodwin and Stephan Haukohl, so it will be interesting to see how well the new players with Derrick Allen, Skyler Bowlin, Radenko Pilcevic and Brandon Spearman and Maxi Ugrai can replace them. When looking at who went and who came, the club may be a tad stronger than last season. A vital component for the success of Science city Jena this season will be the health of the three BBL legends and if they can stay consistent. A considerable drop in production from a Jenkins or Mcelroy would hurt very much. Second like with so many other teams that are playing somewhere in no mans land of the BBL, the club will need to get valuable production form their Germans. A guy like Stephan Haukol will be missed in this regard. It will be interesting to see if Ugrai can fill his void production wise. The last important factor will be how well the guard duo of Bowlin/Pilcevic do. The key player this season will be Bowlin. If he can step up his game from last season then this could be an interesting team that will annoy perhaps a few more teams than last season. If Spearman can make the jump from the Pro A to BBL with flying colors and can be a productive scorer more than only on occasion then this team will return back to the BBL next season. For Science City to make the playoffs then everything has to go right, but that will be very difficult. Science City Jena will finish somewhere in the region of 9-14.