Will This Seasons American Basketball Troops Version Lift The MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg To New Glory?

 

It isn´t always the most exciting time during the dog days of summer when the EasyCredit BBL is on hiatus and while teams are filling up their rosters at a gradual rate with some massive signings in Ulm like Luka Harangody or Toure Murray or the higher quality players that land in Bamberg or Alba Berlin most other teams land some interesting players here and there, but can´t really compete with these three teams in marque players. However one club that hasn´t belonged to the top 4 teams in the last years has been the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg, but head coach John Patrick continues to make the summer exciting as he keeps staying faithful to bringing in American basketball troops to help bolster his roster. No Patrick doesn´t look to the Army bases for his future basketball talent as American troops are just a delicate figure of speech, but loves to experiment and haul in American players from the NCAA or NBA and D-league that gives him that unique challenge of having to mesh together talented American players that in most cases have never played in a European league and need to get adapted to the European style of play and get that we mentality strapped into his mind instead of that I thinking. Patrick has done a great job over the years spicing up the EasyCredit BBL with exceptional prospects. Since arriving in Ludwigsburg in 2013, he has a long list of players that he has signed like Coby Karl, Jon Brockman, Michael Stockton, DJ Kennedy, Jack Cooley, Tekele Cotton and Royce O´Neale who has made the jump to the NBA with the Utah Jazz. This season head coach John Patrick has fortified his roster with two European newbies with Thomas Walkup and Elgin Cook. Walkup was a three time Southland Conf. Tournament Winner with SF Austin and last season as a professional rookie was teammates with German national player Paul Zipser with the Windy City Bulls (D-League) playing 40 games averaging 7.6ppg, 3.9rpg, 3.4apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 53.4%, 3PT: 28.2%, FT: 84.5%. He has the all-around game that loves to fill up the stat sheet and could be a smaller version of a Alex Ruoff. Elgin Cook like Walkup comes from the NCAA, had a rookie season in the D-League and played in the NBA Summer League, but has a famous father Alvin who was a 4 time NBA allstar. Cook is a 198cm forward that played at Oregon (NCAA) and as a senior played 38 games averaging 14.8ppg, 5.1rpg, 2.3apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 49.7%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 77.3%. Last season as a rookie he played with the Santa Cruz Warriors (D-League) playing 20 games averaging 16.2ppg, 5.3rpg, 1.0spg, FGP: 59.0%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 77.8%. He is a very athletic player that will get many buckets in the paint, but not so dangerous from outside. Once again John Patrick has reeled in two very interesting and talented players and will be worth watching develop in their first season in Europe. One or more will probably be added throughout the season so seeing those new troops develop further with be a joy to watch how well John Patrick chooses new gems from overseas. Sometimes Americans falter in their first season abroad, but when looking at the Patrick track record if in Ludwigsburg or Goettingen where he hauled in guys like Jason Boone, Taylor Rochestie, John Little or Chris Oliver, all made the next step and have had long and fruitful careers in Europe. There were some other players that didn´t make the grade in Patricks system, but the majority have passed in flying colors which has made this coaching general proud of his American basketball troops.

Head coach John Patrick is in his fifth season with the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg and reaching the playoffs with this club with him is as self-evident each season as it is for for the San Antonio Spurs getting to the post season. Patrick´s playoff track overall is excellent as he got teams like Goettingen and Wurzburg there in the past and playoff record in Ludwigsburg is perfect as he has led his team there each season and was extremely close the last two seasons to pulling off the major upset and reaching the semi´s. In his first two seasons there, he played FC Bayern Munich tough losing in four games and then was swept by Brose Bamberg in his second season. In the 2015-2017 season, he took FC Bayern Munich to the wire losing in five and last season in the Schwaben series took last seasons surprise club ratiopharm Ulm also to the distant losing in a hard fought five game series. Last season they strung together two four game winning streaks and big wins in the regular season included a win against ratiopharm Ulm, but that was it in terms of beating the top teams. The question remains as always in the Patrick tenor when will the team make the next step and get through the quarterfinals? One can almost say just reaching the playoffs and losing right away has become boring. The organization and fans want more and could that step be this season?

Patrick always has a very talented roster and depth is always present, but he also always has to contend with an almost new roster as the fluctuation process of players coming and going is large. It is always more difficult to start over and be able to mesh together the many different playing styles and characters of players, but Patrick is a coach that has vast experience and has always been able to overcome adversity even during seasons when players came and went. His biggest losses were ex NBA players Jack Cooley and DJ Kennedy. Cooley who played with the Utah Jazz belonged to the most efficient players averaging 13,0ppg and 6,8rpg. DJ Kennedy came for the stretch run last season averaging1 2.1ppg, 6.2rpg, 4.1apg, As always his leadership was vital and not only his scoring was huge in two wins against ratiopharm Ulm, but his overall team play infected his teammates. The other big loss was Tekele Cotton who offered offensive stability averaging 9.1ppg, 2.7rpg, 2.4apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 45.9%, 3PT: 31.6%, FT: 86.3% and will play for Enisey Krasnoyarsk (Russia-VTB) this season. The team also lost valuable experience with Cliff Hammonds and Rocky Trice. The club held on two Germans Johannes Thiemann and David Mccray. Thiemann who couldn´t develop further in Bamberg made his breakout last season averaging 8.3ppg, 4.8rpg, FGP: 51.4%, 3PT: 25.0%, FT: 71.2%; BCL: 20 games: 9.4ppg, 4.3rpg, FGP: 55.4%, 3PT: 40.0%, FT: 75.3%. His day to day battles with Cooley last season helped him mature into a real BBL player and he should make the next step this season if he continues to get ample minutes which won´t be easy as the club has so much depth. Mccray will be turning 32 this season and entering his 12th full BBL season and eighth with Ludwigsburg. He won´t get you back to back 22 point games, but he is always good for a huge game. He is the ultimate team player that gives 110% on the floor on both ends of the court and with Adam Waleskowski has the most BBL experience on the squad. The team also held young German talent Mateo Seric is a 18 year old 205cm that didn´t start to play basketball until age 14 in 2013, but his development has been exceptional as he played his first BBL game last season against Alba Berlin at age 17. He played in three competitions last season playing six BBL games averaging 3.3ppg, 1.3rpg, played also at BSG Basket Ludwigsburg (Germany-2.Regionalliga) averaging 18.4ppg, played also at Porsche BBA Ludwigsburg U19 team (NBBL) playing 13 games averaging 18.5ppg, 8.5rpg, 1.4apg, 2.9spg, 2PT: 52.5%, 3PT: 23.5%, FT: 77.8%. In his second game last season against Alba Berlin, he scored 12 points in 18 minutes. His potential is unending as he can score inside and has developed a nice mid range shot.

This season John Patrick hauled in nine new players and besides the two American troops with Thomas Walkup, and Elgin Cook returned two players that had reached the playoffs with the club some years before with Adam Waleskowski and Kerron Johnson. Waleskowski is a 203cm center that will turn 35 in November and is one of those guys that just keeps chugging along and won´t hang up his sneakers. The ex Flordia State player is going into his 13th professional season, eighth in Germany and fifth with Ludwigsburg. Patrick and the American/German already worked together in Goettingen in the 2010-2011 season. Last season he returned back to BG Goettingen averaging 9.2ppg, 3.6rpg, 1.4apg, FGP: 53.8%, 3PT: 23.4%, FT: 80.0%. He proved that he can still be a consistent and valuable player despite his age. His athleticism is still there and his work around the rim is immaculate and he always finds a way to sting the opponent with a big three. He will be one of many weapons from the bench. Kerron Johnson is a 26 year old 183cm point guard from Huntsville, Alabama that won two A-Sun Tournaments with Belmont(NCAA) and is going into his fifth professional season after stops in New Zealand, France and Poland. This will be his third tour of duty with Ludwigsburg as he played the entire 2014-2015 season with Ludwigsburg averaging 14.2ppg, 2.7rpg, 3.8apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 50.2%, 3PT: 32.0%, FT: 79.2%. He came back in 2015-2016 averaging 10.9ppg, 2.8rpg, 4.9apg, FGP: 49.2%, 3PT: 20.0%, FT: 80.5%; In the Eurocup he played six  games averaging 8.3ppg, 1.7rpg, 4.0apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 14.3%, FT: 77.8%. Last season he played with  MKS Dabrowa Gornicza (Poland-TBL) playing 34 games averaging 14.2ppg, 2.9rpg, 4.2apg, 1.6spg, FGP: 56.4%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 81.5%. After a big season in Poland, he will be another force in the BBL with his overall strong point guard skills and lead Ludwigsburg to success as he led the team twice to the promised land.

Patrick did a good job getting experienced BBL players with Dwayne Evans, Justin Sears, Niklas Geske and Florian Koch. Dwayne Evans is a 25 year old 201cm forward that continues to develop very well in Germany making the step from the Pro A with the Gladiators Trier (Germany-ProA) playing 36 games averaging 15.6ppg, 8.6rpg, 1.9apg, 1.4spg, 1.1bpg, 2FGP: 52.9%, 3FGP: 31.5%, FT: 68.8%, and last season moved to the Giessen 46ers (Germany-BBL) and proved he can be an impact player at the BBL level with the Giessen 46ers (Germany-BBL) playing 30 games averaging 11.8ppg, Reb-3(7.1rpg), 1.1apg, FGP: 52.7%, 3PT: 36.4%, FT: 80.3%. He will be a force on the boards with Patrick as well as bring excitement with his athleticism and be one of many good scoring options. His heart carries him to be that special player and Patricks best pick up from the BBL players. Justin Sears is a 23 year old 203cm forward that played tennis at age four before moving to basketball in the eighth grade and was the All-Ivy League Player of the Year in 2015 and 2016 with Yale. He came to Germany last season had had no problems making the jump from the NCAA to BBL with the Giessen 46ers (Germany-BBL) playing 31 games averaging 11.3ppg, 5.4rpg, 1.5apg, FGP: 54.8%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 64.7%. He will be another very athletic inside player that will excite the crowd with spectacular finishes around the rim, but also make the mid distance shot. Niklas Geske is a 188cm point guard, but only 23 and like so many talented German players still searching for his breakthrough at the BBL level. He brings four seasons of BBL experience with three with Phoenix Hagen and one with Vechta and 116 games to Ludwigsburg. In the last three seasons he has averaged 15 minutes per game in the BBL, but is still searching for that chance of responsibility that can make him into a 20 plus minute BBL player. Last season with SC Rasta Vechta (BBL) he played 31 games averaging 4.2ppg, 1.3rpg, 3.6apg. He has all the good tools of a good point guard, but at times gets problems with more physical guards. All he needs is a chance, but that will also be difficult here with Patrick´s strong guard rotation. Florian Koch is a 197cm forward that played his whole career in the Telekom Baskets Bonn organization and in six seasons played 113 BBL games, but did become a more used player the last two seasons playing 68 BBL games. Last season he played 34 BBL games averaging 3.4ppg, 1.2rpg; In the FIBA Europe Cup he played 15 games averaging 5.0ppg, 2.8rpg. The German seemed to be getting more integrated into the Bonn system the last few years, but feels that he can make that next step in Ludwigsburg. He has a nice game and can shoot the three, but he wont increase his minutes in Ludwigsburg either with the stocked rotation. The last pick up of the season was 24 year old 190cm guard Adika Peter-Mcneilly from Canada who is a rookie out of Ryerson College (CIS) as he won a OUA title and was able to improve his scoring and rebounding each season and as a senior played 25 games averaging 18.6ppg, 7.2rpg, 3.5apg, 2.1spg, FGP: 53.3%, 3PT: 35.0%, FT: 85.0%. He is an all-rounder that can score at a high rate and his excellent rebounding skills stand out. On a team that is stacked with very much talent and as always strong Americans, this Canadian could be the big surprise of the season for Patrick if he can make the next step from the CIS to BBL.

So where the basketball journey of the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg end this season? Last season the club averaged 77 point per game while allowing 77 points. They were a solid rebounding team, but with the talent they had and duo of Cooley and Thiemann probably should have averaged more than 31 per game. This season the club is younger, but not less hungry as they have many BBL veterans on the team and with Thiemann and Mccray two guys burning for more than what the club reached last season. The club most likely will play a quicker form of basketball than what they practiced the season before, but nothing uncharacteristic to how Patrick has played the game the last 10 years starting in Goettingen to Ludwigsburg via Wurzburg. With the quickness and athleticism that the team has more of this season, the club should make a step on the defensive end and improve in that area. Since the club is smaller have more of a void on the boards, but with Evans/Sears should be able to make up with the losses to Cooley and Kennedy and with the adept rebounding of Mcneilly have another strong rebounding guard helping out. There are question marks as the club needs to build new chemistry and get the three American troops, Walkup, Cook and Johnson BBL ready, but there is a reason why John Patrick is one of the best coaches in the BBL and he will as usual have a playoff team come May 2018. If it is ready to make that next step and reach the semi finals will depend how well the three American troops play, if the club can defend better than last season and how well Patrick can mesh the talent and characters together to form a strong successful unit. The MHP Riesen will end up somewhere between 5th and 10th place in the regular season.

 

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