At the end of September head coach Rick Pitino was dismissed of his basketball duties at Louisville and where exactly ratiopharm Ulm guard Trey Lewis was when he had heard of the news over the social media, CNN or a phone call from an ex teammate is unknown, but any basketball fan would have loved to have been caught in his personal thoughts about the matter and a phrase like “Good riddance” or “That for sure didn´t surprise me” could easily have been in his mind. According to si.com Pitino´s employment contract and that allegations in the federal government complaint “insinuate a scheme of fraud and malfeasance'” in recruiting gave the school a reason to put Pitino on unpaid leave. The short basketball career of Joseph Lewis has had his highs and lows as he played his first three years for two schools Penn State and Cleveland St. (NCAA) where he put up very strong stats and as a senior averaged 16.3ppg, 4.4rpg, 2.9apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 47.4%, 3PT: 42.3%, FT: 75.7%, but two Horizon League Tournament Semifinal runs denied him every player´s dream of playing at a NCAA tournament. Despite graduating from Cleveland State, he still had a season of eligibility to play and chose to play at Louisville a school that had captured two NCAA titles in the 80´s, but then dipped into obscurity until 2005 since then the school has reached two NCAA Final 4´s, two NCAA Elite 8´s and won it all in 2013. In the 2015-2016 season, Lewis and the Cardinals had a great season and a record of 23-8 and were 12-6 in the ACC, but it all didn´t matter, because shortly after the college basketball season started, the school announced that they were ineligible to play in the NCAA or ACC tournament on account of a recruiting scandal. After not winning anything at Cleveland State or at Louisville despite averaging 11.3ppg, 3.4rpg, 2.3apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 46.9%, 3PT: 35.1%, FT: 79.5%, he left Louisville with a big chip on his shoulder and probably unending thoughts in his mind and numerous “why me´s”. It didn´t help matters either that he couldn´t make any impact for his own cause on the court at the NBA Pro Summer League in Las Vegas (Cleveland Cavaliers) as he hardly got a chance in 5 games averaging 1,4ppg. His chip on his shoulder was growing and continuing to be an annoying reminder each day about his career and as heavy as if Terrance “pot Roast” Knighton was resting on his shoulder. The American from Garfield Heights stayed calm and let his agency Priority Sports go to work and prompt found him a good situation in Germany with medi Bayreuth last season. He was the main offensive force on a team that hadn´t been to the playoffs since the 90´s and brought the small Bavarian city back to life and back on the map since 2011 where there was the funny Kevin Durant rumors of him going to play there during the NBA lockout. Last season Lewis was brilliant as a rookie averaging 15.3ppg, 2.6rpg, 2.1apg, FGP: 46.7%, 3PT: 44.7%, FT: 93.8%. He had no problems adjusting to the European game. Last season he took almost six three´s per game, but not only his shooting was adored by the fans, but also his drive and free throw accuracy. He came on a mission with a chip on his shoulder and delivered. The club lost in the playoffs to a strong and confident Oldenburg team, but he did his share averaging 19,0ppg and shot a massive 11-24 from outside. A couple breaks here and here and medi Bayreuth could have been in the semi´s. This season Lewis has made the jump to top team ratiopharm Ulm and has the difficult task of replacing ex NBA player Chris Babb, but so far he has done a fine job as his stats are up, but the only negative thing is the team started off slowly. His stats might not be as high as last season as he is simply engulfed with more scoring options but he is being effective. Averaging 12,8ppg, 1,9rpg and 2,1apg and really been great in the Eurocup averaging 13,8ppg, 1,0rpg and 3,0apg while shooting 42,4% from outside. Lewis will make the next step in Ulm and improve once again just because of the vast talent on the team, but one thing won´t disappear so quickly. He continues to play with an urgency and angriness that really has propelled his game to another level. He had his lows in the NCAA and really was robbed at Louisville and it just will take some basketball time for that to heal so in the meantime he will take it out on his opponents. His chip will still be clinging on his shoulder and feeling like it could physically maim him sometime as it won´t get any lighter even as his team is crawling out of it´s hole clinging on to a three game winning streak in the BBL at the moment.
Sometimes things change so rapidly that one forgets just how wonderful basketball times were last season. Last season ratiopharm Ulm didn´t lose their first regular season game until April 8th against FC Bayern Munich where they pulled out 27 victories in a row setting off a new kind of excitement never witnessed before by a team other than a Bamberg or Alba Berlin or the Bayer Giants Leverkusen back in the day. But the club was unable to finish the job last season in the playoffs as all were expecting a Bamberg-ULM final, but instead lost a hard fought five game series against the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg. Their unstoppable offense fascinated everyone last season and rebounding helped them get out of jams on many occasions, but without their arsenal of offensive weapons, they would have landed farther back in the playoff places on account of their inconsistent defense. This season has been a nightmare so far for ratiopharm Ulm as they started off 1-5 and for anyone that took a three week vacation to the outback and were offline and came back and saw the BBL standings wouldn´t have believed the 1-5 start something that just seemed impossible on paper. Nobody expected the club to start as well as last season, but these horrible start shows just how valuable the loses of ex NBA player Chris Babb, top center Raymar Morgan, Augustine Rubit, Braydon Hobbs and Karsten Tadda was for the overall team chemistry. Their offense is far from reaching their peak and defense continues to be their achilles heel as they allow 80 points per game. But they have another potent offense as always and now it depends on just how good a coach Thorsten Leibenath is to get out of this black hole. In the last weeks, it has gotten better as the club is quietly climbing up the BBL ladder with a three game winning streak and currently in 10th position.
Besides keeping their talented young Germans like David Kramer, Joschka Ferner, Bjoern Rohwer and Hungarian Marcell Pongo, the club also held on to Per Guenther, Da´sean Butler and Tim Ohlbrecht. Guenther is a 185cm point guard that will be turning 30 this season and is wedged between Rickey Paulding(since 2007 in Oldenburg) and Quantez Robertson(since 2009 in Frankfurt) as he arrived in Ulm in 2008 from Hagen and is the club´s absolute identity figure. His back problems have been persistent, but the ex German national player still belongs to the best point guards from Germany. He is trying to find his lethal three point accuracy from 2012-2015 where he averaged an amazing 47% and last season played 38 games averaging 8.0ppg, 1.2rpg, 3.4apg, FGP: 38.6%, 3PT: 35.2%, FT: 88.0%; In the Eurocup, he played 7 games averaging 9.1ppg, 1.0rpg, 2.9apg, FGP: 36.8%, 3PT: 50.0%, FT: 84.6%. The German now has the task of not only leading his team to success, but grooming Ismet Akpinar and helping him reach the next level., Da´sean Butler is a 201cm forward from New Jersey that played at West Virginia(NCAA) and was drafted by the Miami Heat in 2010 and is playing his third season with Ulm. He has experience having played in countries like Latvia, Belgium, France and the D-League. Last season for ratiopharm Ulm he played 28 BBL games averaging 10.4ppg, 4.8rpg, 1.7apg, FGP: 53.7%, 3PT: 35.5%, FT: 79.7%; In the Eurocup, he played 13 games averaging 9.0ppg, 4.0rpg, 1.2apg, FGP: 51.4%, 3PT: 32.9%, FT: 60.0%. The versatile American who can play both forward positions will be relied on to help carry the team since he has been a consistent contributor the last two years and be a good role model for the new players. Tim Ohlbrecht is a 30 year old 201cm forward/center playing his third season with the team. The ex NBA player who played 3 games with Houston is the most experienced player on the squad playing his first BBL game at age 16 with Leverkusen and also played for teams like Bonn ,Frankfurt and Enisey Krasnoyarsk (Russia-VTB). Last season the two time D-League champion was plagued with injuries and played only 16 games averaging 12.4ppg, 4.4rpg, FGP-2(69.1%), 3PT: 43.8%, FT: 88.9%; In the Eurocup, he played 8 games averaging 9.1ppg, 3.1rpg, FGP: 55.8%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 72.2%. His inside out game and experience will help the team most this season.
Besides Joseph Lewis, the team also brought in five new players with ex NBA players Luke Haragody and Toure Murray as well as Ryan Thompson, Isaac Fotu and Ismet Akpinar. The club has been known of liking to haul in ex NBA players and with Harangody did just that. The 29 year old 202cm undersized forward is an ex Notre Dame(NCAA) standout who averaged 21,8ppg and 9,1rpg as a senior and was drafted by the Boston Celtics in 2010 playing 70 NBA games for Boston and Cleveland. He has had a solid European career since 2013 playing in Russia, Spain and Turkey and the last two seasons balled for Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul (Turkey-BSL) playing 23 games averaging 8.8ppg, 4.9rpg, 1.6apg, FGP: 66.7%, 3PT: 38.2%, FT: 74.1%;In the Euroleague, he played 28 games averaging 3.9ppg, 2.5rpg. His 62 Euroleague games will help the team as well as his consistent scoring and rebounding and should be that Jack Cooley type dominant player in the BBL. Murray is a 29 year old 196cm American that can play the positions 1-3 and is in his second season in Europe. Last season he played with Yesilgiresun Belediye (Turkey-BSL playing 6 games averaging 8.3ppg, 3.7rpg, 3.0apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 41.4%, 3PT: 26.3%, FT: 78.6%. After playing only 75 NBA games for teams like New York, Washington and Utah and playing with 5 G-League teams, the American is concentrating on Europe. He could easily be an impact player overseas, but so far hasn´t found his place in the Ulm rotation. His defense, scoring and creative impulses will only help ratiopharm Ulm get back on track if he gets the chance. Ryan Thompson is a 29 year old 198cm forward playing his eighth professional season and third in Germany after stops in Bamberg and Bonn. The ex Rider(NCAA) standout has extensive experience having played in Italy, Belgium, Serbia and Turkey. Last season the Belgium cup winner with Ostende played with the Telekom Baskets Bonn (Germany-BBL) playing 35 BBL games averaging 13.7ppg, 2.1rpg, 3.1apg, FGP: 60.3%, 3PT: 40.3%, FT: 84.2%; In the FIBA Europe Cup, he played 12 games averaging 9.6ppg, 2.4rpg, 4.9apg, FGP: 58.2%, 3PT: 28.0%, FT: 72.7%. The American could be the X-factor this season as the exceptional one on one player who can also shoot the three will be able to decide games in crunch-time. Isaac Fotu is a 24 year old 203cm forward that has the Tonga/New Zealand citizenship that played at the University of Hawaii (NCAA) and the last three seasons in the Spanish ACB and last season with Tecnyconta Zaragoza (Spain-Liga Endesa) played 32 games averaging 9.5ppg, 5.7rpg, FGP: 66.9%, 3PT: 8.7%, FT: 58.9%. The physical big man will bring the needed muscle and be a consistent scorer, but also an impact player on the defensive end. Ismet Akpinar is a 190cm point guard that is playing his fifth BBL season and is only 22 years of age. He made his breakthrough with Alba Berlin as Sasa Obradovic believed in his abilities and in the last two seasons got more responsibility and grew as a player and became a German national player last summer. Last season with Alba Berlin, he played 37 BBL games averaging 4.4ppg, 1.4rpg, 1.1apg; In the Eurocup, he played 14 games averaging 3.6ppg, 1.2rpg, 1.2apg. The German with Turkish roots is a good scoring point guard that likes the floater and can find his teammates will be a suitable back up to Guenther.The club recently brought in big man Jerrelle Benimon for inside insurance who is a 26 year old 203cm forward from Warrenton, Virginia playing his fourth professional season. After not getting a real chance at Georgetown, He finished at Towson (NCAA) and had a stellar senior season playing 32 games averaging 19.0ppg, Reb-3(11.6rpg), 3.7apg, 1.3bpg, FGP: 55.3%, 3PT: 28.6%, FT: 72.3%. AS a rookie he played one NBA game with the Utah Jazz, but stayed the rest of the season with the Idaho Stampede (D-League) playing 44 games averaging 19.8ppg, 11.0rpg, 4.4apg, 1.1spg, 1.0bpg, FGP: 63.6%, 3PT: 20.0%, FT: 62.9%. He chased the bucks the last two seasons in China and last season played with Qingdao Double Star Eagles (China-CBA) playing 17 games averaging 18.9ppg, 10.4rpg, 2.4apg, 1.5spg, 1.5bpg, FGP: 58.3%, 3PT: 10.0%, FT: 72.3%. He will make an impact in the paint for the club.
So where will the journey of ratiopharm Ulm go this season? On paper they are just as deep as last season, but with their immense loses especially with Babb and Morgan is lacking in having kept that dominant team chemistry of last season. When looking at the first nine games and 4-5 record, one could say they are underachieving and it can only get better. Their offense is only average and their defense so far is horrible which has resulted in the less than satisfactory start. In four of the first five loses they averaged giving up 85 points and played under expectations on offense. The season is still young and ratiopharm Ulm is going through a process that will only get better. New imports Ryan Thompson and usual consistent player Da´sean Butler are still searching for their groove while Toure Murray has been a bust. Those are three players that could help give the team between 30-40 points. Ratiopharm Ulm won´t win as many games as last season, but they will still reach the playoffs. The club will find their rhythm on offense and be an 80 plus scoring team, but their major goal will be to get some sort of defensive consistency which will be the difference between a longer playoff stay or a three and out playoff run. Ratiopharm Ullm will finish between 5-8 and in the playoffs anything is possible with a team like ratiopharm Ulm that has the personal to beat any team in a playoff series which they demonstrated over the last years reaching the final.