Its approximately 3.20 pm in the afternoon on a cool Saturday afternoon and the Fraport Skyliners Juniors have just completed the first quarter and are behind 25-14 against the ScanPlus Baskets and hadn´t found a remedy on how to stop Hayden Lescault until that moment as he had scored 10 points and later would win the game with a buzzer beater and the crowd is sparse for a Pro B game which is the third German basketball league. However there is one spectator sitting up in the stands by himself enjoying some take out chicken and looking very sporty in his attire. The young man explains to me that The ScanPlus Baskets are a very tough and physical team and have a lot of experience. You could see that Frankfurt was missing a big man and it was tough to match up. This wasn´t some dad of a player, coach or basketball writer sprouting his expertise knowledge of the game, but Philip Scrubb professional basketball player of the Fraport Skyliners. When he left his mark at Carleton(CIS) winning 8 titles, for some he became known as the greatest Canadian college player of all-time. On a free afternoon before the highly anticipated Sunday battle in Bamberg against top team Brose Bamberg most of Scrubb´s teammates are elsewhere and trying to free their mind before getting mentally focused for the Bamberg duel. A guy like Quantez Robertson was probably spending time with his cute kids, a Mike Morrison was possibly doing a play afternoon with his son and Tai Webster might have been skyping with his family back home in New Zealand. Having the label of being the greatest Canadian college player of all-time may not have the same clout as being the greatest Canadian basketball player of all-time which Steve Nash pretty much has racked up, but definitely an honor that he appreciates. If a Steve Nash, Andrew Bennett or Andrew Wiggins were sitting in Scrubb´s place in the stands fans surely would recognize them, but with Scrubb he looks like that normal Joe Schmo in appearance, but when he is on the court it´s a totally different story as he becomes that amazing player with phenomenal shooting abilites, but also overall excellent offensive skills and a basketball IQ that any player would die for. So what is the greatest Canadian college player of all-time doing at a minor league basketball setting? Most professional basketball players wouldn´t waste their time taking in a game like that even though his teammates Quantez Robertson and Mike Morrison are often there as well, but for Scrubb being a faithful spectator watching his team´s farm team is as normal as practicing free throws every day. “ I just like watching basketball and I think that it is important to support the guys. I´m living on my own so usually I don´t have anything else to do”, stressed Philip Scrubb. In his rookie season when asked about that greatest Canadian college player of all-time he responded very truthfully “There have been many great players from Canada. I played at the best program and for the best coach. There was much handed to me. Winning improves the way people look at you. I was lucky to be on winning teams. The media helps people remember this”, stressed Phiip Scrubb. His character really stands out and get´s lauded everywhere he goes. “He is quiet and humble and never talks about his self. He works hard, listens and always wants to help the team first”, stressed Valencia forward Aaron Doornekamp. Even if he missed his entire second season with a knee injury, the Canadian from Vancouver is back fresher than ever and on route with winning another greatest label if he continues his stellar play in Germany in the EasyCredit BBL.
Scrubb is only 25 years old, but has already achieved more than guys that played the game for 10-15 years as he first made history at Carleton. In order to be able to be classified as the greatest Canadian college player ever in Canada, he had to display greatness and did winning five CIS tournaments which is the equivalent of winning the NCAA tournament, racked up 3 OUA tournaments, won CIS All-Canadian Player of the Year three times, was CIS All-Canadian All-Tournament MVP in 2015 and rookie of the year in 2011. He improved his scoring average each season and as a senior played 24 games averaging 19.1ppg, 3.6rpg, 4.8apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 50.3%, 3PT: 48.9%, FT: 88.2%. His shooting out the lights in the CIS was the norm the way it is for FC Barcelona striker Lionel Messi scoring goals as he had season averages of 45% and 53,2% from outside. His experience just kept growing and growing in very young years as with age 23 he had a work out with the Toronto Raptors and then played NBA Pro Summer League in Orlando (Memphis Grizzlies) playing 5 games averaging 2.2ppg, 2.8rpg, 1.6apg, FGP: 20.0%. He also played NBA Pro Summer League in Las Vegas (Toronto Raptors) playing 4 games averaging 5.0ppg, 3.0rpg, 1.0apg. He won the NBA Summer League in Orlando with the Grizzles and then wasn´t done and decided to keep chiseling his game and didn´t take a rest to go enjoy his summer on the lakes in British Columbia, but had two tours of duty with the Canadian national team and guess what more hardware there as well in the shape of medals. He took part at the Marchand Cup in San Juan (Puerto Rico) winning the Gold medal as he played 4 games averaging 10.3ppg, 3.0rpg, 2.3apg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 46.7%, FT-3(85.7%). He then played at the FIBA Americas in Mexico winning the Bronze medal playing 10 games averaging 7.6ppg, 1.9rpg, 2.5apg, FGP: 42.4%, 3PT: 48.0%, FT: 85.7%. He played against teams from Central America and South America seeing a totally different brand of basketball and often being inserted into the starting line up playing alongside NBA players Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett while other times coming from the bench for Toronto Raptor Cory Joseph. It also didn´t hurt getting valuable experience battling against NBA veterans Luis Scola and Andreas Nocioni.
Scrubb started his professional career in Greece with AEK Athens and right from the get go knew that his new challenge wouldn´t be a cake walk as the guard competition was fierce. The club had respectable players like DJ Cooper, Giannis Kalambokis, Nontas Papantoniou, Malik Hairston and Chris Warren. In the Greek division he played 5 games averaging 12 minutes and 4,2ppg, 1,6rpg and 1,0apg while shooting 50% from downtown and in Euro Cup play played 6 games averaging only 4,7 minutes per game. The club lost a lot of games and the head coach wasn´t comfortable playing him and Scrubb was fortunate that he could depart and seek a new opportunity with the Fraport Skyliners. He came into a great situation as the club was having a great season in the BBL and was undefeated in Fiba Europe Cup. Scrubb was another key part to the success as he was a dominant menace coming from the bench. He helped the team reach the playoffs and win the Fiba Europe Cup in France. “The way the team plays makes it easy for me to fit in. Every player knows how to pass and are unselfish. The team has good ball movement and it lets me make the simple plays. I don´t have to overthink too much”, stressed Philip Scrubb. His poor stats in Greece that were overshadowed by a lack of minutes were flushed away an instant after he exploded with the Fraport Skyliners in the BBL 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% while in the Fiba Europe Cup he averaged 12,7ppg, 2,4rpg and 2,7apg whole shooting an overwhelming 52,2% from the parking lot. His shooting really stands out and his cool demeanor and self confidence as well something that will bode even more valuable for the team this season in it´s quest for not just making the playoffs, but making some noise there. “. “He is a great shooter, can play on ball and can guard the three position. He has given this team a new dynamic that we hadn´t had yet. He has a very cool demeanor on the court and nothing rattles him. Even when he isn´t hitting shots, I keep coming at him giving him the ball. He is always willing to take the big shot and make the big play”, stressed ex teammate Jordan Theodore who has made the jump to Euroleague team Milan.
The Canadian finished the 2015-2016 season with a bang helping win the Fiba Europe Cup and all were anxious to witness what his second season would have in store. But instead of making that next jump in his professional career and lighting up the score board again and helping lead the team to a third consecutive playoff appearance, he was thousands of miles away rehabilitating a nasty injury back home in Canada and about as far away from the court in Frankfurt as Dashaun Wood was in 2009-2010 when a tough injury kept him out, but he returned as strong as ever which led him to the BBL MVP title his next season. Scrubb had never been out and off of the court for more than a few weeks and now all of a sudden he was on the couch watching game after game wondering when he would be there again. Not only physically was the year off toiling at the get go, but also mentally as he wasn´t sure if he should get an operation or not. He was in and out of doctor offices for second opinions as much as Boston Celtic Kyrie Irving is wanting to get to the hole whenever possible. After playing unending mind games that must have produced all kinds of thoughts circling around in his head like a mix of positives and negatives about his playing future, he finally went for the operation and then did the work in the rehabilitation process. Even if it was a long hard and difficult process for him there were positives such that with so much time to think, he was able to focus on things in a more detailed way and obviously learned more about his body something that will come in handy in the future when wanting to avoid a new injury.
The Fraport Skyliners were a bit careful about his situation knowing that bringing back a player that isn´t totally fit is a risk, but when all signs pointed to a positive comeback, the club brought him back late in the summer of 2017 for the upcoming season. When one scanned the roster of the Fraport Skyliners it became apparent right away that this team would be a very different one from what Scrubb last played on. The Theodore´s, Voigtmann´s and Doornekamps had become Euroleague players and Danilo Barthel moved to top German team FC Bayern Munich. Obviously there were familiar faces when he returned back to practice with the two jokers Mike Morrison and Quantez Robertson who would when not present make every new road trip a lot less comical with their antics and Shawn Huff were on board, but to think that he wasn´t just a bit lonely on the court would have been understandable. Frankfurt has played very inspired basketball usually with a slim 7 man rotation and currently have a 6-4 record and resting in sixth place and in range of meeting one of their goals with getting to the cup tournament. They pretty much beat every team that they should have and lost to the better and more stacked teams Ludwigsburg, Munich, Bamberg and Ulm. However they did sell themselves pretty well in the loses in Munich and at home against Ulm. “The game against Ulm was a lot closer than the score indicated. “We were down by a few points halfway through the fourth quarter. After that we gave up a lot of open shots and Trey Lewis got hot. He got more confident and we didn´t do a better job taking him out of the game. We have to be able to get stops when we need to”, warned Philip Scrubb. Obviously the team has chemistry and have the luck that there are versatile players on the roster, but A lot of the credit for the success of the Fraport Skyliners has to be given to head coach Gordon Herbert who for many critics is one of the best coaches in the BBL. He is able to get the best of less time in and time out. “I believe that our success lies in the confidence we have before each game due to the good scouting of Coaches Herbert and Perwas and our preparation. We come into each game and know exactly what we will encounter in each situation. We all know what to do”, warned Philip Scrubb. More often than not Herbert teams peak in the second half of the season as it is a work in progress, but this season´s fast start has been a bit of a surprise and out of the norm as in the past they have started off more slowly. A staple of all Herbert teams is the defense and despite the club allowing 77 points a game at the moment is high for their standards, being sixth in the league in points allowed shows that scoring has increased this season and defense taken more of a back seat. With the exception of Alba Berlin, there will be weaker opponents in the next weeks which will allow the team to work and tighten up their defense schemes and continue to work on the notion that they have the ability to be a very talented defensive team become reality. “We play good defense which is due to good preparation. Communication is very important in our success especially when switching and rotating. Our problem is that we still become inconsistent when a team goes on a run. That happens when we begin to talk less. But when we are all together on the court and talking then it is very difficult to score against us”, warned Philip Scrubb.
With so many talented guys gone, it was no secret or surprise that Philip Scrubb would have a totally different role this season than what he had as a rookie in Frankfurt. Not only have his minutes increased drastically from 21 to 34, but he is less of a spot up shooter, but now a guy that has to create more for himself then just wait in the corner until the superb San Antonio Spurs like ball movement of two seasons ago was intact and he had to be extra sharp awaiting the kick out passes from Jordan Theodore or the amazing passes from Johannes Voigtmann who has carried the label of excellent big man passer for years. Scrubb who was in Halifax, Canada last week preparing for 2019 World Cup qualifying games with Canada against the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic is always soft spoken and one can notice that he takes pride in choosing the right words knows exactly what his goals are this season, but only this season as taking it one step of a time is the right direction. “I obviously want to play at the highest level NBA or Euroleague, but at the moment I just want to play the best that I can. I want to go game by game and never lose focus on the team. I always want to get better, but don´t want to peak too soon”, warned Philip Scrubb. Even if Scrubb was an explosive scorer in school at Carleton(CIS), he never got away from that team basketball feeling as his then head coach David Smart installed as he already was groomed of developing a fabulous basketball IQ there. As a rookie Scrubb showed great flashes of scoring instincts as he had big games, but also knew when to find his teammates and start transition with a big steal. This season his focus is more on scoring as he has to as there are less scoring options than two seasons ago and currently he is second in scoring in the league at 17,2ppg behind German Robin Benzing. Scrubb knows that his game is a lot more than scoring, but knows that his team depends on him to score a lot more than two seasons ago. “I still try to play team basketball. I don´t like to force it on offense. I have more opportunities this season to attack the rim or come off ball screens. I think that I still need to be more aggressive, but play within the offense and nor force anything”, added Philip Scrubb. Two seasons ago, Gordon Herbert stressed that if Scrubb wants to get to the NBA he needs to be more aggressive and so far this season Scrubb has been able to clutch the words of the coach. “Phil has had to be more aggressive this season and has done so”, added Gordon Herbert.
This season the Canadian has scored in double figures in nine of 10 games and scored 20 points or more in five games. He nailed BG Goettingen and MBC for 25 points apiece producing six and four three pointers and hit Oldenburg for 22 points and Science City Jena for 21 points. His three pointer is still very much present and an immediate danger for any club, but this season he has relied more and more on his pretty step back jumper that he has added to his shooting arsenal something he had to worry less about in his rookie season when he was parked more often than not in the corner waiting for that next catch and pop opportunity. He uses the step back jumper in his mid range game and it has worked very well for him this season. He can burn you against minimal one on one defense, but can just as easily hurt you when a hand is in his face. He knows how to use it too his advantage and can easily keep using it and give the scoring in bunches a new meaning. Even if he has used it a lot so far this season, one could sense in his voice that it is a weapon that he wouldn´t normally want to use. “I have to use it a little more, but It isn´t an ideal shot in the offense. If I continue to get the chance to shoot it and can do it at a high percentage than I will use it. It is a shot that I use when the shot clock is down and then is something that can help me out and give more options as well”, stressed Philip Scrubb. Scrubb is quiet by nature, and is more that special player that leads by example, but he is confident in being able to also lead by words on and off the court. “I think that I have to be vocal in certain situations. I think that when you play so many minutes, you have to be vocal when you see things on the court. I also try to help in practice and give the younger guys advice even if there are so man y veterans around”, warned Philip Scrubb. Scrubb is his own harshest critic and not only wants to get better every day, but knows exactly in what areas. One can always take more extra shots after practice, work a half hour more on free throws and put in an extra shift in the weight room, but the mental part is just as important for a player as is the physical part and what you accomplish on the court with the game. Gordon Herbert is obviously a mentor, but Aaron Doornekamp was one of the biggest reasons why he came to Frankfurt and saw an aspect in his ex teammates game that he is trying to improve in his game. “When I look back at his game, I was impressed with his attitude and how competitive he was and his attention to detail. He really took the little things very seriously. I want that also and still need to work on that. I can get sloppy with my foot work and spacing. These are the little things I need to work on”, warned Philip Scrubb.
The BBL season is still very long and the Fraport Skyliners have huge goals as does Philip Scrubb, but for some reason that greatest label continues to be something one can´t get away from associating the Canadian with. For some he has already been seen as the greatest Canadian college player of all-time, but what about being the greatest Canadian to ever play in the BBL in Germany. Canadian basketball continues to grow in the last decade as one is seeing more of a player influx to the NBA and in Germany one has seen Canadians make the rounds in various leagues, but still they are a pretty scarce commodity. Some of the best known Canadians to have played in Germany have been Andrew Rautins, Aaron Doornekamp, Jermaine Bucknor, Jermaine Anderson and Osvaldo Jeanty who like Scrubb and Doorenkamp also had a stellar career at Carleton(CIS). Obviously all these players are talented and had success at some point in Germany, but name wise Andrew Rautins still stands out simply because he played at top Syracuse(NCAA) and reached the NBA. But where does a Scrubb fit in? With title wins and medals with the Canadian national team, he currently has 10 titles with 8 at Carleton, A Fiba Europe Cup with the Fraport Skyliners and NBA Summer League crown in 2015 for good measure. He won two Bronze medals at the Fiba America´s cup and a Gold at the Marchand Cup in Puerto Rico in 2015. No Canadian that has played in Germany is in his league concerning the amount of titles that he has already won in early years and in terms of talent, not experience, you could surely put him at the top with a Andrew Rautins. No disrespect to Doornekamp who played three seasons in the BBL and had solid seasons and also won four titles at Carleton and back to back titles with the Fiba Europe Cup and Basketball Champions League, one just has to go with Scrubb who is seven years younger than Doornekamp has won so much at a young age, is near the top of the BBL scoring list this season and is so young and has unending potential. Rautins has been places on the basketball map and one can´t deny how he dominated the BBL in his short stay with the Fraport Skyliners in the 2013-2014 season as he played 15 games averaging 17,6ppg, 4.3rpg, 3.6apg, FGP: 46.3%, 3PT: 42.4%, FT: 91.2%. He scored in doube figures in 14 of 15 games and scored 20 points or more six times including a 32 point explosion against Bremerhaven and 30 points against TBB Trier. Scrubb hasn´t had a 30 point explosion yet, but surely that will still come. Scrubb would get the nod over Rautins as the more complete player and if he can continue to excel on the offensive end, put up the stats and wins and at the end of the season win the scoring crown or even be in the top three, then that should propel Scrubb to getting another greatest label in being the greatest Canadian that ever played in the BBL. It is difficult telling Scrubb this notion in fear that it might rev his ego in the wrong direction, but Scrubb is the kind of guy that knows from experience that it is best to stay away from reading anything about himself and just concentrating at the task at hand basketball. “I never think about these greatest labels. From experience I know that I can´t think about it. During my college career I read things about me and it took my focus away and put more pressure on me. That isn´t good for me. Being mentioned in the same league as an Andrew Rautins is a big accomplishment. I can´t think of these things. I haven´t even played an entire season in the BBL yet. I just want to continue to play well and at a high level. I never look at the scoring leaders, but check my shooting percentages. My goal is to always shoot at a high percentage. I know that when you play a lot of minutes, it can be misleading if you are scoring a lot”, warned Philip Scrubb. When Herbert talks about Canadians no matter if it´s a Rautins, Doornekamp or a Scrubb, you hear a special tingle in his voice and appreciation that you usually don´t hear when he is talking about any other player. “It is great having Phil Scrubb, but to be honest I wish I had a couple more Canadians now. Phil has made a big step this season. He needs to improve on defense. We will see if he can make another step and then we can evaluate where he stands. Rautins and Scrubb are different players. Both are great shooters. Rautins is the better pure scorer while Scrubb is the better passer and is better on ball screens. Rautins has proven for many years that he is a very good player while Scrubb is the new kid on the block. Both are great players”, stressed head coach Gordon Herbert. Herbert was obviously trying to stay neutral and with his genuine affection for Canadian players, it could be very hard to know who he really thinks is the best. It will be interesting to see how Scrubb continues to develop this season where he is the main scoring option and how well he can lead the Fraport Skyliners to success and how much of a reality the playoffs will become with the short rotation as injuries could derail it. But one thing is for sure, he won´t have the greatest label swimming around in his thoughts in his spare time as he will be too busy watching basketball as even if he won´t admit it, he is continuing to learn new things from the guys as he is always on the trail of wanting to get better despite the greatest labels swirling around.