The Last time the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven were playing in mid May in the BBL playoffs, a Dennis Schroeder was only a household name on Braunschweig´s playgrounds, Jogi Low and Germany were getting ready for the World Cup in South Africa, BBL identity figures Quantez Robertson was a rookie and Rickey Paulding was only in his third season with the EWE Baskets Oldenburg and Barack Obama was in the midst of his first term as President. It was the summer of 2010, the basketball world in Bremerhaven was in full force and everything was rosy. For those Bremerhaven fans that didn´t have time or money to enjoy a feast at Natusch and rap about Bremerhaven basketball, then getting that quick fish trip at the local Nordsee restaurant was always an option to philosophy about how easy a Lou Campbell could set up Jeff Gibbs for an easy bucket was something that was the norm in those days. Bremerhaven and head coach Doug Spradley was a few plays and breaks away from reaching the final, but the Fraport Skyliners won game 5 and went on to lose to Bamberg in five games. After entering the BBL in 2005, the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven reached the playoffs in four of five seasons, but since 2010 have never reached the playoffs again. Every season not only Bremerhaven fans, but possibly a few more in the league are hoping and wishing that this might be the season where the club finally catches a few breaks with their player personal and run off a string of winning streaks and big wins to get back to the playoffs. However since 2010, the club has finished in ninth place once, and in 11th, 12th and 15th place twice. It didn´t really matter who was coach in the last eight years with Doug Spradley, Calvin Oldham, Muli Katzurin or now Sebastian Machowski, none could bring back the success that Sarunas Sakalaukas had. People really wondered from season to season how such talented and seemingly deep rosters couldn´t make the playoffs. A player is only as good as their character and for some reason, the club was unable to bring in exactly the right mix of players that could help the team make the promised land. Even with future BBL legend Derrick Allen on board for a season who knowingly has a top character and work ethic like no other, the club couldn´t make the best of it. Over the years the club has always brought in a lot of talent and players like Darius Adams and Kyle Fogg that would make the next step to better leagues, but the chemistry within the team just didn´t function properly. Even bringing in ex NBA players like Deandre Liggins and Tyrus Thomas were unable to bring any extra magic and infect their teammates as success remained invisible. Thomas retired after his Bremerhaven flop while Deandre Liggins returned back to the NBA and probably will never be reminded again about Bremerhaven. The club has maybe lacked the scouting expert like a Brendan Rooney who for years always brought the right players to Bamberg. A real true identity and chemistry has been missing from the playoff teams from 8 years ago. The team has lacked heart and have been clearly underachieving for years. With the dismissal of Jan Rathjen who was responsible for the success from 2005-2010, he lost his magic in the last years and now it´s Arne Woltmann turn who has the job. However nothing has changed as the team is in 17th place and under achieving again. When will it finally be fun again to go to Nordsee and talk about the exciting win from the night before?
Last season the club finished in 12th place mainly due to a lightening finish finishing 6-3. They played their best basketball of the season and were close to beating Bamberg losing 85-84 and Ludwigsburg losing 81-78.
This season the club wanted to take some of that momentum from last season, but to do that they had to make changes. This season the club underwent another major house cleaning for their roster something that has been as normal in the last years as it is for head coach Sebastian Machowski to wear black. They did a good job keeping Jordan Hulls who made the next step from lower leagues to the BBL averaging 13.1ppg, 2.7rpg, 4.0apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT-2(50.3%), FT-2(94.5%). He was one of the bright spots in last season´s poor season. The team also held Ivan Elliot who is a BBL veteran having played with teams like Wurzburg, Phoenix Hagen and Ludwigsburg and last season averaged 10.7ppg, 5.6rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 59.2. Hulls is near his stellar play from last season in stats while Elliot has been a disappointment so far. The team also held David Brembly who after a stellar break out season with Bayreuth in 2014-2015 has battled injuries the last two years in Ulm and Bremerhaven. This season he is fit again and putting up solid stats at 8,6ppg and 3,4rpg while shooting 45% from outside. The club also held on to Germans Lars Wendt, Fabian Bleck and Adrian Breitlauch, but as usual none has gotten the total trust and minutes like they might want. Bleck is averaging 15 minutes per game while Wendt 10 minutes per contest. At the moment it seems like Bleck has the best chances of making the best of his minutes.
On paper the club seemingly did a solid job bringing in the best talent available for their budget. With Geoffrey Groselle, the club brought in a BBL experienced player that last season played with the Basketball Loewen Braunschweig averaging 10.9ppg, 6.2rpg, Blocks-2(1.2bpg), FGP: 64.1%, FT: 60.2%. The strength of the ex Creighton(NCAA) standout is his work near the hoop and shot selection and is having another solid season this season as he is making his presence felt in the paint. The biggest surprise so far might be Canadian Johnny Berhanemeskel who granted has been a scorer his whole career, but that he made the transition to the BBL so quickly was a surprise. The ex Ottawa(CIS) sensation was the fourth best scorer in the league as a senior and was the second top scorer in Estonia and last season with Saenz Horeca Araberri (Spain-LEB Gold) averaging 18.9ppg), 2.9rpg, 1.5apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 49.3%, 3PT: 45.7%, FT: 85.9%. He is leading Bremerhaven in scoring and is shooting the lights out while the only flaw is his high turnover rate. American 208cm center Carl Baptiste also has been a surprise as he also has made the transition to the BBL putting up solid stats. He paid his dues in the Spain Leb Gold and Cyprus as a rookie and played the last two seasons in Austria with ECE Bulls Kapfenberg (Austria-A Bundesliga) and last season averaged13.8ppg, 6.6rpg, FGP: 54.8%, 3PT-1(46.5%), FT: 74.6%. Important is his experience in Europe and having won titles in Cyprus and Austria as he has seen how to win. The club recently brought in American Tre Bussey for more offensive versatility The ex Georgia Southern(NCAA) guard is playing his fourth season and is another risk as he also is looking to make the next step in a higher league. He sampled experience in the G-League and in Europe in Kosovo and last season played with Cytavision Apoel Nicosia (Cyprus-Division A) landing fifth in league scoring averaging 14.5ppg), 4.7rpg, Assists-5(4.0apg), FGP: 44.3%, 3PT: 39.1%, FT: 62.4%. He started this season with Keravnos Strovolou (Cyprus-Division A) playing 2 Basketball Champions League games averaging 15.0ppg, 3.0rpg, 1.5apg, 1.0spg;In the Division A he played 4 games averaging 12.0ppg, 3.0rpg, 2.3apg. In the FIBA Europe Cup he played 5 games averaging 12.6ppg, 3.4rpg, 4.0apg, 2FGP: 53.8%, 3FGP: 30.4%, FT. His solid play in two international leagues gives hope that he can add scoring punch. The club also brought in Germans Michael Kessens and Dominique Johnson. Kessens who is a Swiss/German 206cm forward has been a positive surprise as he brought NCAA experience to Germany having played with Longwood, Alabama and last season with FIU (NCAA) averaging 12.9ppg, 9.0rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 58.5%, 3PT: 23.5%, FT: 68.9%. He has been a refreshing addition from the bench averaging 7/4 in 13 minutes. Johnson played 47 BBL games in three seasons with Braunschweig and MBC returns back home where he began his career and played three BBL games in the 2011-2012 season. This season the German has brought too little in his 13 minutes per game.
When you look at the record of the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven and see who they lost to and who they beat then one has to wonder what this team is really capable of when everything is working properly. They lost to all teams that were big competitors for them and in their skill and standings category while they made the big surprise win against Alba Berlin and almost sent home FC Bayern Munich weeping as they almost made the impossible possible losing a nail bitter 85-83. They demonstrated their poise and calmness winning a nail bitter in Berlin, but then again faltered under pressure in crunch time against Bayreuth and BG Goettingen. At the moment this team is totally underachieving and the club is foaming at the mouth for some kind of successful experience. So far they haven´t been able to capitalize on the momentum after a big win against Alba Berlin and then string off a huge winning streak like they did at the end of last season. This team is simply too good to keep losing like this this season. In December they will have more opportunities to beat weaker teams and get out of the cellar and they will do so. This may be the best offensive team ever seen in 17th place that is averaging 86 points. With the quality of offensive players that the club has, they may even be overachieving. Their big weapon is their three point shooting which so far has hurt teams as Hulls, Brembly, Berhanemeskel and Carl Baptiste are all firing away from the parking lot and eclipsing the 40% rate. Another strength is their will to play team basketball on the offensive end. Head coach Machowski stressed that he wanted the team to continue to do that this season and it has. It is averaging almost 20 assists a game and are in the top 6, are a top rebounding team where there is no top dominant big man getting 9-10 rebounds, but it has been a total team effort with everyone helping. Their achilles heel is their defense. It was a problem last season and continues to be so this season giving up 84 points per game. As soon as the team fully understands that it isn´t skill, but pure effort then perhaps some changes will occur in their results. This team will improve and get out of the cellar simply because they are too talented. Bremerhaven will finish somewhere between 11-15. Their opponent Saturday are the Fraport Skyliners who have received a big blow with two major injuries to big men Jonas Wolfarth-Bottermann and Richard Freudenberg and a minor injury to Shawn Huff as their impressive start now is a bit curtailed. Head coach Gordon Herbert has been challenged with a short 7 man rotation already this season, but now he is faced with his biggest hurdle of keeping the confidence and momentum of the team and their mentality somewhat intact. Without a new big men, Frankfurt will have a very tough time. Bremerhaven have good chances to come out of Frankfurt with a much needed win.