A little less than three months ago, the Fraport Skyliners were playing a meaningless pre season game in Giessen and the big men were missing in action as Mike Morrison was out but watching his team play and for Giessen they were still testing their roster as big country John Bryant was still not in the mix, but would soon be signed. On the Giessen side there was also a big man who couldn´t display his game as he was only able to watch his team and parade around the Osthalle sporting his big smile and one could only wonder if he will grey one day as quickly as his legendary father Rudi did. That 28 year old power forward was none other than Marco Voeller who had to sit out three months due to a doping ban. However in the last few months a lot has happened in his basketball career as he went to hardly playing in Giessen to catching on with the Fraport Skyliners and playing a very vital role in their game as the club had been seemingly hit harder by the injury plague than The Dallas Mavericks loss plague this season. In Giessen Voeller had been a steady role player last season for head coach Denis Wucherer averaging 3,1ppg and 1,7rpg in 14 minutes of duty, but this season never found his way into the Ingo Freyer rotation as he had played only eight games averaging 1,0ppg and 2,3rpg in 7,5 minutes of action. The rapid move to the Fraport Skyliners was a beautiful Christmas present for the ex Gotha player as he has shone in his first two games against Bremerhaven and Alba Berlin where he came off the bench getting big minutes. Especially in the win against Bremerhaven he had a fairytale like Frankfurt debut scoring eight points, hauling down five rebounds and dishing out three assists in 14 minutes of action. Voeller made his return back to Giessen and into a very noisy and energetic gym, but was also prepared to battle his ex teammates and also seek to show his old coach that it had been a mistake for not giving him a real chance. Voeller produced four points and three rebounds, but that was a mere side note as the main story was the horrible display of basketball that the Fraport Skyliners displayed in the second half scoring a measly 22 points and being whipped out of the Osthalle arena 83-59. Despite having left Giessen, Voeller still had many youth fans there as 15 minutes after the end of the game, he stood patiently for 10-15 kids for a selfie and then explained his sad return back to Giessen. “The return wasn´t as nice because of the loss. I came in with a neutral mind and gave my best, but this loss really hurts. We didn´t have the correct energy and intensity and Giessen hit everything”, expressed ex Gotha forward Marco Voeller. One guy who had the last laugh was German Mahir Agva who has finally found a BBL home in Giessen with head coach Ingo Freyer. He didn´t get a real chance with Frankfurt and plastered his ex team with 8 points, 10 rebounds and three assists. “I didn´t have an extra special focus going in because it was my ex team. I go into every game with the same focus. I still have many friends in Frankfurt and keep contact. Klaus Perwas congratulated me after the game telling me I played well. I just went in bringing energy, getting offensive rebounds and trying to hit my shots. When you have a guy like John Bryant on the court, it really opens a lot up and makes it easier”, smiled Giessen center Mahir Agva.
Last weekend after the huge victory at home against Alba Berlin, Fraport Sklyiners head coach Gordon Herbert had the audacity to proclaim that that win was one of the best that he had witnessed as a coach. Almost a week later, he may have experienced the worst second half of basketball ever as his team was about as far away as the team he saw against Alba Berlin as Giessen 46er John Bryant is to winning a foot race with Quantez Robertson. The Fraport Skyliners simply stunk up the court as it seemed like they suddenly had lost all clue on how to run a proper offensive set as at times their play looked similar to the Skyliners play of a decade ago where they were in their worst phase as a team in their history and almost moved down to the second Bundesliga. After the pathetic performance Mike Morrison wasn´t speechless, but was shaken by the poor performance of the team. One could have wondered if the Fraport Skyliners were already mentally at the Christmas Eve dinner table. “I wasn´t at the Christmas Eve dinner table. I was really focused going against a very strong John Bryant. We are a defensive team, but we didn´t show up to play defense. Giessen did a good job pushing the tempo and we didn´t dig in to get stops. We were unable to take anything away from them. It just wasn´t our day”, stressed Florida native Mike Morrison. Even if it was the M& M show of Jahenns Manigat and Mauricio Marin who combined for 34 points and combined shot 9/14 from outside, there was also big John Bryant who had another potent night scoring 17 points, getting 13 boards, dishing out three assists, getting a steal and two blocks who was thrilled that his team was able to beat the fourth best team in the league. “We had a good day and beat a very good team in Frankfurt that always hustles. We didn´t have it all on the court yet in the first half, but in the second half gave 110%”, added ex ratiopharm Ulm center John Bryant.
Even if it was two days before Christmas, the basketball fans who stormed into the Ost Halle had either already picked up all their Christmas gifts or were waiting for the last day on Saturday during the big rush as the gym was packed and sold out with 3,742 fans . Giessen was without their two American imports Dee Davis, Austin Hollins and Max Landis, while the Fraport Skyliners walking wounded list was a bit reduced as Shawn Huff was back, but still missing in action were Philip Scrubb, Jonas Wolfarth-Bottermann, Niklas Kiel and Richard Freudenberg. The first three minutes saw some nervousness from both teams as scoring was little as the two big men Mike Morrison and Mahir Agva had scored. Both teams slowly found their rhythm as there were two lead changes as ex Nurnberg guard Mauricio Marin scored in the lane, and ex Nebraska(NCAA) guard Tai Webster nailed a trey for the 5-4 Frankfurt lead. However the Giessen 46ers then went on a lethal 7-0 run as ex E.Carolina(NCAA) forward Jamar Abrams displayed his version of scoring in bunches as he hit a pull up, a trey and then jammed home a hard two handed dunk as he flew to the hole from seemingly the free throw line as the Ost Halle was energized and Giessen led 11-5. Both teams would have their ups and downs at both ends of the court as Frankfurt responded with a 5-0 run as ex Auburn(NCAA) guard Quantez Robertson was set up nicely from Morrison and Finish national player Shawn Huff buried a trey as Giessen led only 11-10. After a Marin three, Frankfurt regained the lead thanks to another 5-0 run as ex Iona(NCAA) standout AJ English hit a fade away and Huff dropped another trey as Frankfurt led 15-14. However Giessen closed out the first quarter getting the lead back 21-17 as John Bryant scored inside after getting the perfect dime from 18 year old Bjarne Kraushaar and ex Creighton guard Jahenns Manigat nailed a trey. “Both teams were at eye level and defending well. It was a physical Hessen derby where the refs weren´t calling everything”, added Mahir Agva. The Giessen 46ers were shooting 50% form the field and 60% from outside and had 11 rebounds and two turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners were shooting 35% from the field and 38% from outside while having 10 rebounds and two turnovers.
In the second quarter, the Giessen 46ers had the control of the game, but could never shake the Fraport Skyliners off their door step as they let them hang around. The Giessen 46ers started with four Germans on the court and it didn´t pay off as the Fraport Skyliners went on a quick 6-2 run to dead lock the game at 23-23. Agva did get Giessen on the board first with a nifty lay in against two Skyliners, but the guests got vital production inside as Morrison made a hard two handed stuff, Voeller scored in the paint and AJ English made another step back jumper. Frankfurt was calm in their offensive sets while Giessen was too hectic resulting in low percentage shots. The game continued to be a game of runs as now Giessen went on a 5-0 run to take the lead again 28-23 as Abrams scored in the paint and Manigat stroked home a trey on transition. Giessen held the lead and simply did a better job on the offensive rebound as they got easy buckets from Agva who made a put back and Bryant made a heads up play catching a Manigat airball with one second on the shot clock and finishing with a reverse layup as Giessen led 32-26. Isaac Bonga than made up for his partically erratic play making an acrobatic submarine layin, but Frankfurt couldn´t find rhythm with their staple their defense as Giessen always found ways to score. Bryant and German Benjamin Lischka scored for the 36-31 Giessen lead, but Frankfurt countered with two Morrison buckets and another Huff trey to cut the Giessen lead down to 38-37. Lischka ended the second half with a layin as the Giessen 46ers rode into halftime with the slight 40-37 advantage. “It was a very close game as both teams were very motivated and were playing with a lot of intensity. There were many runs”, stressed Mahir Agva. The Giessen 46ers were shooting 48% from the field and 33% from the three point line and had 22 rebounds and seven turnovers. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 45% from the field and 33% from the three point line and had 15 rebounds and six turnovers.
In the third quarter came the turning point as the Giessen 46ers looked like the current Warriors or Celtics and the Fraport Skyliners like the current Dallas Mavericks. The Giessen 46ers stormed out on a huge 13-4 run to post their lead to 53-41 which was their biggest at that juncture and they would never look back. Giessen upped the intensity on offense and had great ball movement zipping the ball around the horn and draining their shots. The two M´s Marin and Manigat nailed trey´s as Marin´s two shots sparked Manigat and John Bryant made a pretty finger tip roll in as he still has foot work at age 30. Giessen also upped their defensive pressure as nothing came easy for Frankfurt as they started to get tough shot after tough shot as the hole started to look smaller and smaller as time went by. Frankfurt then found some partial daylight going on a mini 4-0 run as English and Webster scored cutting the Giessen lead to 53-45. However Frankfurt lacked consistency on the defensive end and Giessen used that to their advantage executing at a high rate and closing out the third quarter with a devastating 8-1 run to lead comfortably 61-45. In the run, Giessen was fortified by Manigat who dropped back to back three´s and Lischka scored in the paint. “My mindset coming in was to execute and make the right decisions. With the injury to Dee Davis, I have been playing point guard and not my normal position shooting guard. I have been feeling more comfortable from game to game. My three felt good today especially since I shot 47% last year and haven´t been shooting as well this season. I have that feeling I can make 4-5 three´s a game now and it felt good making them against our rival”, stressed Jahenns Manigat. “Manigat did a great job stepping up for our injured Davis. He took a lot of responsibility and is getting better each game”, warned Mahir Agva. The Fraport Skyliners also had a lot of misfortune missing easy shots inside and not making free throws at a consistent rate. “We were more aggressive in the third quarter and hit our shots. Our confidence grew and the fans helped us too”, added Mahir Agva. “I thought we were focused, but the few stops that we had, we couldn´t capitalize on offense. They stretched their lead and broke the game open. We can´t allow our bad offense to affect our defense”, warned Mike Morrison. The Giessen 46ers were shooting 46% from the field and 38% from the parking lot and had 33 rebounds and 10 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners were shooting 39% from the field and 24% from the parking lot and grabbed 25 rebounds and had coughed up the ball nine times.
In the fourth quarter there were no big Frankfurt heroics as the Giessen 46ers continued to be the aggressor and finished out the game in style producing 22 points and giving up only 13 points. The Giessen 46ers started off the fourth quarter with a stellar 9-0 run to extend their lead to 70-46 and decide the game. In the run, Giessen got all nine points from Germans as Agva made a quick lay in with one second on the shot clock as Kraushaar found him with the perfect pass and then hit a runner which was followed by a Marin trey and LIschka with a tip as everything that Giessen touched turned to gold while the Fraport Skyliners looked like a lost bunch on offense with no leader. Even if all of basketball Germany is talking about Isaac Bonga, there is also another 18 year Bjarne Kraushaar who has no fear something we once remember seeing from Dennis Schroeder as a young German prospect and stole his show scoring four points, getting five rebounds and dishing out four assists. Bonga had five points and four turnovers as did Kraushaar. Bonga may get drafted next summer by the NBA, but Kraushaar is on a fine way and sky is the limit for him as he could be a top German point guard in the BBL and soon on the jump to the big teams in the next few years. “Kraushaar is underrated, but such an intelligent player. He always plays with a lot of energy and has so much calmness for an 18 year old”, added Mahir Agva. The Fraport Skyliners then had one last gasp making a lightening 7-0 run to cut the Giessen lead to 70-52 as Webster made a jumper and Huff another trey. However Giessen then let John Bryant take control as the M& M show of Manigat and Marin took a step back. Bryant scored 7 points in a row using his fade away and jumper and got to the free throw line twice as Frankfurt trailed 77-55. Kraushaar would dazzle the fans with a coast to coast sprint and layin for the 79-55 advantage. Voeller them made an easy two handed dunk and 19 year old 210 cm power forward Anthony Okao who played at Internationale Basketball Akademie Muenchen(NBBL) last season with Stanford German standout Oscar Da Silva scored his first BBL points. Bonga closed out the game with a free throw as Frankfurt returned home with a few extra thoughts on the 45 minute bus ride. “Even when Frankfurt had that run, we stayed focused and kept our intensity”, added Mahir Agva. “We played until the end and never quit. We let our young guys play at the end. Giessen simply outplayed us”, stated Mike Morrison. The Giessen 46ers were led by John Bryant and Jahenns Manigat with 17 points apiece. Mauricio Marin added 16 points and Benjamin Lischka had 10 points. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Mike Morrison with 15 points. Tai Webster had 13 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Shawn Huff produced 12 points. The Giessen 46ers shot 49% from the field and 36% from outside and had 47 rebounds and 16 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners shot 33% from the field and 19% from outside while getting 34 rebounds and producing 13 turnovers.