The Fraport Skyliners Fairytale Playoff Run Was Fun But Unrewarded

Basketball will most likely never match the interest level of football in Germany as old footage of the 2018 Eintracht Frankfurt cup win will show as the entire Romer place in downtown Frankfurt was covered in a sea of Eintracht Frankfurt colors and estimated 25,000 fans with about as much room left for an undernourished fly while in 2016 as the Fraport Skyliners celebrated their third club title Fiba Europe Cup, only 400 fans showed up while innocent bystanders were wondering who the tall dudes up on the balcony who were celebrating as hard  like little kids who had been told school had been cancelled for a whole year. Who cares how many people show up, because a title is a title and for both clubs to come together one season and win a title together is dream material. When you have a club like FC Bayern Munich dominating football, then dreaming is always the norm for any other club. It might not have occurred to each Fraport Skyliner fan on the day of the do or die game against the big mighty FC Bayern Munich that there could have been the possibility that within 48 hours the cosmopolitan city Frankfurt could have two historic wins against Germany´s most famous sports team from Bavaria in basketball and football as on Saturday was the German cup final where Eintracht Frankfurt had surprisingly reached the final for the second consecutive year. But dreaming in this sense is a better choice than actual reality occurring because the odds of something like that happening was more likely than pigs flying over the Fraport arena and Lebron James joining them. Ok Lebron is the best player on the planet and can do the most amazing things, but in all respect to the king, let´s keep Michael Jordan doing the flying to the rim, because he was the first one to really make flying basketball acceptable. Granted it would not have been a title for the Fraport Skyliners had they been victorious in Munich in game five and been only the ticket to the BBL semi-final and a clash with the next annoying opponent Brose Bamberg, but anytime you beat FC Bayern Munich, it has to always feel like something extremely special almost like celebrating a holiday. All the Fraport Skyliners had to have done was win game five, because Eintracht Frankfurt did the seemingly impossible in Berlin beating FC Bayern Munich 3-1, so at least Frankfurt will be celebrating for weeks after that. The Fraport Skyliners came a lot farther than most expected forcing FC Bayern Munich to five games and pulling off two wins in a row something they had never done before against them. It was another interesting season for the Fraport Skyliners with many highs and lows, but in the end their instant high against FC Bayern Munich was brutally brushed off by the Bavarian squad as they ended Frankfurt´s season with two swift blows in game four and game five. The fantastic and magical Fraport Skyliners fairytale playoff run was fun, but unrewarded.

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Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing 2018 easyCredit BBL scoring champion Philip Scrubb after droping 8 points and dishing out 8 assists

The successful track record of head coach Gordon Herbert speaks for itself as he led the Fraport Skyliners to it´s third playoff appearance in the last four years. As is always the case he had only a limited budget and was able to make better choices of players in comparison to the season before where the right point guard wasn´t found. The only thing that really kept Gordon Herbert back this season was injuries. One never wants to say what if, but when looking back at how the team started, injuries got in the way and hindered Frankfurt from being able to develop their team chemistry. All teams have injuries that they have to deal with, but if the Fraport Skyliners would have had less injuries and had Jonas Wolfarth-Bottermann and Philip Scrubb for a longer period, then the club surely could have finished somewhere in the 4-6 range and possibly made the semi-finals. They started off hot going 5-1, but also didn´t face too tough competition beating non-playoff teams and beating playoff team medi Bayreuth in a tight clash at home, but losing on the road in Ludwigsburg. Then came the first real back to back to back tough opponents and they couldn´´t win against FC Byern Munich, Brose Bamberg and ratiopharm Ulm, but won a shoot out against the EWE Baskets Oldenburg. The season was still less than two months old, but one could see that the club had problems staying with the top teams as they were just missing depth and getting consistency from more players than just a Scrubb or Webster. After two easy wins against low ranked teams Bremerhaven and Gotha, the club had their best performance of the season outlasting Alba Berlin at home 90-84. It was crazy how well Frankfurt performed considering they were already suffering the injury blues playing without a Scrubb, Wolfarth-Bottermann, Huff and Kiel. At this point one was thinking, what would this team truly be capable of if all were on board? But then again one saw only a week later what the team is capable of when they aren’t focused as they were clobbered 83-59 in Giessen which was one of the club´s worst loses in the last 10 years. The club had numerous injuries and they would continue as the team lost five of their next seven games and continued to tumult down the standings. They also lost games they could have won as Thomas Walkup propelled Ludwigsburg at the end in Frankfurt and then losing 77-74 in Braunschweig.

Basketball BL / Playoff-Viertelfinale Spiel 4 / FRAPORT SKYLINERS - FC BAYERN MÜNCHEN BASKETBALL

15.05.2018 / Basketball BBL / Playoff-Viertelfinale / -0- Tai Webster / FRAPORT SKYLINERS

On Valentines Day there was love in the air in Ulm as Gordon Herbert´s heart was pounding as for the first time in months it seemed, he had almost everyone on board which resulted in a hard fought 78-77 win and led to five of six wins. They won home games against Wurzburg, Gotha and MBC and won in Bonn, but then threw away a game in Gottingen. But the club´s inconsistency phobia was always present as they lost the next three games in a row getting swept by Giessen, losing in Bayreuth and relinquishing a 17 point lead against FC Bayern Munich at home. With the season winding down, the Fraport Skyliners had been able to always hover around the eighth place and seemed to be in the drivers seat, but they never could secure a playoff spot until the last game day. After convincing wins at home against Bremerhaven and Bamberg came the unexpected pathetic 106-69 blowout loss in Berlin which suddenly made the season exciting again as they had a head to head battle against s.Oliver Wurzburg for the last playoff spot. After both teams won on the second to last game day with Frankfurt escaping Science City Jena, Frankfurt was forced to win on the last game day in Oldenburg and did in very convincing fashion winning 90-74. The exciting playoff series against FC Bayern Munich would be the Fraport Skyliners last stand of the season in which they were more than half way there, but in the end just didn´t have the needed  resources and depth to withstand the mighty FC Bayern Munich in a five game series. The Fraport Skyliners gave it all they had, but having the basketball God on your side for the majority of the time against FC Bayern Munich just won´t happen and isn´t realistic. FC Bayern Munich did what they were expected to do and the Fraport Skyliners exceeded all expectations in this playoff series and spiced up the up and down season at the end giving it that possible fairytale outcome, but the basketball God didn´t reward it. Head coach Gordon Herbert can be commended for so often during the season when things looked bleak to find a way to overcome the odds and make a very competitive game plan that was able to be implemented by the team. Gordon Herbert team´s have always been known for being good defensive teams and being able to be the sixth best defensive team despite always having different lineups due to the injury problem is extra ordinary. Herbert did a great job once again getting the most out of his team despite the circumstances. Obviously the team wasn´t the best rebounding team as injury woes to Wolfarth-Bottermann and Niklas Kiel put a big void under the boards and teams exploited it best to their means. The injury problems also kept Frankfurt from being able to develop their team chemistry all season long which helped weaken their chances of being able to grow as a team on both ends of the court. Too often the club had to rely too much on the scoring ability of Scrubb and Webster in order for them to win which was evident in the Munich series. When one or both were limited, nobody else could step up. Another problem was that due to the fact that they belong to the top BBL teams that lay a big focus on their youth, they didn´t have that second German veteran scoring option which so many other teams did have. Gordon Herbert did a good job finding a strong point guard in Tai Webster after having that problem the season before, but his inexperience hurt the team at times, but that is expected when one doesn´t have a Jordan Theodore or Dashaun Wood that will instantly win games for you.

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Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and Quantez Robertson at the Fraport Skyliners training facility in 2016

The American style player grades starts with the BBL´s best offensive player Philip Scrubb. The Canadian gets an A. He averaged 18,3ppg,3,6rpg and 3,8apg while shooting 45% from outside. He gave the word consistency a new name as he scored in double figures in 29 of 34 games. He scored 20 points or more 12 times and 30 points or more three times including 34 points in a win in Gotha and 33 points at home in a win against Bamberg and 31 points in a win against Wurzburg. His shooting saved Frankfurt time in and time out and one could see he worked so hard on his comeback and it payed off. He did a good job being able to play playmaker when defenses were keying in on him. He ran out of gas against FC Bayern Munich, but he was being hounded the whole series. It would be a delight to hold Scrubb, but he will most likely play NBA Summer League and that NBA opportunity will always be looming on the horizon for him, but he will most probably make the next step to a Eurocup or Euroleague team.
Tai Webster gets a B in his rookie season that saw him averaging 14,9ppg,3,7rpg and 3,9apg while shooting 39,8% from outside. He scored in double figures in 29 of 38 games and was the teams second most consistent scoring player. He scored 20 points or more times 11 times and scored 32 points against FC Bayern Munich and 31 points against the EWE Baskets Oldenburg. Webster developed himself into a deadly 1-1 player that at times could score whenever he wanted. He helped Frankfurt to some wins solely on his unstoppable individual play and also showed he can fill up the stat sheet on a regular basis. He was a rookie and often showed his inexperience and wild play, but that was only normal. Frankfurt most likely will look to find another experienced point guard for next season. Webster could play NBA Summer League and could play in many leagues in Europe. It would be interesting to see him going to Italy or Turkey and seeing how he would do.
Quantez “the legend, the Skyliner lifer” Robertson completed his ninth season and gets an A-. Some had the audacity to dare to say he lost a step, but Tez was Tez and was as always the heart and soul of the team averaging 10,1ppg,4,6rpg, 2,7apg and 1,9spg while shooting 33% from outside. He scored in double figures in 21 games and finished strong scoring in double figures in his last six games and had a fantastic playoff series against Munich averaging 14,0ppg,5,0rpg,2,0apg,2,0spg and shot 8/15 from outside. His worth to the success of the team is so important that one doesn´t even want to imagine how Frankfurt would play without his services. He will return for a 10th season and everyone in Skyliner country is thrilled about that.
Shawn Huff gets a B for his season averaging 9,1ppg and 3,6rpg while shooting a blistering 46% from outside which was his best since the 2009-2010 season with Kavala in Greece. His combination of team play with that deadly shot and aggressive defense has made him an important contributor at both ends of the court. Keeping his presence would be beneficial for next season. He may be 34, but can still compete with the best and will be a positive influence on the kids.


29.04.2018 / Basketball BBL / -7- Shawn Huff / FRAPORT SKYLINERS

Mike Morrison gets a B. He averaged 8,6ppg,4,6rpg and 1,1apg and scored in double figures in 13 games including a 17 point effort against BG Goettingen. Even if he is mainly a rebound and put back kind of player, he seemed to develop a jumper this season that he often used. His passing from the post and overall creating for a big man keeps improving. He had his moments on the defensive end, but also had tough times against the big bodies that roamed the paint area. A big moment was his first professional three in game two against FC Munich. The Florida native is a fan favorite and the club should extend his contract.
Jonas Wolfarth-Bottermann gets a B+. After stops in Bonn, Berlin and Ulm, he finally made his breakthrough with the Skyliners averaging 9,6ppg,4,6rpg,1,1bs. He scored in double figures 14 times including 22 points against MBC and 20 points against Giessen. He performed right from the start being a consistent aggressive presence in the paint; unleashed a pretty hook shot and was a monster on the defensive end with his long arms and shot blocking abilities. He found a home in Frankfurt and will return next season and hope to carry his momentum to an even better season.
German wonder boy Isaac Bonga gets a C+ and played his second full season and averaged 20 minutes per game coming from the bench and even starting games. He averaged 6,0ppg, 3,1rpg,2,2apg and 1,0spg while shooting 33% from the parking lot. He scored in double figures five times including a 16 point game against Bremerhaven and 14 point game against ratiopharm Ulm. He got the trust from Gordon Herbert and had his moments. That he was up and down wasn´t surprising. The kid was only 18 and there wasn’t a better German point guard his age in the BBL. There were times he looked like the next Lebron displaying amazing athleticism and justifying why there were at times 8 NBA teams in the arena with scouts, but then again at times making bitter mistakes. His shot improved and his shot selection was good while his decision making also improved. The Kid is 18 and continuing to improve and the sky is still the limit. He declared for the NBA draft, but probably will stay another year in BBL to continue to refine his skills.
Richard Freudenberg gets a C- while averaging 3,0ppg and 1,2rpg. He was injured for some time, but even when he was back still was unable to crack Gordon Herbert´s lineup. He scored in double figures three times with a 19 point game against Alba Berlin and 16 points against ratiopharm Ulm. He is a talented project that needs to become a force in the Pro B while getting more trust at the BBL level. Voigtmann and Barthel weren´t made in their first seasons´s either in Frankfurt. He has a contract for next season


02.04.2018 / Basketball BBL / -17- Isaac Bonga / FRAPORT SKYLINERS /

Jordan Sibert gets a B and came after AJ English failed in his second tour of duty. Sibert who played at Dayton(NCAA) and was close to reaching the NBA with the Orlando Magic as a rookie averaged 5,0ppg,1,2rpg and shot 32% from outside. He scored in double figures in three games including a 13 point game against Munich and Gotha. He stood for energy and scoring support from the bench. He averaged only 12 minutes per game and was as effective as he could be. One won´t see his whole worth from the stats and was up and down at times, but he was effective more times than not. He most likely won´t return and will be playing elsewhere next season.
Marco Voeller gets a C and came from Giessen in December as the club was battling injuries. He averaged 2,4ppg and 2,5rpg. His best games were 9 points against Alba Berlin and Wurzburg. He had his moments making baskets and big plays and was a solid back up. Especially his hustle on the court will be remembered. He has proven that he can play at the BBL level and most likely will continue to play in the BBL or Pro A.
Niklas Kiel had the most misfortune suffering two concussions and playing only 10 BBL games averaging 1,1ppg and 1,6rpg. His fourth season was a lost year. After having a solid third season with the Skyliners, his development this time around stood still. He will return next year and will look to continue his development.
Garai Zeeb played his third season making another jump to getting more BBL experience averaging 1,6ppg. It was tough getting minutes with the Skyliners guard rotation and he got lost a bit in the guard shuffle. He has good skills, but he will always have a tough battle with the guard competition. It will be interesting to see if he makes the breakthrough this upcoming season.

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Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and Quantez Robertson during the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup title parade in Frankfurt

Anytime you reach the easyCredit BBL playoffs, it is a success and all in all that is exactly how it was for the Fraport Skyliners. With all the injuries and ups and downs coupled with having to integrate players back into a system after injuries plus making the AJ English to Jordan Sibert change mid way through and then leading 2-1 in games against the feared FC Bayern Munich, one can go into summer vacation with their heads held high. Many thought that the Fraport Skyliners wouldn´t have reached the playoffs in late April with some of their bad loses and nobody gave them a chance against FC Bayern Munich and look how thrilling of a series it became. Gordon Herbert proved again that in reality huge budgets and amazing talent won´t always beat you when your own team has a bigger heart and is playing with more intensity and focus as Frankfurt showed in game two and three. It is just too bad that the club ran out of gas in game four and five and that overwhelming depth of FC Bayern Munich was too much for them. Head coach Gordon Herbert as always has to get a lot of credit for his amazing work always getting the best out of his team and also in developing players further with Klaus Perwas. It will be another interesting off season and fans will see many familiar faces back, but also new talented players looking to help the team be successful and make the next step. Imagine how amazing a Fraport Skyliner and Eintracht Frankfurt double win would have been and what might have been possible had they played Brose Bamberg in the semi-finals where they weren´t at all prepared for FC Bayern Munich in game one. It was a season of what if´s and now fans will be able to pass the long summer with what could have happened if that and that had happened? We will never know what could have been, but the playoff fairytale run was so much fun, but just unrewarded. Annoying FC Bayern Munich was big fun and will forever remain a big highlight in Skyliner history.

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