A few weeks ago, Dragons Rhondorf fans had the first opportunity to witness Pro B basketball again during the Gezeiten Cup where they battled against easyCredit BBL teams and one could sense with many of the excited faces that the six month basketball vacation had been like a nasty eternity and thye were just happy to have the usual basketball experience again even if the lopsided scorers didn´t bother anyone because they weren´t supposed to annoy any of the first division teams. One saw many of the known faces off the court and even some shy new ones who were trying to get a feel for the atmosphere and the game. However there was very much different and one could sense on many of the hardcore Dragons fans that they were already playing mind games with themselves and playing out how the new season will run it´s course on September first. Off the court much was the same, but on the court the change of Dragon faces was as noticeable as it is for everyone that Jogi Low has his hands full with developing a new German national team. Obviously the two main scoring threats from last season Kameron Taylor and Viktor Frankl-Maus who almost combined for half of the team scoring had fled to greener pastures. Taylor went to Hungary where he should be a top player and team identity figure Frankl-Maus who wore the Dragons jersey for six seasons escaped to FC Bayern Munich 2, but who can blame him from going from the Rhein and beautiful family Dragons atmosphere to the Isar and high society of FC Bayern Munich where he can bump into a Uli Honess or Thomas Mueller as easily as he would in Rhondorf into a Dragons fan in their very small downtown area. Even if these two losses are serious blows, the club couldn´t even hold their role players as guys like Thomas Michel, Valentin Blass and Anton Geretzky also left leaving head coach Thomas Adelt with a totally new challenge of withstanding a massive team face lift and building a new team that will be competitive in the Pro B. Can the Dragons Rhondorf master a rebuilding season? One thing is for sure, many of the hardcore fans will have two dates crossed off in their home schedule with FC Bayern Munich and the RheinStars where they will be reunited with Frankl-Maus, Michel and Blass again.
As is the case each season, the Dragons Rhondorf had to be without many players during the early pre season as a bunch were with the Telekom Baskets Bonn in their annual pre season training camp. This left Thomas Adelt with less players and less time to get a chemistry in the works in the pre season. A giant factor each season for every Pro B team is except for FC Bayern Munich who believe in the German way is how well a team performs has to do with how well their imports do. Two seasons ago it was Aaron Nelson who paned out was one of the top players in the league and last season Kameron Taylor was in some ways in a league of his own and the top player, but can three be a charm? This season the Pro B allows only one American, but at least one still can have EU players. 22 year old American Raekwon Miller will have his glory this season, but one can´t compare him to a Kameron Taylor which would be unfair as he is a rookie and will need time to adjust. He had a very good college career at North Carolina Ashville and is extremely motivated to have a good first season overseas. He is a guy that likes to compare his game to a Russell Westbrook and if he can only be a very little like him, then he will be a huge win for the club. In his senior year the American from Marion North Carolina who is always two steps ahead on the floor averaged 11.2ppg, 4.6rpg, 3.3apg, 1.2spg will have to find his hot shooting stroke from outside where he connected on 47% on his shots from outside. The Dragons lost a lot of their shooting expertise from last season and will need the support from the American. He was able to do this because he had more of a prominent role as a senior where he could relax more and knew what he was capable of. 22 year old Joe Mvzuelo is also a rookie out of England that played at Montana State and turned heads at the Gezeiten Cup averaging 7.5ppg, 3.4rpg, FGP: 43.9%, 3PT: 34.6%, FT: 71.2% in his senior year. He is a talented small forward, but proved he isn´t shy to do some dirty work in the paint, but also will hit the lethal three from outside. This two players will have to average double figures in scoring, have an impact on the defensive end and have the confidence to be able to carry the team so it won´t be smothered early into having to a climb a steep mountain to the top. They both definitely have the focus and drive to be leader type players and make an impact.
The Dragons Rhondorf will need a lot more balance this season from all players then last season where one could of just called the bat phone and call Kameron Taylor to the rescue like Gotham City did Bat man and Robin when another sinister villan was doing bad to the city. This season the club did a fine job finding new missing parts, but the question will be can they give sufficient output on a consistent level. Two of the most interesting signings were 22 year olds Julian Jasinski and Bo Meister two players that will have to be German leaders for the younger players the same way a Michel and Blass were last season. These two players have BBL experience and can be very good players at the Pro B level. Jasinski played 10 BBL games for Hagen and Bonn and also has international experience in the BCL. Last season he also played with the Telekom Baskets Bonn II (Regionalliga) playing 9 games averaging 9.6ppg, 5.4rpg, 1.4apg, FGP: 43.8%, 3PT: 25.0%, FT: 66.7%. He will have to give extra muscle down inside and is capable and he could also be an extra weapon from outside. Meister already was put into the BBL shark tank at age 17 in Bremerhaven and last season played sparingly with Team Ehingen Urspring (ProA) paying 22 games averaging 2.0ppg, 1.0rpg. The 199cm small forward is only 19 years old and has a huge upside. This is the season for him to have his break through so he can continue to climb up the basketball level to the next level. He already showed his huge potential in the Pro A last season going off on Kirchheim scoring 14 points sinking 4/4 three´s and had a 11 point effort against Nurnberg. The former German U-15 player has good athleticism shown signs of being a dangerous outside shooter. Meister could very easily be the X-factor this season and if he really bloosoms at the Pro B level could become another guy that could be that additional consistent scoring threat.
Three other key players will be Germans Yannick Kneesch and Alex Moeller as well as Lithuanian big man Zygimantas Riauka. Kneesch is only 22 years old, but has already five Pro B seasons under his belt and possesses that so vital experience in this league. Last season he was injured and played only 16 games averaging 4.9ppg, 3.1rpg. Being aggressive and showing consistent physicality will be two key components that he will have to show on a consistent rate for the team to be successful. Last season the ex Speyer 204cm forward who playd 45 Pro B games with them showed his potential with 12 point games against Schwelm and FC Bayern Munich and can be a threat from downtown as he went 3/3 against the ScanPlus Baskets netting 10 points. Moeller is another one of the Telekom Baskets Bonn double license players that has easyCredit BBL and BCL experience. He continues to make strides in his development as last season he played 24 games averaging 7.9ppg, 4.4rpg, FGP: 46.5%, FT: 62.0%. Important this season for the 20 year old 208cm big man will be too continue to become more a stable and dangerous presence in the paint. Last season he displayed how dominant he can be scoring 18 points and grabbing 10 boards against Dresden and netting 18 points and getting nine rebounds against Wurzburg. Riauka rounds out this trio and he is the oldest on the squad and his experience also will be vital. Key here is if he can just produce the way he knows in comparison to how last seasons ronalds Elknis couldn´t, will be more than half the rent. He is a 205cm center that had a stellar career at Wisc.-Parkside (NCAA2) averaging 11/5,16/9 and 14/7 in his last three years in school. As a professional, he has been in Spain for two seasons playing with El Olivar Zaragoza (Spain-LEB Silver) averaging 13.0ppg, 7.3rpg, 2.3apg, FGP: 57.5%, 3PT: 37.5%, FT: 79.7% and with Caceres Patrimonio de la Humanidad (Spain-LEB Gold) averaging 4.6ppg, 3.8rpg. Last season he played with Team FOG Naestved (Denmark-Ligaen) playing 30 games averaging 7.0ppg, 5.5rpg, FGP: 54.1%, FT: 72.9%. He is a modern big man that knows how to score inside and lets his powerful body make it easy to control the boards. He should be able to concentrate on the paint as the club has enough shooters. These seven players mentioned above will carry the team while other young players like David Falkenstein, Joachim Koschade, Karl Dia, Philipp Gruber and Noah Litzbach will battle for minutes and be hungry to give their valuable two cents to the success.
So where will the 2018-2019 Pro B season take the Dragons Rhondorf and will they be able to master a successful rebuilding season? The pre season results gave some negative early warning signs, but all in all one can´t look back, but forward as the real season starts on September 22. The Dragons Rhondorf had an extreme face lift lost their savior Kameron Taylor and many other valuable players and it will take time for this to digest for the fans, but overall with so many new guys on board, they have the needed motivation to do positive work. The club doesn´t have that dominant Mr everything with a Kameron Taylor substitution, but overall are covered fairly well at every position and have a good mix of players. Head coach Thomas Adelt will have a bigger load on his shoulders to show that he is a coach that can make a harmonious team with many good basketball workers. The only possible weak spot could be at the point guard position as trying to cover up the void by the departed Viktor Frankl-Maus will be a work in progress. Raekwon Miller can fill the stat sheet and is more a scorer than a playmaker, but he has stressed that he loves to pass the ball and produce the dime. The success of his playmaking could play a huge role this season in the success of the team while David Falkenstein is prepared to make new strides at the point. The club was a pretty sound rebounding club last season at 34 boards per game and should be the same this season with the trio of Moeller, Riauka and Kneesch hovering around the rim. The team was also a solid defensive team last season and with the loss of Patrick Reus lost some of that key energy at the guard position. But overall this team has the potential to be a good defensive team. Mvuezolo could become that vital top team defensive player which he showed signs of in pre season and Miller also can be that annoying defender. There are question marks with this team with the many lost faces, but this team is talented and has the abilities to stay in the Pro B. It will be more of a reach to make the playoffs as it searches for it´s new team identity. It will definitely be an interesting season as there will be no more Kameron Taylor working on producing a triple double, but a new team working on making a good team identity and producing new unforgettable moments and making Taylor a enjoyable distant memory in their quest to make their rebuilding season a memorable experience.