Not only has Fraport Skyliners head coach Gordon Herbert trusted in Canadians in the last five years like an alert mother eagle on it´s young, but he also has relied on those Canadian sharp shooters to help assist the offense really take off in every game. It all started in the 2013-2014 season when ex NBA player Andrew Rautins was hauled in and his bombs away attitude and consistency with his shooting not only fascinated fans, but also helped the club win games on a regular basis. It was only too bad that injuries cut his season short a few days after Christmas. In two of the last four years, Herbert did it again trusting immensely in real Canadian sniper attacking in reeling in Philip Scrubb who for many critics is considered the best Canadian college player of all-time. In two seasons, the Carleton legend was a very vital role player helping the 2000 BBL cup winner win their third club title with the Fiba Europe Cup in 2016 and last season was an instrumental part of the team being successful and taking the future 2018 BBL champion FC Bayern Munich to an exciting and hard fought five game series before running out of gas. His beautiful shooting touch, almost perfect step back mid distance jumper and his unbelievable feel of where the rim is with his shot is something that will always be remembered as he attempts the next step in his career with Zenit of Russia. Herbert´s keen success rate of bringing in feared shooting snipers has continued this season as he has reeled in ex Baylor standout Brady Heslip who owns the G-League record with most three´s dropped in a game with 13. One has already seen the precise accuracy of the talented Canadian in pre-season as he dropped three after three at the Gezeiten Cup. He is an interesting player that has those chiseled good features coupled with a deadly shot that will give all fans something to swoon about at games. In a way the Herbert trust in real Canadian snipers is like the famous saying in God We Trust that every American has read on the one dollar Bill and wondered what does it mean? This phrase was scrawled on the famous Mayflower Compact as the first European settlers arrived in the new world which is now the United States. Back then the saying was supposed to reassure people that they had to trust in God as they would need his trust when they encountered many of the problems like malnutrition. Critics on the other hand have opposed this saying that this saying is an insult to the roots of the country. The reason is the people born and raised in the States never had to face that kind of turmoil and want the words done away with. All in all, it is never negative to have faith in God, at least those that believe in it or to believe in the success rate of very very good shooters that Herbert has. If the basketball God will always be on the side of the Fraport Skyliners is more than unlikely, but the Fraport Skyliners could use that term simply because they will trust in real Canadian shooting fire power again for success.
After making the easyCredit BBL playoffs in three of the last four years, the 2000 cup winner Fraport Skyliners continue to have huge ambitions with reaching the playoffs and getting as far as possible. This is a very special season because it is their 20th season that has given them three titles including the 2004 BBL league title and 2016 Fiba Europe Cup. Last season who knows what could have been had they somehow been able to dispose of top team FC Bayern Munich which they lost a very tough five game series where they already were up 2-1, but then unfortunately were put in their place and came back down to earth getting clobbered in the last two games. The club demonstrated in this series just what they are capable of when they have the right mix of players and the right coach pulling the strings from the sidelines with Gordon Herbert. The team chemistry was there and they played with a lot of heart and everyone can be sure that this season´s team will have that again, but one added vital component with experience that will take them far. The club continues to be a poster child of how you correctly develop young players as the last years have shown with Euroleague players Johnannes Voigtmann and Danilo Barthel and NBA player Isaac Bonga. Nothing will change as the next young bucks are in the basketball stable of Gordon Herbert with Elijah Clarance and Aaron Kayser. Without being too excited about Clarance, but what he has shown in the last months at the U-20 European championships and in pre-season one can´t be careful, but just has to be overzealous about him, because sky is the limit for him. Granted losing their two offensive weapons Philipp Scrubb and Tai Webster who almost averaged half the team´s total points was a blow coupled with Isaac Bonga moving to the Los Angeles Lakers also hurt considering he most likely would have had a season like Dennis Schroeder had in 2012-2013 with Braunschweig before he headed to the NBA and the Atlanta Hawks. The Fraport Skyliners did an excellent job building their team early in contrast to most other season´s where the budget wasn´t in place and players came later when they were cheaper. However the fact that Isaac Bonga was drafted gave Frankfurt a nice check of money that helped make the off season moves easier to handle. This season´s roster on paper is as strong if not even better than last season and bearing nasty injuries will only get better as the season moves along as is always the case with Gordon Herbert clubs.
The Fraport Skyliners held on to six players with the most important being Quantez Robertson. He isn´t getting any younger as the Cincinnati native turns 34 in December, but his good friend Jermale Jones added that he isn´t slowing down and most probably will continue to play until he physically can´t. Which means that the Fraport Skyliners management will have to figure something out how to continue to hold him when his contract expires. Last season he played 40 games averaging 10.1ppg, 4.6rpg, 2.7apg, Steals-2(1.9spg), FGP: 45.6%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 79.3%. He continues to be a solid offensive option and still belongs to the best defenders in the league. He is the identity figure of the club and is on the best way to follow the Jena oldie trio of Allen, Jenkins and Mcelroy to the 40´s club in the BBL. The club also held on to big man Jonas Wolfarth-Bottermann who is a 28 year old 208cm center that is in his prime. After not making the real breakthrough in Bonn, Berlin or Ulm, Gordon Herbert showed him confidence last season and he delivered having his best season as a professional averaging 9.6ppg, 4.7rpg, Blocks-5(1.1bpg), FGP: 60.6%, FT: 46.3%. His physicality,scoring, rebounding and shot blocking give the team much stability at both ends of the court. His free throw shooting continues to be huge work in progress as he shot only 46% last season something which seems to be more a mental thing that anything else. The team also kept Swedish glue guy Shawn Huff who does a little bit of everything on the court and more. Another player that is up in age with 34 years, but the 198cm forward plays and feels like he is 27. Last season he played 37 games averaging 9.1ppg, 3.6rpg, FGP: 48.1%, 3PT: 45.5%, FT: 87.8%. Two big assets to his game is his timely three point shooting and hard nosed defense that is still there despite his age. Plus his leadership qualities and experience is a huge plus and he is one of those guys when he preaches to the young bucks, his words will remain in their brains and not escape out the ears.
Marco Voeller was also retained and he is one of those great stories where his determination and never ending hard work coupled with not necessarily the most talent enabled him to reach the BBL at age 27. Last season Voeller came to the Fraport Skyliners having 40 games of BBL experience in his baggage with his brief time with the Giessen 46ers. The ex TV Langen role player and ex Gotha leader where he put up strong Pro A stats is a player that lives off emotion and work ethic. It doesn´t hurt that he is a very physical player and his efficiency off the bench will be vital for the team when the first team takes a breather. He is also a better defender than what he is given credit for. His best trait though is his character. He is the son of German legendary soccer player Rudi Voeller and if one didn´t know who he was, one would never ever come upon the idea that he has a famous father. He is down to earth and is one of those guys that comes to work each day, does his job well and goes home without any drama in between. One of the most interesting players held is German Richard Freudenberg. The 20 year old 204cm forward was at a time held as one of the top prospects from the birth year 1998 together with NBA player Isaiah Hartenstein. His lost year at St Johns(NCAA) in 2016-2017 brought him back and last season not making an impact in the rotation didn´t help him either. Last season the German played 27 BBL games averaging 3.0ppg, 1.2rpg and played also with the Fraport Skyliners Frankfurt II (ProB) playing 13 games averaging 10.5ppg, 4.0rpg, 1.2spg, FGP: 37.5%, 3PT: 32.9%, FT: 68.8%. The 2015 NBBL winner, 2016 Albert Schweitzer winner and 2018 U-20 Bronze medalist showed some signs of breaking out last season with 19 points against Alba Berlin and 16 points against ratiopharm Ulm. Head coach Gordon Herbert likes his game and attitude and perhaps he will make his breakthrough this season. He had a sold U-20 European championships averaging 6,7ppg and 4,3rpg. His shot is his biggest weapon, but this season he will focus more on being a rebounder while not thinking too much on his shot, but just letting the game come to him. Garai Zeeb is in his fourth season with the club and has 32 BBL games to show for. He mostly has played in the Pro B with the farm team where he improved his scoring average each year from seven to nine to 14. His biggest problem is the massive competition at the guard position that hasn´t allowed him to make his breakthrough in the BBL yet. His biggest weapon is his shot, but he is a good playmaker and defender. All he needs is to get a chance from head coach Gordon Herbert.
The club reeled in six new faces with Brady Heslip, Jason Clark, Akeem Vargas, Erik Murphy, Trae Bell Haynes, and Elijah Clarance. In terms of scoring and three point shooting, Canadian sniper Brady Heslip who is a 28 year old 191cm guard who won the NIT title in 2013 with Baylor(NCAA) should be the answer to Philipp Scrubb as he can shoot out the lights. His uncle is Jay Triano who played for Canadian National Team for 11 years and spent nearly three years as head coach of NBA’s Toronto Raptors and Heslip´s three point consistency is amazing as he has shot 40% or better every season as a professional in the G-League twice and in Bosnia and Italy. The only time he was below 40% was last season with Trabzonspor Medical Park Basketbol (Turkey-BSL) where he played 23 games averaging 16.0ppg, 1.3rpg, 2.3apg, FGP: 51.8%, 3PT: 35.2%, FT: 86.3% and played 2 FIBA Europe Cup games averaging 9.5ppg, 1.0rpg, 2.5apg. He is an under the radar passer and even if his defense is suspect, just practicing daily with defensive guru´s with Robertson, Vargas, Clark and Huff will help improve his defense easily. The club also signed American Jason Clark who is a 28 year old 188cm guard from Arlington, Texas that once already had BBL experience briefly with BG Goettingen. The ex Georgetown(NCAA) standout who averaged double figures in scoring in three of four years there has played mostly in Belgium and two seasons ago was the league MVP with Telenet Giants Antwerp (Belgium-Euromillions League). Last season he played 29 game averaging 8.8ppg, 2.2rpg, 2.5apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 46.0%, 3PT: 32.9%, FT: 88.5% and played 6 BCL games averaging 14.0ppg, 3.5rpg, 4.2apg, FGP: 57.8%, 3PT: 36.8%, FT: 68.8% and played 6 FIBA Europe Cup games averaging 14.7ppg, 2.2rpg, 3.3apg, FGP: 67.9%, 3PT: 45.0%, FT: 85.2%. Clark is a combo guard and mostly played shooting guard in his career except for two seasons ago in Belgium where he played point guard. Gordon Herbert has a lot of confidence in his abilities. He is a genuine scorer and should average between 14-17 ppg in the BBL and be around 4-5 assists exactly what Justin Cobbs did four seasons ago leading the club to success. Plus his defense is excellent and he will be a vital force on the perimeter keeping guys in check. A very vital pick up was Akeem Vargas who is a 28 year old 192cm guard that won 3 cups with Alba Berlin and has 226 BBL games under his belt. Many may think he is the classic three and d player, but he is so much more. He is a champion, leader and role model and will be another added experienced guy that will help the young players. His physical on ball defense is feared by BBL teams.
The team also reeled in Erik Murphy who is a 27 year old 208cm forward/center that has the American/Finish citizenship and is the son of ex NBA player and Boston College stand out Jay Murphy. The ex Florida(NCAA) Gator who was drafted by the Chicago Bulls and played 24 NBA games has extensive European experience in Turkey, France and Italy. Last season he played for JSF Nanterre (France-ProA) playing 10 Basketball Champions League games averaging 4.7ppg, 3.6rpg and 13 French ProA games averaging 7.0ppg, 2.4rpg, 2FGP: 54.5%, 3FGP: 44.1%, FT: 71.4%. He was more of a dominant big man early in his career and in the last years had more shooting on his basketball menu as he has a strong three leading the BCL two seasons ago while playing for Strassburg, but this season, it looks like he will be more of a force in the paint which he has demonstrated in pre-season on a regular basis. His solid defense and good shot blocking capabilities will be a big help at both ends of the court for the club. The team also brought in rookie Trae Bell-Haynes who is a 23 year old 188cm guard from Ontario, Canada that was given a three month contract with an option until the end of the season. He had a stellar four year career at Vermont(NCAA) winning the AEC tournament in 2017 and as a senior played 33 games averaging 14.6ppg, 4.2rpg, 4.0apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 54.1%, 3PT: 34.9%, FT: 73.7%. He has made a positive impression in the pre-season as he is a pass first guard, but also can score well in the paint off the penetration. It will be interesting to see if he can make the grade in the first few months and if not the team will quickly bring in a new player. The most exciting and interesting player development to watch will be Elijah Clarance. He is a 20 year old Swedish athletic beast 195cm guard that has a contract with the Pro B team, but he has shown good play in the BBL test games and already shown that he could be a top player at the Pro B level. Last season he played at Illinois State, but couldn´t make an impact and came back to Europe. He plays like Damian Lillard and has a nonstop athleticism and is the biggest young talent since Isaac Bonga. The question is how long it will take until he makes his BBLdebut.
So where will the journey of the Fraport Skyliners go in 2018-2019. As I have stated so many times in the last years, anything is possible when you have Gordon Herbert at the helm. Captain Quantez Robertson believes that his team who he is playing now for in his 10th season can win the title. So why not? The club has three chances in the cup, Eurocup and BBL. Their best bet begins on October 6th with a home battle against strong team ratiopharm Ulm. After that they will need only three wins. Winning in the Eurocup will be the most difficult hurdle simply because their low budget won´t be able to compete with the other teams that have loftier budgets, but then again when you play for Herbert, the game is never over until the fat lady sings. Last season they took FC Bayern Munich to the ropes and they later would win the title. The team´s two biggest strengths will be their incredible experience as they have eight players 27 or older and their defense which is always spot on in Herbert´s system. The club as they have done in the past let their pesky defense help spark their offense and play more transition. The arrivals of Jason Clark and Akeem Vargas will bolster their perimeter defense something that was lacking last season. In the last years they have always had lethal 1-2 position scoring punch with Justin Cobbs-Sean Armand, Jordan Theodore-Philipp Scrubb and Tai Webster-Philipp Scrubb, but this season the duo of Jason Clark-Brady Heslip could be the best they ever had. Also the duo of Wolfarth-Bottermann-Murphy could also belong to the better big man duo´s and possibly remind fans of the good old days with Voigtmann-Barthel. A weakness could be their bench which isn´t deep so having to rely on their starters could be difficult. A key player could be Richard Freudenberg. With the loss of Niklas Kiel, the club desperately needs consistent input from one of their German players. Having Freudenberg blossom would be the biggest gift for Gordon Herbert. The Fraport Skyliners will finish somewhere between 3-7 and make a run in the playoffs as long as they don’t get dogged by injuries.