Ok so legendary German coach Dirk Bauermann was already sporting the man in black suits in the 90´s with the Bayer Giants Leverkusen and kept the trend in Bamberg more than 10 years ago. Bauermann was briefly back in the easyCredit BBL with Wurzburg, but vanished again, but one guy who has kept the Bauermann look alive and kept in trendy over the last 10 years has been MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg head coach John Patrick. The only difference is that there is no black and grey hair matching the suit as was the case with Bauermann, but light hair that match his yellow Riesen tie nicely. Patrick without a doubt belongs to the most consistent and best coaches the BBL has seen in the last 10 years even if he won only one title while other guys like Chris Fleming and Andrea Trinchieri could fill their living room shelf with hardware. The reason he belongs to the best is because he has been so consistent everywhere he has coached from Goettingen to Ludwigsburg via Wurzburg having a limited budget in Goettingen and bringing along unknown players that would reach the next levels as professionals. He totally turned around a weak franchise in Goettingen bringing them to the BBL and topping off his run with the 2010 Eurochallenge title. In Wurzburg he was only active one season, but there reached the playoffs kicking out Alba Berlin and having a John Little who stole the limelight from the 2010 BBL MVP Dashaun Wood who couldn´t lead his team past Wurzburg. In Goettingen and Wurzburg, he was able to achieve success despite having a limited budget and really one of his secrets to success was simply having that killer instinct for reeling in the right type of player for each position with playing skills and character being at one level. His coaching consistency and brilliance continued now in Ludwigsburg where he came to in January 2013 and was a fireman saving their season and keeping the club in the league and the rest is history. The MHP Riesen have without a doubt belonged to the best teams in the BBL in the last five years after the big three of Bamberg, Berlin and Munich. His track record in the last five has been excellent as he had three eighth finishes, finished fifth once and last season had their best regular season finishing in third. The club also reached the semi-finals of the playoffs for only the third time in their history. Another huge accomplishment last season was reaching the Basketball Champions League final 4 where they simply had a rough weekend finishing in fourth place. Granted with the MHP Riesen, the American who played at Stanford(NCAA) has had a lot better budgets given to him in Ludwigsburg and had many top players like DJ Kennedy, Jack Cooley or Coby Karl over the years, but that last step and winning a title has eluded the coaching mastermind. When will the Man in black suit finally be rewarded with a title? As is the case for so many other BBL teams, the best bet will be in the cup. Patrick and Co will travel back to his old stomping ground Goettingen. If he can escape with a victory, he will only need three more wins for the title. He surely will have his team ready again for the Basketball Champions League and should get far and in the BBL, he has delivered on a consistent basis. His style of playing aggressive full court terror agitates most teams and it works for him. The only road block could be that he lost many key players from last seasons success and will have to begin from scratch. He guarantees success each season and just following the club this season will be worth the while, because he will be successful again and for that title to happen only the basketball God will know if it will finally become reality.
Building on to that season momentum from the previous season becomes a lot more difficult when a club loses a majority of it´s key players. The two biggest loses was rising star Thomas Walkup that moved to Zalgiris and German national player Johannes Thiemann to Alba Berlin. But not only these guys were huge blows to lose, but also other key role players like Dwayne Evans, Kerron Johnson and Justin Sears to just name a few. The club was able to hang on to two guys with David McCray and Adam Waleskowski. Mccray is in his eighth season with the club and fourth with John Patrick after playing with Bonn and Artland in between. Last season the 31 year old 187cm guard played 38 BBL games averaging 3.8ppg, 1.6rpg, 1.2spg and 26 BCL games averaging 4.1ppg, 1.5rpg, 1.0apg. He is the identity figure on the team and anchor on defense. He doesn´t give much offense, but his top notch defense, experience and leadership are more than valuable. Adam Waleskowski is a 35 year old 203cm forward that doesn´t seem to want to hang them up as he continues to be a solid role player. He is going into his 15th professional season and sixth with Ludwigsburg. He and Patrick see eye to eye as they now will be together 7 years as they first teamed up in 2010-2011 in Goettingen. He has a very versatile game and is underestimated as a defender. Last season he played 38 BBL games averaging 8.5ppg, 4.3rpg, 1.4apg, FGP: 52.2%, 3PT: 37.4%, FT: 63.4%; and 26 BCL games averaging 6.5ppg, 4.3rpg, 1.2apg, FGP: 51.3%, 3PT: 28.9%, FT: 78.6%. The club will profit from th ex Florida State(NCAA) leadership and experience.
The club brought in as usual a large number of new players and as always the talent level is huge. They picked up a lethal scorer with Lamont Jones who is a 28 year old 183cm guard from Harlem, New York that played at Arizona(NCAA) and Iona(NCAA) and played in countries like Japan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Montenegro and Finland. He averaged 20ppg or more at Iona, Montenegro and Japan. Last season with MBC he averaged 17.2ppg, 1.8rpg, 3.6apg, FGP: 50.1%, 3PT: 32.6%, FT: 81.0%. He probably won´t average as much as last season, but always be willing to take that last shot. 28 year old 187cm German Konstantin Klein is looking to make the next step in his career after breaking out with Frankfurt winning the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup, but the last two seasons with Bonn were unsatisfactory as injuries plagued him playing only 41 BBL games. In the BBL he averaged 5.2ppg, 1.1rpg, 1.5apg, FGP: 24.1%, 3PT: 38.0%, FT: 82.0%, and in the BCL 5.4ppg, 1.9rpg, 1.9apg, FGP: 38.5%, 3PT: 28.1%, FT: 89.5%. He has an amazing attitude and his aggressive defense will fit perfectly into the Patrick system. His good three will help put the three point team percentage up something that has been lacking as of late. Still only 22 years of age 198cm guard Malcolm Hill is as raw as they get as he had a solid rookie season with the Telekom Baskets Bonn averaging in the BBL 8.6ppg, 3.3rpg, 1.3apg, FGP: 55.6%, 3PT: 33.7%, FT: 81.9%, and in the BCL 11.9ppg, 2.6rpg, 1.2apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 42.9%, FT: 88.9%. The ex Illinois(NCAA) guard who averaged 17,0ppg in his last two NCAA seasons could have challenged Lamont Jones for the scoring title had he been able to use his whole potential and been consistent. His amazing athleticism and one on one abilities will win him many new fans in Ludwigsburg. Another big pick up for Patrick was diminutive 168cm guard Jordon Crawford who played at Bowling Green(NCAA) and had solid seasons in the G-League for Westchester and Memphis shooting 42 % and 47% from outside. Last season he played for the Memphis Hustle (NBA G League) playing 27 games averaging 8.9ppg, 1.4rpg, 3.5apg, 1.1spg, 2FGP: 51.1%, 3FGP: 47.4%, FT: 76.0%, in Jan.’18 moved to KK MZT Skopje Aerodrom (FYR Macedonia-Prva Liga) playing 23 games averaging 11.8ppg, 1.6rpg, 5.0apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 50.3%, 3PT: 36.1%, FT-3(89.3%). One thing this team will have will be experience as with 30 year old 191clm guard Jeff Ledbetter, Patrick gets a player that could pass for his ex player Robert Kulawick and shines with his three. He shot 48% from downtown for the Austin Torros, shot 44% in Mexico and was the top free throw shooter there one season shooting 91%. The ex Idaho(NCAA) guard has played in Brasil, G_League and Mexico and has no European experience which could hinder him at first a bit.
John Patrick has had his share of luck and misfortune over the last years hauling in rookies from the NCAA and this season Kelan Martin will attempt his professional break through with him. The 23 year old 201cm forward from Louisville, Kentucky had a stellar career at Butler reaching the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2017 and really broke out as a senior averaging 21.3ppg, 6.3rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 52.0%, 3PT: 36.4%, FT: 83.7%. He was able to improve his scoring each season and last summer had a decent NBA Summer League with the Utah Jazz. He is a modern forward that offensively has the whole package. Last season at Butler he hit Xavier and Villanova back to back for 34 and 30 points and shot 14/24 from outside. Another rookie that John Patrick will have trust in is American Thomas Wilder. Wilder is a 23 year old 190cm guard from Oswego, Illinois that had a great career at Western Michigan (NCAA) where he averaged 19,0ppg in his last three seasons and scored 40 points against Toledo, 38 points against Bowling Green and 35 points against Eastern Michigan He fills in for the departed point guard Kerron Johnson and will bolster the team with his lethal scoring as well as being an asset on defense. After seven seasons in the second German Bundesliga where he played five in the Pro A and two in the Pro B, German Christian Von Fintel is back in the easyCredit BBL. He last played 17 games for MBC in the 2010-2011 season. The 28 year old 190cm shooting guard had his break out season and best in the Pro A with Hanau last season averaging 8.2ppg, 2.9rpg, 1.1spg, FGP: 43.1%, 3PT: 39.1%, FT: 65.6%. He has been a solid and consistent shooter in thePpro A and will give the Ludwigsburg guards breathers and help bring stability on defense. Owen Klassen is a 26 year old 208cm center from Kingston, Ontario that has BBL experience with Phoenix Hagen and Wurzburg. He is a hard worker that does all the work in the zone and has a knack for offensive rebounds. Last season he played with PAOK Thessaloniki (Greece-A) averaging 7.1ppg, 5.8rpg, 2FGP: 51.4%, FT: 67.6%, and played 9 BCL games averaging 5.1ppg, 3.6rpg, 2FGP: 41.2%, FT: 66.7%. He also played for the s.Oliver Wuerzburg (Germany-BBL) averaging 8.6ppg, 5.5rpg, FGP: 56.6%, FT: 77.9%. Shortly before the begin of the season, the team made a real steal reeling in Euroleague player Trevor Mbakwe who comes for the injured Klassen. Mbakwe who played at Minnesota(NCAA) is a 29 year old 207cm center from St Paul, Minnesota in his sixth season and played in Italy, Israel, Spain and Germany with Bamberg. Last season he played with Fiat Torino (Italy-Serie A) averaging 12.8ppg, Reb-5(7.6rpg), FGP-1(70.2%), 3PT-2(50.0%), FT: 72.4%; and played Eurocup averaging 8.0ppg, 4.8rpg, 1.0spg, FGP: 65.4%, FT: 85.7%. The club recently brought in Canadian national player Aaron Best who is a 26 year old 193cm guard that has professional experience in the G-League and in Lithuania. Last season he played with the Raptors 905 Missisauga (NBA G League) playing 52 games averaging 7.8ppg, 2.5rpg, 1.7apg, FGP: 49.2%, 3PT: 37.2%, FT: 81.6%. He is another scoring guard that will bring havoc to the defense with his aggressive play. German 21 year old 198cm guard Karim Jallow rounds out the deep rotation as he is on loan from FC Bayern Munich. The German is very athletic and wants to find a place in the rotation as he didn´t get a fair chance with FC Bayern Munich the last three years playing only 36 BBL games. If he can increase his minutes in Ludwigsburg is the question as the guard rotation is stacked like in Munich.
So where will the easyCredit journey of the MHP Riesen go this season? It is no secret that the league continues to stay competitive and that even teams in the lower area of the standings have the ability to be a top team like a Ludwigsburg. That is why it is more than half the rent if a club is able to hire the right mix of players and John Patrick has demonstrated his whole career that he has a good feel of what is right for success. It is difficult to comment if this year´s club is as strong or better than last season´s team because like last year there are many unproven players in the pro ranks especially the rookies Martin and Wilder. Who would have thought a year ago that a Thomas Walkup and a Elgin Cook would have such a big impact on the success of the team. Under the hoop, they were already well stocked with Radsavoljevic and Klassen, but with the arrival of Mbakwe, the club has a totally different dimension inside and with a Waleskowski coming from the bench and a Martin helping out in the paint, they will be very tough down low. The guard rotation is as always very versatile and deep and will give opponents tremendous problems with their nasty press defense. Especially if Klein stays healthy will be the key player that will remind opponents that you can´t take one play off as those pesky guards don´t stop, but keep coming at you for 40 minutes. The three point shooting has been suspect over then years, but they already improved in that area last season and have brought in some fine pieces with Ledbetter and Hill. They averaged 86 points per game last season and should be in the 80´s again this season which with the added turnovers caused to their opponents will give them more possessions and chances for transition buckets. Their defense will also be to reckon with as they will be in the low 70´s. The club is deep at every position and all it needs is a stable team chemistry and stay free of injuries. They will finish somewhere between 3-6 and at least reach the semi-finals of the playoffs.