At this time last season, the Dragons Rhondorf were in a way living in a fairy tale as they had experienced a great start to the season which carried them until the new year and had many jolly faces in the Dragon Dome. They were playing great team ball and most important winning games something that hadn´t been the case two seasons ago in the Pro A and the season before that left them in the playdowns saving their season with severe effort that almost bit them in their butts. A big reason for their success last season was there once in a century perfect acquisition in Kam Taylor who was the all around player any Pro B coach would love to have. A guy that filled the stat sheet like a mini Russell Westbrook and the kind of guy that had those perfect white teeth for that Crest commercial and had the jovial friendly smile that would invite any person from 8-80 to go out and have a tasty dinner and talk about life with him. Kameron Taylor was the team last season, but one can´t forget that head coach Thomas Adelt also had the correct supporting cast as unsung hero Viktor Frankl-Maus was one of the top point guards in the league and guys like Thomas Michel and Valentin Blass were the perfect supporting cast that had consistency and team play plastered into their heads the way Kyre Irving has that next Uncle Drew commercial in the off season. Times were great a year ago and overall the season was a good one even if their playoff run ended way to early. A year ago the Dragons Rhondorf had a 10-4 record and was one of the top teams in the Pro B south with the ScanPlus Baskets and a year later they are in the Pro B cellar with a 3-11 record and reeling for their basketball lives. The Dragons Rhondorf have had numerous problems this season that have reflected their current standings position in the Pro B south and problems that the club just haven´t been able to correct so far. The Dragons Rhondorf desperately need to quickly conjure up victories at 10 to midnight to save the season.
Two very good examples of how tough and annoying the season has been at times were their two last home games against the wiha Panthers Schwenningen and the RheinStars Cologne. These were games that they could have won and now have a 5-9 record and be in suitable breathing room with chances of really competing for the last playoff places. Instead they are in the ugly cellar and looking up a steep ladder to save themselves. Against new team wiha Panthers Schwenningen that have remained unbeaten at home since March 2017 and have been sort of a surprise team this season, the Dragons Rhondorf were on their heels for 37 minutes and in good striking distance for the win. Instead they lost their nerves and let the new team close out the game with a 8-0 run. Potential 2018-2019 Pro B MVP Rasheed Moore of the wiha Panthers Schwenningen showed why he is on MVP course not only hitting big three´s in the second half, but making huge plays in the last three minutes with a steal and crucial offensive rebound to break the backs of Rhondorf. The Dragons were so close, but what the team must understand and learn is that a game has 40 minutes and one has to play until the buzzer sounds. Of course this all is so elementary, but basketball isn´t always so complex when one understands the basics. The other example was their last game before Christmas where they battled the RheinStars Cologne and were leading 78-68 with seven minutes to play and the chances looked good that they might pull out the victory. But then once again were unable to hold the lead and caved in. They were hit with their fifth team foul very early and allowed the RheinStars to come back and take the lead. A good sign was that Rhondorf didn´t totally lose their nerves and stayed with the RheinStars and even had the chance to win the game with 14 seconds to go trailing 86-85. But a silly mistake on the inbounds play ruined their chance. The Dragons Rhondorf even had a second life and had another chance with 11 seconds to go to bring the game to overtime with a bucket or to win the game with a trey. Once again they were halted as the RheinStars played smart defense keying in on their primary targets and forced captain Joe Koschade to take the crucial shot, a player who is more known for making the big hustle or steal play instead of the game winning shot. The Dragons Rhondorf were denied again the opportunity to win the game as little mishaps at the end cost them a vital win.
The difficulties for the Dragons Rhondorf started very early as one clearly began to see that the two new import players Raekwon Miller and Joe Mvuezolo didn´t pan out to be the players that they had hoped to be. They are solid basketball players, but just didn´t bring the needed consistency at both ends of the court or the needed energy that would carry the other German players. Especially Miller showed signs of breaking out and might of, but he cut his stay short by asking for his release based on personal reasons. Had these two players paned out then one may be sitting at a totally different spot in the standings. Of course one can´t forget that another reasons why the Dragons Rhondorf aren´t where they are last season is on account of the departures of Frankl-Maus, Valentin Blass and Thomas Michel. These three players were key role players from last season that helped carry the team as Kameron Taylor was doing his magic on the court. Taylor´s 23,4 points surely are missing and his absence has been compensated somewhat by the arrival of the Lithuanian double double beast Zygimantas Riuaka, but the overall lost points of 28 from the German trio of Frankl-Maus, Blass and Michel hurts. Frankl-Maus and Michel averaged double figures in scoring and Blass averaged only 5,7ppg, but how much head coach Thomas Adelt would crave to have at least one of them on his side now. It wasn´t just their scoring, but each guy knew their role and had this special energy that they brought at all times. That coupled with the team chemistry and harmony really sparked the team to success last season especially in moments in games where it was tough or tight. That is something that is dearly missing this season.
Another negative aspect to this team this season has been the injury bug as well. Guys like Sam Horvath and Philip Gruber have been missed, but injuries is always something that one has to be able to somehow compensate. Now Karl Dia is out as the injury woes continue with the Dragons. Another negative aspect is that overall the club is less talented than last season. The quality of the German players at the Pro B level is so crucial and that is something that is missing with this seasons team. Last season a guy like Patrick Reusch and Joe Koschade were sparked by the quality of the German players and were really challenged in practice. This season Reusch is gone and Joe Koschade is one of the main German players with Yannick Kneesch and Alex Moeller that have to carry the other German players. Kneesch and Moeller have Pro B experience, but a guy like Koschade doesn´t. But one has to tip their cap to a guy like Koschade. He isn´t blessed with the gigantic talent, but there is no guy that plays with more hustle or heart on this team than him. He is a guy when the team awards are given at the end of the season that should get most improved and unsung hero. The club has talent at the German spots. New guys like Julian Jasinski and Bo Meister have BBL experience, but haven´t been as consistent as they would have liked. The same goes for guys like Kneesch and Moeller. Especially these two guys have to make that next step at the Pro B level now. Kneesch already played 45 Pro B games with Speyer and is in his third Pro B season with Rhondorf and has experience. Moeller practices daily with the Telekom Baskets Bonn and also has talent and potential, but also needs to step up especially his aggressiveness in the paint area. On the court the club is scoring to little averaging 73 points per game and giving up way to many points at 81 points per game. They are rebounding the ball pretty way at 33 per game, but when your star player Riauka is getting one third of the team rebounds and point guard Kwam Waller is the team´s third best rebounder, one has to wonder just how good are they really. Upping their aggressiveness in the paint and mastering clogging up the middle the way a Gordon Herbert´s system in Frankfurt has done in the past is something that could help sharpen up their defense as well as toning up the one on one defense is something that could do wonders in their points allowed category.
Even if the season has been a struggle and 10 to midnight has arrived, there have been some positives this season. The arrival of Zygimantas Riauka has been like a golden egg on Easter. One can only wonder where the club would be now if he hadn´t been signed or if they had picked up an average player. Riauka has been absolutely brilliant averaging 17,1ppg, 11,8rpg and 3,4apg, 1,4spg and 1,6bpg. It has been a real delight to watch him play and head coach Thomas Adelt did his home work with this pick up. It has been a real pleasure watching how the Lithuanian big man plays every game as if it was his last. Every game is a battle for him on the court and he doesn´t shy´s away from no duel on the court. A big positive in his game is his massive leadership qualities. It is a joy to observe how much he tries to motivate his teammates at all times. He often brings his guys into huddles in difficult moments and his lethal outlet passes on transition and out of the post belong to the best at the big man positions. If this team is going to crawl out of the cellar, then they won´t only achieve it with their play, but also with the motivation abilities of Zygimantas Riauka. If he can get the team believing more that they can play with anyone and beat teams, then there could be a chance that the Dragons will sprout real fire on the court that could spark a kind of team chemistry that the team is so dearly searching for, but then again shots also have to start falling on a more regular basis and they have to finally find a defensive identity. Another strength on this losing team at the moment is their fighting qualities that the team has seemed to keep intact the last years. This is something they have demonstrated this season on many occasions and now just need to put it all together in crunch-time. They have been in games at the end, but often were overwhelmed executing correctly as mental lapses occurred. The fighting qualities are definitely there and need to be kept while executing well in crunch-time are improved with experience.
It is ten to midnight and now the club needs to perform and conjure up victories quickly. Some may have seen the pick up of 36 year old dinosaur Anish “the fountain of youth” Sharda as a skeptical act, but the guy is in amazing shape having cut out Wiener Schnitzel from his diet in 2014 and is better and in better shape than any other 36 year old in the Pro B. He came from the Regionalliga and was averaging 21,2ppg and hit Fellbach for 44 points. He scored 11 points in his Rhondorf debut in the loss to the RheinStars and displayed abilities to hit big shots. His scoring and leadership qualities could be the Dragons Rhondorf ticket from playing in a place like Kronberg next season instead of a place like Frankfurt. He also has good playmaking qualities and that will be vital for the team scoring more points than what they give up. The team has two top scorers with Riauka and Waller who bring 32 of the team points. If a Sharda could be capable of averaging double figures in scoring then that would be almost half the rent of finding some team scoring consistency. Of course another vital act will be for the German role players to up their consistency. The team has to bring their abilities in the second half of the season and show that any of the German role players can step up at any night. Guys like Kneesch, Moeller, Meister, and Jasinski have to bring that consistency somehow and just believe they can. This is where the coaching staff has to do overtime work working on the mental side of the game. Consistency will come as soon as they have a good game which will help raise their self confidence. The games don´t get any easier as they begin with two tough games in Frankfurt and at home against much improved Basketball Lowen. After losing their last two games, the club desperately needs a positive experience sooner than later. If the club can begin to defend the way they did last season than there is definitely hope with this club. The club wants to win will continue to fight in the second half of the season. The season definitely isn´t over yet, but with the right attitude that the new season starts now in 2019 could refresh the player´s minds. The key will be how well the German role players execute and how well the team can defend as it is 10 to midnight and there won´t be a Kam Taylor ready to save the team at mid night now like he did last season time in and time out.