In the last game of the season for the Fraport Skyliners Juniors fans saw a bit of everything against Lok Bernau, but then again some things were also missing. After a stroll through the park against Bochum where they took revenge from last season´s series loss with a stellar sweep, they weren´t so lucky against Lok Bernau getting swept. Against Lok Bernau fans got to witness huge 17 year old German talent Franz Wagner who is the brother of Los Angeles Lakers forward Moritz play something not as common in the Pro B as he is already a strong part of the Alba Berlin roster and plays more with them, a rare three pointer from Tobias Jahn that got the extra attention of Fraport Skyliner lifer Quantez Robertson who quickly remembered Mike Morrison´s rare three last season and had to admit that even big men can have some luck shooting the trey. One also saw the game changing play of the game as diminutive 178cm Lok Bernau guard Bennet Hundt hit a massive three after being 0/8 from the field sealing the win for them as Frankfurt didn´t play bad at all controlling the boards and hitting 12 three´s thanks to big contribution from German Felix Hecker, but Frankfurt couldn´t execute in the last 42 seconds and the guests closed out the game and series with six free throws. Two major things missing from this last game was Swedish super star Elijath Clarance and German Richard Freudenberg who could have made the difference between an early summer vacation and a date with top team Bayer Giants Leverkusen. Clarance had left the Pro B team in mid February to help bolster the BBL team Fraport Skyliners guard rotation, but in that time he played only three BBL games getting 19 minutes and 9 points and one Eurocup game. Ok so Frankfurt was fighting for a playoff spot, but already had a pretty good and deep guard rotation and could have let him also compete for the Pro B team. Freudenberg was injured and also would have been a big help had he been available. All in all it was another fruitful season for the Fraport Skyliners Juniors that was rewarded with the playoffs and continued to move forward the players of tomorrow.
The Fraport Skyliners Juniors began the season on fire winning it´s first 6 games, but then suffered a lull losing 4 games in a row as they had scoring woes including netting only 48 points against new team wiha Panthers Schwenningen. They then had another good span winning 5 of 7 games including a big 81-75 victory against 2018 Pro B champion ScanPlus Baskets. In this span they belonged to the best 4 teams in the Pro B south and continued to fight and hold the home court advantage for the playoffs. They then had another winning drought losing three games in a row, but finished the season strong beating the RheinStars and BBC Coburg and hung on to the home court advantage in the playoffs. Their biggest strength on the court this season was their defense ranked number one in the Pro B giving up an average 72 points per game holding teams to 70 points and under 11 times as they defended with passion and heart something not always present among young players, but head coach Sebastian Gleim installed serious discipline from the first day of practice and since being known as a very good coach with youth players since years and had been key for bringing Isaac Bonga to Frankfurt in 2015, the players had no problem buying into his defensive system. The whole willingness to defend well is something that has been seen for years starting in the easyCredit BBL under head coach Gordon Herbert even if it hasn´t been there this season, it remains alive in the youth area as Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners are also the top ranked defensive team in the NBBL(U-19 league).
The other big strength of the organization Fraport Skyliners since many years is the youth development where they have brought two German players Danilo Barthel and Johannes Voigtmann to the Euroleague ranks and with a bit more luck, the right contacts and right timing might have reached the NBA, but now a days you find the most curious signings happening so anything is possible even still now for the two German national players. This season the club inserted 22 players with the majority being young German talents and a few older guys like Tobias Jahn at age 32, and Dennis Mavin at age 27, but still youth was the main dish on the menu as the club still had an average age of 20,6 years. When you have a guy like Garai Zeeb that is 22 and is the fourth oldest on the team then you know that the club is very young. Even if four of the seven teenagers on the team were primarily NBBL(U-19) players with Leon Pullen, Calvin Schaum, Alvin Oniya and Jordan Samare totaled 20 games in all, three were role players with Aaron Kayser, Maxi Begue and Len Schoormann that totaled 66 games in all. There were also some guys like Garai Zeeb, Armin Trtovac, Richard Freudenberg, Cosmo Gruehn and Konstantin Schubert who have been with the club for many years and also have had BBL experience. It is important to take each player under the microscope and evaluate the steps they made in the last season. After the loss to Lok Bernau, veteran Tobias Jahn made a quick assessment of his teammates and who he felt made the biggest strides. “Schoormann, Begue, Gruehn and Hecker all developed further. Trtovac had a great season and for me was the best center in the Pro B”, warned Tobias Jahn. But there were many other players that got minutes, worked hard to get better and also needed to be evaluated including the two oldest guys Jahn and Mavin, the next generation players and then the real young kids.
Tobias Jahn was in his second season with the club and didn´t play much of a role in games, but was important to have as a mentor for the young players and helping the big men with their games. After averaging 5,6ppg and 6,1rpg two seasons ago, his minutes shrunk dramatically from 18,7 to 9,0 minutes and averaged only 3,5ppg and 2,3rpg in 8 games. Dennis Mavin played his fourth professional season and after a strong Pro B season with Giessen last season where he averaged 18.4ppg, 3.6rpg, 2.6apg, 1.7spg, FGP: 48.3%, 3PT: 36.1%, FT: 71.7%, he split this season between the ScanPlus Baskets Elchingen (Germany-ProB) playing 7 games averaging 10.3ppg, 3.4rpg, 2.1apg, 1.1spg, 2FGP: 40.7%, 3FGP: 16.7%, FT: 50.0% and then came to Frankfurt where he averaged 14,8ppg, 4,0rpg and 2,2apg and shot 37% from outside. He couldn´t get going with the ScanPlus Baskets as he got lost in the veteran shuffle, but in Frankfurt was allowed to be the veteran and be more vocal helping the young guards and finished the season well. He scored in double figures in 12 of 13 games and had a 23 point game against Leverkusen and 21 point games against Rhondorf and Bochum. He improved his shooting in Frankfurt and can be a top Pro B guard. The question now is will a Pro A team take a chance on him and give him an offer for next season? The most exciting player on the squad this season was Swedish shooting star Elijah Clarance. Fresh off being the leading scorer at the 2018 U-20 European championships in Chemnitz, Germany, he came to Frankfurt with a double license to play with the BBL team and Pro B team. He practiced more with the BBL team than got into games at the start and concentrated more on the Pro B team. In his first game in Rhondorf, he scored 21 points and erupted with some massive dunks that would continue the whole season. He played 17 Pro B games averaging 12,3ppg, 3,6rpg and 3,9apg and 1,5spg. He had some big games against Elchingen with 26 points and 24 points against the wiha Panthers. He came to Frankfurt to learn to become a point guard and at times his swing out pass resembled that of FC Bayern Munich guard Stefan Jovic and he had some nice playmaking abilities, but all in all too inconsistent. His biggest weapon is his dunk and athleticism and is always in attack mode like a Westbrook. Gordon Herbert lauded his unending work ethic and with the NBA being his ultimate goal, it definitely won´t be his hard work that will keep him from there. He is an amazing talent and a guy you would go to pay money extra to see because of his ESPN moment dunks, but he still needs to make better decisions, but hey the kid is 20 and is allowed to make mistakes and continue to learn the game. He had big moments in the BBL already and hit top Russian team Lok Kuban for 15 points in the Eurocup.This guy is so raw and has a huge future ahead of him.
After the two older players, you have the new generation Juniors veterans with Zeeb, Trtovac, Freudenberg, Cosmo Gruehn and Konstantin Schubert. Zeeb played his fourth season with the Fraport Skyliners Juniors and after improving his scoring in the first three seasons from 7 to 9 to 14, he fell this season to 11,2, but he made new strides with the BBL team. Currently he is at 51 BBL games and has 45 in total with Frankfurt. He had some fine Pro B games in wins against Bochum with 28 points and 21 points against FC Bayern Munich, but one could see that his focus was with the BBL team. He continues to be a solid three point shooter around 33%-34% in the Pro B, but can´t seem to make strides there. His playmaking combined with decision making continues to grow and he controls the tempo well. Despite having extreme stiff competition at the guard position in the BBL he has held his own and stepped up from the bench in many games hitting big shots, making key assists or big plays on defense. He hit 13 points against BG Goettingen and had 10 points against ratiopharm Ulm. There were enough games where he didn´t play more than 5 minutes. He needs to be in a situation where he gets full trust and receives consistent BBL minutes. He would be a star in the Pro A, but his focus will always be the BBL. Armin Trtovac played his fifth season and made another step. 2017-2018 was his break through season in the Pro B registering 11/8 stats and this season he went up a bit more averaging 13,4ppg and 7,4rpg and scored in double figures in 15 games and had 5 double doubles. Some big games of his included against the Lowen with 23 points and 12 boards and 22 points and 11 rebounds against Rhondorf. When he wants to, he can dominate the paint area in the Pro B like no other. He is still 21 and is raw and just needs to continue to believe that he can mix it up with anyone. Like Zeeb, he is in good company under the basket and never got much of a chance with the BBL club. Currently he has just 5 BBL games under his belt. He needs to get more confidence from the BBL coaching staff and take his aggressiveness from the Pro B to the BBL more.
Richard Freudenberg played his second season with Frankfurt and stat wise improved, but did he develop further? Injuries took a toll on him this season, but he had his moments. Known for being a shooter all his life, his shot didn´t fall as well in the BBL last season, but this season his focus was to rebound more and not think about his shot and it did wonders. Like Zeb his focus was on the BBL where he had some shinning moments like 21 points against Giessen or 12 points against Alba Berlin and Crailsheim, but his inconsistency has seemed to stand out the most. In the Pro B he averaged 12,5ppg and 5,6rpg and had some big games against Fc Bayern Munich with 23 points and 18 points against Bochum. His shooting also was very inconsistent in the Pro B, but better in the BBL, but can be a weapon if he continues to work at it. He needs to have a good summer of training so he can come into next season motivated and mentally ready for a possible make or break year. Konstantin Schubert has that baby face and is only 20, but completed his fifth season with the club and has 6 BBL games experience under his resume. He has had a nice development in Frankfurt and was able to improve his scoring and rebounding each season until this season where he averaged only 3,6ppg and 3,7rpg, but he had injury woes and a new deep roster shaved his minutes from 23 down to 14 minutes. It was a very tough season for him. His shot continues to be a work in progress, but he is a hustler that has a nice inside out game and runs the floor well. He could have a long Pro B career, but will need a break out season for him to be able to make the next step. One of the big development winners was Cosmo Gruehn who played his third season and improved his stats again going from 4/2 to 6/2 to 7/4 this season. In his first season in 2016-2017 he was one of the NBBL stars together with Isaac Bonga and Konstantin Schubert and now he is one of the most important role players on the farm team. He is a superb inside out player that can hit the three and won´t be shy to grab a rebound over a taller or stronger opponent. Even if his three might be his biggest weapon, he lives off his never ending energy that he brings at both ends of the court. He had two 18 point games against the ScanPlus Baskets and Giessen and led all players in the game against Elchingen with the most points, rebounds and assists. He is a team player that will continue to make strides up the basketball ladder.
Two guys that made huge strides were 16 year old Len Schoormann and 18 year old Maxi Begue.Just last season the German 16 year old was named JBBL MVP at age 15 and already averaged 10 points per game in the NBBL. This season he made the jump to the Pro B and became a solid role player from the bench and even started some games. He averaged 5,0ppg, 1,5rpg and 1,9apg and had three 10 point games against Coburg, Rhondorf and the RheinStars. He displayed 8 assists against Bochum. The guy plays older than his age and has an athleticism and explosiveness that most 16 year old German basketball players would dream of. Even if he shot only 29% from outside one could see a new confidence with his shot as he was more aggressive and didn´t hesitate as some might playing against men. He has the complete package and just getting minutes and the trust from Sebastian Gleim did wonders for his confidence and game. Watching his development will be exciting in the next years as sky is the limit for him. Maxi Begue also made great strides. Last season he was still a bit shy at the NBBL level, but this season became the leader of the team as his all around play and filling up the stat sheet was something he hadn´t had the year before. He got his shot at the Pro B level and didn´t disappoint. He started some games and averaged 3,7ppg, 2,0rpg and 1,3apg and had a 13 point game against Wurzburg and 10 point games against Elchingen and Orange Academy. The German shone with his aggressive drive and floater and just all around hustle and being everywhere grabbing rebounds and steals. He has an unorthodox looking shot, but at times had accuracy from outside, but that also is still a work in progress. He could be one of the young leaders on the team next season. Aaron Kayser came from Pro A team Chemnitz where he had had 14 games experience. He had been a top big man at the NBBL level and came to Frankfurt looking to make the next step. The blond haired big man played 25 games averaging 4,8ppg and 3,3rpg. His best two scoring games was a 14 point effort against Coburg and 10 point game against the Lowen. He will be 20 when next season starts and still has a lot of upside. His biggest strength is his shooting accuracy which at times was around 70% this season. When he gets the ball in the paint, there is a good chance it will go in. He always gave energy from the bench and made key buckets in many games. His biggest weakness is his free throw shooting which was at 36% and his footwork is also still a work in progress. He is also a big talent and Frankfurt has been a good breeding ground for big men in the last years. Not to forget German guard Felix Hecker who played his second season as stat wise he averaged 17 minutes in both seasons and averaged 4,0ppg in both seasons and his three was around 30%. Even if his big strength is his three, he whipped up two amazing stats from his first two seasons as he shot a mindboggling 17/21 combined in the two seasons from the two point range. His shot selection at that range is more than impressive. He also had a lot of upside and most likely will continue to work on other areas of his game to get a more complete game and be able to help his team in more ways next season. Guys like Alvin Oniya, Leon Pullen, Calvin Schaum and Jordan Samare are waiting in the wings to make the next step like Schoormann and Begue did this season in the Pro B. It will be interesting to see how these guys come in next season and how they develop further while one also wonders now which new prospects will be in uniform next fall as a new Pro B season commences.