In the upcoming 2019 BBL quarterfinal clash between Bamberg and Vechta, there are two players with Josh Young and Ricky Hickman who go into the playoffs with a different kinds of feelings. In the case of Josh Young the famous better late than never phrase is the perfect phrase in 2019 that fits to his solid nine year professional basketball career. He is a guy that had to start in a lower league Pro Be with Leverkusen in 2010 and then incredibly with hard work and luck reached the BBL with Tuebingen and proved there that he belonged at that level. He also played some Pro A seasons only to find another surge and return back to the BBL in 2018 with Rasta Vechta. In his first years in the BBL, he played for a lower budget team Tuebingen that never made the playoffs, but now in his ninth season, he has finally made it to the promised land with the leagues Cinderella team Vechta that have been the little darlings of the league and added some special spunk to a continuing rising league in Europe. So for the Oklahoma native, the inspiring amazing season of Rasta Vechta was a ride that he will never forget and now with his first playoffs it is like the icing on the cake for his unforgettable season. He has that winners smile just like many other ex BBL players like Michael Hakim Jordan or Jimmy Mckinney who won titles and reached the final in the BBL, but his path to the title will be a steep climb, but one he will cherish forever and give his all like he has his whole career. For Ricky Hickmann reaching another playoffs is a special experience especially at the age of 33 when one never knows when the career could suddenly end. Hickman also has had that type of Cinderella career in that he didn´t reach a top league the Serie A until his fifth professional season after toiling around in lower leagues in Hungary and Finland and having difficulties in the BBL in 2008 with Giessen. But with nonstop hard work, he reached the top winning titles in Italy, Israel and Turkey and reaching the pinnacle in 2014 with the Euroleague title with Maccabi Tel Aviv and playing five seasons of Euroleague ball totaling 124 games. Reaching this years playoffs is just added icing on the cake on a very respectable and great career for the North Carolina native.
Rasta Vechta has had an amazing and extremely unexpected Cinderella season which no team has achieved in the last decade as the only team that came close to scratching what they have done was medi Bayreuth a few years back and Ludwigsburg 13 years back who also met Bamberg in the playoffs that year in 2007 but lost. Will Rasta Vechta also have this fate a second time around?. Rasta Vechta had an incredible 24-10 record and if one had asked anyone before the season that the club would be so potent and consistent one would have said, it would be more probable of a Thomas Mueller of FC Bayern Munchen making a full court shot in the Rasta Dome with a whole gym booing him. Of course in Vechta nobody would have doubted a poor Vechta season except for the one or other Bayern fan who happens to be living there. On offense they share the ball very well averaging the third most assists in the league and on defense have the most aggressive team in the league that practice an unorthodox play that force the most turnovers playing a press with two guys pressuring the ball handler. “We were able to turn our season around through consistency. We merely just became better at the things that we were already doing, working on. With each win, our confidence grew. Our secret to defensive success has been hard work. We work on our defense practically every day. And the way people see us play defense in games, is the exact same way we play it when nobody is there watching. We are creatures of habit”, stressed guard Josh Young. Even if reaching the playoffs was a great feat, they also did something that very little teams can say they did in the last years beating FC Bayern Munich, Alba Berlin and Bamberg in the regular season. Their success hasn´t only been being able to score(average 87 points per game 6th best) and give up 82 points per game(4th best, but also have the perfect coach with Pedro Calles that has formed the best team chemistry that has translated in success. “Pedro has been the biggest reason for the success of this club. From his ability to capture his players, to his coaching philosophy, to the way he approaches the game, he is the ultimate professional. Our guys love playing for him and as you can see, we play extremely hard under his leadership. It’s been cool to watch him grow as a head coach this season”, warned Josh Young. The team has no real superstars, but guys that play for each other and have big hearts. Guys like Austin Hollins(16,1ppg) and TJ Bray(14,8ppg,7,6apg, 41,5% 3pt) grew into league stars, but never lost their unselfishness. The pick ups of experienced BBL player Tyrone Nash(10,0ppg, 5,1rpg) and talented big man Clint Chapman(13,6ppg,3,5rpg, 53% 3pt) were big in the stretch run. Guys like Josh Young(11,8ppg) and Seth Hinrichs(13,0ppg,5.0rpg,3,1apg) stepped up after many years in the Pro A. The team also had a solid bench with guys like Marcel Kessins, Robin Christin and Max DiLeo that never ever let the team energy weaken when they came in.
For Brose Bamberg, it was also a very productive season despite the circumstances after experiencing some woes after the Trincheri era ended. The club reached the playoffs again and also won a title again with the cup taking the underdog role and upsetting Alba Berlin. Bamberg finished with a record of 22-12 despite having a coaching change from Ainars Bagatskis who was relived of his duties after the brutal 85-67 loss at home against Rasta Vechta and 34 year old Federico Perego took over the helm. The club didn´t start off so bad under Bagatskis winning 9 of their first 11 games, but their results reminded one of the old Phoenix Hagen teams under Info Freyer where offense was golden and defense rotten. In Hagen they practiced offense while defense was put on the back burner. In Bamberg defense was worked on, but didn´t translate to success in games. Playing good defense had always been the norm under old coaches Fleming and Trinchieri, but now it wasn´t which was disheartening. The team then lost three of four games and Bagatskis had to depart. Under Perego the team won 8 in a row, but the defense remained weak as the club allowed 85 point or more in five games. The club ran out of gas in the last two months losing 7 of 11 games. All in all they had the fifth best offense in the BBL averaging 88 points per game and even the ninth best defense allowing only 84 points, but for a club that has played superb defense in the last years, allowing that many points isn´t satisfactory. Their biggest strength is their experience and inside game as the trio of Augustine Rubit(14,8ppg, 5,2rpg), Cliff Alexander(9,2ppg, 5,6rpg and reborn Elias Harris(9,2ppg, 3,3rpg) who are as dominant of an inside trio as you will see in the league. The club has a lot of experience and talent at the guard position with MVP candidate Tyrese Rice(15,8ppg, 6,1apg) and up and down Euroleague winner Ricky Hickman(11,2ppg, 40,0% 3pt) in the scoring department, but after that many question marks with guys like Bryce Taylor, Niko Zisis, and Maurice Stuckey. Another strength is their depth, but that will have to be more consistent in the playoffs.
In the regular season the two teams split as Bamberg got creamed at home and then won a typical shoot out on the road 101-95. Rasta Vechta played a great game in the 85-67 blow out victory in Freak City. It was an almost perfect game as they shot out the lights dropping 13 trey´s, won the rebound battle, forced Bamberg to 21 turnovers and limited their bench to only 8 points. In the return game, Brose Bamberg came to terms with the Vechta aggressive defense and connected for 101 points. Vechta won the rebound battle again as it was little things that decided this game. Rice scored 30 points and Rubit and Harris combined for 39 points. This will be an interesting series, but a few weeks ago, one could have predicted a 5 game series, but with the serious blows of losing glue guy Seth Hinrichs and consistent versatile big man Clint Chapman as combined they average 26 points , it suddenly gets a new dimenstion. Of course guys like Hollins and Bray are vital for the success, but Hinrichs leadership and all around play will be dearly missed and Chapman is the only dominant big man. These two loses will put extra pressure on Hollins and Bray and possibly too much for them to carry an inexperienced team. Bamberg has more experience and will need to destroy the inside area over and over and just punish them there to be successful. Bamberg hasn´t been a good outside shooting team and Vechta will have to take away the paint area and possibly have success with different zones to keep the underdog off balance. Vechta will win a game at home, but succumb to their inexperience and not enough overall firepower despite playing against an instable Bamberg defense.