More than three months have gone by since the last game of The Fraport Skyliners which they won in exciting fashion 82-81 against Hessen rival Giessen 46ers and with the club back in action in their first preseason game for the 2019-2010 season much has changed. Gordon Herbert wasn´t patrolling the side lines, but coaching former Skyliners Phil Scrubb and Brady Heslip for the Canadian national team, Jason Clark had moved to greener pastures to Varese, Italy and big man Jonas Wolfarth-Bottermann moved south to the MHP Riesen Ludwidsburg just to mention some of the changes. Only two players were on the court against Heidelberg from that Giessen game with Fraport Skyliner lifer Quantez Robertson who always comes back each season and pleasant surprise from last season Leon Kratzer who is planned as being an important performer at both ends of the court this season. New on the sideline is head coach Sebastian Gleim who brings a lot of experience with helping develop the young players and has nothing to lose as he fills the void for Herbert who will return after his Canada gig ends. The club also brought in four new players with ex Braunschweig American Shaquille Hines who comes in as a versatile player at both ends of the court, defensive specialist Anthony Hickey who will take over the reigns at the point and build a potent defensive duo with Robertson, rookie Matt Mcquaid who comes from the well known school Michigan State and veteran guard Daniel Schmidt who played for nine years with Brose Bamberg. The Fraport Skyliners still aren´t complete and will most likely sign one more big before the start of the season came in against ambitious Pro A team MLP Academics who brought in some interesting new players with Adam Eberhardt, Stephon Jelks,Grant Teichman, and Joe Kilgore rounded out by two veterans top Pro A guard Shy Ely and German big man Philipp Heyden. One can´t expect too much in that first pre season game as it´s that first opportunity to show what they can do in game situations, but after a ok first half, the Fraport Skyliners shifted a few gears up in the second half and ran away with the contest easily burying Pro A team MLP Academics Heidelberg 84-62. After the seemingly routine victory, new Skyliner Anthony Hickey reflected on the performance of the team. “We rushed things a bit too much and were thinking too much. We stayed in the game and didn´t get down on ourselves and had a narrow lead at halftime. Coach got down on us a bit at the break. We began to pick up our defense more in the second half which allowed us to run the fast break. Our defense carried us to the win in the second half. I think if we can continue to pick up our defense, we will be ok”, warned ex Oklahoma State guard Anthony Hickey. The guests played a strong first half, but fell apart in the second half trailing by as much as 30 points. “It was a hard fought game. But we gave up too many offensive rebounds in the first half. We could have had the lead had we taken care of the little things better. Frankfurt picked up their defense in the second half and we lost momentum. It was mental lapses and attention to detail that hurt us in the second half”, stressed ex Carson-Newman(NCAA2) guard Grant Teichmann.
The Fraport Skyliners were without ex Braunschweig forward Shaquille Hines who had hurt himself in practice, but nothing major a day to day thing. The MLP Academics stuck to Frankfurt early taking the slim lead, but controlling the first quarter getting Frankfurt in early foul trouble and doing a good job getting to the free throw line. On offense they did a fine job moving the ball and getting ex Skyliner Armin Trtovac involved with baskets inside while rookie Adam Eberhardt hit a three keeping Frankfurt at bay. Quantez Robertson as always was aggressive getting to the basket and scoring while new wing player rookie Matt Mcquaid out of Michigan State made use of his first touch making a pretty up fake and then barreling to the hole for an easy bucket. The MLP Academics Heidelberg did a great job totally denying ex Bamberg center Leon Kratzer the ball who is almost an automatic bucket when he is in the paint area. Because he was shut down, Frankfurt received vital contribution from German Marco Voeller who scored twice doing his role from the bench perfectly. However the MLP Academics Heidelberg led after 10 minutes 20-15. Frankfurt couldn´t hit the ocean as they were a miserable 0/8 from downtown.
In the second quarter, the MLP Academics caught a taste of what kind of defender Anthony Hickey who led the leagues in Cyprus and Poland in steals can be as he stole the ball at center court and went in for the easy lay in as 9 seconds had been played Then came the next hustle play as Fraport Skyliner lifer Quantez Robertson out jumped and out hustled three Heidelberg players and finally got the put back after three attempts cutting the Heidelberg advantage to 20-19. Frankfurt continued to gnaw at the Heidelberg lead and despite a Philipp Heyden hook shot, Frankfurt continued to get valuable input from their bench as young German Bruno Vrcic who was the 2019 NBBL MVP and came from FC Bayern Munich hit a jumper on the transition and Robertson made a lay in giving Frankfurt the lead back at 26-25. The game remained a dog fight now as no teams could breakaway quite yet. Kratzer and Trtovac traded baskets. But both teams made small runs at the end to bring some tilt into the game. Heidelberg started with a 6-0 run to gain the 38-35 advantage as ex Mercer(NCAA) guard Stephon Jelks hit a shot, German Niklas Wurzner scored on the shot clock buzzer and Eberhard made a offensive rebound and put back for the 38-35 lead. However the Fraport Skyliners closed out the second quarter in fine fashion as Anthony Hickey who compares his game to a Eric Bledsoe and sports that goatee as nicely as ex Skyliner Aubrey Reese did 10 years ago hit a jumper at the shot clock buzzer and after stopping Heidelberg on the next possession got a basket from Leon Kratzer as Frankfurt had the slight39-38 advantage. The Fraport Skyliners upped their rebounding snagging 7 offensive rebounds, but were still a pathetic lot from outside shooting 0/10.
The Fraport Skyliners came out a lot stronger and through more aggressive defense and more pressure helped spur their offense they rolled out on a 8-2 run to extend their lead to 47-40. After a slow shooting first half, German Richard Freudenberg quickly scored inside and then the three ball finally began to shine as Robertson connected as did ex Alba Berlin guard Akeem Vargas. The spacing of Frankfurt improved and they suddenly discovered more open shots. The guests weren´t impressed by this rapid rise on offense by Frankfurt and kept grinding away as ex BBL player Philipp Heyden was a beast in the zone scoring twice. Voeller continued to play consistent ball as he scored off the pick and roll with Hickey. Mcquaid continued to shine as he came in and did his job. On his next basket, the ex Michigan State captain delivered a pretty cross over and finished with the runner as the Fraport Skyliners led comfortably 51-44. Adam Eberhard who is a rookie out of Bellarmine(NCAA2) kept Heidelberg in the game with his fine display of shooting with two baskets. The guests would have been a lot closer, but they had absolute no remedy of how to control Kratzer who got going scoring three baskets as Frankfurt led easily 59-49. The MLP Academics called a timeout at the 2.01 minute mark, but that did no good as Frankfurt closed out the third quarter in fine fashion going on a 6-0 run to lead 65-49. Ex Bamberg Euroleague player Daniel Schmidt scored on a lay in Bruno Vrcic made another trey. “We didn´t let our missed shots of the first half affect us and just kept shooting. Then we got going. Nobody got down, but we stuck together”, added Anthony Hickey. Frankfurt turned up the heat on offense and the pressure. We had some more turnovers, but we missed easy shots. We allowed them easy baskets and let them get back on defense”, added Grant Teichmann.
Everything came together for the Fraport Skyliners in the fourth quarter as their defense lifted their game a few more notches as they ran away with a 13-0 run and made 11 consecutive stops on Heidelberg extending their lead to 78-49. In the run, Frankfurt received incredible support on the first three plays by Richard Freudenberg who made a deflection on the first Heidelberg turnover, then made a steal which led to an easy Robertson lay in and on the third play, the German made a beautiful lay in from the wing after getting an amazing bullet pass from Hickey. Frankfurt continued to ball with a lot of self confidence as Robertson went coast to coast for the easy left handed lay in, Kratzer made a thunderous two handed dunk on the pick and roll with Vargas and Hickey made a runner. At the 3,48 minute mark of the fourth quarter, the MLP Academics Heidelberg finally got their first field goal as ex BBL player of MBC Marc Liyanage scored. That was followed by a Robertson trey as the Fraport Skyliners had the huge 81-51 advantage. The game was over and everybody knew it and Frankfurt lost some intensity and allowed the guests to go on their best three minute stretch of the game closing out the contest on a 11-3 run. In the run, Heidelberg got important support from Eberhard who showed his coast to coast qualities scoring and making free throws and, Jelks converted a trey and turn around shot. The big run by Heidelberg was too late as they had to eat their post game pasta having the 84-62 loss in the backs of their minds. “Playing well starts with the point guard Daniel Schmidt and me. We are like the head of the snake and the rest follow us and are the tail. We set the tone”, warned Anthony Hickey. “Our intensity went down, but we ended the game well. We didn´t panic at the end, but got in a groove and hit our shots. We can learn from this game and take the momentum of how we ended the game into our next game”, warned Grant Teichmann. The Fraport Skyliners had four players in double figures and were led by captain Quantez Robertson with 17 points. Leon Kratzer added 15 points and 6 boards while Anthony Hickey and Marco Voeller had 10 points a piece. The MLP Academics Heidelberg were led by Adam Eberhard with 16 points and Stephon Jelks added 10 points. The Fraport Skyliners shot 57% from the field and 22% from outside and grabbed 34 rebounds and coughed up the ball 14 times while the MLP Academics Heidelberg shot 43% form the field and 22% from the parking lot and hauled down 20 rebounds and suffered 18 turnovers.