When one witnesses that first pre season contest of the Fraport Skyliners one always sees new fresh faces with ample focus on making a rapid impression, but one thing hasn´t changed in the last 11 years and that is seeing an athletic energizer bunny sprinting up and down the court as if it´s his last game with Fraport Skyliner lifer Quantez Robertson. With the last dino´s of the BBL slowly departing as Derrick Allen retired and the BBL whereabouts of Julius Jenkins and Immanuel Mcelroy are still unclear, but it seems like they may be done, so there are only a few rare basketball species left with Mr Oldenburg Rickey Paulding who is turning 37 in October and Quantez Robertson who is known as Tez and turns 35 in December. Last season, Tez came to training a bit heavy to the disdain of then head coach Gordon Herbert, but in his first pre season test against Pro A club MLP Academics Heidelberg a few days ago, he looked and ran like a young buck and looked in top shape. Usually when you get older you loose a step or two and the skills deteriorate, but with the ex Auburn stand out that can name NBA legend Charles Barkley as a school alumnist was all over the court like usual making big defensive plays, hauling down two offensive rebounds against three opponents, running the break, making crisp passes and assists and just being that identity figure that he is on the court. Tez is a basketball junkie and the day this freak athlete retires will be the day that his basketball motor completely shuts down and that could take a while, if he doesn´t suffer an unfortunate tough injury. I see the Cincinnati native playing into his 40´s simply because basketball is seriously all he knows to do and making company with a Tom Brady. In the first test game against Heidelberg, Tez had his typical “I fill the stat sheet always” as he led all scorers with 17 points, had 3 rebounds, 3 dimes and a steal while shooting a very respectable 64% from the field and a lot of other things that wasn´t seen on the stat sheet. He will have another typical Tez season. He is the Tez of old as nothing has changed, but what about the rest of the bunch? What kind of team will the Fraport Skyliners be this season with the old and new players?
Four other Fraport Skyliners from last season also saw action against the MLP Academics Heidelberg. Akkem Vargas that battled injuries last season playing only 24 BBL games had a good game. He scored 7 points in 20 minutes grabbed a rebound and handed out 2 dimes. He hit an open three, made all four free throws and played solid defense. If he stays healthy than he will be a key player for the club especially with his veteran role and role model qualities for the young bucks. Richard Freudenberg is in his third season and this will be a make or break season for him. Despite improving his stats. last season over his first season, it still seems he has enough critics and people who can´t get warm with his play. Last season he averaged 6,1ppg and 2,0rpg in 16 minutes per game while shooting a very respectable 38% from downtown. It just seems like after being so hyped as a kid with FC Bayern Munich, the expectations are so high for him that no matter what he does, it just isn´t good enough. He had a slow first half, but exploded in the second half ending with 7 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals and shot a strong 50% from the field after missing his first couple shots. He still tends to bypass shots at times which is annoying. The kid should just shoot. shoot the ball, because he can shoot the ball. His drive continues to be his strong point as he scored a nice lay in from the base line. His role will continue to rise this year and the club will need solid consistent production from him. Leon Kratzer had his BBL break out season last season averaging 9,4ppg and 6,7rpg in 18 minutes per game with Frankfurt. In his first test game, he finished with 15/6 stats and shot a potent 7/8 from the field. He was denied well in the first half, but then got more touches in the second half and was his dominant self. When he is near the hole, then it´s mostly an instant bucket. He has more experience and is sprouting a lot of self confidence and will have another good season and possibly average double figures in scoring and possibly average 1-2 rebounds more. He could grow into on eof the best German centers in the BBL. Marco Voeller profited the most in the last weeks, but on account of Niklas Kiel. The club was going into the season confident with their young front court of Kratzer, Freudenberg and Kiel, but the club announced yesterday that the Paderborn native who came to Frankfurt in 2015 won´t be available at the moment. After suffering three concussions in 11 months, he came back at the end of last season and showed promise of slowly coming back and continuing his development. But apparently he has had health issues and the team don´t want to take any chances. Because Kiel is out, Marco Voeller who before was the odd man out is in and will take that Kiel role for now. He waisted no time being active at both ends registering a steal and block and on offense scored 10 points and hauled down 5 boards and dished out an assist while shooting 67% from the field. His free throw shooting of 2/6 and five turnovers are still a work in progress. I´m a big fan of Marco Voeller. He has an amazing character and a big heart He may not be the most talented, but always gives 110% and works hard. He deserves this chance to shine with more minutes.
There were of course many new faces on the court starting with new point guard Anthony Hickey. The 26 year old from Oklahoma State(NCAA) is known as a hard nosed defender that led the leagues in Cyprus and Poland in steals, but also knows how to score the ball as he led the league in Cyprus in scoring and was second in Poland. In his first test game, he produced 10 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. At first glance, he reminds one of ex Skyliner Aubrey Reese who led Frankfurt into the 2010 BBL final with his polished goatee and body build. He told me after the game that he takes what the defense gives him and one could see, he had good decision making, but one got the idea that he is more a pass first guard. He tended to look first for his teammates, but when nothing went, he tried to create his own shot. He shot a poor 5/13 from the field and 0/5 from outside as his trey is still a work in progress in his fifth season even though he did shot 37% from outside in Poland last season. He compares his basketball IQ to a Chris Paul and wasn´t only talkative after the win against Heidelberg, but one could sense that after only some days, he felt at home in the BCM in Frankfurt. “I always wanted to play in Germany. The play is a lot faster here than in Greece. The guys have welcomed me nicely. It is like a family here”, smiled Anthony Hickey. Hickey is a versatile offensive guard and even more positive a top defender. I think when all is said and done this season that he will surprise a lot of critics and play a strong season. Another new player is rookie Matthew Mcquaid. At first glance, you wonder if he took the wrong locker room door mistaking the BBL team´s door for the NBBL(U-19) locker room, because the 23 year old 193cm guard from Michigan State(NCAA) looks like a 17 year old kid that still hasn´t visited his high school prom yet. But when you see him play, you observe right away that the kid has game. His best scoring year at Michigan State was 9,9ppg in his senior year and he showed in his first game that he has scoring abilities. He finished with 6 points, 2 rebounds and a steal and shot 50% from the field. His has confidence in his outside shot, can drive with ease to the hoop and does possess that cross over and has a good basketball IQ. He looks a bit slender and it will be interesting to see how he will compete against the physical play of the BBL, but when you have the leagues best individual coach in Klaus Prewas, then you will develop further with body and play. The American will score and display some eye opening plays, but most importantly bring that team mentality from his Michigan State days. “He is a great shooter, has a high IQ, and is a very good defender. He shut down a lot of the top college guys during his 4 years at msu. His game fits Germany. Frankfurt will be a good place to adjust to the European game and lifestyle”, stressed ex BBL and Michigan State stand out Drew Neitzel.
Daniel Schmidt has been around for ages having played 9 years in Bamberg including Euroleague and was a clever pick up from Frankfurt. He scored 5 points had 2 rebounds and had an assist in 16.51 minutes. He has a lot of experience and is the type of player where you know exactly what you will get and isn´t the player that will make those absurd experiments on the court, but bring solid play every time he is on the court. He will be an important force from the bench at the guard position and give the team continued aggressive on ball pressure as a Hickey or Jones are taking a breather. It´s always an honor to play for FC Bayern Munich, but for many German players it never becomes more than an honor. This summer FC Bayern Munich lost three big talents as Nelson Weidemann was loaned to Wurzburg, Killian Binapfel moved to Bonn and 2019 NBBL MVP Bruno Vrcic made the jump to Frankfurt. Vrcic is a 18 year old 197cm shooting guard that brings 31 pro B games experience to Frankfurt. Even though he possesses a double license with Frankfurt and is planned to be a vital impact player for the farm team, one noticed against Heidelberg that the club are also planning him to get BBL minutes. In his first test game, he came from the bench contributing 7 points and 4 rebounds showing nice range with his shot and not forcing anything and having good shot selection. He also showed real zeal in getting to the basket and getting rebounds. The German has a lot of potential and coupled with intense work ethic will make the next step this season and get more experience with BBL minutes. Shaquille Hines who came from Braunschweig and gives solid scoring qualities at the 3-4 position and takes a lot of pride on the defensive end sat out the game after getting hurt in practice, but it was nothing major as he should be back in the next days back to practice. A day after the win against Heidelberg, they made a big pick up with Lamont Jones. Five years ago they reeled in sniper Sean Armand who had played at Iona with Jones. With Lamont Jones they have acquired an even more deadly scorer. Jones is a scoring machine and could be the difference between making the playoffs and not. He has been a scoring ace where ever he has played. As a senior at Iona(NCAA), he was the leagues third best scorer, he led the Japanese NBL league in scoring, tore up the Montenegran league and two seasons ago was the fourth best scorer in the BBL with MBC averaging 17,2ppg. Last season he averaged only 12,5ppg with the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg and wasn´t content with his season. He is eager and hungry to have a great season in Frankfurt and lead them into the playoffs.
This team can be a good offensive team, but it wants to get back to it´s successful defensive form which they had for many years under Gordon Herbert, but got away from as last season they gave up way to many points. That could change this season when you have a Hickey and Robertson duo pressuring the ball to death and not letting the opponents into their sets comfortably. I believe that they could be the best defensive duo in the league. Hickey also demonstrated a cool sense of humor when he was told that Tez Robertson is the BBL´s alltime steal leader. “It will be hard to break his record. I will have to play 11 seasons”, laughed Anthony Hickey. When Robertson learned that Hickey was on the team, he right away reached out to Hickey welcoming him with a text message. “Tez is a good guy and I will be able to learn so much from him”, warned Anthony Hickey. New Skyliner Shaquille Hines was able to observe the two defensive gems from the bench for 40 minutes and was sure about one thing. “Tez and Hickey have to be the best defensive duo in the league. We go as a team as they go”, warned Shaquille Hines. Overall the team has the potential to get back to their defensive ways. Hines is known as a good defensive player and Lamont Jones also defends with passion. Vargas may not be that top defender that he once was, but he still has the defensive principles and IQ that will give the team value. Up front, Frankfurt will be tough with shot blocker Leon Kratzer and big body Marco Voeller. A Richard Freudenberg has had his moments on defense, but overall still has potential to get better. 3-4 years ago the club was spot on with it´s rotations. If they can get back to that type of play coupled with everyone helping each other and Tez and Hickey being pests on ball, then Frankfurt will be a much improved defensive team from last season. Even though it is difficult to make smart predictions after only one test game, the Fraport Skyliners have the potential to be a good team. Sebastian Gleim may be young, but he is very fortunate that he has a great opportunity to make the most of his chance as a BBL head coach. He couldn´t have a better assistant than Klaus Perwas and will benefit with his presence. The club will have at least five players that can be consistent scorers and average double figures with Hickey, Jones, Robertson, Mcquaid and Kratzer. If Freudenberg can have his true break out year, then Frankfurt will be an even better offensive team with depth. They will be a better defensive team and be a solid offensive team and like so often annoy many teams that have bigger budgets and more talent. This is a team that will land somewhere between 6-13. No matter what kind of season it becomes, one thing is for sure, it will always be a pleasure coming to the Fraport arena and watching Quantez Robertson play his heart out.