It was about 5.10 on a bustling late Saturday afternoon as the Nordwest centrum mall in Frankfurt was in serious pre Christmas mode as it was difficult as always at this time of year to really be able to move at a comfortable rate as shoppers were all over the place getting a good start on their X-mas shopping. Only about 100 yards away is the BCM, the practice facility of easyCredit BBL team Fraport Skyliners and the home court of their farm team Fraport Skyliners Juniors and there was a lot les commotion as the afternoon matinee between the Juniors and Bavarian club BBC Coburg had ended about 20 minutes earlier and fans were already gone while Skyliner Junior players were taking showers and departing. I was getting post game quotes from players and as I was waiting for Nigel Pruitt to appear from the showers, I hung out court side thinking about what my game article title would be. There were a few people in the stands and then I noticed a familiar face that I hadn´t seen for a while with Jermale Jones. He is a 33 year old guard from Birmingham, Alabama that has quietly carved out a fine 9 year professional career that has taken him to Luxemburg and Romania, but has spent 6 years in Germany and is in his fifth season with Lich who compete in the second Regionalliga. It´s always good to see the American since I have covered him for years and it´s always nice talking with him. After the usual small talk about his season and life, the topic Fraport Skyliners came about. He has been good friends with FraportSkyliner legend Quantez Robertson for years and is often at his games and spends the night at his apartment. On this night he and his friend Tez were on different courts as he was playing a game at 6.30 against Eintracht Frankfurt and Tez was in Crailsheim. We started chatting about the difficult Skyliner season and after analyzing the situation, I asked him if Tez has been frustrated with the season of the club. He answered quickly and directly “naw Tez isn´t frustrated”. A typical quick response from his friend sticking up for his friend. A player never wants to look like he is weak in adversary. Of course Tez is frustrated, but that is only normal. There are few warriors like Tez in the BBL, but he is doing the best of the situation. I reach Tez´s teammate Adam Waleskowski on Sunday morning 13 hours after the big win in Crailsheim. As usual I reach him when he is walking his dog Barney outside and he is in good spirits answering “No it was fine getting me now. I have been up since 8:30. We have had film and tonight is a dinner with the fan club”. He then was able to elaborate a bit about how Quantez Robertson has been coping with the current situation with the Skyliners. “Our season is part of the business. Tez knows that we are under performing. When he is on the court, he is always playing the best that he can. Of course he is frustrated. He is always trying to figure out ways how we could play at a better level. The situation isn´t an easy one as he is turning 34 soon and age starts to wear you down”,stressed Adam Waleskowski.
The Fraport Skyliners went to Crailsheim facing some tough last days as Akeem Vargas was out and new forward Tyrone Nash had failed the medical check. Plus they had a new player to integrate with Joe Rathon and had to face one of the leagues biggest surprises Crailsheim Merlins who had started the season winning their first 5 games, but had lost 4 of their last season games. The Fraport Skyliners gave a very good performance and in tight situations at the end were able to prevail in crunch-time and didn´t remember two crucial tight games the had lost earlier in the season winning 76-68. Coming to Crailsheim and winning on the road showed a lot of heart despite the last tough days. “Of course it was tough losing Vargas who had been shooting well and is the anchor of our defense and not keeping Nash. But with the addition of some new faces brought a new and better vibe to our practices. We came to Crailsheim very focused and that carried over into the game”, added Adam Waleskowski. The Crailsheim Merlins lived and died by their three hitting 14, but couldn´t muster enough points from the near range while the Fraport Skyliners shot the ball very well and took pretty good care of the ball, but importantly found some consistency on the defensive end especially in crunch-time buckling down and getting stops when they really needed it. “We moved the ball well. I think it was the best that we have moved the ball this season. We did a good job outrebounding them and held a team that averages 90 points per game too only 67 points”, stressed Adam Waleskowski.
Even if it was a total team effort one can´t deny focusing on the magical 161 seconds in the second half that was most vital in the Fraport Skyliners achieving this win. It started at the start of the third quarter as German Richard Freudenberg hit for 11 points and nailed three three´s in 55 seconds and then the veteran Adam Waleskowski hit a nail on the coffin mastering 8 points in 106 seconds to seal the win. “It was great for us. Richie has been shooting the ball very well the last games and has the skill to be consistent. The most important thing for him is confidence. He has to be loosened up to play well. We all know that he can rebound and play defense well. His game catapulted us and helped the rest of the team. My spurt at the end felt great. It felt good to take charge at the end. I didn´t do anything real crazy, but just read the defense and my teammates found me and I was able to finish. With every new bucket, I got more confidence. I am thankful that coach had confidence in me to bring me in crunch-time in a close game”, commented Adam Waleskowski. The ex Goettingen American finished with 10 points in 12 minutes hitting all 5 shots. Waleskowski has seen it all in Europe and despite him having his best game as a Skyliner, it was just another normal day at the office for him. Deep inside he knew that he had accomplished something big, but kept it all in perspective how a true professional should. “I just stuck to the game plan. I felt I did a good job on the pick and roll and kept them scrambling. My teammates found me open and I finished with confidence. When things went wrong in the game, we as a whole did a good job staying positive. We kept working hard and focused on the next play and stayed focused. That was helpful in crunch-time”, added Adam Waleskowski.
Freudenberg amassed 21 points and 8 boards including 4 offensive rebounds in 28 minutes. Waleskowski continues to have a lot of confidence in him and sees him continuing to be a very important piece of the Skyliners puzzle for success. “He is continuing to build confidence. He has the skill level. Often young guys feel like they aren´t doing anything if they aren´t making shots. He definitely had confidence in the game. You don´t hit left handed hook shots like he did when you don´t have confidence. I think he will continue to catapult his game and be able to maintain this level in the BBL.”, expressed Adam Waleskowski. The American often gives advice to the German, but didn´t tell him anything special after the game, but knows what kind of mindset he needs to have when shooting the ball. “I think that when your having problems shooting the free throws that you should just think your shooting a three. Often young players fret over little things. It is important to keep reinforcing young players that they have the ability to play. They need to believe that the games are like in a practice”, warned Adam Waleskowski.
The Fraport Skyliners had one real new face in the game with point guard Joe Rathon and another new face who played only his second BBL game with 17 year old raw talent Len Schoorman. The American Rathon had a solid BBL season last season with Braunschweig and had played well in Belgium in previous years began the season with Proximus Spirou Charleroi (Belgium-Euromillions League). He made his Skyliner debut finishing with 5 points, 4 rebounds, 5 dimes and 2 steals . and showed that he could run a team. “There had been a lot of pressure on Lamont Jones this season at the point. Joe came in and did a good job. He is a great leader and a real floor general. He did make some mistakes, but he had only been here a few days. The next two weeks will be important for his integration and getting in rhythm with our offensive and defensive schemes. He handles the ball well and can shoot out the lights when he is open. He also makes great reads and has a knack of seeing the floor well. He will be a great help for our success”, added Adam Waleskowski. Another guy who was there was Len Schoormann who was one of the extra guards while surprisingly ex FC Bayern Munich 19 year old Bruno Vrcic who has seen action in a few BBL games was absent. He played in the Pro B game loss against BBC Coburg instead. It was kind of a riddle why Vrcic wasn´t in Crailsheim, but sometimes the coach knows best. Sebastian Gleim is a huge supporter of Schoormann and it´s no secret that the 17 year old is one of the biggest German talents from the birth year 2002. He made his BBL debut a few weeks ago in Wurzburg and scored his first two BBL points in Crailsheim. He had had a very strong week of practice with the BBL team and seems to be being moved along faster than one might have expected. “Len is super talented and is still young. He is getting confidence for that BBL role. Important is that he has to know that he can play at the BBL level. He has to get adjusted to the physicality and level of play. What he is going through is similar to what players are going through going from high school to college needing to get used to the pace. He will be a great player as soon as he finds his confidence. He was killing everybody last week in practice hitting shot after shot. He makes great reads and plays good defense. I think that he is BBL ready. He can give us good 6-10 minutes and take pressure off his teammates and gain experience”, warned Adam Waleskowski.
Now the Fraport Skyliners have another two week break before their next game at home against the Basketball Lowen Braunschweig. All in all they will have had one game in a month which is unusual which can be good and bad. On the one had the team can continue to tweak on their faults, but then again be without that needed competition in game time situations. Waleskowski sees the long break as a positive thing. “It will be great to keep practicing as a team and get better. It will be vital getting Joe Rathon on board. We will be ready against Braunschweig”, warned Adam Waleskowski. With basketball business taken care of between me and the American, it is time for a little small talk with the friendly Waleskowski as he talks with great enthusiasm about his dog Barney. “My girlfriend and I found Barney in Bulgaria when he was about 5 weeks old. He was whining on the street. I am the only one who has a dog this year. When I was in Ludwigsburg, Jon Brockman and Coby Karl had two dogs a piece. I like to take him on a walk every day for an hour or an hour and a half”, added Adam Waleskowski. I would have figured that besides being a dog lover that he would also be a NFL football fan, but boy was I wrong. On Sunday night was the match up of the weekend between the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs. The Patriots were denied in the last minute of tying the game and left with a bitter 23-16 loss. “I´m not so much a football fan., but I have no real desire of who will win, but I´ll cheer for your Pats. I´m no Patriot hater either. After a nice road victory, it will be nice to relax and watch the game”, added Adam Waleskowski.