In January 2020, I remember interviewing Dallas native Curtis Hollis after a massive 102-84 Dragons Rhondorf win over Ibbenburen and him having another normal day at the office in the Regionalliga dropping 29 points. After an away game in Herford the week after, Hollis and the Dragons would return home for a contest against Hagen-Haspe, but Hollis wouldn´t return ashe had returned back to Texas on account of personal reasons. I would never see Hollis again. During the season I had practiced the Miles Basketball Minute with him where we sat down each week and discussed basketball which had 16 epsiodes. His game and character had really grown on me and now all of a sudden he was gone. Then on February 29 the Dragons Rhondorf would play their last regular season home game against the ETB Wohnbau Miners and cream them 102-63 and then end the regular season on the road in Cologne and Dorsten. The club had played a solid regular season and I was looking forward to the Regionalliga west playoffs. Instead I´m experiencing my second non basketball weekend in a row all because of the Coronavirus that has put a lot of the world in lockdown and distress. You should always enjoy what you like to the fullest, because the world is full of surprises and you will never know when something will end. In terms of Curtis Hollis and the Dragons Rhondorf season, I was rudely surprised twice in a matter of 6 weeks. It was a roller coaster season for the Dragons Rhondorf which ended in the ex Pro A club not being allowed to ever find out what their fate would be in 2020 because the nasty Coronavirus rudely entered everyone´s lives. What would have been the fate of the 2019-2020 Dragond Rhondorf?
The Dragons Rhondorf came into the2019-2020 with huge expectations and returning right away back to the Pro B was their main goal. The club had replaced head coach Thomas Adelt with experienced coach Markus Rowenstrunk be he couldn´t fulfill the early expectations leading the team to a 3-3 record and being dismissed. The club demonstrated right from the get go that they could score an abundance of points as they scored at least 85 points or more in 5 of their first 6 games, but also showed that they couldn´t defend on a consistent basis allowing 85 points or more 4 times. After the dismissal of Rowenstrunk, Yassin Idbihi took command at the helm and prompt led them on a huge 8 game winning streak and suddenly the atmosphere and mood in the Dragon Dome was good again. They played their best offense of the season scoring more than 100 points 6 times and showing this special knack of overpowering teams. Even when injuries were prevalent, their deep roster and versatility helped power them to wins. Their biggest strength on the offense end was their sharing the ball and unselfish play. Even if Curtis Hollis was the star, the team played for each other and it didn´t seem like he was the star. Hollis had strong teammates like Killian Binapfl, Gabriel de Olveira, Jure Besedic and Anish Sharda who scored in double figures often, but also guys like Jefferey Martin Mark Kotieno and Simonas Lukusius had huge games on the offensive end. After the big 8 game winning streak, came another drought period,where they lost 3 of 4 games and allowed 97 points in the 3 losses. Scoring 85-88 points is a huge accomplishment for many teams, but when you score 95 points on average and allow 86 points, you can easily lose games even when you have had an average scoring game. The club finished the season well with a 4-2 record and surprisingly won their first 3 games in a row after the departure of Curtis Hollis and made a statement showing they could be successful without their star. They lost their last game of the season in Cologne 102-82 as their defense was their achilles heel all season long. Would they have been able to improve their defense in the post season and get by the RheinStars? Most likely not.
The Dragons Rhondorf had the best offense in the Regionalliga averaging 95 points per game and were only 50th best on defense allowing 86 points per game. When Idbihi came on board, they switched up a few things, but overall couldn´t find that defensive identity for 40 minutes that would lead to consistency.A bit more pressure and gambling was a new way to defend, but it didn´t pan out and trim down their points allowed statistic. Not having that consistency affected their self confidence all season. Maybe they wanted to have enough energy for 40 minutes on offense to be able to score the way they did, and shift a few gears back on defense to conserve energy. Team have showed in the past in Germany that you can win games when you only play offense and forget defense. Head coach Ingo Freyer of the Giessen 46ers was the master of the high scoring shoot outs with Phoenix Hagen and according to numerous ex Hagen players then never practiced defense. That is how the season often felt with the Dragons Rhondorf firing from all over the court, dominating in the paint and getting easy transition baskets, but that passion and effort to defend well was missing all season long. What brought down the Dragons Rhondorf on many occasions were three components. The club had problems communicating properly still had difficulty with rotations near the end of the regular season and had an inability to stop their man on 1-1 play. They had some good defensive efforts allowing 63 points against Essen and 65 points against Leverkusen 2, but consistently allowed too many points to be able to be in better position to win more games.
In the last few years Alexander Dohms had had a good touch of bringing in guys like Kameron Taylor and Zygimantas Riauka and it wasn´t any different this season with Curtis Hollis even if Yassin Idbihi had seen him in Baunach in 2018 and deserves the credit for the discovery. Hollis had had no real professional experience after playing a season at Hutchinson Community College (JUCO) averaging 6.9ppg, 3.3rpg, 1.4apg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 27.0%, FT: 66.3% where he had to take a seat and pay his dues, but then exploded with the Houston Ballers (JBL) in 2018 averaging 29.3ppg, 11.3rpg, 5.3apg, 2.6spg, FGP: 46.0%, 3PT: 21.2%, FT: 71.8%. He needed no adjustment period in Germany and left off of what he had done in the JBL and averaged 22,7ppg, 8,2rpg, 3,6apg and 3,0spg. He scored in double figures in all 18 games and scored 20 points or more in 13 games. His best games included a triple double against Leverkusen 2 scoring 26 points hauling down 11 rebounds and getting 10 steals. He also erupted for 38 points against Deutzer and had 29 points against Ibbenburen. He was without a doubt one of the top players in the German Regionalliga that was a massive force on offense never forgetting his teammates during his scoring attacks and had that knack for the extra pass. He was the teams best defender and created a lot of turmoil for other teams that led to easy baskets as his gambling and getting in passing games was a danger sign for every opponent. It was a shame that he had to leave the team as it was always a pleasure to watch him play, but the Dragons also showed that they could get on without him. In a way leaving the team a bit early was a benefit for him, because he didn´t have to put up with the whole Coronavirus mess in Germany. If Hollis doesn´t make the NBA, then we will see him back in Europe soon and observe how he continues to climb up the basketball ladder.
There were some other big winners on the team like ex FC Bayern Munich forward Killian Binapfl and Gabriel De Olveira. Binapfel averaged 15,7ppg, 5,9rpg and 2,9apg and 1,7spg. He was the energizer for the Dragons Rhondorf and a sort of glue guy. He scored in double figures in 16 games and exploded for 31 points against Wulfen and had 29 points against Hagen Haspe. His overwhelming play in the Regionalliga allowed him to play 10 Basketball Champions League games and 5 easyCredit BBL games for the Telekom Baskets Bonn. De Olveira averaged 17,7ppg, 6,1rpg, 1,6apg and 1,3bpg. He scored in double figures in 15 of 16 games in the Regionalliga and had 3 double doubles. His best games occurred against Herten with 28 points and 12 boards and he exploded against BG Hagen with 31 points. He made another jump from his last season in Iserlohn and was rewarded with 5 BBL games and 6 BCL games with Bonn. Both guys got their first experience in the BBL and BCL and have the needed confidence to make the next step. Another big winner was German 17 year old Simonas Lukosius who averaged 8,6ppg, 2,5rpg, 2,8apg and 1,1spg. The shooting guard scored in double figures 6 times and shot an astronomical 48% from outside. His shooting and high basketball IQ as well as his non stop energy defined his refreshing game. He has a bright future ahead of him. German 19 year old 206cm center Mark Kotieno upped his minutes from 10 minutes and 2/2 in the Pro B to 20 minutes in the Regionalliga averaging 8,3ppg, 4,2rpg and 1,0apg in the Regionalliga. He scored in double figures in 6 games including a 25 point game against BG Hagen and 22 points against Essen. The rise in minutes was good for his game and development and has potential to continue to make the next step as his inside game and mid distance game was on. 27 year old 207cm forward/center from Slovenia Jure Besedic was a key role player for Yassin Idbihi. He averaged 10,4ppg, 4,6rpg and 1,8apg and shot 40 % from outside and scored in double figures in 13 games including 22 points against Dorsten and 19 points against Hagen-Haspe. He preferred the outside game, but here and there gave the team vital impulses in the paint.
The point guard duo of German Anish Sharda and Spaniard Enric Garrido-Foz who combine for 55 years of age had the most experience in the league at their position. Sharda who is like the fountain of youth averaged 9,5ppg, 3,1rpg, 4,1apg and 1,1spg had a solid season and hurt teams time in and time out again with his hot outside shooting while Foz averaged 7,5ppg, 1,6rpg and 4,8 was most effective with his non stop energy and ability to push the ball forward and be the playmaker that kept the offense honest. The Falkenstein brothers were able to help as the younger Jonas averaged 3,4ppg and shot a strong 45% from outside while David averaged 2,2ppg, 1,0rpg and 1,3apg, but unfortunately got a bit lost in the deep guard rotation. Jeffery Martin came to Rhondorf joining his 11th team in his professional career and averaged 5,7ppg, 1,2rpg and 1,2apg. If Rhondorf would have had half of the talent that they had, then the German would have been a star, but he also got lost a big in the deep rotation. He scored in double figures in 5 games and had his moments against Hagen-Haspe and Recklinghausen scoring 13 points a piece. American Diijon Allen-Jordan
came for the short stretch run, but the Coronavirus limited him to only 5 games where he averaged 20,4ppg, 5,6rpg, 3,2apg and 1,4spg. He had a very nice inside out game and showed promise from outside shooting 36%. He scored in double figures in every game including 22 points against Recklinghausen and finished the season with 22 points and 10 boards in a loss against the RheinStars. After having good seasons in England, he was able to make an impact in the Regionalliga and it would have been interesting how potent he would have been in the playoffs. The heart and soul of the team 35 year old Lotola Otshumbe got into 19 games averaging 1,6ppg and 1,3rpg. His best game was scoring 9 points, getting 4 rebounds and dishing out 1 assist in 15 minutes in a win against Deutzer. His effort and heart was left on the floor after each game. Fans also were able to see 15 year old Ousmane Ndiaye in the last few weeks as he played 4 games averaging 1,8ppg and 3,3rpg. He had 5 points and 5 rebounds in 13 minutes in a win over Hagen Haspe and had 2 points and 8 rebounds in 12 minutes in a win over Essen. He is definitely a player to watch and could be the biggest talent in the Telekom Baskets Bonn organization that they have ever had. Well known ESPN writer Mike Schmitz lauded Ndiaye recently and teammate Anish Sharda who played against ex Fraport Skyliner and current Washinton Wizard Isaac Bonga when he was with Koblenz as a 15 year old stated that he was better than Bonga was at that age. It will be interesting to continue to watch his development.
The season was a solid season for the Dragons Rhondorf, but to be honest most people were expecting more. Just to make the playoffs wasn´t enough. Many wanted to see more fire come from the club and see them challenge the RheinStars for the #1 position in the Regionalliga West. Had they been able to do that from the start and been able to defend better they might have been able to do that. I felt that the Dragons Rhondorf were a more talented team than the RheinStars on paper, but all that counts are the results on the court. Now with the season over and no playoffs, there is no other winner than the RheinStars who played a super season. They were deservedly the best team in the Regionalliga West and deserve to get back to the Pro B. The Dragons Rhondorf had a solid season with many nice moments, but somehow the season doesn´t feel over and we will never really know what could have happened had the season continued with the playoffs. Some teams come to real life in the playoffs and that may have been the case for the Dragons Rhondorf, but it also might not have happened. With an inconsistent defense, they would have had to have been at the top of their game already in the first two rounds and then in the final?to beat the RheinStars in a three game series. The famous saying is that defense wins championships and it would have been very hard to do it without finally bringing some steam and aggressiveness on defense that would produce stops. There are just to many open questions and we will never know. What would have happened had the season gone on and Curtis Hollis had remained. It will be a long summer with that lingering question always popping up What would have been the Dragons Rhondorf fate in 2020”?. What would have happened had the Regionalliga west playoffs been played? We just don´t know where the Dragons Rhondorf journey would have ended and we will never ever find out