During the summer of 2018 the basketball life of Seth Hinrichs was at a new high point as he had been an instrumental figure in helping Rasta Vechta move back to the easyCredit BBL. I remember asking him in a July 2018 interview what the next step was. He stated to me. “ I’m not sure what my next step is. I think I’m ready for the BBL and for a higher level of competition. I’m excited to see what happens this summer“. He had finished his 3rd professional season and first with Rasta Vechta playing 39 games: and averaging13.8ppg, 6.4rpg, 2.7apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 61.0%, 3PT: 37.0%, FT: 83.6%. Even if his role was to knock down shots, and rebound, he was so much more that that as all in all, he was that special kind of glue guy that gave versatility a new name If he had found a dull moment that summer in Minnesota to visit a fortune teller and had gotten an ear full of what the next 2 years would have in store for him, he surely would not have believed it. Looking into the dark eyes of the fortune teller, he probably would have had an open mouth as he was being told that he would have a Cinderella season in the BBL with Rasta Vechta knocking off top team Bamberg in the playoffs, then playing Eurocup the following season with ambitious club ratiopharm Ulm, living through the world mourning of the death of Kobe Bryant and finally experiencing COVID-19 halt play in the easyCredit BBL and tear apart the world and shatter so many lives. It is now May 2020 and Hinrichs has been home in Minnesota for some time and is ready to head back to Germany to finish the 2019-2020 BBL season. The last few months has been a tough time for everyone, but when talking about basketball players, learning about the death of Kobe Bryant and soon after seeing how much of an impact COVID-19 has had on the whole world has left the ex Lafayette (NCAA) American very contemplative about life. “I was at my apartment in Ulm. It was devastating and very emotional. I honestly wasn’t a huge fan of Kobe while he was playing but I respected his game and what he was able to accomplish. In recent years I had become a big fan of his because of what he was doing in his post basketball career. I really admired him and respected him for his accomplishments there and then also the pride and joy he had in his daughters. I’m a father of two girls so I felt as though it was cool for me to be able to relate to him in that. His global impact was massive and he will be deeply missed. I think that there’s more to life than basketball. There are so many other opportunities and activities out there that can bring joy to myself and those around me”, warned Seth Hinrichs.
Rewind back a few months when the COVID-19 virus halted play in the easyCredit BBL, ratiopharm was having an underachieving season in 10th place, but still in good range of making the playoffs. They were in a heated battle with 7 other clubs from standings place 6-12 for that last 8th playoff spot. They underachieved because on paper they had a very deep roster that was able to win only 1 game in the Eurocup and lose 9 games. Their big problem was their defense where they allowed 87 points in Eurocup and 85 points in the BBL while being able to put up points on a consistent rate with 87 in the BBL and 80 in the Eurocup and were the second best rebounding team in the BBL. Their current season had 3 parts having a slow start losing 5 of their first 6 games and then had a very potent stretch from November 17th to January 25th where they won 8 of 10 games including beating Bamberg and Oldenburg. But their play in the last weeks before the Coronavirus hit wasn´t satisfactory as they lost two massive shoot outs against Alba Berlin and Braunschweig allowing 215 points combined and then couldn´t muster any offense against a tough Ludwigsburg team. It wasn´t as easy for first time head coach Jaka Lakovic to find a good harmony among so many talented players that led to a lot of inconsistency during the season. Having noteworthy players like possible 2020 first round NBA Draft pick Killian Hayes, German national player Andreas Obst, Slovenian national player Goran Dragic ex Kentucky(NCAA) center Derek Willis or ex NBA players like Isaiah Briscoe or Archie Goodwin didn´t necessarily guarantee instant success. Despite the season woes, Seth Hinrichs wasn´t content that the season was suspended, but now he and his teammates can back up his optimism with a playoff push in June. “I was very disappointed. I felt as a team we were ready to have a great run to finish the season and make a playoff push. We were gearing up for the last couple months and then all of this happened”, warned Seth Hinrichs.
Hinrichs who played with FC Porto (Portugal-LPB) in his rookie season in 2015-2016, played his last game with ratiopharm Ulm on March 8th losing a bitter 94-76 contest to Ludwigsburg as then the BBL was suspended due to COVID-19.Then as basketball was put on the severe back burner, the Coronavirus crisis took center stage for the world. The American like so many other players in Germany never expected it to be as severe and have such a big affect on the world. All of a sudden he didn´t have to be aware anymore about shutting his man down on defense or about executing on offense, but moreover was focused on daily life off the court concerning COVID-19. “It definitely impacted my daily life. The grocery stores had plexiglass up and a lot of supplies were missing from the shelves. There were less people outside and then obviously the biggest impact was that basketball stopped. I was careful to wash my hands after being somewhere and limit my contact with people”, warned Seth Hinrichs. A few days after he had played his last BBL game as COVID-19 hit, there were a few more international games to be played and were played as there was a BCL game in Bonn against AEK Athens and a Fiba Europe Cup game in Bayreuth, but without spectators. You could almost hear a pin drop in certain moments and even if you were on the other side of the court, it felt like you were in the huddle during a team timeout. Hinrichs knows that when he returns back to Germany, he will experience things that he has never seen before and one will be playing games without spectators for weeks something he probably may never get used to. “ I think it takes away a huge element from the game. The fans provide the atmosphere and make up a huge part of the game experience. You can’t have sports without fans”, stressed Seth Hinrichs. During the last months the ex Kirchheim(Pro A) player has communicated most with his ex Vechta teammates Chris Carter, Josh Young and TJ Bray and will focus on getting ratiopharm Ulm a title in COVID-19 times, but also knows that the season will be over soon enough and then it will be time to look forward to next season. COVID 19 has affected the whole world economy and will also affect German basketball. Next season will have many changes as finding a job could be super difficult for players as salaries will be down. “I think next season brings a lot of unknowns and question marks. I’m putting my trust in God for the future of next season and what’s to come”, added Seth Hinrichs.
But before the American looks forward on going on an adventure to the next signing period for next season, he will attempt to finish the 2019-2020 season in Germany with ratiopharm Ulm. On April 27th all 17 easyCredit BBL teams took part in a video conference andthe league decided to finish the season with only 10 teams as the other 7 teams declined wanting not to be part of this end of season type of tournament. There has been a lot of debate as to whether finishing the season in spite of most other professional sports being shut down was ethical or not. Many players are feeling very uncomfortable of having the BBL resume play as the fear and risk of infection is there. The BBL has sent a well thought out Hygienics and safety concept to the responsible authorities. The German football federation got the green light and will begin finishing their season on May 16th and that gives the easyCredit BBL a better chance of also being able to close out their season. Hinrichs sees positives and negatives with the easyCredit BBL finishing their season. “I was surprised because I did not think that this was still a possibility. It’s not the most settling feeling but I’m a competitor and I’m paid to play the game I love. I would love to finish as a team because as I said earlier I had a good feeling about where our team was at. The thought of being able to compete again is exciting but it has to be under the right circumstances with the safety of those involved being of the highest priority. With that being said, I think there are a lot of questions from players that need to be answered by the league about the safety and logistics of this proposed finish to the season”, warned Seth Hinrichs.
The easyCredit BBL have decided to have 2 groups of 5 teams play each other twice which then will be followed by the quarterfinals, semi-finals and finals best of 3 all played in one location. For safety measures all 10 teams will be holed up in one hotel and before play even commences be together for a 2 week quarantine. “I think this format allows for a quick finish to the season while also providing opportunity for the best teams to advance. The most difficult part will be the isolation and being away from family. From my understanding families are not allowed to come with us. For anyone with a wife or girlfriend or kids it will be a long time to be apart”, stressed Seth Hinrichs. Even if there are many critics about finishing the season, everyone has to make the best of the tough and very unique situation. During the season you had very good teams that performed very well, then teams in the middle with no real chance of making the playoffs and then the lousy teams fighting to remain in the league. Now the season will start from scratch and will have a 3 week period to find the 2020 BBL champion. The thing that makes this whole situation so interesting and out of the ordinary is that no team has ever been through this. A big factor will be how well the clubs withstand the 2 week quarantine, the training camp and if teams can find a good team chemistry. “ Every player has treated this time after the season was suspended differently so getting everybody back on the same page and into game shape in a short amount of time will be crucial. There’s a higher risk for injuries and a lot could go wrong so I think the most vital thing for each team will be the strength coach. Having someone with knowledge about how to manage the load of each player, how to keep their joints safe and healthy, eating and sleeping well, etc. Thankfully in Ulm we have one of the best in the business, Sebo”, warned Seth Hinrichs. The BBL has given the names of the two groups of 5 and they are FC Bayern Munich Crailsheim Merlins EWE Baskets Oldenburg , BG Goettingen, Rasta Vechta and the second group are MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg, Fraport Skyliners Alba Berlin Rasta Vechta Brose Bamberg . Another crucial factor to the success of teams will be just how much personal they will have in June. Also because of the uncertainty just how strong each team is no matter who wins the 2020 BBL title, the season won´t have the same significance as seasons before. “ I think the teams that bring the most guys back will have the biggest advantage because of the short time frame to prepare. There will be an asterisk on this season and how it finishes”, warned Seth Hinrichs. It will be a total new experience for everyone and even if Seth Hinrichs has a yearning to connect again more with ex teammates TJ Bray and Josh Young, I´m sure he will have their room numbers memorized very quickly in Munich.