The Miles Basketball Minute: Only COVID-19 Helped The Fraport Skyliners Reach The Playoffs In 2020

After a disastrous 7 game losing streak that began in January 2020, the Fraport Skylines finally buckled together and swept the seasons series against arch rival Giessen 46ers on the road with a 90-82 victory. They were led by an inspiring 23 points by American Matt Mobley who had just made his debut in the BBL. Basketball life for Frankfurt seemed  a bit better again, but the club also knew that it had minimal chances of reaching the playoffs and were focusing on closing out the season as best as they could. But only a few days later, the whole world would changed as COVID-19 reared it´s ugly head into everybody´s business. Giessen was the last game for Matt Mobley, Shaq Hines and Leon Kratzer. Most leagues would end the season while the easyCredit BBL did all that they could to continue and did including the Fraport Skyliners who would take part at the BBL tournament in Munich with 9 other teams. It became a 3 week affair where all you had to do was win one game and you had reached the playoffs. That is exactly what the Fraport Skyliners did. Of course it had been the right thing to play at the tournament to keep sponsors happy and keep their organization running. Because of making the playoffs, the Fraport Skyliners most likely will play Eurocup next season. That they had no real business being in the playoffs was demonstrated by high scoring team ratiopharm Ulm that won both games outscoring Frankfurt by a score of 197-130 and already sealing the fate of the Skyliners in game one blasting to outerspace and leaving Frankfurt on earth in the dust winning by 40 points. Frankfurt did a solid job staying with the Ulm team in the second game for a half  leading by a point, but then totally caved in in the second half where defensive mistakes, turnovers and unending given up fast break points cost them a 96-69 loss. The Fraport Skyliners ended the season with a total of 21 points in the second half and 6 points in the fourth quarter. Quantez Robertson said it best in my tournament ending diary with him. “We didn´t take care of the ball well in the second half. A big problem this season was when we had a good first half, we often came out sluggish in the second half and weren´t ready to play right away”, stressed Quantez Robertson. That was a huge problem this season with the Fraport Skyliners in that they weren´t able to play complete games and come together during crunch-time. There were other factors as well, but all in all, it was only COVID-19 that allowed them to reach the playoffs.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and Lamont Jones in the Fraport arena conducted a one on one diary during the BBL Munich tournamnet

                A big problem this season were injuries which derailed them time in and time out as even when guys were coming out, the next guys were rushing to the doctor´s office. Their problems started as the season was about to begin as starting point guard Anthony Hickey got injured. They never recovered from that as a team and allowed combo guard shooting ace Lamont Jones to take over the reins. A guy who has been a scorer his whole life suddenly had to be a playmaker. That is like telling Shaq to get away from the zone and take three´s back in the day. Stat wise there were games where Jones did a solid job as a playmaker getting assists and running the team, but when it came down to winning games, he wasn´t the guy that they had to have. Jones made big plays during the season, but also didn´t make those shots in crunch-time that would have taken the Skylines to the needed win. Missed shots and turnovers were events that Jones manufactured at end of games. Frankfurt simply didn´t have much scoring material in crunch-time besides Jones. And when that is the case, it makes scouting and knowing what the opponent will do in the deciding moment easier for teams. Not only not playing consistent for 40 minutes was a problem, but closing out games. In December Frankfurt finally got that pass first point guard in experienced Joe Rathon who definitely understood how to organize the game, but the desired wins didn´t come on a regular basis either. The number of games that Frankfurt let slip away was frightening. When Corona hit the team had won only 5 games, but could have won 9 or 10 and been tapping on the playoff door. At Christmas time they had a disappointing 3 wins, but it could have been 6 had they not lost 68-67 to the Telekom Baskets Bonn, 68-67 to Wurzburg and 82-81 against Braunschweig. Not to forget the unbelievable 81-77 loss to FC Bayern Munich where they played their hearts out, but at the end had some unfortunate calls not go their way. They definitely weren´t a bad team, but just didn´t have the offensive resources to be in better position to win games. They were on of the better defensive teams, but it was more often than not their offense that let them done.

                Injuries played a huge factor as the injury bug hit the club hard in December as German players Leon Kratzer and Richard Freudenberg went down. Lamont Jones also missed games as did Akeem Vargas. When the team traded Adam Waleskowski to BG Goettingen for Darius Carter, they only saw the new guy play 5 games as injury also hit him as he couldn´t be a real solid offensive force the way the team would have liked. After Christmas the team won only 2 games and lost 8 games. The 2 wins were against arch rival Giessen and without much thought was the highlight of the season. One could say reaching the playoffs in the BBL Munich tournament was the highlight of the season, but one had to really question how high the value of this season ending 3 week tournament really was when 7 other teams didn´t want to play and the whole season was shortend as well as teams having to live together for 3 weeks. In 10 years when people look back at the 2019-2020 BBL season, every one will remember it was when COVID-19 wrecked havoc on the world and FC Bayern Munich was ousted. It may take some people some time to remember who actually won it all. The whole weight of the season ending tournament was one that had many doubters even if it was a good thing for the league in that it kept it running when most others didn´t. The Fraport Skyliners´s record of 1-5 doesn´t tell the whole story. Despite being without guys like Leon Kratzer, Shaquille Hines and Matt Mobley, they played Alba Berlin and the MHP Riesen tough and could have won. With a few breaks here and there, the team could have been 3-3 going into the playoffs. But heck if the team hardly got any breaks during the regular season they surely weren´t going to get any in Munich either. A positive aspect to the Munich tournament was that young players like Maxi Begue, Aaron Kayser and Jordan Samare got some minutes to help their self confidence as they go into the new season. It was the first BBL season for 36 year old German head coach Sebastian Gleim who had to face growing pains. He was criticized by some for how he dealt with young players and also was judged by the putting together of the roster and signing players like Daniel Schmidt and Adam Waleskowski. Despite giving Lamont Jones the power, they seemed to not to have the best relationship even if Jones had some positive words for him shortly before the tournament started. “Sebastian has become more patient. At the beginning, he had a lot of emotion and excitement. It was tough for him at the start as a first time BBL coach. But as the season went on, he became more patient and trusted us more and we trusted him more. It isn´t easy for an older player to have a younger coach. As an older player you want to say I know it and have more experience, but at the same time you need to know that he is your coach and just as smart as you are as a player”, said Lamont Jones. He was sent home before the Ulm series as he was injured and couldn´t help the team any longer as Leon Kratzer got the full duty cheerleading task.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and Quantez Robertson conducted a one on one diary from the 2020 BBL tournament in Munich

            When looking at the complete season of the Fraport Skyliners it is difficult giving high grades to the players. Team captain Quantez Robertson finished at 11,0ppg, 4,9rpg, 4,0apg and 1,9spg. Even if he was named 2020 defensive player of the year, he was as humble as could be talking about his game. I will let him summarize his Munich experience. “I could of done better on defense. Defense was the main thing even if I did score in double figures in 5 games. As a leader I´m expected to score, but at the same time am also expected to play good defense. I wasn´t the defensive player that I needed to be to help us win more games. I wasn´t vocal enough, couldn´t fight through screens enough and didn´t get into the passing lanes the way I would have liked to”, stressed Quantez Robertson. He gets a B+ from me. It was a solid  season,but slowly , very slowly age is catching up with him and his three wasn´t consistent. Lamont Jones averaged 16,2ppg, 2,3rpg and 4,6apg. He played a solid season the way he knows how. He was put into an uncomfortable situation at the point and had his ups and downs. He gets a B. Leon Kratzer averaged 10,1ppg and 7,6rpg. He had a very good season, but injuries derailed him. He can be very dominating, but then again have games where he is nonexistent. The free throw bug continued in Frankfurt as after Mike Morrison, it hit the German big man who shot only 44%. He gets a B+. Akeem Vargas averaged 7,0ppg, 2,8rpg and 1,5apg and shot a potent 45% from outside. It was the highest % that he had shot from outside in his BBL career. He played his best basketball in 2019. He had his moments at both ends of the court, but the club surely was expecting more on the defensive end. He gets a C+. German Richard Freudenberg averaged 7,6ppg and 2,9rpg and shot 39% from outside. Everyone expected his break through finally in his 3rd season with Frankfurt, but it didn´t come. He has times where he is brilliant and then times where he looks like a Pro B player. His inconsistency is a problem and being soft and not a better passer for a modern four is something he needs to solve this summer. He gets a C. Shaquille Hines averaged 9,4ppg and 5,1rpg and shot 35% from outside. He was a player that Frankfurt was expecting a lot of and after a slow start, he looked to have found his rhythm in 2020, but then COVID-19 hit and his 29 points(7 three´s) against Crailsheim were quickly forgotten. It would have been interesting to see how he would have finished had COVID-19 not come. 3 months after COVID-19 came, he didn´t go to Munich to play. A reason was never given. He gets a C+

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and Shaquille HInes during the 2019-2020 BBL season in the Fraport arena

Joe Rahon averaged 6,9ppg, 3,7rpg, 5,7apg and 1,4spg. I actually applauded the pick up. I liked his pass first qualities and he is that guy that makes his teammates better. He had his moments during the regular season, but also moments where crucial turnovers hurt him. In the Munich tournament he averaged 3,0 to´s per game. He gets a C. Rookie Matt Mcquaid averaged 5,9ppg and 1,1rpg while shooting 38%  from outside. He averaged only 13,6 minutes per game and I´m sure he had other expectations when he came to Frankfurt in terms of how many minutes he would play. He came as that 3 and D kind of player, but never really found his place in the rotation. It seemed like Gleim never got real trust in him. He had his moments and at times was efficient in the minutes he played. It will be interesting where he plays this upcoming season. Playing in a lower league like Finland or Holland or Pro A Germany should help his development. He gets a C.  Yorman Polas Bartolo averaged 12,5ppg, 4,3rpg and 1,7apg. He came to Munich and conquered. He put on the Skyliner jersey and it seemed like he had been here for years already. He needed no adjustment period and became a leader. He had a very strong tournament. He gets an A. Lithuanian Gytis Masiulis averaged 11,0ppg and 5,0rpg. He was another positive surprise at the tournament. Like Bartolo, he came in and found his role right away and played well. He was a good inside presence and it would have been interesting how he and Kratzer would have gelled during a whole season. He gets a B+. German Marco Voeller averaged 2,8ppg and 2,3rpg in 9,1 mpg. He is another one of those guys you need on your club. He has the heart, work ethic and character to be an important guy on the team. He reminds me a lot of Marius Nolte who didn´t play a lot, but who always gave his all. He gets a B+. Len Schoormann averaged 2,8ppg and 1,0apg in 9,1mpg. He began to play more down the stretch and became a regular during the Munich tournament. He is only 17 years old, and still needs to learn a lot but has a lot of heart. Frankfurt surely will continue to move him along delicately. He gets a C+.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and Matt Mcquaid in Frankfurt

It will be an interesting off season for the Fraport Skyliners. COVID-19 has affected the planning for many teams world wide and it isn´t any different for the Frankfurt club. Players that have contracts for next season are Quantez Robertson, Richard Freudenberg and the 3 kids Len Schoormann, Maxi Begue and Bruno Vrcic. I would try to keep Yorman Polas Bartolo and Gytis Masiulis. Both had good Munich tournaments and have some chemistry on the team and are familiar with the team. I would also try to keep Marco Voeller, because his character and role model qualities are instrumental for the club. One can only hope that management have better luck this off season in finding the right player combinations for next season. Especially a strong point guard that isn´t too expensive will be vital. There are so many gems out there and Frankfurt have demonstrated in the past under Gordon Herbert that they can be signed. Even if the COVID-19 crisis makes it difficult to look forward, basketball will be played again sometime. The Fraport Skyliners have some young players that will be looking to have a bigger role next season with Schoormann, Begue, Vrcic and Kayser and most likely will play Eurocup where they can get additional valuable experience. On top of that Quantez Robertson is coming back. He will be turning 36 this season and knows he can´t sit back and be lazy the way he was 2 years ago where he came back to Frankfurt overweight. He knows he has to be sharp this off season in Alabama. “I have to make sure that I run more. It is a lot easier to get out of shape than getting back into shape. I also have to keep doing my basketball things and do weight lifting”, warned Quantez Robertson. It is always a thrill to watch the Skyliners identity figure Quantez Robertson play and nobody ever thinks about what could have been had he left in the summer of 2013 for an Alba Berlin or FC Bayern Munich. Tez has given Skyliner fans so many great memories over the years, but now it´s time for the organization to win again. Only time will tell if the Fraport Skyliners can find success again the way they did in previous years.

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