With COVID-19 having changed the whole world as well as the basketball scene, the summer of 2020 has been a very different time for everyone, but one thing hasn´t changed and that is the BCM gym in Frankfurt where the easyCredit BBL team Fraport Skyliners train. Once again there will be many incredible players coming in and out of the gym this season as the most well known player to ever practice in the gym over the years since 2004 when the gym was built has been Dirk Nowitzki. There would also be a buzz going through the BCM if one day Steph Curry would suddenly appear in the gym take off his warm up´s and start drilling home three´s from the corner as if he was back home in the Chase Center in Oakland. If one examines the name Steph Curry and head coach Bob Mckillop a bit further, one could come to the conclusion that they and the Fraport Skyliners have a connection. Before Curry started to make a name for himself at the professional ranks, he played at the established Davidson college in North Carolina under legendary head coach Bob Mckillop. The Fraport Skyliners will feature a very talented rookie this season with Icelandic all rounder Jon Axel Gudmundsson who played for Mckillop at Davidson for the last 4 years. Gudmundsson´s new teammate Quantez Robertson might not be able to say to much about his new teammate yet, but probably could give his 2 cents about Curry especially about his feeling about how he would fare with his first shots taken in the BCM before any warmup. “I think Steph would hit 15 in a row from the corner before missing”, smiled Quantez Robertson. In order to get a well informed introduction to what kind of player Gudmundsson really is, a none better way than to get the ultimate feedback from his ex coach Bob Mckillop from elite basketball school Davidson.
Bob Mckillop who celebrated his 70th birthday this past summer is a college coach legend who has been at Davidson since 1989 and in this span has compiled an amazing 594-364 record. He is Davidson’s all-time leader in wins, years coached, and games coached. His 230 South Conference wins are more than any coach in league history. His highlights as a head coach has been winning 7 SoCon tournaments and reaching the NCAA tournament 9 timers. He has had the opportunity to coach many young talented players that have landed at some time of their career in Germany like Ben Ebong, Detlef Musch, Martin Ides, Narcisse Ewodo, James Marsh, Emeka Erege, Wayne Bernard, Brendan Winters, Logan Kosmalski, De´mon Brooks and Brian Sullivan. Mckillop is best known though for coaching Steph Curry who would go onto to become a NBA superstar It doesn´t matter who you talk to, but Mckillop´s ex players rave on and on about him like De´Mon Brooks who played a huge role in the biggest success of medi Bayreuth reaching the playoffs in 2017. “There is no better coach in the world. He is the reason why I am here today. From the time I stepped foot on Davidson he prepared me for this journey on and off the court. One of the many lessons that stays with me is with freedom comes from responsibility. This is one lesson, especially playing professional basketball in Europe, that is very important for a player to abide if you want to have a long promising career”, stressed De´mon Brooks. Another ex player Tyler Kalinowski who also had nothing but the best to say about his ex coach. “He is the best coach in the world. He always stressed to us that you have to get a little better each day. He brought so much toughness to practice and that translated over to what I could do on the court and in life. That toughness really affected me and I wouldn´t be where I am today without him”, expressed Tyler Kalinowski. Another ex player Brian Sullivan who had a brief professional career playing for Hanau, in the Czech Republic and Australia before returning back to Davidson to work with Bob Mckillop also had kind words for him. “He has taught me so much that has prepared me, whether its on or off the court he has prepared us. He taught me to respect my teammates, to have fun and attack while I am playing and those are all things I will take with me”, added Brian Sullivan. These are just a few of the very positive words from ex teammates that the Fraport Skyliners should have absolutely no worries about how Jon Axel Gudmundsson will present himself on the court as a rookie, because he was taught the right way.
Jon Axel Gudmundsson is a 23 year old 196cm guard that was born on October 27th in Grindavik, Iceland and is the son of former professional player and highest capped Icelandic player Guomundar Bragason and Stefanía S. Jónsdóttir, a former member of the women´s Icelandic national team. He began his basketball career with Fjolbrautaskoli SuDjurnesja and then played 5 seasons with U.M.F. Grindavik (Dominos League) winning 6 titles. After learning how to win in Iceland and putting up massive stats, he felt he had nothing more to prove in his homeland and decided for a change of scenery. Instead of finding a team in Europe, he decided to mix it up in the NCAA and get to learn a total different style of basketball and life in North Carolina at Davidson College. COVID-19 ended his basketball career at Davidson abruptly on March 6th as that was his last game against VCU. He ended his Davidson career in flying colors winning 75-65 and having a typical day at the office dropping 17 points, hauling down 6 rebounds, dishing out 2 dimes and getting 3 steals.. 5 months later his ex coach Bob Mckillop remembers vividly what basketball trait stood out the most about the Icelandic national player. “Jon Axel had extraordinary toughness. It was physical toughness as well as mental toughness. Every day, every practice and every game, it showed up and made Jon Axel such a joy to coach”, stressed Davidson head coach Bob Mckillop.
In his 4 year career at Davidson, Jon Axel Gudmundsson played a total of 127 NCAA games He helped his team win the Atlantic 10 tournament in 2018 and reach the NCAA tournament. The first major thing that stuck out when looking at his stats was his ability to really fill it from left to right and have very high rebound and assists. One could of easily gave him the nickname Mr versatility. “You are absolutely correct about Jon Axel’s versatility. He did a little of everything and this eventually led to doing a lot of everything, and he was a master of all these little things. I never compare any of our Davidson players to a previous Davidson player nor to any NBA player. Everyone of our Davidson players were special in their own make up. Jon Axel was very, very special”, warned Bob Mckillop. In his 4 year career and 127 NCAA games, he scored in double figures in 85 games, had 18 double doubles and even registered a rare triple double against Rhode Island in his junior season with 20 points, 10 boards and 10 assists. It was the first Davidson triple double since John Falconi did it in 1973. The key element to his success on the offensive end was linked to his dedicated perseverance that he always showcased on the court. “Jon Axel’s offensive skills revert back to his toughness. He had the physical and the mental capacity and ability to make and take the clutch shot, finish through contact, and find a way to help us win the game”, commented Bob Mckillop. No player is perfect in the NCAA, but many get better and that is something that Gudmundsson did, but his shooting is one area in his game that is still a work in progress “Jon Axel had a tremendous work ethic and got better and better as his career progressed. He was a scorer more than a shooter but consistently improved his shooting ability because of his great work ethic. He developed outstanding confidence to finish plays through contact and in the process made game winning plays constantly. He also was superb at drawing fouls, and not just getting to the foul line, but making foul shots at a high percentage”, added Bob Mckillop.
The resume of Davidson players under the guidance of coach Bob Mckillop that have turned professional is immense, but it wasn´t only the constant advice, tips and faith of Bob Mckillop that helped make Jon Axel Gudmundsson the player that he is today, but nothing great will happen without the hard work and dedication of the player. Jon Axel Gudmundsson is a role model and gives the word work ethic a new meaning. “When you add a little to a little, and you do this a lot, then, the little will become a lot. In practice, in the weight room, in games, Jon Axel added a little every day. He has a burning desire to get better. Physically he became quicker and more explosive as well as stronger. Technically he became more detailed and more diversified and improved his skill level tremendously. His IQ also became a consistent characteristic of his as he studied the game and worked to be the best possible leader and teammate he could become. He was a coach’s dream”, stressed Bob Mckillop. The Icelandic player had so many highlights during his 4 year career at Davidson and so many great scoring games including scoring 20 points or more 26 times including explosions against Wichita State with 33 points, 31 points against GWU and 30 points against St Joseph´s. Coach Bob Mckillop could probably write a book of memories about Gudmunsson, but when really thinking about it was able to remember one that really stuck out. “There were so very many joys coaching Jon Axel to say that one is my favorite memory. Jon Axel gave me four years of favorite memories! In the final regular season game of his third year with us, with six seconds to go in the game and a sideline inbound possession, he made a game-winning drive and layup, was fouled, and converted the three-point play against the first place team in our conference. Not only was it a victory, but it became the fire that ignited our success to win the conference tournament that next week and advance to the NCAA tournament”, remembered Bob Mckillop.
Now Jon Axel Gudmundsson will look to make the next step as a professional player for the Fraport Skyliners in the easyCredit BBL, one of the top 5 best leagues in Europe. He already will have an advantage of other guys in that he is an European and knows how the game is played here, plus he also got to see the other side playing in the NCAA against many top schools and young future NBA players. The debate of is it worth it for an European to go over and play NCAA can be a real tough one at times, but stats have shown in Germany that guys like Dennis Schroeder, Daniel Theis and Maxi Kleber didn´t need it while it helped other players mature their game playing in a different basketball culture. He definitely got a very unique experience and one that will help him reach the top of the basketball ladder one day. “Jon Axel‘s NCAA experience at Davidson put him on the stage of being a high level competitor and leader in a very competitive environment. He played in front of national television audiences, in NBA arenas, against many, many future NBA players, in front of large crowds, and he handled these experienced with great poise. The role he played has prepared him very well for the next step in his journey towards greatness”, warned Bob Mckillop. It isn´t only how talented a player is, how many points, rebounds or assists you can make, but for a player to have the total package, you must have a top character. Helping build character and helping players get ready for the professional career is something that Bob Mckillop has done for over 30 years at Davidson. With Jon Axel Gudmundsson, the Fraport Skyliners have the total package. “Jon Axel has a burning desire to win. He wants to win very badly for the team. If you were to use one phrase about his attitude it would be this: Jon Axel believed that sacrifice equals reward. At all times, he could be trusted to do his best, he was committed to doing his best and he showed care for his coaches and teammates”, warned Bob Mckillop. The Fraport Skyliners haven´t always had luck with rookies over the years like last season as ex Michigan State guard Matt Mcquaid didn´t become the player many expected, but then again in 2006 made the right choice with Jimmy Mckinney out of Missouri as he went on to a big Skyliner career. I´m really excited to follow Jon Axel Gundmundsson this season. I feel like he could be one of the greatest rookies that the Fraport Skyliners have ever had. Bob Mckillop didn´t want to tell me if he could ever reach the NBA, but then again used this very powerful word that not many players get affiliated with right away. “Jon Axel can conquer any challenge that is presented to him I have the greatest confidence that his professional career is going to be a journey towards greatness”, warned Bob Mckillop. I´m sure when Steph Curry left Davidson in 2009 that head coach Bob Mckillop knew he was destined for greatness. With the words of Bob Mckillop, Jon Axel Gudmundsson gives the Fraport Skyliners a lot of hope that this season, the team will be a lot more joy to watch and that the wins will be happening at a more constant rate than the last 2 years.