It was March 7th, 2020 as the whole COVID-19 hype was continuing to grow and the reality of basketball not continuing was slowly creeping into some minds, but on this night the Fraport Skyliners Juniors and Orange Academy were involved in a do or die game to reach the Pro B playoffs. The Frankfurt side had played poor basketball the last weeks playing like they wanted an early summer vacation letting it come to this do or die situation while Orange Academy had won 3 of their last 4 games and had the momentum going in. As usual the Fraport Skyliners Juniors were fortified by many talented young Germans and 2 imports with Nigel Pruitt and Bruno Peric while Orange Academy had played most of the season with only Germans until mid January 2020 when they decided it wouldn´t hurt adding the typical talented American guard you see on so many rosters in this league. Orange Academy had signed Joe Rosga in the playoff hunt to give the team added offensive scoring punch at the guard position as well as giving that potential keen playmaking ability as he hit Giessen 2 for 9 dimes in a 93-76 victory. Frankfurt had the easy 50-43 lead at the break, but broke down in the second half as Orange Academy picked up their defense allowing Frankfurt to score only 34 points to win 92-84. Rosga had a strong game contributing 15 points. Another player that had a huge night was his teammate Zach Ensminger who was on triple double course exploding with 18 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists in 26 minutes. Rosga may not have been on the team long enough to learn something about German basketball history, but there wasn´t any doubting that he played the last 6 weeks with an aura of Bamberg legendary. Ok so Zach Ensminger was only 6 years old when dad Chris won his last of 2 BBL titles with Bamberg in 2007, but papa Ensminger was working in the Ulm organization when Rosga had arrived. Plus his head coach Anton Gavel had won 7 titles with Bamberg during Chris Flemings´ tenure a few years later. Playing with the younger Ensminger and learning from Gavel was something that not every player will get the opportunity to have but one that will help any player. “Zach was super competitive and hated to lose. The thing I appreciated most about his game was his ability to see the floor and get his teammates involved. He is a good kid. His dad brought me here. I loved playing with him. Coach Gavel helped me the most with my finishing and ball handling I think. He was obviously a great player and he was great as a coach too. He was very engaging in workouts and wanted us to get better. Just doing different drills with me really helped me improve in those two areas”, warned Joe Rosga. Anytime you have Ensminger and Gavel around, you will profit as Joe Rosga found out with Orange Academy.
That huge win in Frankfurt was the last game he would play in the 2019-2020 season. The club went home to Ulm on a massive high having reached the playoffs, but only a few days later the season was cancelled just like that. “It was tough, I was very disappointed when the season got cut short especially because my team had just made the playoffs and we were playing really well. I think we could’ve surprised some people in the postseason. I loved my teammates and coaches too so it was tough to leave so abruptly”, stated Joe Rosga. Just like about every other player I have interviewed since COVID-19 popped it´s ugly head into our lives, the American couldn´t believe that it would have such a big effect on the world and spread so rapidly. Like most players in Germany, he didn´t stick around long enough to experience how Germany handled the COVID-19 situation, but instead did the logical thing by returning home before Trump set the travel ban. There were a few games overseas without fans and over the summer the NBA season continued in Orlando where the games went on without fans. He got a taste on TV what it would be like playing without fans, but that wouldn´t be the same as if he were on the court battling without fans. “It would definitely be tough to play a game without fans. The environment would be very weird and pretty quiet. In college we used to have closed scrimmages all the time which we’re basically games without fans. So I have some experience with it and it’s definitely a weird feeling but if I had to play without fans I would”, added Joe Rosga.
He soon returned home to Minnesota and there witnessed a totally new life as COVID-19 was wrecking havoc on his homeland. It was a new experience and one that wasn´t easy to get adjusted to. “My day to day life is much different. Typically wake up and get a workout in. I have some dumbbells at home as well as TRX straps so I’ve just been coming up with things to do with those. I can also go for runs outside which is nice. After working out I usually try and play some cards with my girlfriend and then the rest of the day is just spent hanging out and making a good dinner. I try not to watch any tv until a movie at a night but that doesn’t always happen”, expressed Joe Rosga in April 2020. He came home so early, a time where in the last years he would still be back at school for months. Now the American who had most contact during COVID-19 with ex roommate Kristofer Krause of Orange Academy had the opportunity to get ready for his next job a lot earlier. “I don’t think it will be a big adjustment. I love training so it won’t be hard for me to do. What will be hard is finding gyms to get into because everything is the United States is shut down right now. So it could be a lot of outdoor basketball training this summer which I don’t mind. The advantages will be you have a lot of time to let your body heal from this last season and also to work on and polish new skills. Disadvantages are that it is a long time before the season starts”, warned Joe Rosga in April 2020. It has been an eye-opening summer on the transfer market as players have had to take serious pay cuts as clubs don´t have the type of budgets they once had. The whole COVID-19 crisis has shaken the transfer market, but Joe Rosga isn´t worried about finding a new job. “That is a tough question. Especially because I just finished up my rookie year which was a complicated year for me. I am just taking it day by day. I know I want to keep playing and I am just hoping for another opportunity and I know that I will be ready if that opportunity comes”, added Joe Rosga. Nobody knows exactly when COVID-19 will be history, but the American has taken the whole crisis to heart. “I have learned that anything can happen at any given time and that life can’t be taken for granted”, warned Joe Rosga.
Rosga who has MJ, Kobe, Lebron, Larry Bird on his personal NBA Mount Rushmore was born on March 30th, 1997 in St Paul, Minnesota and has 4 siblings. He began his basketball career at Cretin Derham Hall High School where he averaged 19.0ppg, 4.1rpg, 4.2apg. He then embarked on a solid 4 year NCAA at Denver University where he didn´t win any titles, but put up strong individual stats. He played a total of 115 NCAA games and averaged double figures in scoring all 4 years. His most productive personal season was his junior year where he played 30 games averaging 16.1ppg, 4.1rpg, 2.9apg, FGP: 52.6%, 3PT: 44.0%, FT: 90.1%. “My game grew in lots of ways. I improved my finishing and my passing as well. I was also a solid rebounder and had a few double doubles with rebounds. I also became a leader and a voice for the team. I was a captain all 4 years so I was constantly growing as a leader and competitor”, said Joe Rosga. He scored in double figures in 87 games in the NCAA and his 2 best scoring games was a 33 point explosion against Navy and 30 points against Jacksonville. He found his touch from down town consistently scoring 40% or better in 3 of 4 seasons. He mostly had ups at Denver like when hitting North Dakota State and Omaha for 54 points in a span of 4 days, , but also his downs losing by 61 points to well known school Gonzaga, but he reflected back on his NCAA days with joy. “Those two games my junior year was probably my best week with Denver, because both of those games were wins and I shot very efficiently. That game against Gonzaga was an eye opener for-sure because they were the Number 1 team in the country at that time and it really showed what it takes to be that good as a team”, stressed Joe Rosga. He was also lucky to have a head coach with Rodney Billups who is the younger brother of ex NBA great Chauncey who gave him freedom to use his biggest strength, “He just told me to go in with a chip on my shoulder and do what I do best which is shoot the ball. He prepared me every day and was always giving me advice”, remembered Joe Rosga.
He came to Europe in the summer of 2019 and got his first professional experience with OKK Sloboda Tuzla (Bosnia-Division I), but his stay was short as he played only 5 games. “Bosnia was a short stint because I wasn’t getting much of an opportunity to play and showcase what I could do. I knew I could play at that level but it just wasn’t the right fit”, stressed Joe Rosga. Coming to Germany is often a big joy for Americans and the adjustment period is short, because it seems like everyone can speak English. But sometimes a player will go to a country where he might not see a Mcdonalds or hear good English conversation for months. “My first wake up call was probably just hearing everyone speak a different language and not knowing what they were saying. That was defiantly when I knew I was very far from home”, remembered Joe Rosga. He then moved to Orange Academy and on account of COVID-19 played only 7 games, but he cherished the whole special experience playing with the ratiopharm farm team. “They gave me an opportunity and let me play. I also really bonded with the guys quick and got along with all of them great. It was just a lot of fun playing with them. I feel like what is special about their program is that the guys are all really close and get along and they all want to win and get better each day. They are all competitors and love the game”, added Joe Rosga. Even if his season was shortened, he felt happy that he was able to help the team achieve their goal. “They brought me there in order to help them make the playoffs and I was able to help them achieve that, so I was very pleased that I was able to help them win enough games to make the playoffs”, explained Joe Rosga. He most likely will never forget the season ending game in Frankfurt or the exciting 73-72 win over FC Bayern Munich 2. “Yeah, that was a great game. I will probably just think of all the things I did well and the things I didn’t and need to improve on over the summer”, remembered Joe Rosga.
Even if the American who lists Jake Pemberton, Christian Mackey, Abiola Akintola, Marcus Byrd, and Daniel Amigo as his 5 best teammates of all-time,was a professional rookie he was the second oldest on the team to Nils Mittmann who was 18 years older, he sensed this special respect from the other young German players who were only 4-5 years younger, but knew that he had achieved a lot playing in the NCAA. “I did sense a certain level of respect. Some of them wanted to try and go play in the NCAA so they were asking me questions about what it was like all the time”, added Joe Rosga. He not only was a role model to the other young talented Germans like Christoph Philipps, but also could learn a lot from 40 year old Nils MIttmann who had had a long fruitful BBL career in Germany. “It was a great experience playing with Christoph Phillips, he was a great teammate and you always knew what you were going to get from him each game. I don’t think his game really effected how I played other than if he had the hot hand I was looking to get him the ball. Yeah, Nils definitely loves the game and has a lot of knowledge and experience which was really nice to have on such a young team because he was a major voice and the guys listened to him and respected him”, stressed Joe Rosga. He compares his game to a Steph Curry on account of his shooting had an interesting rookie season in Europe playing for 2 clubs and is content that his game grew. “Playing overseas was definitely different from playing in college. I feel like my game grew as a rookie most in learning some of the new rules and adjusting to the physicality of the European game. Also learning different types of finishes to score over bigger players and knowing when to take shots and when to move the ball”, warned Joe Rosga. This past summer he had the opportunity even if the conditions with finding gyms wasn´t always optimal, he wanted to work on these areas of his game so that he will be well prepared for his second professional season. “I have to keep improving my ball handling and my finishing for-sure. Floaters are a great thing for me to have in my game as well so continuing to work on those as well”,warned Joe Rosga. No Matter where he plays in the future, no one can take away from him having had that Ensminger/Gavel Aura with Orange Academy something from which he could only profit from and did.