If one has some extra time and is a bit bored, one can reminisce about so many things in life. Nothing is the same in the world anymore. It isn’t any different in the basketball world in September 2021. Of course one can think about how nice it was watching Dirk Nowitzi perform his legendary step back jumper over the whole NBA, or remembering all the great feats of a Kobe Bryant or just looking back to the 80’s when hard nosed defense and physicality was rampant in the NBA. Or one can look back only a few years ago in Dragons Rhondorf basketball history. Who could forget the two game playoff series against Wolfenbuetel in 2018 where hardcore fans would be able to seriously savior the beautiful play of the one and only Kameron Taylor or only two years ago or recollect the coast to coast drives of a Curtis Hollis. Seeing those guys do their stuff in the Dragon Dome in Bad Honnef seems really like ages ago. Everything changed radically in March 2020 and it hasn’t been the same since. Nobody will forget what they have experienced themselves in the last year and a half or forget what they have seen on the news because of COVID, but one can’t hide their heads in the sand and pout like a spoiled dog that hasn’t got their dinner. Life goes on and so does basketball. After having to halt the 2019-2020 season and not play playoffs and then sitting out most of the 2020-2021 season, the Dragons Rhondorf are famished to finally lace up their sneakers again and are finally back. It has been a long wait and fans will be able to experience basketball again Live and not on their lab tops. Despite question marks with the Dragons Rhondorf roster, there is also hope and excitement. Basketball is finally back again.
It has been no secret that since Yassin Idbihi came on board in 2019-2020 to take over the club, there has been an increased interest to develop the youth sector and that would have continued last season had the season been played. The club went into last season without an import in the Regionalliga and had a decent roster for the Regionalliga. It would have been interesting to see what young head coach Julian Thomas would have been able to do with that team. Well he gets another chance this season and focus on the youth continues. The 13 man roster is very young. It has 8 players 19 or younger. In the Regionalliga, having success wouldn’t have bene easy, because that is a league with very much older players, but it could have occured. The Pro B is a step up and has less older players, but the overall quality and talent level is higher. There are organizations in the Pro B that need to win and wouldn’t take risks. That is different with the Dragons Rhondorf. They care about the youth and want to make a difference. ‘The whole idea of our program is to have young talents in positions where they have to produce. We really feel like making a big contribution to not only local, but also German basketball by taking talents out of their comfort zones and kind of force them into bigger roles and team-leaders. Is this a risk? Definitely. But from our point of you this is what ProB-Basketball should be all about. Helping young players reach the next level through playing in big roles’, warned head coach Julius Thomas. It also didn’t help the cause of the young players development that the whole U-19 and U-16 season was cancelled in 2020-2021. This put a massive dagger in the players development. So obviously the young guys have to work extremely hard this season and hopefully find a way to make some kind of ground in their development. ‘They all found ways to have individual workouts and worked hard on their skills. However, playing 5on5 and playing games is the thing that helps those guys the most. The lack of those games will take some time to make up for’, stressed Julius Thomas.
The Club has two veterans with Paul Albrecht who is 28 years old and Pal Ghotra who is 22 years old. These are two guys that will have to give consistent offensive production as well as be top role models. Albrecht is one of those guys that can be the best role model for the kids. He was already comfortable with that role last season. ‘For me it’s not about being the top scorer. I’m more like a playing coach. I’m trying to help everybody on the team. I’m like the point guard even though I’m not. I’m always telling players where to go. I’m responsible for everyone having a great focus before the game. All that matters for me is that we win and everyone else has a good game. This is all I really care about. I don’t care about the stats. Important is also that the guys get better. All the guys respect me which is great. If it would have been about me I wouldn’t have come here. I just want to develop further with them’, warned Paul Albrecht. The club also decided to reel in an import player with rookie William Christmas (196-G-93, college: CPP) who played at Cal Poly (NCAA2). He is a player that might not score the ball as consistently and as much as former players Kam Taylor or Curtis Hollis, but he can be an impact player at both ends of the court and fill the stat sheet with ease. Plus he is a guy with a high character that will fit in perfectly with all.
The team also has many young players that are seeking to continue to develop further. Guys like Bruno Albrecht, Oshane Drews, Nikola Petojevic, Ousmane Ndiaye, and Clint Schonheiter got experience last season with the club. Especially players Albrecht and Drews already showed early signs that they could perform at the Regionalliga level. Albrecht showed he can be an explosive scorer while Drews is considered one of the big talents in German basketball that is being groomed as a point guard. The question will be can they do it at the Pro B level? A big project is Ndiaje where supposedly NBA teams already have him on the radar. He continues to get stronger and the team hopes he can make an impact. It will be very interesting to see where his journey will go this season? One player they could really use at times is 206cm big man Marek Mboya Kotieno. He already played with the club in 2019-2020 and last season was with the Telekom Baskets Bonn and Erfurt getting playing time. This season the club won’t be so big inside and will need him, but the question will be how often he will be available, because he has a double license. Two young guys that the team picked up were high scorer Nicolas Buchholz and talented guard Ralph Honnou from Ludwigsburg. Unfortuntately the latter got injured and will be out for a while. Buchholz was one of the top NBBL (U-19) players in Germany from 2018-2020 averaging 23 and 18 points per game and last season played with Rostock with their second team in the second Regionalliga and even played 4 Pro A games. He has shown in pre season that he can be that reliable scoring option at the Pro B level. There are also three other young youth players that will be looking to get a chance like Robin Straub, Michael Ejumeta and Esli Edigin. Especially many eyes will be on Edigin who Yassin Idbihi is very high on his abilities.
So where will the journey of the Dragons Rhondorf lead to this season? They are definitely one of the youngest teams in the Pro B, but have a lot of talent as well. Something new this season is that the Dragons will be playing in the Pro B north. So instead of playing against Frankfurt, Koblenz or Munich, they will battle against teams like Munster, Hamburg or Bernau. Realistically one can’t await a miracle and a 6 game winning streak to begin the season, but one will definitely see a very focused group of guys that will be motivated to win and to get better. It is really difficult to make a prediction for this club. One thing the players and fans will definitely get is a very driven head coach Julius Thomas. He is a guy that has a smile that can light up the room, but don’t let that fool you. He is a coach that knows his X& O’s and has a big heart that wants his players to do well and develop. He is a coach that is just at the beginning of his career, but already has a lot of respect from his peers. ‘Coach Julius is doing a great job. He is only 23 years old. I can hardly believe it. He is at least 35 the way he knows basketball. He knows exactly how to talk to players and the players all have huge respect for him. Even though he is so young he has a crazy work ethic. He is a basketball junkie working everyday trying to make us better. He has made us better. He is just a good coach. For me he is one of the best young coaching talents in Germany’, warned Paul Albrecht. It will be very compelling to see what kind of season the Dragons Rhondorf will have. One thing is for sure win or lose, everybody is just extremely happy that basketball is back in Bad Honnef.