With two weeks to go before the start of the 2020-2021 easyCredit BBL, I wasn´t necessarily awaiting a 30 point scolding by the Fraport Skyliners over Pro A team PS Karlsruhe in a pre season contest, but at least having Frankfurt control the game. Instead the Fraport Skyliners didn´t get up off the wrong side of the bed, but moreover seemed to be in a nasty sleep walk getting down 11-0. Nothing worked at both ends of the court. On offense they couldn´t execute the easiest passes while on defense gave up easy baskets and had no communication. As usual it was Mr Cinderella Rasheed Moore who came off the bench and gave the 2004 BBL champion the needed energy to get going. The guy who is one of the few players ever in Germany to go from the Regionalliga to the BBL step by step in three years saved the club´s butt numerous times last season with his versatile play. It wasn´t a cake walk, but at the end Frankfurt did win, but it was simply ugly. If this is was a preview of how the 20-21 season could go, well then it will be a very long season. Of course the organization hopes it will reach the playoffs again after not having been there often in the last years, but this season could go either way. There are positives and negatives to the Fraport Skyliners team this season and it will be interesting where exactly the journey will go for them. The question is can the new Spanish presence head coach Diego Ocampo lead the Fraport Skyliners to success despite nagging injuries and unproven players?
The biggest positive and strength has to be the presence of head coach Diego Ocampo. . After Aito brought titles to Alba Berlin and Pedro Calles helped Vechta and Hamburg reach the playoffs, it was obvious that other clubs in the BBL might go this trend of bringing in Spanish blood. Frankfurt and Braunschweig followed. He is a guy who hasn´t had any big success as a head coach in terms of titles, but has two things going for him. He has learned from legends like Aito and Joan Plaza and is known for being able to shape and develop young players. He coached the Spanish U-16 and U-17 teams and won a Bronze medal at the U-16 European championships in Lithuania in 2011. Everyone knows the reputation that the Fraport Skyliners have had in the last 10 years with their ambitious youth program. They have belonged to the top youth development addresses in Germany and have helped Johannes Voigtmann and Danilo Barthel reach the Euroleague and assist Isaac Bonga to making the NBA. Ocampo has worked with players like Leandro Bolmaro, Kristaps Porzingis, Marc Gasol and Tomas Satoransky helping them move ahead. He also coached FC Barcelona 2 for two years enriching their youth program. “Diego is amazing with young players. He has worked with a lot of young players in his career and I think that he is able to teach young players a lot. Teaching individual skills is one of his greatest strengths as a coach”, warned ex Ocampo player Scott Bamforth. Ocampo doesn´t only foster vital player/coach relationships on the court, but off the court is a genuine human being who won´t turn off his phone after practice, but also be there for the player. ““I really liked him as a person. He cares deeply about his players and family. We had some differences on the court. His solutions for every problem was work harder, work harder, work harder. Spend more hours practicing. My mindset is identify the problem and find the smartest solution. So we didn’t see eye to eye. Both of us cared so much about basketball & the team, but with different philosophies it was a conflict”, remembered Ocampo ex player Garrett Stutz. It will be interesting to see what Ocampo can produce out of the roster.
With a limited budget, it is always like playing the sweepstakes when it comes to reeling in the best possible players with the money you have. Frankfurt haven´t had the most talented import point guards the last two seasons, but this season hope that Donovan Donaldson can make a difference. He played in lower leagues in Europe, but has shown in pre season that he can push the ball and score in bunches, but can he be the reliable playmaker when his shot isn´t falling? The club also got two young bigs with Dutch 221cm giant Matt Haarms and American Brooks DeBisshop. Haarms is a rookie who last season played at Brigham Young. He has shown that he can dunk and make good passes out of the pick and role, but can he become a consistent scorer at the BBL level, while DeBishop has shown that toughness and does a lot of things that you don´t see on the stat sheet. Plus his self-confidence of wanting to be the best rebounder in the BBL is enriching. A steal could have been ex NBA player and G-league legend Reggie Hearn. This guy can really shoot the ball and is a prolific scorer. His character according to ex Skyliner legend Tyrone Ellis is incredible. But he is already departed again as he suffered a long term injury where the club couldn´t wait to heal. Instead they brought in Zaccheus Darko-Kelly who had been with the MHP Riesen in pre season to fill the void. German Lukas Wank was on the German national team 12 man roster at the 2021 Olympics and is a versatile player that can score and will have to play point guard this season. He will give the team another dimension on the defensive end being able to defend many positions with his aggressiveness and length.
The club kept two imports with Skyliner legend Quantez Robertson and Mr Cinderella Rasheed Moore. Robertson is playing his 13th season with the Fraport Skyliners and is with Mr Oldenburg Ricky Paulding the identity figure of the easyCredit BBL. He isn´t as quick as 8 years ago, but still quick enough to belong to the top defenders every year. “I want to be more of an offensive threat this season and shoot better. ‘You will continue to see me attached to guy’s hips and read the offensive guys eyes on the weak side and continue to rack up steals”, warned Quantez Robertson. Last season Rasheed Moore was my unsung hero and belonged to the best players on the team together with Matt Mobley and Quantez Robertson. This season his role will be even more important. Of course his versatility, scoring and rebounding will have to be spot on like last season, but in addition he can be an added mentor type with Quantez Robertson helping the many inexperienced BBL players. With the injuries to Bruno Vrcic and Len Schoorman who were projected with vital roles this season, the team will have to rely on other German players to have to come in. Jordan Samare and Lorenz Brenneke could be these type of players. Both will get extended minutes in the Pro B with the Juniors, but especially Brenneke could emerge as a big winner in the BBL finally getting a real chance breaking into the Frankfurt rotation. He is an allrounder, but his biggest strength is that he is fearless. Samare can give the club stable shooting and rebounding and doesn´t miss much form the free throw line. Also 18 year old German Alexander Richardson who is mainly projected to make the next step in the Pro B could be the big surprise this season with his first BBL minutes. He has a big body that is still very raw, but has an incredible will to learn
In the seasons where new German national coach Gordon Herbert was behind the bench, the Fraport Skyliners belonged to the best defensive teams in the BBL often allowing in the high 60´s in points per game. Last season the team allowed 82 points per game which was still eighth best in the league. In the pre-season the style of Frankfurt and defensive effort have shown that they want to defend with passion. They have kept the points down and their aggressiveness has led to an abundance of transition buckets. The team wants to play fast and get up a shot as quickly as possible in the first 8 seconds and when they can´t execute then go into the half court offense and work for a good shot. The two biggest questions marks is the walking wounded list which continues to be a massive thorn in the side of this organization. Germans Vrcic and Schoormann will be out for a while and that is just very bitter. The club has a void at the German position. Reggie Hearn was out right away and will need some time to get into rhythm not only with the club, but also with the flow of the BBL. The other void is can the imports Donaldson, Haarms and DeBisshop make a difference in the very strong easyCredit BBL. The club just doesn´t possess much BBL experience on the roster. That could be the difference from scrapping at the playoff places or landing in no man´s land at 13 or 14. Crucial could also be how they begin the season. They have to start well and get some wins off the bat. Getting wins over Braunschweig and Bonn have to be made while stealing a win against Hamburg would be golden while beating Alba Berlin isn´t realistic. After these four opponents come tough teams Munich, Ulm and Bamberg. It looks like this will be another season where the Fraport Skyliners won´t make the playoffs. I see them somewhere between 8-14, but more realistic is 10-17. The problem is that the easyCredit BBL is so extreme competitive anything can happen. The most exciting thing to observe this season will be what kind of an impact Diego Ocampo will have on the success of the team. A close second will be how many words of Spanish Quantez Robertson can pick up from Diego Ocampo on long road trips?