The first month of the Fraport Skyliners was a disaster as the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup team had started 0-5 as first thoughts about a possible Pro A demotion next season was prevalent. The club was very young, had problems defending and had a point guard problem. Head coach Diego Ocampo had been very diplomatic the last weeks after every new loss saying that he didn’t want to point fingers and that the record was a team problem. It was clear though that the organization had to respond some how and searching the market for a point guard wasn’t difficult to understand. I personally would have loved to have seen Jordan Theodore back for a second tour of duty, but it was also apparent that the club wouldn’t be able to satisfy his salary wishes. My article about my Theodore demand wasn’t even 48 hours old and the Fraport Skyliners had announced their new player Will Cherry (185-PG-91, college: Montana). I remember in the early afternoon getting a message from a friend saying that Will Cherry was going to sign with Frankfurt. My first thought was ‘Ok yes I remember him. He formed that potent point guard duo with Jordan Taylor at Alba Berlin in the 2015-2016 season where they won the cup in Munich.’ I also remember witnessing that incredible Alba cup win in Munich and also thinking that they would also win the BBL title. But that didn’t become a reality as they were swept by the Fraport Skyliners a few months later. I was excited about the ex NBA player Cherry coming to Frankfurt. But then a few hours later, that same friend sent me some disturbing tweets about Will Cherry where I first had to take a deep breath and wonder what Frankfurt was thinking in getting a guy that had had his spats here and there. He had had a disagreement with ex NBA player Wade Baldwin in Greece, not stuck to quarantine requirements and didn’t pass a medical test before coming to Frankfurt. Plus he had a heart condition. I had had little hope of the Fraport Skyliners winning their first game in Ulm the next day. Boy was I wrong and very pleasantly surprised how well Frankfurt played and was led by Will Cherry to the 88-80 win as he added 14 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists while shooting 6/8 in 20 minutes. ‘I stayed true to myself. You shouldn’t believe all that you read. Having this heart condition was scary, because there had been nothing in my family before. I have always been healthy. When I came to Frankfurt, everything was fine health wise. I want to thank the Skyliner organization for taking a chance on me. It is now my duty to keep proving to them that they made the right decision with me’, stressed Will Cherry. He feels no pressure to perform well and to deal with all the rumors and his rocky past as of late. ‘I don’t care what other people think. The guys who know me know the truth. I’m so happy to be playing again. My smile is so big. For me it is like being a kid in a candy store’, warned Will Cherry.
Will Cherry who has Justin Stanley, Kareem Jamar, James Johnson, Frank Otis and Jordan Taylor as his 5 best teammates of all-time was born on Feburuy 8th, 1991 in Oakland, California. He attended McClymonds High School in Oakland, California. As a senior, he averaged 12.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 4.0 steals per game for the Warriors who went an incredible 33-0. He achieved league and team MVP. He then played at the University Of Montana from 2009-2013 playing a total of 116 NCAA games. He was able to average in double figures in scoring in his last three years. In his 4 years there he averaged 12,8ppg shooting 43% from the field and 3,6rpg, 3.4apg, and 2.3 spg in 30.7 minutes per game. He was named first team All-Big Sky Conference three times, was the Big Sky Defensive Player of the year from 2011-2013, and became seventh on the school’s all-time scoring list with 1,484 points. In his 4 years at Montana, he was able to hoist the Big Sky trophy 3 times. ‘Winning it my third time my senior year against Weber State was the sweetest, because of what I went through. I had had a bad foot injury. It was crazy winning that title. I had had bumps and bruises and hit the game winner’, remembered Will Cherry who hit for 18 points in the 67-64 victory. At Montana he played for head coach Wayne Tinkle, a guy who allowed him to play his game. ‘He gave us a lot of freedom. He let us figure out things on our own. If we were in a bad situation, he gave us the needed advice. If we fell on our faces, he would pick up the pieces’, stated Will Cherry who never played teammate Jordan Gregory who could shoot out the lights at 1-1, but believes he would have won had they played.
The California native who lists childhood friend Damien Lillard as his toughest foe ever on the court played his rookie season with the Canton Charge (D-League) playing 21 games averaging 11.9ppg, 3.9rpg, 5.0apg, 1.5spg, FGP: 53.3%, 3PT: 30.1%, FT: 68.5%. He had some good games against Maine and Sioux Falls nailing 21 points apiece. Despite putting up solid stats the transition to the pro ranks was still a big adjustment to the speed and physicality. ‘The D-League was so fast paced compared to the NCAA. I had to get used to the 24 second shot clock. That 11 seconds difference was big’, said Will Cherry. In the D-League he was teammates with the Ukrainian beast Kyrylo Fesenko who was a journey man for a few years in the NBA. I saw him play once in Frankfurt and I for sure never forgot him. It was obvious that he didn’t forget him either. ‘He was real big. He would get you open with his body. He was a really funny and cool dude’, remembered Will Cherry. In his second season he finally reached the big show. He was with the Toronto Raptors in camp and then was cut. He then was signed by the Cleveland Cavaliers and played 8 games. But it was before getting to Cleveland, where he actually witnessed his NBA wake up call. ‘I went to Toronto and a fan actually recognized me. I had never worn a NBA jersey yet. I was totally shocked’, remembered Will Cherry. He also will never forget his first NBA basket against the New Orleans Pelicans. ‘Lebron passed me the ball on the fast break. Not many guys can say that Lebron James passed them the ball on their first basket. Lebron is so unselfish sometimes to a fault. If you are open he will pass you the ball. He doesn’t care who you are. He will make the right play’, warned Will Chery.
Many guys would dream to have been able to mention to their grand children that they were teammates with a Kevin Love or Shawn Marion, but very very little guys can boast that they were also teammates with Lebron James and Kyrie Irving at the same time. Even if he only played 8 games with the Cavs, he did gather some special stories concerning Lebron and Uncle Drew. ‘I was able to have some 1-1 time with Lebron. It was after a practice. I was showering and there he came. At first I was a little scared and nervous. I knew that I had to ask him a question. I asked him a question not knowing how he would reply. He answered great. I had the luck of the draw to have had this moment with him. I never had a chance again 1-1 with him after that. He gave great advice. One time I was at lunch after a practice with some of the guys and he told us some funny stories when he was with the Miami Heat. I remember reading something on Social media about Chris Brown and I told Kyrie that. In a matter of 30 seconds, he was on face time with Chris Brown. He called him right away wanting to know what was up. That was crazy’, stressed Will Cherry. He also saw close up how fierce the NBA was. It is no secret that the feelings of players in the NBA are the last concerns of organizations. ‘I remember during an NBA Summer League during half-time of a game that Scotty Hopson was told not to go back on the floor, because he had been traded. I remember him saying he had no idea what hotel to go to. He would get traded a few more times that season’, added Will Cherry. He then finished the season with B.C. Zalgiris Kaunas (Lithuania-LKL) playing 36 games averaging 6.1ppg, 2.6rpg, 2.5apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 45.3%, 3PT: 30.5%, FT: 71.1%; and played 15 Euroleague games averaging 7.1ppg, 2.4rpg, 1.7apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 41.4%, 3PT: 36.8%, FT: 70.8%. He remembered his wake up call being the spacing of everything on the court and just playing against the many no calls and brutal physicality of the Euroleague. The style of play was also one that he had never witnessed before.
In the 2015-2016 season he came to Germany for the first time playing with Alba Berlin averaging 10.9ppg, 4.1rpg, 4.0apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 52.1%, 3PT: 35.5%, FT: 84.6%; in the BBL and in the Eurocup averaged 10.3ppg, 4.6rpg, 3.7apg, 1.7spg, FGP: 46.0%, 3PT: 26.5%, FT: 71.4%. He would win his first professional title beating FC Bayern Munich in the semi-finals and then teaming up with Jordan Taylor to beat the Fraport Skyliners and up and coming guard Jordan Theodore in the cup final in Munich. He played for the very tough head coach Sasa Obradovic who is known for having invented his own unique body movements on the sidelines and a guy who can make a player come to tears. ‘He was real demanding. He always tried to get the best out of his players. But he didn’t understand the concept of rest. That was a big reason why we got swept by Frankfurt in the playoffs. We had nothing to give. The physical and mental side was so demanding that our bodies gave out. Off the court, he was a cool and amazing guy. He is very intelligent and you could talk hours about basketball with him. It was just hard to forget his antics on the court and get to really know him off the court was demanding’, remembered Will Cherry. It is also not every day that a player can play with a two time NCAA champion and it is even rarer when that special winner is German. He was fortunate to have been teammates with German national player and team player Niels Giffey who Cherry will always remember as that glue guy. ‘Niels is a real good player. He always did everything that the team needed to win if it was scoring, rebounds or defense. Winning was always more important than stats. He always put in a lot or work. Going to Zalgiris was a big step. I know how much he loves Berlin, but he wanted to take that next step in his career’, commented Will Cherry. He scored in double figures in 21 BBL games netting 22 points against the EWE Baskets and scored in double figures in 9 Eurocup games including 18 points a piece against Le Mans and FC Bayern Munich. After his season in Germany, he continued to explore Europe and signed with Gaziantep Basketbol (Turkey-BSL) averaging 11.0ppg, 5.0rpg, 4.0apg, Steals-5 (1.7spg), FGP: 52.0%, 3PT: 27.6%, FT: 74.1%; and in the FIBA Europe Cup averaged 10.5ppg, 4.4rpg, 4.4apg, Steals-5 (1.9spg), FGP: 58.4%, 3PT: 22.7%, FT: 81.8%. The Turkish BSL league has been on the rise for years and with the money swirling around attracts many Americans. ‘There was already a lot of money in that league when I was there. I think a reason why the league is so good, is because there are many Americans there. Every team has 5-6 highly skilled Americans. You can never take off a night there. There is also a lot of money in the second league. It’s crazy’, remembered Will Cherry. He scored in double figures in 20 games including 29 points against Best Balikesir and 23 points against Usak. In the Fiba Europe Cup he scored in double figures in 8 games including 19 points against AEK Athens. In the 2017-2018 season he gained further experience with KK Cedevita Zagreb (Croatia-Premijer Liga) averaging 10.5ppg, 3.1rpg, 3.4apg, Steals-3 (1.9spg), FGP: 66.4%, 3PT: 34.5%, FT: 71.1%; and in the Eurocup averaged 11.8ppg, 2.7rpg, 4.1apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 47.9%, 3PT: 27.4%, FT: 73.9%; and in the Adriatic League averaged 11.1ppg, 2.8rpg, 3.2apg, Steals-4 (1.7spg), FGP: 50.7%, 3PT: 35.3%, FT: 80.0%. He has great memories of this season even if the end wasn’t that rosy. ‘Cedivita was amazing. We had a NBA like schedule playing in 3 leagues. The coach was great and so were my teammates and the city. My only regret was not getting to the ABA final as Buducnost beat us’, remembered Will Cherry. He scored in double figures in 15 Croatian League games including 24 points against Split. In The ABA league he scored in double figures in 14 games including 24 points against Buducnost and in the Europcup scored in double figures in 9 games including 19 points against Levallois.
After being overseas 3 years, the American who didn’t see the sequel to Coming To American, because he felt it should have been left alone decided to give the NBA another shot and played with the Golden State Warriors G-League team Santa Cruz Warriors averaging 8.9ppg, 3.6rpg, 4.4apg, 1.7spg, 2FGP: 44.5%, 3FGP: 20.5%, FT: 72.3%. It was here that he noticed that reaching the NBA would probably never happen again. He just didn’t understand what NBA teams were really looking for anymore in a player. ‘I felt like at that time I could of scored more and shot the ball better. I actually began to shoot the ball better near the end of the season. I could have done more. Now when I look back at that season, I can’t understand why I didn’t get a call up. We were the best team in the league and almost got the record for the least amount of points let up. Nobody got called up that season. I just don’t understand what the NBA is looking for? Are they looking for stats or winners? I have given up trying to figure out what the NBA really wants’, stressed Will Cherry. He scored in double figures in 22 games including 24 points against South Bay and 21 points against Memphis. He also has seen a big change in the NBA to when he was there in 2014. The NBA is getting younger and younger. ‘I think it is a lot easier to get to the NBA now than when I was there. Social media has a lot to do with it. The young players today don’t know how to play the game and don’t know the ins and outs. I think that many of the guys that have had an impact are the last first round picks and second round picks like Draymond Greene. These guys know how the game works and were longer in college’, expressed Will Cherry .He finished the season in Greece with Olympiacos Pireus.
In the 2019-2020 season he resigned with Olympiacos Pireus averaging 5.4ppg, 2.0rpg, 1.7apg, 2FGP: 47.2%, 3FGP: 36.4%, FT: 66.7%, in the Euroleague and finished the season with Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia (Italy-Serie A). Even if there were some positive aspects in Greece, it was definitely a season to forget. ‘It was an all-right experience, but not the best. It may look lovely looking in from the outside, but it wasn’t. When your losing all is bad, but when your winning it bothers no one. It was my worst year in my career. I mean I had never averaged 5.0ppg before in my life. I had never sat in a corner before. It was just a weird situation. The whole experience taught me a lot though. The organization and teammates were great though’, said Will Cherry. Then there was that well known altercation that he had with ex NBA player Wade Baldwin. After 3 years in the NBA, it was Baldwin’s first season overseas and like Cherry, it wasn’t a good one for the ex Vanderbilt (NCAA) stand out. ‘We had an altercation in practice that led to me leaving. There were no punches. It was a simple practice scuffle. There was just some pushing and shoving. The club was up in flames at that point’, remembered Will Cherry. Two things he won’t forget was teammate Vassilis Spanoulis and the fans. ‘Vassilis was the man. All saw him as the basketball legend, but off the court he was an even greater man. You would think that a decorated guy like that could be a butt hole, but he wasn’t. He knew the game so well. I learned a lot from him. It was like being around the star of Europe. In Greece one minute the fans love you and the next minute they don’t. I never lay down lightly and would talk back at them. They will attack you. I think that the real fans support you even in bad times. Many of the fans don’t even know the game, but there are good fans there. They take the good with the bad’, stated Will Cherry.
Now let’s fast forward to 2021. The ex NBA player who has Jordan, Magic, Bird, Chamberlain and Russell on his personal NBA Mount Rushmore has come in to be that saviour type of player for the Fraport Skyliners. The COVID time was difficult for him as he couldn’t play the game he loved as he was in the dark in Italy not knowing what would happen. It gave him an opportunity to find ways to learn about things outside of basketball and about things after his basketball career. But for now the 30 year old still has a lot of basketball in front of him. ‘I’m very excited to be here. Frankfurt is a good and young team that just hasn’t been able to put it all together. I want to use my experience and instill confidence in the players. The young players are pro’s for a reason. They just need to execute and do what they have done their whole life. I want them to go out play their game and have fun’, warned Will Cherry. One guy who has been in a tiny funk as of late has been Rasheed Moore ‘Rasheed has some experience. We talk all the time. Part of being a leader is knowing how to relate to your teammates. He can do a lot more and I will help him’, stressed Will Cherry. One guy he doesn’t need to help is captain Quantez Robertson. His eyes light up when I mention him. ‘Aw Tez is a dog. He is so strong and physical and a great perimeter defender. He is a winner. The last time I played him he won the Fiba Cup. He was such a big factor in that title’, said Will Cherry. German basketball fans got a first idea of what Will Cherry can still do on the court in Ulm. That game has gotten Fraport Skyliner fans reborn again this season. Will Cherry definitely doesn’t want to disappoint them. ‘Ulm was just a taste. Fans will see a guy who knows when to score and when to find his teammates. I will do whatever the teams needs. That is all that I care about. In the last couple years I was put in a box to just fill a role, but now with the Fraport Skyliners you will see me play my game wholeheartedly’, warned Will Cherry. It is finally exciting to follow the Fraport Skyliners again as there is new hope with Will Cherry in town.