Basketball fans have suffered worldwide. That is a fact. Not only are they missing a lot about the game, but also those special rare nuisances that don’t come so often. Witnessing those older guys who might not be around next season makes it so much more bitter for the fans that they can’t be able to see them Live. In a span of 2 weeks in December 2020, two real German basketball legends in the making played a Pro B game against the Fraport Skyliners Juniors in their home BCM gym. The first guy they met was ex national player Johannes Lischka who was only 34 years old then, but it seems like he has been around much longer with all his easyCredit BBL experience he has sampled as well as all the health issues that have affected his life. He helped Giessen beat Frankfurt with a typical 21 points and 11 boards effort. Two weeks later, the Fraport Skyliners Juniors riding a disappointing 0-6 record finally won their first contest of the season playing their first good game for 40 minutes overcoming the Arvato College Wizards 79-75. In that game, there was another German oldie with Rouven Roessler. The guy was an incredible 40 years old and seriously isn’t getting any older. He is still playing this season. He played 5 years in the BBL averaging double figures in the league 4 times and also was on the German national team. Karlsruhe has always been home for the German as he played his 16th season there. He didn’t have one of his best games finishing with 9 points in 34 minutes. Not only can one see experienced vets still battling, but also the real young gems of the future like then 16 year old Joshua Bonga (190-PG-05). On the court the players are all the same, but when one really observed the ages, there was an incredible 25 years difference in age between Roessler and Bonga. Bonga equaled the 9 points that Roessler achieved. ‘That is a pretty big extreme. We are a young team. I don’t think that it is a huge adjustment for Josh, because everybody is young on the team. I think that if we had some older players on the roster, it would be different. I remember when I began 7 years ago, we had older guys like Max Merz, Tim Oldenburg and Marius Nolte. It was good for me learning from them, but at the same time, I also had to fight for minutes’, remembered Fraport Skyliner Junior Konstantin Schubert who was the veteran on the squad in his 7th season last season. The aggressiveness that Joshua Bonga showed on the court against young and old defines the kind of player he is, but that also has to do with his extreme youthfulness not typical in the Pro B. ‘I like Joshua a lot. He is always prepared and never gives up. He gives everything. The best thing about him is that he isn’t afraid of anything. He just loves to play’, warned Fraport Skyliners Juniors head coach Miran Cumurija last season. The Fraport Skyliners organization was able to enjoy that special unworried no fear attitude and love of the game of Joshua Bonga. But that didn’t continue this season in Frankfurt as he surprisingly didn’t go the same route as Isaac in Germany and signed with Euroleague team BC Zalgiris Kaunus.
Joshua Bonga was born on January 13th, 2005 and grew up in Koblenz. When one reads the name Bonga, it quickly rings a bell for any German basketball fan. Joshua’s older brother is Isaac Bonga who played his third NBA season with the Washington Wizards and now is with Toronto. The older Bonga began his basketball career in Koblenz and came to the Fraport Skyliners in the 2015-2016 season playing his first NBBL season. Joshua also has another older brother who is a professional soccer player in Germany. His parents are both from Congo, Africa and have been in Germany for more than 20 years. The initial plan of the family was to emigrate to Canada, but they wound up in the beautiful city Koblenz that lies on the rivers Rhine and Mosel. The youngest Bonga came to Frankfurt a lot earlier than his brother did. His natural ability quickly was noticed as he has belonged to the top talents of the German basketball Federation for his birth year of 2005. He is a young man who has always known exactly what he wants. When asked in 2017 when he was only 12 years old if he could imagine seeing 2 Bonga’s on the German national team, he explained. ‘The national team is a dream for me. It is realistic to see two Bonga’s in the future. We are both Bonga’s and Bonga Bonga just fits’, said Joshua Bonga in a DBB interview. My first Joshua Bonga experience was in June 2019 when I had the pleasure of calling the German U-14 final between Eintracht Frankfurt and TS Jahn Munich. Bonga played a big role in winning the 2019 U-14 title defeating TS Jahn Munich 95-75. His teammate Jamaal Phatty now with the EPG Baskets Koblenz may have led all scorers with 32 points, but it was the all around play of Bonga that stood out. He finished with 24 points, hauled down 15 boards and dished out 6 dimes. He also excelled on the defensive end always harassing the opponents with his aggressiveness and undenying quickness. He was only 14 and played the 2019-2020 season with the JBBL (U-16) team and also saw a little action for the Frankfurt NBBL ( U-19) team. He had a great JBBL season averaging 16,0ppg and had 5 rpg. He won the JBBL rookie of the year as well as best defender. In NBBL play he showed early signs of his brilliance being able to compete with 18 and 19 year old young men. He averaged 2,2ppg and 1,9rpg, but demonstrated in 2 games that he can play with the older kids and that filling the stat sheet will be on his menu in the future just as his brother Isaac always did. He netted 7 points against Heidelberg and had 6 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals and 2 blocks
In the 2020-2021 season he received the promotion to the Fraport Skyliners Juniors. In a way he profited from COVID-19 simply because the Regionalliga 2 and NBBL seasons were canceled. In a way if he had been able to play more levels with the NBBL with more younger guys and the Regionalliga 2 with grown men, he could of seen another side of basketball and it may have helped his development in different ways. COVID-19 had it’s positive and negative effects with the athletic German playing only in one league. He would finish the season though getting promoted to the easyCredit BBL team playing three games ‘I think a positive is that with Corona, he didn’t always have to have to pick what he will play on the weekends. When your playing 3 competitions, you can’t do all on one weekend. A positive was that with Corona and the whole economical side, he has profited that an American isn’t here. He has gotten more minutes. But at the same time, it is bitter that he can’t play NBBL. I remember my NBBL time and it was great. He would have gotten added self confidence had he been able to play NBBL and Regionalliga 2’, stated Konstantin Schubert. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors had had a tough start to the 20-21 season as they lost their first 6 games. A big reason was their age. The average age of the roster was 19 years. The oldest player was Noah Kamden who was 22. There simply was little experience on the team and having that strong American guard and older guys like Marius Nolte and Tobias Jahn or Americans like Travis Thompson and Dennis Mavin to be there and be mentor figures like in past seasons were really missing that season.
In 2020-2021 his first in the Pro B he averaged 3,4ppg and 1,3rpg in 9,7 minutes per game. He scored his first pro bucket in his first game against the Basketball Lowen getting a long court bounce pass ala Rajon Rondo from Felix Feilen making the easy transition basket. It was a lot of fun to watch the young kid play as he was always good for a big play for the highlight film. He definitely has many early going qualities as a player the same way his brother Isaac had in 2015. ‘He has unbelievable athleticism and his game understanding is very good for his age. Another huge plus in his game is that he is a big competitor and always wants to win. He won’t hide from anybody and always goes out and plays hard. Also his self-confidence is very high. A good example of that was the game in Hanau. ‘He made his first three pointer, but then had two airballs. He didn’t get scared, but his confidence allowed him to keep shooting and he made his next three pointer’, remembered Neu-Isenburg native Konstantin Schubert. A big strength is his drive as his first step is so quick that he can easily beat anybody off the dribble. But the Hanau game clearly showed that his three pointer is still a work of progress. ‘He needs to work on his shot. It isn’t consistent yet. He is a good shooter, but is streaky’, stressed Konstantin Schubert. He shot 29,7% in the Pro B going 5/17.
Another big strength is his defensive play. He made a monster block in the second half in the win over the Arvato College Wizards. The potential for him just like for his brother Isaac five years ago is very scary. He was able to profit a lot from his 4 year older teammate Maxi Begue who had the potential to become the Fraport Skyliners best defender in the future, but decided to go to the rival team Giessen for the 2021-2022 season. ‘Josh has unlimited potential on defense. His long arms allow him to always be able to pressure his opponents. He will get even cleverer on defense, but that will come with age. Begue was a good role model for him. But they have different games on defense. Maxi shines more with his physicality and Joshua more through his quickness’, warned Konstantin Schubert. His athleticism is something that sticks out as much as does Lebron James’s non stop power, but another aspect of Bonga’s game that is so vital for him as a point guard is his very mature basketball IQ for age 15. ‘His pick and roll isn’t always so good, but he reads the game well and reacts well to the defense. The Pro B is a lot different to the NBBL. Sometimes he reacts to slow or overreacts when reading situations, but that will also get better with experience’, stated Konstantin Schubert. Joshua Bonga profited from COVID-19 in April 2021 as the easyCredit BBL team Fraport Skyliners had five players out and had to promote some Pro B players to the first team. Bonga made his debut in Ludwigsburg and three days later became the second youngest German player to score a field goal as he produced 7 points in 11 minutes in a loss in Bonn. Fraport Skyliner captain Quantez Robertson was impressed with his play, but knows exactly who to give the nod to as the best at age 16 concerning the two Bonga’s. ”Isaac was better at that age. Joshua is the better shooter, but Isaac was taller and the better ball handler. Joshua was fierce and ready to play. He played to the best of his ability and handled the situation pretty well’, expressed Quantez Robertson. Everything went a little quickly and unplanned for the sudden rise of Joshua Bonga to the easyCredit team, but the more experience he gets the better no matter how old he is. Even if he has made his easyCredit BBL debut, that special unworried no fear attitude is still there. Now he has a new challenge with Euroleague team BC Zalgiris Kaunus. This season with the BC Zalgiris farm team he is averaging 2,1ppg, 1,3rpg and 1,5apg. ‘Joshua is a very courageous boy that chose a decision in order to reach his goals. His time in Frankfurt was very valuable and am glad that I could witness his first BBL steps. I have experienced few players in his age that can make it everywhere. He will make it to reach his goals’, stressed Hakro Merlins Crailsheim head coach Sebastian Gleim. ‘He is a great competitor and didn’t back down from a challenge and competed every day. With added playing time, he will be very good offensively because he has a pretty good jump shot. He might even put up a few high scoring games’, warned Fraport Skyliner Quantez Robertson. The kid is still so young and raw. There is no doubt that the Fraport Skyliners will still be able to enjoy his continuing development and special unworried no fear attitude and love for the game from a far.
Written in December 2020 and updated recently