To be honest I wasn’t too scared about the Celtics-Nets series and my Celtics not advancing. That it would be a sweep surprised me though. My positive feelings towards the Fraport Skyliners wasn’t any different in late summer in 2021 either. I mean they had a new Spanish coach with Diego Ocampo. In the last years Pedro Calles had made the Spanish way sexy in the easyCredit BBL with his incredible success with Rasta Vechta and continued maturity and bringing the Hamburg Towers to new heights. Plus Braunschweig had brought in a new coach and that project was also reaping success as well as Alba Berlin making the transition after the departure of Aito. So what could go wrong? So back to my Celtics. That Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving would be total messes in this series was something that few expected so the social media onslaught they have been suffering can be understandable. I’m just overjoyed that the Boston Celtics reached the next round, but now the next battle awaits against the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks. I can’t say the same for the Fraport Skyliners a club I have covered since the 2003-2004 season. I have witnessed a lot of joy and glory with the 2004 BBL title or remembering Tyrone Ellis and Alex King chugging down beers after defeating Alba Berlin to reach the 2005 final, or Pascal Roller miss a untypical clutch free throw in Bamberg in 2010 losing game 5 or Jordan Theodore heaving the ball up in the Le Colisee arena in Chalon seemingly trying to have his mom catch it back in Englewood, New Jersey after he was instrumental in helping the Fraport Skyliners win only their third club championship with the Fiba Europe Cup in 2016. Since that incredible achievement, the organization that came to life in 1999 has been heading in a downward spiral. There have been some seasons like 2006 and 2013 where the team was saved with a last second win to stay in the league. That isn’t the case this season. Only a wild card can help them. The season didn’t begin well and the club just never found a rhythm. I travel to many places during the season. If it’s Rhondorf, Koblenz, Giessen, Limburg or other places, I always heard the routine question which was ‘what has happened to the Fraport Skyliners’? It was tough always stuttering and trying to find some excuses for this so disappointing and brutal season. I reach Fraport Skyliner legend Quantez Robertson (188-G-1984, college: Auburn, agency: Interperformances) on the eve of their last road game of the season in Crailsheim. I’m a bit miffed as I hear his kids in the back round expecting silence as he is in a hotel room, but I guess with the brutal tough season traveling on game day to a meaningless game can be done. Even with a new baby on board, Quantez Robertson still finds some time to follow the NBA and the Celts-Nets series. ‘I was surprised of the Celtics sweep. But the Nets haven’t played together this season. I would of thought that the Nets would at least get 2 games’, said Quantez Robertson. Mega super star Kevin Durant has taken a beating on social media about his poor shooting series. It didn’t take him long to flee the States and head to Monaco to watch close friend Mike James battle in the Euroleague. ‘I feel you can’t really criticize the way KD played. He did all he could. It was just one of those series where he didn’t shoot the ball well. It helped the Celtics that they keyed in on him. They did a good job forcing him to take tough shots and get the team out of rhythm’, commented Quantez Robertson. Jayson Tatum stole the show from Kevin Durant, but he isn’t the new Durant yet. ‘I mean there is only one Kevin Durant. But it is a fact that Tatum is one of the best young players in the NBA now. He is scoring and defending and showing he is an allstar and on his way to becoming a superstar’, warned Quantez Robertson. After some NBA talk, it was time to rap about the very poor 2021-2022 season. It didn’t take long for Tez to think for the perfect sentence defining the season. ‘It was tough and unbearable’, stressed Quantez Robertson.
The best thing to do after a loss is to forget it and move on. But after a so disappointing season like this, you have to review it and then forget it. I have to admit, I wasn’t totally perplexed or shocked when the Fraport Skyliners brought in unknown Spanish coach Diego Ocampo who had coached in Europe’s best league ACB, but never had success. I was blinded by the success of Spanish coach Pedro Calles and others like Jesus Ramirez and Israel Gonzalez showing they can take over teams and show success. But I was wrong. Ocampo was a nice guy and I dreaded always seeing this short Spanish guy coming to the post game interview after every new loss, a bit more broken and reeling to find plausible excuses why his guys lost again. It is no secret that success also has to do with having the right combination of players and making the right chemistry. Unfortunately the Fraport Skyliners weren’t able to bring in the right players and they never found a rhythm this season. That the Fraport Skyliners had a limited budget surprised no one, but the team lives and dies with the point guard. Getting unproven Donovan Donaldson sealed the fate of the team from the start. I mean here and there you have to be flexible and be able juggle money and at least get a player that has won something or played in Germany before. I would have gotten Kendale Mccullum right away who had a very good season in Giessen. Ok so they also moved down, but that wasn’t his problem. That organization had numerous problems. By the time the Fraport Skyliners got ex NBA player Will Cherry, the team was already in the hole at 1-5. ‘It was very tough because we were losing. We had a bunch of good guys and had confidence, but once you get a losing streak, have injuries and have guys coming and going, it is hard to find the right chemistry’, stressed Quantez Robertson. At first it seemed like Will Cherry could have been that magical acquisition that would turn the club’s season around the way Justin Cobbs did in November 2014 when he was hauled in. Cherry and the Fraport Skyliners began with a massive road win in Ulm where Cherry was brilliant and after two tough loses against Bamberg and Braunschweig, beat Wurzburg and Crailsheim. But then came a four game losing streak including a tough 82-78 loss against Chemnitz that they should of won. This was one of many games that could have saved Frankfurt from being saved and being in the cellar at the end. Then there was another very brief moment of hope as they beat Heidelberg shortly before the new year at home and defeated arch rival Giessen. But after that the season totally fell apart. The win against Heidelberg would be their last win in their living room until the last game of the season against Bayreuth a little more than 4 months later. The club had many problems, but for Tez the biggest was just being able to score. ‘Lack of execution hurt us the most in the fourth quarter. Not being able to defend the ball and getting stops when we needed to hurt us the most’, remembered Quantez Robertson. There was one positive aspect to the terrible season. ‘We fought every game hard. Despite losing so much, we never gave up’, stressed Quantez Robertson.
After the win in Giessen is when the Fraport Skyliners season was decided as winning then became as difficult as trying to figure out how to stop a Giannis in the post for anyone on earth. The big losing streak occurred in January and the club should have reacted then and fired Diego Ocampo, but instead kept him on board believing he could be the miracle worker. Instead they let Ocampo go on March 17th. ‘I think that making a coaching change could have been better had it happened earlier. Otherwise they should of just left Ocampo until the end. Making that change so late was really tough for the players. The new coach wanted a new system which made it hard to adjust to so late in season’, expressed Quantez Robertson. The club would then lose 13 of 14 games and when the season was finally almost over, they finally began to play better winning three of their last four games against Oldenburg, Crailsheim and Bayreuth. The club had a talented bunch of players, but if there is no sound rhythm and chemistry, it is harder to play together and score baskets. The team scored the least points in the EasyCredit BBL with 73 per game. They were one of the better defensive teams allowing 79 points per game. What a shame to be able to play so hard on the defensive end, but not get rewarded because one can’t produce points. Not having good starts into games scoring wise seemed to plague Frankfurt. ‘I believe that a lot of games were decided in the first half. In order to get back into the game, you need more energy. We had problems not having the extra energy to finish our comebacks’, commented Quantez Robertson. There were so many losses against teams like Chemnitz, Goettingen, Ulm, Bamberg, and Giessen that they should of won, but didn’t. These losses were the difference between getting over the hump and remaining in the league and not. They also belonged to the poorest three point shooting teams at 29%. Despite this they continued to heave away from the parking lot instead of trying to have more of an inside out game. Even when ex Euroleague player Jamel Mclean joined the team, they still should of played more inside ball. They should of involved 221cm giant rookie Matt Haarms more in the offense, but the three ball was more on the menu.
It isn’t easy to rate the season of the individual players with positive words after such a poor season. The team’s top scorer was Will Cherry (14/3/4 stats). He had some massive games and was a big reason for the wins against Ulm, Braunschweig, Giessen, Heidelberg and Oldenburg. But he couldn’t bring more consistency. There were games where his hero ball and not being able to take care of the ball hurt the team. Jamel Mclean (11p/5r) was also a bright spot despite coming to the team injured and not in the best shape. He showed glimpses of why he played for numerous Euroleague teams. That he averaged 22 minutes a game is a bit of a shock considering he often was winded and should of been on the bench more. His post moves and finishes were nice to watch and he surprised me in the last game that he still has good athleticism making many dunks. I hope he plays 2-3 more years. Marcel Ponitka (9/3/4) came late, but he was a positive aspect. He is a guy that would have made a difference had he been on board from the start. He always played with energy at both ends and showed he could score at ease and be a facilitator. Quantez Robertson (8/4/3) played his 13th season and unfortunately is declining in his play. He showed at the start that his scoring qualities had to be present as he scored in double figures in 9 of 12 games, but in the last 16 games scored only in double figures in 4 games. His three didn’t come well as it was his second worst shooting percentage for a season since the 2011-2012 season. ‘The season was frustrating for me. Not being able to close out games effected my play’, added Quantez Robertson. If the team gets a wild card, I believe that his chances are 50/50 of returning. His love for the game is huge, but he just became a dad for the third time and with age creeping up and thinking of family could make him retire. ‘I don’t know yet what I’m going to do’, stressed Quantez Robertson. Brancou Badio (10/2/2) who was hauled in by Diego Ocampo had a good start as his scoring qualities helped the team, but as a young player, he didn’t have the needed experience to be able to help the team more. Inconsistency and 1-1 play took over as the losing got worse. After the Fiba window in Feb, his play diminished and he played no role for new coach Luca Dalmonte getting DNP’s.
One of the biggest disappointments was Lukas Wank (5/3/1) who came in and wasd supposed to help at the point something that no one understood except the coach. Seeing him play often had one wondering if he was on the court or somewhere else. He showed his scoring abilities way too little and his ball handling was poor. Why was he seen as a potential point guard if he coughed up the ball 6 times against Alba Berlin and 8 times against Ludwigsburg. The guy always played with energy, but just couldn’t give the team the needed support that was awaited from him. The only consolation was that he was the team’s best three point shooter at 35%. Rookie Matt Haarms (7/4/1bs) had a solid rookie season. But I often wondered how a guy at 221cm can miss so many easy shots next to the rim. He had games where he showed his potential and especially on the defensive end could become a defensive stopper and that will come with experience. He should have had more of a role in the offensive system. Len Schoormann (7,0/2,0rpg) played his real first easyCredit BBL season where he saw ample minutes going from 7,0 minutes to 23 minutes. He had blitzes where he scored in bunches. His drive is very strong, but his inconsistent three pointer is what will decide if he becomes a solid BBL player or doesn’t. On top of that, his 1-1 defense continues to be a major work in progress. He has a long summer ahead of him in the lab. It will be interesting to see what player he is next season and if he returns to Frankfurt. The Two players who I feel developed the best in this dismal season were Rasheed Moore (10/5/1) and Lorenz Brenneke (6/3). It is no secret that I have been a big Moore fan for years. Not many have gone the tightrope like he has from the Regionalliga to BBL in three years. He showed last season that he can be a go to guy, but also does so much more with rebounding and finding his teammates. He had a poor 2 month span from January -March, but after that finished strong finishing scoring in double figures in 10 of 11 games and in his last 8. This guy has so much heart, maybe second to Quantez Robertson on the team and his work ethic is incredible. I remember seeing him get up shots on a Saturday night at 9:00 pm after having watched the farm team Juniors where he was one of the few guys that did on the team. He has a chip on his shoulder and ready to make the next step. He will reach the next level. After not getting a chance with Alba Berlin, Brenneke sought a new challenge with the Fraport Skyliners. As a young player, inexperience and consistency were an issue, but he showed in enough games that he has BBL format. His inside game is refreshing and often was able to give the team the needed energy in moments when it really needed it. Developing a three could be beneficial as in today’s game that is something that more and more bigs seem to have. Tez also agreed that Moore and Brenneke made big strides, but so did Len Schoormann. ‘These guys played their roles well and did what was expected. Lorenz always played hard with the short minutes that he got. Rasheed played well for the majority of the season. He shot the ball well. Len got off to a good start. When he got hurt, it messed up his confidence a little and took some time for him to get his rhythm back’, stated Quantez Robertson.
The basketball God was looking down on the Fraport Skyliners organization with a big smile in the last weeks. The 2000 BBL cup winner got a lot of help in the Pro A playoffs as teams that had BBL ambitions like Bremerhaven and Trier lost. Now nothing stands in the way for them to go for the wild card. 45 minutes after the win in Bayreuth, it was mentioned at the fans farewell party outside the arena that the Skyliners would get active for the wildcard. It will cost 700,000 Euros, but in the long run, it is better to stay in the BBL. Going down to the Pro A is too risky as it is a lot more difficult to move right back as there have been teams like Bremerhaven, Trier and Tuebingen that haven’t returned back for many years. Despite the season being a tough one, Quantez Robertson has some fond memories. ‘Obviously my daughter being born was huge. Another nice memory was the final game against Oldenburg and playing one last time against Rickey Paulding. It was always fun to play against him. We didn’t guard each other in this game. We talked a little before the game about staying healthy and what we would be doing next. I hope we meet again sometimes. Maybe we will stop in each other’s state’, explained Quantez Robertson. When I ended the call last week, I said ‘see you Sunday. I hope it isn’t for the last time’. Tez just laughed and didn’t say anything and we hung up. After the win against medi Bayreuth, I conducted my last post game interview of the season. He then got up to meet the fans outside. He departed saying ‘I know that we will be talking this summer again about basketball’. I hope our next chat isn’t only about the NBA or retirement, but about him and the 2022-2023 Fraport Skyliners.
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