Even if the Dragons Rhondorf were playing in the Regionalliga for the first time in their history, everything was normal on this late January night in 2020. The roster had gotten a shake up that week as top player Curtis Hollis had decided to leave the club. But that tremor in the Dragons roster was nothing compared to the giant jolt the whole world would get 24 hours later as legend Kobe Bryant would die in a plane crash and the whole world would be in shock. Six weeks later the whole world would be rattled again as Covid hit. But on this night everything was still in order as the Dragons were near the top of the Regionalliga standings looking to get back to the Pro B and would steer a routine solid victory over Hagen-Haspe 85-72. In this game an unknown 15 year old Senegal forward who looked like a stick, but was so tall and had seemingly unending long arms named Ousmane Ndiaye would make his debut producing 5 points and 5 rebounds in 13 minutes. I remember Yassin Idbihi loving to watch this young man showing his incredible athleticism. All in all, he would remain 3 years in Rhondorf which really was only 2 years as his second season was cancelled after only a few games due to Covid. In his third year, he made another step averaging 8.6ppg, 7.5rpg, 1.4apg, Blocks-5 (1.5bpg), FGP: 55.8%, 3PT: 31.1%, FT: 52.6%. ‘It wasn’t easy for Ousmane last season. He had knee problems, but made the best out of it. He had ups and downs like any other young player, but he definitely raised his game last season’, expressed Paul Albrecht (208-PF-1993). Despite continuing to improve his game, the kid was still extremely raw having the label which so many people like to say ‘sky is the limit. He was a special highlight film that fans won’t forget. ‘You always knew that he would offer a great dunk or block every night. It was always a joy to see and play with him’, remembered Paul Albrecht. Scouts had been aware of him since years and it surprised no one that his name began popping up on NBA Mock drafts last season as a late second round pick in 2023. Recently it was announced that his tenure had ended in Rhondorf as he wanted the next challenge and step moving to ACB team Baskonia where he will have a double license to play for the farm team. ‘I think that he can make the next step in Spain. The question is can he stay healthy. He has all the assets to make it there. He is mentally strong and the most important thing is that he believes in himself. Being able to play for their farm team will help him make the next step’, warned Paul Albrecht. I was really happy to have been able to cover him for some years and now will continue to observe his path. It will be disappointing not seeing him play anymore in the Dragon Dome
Last season’s motto was to let the young players play and develop which helped many of the young guys and the playoffs were a theme, but in the end an inconsistent defense and some games that were lost in the fourth quarter sealed the fate of an early summer vacation in April. This season, the organization obviously want to get back on the winning track and brought in more experience with an old friend in Florian Wendeler who made the jump to the Pro A some years ago and now has returned back. He brings 184 Pro B games to Bad Honnef and brings stability under the basket and an ex easyCredit BBL player with Florian Koch who played 293 BBL games and also returns home to a place where he began his pro career. ‘Flo was one of the best Germans in the BBL. His experience and calmness will help us so much’, added Paul Albrecht. This season the team roster will look completely different. ‘Our team is more balanced this season in age. We have a good mix of young and old with our youngest at age 16 and our oldest age age 30. Each guy knows their role and accepts it’, stated Paul Albrecht. Developing young players is still on the agenda as Sam Nellessen is on the roster, but this season their emphasis is on a 16 year old rookie named Leonardo Valesin and a Swed called Zaba Bangala. With so much experience, will a guy like Nellessen get a chance this season? ‘I believe that Sam can have a role this season. He can be a solid back up to Flo Koch. How many minutes he gets will depend on how he shows himself in practice. He has done well in pre season. We know him as a guy that gives us energy from the bench with his defense. He compliments Koch well and always gives 100% and takes the team with him with his energy’, stressed Paul Albrecht. Playing better defense is a big focus this season for the Dragons and with experience should be able to succeed. ‘I think that we are on a good way with our team defense. At the end of the day the most important thing is to stop your man 1-1. We have had some problems with that in pre season, but I’m confident we will be ready for Herford’, commented Paul Albrecht. Last season the game of the Dragons Rhondorf focused on outside shooting and the athleticism and driving to the hoop. This season there will definitely be more of an inside presence. ‘We have so many weapons this season with Wendeler, Bangala and Koch. We want to be able to use our advantages’, stressed Paul Albrecht.
Despite going the young route last season, the club was unsuccessful in holding young players like Oshane Drews, Esli Edigin, Ralph Hounnou and Bruno Albrecht who all departed. The only two players that remained were 29 year old veteran Paul Albrecht and 20 year old rising player Nicolas Buchholz. Albrecht will be playing his third season with the Dragons after having played 6 seasons in the Pro A with teams like Paderborn, Hanau and Artland. Last season he averaged 8.6ppg, 7.5rpg, 1.4apg, Blocks-5 (1.5bpg), FGP: 55.8%, 3PT: 31.1%, FT: 52.6%. He brings consistent scoring and rebounding and is simply the man that holds the team together. Nicolas Buchholz will be playing his second season after averaging 17.3ppg, 2.3rpg, 1.6apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 49.5%, 3PT: 37.0%, FT: 81.8%. He is a guy who can take over a game at anytime with his incredible shooting. This season he wants to become more consistent and be more versatile in his offensive game. The club brought in German Adrian Bergmann who is a 21 year old 199cm forward that brings Pro A experience and Pro B experience and versatility and an old friend with Jonas Falkenstein who is still young at age 22 and played with the Dragons in the NBBL and Regionalliga some years ago. Last season he received valuable exposure in the Regionalliga with the Telekom Baskets Bonn 2 averaging 10.8ppg, 2.2rpg, 2.6apg, FGP: 59.5%, 3PT: 31.6%, FT: 67.2%. He also will bring valuable energy from the bench. All eyes will be on the two young guns from Sweden with Bangala and Italian Valesin. ‘Bangala is unbelievable. I call him baby Zion. He is something like 202cm and weighs 125 kilo’s. He can dribble like a point guard, be explosive and can jump. He will give us much joy. Important is that he pushes himself each day to get better. Valesin has done a good job in pre season considering he is only 16 years old. He has all the assets with long arms, is athletic, can jump, shoot and drive. He should get minutes behind Goodman. But like Bangala needs to give the maximum effort each day to get better’, stressed Paul Albrecht. Rounding off the new roster is American Devon Goodman from the University of Pennsylvania (NCAA) where he had a stellar career who is a 25 year old 183cm point guard with one year of professional experience with 2021-2022: S.C. Lusitania EXPERT (Portugal-Liga Betclic) averaging 14.6ppg, 3.7rpg, Assists-4 (5.2apg), 1.9spg, FGP: 54.2%, 3PT: 31.0%, FT: 47.3%. ‘He is small and shifty and plays like Parker Jackson-Cartwright. He has left a nice impression on me’, added Paul Albrecht. Goodman will definitely leave his mark on the Pro B and be the difference for this team reaching the playoffs in 2023. The pre season though hasn’t been an easy one, because they haven’t been able to practice on their own court because the Dragon Dome is being renovated and the team have been practicing in Bonn. It could be that the team doesn’t play their first home game until November. ‘We got used to the situation, but it hasn’t been easy. But at the end of the day we want to win and will have to do it home and away’, stressed Paul Albrecht. So what are the goals of the Dragons Rhondorf in 2022-2023? ‘We haven’t set any goals about where we want to finish. Most important for us is that we get better each day and look forward from game to game’, warned Paul Albrecht. The team has a lot of experience unlike last year and on paper should American Devon Goodman exceed all expectations be a sure playoff team. It is about time that the club gets back to playing playoff basketball
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