Alvin Oniya stood at the free throw line with 3,7 seconds to play as the Fraport Skyliners Juniors were only a short breath away from winning their second game in a row and first against FC Bayern Munich after having lost their first 3 games. A weekend is always sweetened when you can beat Germany’s most famous sports organization FC Bayern Munich. The game was already decided as Frankfurt was leading 86-72, but something spectacular and special was still on the menu to happen and something that doesn’t happen regularly in basketball. Oniya missed the second free throw which was rebounded by a Munich player and quickly passed to 16 year old German wunderkind Ivan Kharchenkov who is the half brother of Nikita Khartchenkov (201-SF-1987) who has celebrated a 20 year professional career and like him was also a much heralded young prospect with Khimki Mocow caught it and took a step forward and between his own three point line and center court threw up a last desperation shot that saw nothing but net. I was writing something down and didn’t notice that he had shot it, so It took me 2 seconds to realize during my live call that he had been the shooter. Those last second shots are very unusual shots, but that wasn’t just a special shot from the young kid. The Pro B and NBBL (U-19) player of FC Bayern Munich is a very special player. He is playing his second season with the FC Bayern Munich Pro B team and NBBL team and was already a key player for them last season at age 15. In the loss to Frankfurt he logged 32 minutes scoring 16 points on 6/13 shooting, grabbed 5 rebounds and dished out 4 assists and had 2 steals. It is no secret that clubs are already keying in on his game and fighting for touches is nothing new for him even at the Pro B level. In the first 4-5 minutes of the game, he wasn’t getting good looks so he let his facilitation skills take over as he had some beautiful hook ups with big man Mohammad Silla. His game is being noticed more and more and there is simply adulation where ever he plays from his peers and elders. ‘I had heard of him already last season. I really liked what I saw today. He has good size and can create his own shot that could become a consistent shooter’, stressed Marco Voeller (Fraport Skyliners). One Fraport Skyliner who was really instrumental in the Frankfurt win was Philipp Hadenfeldt who had a double double of 10 points and 11 assists. He has seen many top talents in his career and Kharchenkov doesn’t have to hide himself. ‘I have seen guys like Isaiah Hartenstein, Kostja Mushidi, Isaac Bonga and Bennet Hundt and he is just as talented as they were at age 16. He acts so mature for his age and is so calm for his age. You don’t see that often at his age and very important if you want to play at a high level’, stated Philipp Hadenfeldt. Last season I saw him only play once, but this season I was in for a double header treat. A day later the U-19 team of FC Bayern Munich faced off against Eintracht Frankfurt-Fraport Skyliners. Frankfurt gave it a good fight, but FC Bayern Munich took control in the third quarter and never looked back. Kharchenkov didn’t have a good shooting afternoon scoring only 8 points on 2/11 shooting, but otherwise filled the stat sheet well with 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. Luka Pesic the grandson of basketball legend Svetislav Pesic stole the show as his hot shooting in the second half gave the guests the needed energy and boost to win the game. Eintracht Frankfurt-Fraport Skyliners head coach Miran Cumurija didn’t scout differently because a great phenom was in the house, but is more than aware of his abilities. ‘We didn’t scout Munich’s player personal mainly because they run plays so we scout them as a team. A team like IBAM run no plays so we scout their players more. Ivan is the absolute package and has what a future pro needs. He can do a lot at the Pro B and NBBL level and has proved it, but at the end of the day has to do it consistently and be able to take it to the next level. He is an absolute top talent’, warned Miran Cumurija. Ivan Kharchenkov is the real deal at age 16 and has the game in his blood.
When I was a kid I had a Guy Lafleur (Montreal Canadians legend) jersey and was so proud that we shared a birthday together and now it happened again as Ivan Kharchenkov and I also share a born day as were born on September 20. The big guard who compares his game as a mix between Luka Doncic, Steph Curry and Devin Booker began his career in Bavaria in Landsberg. When he was 11 years old he once scored 105 points of his team’s 107 points. He then moved to Jahn Munich where he could play for his dad and at age 12 scored an incredible 84 points against Bamberg. It was then no secret that a club like FC Bayern Munich would want his services. He played his first pro game at age 15 and 5 days against the EPG Baskets Koblenz scoring 16 points. His consistency at the men’s level continued as he would score in double figures in the next 4 games including 17 points against Dresden and Frankfurt and 15 points against Giessen. He is a player that you can already describe being a 3 level scorer. He also loves to play the pick and roll, post up and use the mismatches and bullying which is perfect for his strong body. But his versatile scoring is most definitely his biggest strength. ‘He has a scorer’s mentality and knows how to use his body to his advantage. The most interesting thing about him is that he is a versatile scorer and has the right mentality that isn’t necessarily always a German virtue. He is currently one of top 3 German prospects at the wing’, stated ratiopharm Ulm U-16 head coach Jochen Lotz. He then had some so so games, but then picked up his game again with 15 points against Coburg and a season high against Frankfurt with 25 points and then had 10 points against Speyer and Hanau until his season was ended in early January due to breaking his ankle. He averaged 12.7ppg, 1.8rpg, FGP: 52.7%, 3PT: 32.8%, FT: 75.0% in the Pro B and in the NBBL averaged 10.9ppg, 3.1rpg, 1.4apg, 1.9spg, FGP: 52.8%, 3PT: 19.5%, FT: 80.6%. There he had some potent games against Bamberg with 22 points and 16 points against IBAM.
The first meeting between Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and Ivan Kharchenkov in October 2021 in Frankfurt
He was out for 6 months and one would think, it would take some time to come back after a tough injury like that, but his strong performance at the U-16 European Championships in the summer of 2022 proved that he was actually able to heighten his game. He worked like a dog in the gym and it all paid off. ‘Normal would be for a player too have problems finding to his game after a tough injury like that. But Ivan isn’t normal. He has game in his blood. He went from rehab to the court and instantly had his game back’, stressed a well known German skills and development coach. The guard who lists Omari Knox as his toughest opponent in the Pro B and Benjamin Schroeder as his toughest opponent in the NBBL had a fantastic U-16 tournament averaging 13.3ppg, 5.5rpg, 2.9apg, 1.6spg, FGP: 51.9%, 3PT: 28.6%, FT: 66.7%. He had massive games against Romania with 23 points and hit Belgium and Sweden with14 points apiece. ‘The European Championships was very important for him, because he could compete against the best at his age. He was a leader on the court. Winning the Gold should be able to give him an extra boost and signal him that he can be that leader in a team. He is now in his second season in the Pro B. It is always vital to begin as young as possible to play against men, because that will make it easier to get to the next level’, warned Rasta Vechta 2 head coach Hendrik Gruhn. The European Championships was probably even more important for his self-confidence after a brutal injury than just grinding in the gym. He has continued to make strides in his development in the first month of the season in the NBBL averaging 14,0ppg, 4,3rpg,3,3apg and 4,7spg. He hit Jena and IBAM for 17 points apiece. In the Pro B he also has upped his stats currently averaging 16,5ppg, 6,5rpg, 2,5apg and 2,8spg. He scored 21 points against Hanau and 15 points against Oberaching and 14 points against Orange Academy. It is still early into the season, but it will be interesting to see how his game continues to develop during the season. One guy who probably already has his calendar marked for the game against FC Bayern Munich is EPG Baskets Koblenz manager Thomas Klein who is a die hard basketball fan and observer and has already proclaimed his respect for the kid. ‘He is the best small forward that I have seen at his age in the last 5 years. I think that he could play for a Euroleague team in 2-3 years. I’m sure that NBA scouts have him marked in their note books’, said Thomas Klein.
Even if his scoring abilities is what stands out, he does have other fine qualities like his passing skills. He has harmonized well with Mohamad Silla on the pick and roll and showed early on that he isn’t one of those guys that will keep shooting and practicing inadequate shot selection when his shot isn’t falling, but instead will find his teammates when his shot isn’t falling. ‘I think that his passing is very developed. He looks like a Pro B player that knows when to score and knows his role. He first has to bring his teammates into the game, but when he needs to score, he will. He simply knows when it is his time to score and when to play team basketball’, warned Fraport Sklyiner Junior Drago Crnjac. A question I love asking players in interviews is what they feel is their hidden strength in their game. If one looks at the game of Kharchenkov, one could say that his defense went from a weakness to a hidden strength as it seems to be off the radar at the moment. ‘Ivan is one of the most talented guys I ever saw. I saw him for the first time in the U-12 when he was with Jahn Munich. He was seen as a talented scorer that could hit the deep three, but was a lazy defender. But now he is a good defender. Last year in the scouting report, it said that he was a bad defender, but that was a mistake. He was already a good defender last season. He is physical and knows how to use it. He is quick on his feet and it looks like he has fun defending’, stressed Fraport Skyliners Juniors head coach Sepehr Tarrah. But there are also other people noticing his defense other than coaches. ‘I thought he was a weak defender last season, but in one season he has gone from weak to good. He is so good around the blocks. Munich defends very well and that helps his game. I think that he plays more physical than men on men’s teams. He has understood the worth of defending at a young age’, warned Drago Crnjac.
But there is also one more quality in his game that could separate him from being a great player from being only a good player. The 198cm German who lists Swedish youth national player Julius Price as his toughest opponent at the international level has something that a certain famous German tennis player named Boris Becker had at a young age. Who can forget how competitive the Leimen native was at 17 at Wimbeldon when he plowed through opponent to opponent as he had absolutely no fear. Becker believed he could beat anyone and it isn’t any different with Kharchenkov
. ‘You can see that he always wants to win. He simply has the right mindset to help his team win. That isn’t coachable. He has the killer instinct which will continue to help him make steps in his career’, stated Hendrik Gruhn. Becker was scared of nobody and neither is Mr Real Deal Kharchenkov. ‘He is fearless. He wants to beat everyone every time that he is on the court. That is a quality that not many have. You aren’t born being fearless. It must have come form the smallest atom in his body’, laughed a well known German skills and development coach. It will be interesting to see where the journey of Ivan Kharchenkov will continue to go. It is a bit surprising that he still in Munich considering he had offers from Euroleague teams Real Madrid and Zalgiris last summer. It is brutally hard to get into the rotation with FC Bayern Munich if you’re a young German player as only Jason George has broken through in the last years, but who knows maybe he will find his way into the BBL rotation quicker than people think. His talent level at the moment is undeniable as everyone who has seen him play clearly sees his potential. ‘He may not be at Luka Doncic’s level when he was 16, but I don’t know if Germany has a better talent right now under the age of 18 than him’, warned Drago Crnjac. I will definitely continue to keep an eye on this rare jewel and I’m very happy that I found my personal own nickname for him ‘The Real Deal’. People may find new nicknames for him in the coming years, but what he has shown so far on a national and international level is definitely worthy of being called ‘The Real Deal’.