All pics except for Uli Hoeness courtsey of the EPG Baskets Koblenz
Many of the EPG Baskets Koblenz games are on Sunday’s during the season, a day where FC Bayern Munich legend Uli Hoeness is spending a lazy and relaxing day somewhere in Bavaria. The absolute last thought in his mind would have to be spending a few hours in Koblenz in the CGM arena to watch basketball. This season the EPG Baskets Koblenz are dominating the Pro B in brutal fashion and having that attitude of taking no prisoners as they are steering down a one way road to the Pro A. They are playing beautiful basketball and winning which is very refreshing in Koblenz. They are winning with ease and in a fashion that could remind one of FC Bayern Munich. One has to wonder what it would take to get a Uli Hoeness into the CGM arena? I mean if there was an announcement that superstar Ronaldo would be visiting a game, would that be enough to get him there? ‘Probably so. I don’t think Uli Hoeness knows who the EPG Baskets are, maybe sign LeBron James, KD, Giannis, Luka or that caliber of player. But I guess that’s the goal eventually in years to come, to put Koblenz on the Map as a serious basketball Club’, stressed ex easyCredit BBL player Dominique Johnson (194-SF-1992). The club is simply at a totally different level and added ex easyCredit BBL players left and right the last few years with Dominique Johnson, Marvin Heckel and Leon Friderici who all have come with grace and wanting to win for the organization. ‘I think through our careers we witnessed similar things here and there. And I think with Koblenz we felt like there is a chance to build and create something a little different. We want Koblenz to be a place where people want to come because they are valued. Plus we want to build a family culture. Where even when you leave it’s still something like a brotherhood. Plus what makes this team special is just the hunger for success, but being humbled at the same time’, stressed Dominique Johnson. Are the EPG Baskets Koblenz the FC Bayern Munich of the Pro B? ‘Well I wouldn’t go there yet. I think it takes a lot more with being called that. But in think we do have a status here in the Pro B, where everybody thinks we are the team to beat’, warned Dominique Johnson.
Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and FC Bayern Munich legend Uli Hoeness in the Audi Dome in Munich in 2013
There has been a steady rise in the development of basketball in Koblenz in the last 9 years. In the summer of 2014 they were a Oberliga team and then the climb up the basketball ladder went very quicky. After one season in the second Regionalliga, they made the jump to the Regionalliga where they were for 5 years. Even if their time stalled a bit there, the club was always ambitious and showed early on that they were very serious about continuing to move up and always made potent rosters. They were rewarded in 2020 moving up to the Pro B. They continued being ambitious in constructing competitive teams and made big steps in the last 2 seasons finishing in 7th place in 2021 and in 2nd place last season. The goal Pro A was already there last season, but the team just wasn’t ready yet. But this season they want three to be a charm and finally reach the Pro A. So far they are playing like a club that wants to move up basking in the limelight with a 7-0 record. The prosperity of the organization can easily be described in one sentence. ‘The success of the EPG is because of camaraderie and sacrifice’, stressed Dominique Johnson. The organization run by basketball mastermind Thomas Klein did a good job holding a good component of last years team like ex easyCredit BBl players Dominique Johnson and Marvin Heckel and added vital pieces like Alani Moore, Moritz Huebner and Leon Friederici. The team looked great on paper in August 2022, but did anyone expect the team to be 7-0 by the end of November? ‘In all honesty, YES! I knew we where going to be good! At least that’s what I expected us to be! We are hungry! After failing our goal last year’, stated Dominique Johnson. Last season the club was very strong and deep, but there a few differences this season that the team didn’t have last season, plus the bitter memory of how the season ended has stuck with the returning guys. ‘Experience and mindset are two big components I’d say. Especially guys that were here last year, still have that bitter taste of failure in the mouth. The new guys that came in fit perfectly. It’s like a puzzle. And the front office and coaches did a great job of adding the right pieces to what we already have. It feels like a family. Coach is the father and everybody else are like brothers. Sure we argue and fight but at the end we all want to win! So yea chemistry is on point! And I’ll go to war with these guys any day of the week’, warned Dominique Johnson.
With every new win, the expectations continue to rise in Koblenz and the pressure doesn’t get any less either. ‘There is a certain pressure with being the best team! But I think there was more pressure last season! They way we work and challenge each other in practice everyday makes it easy to overcome though. Because we gain so much confidence through it’, expressed Dominique Johnson. A big focus of head coach Pat Elzie coming into the season was to be a great defensive team. The team’s size and being active is a big part of why they are a good defensive team. It seems like at times they are flying all over the court. They are giving up a solid 72 points per game, but can still get better to be a great defensive team. ‘Even though it doesn’t always seem like it we focus a lot on defense and try to generate out offense and fast play through our defense. And yes your right we still do many mistakes on defense. Little things like communicating or having our hands up every time. But we make up a lot of that with our athleticism and defensive IQ. If your active and cover your brothers you can make up for a lot of mistakes. And on the other hand our offense is just clicking! That was probably our biggest problem last year. Being to stagnant and not really executing most of the time! It was all through individual ability which is different this year’, said Dominique Johnson. The experience and having brought teams up levels has been a huge strength of head coach Pat Elzie and he has a knack of having players perform very well for him. ‘Pat has been great, really. I never had a coach like him. I was more the Balkan/Yugo Coach Type. That’s when I played my best basketball. But after being around Coach Pat. It’s a lot more chilled, but he will hold you accountable when you do mess up. He gives so much confidence to guys, but is open to everybody if a player thinks something else might work better for that person. It’s a good mix of holding the ropes but giving enough freedom. I mean it’s easy to see just look at the way Leo and Moses are playing this season they are having a huge impact on the court for our team’, warned Dominque Johnson.
Even if the EPG Baskets Koblenz have much talent at all positions, it is the guard play that really carries the team. The guard duo of experienced ex BBL player Marvin Heckel and the flashy and speedy Alani Moore are a set of guards that any team in the Pro B would dream of having. They can be walking buckets at anytime, but overal still have that team first mentality before anything else. ‘Playing with Marvin and Alani is great. The way they play makes it so much easier for everybody on the court because they can score and pass at a high level. They create Buckets. Where do they rank? That’s tough since I played with a good amount of guards but they will be in my Top 5 for sure. They are so important but they are our primary ball handlers. We depend on them to get us going especially on offense’, commented Dominique Johnson. Another big part of the team is 3 year man Brian Butler. The ex easyCredit BBL slam dunk champion is a walking bucket and can out dance defenders at ease the way Mr ballerina Derrick Allen did back in the day, but he also has another valuable asset that every player profits from. ‘Brian is just a great guy! Obviously there is nobody in this league that can stop him if he is locked in. Because off the court it’s not like he is to vocal but it’s more selective with him. He is more the guy that takes you to the side and tells you what he thinks. Which makes his voice so much more heard when he does voice his opinion in front of everybody’, added Dominique Johnson. Just when one thought basketball life couldn’t get any better, they added ex easyCredit BBL player Leon Friderici. A guy like that could be the extra exclamation mark for the climb to the Pro A. ‘I think people that follow Basketball seen Leon and what he brings to the table. This guy is a beast. His work ethic is Top 5 of people I played with. He’s a blue collar player! Comes in plays defense with a high intensity and offensively a variety of ways to impact the game! He can shoot the 3, drive to the baskets and finish with a dunk or pull-up for a midrange. I think his passing is underrated. He has a good feel and vision to create for teammates. What a lot of people don’t know, Leon and I lived together in Braunschweig in a 4 man WG! So just seeing how our path and how he developed, I’m stoked to play with him’, smiled Dominique Johnson.
Dominique Johnson is playing his second season with the EPG Baskets Koblenz and when you observe him during the game on the bench when he unleashes his big smile, you know right away he is 100% happy to be in uniform. There aren’t many guys that will go from the easyCredit BBL to the Pro B, but he did. He put his ego into the closet and has been a solid contributor the last 2 seasons. He is averaging scoring in double figures and 6 rebounds and 2 assists the last 2 seasons, but this season is playing 6 minutes less. Has he changed anything? ‘I don’t think too much has changed for me. Obviously I’d say a couple less touches and like you said less minutes but. Now I can be more efficient. And focus on the little thing that don’t show on the stat sheet’, expressed Dominque Johnson. The team has so much scoring power that it is obvious that his biggest focus is being as consistent and effective in the minutes that he gets. ‘These guys make it easy for me. I can just come in and play the way I played my whole career. I can just be a complete team guy. Because I know we have plenty of guys that can score. I like playing basketball the right way! What I mean by that is not forcing shots, playing for your teammates. I adapted this from the Chemnitz Basketball culture led by my Ex Coach Rodrigo Pastore. His philosophy was always WE over ME mentality and passing up a good shot for a great shot! So yea now it’s just fun to play basketball and I can lead the guys with my experience! But also sit back and watch these guys have fun’, smiled Dominique Johnson. He has done a super job with shot selection, but more important that putting up good stats is just winning. ‘Shot selection is a huge focus. Last year a lot of time I shot a lot of my shot contested or late shot clock, which I don’t mind but this year I’m trying to get some easy looks first before I start shooting those. What is also a big focus are rebounds. I take Pride in those. You can ask my bigs if you get a chance who was the leading rebounder last season! And I’m playing on keeping it that way. All honesty I’ll do whatever it takes. I see myself as a Swiss Army knife. I think I’m versatile enough to score when you need me to, create or even just calm the game down a little. I just try to be the guy that you can count on at any moment for any situation! I just want to win and reach out final goal of moving to the Pro A’, warned Dominique Johnson. The EPG Baskets Koblenz are a lot of fun to watch this season and I know that won’t change. With Thomas Klein at the helm, good things have happened and nothing will change. They are moving up the basketball ladder at their pace and having fun. If one sees FC Bayern Munich officials in Koblenz some time this season, then you know the interest and curiosity will have tickled FC Bayern Munich. Earliest on December 17th when FC Bayern Munich and massive talent Ivan Kharkenkov visit the CGM arena in Koblenz. Perhaps Uli Hoeness can give the EPG Baskets Koblenz an early Christmas gift with a visit.