Growing up one thing I can remember my dad saying to me every now and then were words like remember this name or don’t forget the name or remember my words. I guess it was his way of trying to be hip and to feel important and smart. To tell you the truth, it was so long ago that I can’t remember exactly what examples he was boasting then, but in the summer of 2022, I had a dej vu moment again where I was able to think about my pops again. The Fraport Skyliners announced the signing of massive German talent Justin Onyejiaka (195-F-2004) and I had that feeling that makes you go hmmmmmm. Thanks Arsenio Hall for giving the world that remark. I remember hearing the name leading up to the 2022 NBBL top 4 where he couldn’t play with Rasta Vechta because of injury. He was their most vital player and it was a real shame for their program that he wasn’t able to show his abilities on a big stage. The funny thing is back in May 2022, I remember hearing that name but didn’t make the connection to retired baller Torvoris Baker who had a stellar 10 plus professional career in Germany and proved then that he belonged to the best big men in the Pro A when he was with Osnabrueck and Gotha. Back in November 2021, I interviewed Baker and at the end of the interview, he left the chat with these words of wisdom. ‘One last thing before the interview is over. Keep both eyes and ears open for Justin Onyejiaka. He’s going to be the next best player coming out of Germany. Don’t forget the name. Stay tuned’, warned Torvoris Baker. Obviously Justin Onyejiaka proved last season that he belonged to the best players in the NBBL, but this season I have been able see him play on a regular basis developing his game further with the Fraport Skyliners Juniors in the Pro B and have witnessed his hard work pay off with minutes with easyCredit BBL team Fraport Skyliners.
Justin Onyejiaka was born on June 4, 2004 and began his basketball career with BBC Osnabrueck. But what is exactly the connection between Torvoris Baker and Justin Onyejiaka? At first I just figured that he was his dad, but then why didn’t Justin have Baker as a last name? ‘Justin is my stepson but we have known each other since he is 6. 2010 is when we first met because I was dating his mother now Magdalena Baker since 2014. Justin wanted to change his last name to Baker but didn’t out of respect for his father. I also had a long talk with Justin and we came to the conclusion that he could make a name for himself in the basketball world. And this is exactly what he has been doing’, stressed Torvoris Baker. After getting a feel for the game in very young years, he moved to the Artland Dragons/Rasta Vechta youth program and played for the Young Rasta Dragons in the JBBL (U-16 league). He took on a very good development in the last 2 years despite Covid thanks to the diligent work with NBBL and Vechta 2 head coach Hendrik Gruhn. He already showed in the JBBL league that he was a massive talent as he scored 30 points against Metropol Baskets. In the 20-21 season he started to play with men in the Regionalliga with Vechta 2 and nailed Wusterhausen for 15 points in October 2020, but then the season was cancelled. He also showed on the international stage at the U-18 European championships that he has game having a 15/6/2/2/1 game against Georgia.
He then broke out in the 21-22 season as he helped lead the NBBL team to the Final 4 in Frankfurt and the Vechta 2 team to the Pro B. It was a big shame that injury derailed him from playing in the Top 4 in Frankfurt. ‘I think his absence played a big role in the title game against Alba but I think they still would have lost because Alba has a very good team and Vechta had big problems against them during the season. But not to take anything away from Rasta because it was nice watching them play’, added Torvoris Baker. He averaged 18.9ppg, 5.6rpg, 1.6apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 55.3%, 3PT: 28.0%, FT: 60.0% for Vechta 2 and for NBBL team Young Rasta Dragons averaged 22.4ppg, 7.1rpg, 4.4apg, 2.3spg, 1.0bpg, FGP: 59.8%, 3PT: 24.6%, FT: 60.3%. ‘Big big thanks to the staff in Vechta for developing Justin’s basketball craft. Especially Hanno Stein. Everything that he has done for Justin is and will be unforgettable. I think it was time to close that chapter in Vechta. And Justin felt like he needed a breath of fresh air after 5 years in Vechta and Frankfurt seemed to be new breeze Justin was looking for’, expressed Torvoris Baker. He had huge games in the Regionalliga scoring 33 points against Aschersleben and 32 points against Bergedorf and in the NBBL hit Paderborn for 49 points and Munster for 36 points.
The 18 year old shooting guard has begun a new chapter in his basketball life with 2016 Fiba Europe Cup winner Fraport Skyliners. The Fraport Skyliners have been known for a decade as belonging to the best youth programs in Germany. Over the years they have developed guys like Johannes Voigtman and Danilo Barthel who became Euroleague players as well as Isaac Bonga who landed in the NBA. Lately they helped Len Schoormann become a national player and Jordan Samare is their current project along with Justin Onyejiaka. ‘We are very proud of Justin and his accomplishments and many more to come. Frankfurt should be a great fit for him. He’s very excited for this new chapter in life and basketball’, stated Torvoris Baker. With Frankfurt he has the usual route just as every other talented young player having a double license to play for the Pro B farm team and also have the opportunity to receive easyCredit BBL minutes. Last season he got a first taste of the Pro A playing 3 games. But the BBL is another massive step, but he has even more talented teammates that will help guide him. One of those guys will be freak athlete and Mr Frankfurt Quantez Robertson who is in his 14th season with the club. ‘It’s always great as a young player to have a Vet to take you under his/her wings to show him the ins and outs of high level basketball. So Quantez should be a great in Justin’s transitioning’, commented Torvoris Baker.
He may only be 18 years old, but already has a very versatile game. His former coach Hendrik Gruhn compares his game to Euroleague player Maodo Lo and ex NBA player Wade Baldwin while step dad Torvoris Baker sees some Donovan Mitchell in him. He has an all-around game that has exceptional scoring talent and is best at attacking the rim and also has a well rounded mid range game. But he also has other beneficial offensive traits. ‘Justin is very athletic and at times he has good court vision. He’s great at getting into the paint and finishing with contact or finding the open man when the defense collapses’, said Torvoris Baker. Currently in the Pro B he is averaging 13,6ppg, 4,7rpg, 1,3apg and 1,3spg. He has scored in double figures in the Pro B in 6 games including a 29 point explosion against Coburg and had his break out game in the easyCredit BBL against Alba Berlin with 11 points. He is a solid shooter and improved a lot during Covid as he worked very hard with Hendrik Gruhn, but his shot selection still isn’t consistent. He has the potential to be a very good defender as his athleticism, physicality and long arms allows him to defend many positions, but his consistency and going the extra mile is still a work in progress. ‘He is concentrating on defense because we would like him to be a two way player because I always preach that getting stops on defense will build up more confidence and with his confidence on high he can be unstoppable. But of course he’s working on every aspect of the game’, warned Torvoris Baker. Not only was the coaching staff a big reason for the positive development of his game, but also step dad Torvoris who has been there from the start. ‘I coached Justin in Gotha and a year here in Osnabrueck. He was always in the summer in Gotha at 6 a.m. in the gym with me. It would have been the same in Osnabrueck but here in Germany if you don’t have your own gym you can forget about summer training unless you practice on outside courts and that’s a no for me. But that and Justin missing practice in Vechta because of not making it to the train station on time after school was a big reason why we chose to put Justin in the hands of Hanno Stein in Vechta. In which he found Justin a guest family and he was a big help when it came to Justin’s schooling in Vechta. Justin and I always talk about game like situations, better decision making, court vision, and defense’, stressed Torvoris Baker. Step dad Torvoris has been a big influence and factor in his early basketball life and has seen many incredible games from him. But it wasn’t a game that has impressed him most about him, but moreover his work ethic that was already present at a young age. ‘The most fondest moment I have had with him was when he first told me he wanted to play basketball and how serious he took it at the age of 8. His hunger to learn and practice was remarkable. He would literally watch NBA basketball clips and wanted to try different moves that he had seen. He always has questions about the game and how he can improve’, added Torvoris Baker. It will be interesting to see how well Justin Onyejiaka develops with the Fraport Skyliners and has success so there will be no need to forget his name.