The basketball world is huge and the influx of Cinderella stories that have occurred over time is as rampant as it is seeing how the NBA has gone from an offensive league to a crazy offensive infested league with teams putting up 140 points as if they had Lebron´s and Steph´s secretly parading in masks for them. The examples are huge of guys going from the bottom to the top like currently Golden State Warrior´s 203cm forward Alfonso Mckinnie who was making 1,500$ only a few years ago in the second Luxemburg league and now is teammates with Draymond Greene and Mr few touches equals many points Klay Thompson.Especially in Germany one has often seen guys move from the Regionalliga to the top division BBL over the last years like a Steve Wachalski or from the Pro B his new teammate Deandre Lansdowne. Then again there are guys like a Brayon Blake who was at the peak in 2014 winning the Washington high school state championship with top school Garfield that boasted great basketball alumni like Brandon Roy or Tony Wroten, but only a half year later wasn´t teammates with current Euroleague player with Olympiacos S.F.P. Pireus Nigel Williams Goss at Washington or with current Indiana Pacer Domantas Sabonis at Gonzaga, but instead was living in Sierra Viste a small rural town with 43,000 plus habitants and playing for Cochise CC which was about as far away from the NCAA as he was from ever being able to perform a guitar solo the way the legendary Jimi Hendrix could of who is one of the most notable alumnists form Garfieldhigh. But he worked his butt of and via N.Idaho JC (JUCO) and then played his last two years of ball at Idaho(NCAA) putting up great numbers as a senior that may have gotten him drafted by the NBA had he played in a higher conferencethan the All-Big Sky. “I had a huge chip on shoulder because I wanted to prove to people my skills and that’s what I did. I just never got content with awards and accolades I wanted more so I kept working hard each day and that’s why my numbers are like that. I just tried to get a little better each season”,stressed Brayon Blake. He then breathed some NBA air over the summer of NBA Summer league with the Cleveland Cavaliers and now is playing in one of Europe´s top leagues the easyCredit BBL with theBasketball Lowen Braunschweig. He now can exchange basketball stories withteammate Deandre Lansdowne and compare who´s chips had had more weight on their shoulders as he now is about as far away from Sierra Viste is as his new teamin Germany is from making the playoffs. This is the fascinating story of ayoung American basketball player with Brayon Blake who has seen a lot in his young career as his Cinderella story continues with this up and coming playerlooking to continue to rise through the ranks in Europe and beyond.
There are quite a few qualities about Larry Gordon that nobody would ever have the audacity to complain about on and off the court. He has many qualities that stand out as he is a prolific scorer and hard worker on the defensive end, but the skill that stands out the most is his rebounding. There has to be a reason why where ever he has laced up his sneakers being if it was with Cal Poly(NCAA2), Austria, Germany, Korea, or Kazakhstan he has belonged to the top rebounders. One also can´t forget that the American isn´t a center listed at 2,10cm or a power forward listed at the ideal height of 2,03cm, but a small forward listed at 1,96cm that rebounds the ball with heart, passion and effort. Having the knack to haul down the ball seems to be in his blood. “I can´t really explain it, it´s just something that is embedded into my game. It´s a lot of heart and relentless effort to get the rebound that makes me so good at it. When the ball goes up you will always see me near the rim no matter what. That is just what I do”, warned Larry Gordon. What else does any coach want from a player when it has that commending attitude. Giessen 46ers head coach Ingo Freyer could probably fill a university auditorium in Giessen any day now and give a heart filled lecture about why he loves Larry Gordon. There has to be a reason why he was able to hold him three years in Hagen in a low market including for a third season after he had torn up the BBL averaging 15,5ppg and 7,6rpg where he must have had better offers from top teams in Germany and elsewhere. There also has to be a reason why Gordon is back together in Giessen this season reunited with his former head coach Ingo Freyer. It has already fit between the two guys. But not only on the court is Gordon at home with his game, but off the court with how he treats the media. There are quite a lot of players that I have enjoyed not only interviewing once, but two or three times and then again there have been guys that I have interviewed more than 10 times like three time Euroleague winner Kyle Hines, Jacob Burtschi, Kevin Hamilton, John Bynum or Josh Young to name just a few. However there are few that have had my question thrown at them as often as Larry Gordon. One could say that Gordon has had more interviews with me that Allen Iverson uttered the word practice in his legendary press conference years ago. To be exact Gordon has done 40 interviews with me since he arrived in Germany in 2012 with the first being in October 2012. Alone in his first two seasons it was 22. He still had patience with me in his third season, but after that the Q & A sessions have died down a little as he played in other countries. After 40 interviews there is only so much you can ask the guy, but the way he can handle the boards with ease, the same he does with my pin point questions as there has never been a dull moment in our question and answer sessions. Not only does rebounding come automatically for him, but so does interviewing. “It isn´t a challenge. If you look at my past, rebounding has always been a part of my game. Rebounding comes automatically to me. There is no effort for me I just go go go to the basket and enjoy rebounding”, warned Larry Gordon. Many guys know how to play the game well and other´s are noted interview partners while rebounding and interview talent go hand in hand with Larry Gordon.
One thing that hardcore easyCredit BBL fans can forever be grateful about is that there have been certain league identity figures that have played longer than most and for some stayed faithful to the same organization for their whole career in Germany. If one was really bored on a rainy afternoon in Jena and wouldn´t have a nice view on top of the 160 meter Jentower to observe the beautiful hills around the city and one wasn´t in the mood to visit one of the many city museums, one could continue to wonder how much longer the three Jena amigo´s of Derrick Allen, Julius Jenkins and Immanuel Mcelroy will still continue to play as they are in their late thirties and combined have the magical age of 113 years. Some fans place a special mark on the calendar to especially see them and others will dread the day when the first of them hangs up his sneakers. Then again there are two other BBL identity figures and legends in the making with Mr Skyliner lifer Quantez Robertson of Frankfurt and Mr Oldenburg Rickey Paulding who combined are in their 22nd season in Germany and combined have racked up three titles and also have been combined on the floor in Europe in 961 games prior to this season. One also can´t forget German Per Guenther who could have left ratiopharm Ulm years ago for more lucrative offers, but remained where the heart wanted to be. But who will be the future players in the easyCredit players that will have that amazing role model work ethic and discipline of a Derrick Allen and just keep playing seemingly forever and share that passion and loyalty to remain with just one team and not change teams as often as a Tom Brady has thrown to different targets which stands at 71 receivers. Ok so being with one team for so far only three seasons is nothing special as one could count more than a handful of guys who have been there that long and heck there was even Mike Morrison who played four years in Frankfurt and surely would have loved to have remained longer, but that B word always gets in the way called business. But for medi Bayreuth forward De´mon Brooks his first three years have been very special there and with the continued success of the club he might just stick around for a longer period of time. Could De´mon Brooks be Medi Bayreuth´s version of a Tez or Paulding?
As some kids were prowling the streets of Frankfurt in the late afternoon on October 31st looking to fling some candy into their Halloween bags while in the states little kids were still in school trying to dream away the last hours of school before getting wrapped into their lavish costumes and adults in Germany were at Halloween parties having smaller squabbles about which facemask of Trump or Merkel looked more scary, the Fraport Skyliners were 3,126 kilometers away in Kazan, Russia trying to secure their fourth win in the Eurocup, but instead their hopes were squashed by a last second game winning three pointer from ex Bamberg guard Jamar Smith in the corner as the outstretched hand of Quantez Robertson came a split second too late. The Fraport Skyliners could have used some extra energizing candy to get over hump, but at the moment the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup winner is struggling and need to find a way to get out of their slump. In Kazan they didn´t play bad, but just couldn´t play consistent and compensate the loss of big man German Jonas Wolfarth-Bottermann as well as erasing little mistakes in crunch-time that hurt them. The Fraport Skyliners arrived in the duel against neighbor´s Telekom Baskets Bonn having lost three of their last four games, but what as even worse had lost back to back games at home against 2010 Eurochallenge winner BG Goettingen and on the road against 2015 BBL cup winner EWE Baskets Oldenburg where the phrase “stunk up the house” was putting it mildly. The Telekom Baskets Bonn came into the game not playing their best basketball either losing last weekend on the road in Jena going to 3-2 on the season and escaping Fribourg, Switzerland with a real grind out Basketball Champions League win where they went in as the huge favorite but had massive problems with them. The Fraport Skyliners desperately needed a win, but had to finally show a good performance for 40 minutes and find a way not to get run over in the paint by American Charles Jackson and their sharp shooters like Rashad James and did surviving a Bonn comeback in the fourth slamming the door shut 83-79 as Erik Murphy hit big shots. The Fraport Skyliners found back to their sharp shooting ways shooting over 50% for 40 minutes and American Jason Clark continued to erase any doubt that there is a point guard problem as he dropped 18 points, grabbed 4 rebounds and dished out 6 assists. “My game is feeling good. I´m continuing to work on my defense and make it a big part of my game while remaining aggressive on offense”, stressed ex Georgetown(NCAA) guard Jason Clark. “We played well together, shared the ball well and didn´t give up many offensive rebounds. They are a tough team and we knew that it wouldn´t be easy. We did a good job fighting to the end. We are starting to learn how to win games at the end”, stressed ex Baylor(NCAA) guard Brady Heslip. The Telekom Baskets took off the second quarter and just were unable to get consistent stops in the last minutes of the game. “We couldn´t get anything going in the first half. In the second half, Mayo got hot early and James at the end. We couldn´t get stops and stop the Murphy pick and pop”, added ex Temple(NCAA) guard TJ DiLeo.
4,520 fans came out on a late autumn day and witnessed the Telekom Baskets Bopnn break out on a quick 8-0 run to lead 8-3 as they demonstrated fine inside out basketball as Ra’shad James and Josh Mayo nailed huge tree´s and center Charles Jackson who one hauled down 20 plus rebounds in Turkey made a massive dunk as the injury to Jonas Wohlfarth-Bottermann was hurting them in the paint. However the Fraport Skyliners had their own offensive ideas as they thought what they can do we can do as they responded with a 7-0 run to dead lock the contest at 10-10. Frankfurt found daylight in the paint getting lay ups from Clark and Finish national player Shawn Huff and ex Chicago Bull Erik Murphy hit his bread and butter the trey. The Telekom Baskets Bonn continued to go inside and Jackson continued to get easy baskets and got to the free throw line. Clark remained very aggressive getting baskets in the paint as he was leading the charge on offense. Both teams were at eye level as nobody could make a real run and get away as the game was dead locked t 19-19. “We came out and matched their intensity. Bonn came out physical and we did a good job staying together on defense and sharing the ball on offense. We did an ok job on Jackson”, stressed Jason Clark. The Fraport Skyliners shot 57% from the field and 50% from outside and hauled down 6 rebounds and had 2 turnovers while the Telekom Baskets Bonn shot 46% from the field and 33% from outside and hauled down 7 rebounds and had 4 turnovers.
In the second quarter the Fraport Skyliners stepped up their game at both ends of the court scoring 26 points and allowing only 11 points having the commanding 45-30 advantage at the break. The Fraport Skyliners didn´t waste anytime getting going as it was the aggressive Jason Clark who made the Bonn paint area his own personal playground as he owned the basket scoring two baskets giving Frankfurt the 23-19 lead. Basketball is a game of runs and Bonn roared back taking the 25-24 lead as the Bonn bench contributed as ex Sacred Heart(NCAA) standout Shane Gibson hit a jumper and then found Dileo open for the trey. Frankfurt´s offense then took off led by point guard Jason Clark as they went on a 17-2 run to get their biggest lead of the game of 42-26. In the run Jason Clark gave the perfect point guard knowing when to finish and when to dish as he scored in the paint twice and found ex Alba Berlin guard Akeem Vargas for a trey while secret extra point guard Quantez Robertson found Heslip for two trey´s. The Telekom Baskets Bonn made a little ground in the last minute heading into the break with a 4-0 run as they continued to be aggressive on the offensive glass and got buckets from Jackson and German Yorman Polas. “We were rolling on offense hitting shots. And we also were getting stops and got on transition. When we can do that then we play well”, stressed Jason Clark.
The Fraport Skyliners held on to the lead in the third quarter, but could never really shake the Telekom Baskets Bonn. Both teams came out executing as Erik Murphy nailed a trey while Bonn got key buckets from Polas and a Mayo runner as Frankfurt led 49-34. On the Murphy trey, fans saw a nifty over the shoulder pass from Heslip as he showed that he can definitely do a lot more than just test the nettings of baskets. “That was a beautiful pass. I actually thought he would go the basket and lay it in. Passing the ball is one of his unlooked skills. He is a smart player that sees the floor well. I don´t know many guys that can make that pass”, stressed Jason Clark. Heslip almost seemed a bit embarrassed when asked about his pass and remained diplomatic on how he achieved it. “I just try to make the right play. He was hot and I like to find the open guy. I take a lot of pride on making the right play and not forcing it”, added Brady Heslip. Bonn started to heat up as they went on a 6-0 run getting back to back trey´s from James and Mayo cutting the Frankfurt lead down to 51-40. Frankfurt then started a trend which they would carry to the end for the most part consistently almost always finding a scoring answer when Bonn was threatening. After a Clark trey, Bonn got a runner from DiLeo who had just come into the game off the bench and a lay in from ex Ludwigsburg big Man Martin Breunig as Frankfurt led 56-49. But a Huff turn around shot gave Frankfurt a little momentum until James got the ball and drilled the ball home cutting the Frankfurt lead to 58-52. Bonn was threatening, but here came Frankfurt again getting a clutch three form Robertson as Frankfurt extended their lead to 61-52. DiLeo closed out the third quarter with a beautiful coast to coast run as Bonn was on Frankfurt´s heels trailing only 61-54. “We did a good job defending well and stayed poised while executing with our small ball”, stressed Jason Clark. “We brought the lead down from 15-7 points. We just continued to chip away”, stressed TJ DiLeo. The Fraport Skyliners shot 56% from the field and 46% from the three point line and had 19 rebounds and 10 turnovers while the Telekom Baskets Bonn shot 48% from the field and 46% from the three point line and had 21 rebounds and 14 turnovers.
In the fourth quarter the Telekom Baskets Bonn made a big comeback to cut the Frankfurt lead down to one point, but couldn´t get over the hump. Brady Heslip got the Fraport Skyliners going quickly draining a catch and pop trey for the 64-54 lead. But the Telekom Baskets Bonn then broke out of their shell hitting Frankfurt with a 12-3 run as suddenly they were down only 67-66. In the run Bonn was aided by Frankfurt getting their fifth team foul at the 7.11 minute mark. They got 9 points on free throws from Polas, Jackson and Bojan Subotic. James Webb nailed a trey to add salt to the fire. But the Fraport Skyliners then played efficient basketball executing at a high rate and not allowing Bonn to get over the hump. Murphy would nail two vital three´s and hit three free throws staying in the way of the Telekom Baskets Bonn in their comeback attempt. The Telekom Baskets Bonn got a huge three of Subotic and two from James in their come back. After Clark hit only one of three free throws, it was James again nailing a deep trey tying the contest at 79-79. It seemed like all three were pretty much from the same spot. “He hit tough shots and I felt we played pretty good defense on him. We did a pretty good job on him in the first half, but he started to get hot in the second half. You can´t keep a shooter of his ability quiet for a whole game”, warned Jason Clark. Frankfurt then had some fortune as after Murphy hit only one of three free throws, Bonn couldn´t secure the rebound on the last free throw giving Frankfurt possession. It was only fitting that Murphy would fire home another three and did giving Frankfurt the 83-79 lead with 20 seconds to go. “Murphy was huge, but not only on offense, but also on defense making big plays with blocks and rebounds. When his shot is falling, he is hard to stop”, warned Jason Clark. James would have two more looks at the end, but on this day Frankfurt and Murphy clearly won the shooting duel over James. “We moved the ball well, played together and exploited their defense. We attacked them with our quickness and stretched the floor. It worked well as Murphy had many open shots”, added Erik Murphy. “We fought well until the end, but we were unable to make better decisions and be a little tighter of defense”, stressed TJ DiLeo. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Erik Murphy with 22 points. Jason Clark added 18 points, Brady Heslip 14 points and six assists and Akeem Vargas contributed 11 points. The Telekom Baskets Bonn were led by Ra’shad James and Charles Jackson with 15 points a piece while Josh Mayo added 14 points and 5 dimes. The Fraport Skyliners shot 57% from the field and 50% from outside and grabbed 26 rebounds and had 16 turnovers while the Telekom baskets Bonn shot 45% from the field and 50% from outside and grabbed 29 rebounds and had 18 turnovers.
If there is a man on earth who has always listened to his wife then I want to meet that man, because I doubt he exists. Men have always been known as having difficulty listening when she is saying something worthwhile. So often men have gotten problems for being somewhere else with their thoughts when she was speaking to him, but then when she mentions that there was some breaking news about his favorite professional team just happened or if she says with fear that there is no beer left in the refrigerator suddenly a man´s listening skills improve 180 degree´s. It was 10.40 PM when I reached Telekom Baskets Bonn sniper Ra’shad James in his hotel after a tough 102-91 loss to FC Bayern Munich where he contributed 14 points and I had learned that he could give me some insight on to listening. Before I asked him about his new basketball home in Bonn and listening, I was a bit miffed why the club remained the night in Munich instead of traveling the 6 hours home on an early evening Sunday night game. Why they didn´t go home directly after the game didn´t interest me in the least, but moreover the interesting basketball career of James and his not usual character. He is one of those rare players that would rather spend an afternoon in Bonn visiting the Beethoven house or seeing the history of the Cologne cathedral instead of being locked away in his apartment and enjoying Play Station 5. The American traces his cultural curiosity back to growing up in tough White Plains, New York where he was raised by his mom and brother. “My life experience´s have made me the man that I am today. You have to be a special type of guy to survive in New York. You have that all for themselves mentality in New York. I saw the good, bad and ugly all at once. You come overseas and are put in a shell and you don´t trust anyone. But I´m glad that I have an outgoing personality and can adapt to new situations. I just love to see and learn about the world”, stressed Ra’shad James. I could of asked him right from the start about how he could help me cure my listening problem, but I waited until the end after learning more about his fascinating basketball career. James stated that one has to know that there is a difference between hearing and listening and did his best to assist with my problem. “I think that if you have a problem listening than you should just wait until the person is done talking. That is what I do. It is important to keep eye contact. A lot of people speak to react instead of responding”, stressed Rashad James. I took his advice and hope that it will help me in my future conversations with people. One thing is for sure the American most likely will never have any problems with head coach Predrag Krunic, because nothing that the Serb says will go in one ear and out the other.
Ra’shad James is a 28 year old 185cm guard who is in his sixth professional season and first in Germany with the Telekom Baskets Bonn. He has gained valuable experience in countries like Korea, Poland, Croatia and Turkey and once scored 51 points in a G-League game. He began his basketball career at White Plans high school in New York and began his college career in 2008 with St.Thomas Aquinas (NCAA2) where he remained two years. His college career was interesting and unusual as he started in the NCAA 2, then played in the NCAA and finished back in the NCAA 2. That he would go places as a professional player later on was something he knew early on. “Since I had a ball in my hands, I always had a chip on my shoulder. I always thought that I was destined for greatness. My drive for greatness was already brewing”, said Ra’shad James. After two stellar years at St Thomas Aquinas he made the next step up to Iona in the NCAA, but his stay was short and unfulfilled. One can sense that he had some issues with the former club and had no time to play behind guards Lamont Jones and Sean Armand. “There was room for me there, but I had to wait my turn. I was in no position to wait. I thought I was ready then”, added Rashad James. Sometimes one has to make a step backwards to make two steps forward as Kameron Taylor learned last season going from Ehingen to Rhondorf and then to Wurzburg in the BBL. For James going back to the NCAA 2 and Northwood was the best decision he made in his life. He was fortunate to play for legendary ex Villanova head coach Rollie Massimino who won the 1985 NCAA title and had a 816-462 record in the NCAA. He played 32 games as a senior averaging 23.0ppg, 6.8rpg, 2.5apg, 1.5spg, FGP: 55.0%, 3PT: 41.7%, FT: 77.4% and will never forget Massimino who died in 2017 at the age of 82. “That year at Northwood was very rewarding. Coach Massimino taught me a lot about how to be an overall professional and how to approach the game. He also taught me to read the game better. I remember one thing that was mandatory with him was that you had to see him once a day. This really built the relationship. He taught me that there is a fine line between goodness and greatness. He always said no matter where you are in life, that you should always keep pushing and not to settle for only what is good”, warned Ra’shad James.
The American who lists guys like Isaiah Cannon, Isaiah Thomas and CJ Mccollum as the toughest guards he battled in the states began his professional career with the Reno Bighorns (D-League) playing 49 games averaging 7.6ppg, 2.2rpg, 1.7apg, FGP: 49.1%, 3PT: 24.7%, FT: 74.8%. That first season he scored in double figures in 17 games and showed signs of his scoring ability netting 21 points against Santa Cruz and 20 points against Ft Wayne. In the summer of 2014 he played NBA Pro Summer League in Las Vegas with the Sacramento Kings winning the title averaging 7.2ppg, 1.2rpg, FGP: 44.8%, 3PT: 50%, FT: 80%. He played another season with Reno and this time took off as he played 46 games averaging 20.8ppg, 4.8rpg, 3.4apg, FGP: 55.0%, 3PT: 31.0%, FT: 68.9%. He scored in double figures in 40 of 46 games and scored 20 points or more 22 times. He had big explosions against Texas with 51 points, 43 points against Santa Cruz and 42 points against Sioux Falls. “I thought that I was near to an NBA call up. I thought that I did a good job displaying my offensive abilities and I credit that to hard work. I did a great job that season, but it just didn´t work out getting to the NBA then. But I still have a lot more in the tank. I feel my future is bright as I continue to rise”, warned Ra’shad James. The American also remembers the 51 point scoring onslaught, but probably would only have been a side note had they lost. “It was one of those nights where I was in the zone. It really doesn´t matter how much I score and it is only important if we win. It was a great individual night, but it would have meant nothing to me had we lost”, added Ra’shad James.
In the summer of 2015 he played NBA Pro Summer League in Las Vegas again this time with the Portland Trail Blazers) playing 5 games averaging 6.2ppg, 2.0rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 46.4%. Instead of playing a third season in the G-league with the hopes of reaching the NBA, he decided to go overseas and would later return back to the G-League. It was a whirlwind season as he began with Dongbu Promy (Korea-KBL) playing 15 games averaging 9.9ppg, 2.2rpg, 2FGP: 45.9%, 3FGP: 41.9%, FT: 63.4% and in Nov.’15 moved to AZS Koszalin (Poland-TBL) playing 14 games averaging 16.1ppg, 5.0rpg, 1.6apg, 2FGP: 46.7%, 3FGP: 34.6%, FT: 67.2%, left in Feb.’16, later that month signed at Westchester Knicks (D-League) playing 17 games averaging 15.8ppg, 4.4rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 54.4%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 73.2%. It was all in all a long season, but he remembers it as an important learning experience that he handled well. “The experiences I had in those places helped me understand the game better. I had ups and downs, but I stuck with it and came out on top”, added Ra’shad James. In the summer of 2016 he played NBA Pro Summer League in Las Vegas once again this time with the Milwaukee Bucks) and shone in 5 games averaging 14.2ppg, 4.0rpg, 1.0spg. However he decided to go back overseas and played with top Croatian team KK Cedevita Zagreb (Croatia-A1) where he played in three leagues with the Croatian league playing 11 games averaging 11.9ppg, 2.8rpg, 1.6apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 55.1%, 3PT: 37.7%, FT: 89.5%; played 31 Adriatic League games averaging 9.5ppg, 2.6rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 49.6%, 3PT: 39.8%, FT: 84.1%; and played 11 Eurocup games averaging 11.6ppg, 3.8rpg, 1.3apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 47.7%, 3PT: 35.0%, FT: 75.0%. He made his European break through and played very well in the Eurocup. He was teammates with ex Uconn stand out Ryan Boatright another guy who should have been in the NBA and wasn´t. “Ryan is my guy. We had a good relationship on and off the court. I had a great time there with a first class organization. Ryan and I want to be in the NBA, but it´s all about timing. It is our job as a professional to keep working and see the light one day and get that opportunity”, stated Ra’shad James. Last season he played in Turkey with Yesilgiresun Belediye (Turkey-BSL, starting five) playing 30 games averaging 15.1ppg, 4.3rpg, 1.7apg, FGP: 46.6%, 3PT: 41.6%, FT: 75.0%. It was probably stat wise his best season in Europe, but one has to wonder why a guy like James after his strong season in Croatia hasn´t got the opportunity to display his abilities for another Eurocup team or possibily even a Euroleague club. James knows it isn´t any different getting that opportunity in the Euroleague than it is in the NBA or any other desired job in life. “Getting the chance with a Euroleague team is all about timing. I think that Euroleague opportunity will come sooner than later, but I´m not wavering on it”, warned Rashad James. It was a memorable time in Turkey not only because he found a cat in his car engine saved it and called it engine and has brought it to Bonn. “The season didn´t work out the way I wanted it as my team moved down. But we had a great group of guys, my game was solid and it did get me to Bonn which I´m thankful for”, said Rashad James.
Now the American who has been described to NBA players like Russell Westbrook, Eric Bledsoe and Monta Ellis calls Bonn home. He also had no problems taking the job as he was more than impressed by the organization. “It was welcoming for me. It was eye opening for me and really helped me with my decision when coach Krunic personally called me at home. The teams are very competitive in the BBL and it is a great plateau for me to showcase my abilities there and in the BCL”, stressed Ra’shad James. Despite the addition of many new faces, the Telekom Baskets Bonn have held their own and are a force to be reckoned with this season. “Our success is due to being able to push the ball out on transition as well as having quick guards that can get up and down the court and we have good bigs. We have a solid roster where everyone is giving their all. Everything is clicking”, warned Rashad James. The American is content that head coach Krunic has believed in his abilities and given him an important role. “My role is just to lead. I have been around the block and just want to sue my abilities on offense and defense and help my team win. I like the up and down style that we play. The tempo we play suits my game. Coach has helped me find good positions to score in the right ways”, added Rashad James. Even if he is known as being a lethal scorer, he doesn´t want to have that label plastered on his forehead. “Every guard has to score. I don´t want to be seen as one dimensional. I offer so many other things on the court”, stressed Ra’shad James. Even if he is in his sixth season and has seen it all, he won´t shy away from his fellow teammate Josh Mayo and soak in as much as he can. He knows that having greatness can only be achieved by still being able to learn something new. “I can always learn from Josh. That is the great thing about basketball, because you can learn something new each day. I will take anything from a guy that will make the game easier for me. I´m a student of the game”, warned Rashad James. He is off to another big start as he was the last two seasons in Croatia and Turkey as in Germany he is averaging 14,5ppg in the Basketball Champions League and 17,4ppg in the BBL and shooting 36,7% from downtown. His recipe for consistent success is very simple. “My success comes from being consistent and working hard in the off season. I´m always trying to add new things to my game while sharpening the things that your great at. Every season there are guys trying to take your spot so I´m always in the gym”, said Rashad James. The BBL season is still young and Rashad James will surely land in the top 10 in scoring at the end of the season and be instrumental for the success of the Telekom Baskets Bonn. But in March 2019 is the BBL allstar day and there have been rumors that the league already has James inked as a slam dunk competitor as he can fly and dunk like no other, but becoming a dunk legend in Germany after one season would be nice, but being able to achieve greatness in his mind really only depends if you get that chip. “It would be humbling and honor to be seen as a dunk legend in Germany, but it really doesn´t mean anything to me. I am a competitor at heart and at the end of the day it´s about winning games and titles. That is my most important goal”, warned Ra’shad James. Winning titles in Bonn is a sore spot, because they are still waiting for that first championship and in a way are like the NFL´s Buffalo Bills as they have reached five league finals and three cup finals and still haven´t won. Even if the club stay winless again, fans will be content and have been enriched not only by the play of Rashad James, but by his worldly character and unbelievable will wanting to win as he will have proven that not settling for goodness but greatness has made Ra’shad James the player he is today
Christian Held is a young German coach who has taken over the reigns of Pro A team Romerstrom Gladiators at the young age of 30. He was an assistant with Romerstrom Gladiators the last two seasons under Marco Van Den Berg. He first really got noticed as head coach of the Baskets Akad.Weser-Ems/Oldenburger TB (ProB) where he led the club to the Pro B title in 2015. He currently has the Romerstrom Gladiators in second place in the Pro A standings with a 5-1 record. He spoke to germanhoops.com about his coaching career.
Christian thanks for talking to germanhoops.com You’re a 30 year old German and head coach of Pro A team Romerstrom Gladiators. Do you sometimes wonder where you would be in your career today had the EWE Baskets Oldenburg not fired Sebastian Machowski in March 2015 and promoted Mladen Drijencic which allowed you to finish the season with pro B team Baskets Akademie Weser-Ems winning the title?
I think that I have been fortunate to have had a little bit of luck throughout my career. I think that being able to coach the Pro B team when Mladen Drijencic was promoted was lucky, but also being able to learn in a competitive environment with other young coaches in Oldenburg was huge. Being able to show what you are capable of and having good people around you was also important. To be in a situation were you can take responsibility at a young age helped me to become a experienced coach despite my young age.
Before we get to your current status with the Romerstrom Gladiators I want to look way back in your basketball career. Your last entry as a player on your resume was playing at a tournament in Vienna Austria in the 2005-2006 season with the Oldenburger TB U-18 team. After that you started to become active as a coach. Was coaching always in your blood or did you stop playing because of an injury?
I think I was able to get this love for basketball at a young age having a father that was a coach and always watching the games and having younger brothers who played the game as well. At this time I didn’t have the idea of becoming a coach yet, but just loved the game. The reason I didn’t continue as a player has to do partly because of an injury, but also because I wasn’t talented enough. It was always hard for me because I was always around better players and had to learn to solves things on the court in smarter ways which was difficult when your not as talented.
Many may not know it but you’re the son of basketball coach Ralph Held who was an assistant coach for many years with the EWE Baskets and now works for the German basketball federation. How thankful are you that you were able to get so many opportunities so early in your career doing seminars for coaches like Don Beck and Predrag Krunic.
I was very fortunate to have had this opportunity, because it has helped me in my whole career. It really helped me being able to see and learn from great coaches at a young age as well as being close to the team. A very important thing that I learned at a young age was that coaching isn’t only about the x”s and o’s, but treating people the right way. Also feeling this love for the game helped me then more than the x’s and o’s. I learned about the x’s and o’s later. I saw how coaches treated people the right way.
Despite having all these wonderful opportunities at a young age did you ever feel like you were in the shadow of your dad? He was successful as an assistant for the EWE Baskets Oldenburg. Did you feel pressure or could you always rub it away focusing on making your way in the coaching world?
My dad was a great coach. Honestly I never felt pressure or having to compete with being as good or better than him. I have always had a competitive nature. I never care who is out there. I just want to be the best. This has always helped me deal with pressure. The most toughest thing about pressure is dealing with that within. My dad has always helped me and it is always fun to talk basketball with him to this day.
Which coaches really inspired you at a young age? Obviously you were around your dad in Oldenburg and the coaches then Don Beck and Predrag krunic. Were these guys the most influential coaches for you in your late teens and early 20’s or were there others?
There were quite a lot, but Predrag Krunic was big. The one season where I was team manager for Predrag Krunic was the deciding moment where I knew I wanted to become a coach. Before my time with him, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a coach. Also my time at Gonzaga with Mark Few was important. Also my situation in Oldenburg being around young coaches was also very important. I still talk to the coaches from back then to this day. So there where always a lot of influences throughout my coaching career.
What key basketball things do you remember learning form your first basketball internships under Don Beck and Predrag krunic. Are some of these things some of the basic coaching concepts that you still use today?
Important for me is to learn something new each day. I try to learn from coaches I have seen and know, but also from players. There are still things I integrate into my everyday work from them.
In 2011 you spent five days with Dirk Bauermann in Trier as he was there preparing for the World Championships. He is known as a defensive master. What things do you remember soaking up from his defensive philosophy?
I think that he always made teams play hard and that was a big key to his success. When teams play hard that always helps the defense. That was what I most liked about his coaching.
In 2011 you also spent time in Belgrad with legendary head coach Svetislav Pesic. What really impressed you about him in this week? Is there anything particular that you remember about him that has stayed with you until today?
Pesic has had much success as a coach and I learned a lot form him in that time. What I liked most about him was how he treated players. Almost every player that I have spoken to about him talks about him with great respect. He lives basketball 24/7. He lives basketball even at his age now. Even when you walk into an arena today you feel his passion for the game.
In the 2012-2013 season you spent 7 months at the well known basketball school Gonzaga. What kind of experience was it seeing how legendary head coach Mark Few worked? What elements from his coaching style and form how the game is played in the NCAA were you able to take home with you?
Being at Gonzaga was a great experience. I had to learn to live away from home and be without family and friends. I really got to see what NCAA players go through when they go away for the first time overseas. At least I knew English, but when players come here they are without family and don’t know the language. The way Mark Few works with the X’s and O’s is incredible. He is an excellent X’s and O’s coach. I saw that the NCAA is a lot different than here. My time there really helped me to understand and help players that come over here. The officiating is different and also the rules. I also noticed that even dominant guards in the NCAA come overseas and have problems at first to adapt to the style here. A reason why guards aren’t as effective at first here is because of the physicality under the rim and not on the perimeter. But also talking to the other coaches on staff helped me a lot to really understand the things they try to do and build a network.
Gonzaga has always been a respected basketball institution having won 17 WCC titles and up to when you were there had only reached two NCAA Sweet 16 runs in 14 years under Mark Few. However since you left there the school has really taken off in the last five years reaching two NCAA Sweet 16’2, an Elite 8 and 2017th final. What has changed there in the last years that has given the basketball program under Few so much consistency?
The Gonzaga program kept working in the direction in that they were heading. A big part of their success in the last years has been their ability to find good recruits from Europe and Canada. They got the quality from there that they never would have gotten from American recruits. The great recruits from outside helped them make a name for themselves. Now they get great recruits from home. They needed that initial success just to be able to keep going forward.
Few was able to hep groom players like Elias Harris, David Stockton, Kelly Olynik into NBA players and Kevin Pangos into a Euroleague player. Did you take some of the young player development abilities that Few practiced back to Oldenburg as you started to work as head coach of the NBBL team?
It is always important to learn new things and see different things that you can later integrate into my philosophy. A good example from Gonzaga was seeing how Mark Few handled Kevin Pangos. I remember him getting many turnovers in practice. Pangos was always trying new things and it wasn’t working. Few worked very hard with him on the problem and it came to the point where he perfected it and hardly made turnovers in games. It is always a learning process. Your always learning new things and trying to integrate it into your philosophy to see if it fits and if not then seeing if it fits later.
In 2013 after getting first experiences with the Oldenburger Regionalliga team with Mladen Drijencic, you then became head coach of the Oldenburg NBBL team and was assistant for the Pro B team under Mladen Drijencic. How important was Mladen Drijencic in this time for your further development as a head coach?
I worked together for him for four years. That is a long time in the basketball business which works fast. It was great working with him. He is a coach that is great working with young players and helping them develop further. I was able how to set up practices the right way so the young players could develop and get better. He is also very good and teaching fundamentals and I was able to take that with me.
Was it a shock moment when Mladen Drijencic was promoted to head coach in Oldenburg in March 2015? You led the Pro B team to the title. What memories do you have of this run where you easily disposed of Wurzburg, Weissenhorn and Rostock and then had a tight final against Wedel.
I don’t think that it was a shock moment for me. It was just a new situation for me, but I think having been able to work two years as an assistant there was a big help as I knew the league. Plus I had almost two years of experience as a head coach of the NBBL team already under my belt. It also helped that we had a great team that helped me very much in dealing with the new situation. The players did a great job of sticking together and winning as a team. It is always fun to have new challenges in life and growing. We all make mistakes. It is all about learning from your mistakes and getting better. The way we finished the season winning the Pro B title was very special.
The next season you lost a tough three game series against Nordlingen. Does the fact that they got more than 50% of their points form Brandon Lockhart, Jordan Talbert and Janek Schmidkunz still annoy you that you couldn’t contain them better?
That loss doesn’t annoy me. We had a lot less experience that season and important in this season was getting players to the next level. They did make the next step that season. They left their hearts out on the floor in the Nordlingen series. At the end of the day we just didn’t have the needed experience and weren’t clever in one or two situations. When your team leaves it on the court than I can live with the loss. Nordlingen was simply better.
You had many young players in Oldenburg, but how proud are you of the development of Robert Drijencic? How do you feel was he able to develop differently under you after his dad left to coach the BBL team?
Mladen did a great job with his son teaching him the fundamentals. What is great is that when you see him play now, you see that he is using all that what he learned when he was younger. He has really shown what he is capable of. He is a great and smart player that reads the game well. He also has learned how to help his team win. It is always great seeing guys have success that you worked with. I don’t know exactly how much influence I had on him. You would have to ask him.
You came to the Romerstrom Gladiators in 2016-2017 and was an assistant under Marco van Den Berg. How important was your role as assistant here. I have heard you weren’t the normal assistant coach, but a guy that actually did more than what an assistant coach should?
It was a great time working with Marco. He has the ability to let everyone on the team feel that they are needed and can have a great role for the success of the team. I feel this was also an important time for me to keep learning and developing. This time in Trier was also tough for me. I had a lot of work the last two years as I wasn’t only an assistant coach, but also was in charge of the youth program. We had no youth program when I came and I had to build it up form the ground. I used a lot of energy in this time and I feel that it helped me grow as a person. I also learned that you can only control so much. You just have to keep working and do the best that you can. It took me some time to learn that, but in the end it turned out well.
Talk a little about your work as youth coordinator. Many don’t know but after TBB Trier went bankrupt and the new organization Gladiators was born there was no youth program. It was at the bottom. You played a huge role in getting the youth program off it’s feet and rolling again. How challenging was this for you and what was key in getting the youth program working again properly?
When I came to Trier there were no youth players, court time or coaches for the youth program. We had to build it up from the ground again. Key for me in this time was bringing everyone together in Trier that cares about the youth program. It took some time to get everyone on the same page. We all sat at a table and everyone was willing to get involved in some way in building it up. Important also was getting the support from the club and getting young coaches that were willing to help young kids move forward.
This season your head coach of the Romerstrom Gladiators and the club is on a positive way having finished in sixth place the last three seasons. You have helped lead the team to a 5-1 record. What has been the secret to the success despite having few imports and fighting injuries?
I think our secret is our hard work and that we stick together as a team. But we still need to learn a lot and grow as individuals and as a team if we want to make the playoffs.
In the Pro A you will usually see 4-5 Americans per team and you have done it mostly with little import help as you only have Jermaine Bucknor and Kyle Dranginis and recently got experience with Kelvin Lewis. What has driven guys like Till Gloger, Johannes Joos and kevin Smit to name just a few to take more responsibility?
At the moment young German players overall have noticed that if they want to become better that they have to find a position where they have to take responsibility. We have shown that we are willing and want to give German players responsibility to help win games. This is huge for players to develop their game while getting minutes. The way we have helped Germans work to develop and get better has shown us that we can have success without needing imports. We are willing to invest in the future with young German players and they are getting better during their time here in Trier.
Are young coaches like Thorsten Leibenath and Bjoern Harmsen who coached BBL teams at very young ages added role models for you as you continue to climb the basketball ladder?
Of course you watch them and see how they are doing. I just continue to try to what I am doing without getting crazy. At the end of the day you have to show what your capable of doing as a coach and you have to earn the chance to coach at that level. It is more about improving your self just the way it is with players. You have to be willing to work hard each day and learn new things. It is nice to see that they have had success. There isn’t one particular role model that I look up to. There are so many great coaches. I just try to pick the brain of as many coaches as possible and then try to implement it as much as possible into my philosophy and if works good if not then use it later. That is also the reason why I decided to apply for the FECC program. I was very fortunate to get one of the two spots from Germany, where I had the opportunity to learn from my great coaches.
What goals do you still have as a head coach and where do you see yourself in five years?
I’m not the type of guy that makes plans for the future. Sometimes it’s difficult for my wife to come to terms with this. I just take things as they come and make the best out of it. I like my situation in Trier now. My family and I feel very comfortable here. The club wants to improve and get better in all areas. There is a healthy way of growing here. I am so dialed in here now that there is no time to think about the future.
Thanks Christian for the chat.
So far this season whenever the Fraport Skyliners didn´t give their best performances in the BBL, they usually returned with pride and played with a different mentality and won in the Eurocup showing that they can compete with the top teams in Europe. Yesterday they traveled deep into Russia to Kazan with a 3-1 record and were looking for another big win, but instead their furious come back attempt in the fourth quarter wasn´t rewarded as the crucial little mistakes robbed the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup winner as they lost 83-80 on a last second shot. Many experts didn´t give the Fraport Skyliners much of a chance considering they had lost their big man Johannes Wolfarth-Bottermann to injury and will be out 10-12 weeks. But the Fraport Skyliners did a good job staying with the ex Euroleague team in the first half. In the second half, Frankfurt had more problems compensating the loss of their big man as they were lacking experience down low. Frankfurt was down by 12 points with 7.07 to play, but then made a commendable comeback, but just couldn´t get over the hump. One always wants to win these games very badly mainly because a loss will make the next day trip home so much longer as the mistakes from the day before keep popping up during travel. “It was a tough loss for us. We put together a nice run, but just couldn´t get it done at the end”, stressed Fraport Skyliner guard Jason Clark. The Fraport Skyliner shot well at 61% from the two point range and 46% from outside and they dished out 18 assists. They were heavily outrebounded which was expected and they played good defense in spurts. All in all the club goes home with positives and negatives from the game. “I thought that we defended pretty well. We did a better job sharing the ball and sticking to our plays. But we did struggle at times with execution especially when they went to a zone. We had problems finding a solution, but it did get better towards the end”, warned ex Georgetown(NCAA) guard Jason Clark.
The Fraport Skyliners had a good first half down only by six points. A positive light was the inspired play by Erik Murphy who was present on offense and also on defense had the need to have to step up for the missing Wolfarth Bottermann. Jason Clark and Shawn Huff executed well on offense while Brady Heslip was being contained well. Frankfurt had to shift their game plan a little concerning the loss of their big man, but there wasn´t really so much that the Fraport Skyliners had to do, but it really just had to do more with effort and helping each other out more. “The size of Wobo was missing. Erik Murphy did a good job. He knows the five spot. We had to make some minor adjustments in our pick and roll defense knowing that we didn´t have the rim protector with Wobo on the court. It was tough without Wobo, but all on our team can play with anyone at any level. We came into the game knowing that we have to find a way to get through it and felt we did a pretty good job without him”, warned Jason Clark. The Fraport Skyliners most likely will have to react to the Wolfarth-Bottermann injury and find a big man. The question is will it be an import or German. Another import would force another on the sidelines with the 6 man rule. The question is always what good big man are available at this time that play into the Skyliner´s budget. Around this time four years ago head coach Gordon Herbert had some tricks up his sleeve and magically got Justin Cobbs for the guard position replacing injured Richard Williams and the rest is history. Cobbs led the club into the playoffs and Eurochallenge final 4. An interesting player that could be available is ex NBA player Tim Ohlbrecht. Currently he is hanging out in Texas waiting to make his next move. He last played with ratiopharm Ulm, but currently has a nasty dispute with them so his mind might be elsewhere now. The question is would he will be willing to help an ex team and how fit is he? “I honestly haven´t heard of him, but it sounds like he has a lot of experience. He has been around the league and could help us. We will fight it out with or without him. Either way we will be ok whatever happens”, warned Jason Clark.
In the third quarter Unics Kazan came out with more intensity and were able to control the 10 minutes and led in double digits for most of the time and seemed like they weren´t going to let the Fraport Skyliners come back. One could see that Frankfurt was losing some energy in the paint area as Wolfrath-Botterman´s presence was really needed then. The two bigs Maurice Ndour and Raymar Morgan started to be able to do more and get easy baskets. The Fraport Skyliners did a superb job keeping the once top BBL center Raymar Morgan to only two points in the first half, but sooner or later a guy of that skill level is going to break out. “Morgan is a very good player. He is the type of player that will find his points sooner or later no matter who he is playing against. Our goal wasn´t to shut him down, but to try to contain him as best we could and make him work for his points. He is a work horse, but I felt we did a pretty good job on him overall. Wobo´s length could of really helped us. But Erik Murphy had some huge blocks in the game and played well”, stressed Jason Clark. It wasn´t only Erik Murphy who returned with a solid performance with 15 points and 4 blocks, but Finish national player Shawn Huff who so often leaves the floor after 40 minutes as the unsung hero. He played the most minutes on the team with 37 and added 14 points, 3 rebounds and 3 steals. In a way he is like a mini Tez, because he does so much on the floor like his teammate, but it doesn´´t always get noticed as much. “He made so many big plays. I remember his offensive rebound off a missed free throw which led to a three by me. That was a big turning point in the game. He does so many things that doesn´t show up in the stat sheet, but also so many that do. He does so much like a Tez”, warned Jason Clark.
In the fourth quarter, the game looked like it would be a lost cause for the Fraport Skyliners as they were down by double digits. But one has to know that under a Gordon Herbert you might still get crushed from time to time like last weekend in Oldenburg, but it is unlikely it will happen two times in a row and the fighting qualities and heart of the team are there most times. The team play and never give up attitude carried the team again as in a matter of minutes crunch-time had arrived and Frankfurt had fought back with undeniable passion tying the game at 77. “Key in the come back was getting stops. Brady Heslip hit huge shots. When you are down and need points then he is the guy that can get you back in the game. He hit something like three three´s in a row, then scored in the paint and scored back door. When he has the time and sees the basket well than there is always a good chance that it will go in”, warned Jason Clark. After Erik Murphy hit three free throws to tie the game, Unics Kazan had the ball and an offensive rebound by Pierria Henry gave them an extra opportunity which they took their advantage. “I thought that we had a good trap on the perimeter, but the point guard made a good play finding Jamar Smith in the corner for the game winner”, said Jason Clark. It was the little mistakes that cost Frankfurt the game again something that the club has to get a much better grip on in crucial moments of the game. “This happens when we lose focus and we have to do a better job with it. I think once everyone gets on the same page for 40 minutes, it will get better. In some games we show it well and in other games we are horrible. We have to get on a consistent basis”, warned Jason Clark.
Clark had another game and he dazzled fans in the first half nailing two deep bank shots. The first was from nine meters and the second a half court buzzer beater at the break. “I don´t remember hitting two deep shots like that in one half ever in my career. Both felt very good when they left my hand”, added Jason Clark. Clark finished with 16 points on 6/11 shooting grabbed 4 rebounds and dished out six assists. The only sore spot were his 3 turnovers. Taking care of the ball and defense are two area´s of his game that he is most adamant of tweaking. Many in Frankfurt still feel like that there is a point guard problem in Frankfurt, but Jason Clark is more than focused at showing everyone that he can be a good point guard for the Fraport Skyliners. “I have to get my turnovers down. I have really been struggling with this and I know it. There have been games where I had 4 or even 6 and that´s not good. I really want to get them down. I don´t think that I am overdoing it, but moreover I´m not making the right reads. It is a learning experience and I know it will get better. The other area is my defense. I know there were some plays tonight that I could have done better. The coaching staff is on me about this as am I. All I can do is to keep working hard on getting better”, warned Jason Clark. On the weekend the Telekom Baskets Bonn visit the Fraport Skyliners who have been up and down this season currently 3-2 in the BBL and 2-2 in the BCL. Last weekend they lost 82-70 In Jena and escaped Fribourg, Switzerland yesterday with a hard fought 83-79 BCL win. The Fraport Skyliners have already seen the Telekom Baskets Bonn once in pre season and probably haven´t forgoten their big man Charles Jackson who once hauled down 24 rebounds in a game in Turkey who will make life even more difficult without Wolfarth-Bottermann. “Bonn is a very good team. We have to come out with a lot of energy and the right intensity on defense and then our offense will come along. We have to get a good start and not let them run. We will give all we got with what we got. We have to take way what Jackson likes to do. We have to be physical on him and take him out of the game. We will do it together. Not with one man, but with five”, stressed Jason Clark. It will be interesting if there will be that Wolfarth-Botterman replacement on Sunday in the Fraport arena.