At this time last season the Dragons Rhondorf were hovering on cloud 9 and seemed invincible as they were led by future Pro B MVP Kameron Taylor who had an answer for almost everything on the court as was leading the team to brutal success and was time in and time out the savior. This season it has been like night and day for the former Pro A team as they are sitting in the Pro B cellar with an 0-3 record with the only good news that there are three other teams suffering the same fate as the Dragons with identical records. Nothing has gone right for the ambitious farm team of easyCredit BBL team Telekom Baskets Bonn as they are averaging a dismal 63 points and giving up a mediocre 83 points where any novice mathematician would come to the conclusion that you can´t win games like that. The Dragons Rhondorf have a talented roster, but still have to find themselves on the court as Lithuanian big man Zygimantas Riauka has been the only real bright spot averaging 15 and 13 through the first three games and is keeping the paint area clean. The Bayer Giants Leverkusen are making amends for their lax start last season where they lost three of their first five games by racing out of the gate this season with a perfect 3-0 record. They haven´t faced the most stifest competition yet beating FC Bayern Munich that breeds young German talent and two 0-3 teams Erfurt and Coburg. So far 1993 European champion Hansi Gnad has done a fine job in his first season as head coach taking over the reigns from Leverkusen Achim Kuczmann and formed a good early season chemistry that will continue to build. With top player Ron Mvouika and a class of solid Germans, Leverkusen has been a pleasant surprise in the Pro B considering other top import Nick Hornsby doesn´t have to bring that big production he had to last season with Giessen. The Bayer Giants Leverkusen returned back to Rhondorf and wanted to get revenge for last season´s 90-72 spanking and did winning 84-68 despite getting a small scare at the start of the fourth by the Dragons Rhondorf, but buckled down and in the end won with ease. Leverkusen head coach Hansi Gnad had a long post game talk with his team, but when American Nick Hornsby returned back on the court to face the press, he didn´t try to avoid the difficulty of the game, but agreed that it was a hard fought win for his team. “It was a tough game . Rhondorf played a lot more physical. The bigs were stocky and the guards very fast and they played very physical. But we settled down in the second half and played diverse, taking care of the ball well and getting less turnovers while slowing down the game and playing inside out ball. Our guards Celebic and Blessig were a big help today”, stressed ex Sacramento State forward Nick Hornsby. After the game a pooped Zgyimantas Riauka who looked like he had just completed a marathon as he was still sweating like crazy minutes after the loss reflected on the game. “The difference was that they hit more shots than we did. They shot the three very well. We played tough, but they went on more runs. Our defense was great and we brought a lot of energy”, stressed Rhondorf center Zygimantas Riauka.
EasyCredit BBL team Fraport Skyliners are in their 20th anniversary season while their farm team Fraport Skyliners Juniors that have stood for top youth development since years bringing up top players like Johannes Voigtmann, Danilo Barthel and Isaac Bonga and making them to Euroleague and NBA players. The farm club was started in 2009 and they are also celebrating an anniversary with their 10th season in the German Pro B league. Over the years besides helping young and dedicated German talents develop, they also have had success as they reached the Pro B final in 2016. A big problem with the success rate of this club is simply that they don´t always have all their players to choose from in any given game simply because there are a handful of double license players on board that often are with the easyCredit BBL team. So far their anniversary 10th season has began quite well as in the first time in their history the club has started perfect and have a 2-0 record. They began the season with a hard fought victory in Rhondorf 75-68 where their three point precision stood out with 11 three´s and a week later they returned home for a duel against TG s.Oliver Wurzburg and ex Frankfurt Pro B head coach Erik Detlev that also was a difficult win to achieve as they pulled out a 74-68 victory against their ex coach. They didn´t shoot as well as in Rhondorf, bit rebounded better and especially picked up their defense forcing Wurzburg to 25 turnovers, but in a way were also lucky despite 13 turnovers less and over 20 more shots eked out the win. Also a new shooting star from Sweden was born with Elijah Clarance who is averaging 19,0ppg and now they were up for the next battle against neighbor Giessen Rackelos that is the farm team of easyCredit BBL team Giessen 46ers. The Hessen neighbor started came into the contest with a 1-1 record with a tough 87-71 loss on the road against very ambitious new team Schwenningen and then returned home last weekend and let out all their frustration crushing the Dragons Rhondorf 102-56 nailing 12 three´s, controlling the boards and forcing the opponent to 21 turnovers. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors wanted to keep the 0 in the loss column and did getting by Giessen Rackelos 80-72 and moving their record to 3-0. It wasn´t a perfect game from Frankfurt, but as usual they had the right answers from their deep roster and certain moments in the game. “We didn´t start well giving up easy baskets. We got a good lead in the second quarter with good ball movement and fast break points. In the second half we did a good job with defensive rebounds and keeping up defensive pressure not letting them get into their sets”, stressed Fraport Skyliner Junior Konstantin Schubert. Giessen was undermanned and played a good game, but just couldn´t get the big stops in big situations. “We started well, but then let them push us around which we couldn´t recover from. We weren´t as aggressive or as confident as we needed to be to be able to win. When things got rough, we tried to do too much and didn´t stay within our system. We were too disorganized and didn´t have the juice to beat a deep team on the road”, stressed ex Cal-San Diego (NCAA2) guard Adam Klie.
Erik Durham is a 24 year old 193cm guard from Springfield Missouri is playing his second professional season and first in Germany with the EN Baskets Schwelm currently averaging 12,0ppg, 4,0rpg and 1,5apg after 2 games. Last season as a rookie he played with Levitec Huesca (Spain-LEB Gold) playing 12 games averaging 3.8ppg, 1.3rpg. He began his basketball career at Parkview high school and then played at Lamar St.CC (JUCO) from 2013-2015 playing a total of 62 games. He then played at Jacksonville St. (NCAA) form 2015-2017 playing a total of 56 games and as a senior played 34 games averaging 10.7ppg, 4.9rpg, 1.9apg, FGP: 57.0%, 3PT: 47.0%, FT: 66.7%. He spoke to germanhoops.com earlier in the summer.
Erik thanks for talking togermanhoops.com. Where are you at the moment and how is your summer coming along?
I am currently in my hometown Springfield, Missouri preparing for the upcoming season. My summer has been well spent and I have enjoyed it.
Congrats on signing with German Pro B team EN Baskets Schwelm. After playing your rookie season with Levitec Huesca (Spain-LEB Gold) where you didn’t find ample minutes, what was your main goal coming into this summer’s transfer period that would best put you into a positive situation in your second professional season?
Thank you I appreciate that. My main goal this summer was to just work on my strength and to stay in the gym working on my game. I’m really looking forward to meeting the guys and being able to try and win games this season.
You have joined the EN Baskets Schwelm. They are a team that once played in the highest German class. What were the main reasons for you joining the team. What did you see most positive about the club?
My main reason for joining the team was their interest in my career and how it plays out. They want me to be successful as a player and they were very welcoming. I believe we will have a family atmosphere and that’s what I look forward to most is being on a team wanting to play as one.
Grant Benzinger is a 22 year old 190cm guard from Cincinnati, Ohio that is playing his rookie season with the Uni Baskets Paderborn. The American started his career with Archbishop Moeller High School and then played at Wright State from 2014-2018 playing a total of 130 games and as a senior played 34 games averaging 14.5ppg, 5.4rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 41.7%, 3PT: 38.2%, FT: 88.3%. He spoke to germanhoops.com earlier in the summer about basketball.
Hi Grant thanks for talking to germanhoops.com. Where are you at the moment and how is your summer going?
I am currently in Dayton, Ohio. My summer has been great so far.
Congrats on signing your first professional contract with the Uni Baskets Paderborn. How did you experience your first summer transfer period? Did you have ample offers?
I treated this Summer just like every other Summer in my college career. The goal was to get better at the game of basketball, and get stronger in the weight room. I had multiple offers, but Coach Uli really sold me on the potential of this team in Paderborn.
What do you know in general about the country Germany and it’s basketball? Did some of the ex Wright State players like Vaughn Duggins, or Vance Hall give you extra advice or did you only talk to Matt Vest?
I knew Germany was passionate about the game of basketball and that made me want to play there at some point in my career. I only talked to Matt Vest, because he has played for Paderborn for two seasons. He had the most valuable insight for me.
Last Weekend a new star was born in the Pro B with Swedish shooting star Elijah Clarance who hit the Dragons Rhondorf on the road for 21 points and really demonstrated his wide array of offensive skills, but what really stood out was his amazing and unending athleticism that the opponent was unable to come to terms to. His shooting which tends to be off the radar functioned well as did his rebounding and passing game, but his dunking most likely remained in the minds of many. At the start of the third quarter, he scored back to back buckets in a span of 30 seconds. His second basket was a lay up, but the first one was a hard left handed dunk with authority that captured the attention of his teammates on the bench as they jumped off their seats so quickly after the jam as if someone had secretly filled their seats with hot coals. His quick first step and getting around his man paved the way for the “good night” feeling right before he flew to the basket with the dunk. He didn´t score 40 points, but just the way he played and handled himself displaying a type of special self confidence and finishing so strong at the rim made his performance really stand out. Even though he is mainly seen as playing for the farm team, one has to honestly ask how long it will still be before he makes his BBL debut for Gordon Herbert. He has had some very good test games for the BBL game and sky is the limit for the 20 year old. After he helped lead the Fraport Skyliners Juniors to their first win of the season on the road, he returned home to the BCM to show the home town fans some more added stellar play. Not only was Clarance a theme to the game, but also Wurzburg head coach Eric Detlef who was returning to an old stomping ground as he had coached the Fraport Skyliners Juniors from 2012-2017. After 40 minutes the Fraport Skyliners Juniors had squeezed out a hard fought 74-68 win against TG s.Oliver Wurzburg. After the match Swedish shooting star Elijah Clarance was happy the team got the win, but one could sense in his tone and body language that he wasn´t pleased with the play of the team. “They came out with a lot of energy and played well. We matched their energy well in the first quarter, but not so well in the second and third quarters. We picked it up at the end of the third again and kept it a bit in the fourth. We took care of the ball well and executed at times, but made mistakes”, warned Fraport Skyliner Junior Elijah Clarance. Wurzburg head coach Eric Detlev was smiles after the loss, but was also content how well his team kept up with the much stronger Frankfurt team on paper. “I was happy to be back. I had good times here. I told the guys if Frankfurt plays well together then nobody can beat them, but if they don´t play well together than there is a chance. They had 22 more shots. Usually you would lose by 20 points when that happens. Guys like Clarance and Freudenberg are too good for the Pro B. This loss was a good lesson for us. Our mentality is very good. One could see that we were frustrated. With a little luck we could of won, but we couldn´t handle the pressure”, stressed head coach Eric Detlev.
Jett Speelman is a 24 year old 201cm forward from Granville, Ohio that is playing his second professional season and first with SC Rist Wedel (Germany-ProB). Last season as a rookie he played with FSU Selfoss (Iceland-D1) playing 12 games averaging 22.9ppg, 8.0rpg, 1.5apg, FGP: 52.5%, 3PT: 44.2%, FT: 84.2%. He started his basketball career at Newark Catholic and then played 35 games with Ashland (NCAA2) from 2013-2015. He then played at Denison (NCAA3) from 2015-2017 playing a total of 55 games and as a senior played 27 games averaging 18.3ppg, 6.0rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 0.0%. He spoke to germanhoops.com earlier in the summer about basketball.
Hi Jett thanks for talking to germanhoops.com Where are you at the moment and how has your summer been?
At the moment I am at my home in Ohio. My summer has been great! July has been a very busy month.
Before we get to the meat of the interview please tell me how you got this out of the ordinary name Jett? Did you have more positive or negative experiences with this name?
Well I must give all the credit to my parents. I believe they picked the name Jett from an old movie character. I have had a lot of positive experiences with the name, one common mistake people make is calling me Jeff instead. When I was born, the doctors incorrectly wrote ‘Jeff’ on my birth certificate and it had to be changed.
Raekwon Miller is a 22 year old 191cm guard from Marion, North Carolina embarking on his professional career in Germany with the Dragons Rhondorf. He played his NCAA career at NC-Asheville from 2014-2018 playing a total of 91 NCAA games. In his senior year he played 33 games averaging 11.2ppg, 4.6rpg, 3.3apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 48.9%, 3PT: 47.9%, FT: 76.2%. He spoke to Germanhoops.com earlier in the summer about basketball.
Raekwon thanks for talking to Germanhoops.com Where are you at the moment and how has your summer been coming along fresh out of school?
Right now I am currently back home enjoying my summer but also staying in the gym and working on my craft as I know its more important now than ever.
Before we get into the meat of the interview, I have to ask you about your unusual name. Does it have a special meaning and how did your parents come up with it?
My name was actually given to me by my brother, he listened to Raekwon the Chef apart of Wu tang Clan back in their day when it was really popular. My parents liked the name so they went with it.
Congrats on signing with German Pro B team Dragons Rhondorf. This was your first summer experiencing the professional transfer market. How was it for you and did you have a fair amount of offers or was it a tough go around?
The experience had me very anxious I mean I was basically putting all trust into my agent who is wonderful enough to get me the opportunity to play at the professional league. The waiting around for offers to come in got to me a little bit but it was all worth it in the end.