The 2017 NBBL final was not even 30 minutes old and if one was roaming the catacombs in the Fraport arena, one would have observed intense sadness as IBAM players had their heads sunk low and others were feeling the sorrow even more like Johannes Klughardt as it was sinking in slowly. 19 year old Klughardt who started his career with TUS Uhrspringschule was in tears and was hugging his teammates like a 8 year old would their parents with that first overnight summer camp departure. He had made a clutch jumper and steal in the last minute to secure the IBAM win against Alba Berlin in the semi-final and the final was the last game for the German in the NBBL with this special group of guys as many will be too old to compete in the NBBL next season. Not only was Klughardt unhappy with the 94-71 NBBL final defeat at the hands of FC Bayern Munich as he also let some frustration out on an empty plastic bottle lying on the floor, but also his teammate 16 year old 186cm shooting guard and game changer Joshua Obiese who had a great semi-final game from the bench against Alba Berlin was feeling the grief of playing a last time with a very unusual group of guys and was near tears as he described playing that last game with Stanford bound Oscar Da Silva. “This last game was very emotional for me. I had a very special relationship with Oscar. We spent a lot of time together training together a lot during the afternoons. It is really hard to let go”, stressed Joshua Obiese. However for some fellows the frustration and down period after a tough loss escapes a mind quicker as others like Oscar Da Silva was already in future mode as he had an intense talk with German U-18 head coach Alan Ibrhimagic for about 10 minutes listening about how he should prepare for the summer national team time and one could of orchestrated a wet tee shirt contest next to him or had Lebron James walk by him and the 18 year old would not have flinched or lost concentration with his matter at hand. The young German is all business and already has the type of strong mentality that will carry him far at the professional level. For Da Silva, it was just another big game with many more too follow as he produced 19 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and two steals and filled up the stat sheet like a Russell Westbrook. On the other side of the coin, the winners FC Bayern Munich were celebrating like no tomorrow, but one player won´t only remember the win, but also playing that last youth game against Da Silva. “It is always entertaining to play against Oscar. I never had as much fun as today as this was my first final. A guy like Oscar makes me so much better as you always have to play at a high level against him or you get eaten up”, warned FC Bayern Munich guard Nelson Weidemann.
Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing 2017 NBBL champion Marko Pecarski of FC Bayern Munich
The 2017 NBBL final was a tale of two halves as the fans saw a very balanced and even game in the first 20 minutes, but in the last half witnessed a fatigued IBAM team fall apart and be unable to withstand the constant FC Bayern Munich pressure on both ends of the floor. IBAM was fatigued and FC Bayern Munich knew that and used it to their full advantage.
A little more than a week ago German wonder boy Isaac Bonga saw the sides of two worlds once again as the sky is the limit for the 17 year special talent was able to broaden his horizons again something he has been able to experience time in and time out if it was playing in the basketball without boarders tournament in Lithuania or shooting the breeze with New York Knick Justin Holiday at the 2017 NBA allstar weekend in New Orleans. Bonga skipped off the sold out court in Ulm of 6,000 plus people having played the most BBL minutes this season with 26 contributing six points, four rebounds and three assists in a narrow 90-84 defeat to ratiopharm Ulm and 20 hours later, he was brought back down to reality that his basketball life isn´t only a bed of roses as he departed the floor in Munich a defeated young man as he had to accept the bitter 75-44 NBBL loss against the International basketball academy Munich with only 200 people in attendance and had ran around like a mad man leaving his heart on the floor having played 38 minutes filling up the stat sheet like a mini Lebron posting seven points, six rebounds, seven assists, four steals and one block. With his BBL season over, Bonga wanted to make his last season goal of reaching the NBBL top 4 in Frankfurt reality, but he as well as his teammates had to really show what they were made of, dig deep down within themselves and play with heart. Bonga wanted to avenge his unsatisfactory 3/18 shooting in Munich and at the same time force another do or die meeting with Munich and other German super talent Oscar Da Silva who dropped 59 points and 35 rebounds in the two game playoff series against Urspring and can continue to tell his friends that he will be attending Stanford next fall and play at the alma mater of ex Bamberg legend Casey Jacobsen. It was no secret that this special do or die game would bring out the best in Bonga and Da Silva as they combined for 40 points and 24 rebounds, but the International basketball academy Munich also known as IBAM came out on top escaping Frankfurt with a hard fought 61-60 victory. As the buzzer sounded, the few Munich fans that had made the trip jumped up in excitement as if lightening had struck them and star player and young phenom Oscar da Silva was calm, but one could see in his eyes that he was not only relieved, but also very proud for reaching the NBBL Top 4 tournament. “I am very happy about getting this win in Frankfurt. We never stopped fighting and played with high intensity. We came back through our good defense which helped us get transition baskets and that was key for the win”, stressed future Stanford Cardinal Oscar Da Silva. For Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners, it was a very successful season, but their goal of reaching the NBBL Final 4 in Frankfurt was not met and one could easily read the frustration of the players on their faces. Especially for team second top scorer Konstantin Schubert it was a disappointing way to end his NBBL career. “We knew that we could of won this game. Game one was depressing, but we had a different face today and defended very well against very good individual players. But when you only score 60 points, it will be difficult to win. We didn´t do much wrong on defense, but didn´t rebound well in the first half and when they couldn´t hit from outside, we were unable to stop their penetration”, stressed Fraport Skyliner Konstantin Schubert. “They switched to zone in the second half which gave us problems and took us out of rhythm”, added Fraport Skyliner Isaac Bonga.
In the last weeks do or die games as well as fascinating and breathtaking finishes like the unbelievable 75-73 win by North Carolina over Kentucky where Malik Monk´s last second shot was overturned by Luke Maye´s last triple with 0,3 seconds remaining to propel the Tar Heels into the 2017 NCAA Final 4 were as usual as it has been for ratiopharm Ulm winning and winning in the BBL this season, but also in the NBBL playoffs do or die games have been growing as last weekend the Igeko Falcons BC Nurnberg had to win at home against Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners to keep their season alive and did with a super performance as they won 63-51 stepping up their defense allowing 29 less points than in game one and carved the total points by German wonder boy Isaac Bonga and Cosmo Gruehn in half from 57 points to only 29 points and forced them to coughing up the ball 20 times with their aggressive defense. It hadn´t helped the cause of Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners that they were without their other strong performer Konstantin Schubert as he had been nursing an ankle injury. Both teams arrived into the game with their two star players Isaac Bonga who registered his first triple double in the Pro B a few weeks ago and is a projected 2018 NBA Draft Pick and Moritz Sanders who currently is averaging 7,2ppg in the Pro A and quietly developing further as a basketball player and were hoping to move on and face the International Basketball Academy Munich with their star player Oscar De La Silva. Despite being without second top scorer German Konstantin Schubert again for the third time in the series, Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners had enough other weapons and depth and took advantage of their home court despite some loud Nurnberg fans who had made the trip to cheer on the kids and escaped a last furious comeback by their opponent to slip into the quarterfinals with a satisfying 70-60 victory.
Isaac Bonga and Miles Schmidt-Scheuber: Postgame interview in Rhöndorf, December 2016
It was a game that Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners led from early on, but allowed Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC very close in crunch time, but it was the overall sound team play and superb leadership by 17 year old Isaac Bonga that allowed the home team to preserve the win. After the quick win, Bonga had exactly one hour and five minutes before his next game in the BBL against the Telekom Baskets Bonn and was dripping with sweat outside the locker room and showed absolutely no panic about having to get to the Fraport arena in time and reflected about the victory and keeping a cool head at the end. “I knew from the start that I had to take responsibility today. That is my job as point guard. We were always awake in the game and stayed calm even in tough times”, stressed Isaac Bonga.
When Bonga was long gone and on his way to the Fraport arena for the 10 minute drive from the BCM gym, Cosmo Gruehn was still on the court stretching and found the right words for the win. “Rebounds was key today as we were the better rebounding team in the first half and also defense as we held them to 60 points. We also did a good job keeping Sanders and Hassfuerter in check. We didn´t have to rely as much on our outside shooting like in game two, but were able to penetrate more with success”, added ex USC Freiburg big man Cosmo Gruehn.
Now is a very special month in the States concerning college basketball as it is the time of the year where March Madness takes over and fans are transformed into a special world where players are made into hero´s, some unknown teams create their own special Cinderella stories and upsets are always present as Duke recently was kicked out with the winner being crowned at the start of April in Phoenix. But also in Germany is March a very special time for youth basketball as the NBBL playoffs begin and teams battle for the ticket to the Final 4 at the end of May in Frankfurt and where upsets are also not uncommon as defending champion Breitengussbach lost their first game getting hammered by ratiopharm Ulm 82-58. In Frankfurt Eintracht Frankfurrt/Fraport Skyliners started their mission to reach the NBBL top 4 on their home base in the 5,004 seat Fraport arena as they came into the playoffs with a 11-3 record in third place while the Igeko Nurnberg Falcons finished with a record of 12-4. There are no real easy opponents in the NBBL playoffs and Eintracht Frankfurt knew that they would be facing a sound defensive team with Nurnberg as they had relinquished 70 points or less in 10 games while Frankfurt did 9 times. After an offensive first quarter, both teams settled down on the defensive end and the game was even for three quarters, but in the fourth quarter the Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC ran out of gas as the depth and fire power of Comso Gruehn and Isaac Bonga was too much for the Bavarian team as Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners won 80-70.
“We knew that it wouldn´t be an easy task. We played very well and got the needed support from the bench. We know that whenever the clock is down and we need a basket, we can rely on Isaac Bonga to making the shot. He has improved his three pointer the last weeks. He has been practicing his shot extra hard the last weeks and is a motivation for all of us to want to get our chances and produce like he does”, stressed ex USC Freiburg forward Cosmo Gruehn.
It seems like it was only yesterday when Donald Trump was putting on the last final touches of his 2016 Presidential campaign and the NBBL season was just getting into swing, but after a few months the regular season is winding down and the playoffs are looming quickly. For one team, the playoffs were already booked while the other team was fighting for that last spot. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners had a 10-3 record and sitting in position two despite having lost two of the last three games, but won their last game in Langen 92-68 where Cosmo Gruehn poured in 28 points. In their two previous games, they had lost to ratiopharm Ulm and Urspirng where they were missing their four top players and were led by players like Leon Pullen and Oliver Babitsch who usually get lesser minutes. On the other side of the court the Young Tigers Tuebingne arrived into the game with a 6-7 record and in fifth place battling Urspring for that last playoff spot who also had a record of 6-7, the Young Tigers Tuebingen had to win their last game in Frankfurt to reach the playoffs since they had won both regular season games against Urspring. However Eintracht Frankfurt had their allstar ensemble on board and wanted to cruise into the NBBL playoffs with full force and easily took apart the Young Tigers Tuebingen 75-52 on a wet Sunday afternoon. Only 16 hours earlier 17 year old German wunderkind Isaac Bonga had experienced his first big milestone as a professional registering his first triple double of the season with 10 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 assists in a win against Nordlingen propelling the Pro B team Fraport Skyliners Juniors into the playoffs. Bonga wasn´t as good against Tuebingen as he only had six points and six turnovers, but was solid on the boards with seven rebounds and had seven assists, but it didn´t really matter since his team had strong support from their three starters Konstantin Schubert, Cosmo Gruehn and Niklas Pons who combined for 44 points and young 16 year old German Alvin Onyia gave good energy from the bench netting 13 points. After the game Konstantin Schubert who is the clean cut guy who never looks like he broke a sweat, but looks more like a young banker in training understood that the club wasn´t totally consistent, but important that everyone was on board. “We had our ups and downs, but was a good preparation for the playoffs. We wanted to go into the playoffs with force and it was important that everyone could play together. We did a good job rebounding and had the height advantage and really took advantage of it”, stressed Konstantin Schubert.
The Young Tigers Tuebingen big highlight of the season was sweeping top German youth team Urspring, but lost both games to TV Langen probably costing them the playoffs, but head coach Manuel Pasios was still content with the performance of his team against a very strong Frankfurt squad. “It was a very scrappy game. Our three point shooting kept us in the game. We were at a big disadvantage under the boards as we couldn´t compensate their height. Frankfurt gave their all and wanted to go into the playoffs strong. We were able to annoy them only a little with our press, but that was it”, stressed Young Tigers head coach Manuel Pasios.
The middle of the week days are usually reserved for the international club games where a Brose Bamberg is usually battling away at home against a Real Madrid or CSKA Moscow´s or are tingling around somewhere in Europe at a Macabbi Tel Aviv or FC Barcelona, but this week there were also other teams in action from the easyCredit BBL, but also in the NBBL there was a make up game between two teams Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners and Team Urspring that could be classified at the moment belonging to the top basketball schools as in the last years both teams have developed big talents like Johannes Voigtmann, Danilo Barthel and now Isaac Bonga while Team Urspring have brought out talent after talent like Lucca Staiger, Christian Standhardinger, Gavin Schilling or Mahir Agva that played his first BBL game at age 16 and now plays for the Fraport Skyliners and is fighting for minutes from head coach Gordon Herbert. Team Urspring came to Frankfurt with 5 NBBL titles in their baggage and only a disappointing 4-6 record this season, but a lot of self confidence as they had dismantled TV Langen for the second time this season holding them to only 53 points while Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners were reeling off a hard 76-57 loss to ratiopharm Ulm where all their stars didn´t suit up. The club played a lot of their bench players giving them abundant minutes and the club fought with heart cutting down a double digit lead to six points with four minutes to go, but then ran out of gas giving up a 15-2 run to end the game. Both Eintracht Frankfurt and Team Urspring were motivated to finish the season strong as the home team had already qualified for the playoffs while the guests need a good run in the last games to reach the promised land. Team Urspring controlled the first quarter, but Eintracht Frankfurt improved their play in the second and third quarters and were on the same level as the guests, but lost control in crunch-time as the Tekka And Noeres Show took control extending their losing streak to two games losing to Team Urspring 71-65.
After the game an old known face of the region Sebastian Barth who played many years in Langen was coaching only his second NBBL game was content about the win, but also felt that his team has a realistic chance of reaching the NBBL playoffs. “We defended long phases with heart, but we didn´t have consistent ball movement in the game. It was a hard fought game, but in the end the three pointer by Patrick Teka was big and we did a good job forcing them to difficult shots. I think that this win will give us added self confidence to reach the playoffs. I think we need at least one win against either ratiopharm Ulm or Ludwigsburg”, expressed Team Ursping head coach Sebastian Barth. Eintracht Frankfurt 17 year old swing man Oliver Babitsch had his best game in the NBBL netting 19 points and was disappointed that the club couldn´t get the easy things done on the court and not surprised that he could deal with the responsibility having to take over for the top players out of action. “We didn´t play for 40 minutes and had too many up and down phases. We woke up too late in the first quarter. The second half was a lot better. The little things killed us at the end. Team defense was good and we played with a lot of heart, but our one on one defense wasn´t good. In Hanau, I was a player that my team relied on to have good games. So needing to step up now was nothing new for me”, expressed Oliver Babitsch.
Sometimes the overwhelming differences that two basketball teams may possess on paper can be as hard to digest for an opposing coach in terms of what strategy he will use for 40 minutes as it was NFL coaches and defenses to figure out how to stop a Tom Brady of the New England Patriots who at age 39 seems to be playing like in his prime and having that very special and rare football gen called forever young. When one observes Germany´s youth league NBBL which displays the faces of tomorrow and possible professional players in the making, one can´t always expect games in the 90´s or a 50% field goal percentage as these kids are all still learning, but sometimes the stats on paper do tell the story. This was the case as unbeaten Eintracht Frankfurt who had beat MTV Kronberg in a thrilling OT game where they showed their true colors in OT and last weekend needed a 26 point explosion in the fourth quarter to leave the Junior Baskets Rhein Necker in the dust faced off against the 1-1 Schoder Junior Giraffen Langen in another classic Hessen derby. The guests lost the first game of the season against Porsche BBA Ludwigsburg with 65-58, but last weekend nipped the well-known basketball academy Urspring 55-53. The immense statistical advantages that Eintracht Frankfurt had were mindboggling as they averaged 82 points to 56 points of Langen, had the massive rebound edge of 51-26 and in the playmaking department also had more creativity with the 20-11 edge. Langen did have the better defense in the first two games giving up only 59 points while Eintracht Frankfurt did 65 which wasn´t too shabby either. Stats are one thing, but in the end the only thing that counts is what happens on the court for 40 minutes and that is when both teams leave everything they have on the court. The Schoder Junior Giraffen Langen played a hard first half where nobody would of noticed any kind of big advantage for Eintracht Frankfurt, but the home team did break out of their shell in the third leading by as much as 17 points only to see the guests fight back and force OT, but then ran out of gas as Eintracht Frankfurt squeaked out a 82-74 win. After the game, 18 year old German Konstantin Schubert didn´t look anymore pooped than after any other game, but he had played an overwhelming 81 minutes in 17 hours dating back to the Fraport skyliners Juniors OT win in Nordlingen the night before, but was still able to give sound answers concerning his second OT win within 24 hours. “I feel very tired. This was my second OT game. I played 42 minutes last night and 39 minutes now. We were up by 17 in the third and can´t let the opponent come back like that. We brought more power than Langen did into the OT and hit the deciding shots that gave us the win”, stressed Eintracht Frankfurt forward Konstantin Schubert. The Schoder Junior Giraffen Langen played a very spirited game, but used up a lot of energy after being down 17 in the third and just didn´t have the needed gusto in OT to prevail. “This was a tough loss for us. The third quarter killed us. We never gave up until the end, but Frankfurt just had more energy than we did”, added Schoder Junior Giraffen Langen forward Julian Pfaff.
With all the German professional leagues already having got underway in their new seasons, many were waiting in heavy anticipation of the new NBBL(under 19) league to commence as it is always a delight to observe Germany´s young prospects doing work on the court and developing from boys to men and for some into professional basketball players. On a rare Friday evening, Eintracht Frankfurt who belong to the Fraport Skyliners faced off in a true Hessen derby against MTV Kronberg which is only 15 minutes away if one stages their own Formula One race tempo over the autobahn and country roads. Eintracht Frankfurt went into the game as the heavy favorite as it had more players with Pro B experience with guys like Isaac Bonga, Konstantin Schubert, Niklas Pons and Cosmo Gruehn while MTV Kronberg did have seven players aged 18. 16 year old Isaac Bonga who is the biggest German talent since Dennis Schroeder played, but had a severe cold, but still played 26 minutes scoring eight points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out six assists before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Despite the talent and experience advantage of Eintracht Frankfurt, MTV Kronberg didn´t let that take their focus or grit away as they did a fantastic job staying with their opponent for 40 minutes, but in the OT, the home team showed their true colors going on a harsh 14-2 run to overcome MTV Kronberg 86-74. “We didn´t underestimate them, but this is a team that we have to beat by a lot. We knew that Felix Hecker could shoot, but we slept too many times in this game, but we will work on our mistakes and come back better”, warned Eintracht Frankfurt guard Isaac Bonga. “We played against a very good team, but we gave it our best. Our point guard came late to the team and wasn´t in form yet. We didn´t have so much strength at the end”, added MTV Kronberg forward Felix Hecker.
Jan Moritz Overdick is a 17 year old 207cm power forward from Germany that plays NBBL and Pro B for TV Langen. He started his basketball career for TV Hofheim and moved to TV Langen in 2012. This season he has played seven games for TV Langen in the Pro B averaging 4,0ppg and 2,1rpg and in the NBBL is averaging 20,4ppg and 8,2rpg. The German spoke to German Hoops following the 65-52 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt.
A tough 65-52 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt this weekend. The first quarter was very tight, but Eintracht Frankfurt broke away in the second quarter and never looked back. What were the main reasons for TV Langen not being able to come back?
Eintracht Frankfurt played with more intensity for 40 minutes than we did. We were unable to react the right way against their aggressive defense. They made us crazy with their defense and we were unable to play our game. The second quarter decided the game for us. When you are down 15 points, it is difficult to come back against a team like that that has a deep bench.
How disappointed were you not being able to play against Niklas Kiel who injured himself in Schwelm?
I am sorry that he got hurt. I would have liked to have played against him, because you always wanted to compete against the best. He is one of the best German players from the year 1997.