The Fraport Skyliners 20th Anniversary Season Ends in Bachelor Hype Instead of Playoff Joy

If somebody had told me in September 2018 that the Fraport Skyliners would be presenting a special Bachelor Ladies night with the German bachelor Andrej Mangold instead of  seriously playing for the playoffs in April, I would have thought that pigs could really fly or that the New York Knicks could actually be a playoff team or Detroit Pistons big man Andre Drummond could be a 70% free throw shooter ever before any of that happening with the Fraport Skyliners. Well I was very wrong. Even I was riding on the pre-season hoopla that the Fraport Skyliners 2018-2019 season would be one to remember and be a very successful one. Instead I was greeted with a few more women´s cheers for the bachelor in April 2019 instead of excited roars for a great play by Quantez Robertson or a thunderous Jonas Wolfarth-Bottermann dunk on the court with the team on their way to the playoffs. Even a radical hair cut by head coach Gordon Herbert a few months before the end of the season couldn´t magically turn the season around. Sometimes growing that beard or crafting mohawk haircuts have helped teams in huge team runs. The massive beard by bright spot Leon Kratzer may have been a blessing in disguise, but it only helped the Bamberg player achieve his true BBL break out season and his abundance of facial hair unfortunately didn´t spark anyone else. That all didn´t happen in the season and all in all, it was a very very disappointing season for the club that has hauled in three titles in their 20 year existence. Despite a very late season run where the club finally won some games that they had to, having lost too many bitter games to lesser opponents that they should have won ultimately bit them in their butt as they couldn´t get in the playoffs on their own, but moreover had to hope for other teams losing and helping them out. Had they won in Braunschweig then they would have had a date with FC Bayern Munich and not Braunschweig. With the gigantic expectations that went into the season where that 4th playoff spot and cup win was put as a goal, one has to proclaim that the club underachieved coupled with their strong roster on paper.

Jason Clark became Miles Schmidt-Scheuber´s main post game interview partner in the 2018-2019 season. Clark belonged to the best and most consistent players during the season

                I remember visiting the first team press conference in mid August and seeing night and day with the two new players Jason Clark and Brady Heslip. Clark who I had interviewed on many occasions gave me a friendly hello coupled with some small talk, I knew right away that he would be my new Phil Scrubb. Every season I like to pick a player that I will do the majority of the post game interviews as last season it was Mr Canada Scrubb and this season it turned out to be Jason Clark. A quick positive experience with Clark then shifted to my first impression of Brady Heslip as being one of high self confidence and arrogance. My first impression of Heslip quickly gave me the reassurance that I would not get warm with him on a regular basis in the mixed zone. My first impression would hold true. I rarely interviewed him, but when I did, he did give interesting and detailed answers, but all in all his arrogance brushed me away. Despite not being impressed with Heslip´s manner at the press conference, I did think it would be a hell of a season for the Fraport Skyliners. Boy was I wrong.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and Brady Heslip in pre season in Rhondorf

                There were many factors that led the Fraport Skyliners to underachieving. A big factor in the club having a tough season was their inability to defend on a consistent rate. Even if they were the fifth best defensive team in the league allowing only 81ppg, they would have been the best defensive team in the league had they been able to get back to the old Herbert ways defending with heart and passion and having these brutal rotations that just stuffed opponents. They gave up 80 points or more 16 times. There two biggest weaknesses was their communication and one on one defense especially in the paint area. But the first and most devastating factor was that the club wasn´t put together correctly. When you looked back at the last years, Gordon Herbert had done a great job finding guys lie Dashaun Wood, Jordan Theodore or even a Taj Webster, but this season his secret wan didn´t have the magical power of reeling in the right players. The biggest two flops were two guys that on paper at least offensively didn´t look like flops. Brady Heslip had won professional titles, secured the G-League three pointers record and scored consistently and averaged over 40% on many occasions in his career while Eric Muphy had had a stint in the NBA, won titles as well and been an offensive force everywhere he has played. But you can score as much as you want, but if you aren´t able to give up less points than what you produce, then you won´t be successful. Heslip and Murphy had huge games in their half season stay in Frankfurt, but they hadn´t found defense on the basketball menu. Heslip came from the G-League, a place where defense is as infrequent as is ever seeing a guy like Kevin Durant ball in Germany in the easyCredit BBL. In a defensive oriented system like that of Herbert, one should probably have refrained from hauling the Canadian in. Murphy just didn´t bring it defensively in the paint as too many easy buckets were scored often when he was patrolling the area. Another mistake was wanting to believe that Jason Clark could be that ultimate point guard. Granted one season he had been switched to that position in Belgium and had success, but it was a risk making him the point guard. The Virginia native had his moments and had good games as a point guard, but his strength is at the shooting guard position and he couldn´t shine at his natural position. Later when Tyler Larson came in, he was switched to his natural position and he would carry the team in many wins. Even if he was criticized often in the press, Clark was without a doubt one of the team´s strongest and most consistent performers in this dismal season. Holding Clark would be beneficial, but he most likely will have better offers elsewhere.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and Jason Clark

Akeem Vargas was injured too much and never could find that rhythm that the club hoped he could bring and Shawn Huff also had his moments, but couldn´t bring that consistency and three point accuracy that he had had on many occasions earlier in his career. Rookie Trae Bell-Haynes had his moments and did the best he could in the minutes he got, but got lost in the guard shuffle and had to depart in mid-season. The biggest bright spot was Tyler Larson who came in and quickly was a offensive force. He was a player that knew when to score and when to distribute. He was instrumental and unselfish giving the last shot to Quantez Robertson for the buzzer beater win against the EWE Baskets Oldenburg and led the team to a win over MBC with 29 points, but also fell apart in Bamberg losing a game they should of won. Larson definitely had the right mentality and focus and if the club had hauled him in at the start of the season, then the team most definitely would have reached the playoffs. The biggest disappointment was Tra Holder. I expected so much from him after a stellar career at Arizona State, but he was a player where it seemed like he was stuck in an endless revolving door as he was never able to fully get out and be able to play his game. He also had his moments like his 22 point break out game in a win in Bayreuth or last game against Giessen but he also put up the big 0 points three times combined 30 minutes in his first eight games. Too often the ball wasn´t moved properly when he was in and he couldn´t shake that timidness that would creep up on him when he wasn´t being aggressive. Injuries also played a big role in the team never finding that needed healthy team chemistry. Jonas Wolfarth-Bottermann was a player that was hit with the injury bug. He began the season very strong, but faded a bit in the last months and seemed to be affected by the rebirth of Leon Kratzer. He couldn´t follow up his great break through season of last year. Quantez Robertson had another typical solid Tez season, but even if he might not be as quick as five years ago, he is still very fast and nobody can match his intensity level. On many occasions he had to take the offensive load as the team was having an off shooting night and on defense he still belongs to the top five best defenders in the league. Marco Voeller worked hard in practice, but too often didn´t play simply because he got lost in the big man rotation. He also did have his moments hitting his ex team Giessen for 10 points and being efficient in wins against Oldenburg and Crailsheim scoring 8 points in each game. He doesn´t have the most talent, but a guy that gives his everything at both ends of the court. He should have gotten more chances in the stretch run. Another big winner was Garai Zeeb. He had big games against ratiopharm Ulm and BG Goettingen and when he did see substantial minutes was able to contribute well. He didn´t have it easy in the huge guard rotation, but he made the most of it. Richard Freudenberg has his critics, but if you look at his stats, he didn´t have a bad season. He averaged 16 minutes in the BBLaveraging 6,1ppg and 2,0rpg and shot a respectable 38,5 % from outside. He scored in double figures in five games including 21 points in 22 points in a bitter 91-90 loss in Giessen and scored 11 points in a loss in Goettingen. His problem wasn´t being consistent enough. There were days where he couldn´t get anything going on the court and defensively had his deficiencies.      

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and Garai Zeeb in the BCM training facility


                The season had little highlights, but with the more major and significant ones, you can count those highlights and successes on one hand, but then again also debate whether one or the other was a real highlight as well as adding one just to be nice and to make it look better at the end with having one more highlight in a roller coaster season that really should have had more. In a season that had little to cheer about, one could put the late season victory against Bamberg as a major highlight, but seriously it didn´t feel that special even though it should. Bamberg one of Frankfurt´s arch rivals should always be a joy to beat, but instead it seemed just like another win. The Fraport Skyliners had five major highlights this season and one more for good measure. Although one of the four highlights for some could be very much debatable if it really was a highlight? The first highlight happened right at the start when the club met Fiat Torino. This would have been a normal Eurocup game, but it wasn´t because the Italian side had legendary head coach Larry Brown who has an NBA title with the Detroit Pistons and NCAA championship with Kansas(NCAA) an amazing feat that makes him stand above many of the head coaches in the world. Just having this legendary figure roaming the sidelines has to have been seen as one of the biggest draws in Frankfurt for basketball since Michael Jordan´s appearance in 1990. The Fraport Skyliners were also fortunate that he wasn´t ill or back in the states as all in all he couldn´t coach all games and was fired mid way through the season. And by the way Frankfurt won. Jason Clark will never forget this game. After the game an elderly gentleman of 78 years approached and it wasn´t a lost old man on the court, but Larry Brown who had just coached one of his first games in Europe. Clark most likely was expecting a quick shake of the hands and the old man mutter nice game, a normal occurrence after the game, but so much more came. “Larry Brown told me I was a great player. Coming from him who has coached so many great players, it meant a lot to me. It was a great feeling. Obviously it was cool meeting so many great players at Georgetown, but my Brown meeting in Frankfurt is on my check list of greatest meetings. I shock his hand and I will always remember that moment”, stressed Jason Clark. Another major season highlight was reaching the top 16 of the Eurocup. In this competition, the club probably played it´s best and most consistent basketball. One has to wonder why they couldn´t put it all together in the easyCredit BBL.

2 of the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup winners with Quantez Robertson and Mike Morrison with Miles Schmidt-Scheuber

            The third and fourth highlights of the Fraport Skyliners season was the further development of Leon Kratzer and the ambitious and successful return of Niklas Kiel. For many basketball experts in Germany the big 216cm center Kratzer has been seen as one of the biggest German talents from the year 1997, but he has had a slow development, but then one has to remember he played the last seasons in Bamberg where making the jump into the rotation is sometimes as difficult as understanding why a guy like Enes Kanter was wasted in the New York Knick rotation and suddenly is flourishing with the Portland Trailblazers in the playoffs as the Knicks are already home for the summer. Just ask 2018 NBA draft pick Arturas Kulbolkas whether he knows why he has been sitting more than playing and getting a chance. There have also been other guys in the past that left Bamberg for better opportunities and Kratzer was one of those. But spill dirty laundry on his ex team Bamberg? Never. Kratzer is a class act and one of those German players every mother would wish to have for their daughter. Well ok not every daughter, at least not that 160cm girl. The big man continuously sprouts good words about his ex team and has a character that the club could have welcomed a few more of this season. The German came into a new situation with the Fraport Skyliners and totally exceeded expectations. He came from the bench made his mark and soon replaced starting center Jonas Wolfarth-Bottermann. He has been a force at both ends of the court making the phrase scoring in bunches his own and making big plays time in and time out on the court. With his heightened confidence, he could be on his way to bigger and better things in the future concerning his game. Niklas Kiel was also a refreshing surprise. He has been the real unlucky dog on the team as in the last two years has suffered three concussions. After the third many wondered if a kid like him could continue to take these hardships and get through another comeback? The club kept his rehab secret and third comeback attempt quiet until suddenly he was back in the starting lineup. He began slow, but with time and experience is coming back to his old self and showing that he can find back to his game.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and bright spot Tyler Larson who came in mid season and played a central role in many wins

            The fifth and extra highlights was having the German bachelor Andrej Mangold restart his basketball career in Frankfurt and just having the luck and joy to continue to see Quantez Robertson battle and fill up the stat sheet like a mini Russell Westbrook. When I first read the news that Mangold was becoming a Fraport Skyliner, I thought it was a joke, but it wasn´t April first so it wasn´t April Fools. Then I thought Ok clever clever trick by the club bringing in a known German figure in the media for a marketing move that could help the club become more known in the national media. The club sold it as an investment for the future and also gave Mangold the idea that he could be in their plans for the future. Instead of making that first bucket in his first game, he didn´t actually play his first game until in Bonn where he faced off against his old team. In a way that was a cool gesture, but why bring in a player that won´t play. But in that respect Gordon Herbert did make the right decisions stating only the best guys played. Obviously Mangold had been out for almost two years with injuries and other activities so it would take some time for him to crack the rotation. Plus a guy like Garai Zeeb who has made a good development this season was playing and well and simply deserved to play over him. All in all a few teenage girls were waiting after the first game in Frankfurt for the selfie moment, but the loads of buses with screaming teenagers didn´t drive up to the Fraport arena. Mangold is a nice guy and is a solid player and it will be interesting to see if he can find back to his old self on the court. It also would be interesting to know what Gordon Herbert truly felt about this signing. Mangold only played 77 seconds and the club should have brought in a strong player for the stretch run instead which would have given them more of a chance to make the playoffs. The extra highlight for good measure is seeing that non-stopping energy spark plug Quantez Robertson running up and down the floor like it will be his last gameRobertson is a legend and at the moment a top 5 Skyliner in their history sharing that with guys like Kai Nurnberger, Pascal Roller, Chris Williams and Tyrone Ellis. When all is said and done, he will have his #23 hanging next to Pascal Roller. If he had his own way and his body doesn´t strike against him, then I can imagine him playing until he was 40, but he does have a family who will play into that decision making. Frankfurt will see him two more years and the best news of the whole season.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and Andrej Mangold who came for the last month

            So what is the next step for the Fraport Skyliners? They definitely want to get back to their winning ways. The club now has missed the playoffs in two of the last three years. It will be a good bet that the club will do a serious house cleaning. You can expect to see Quantez Robertson back as well as Leon Kratzer, Niklas Kiel and Garai Zeeb. The head coaching position also has to be resolved. For weeks the Frankfurt press have been waiting for an official statement concerning Gordon Herbert. Staying in Frankfurt is always a good fit for him, because he has all he needs in the BCM and can continue to help young players develop. But going to ratiopharm Ulm would have been a good fit.  Raoul Korner is a guy that could fit filling the vacant head coaching spot as well. Ulm would be the perfect situation for Herbert. Thorsten Leibenath who will step down as head coach and take the sport manager position has been a big supporter of Herbert. With Ulm he could play international club football again and most importantly have the Orange Academy and continue to help develop young German players. But he won´t be going to Ulm. The Herbert future becomes more and more exciting with every new day where nothing is communicated. The club has been waiting for a new arena for years and won´t continue to really grow and make strides the way they want to until that state of the art arena is there. Over the summer fans will dream about where the next Jordan Theodore or Isaac Bonga type players will come to grace the Fraport arena floor as well as hoping that next seasons team will bring in some good role players that will lead the team back to the playoffs. There is one season highlight that hasn´t happened yet, but will on August 30th when it´s time for the 20 year club anniversary. Fans will have a long summer to look forward to seeing some of their favorite ex players back for the festivities while also looking forward to the new season. In the mean-time perhaps the club will have some special summer public relations functions concerning the Bachelor to help ease the wait

Garai Zeeb´s Loose Ball Dive And Steal Propells The Fraport Skyliners To 82-81 Win Over The Giessen 46ers

At halftime in Braunschweig  two days ago and the score deadlocked, Skyliner fans still had high hopes of somehow slipping into the playoffs, but 45 minutes later, it was the same old story with the Fraport Skyliners as inconsistency was a nasty habit that the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup winner had all season long and just couldn´t shake it. At the start of April and after a tough 91-87 loss at home to the hands of FC Bayern Munich, not many had any real hopes of them making the playoffs, but they then began a hot stretch where they won five of six contests and had some fabulous results with a win over rival Brose Bamberg and a Tyler Larson buzzer beater win in Bremerhaven. But too many unnecessary loses during the regular season put them into this precarious situation and when they needed to produce most, stunk up the second half losing in Braunschweig ending their playoff hopes. In the last regular season game of the season, the Fraport Skyliners were playing for pride against their other big rival Giessen 46ers as they also had been in good position to make the playoffs, but ran out of gas in the last two months. Fans had one constellation in that even if their would be no playoffs, they could witness some great players with Jared Jordan and David Bell possibly for a last time as well baby Shaq David Bell as they are well into their late thirties. But the good news after 40 minutes was that all three told me that they will return next season and be playing somewhere. The Giessen 46ers came into the game playing uninspired basketball losing 9 of their last 11 games, but they also were playing for pride and wanted to close out the season on a fine winning note. Both teams had their ups and downs during the game, but when it came down to crunch-time, both teams were wide awake. The Fraport Skyliners rode on a late game 9-0 run to get back into the game and win it 82-81 thanks to a Garai Zeeb loose ball hustle play that led to the game winning Tyler Larson shot. “Losing in Braunschweig was tough, but we were motivated today to come back after that loss and win it for the fans and close out the season on the right note. We stuck together in tough times even when they were making tough shots. Tra Holder was huge after struggling this season, but he played out his heart”, stressed ex Georgetown(NCAA) guard Jason Clark. Two months ago, the playoffs looked like a sure shot for the Giessen 46ers, but on the last game day, they were out of it and despite playing well, couldn´t get a good shot on the last possession for the win. “This loss sums up our season. We had a lot of close wins, but also a lot of close loses. We fought very well and made the right adjustments in the second half. So often this season we lost focus in the second half, but today we had the focus and kept them off the offensive glass”, stressed ex FC Bayern Munich guard Brandon Thomas.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing Jason Clark after the exciting 82-81 win against the Giessen 46ers in Frankfurt

                Before the jump ball, highlights of Quantez Robertson were shown on the scoreboard and then he yelled in German that he would remain two extra years in Frankfurt as the 5,000 fans in the Fraport arena cheered as if they had already beaten the Giessen 46ers. The Fraport Skyliners got off on the wrong foot as they couldn´t hit the ocean as they missed shot after shot, while Giessen wasn´t playing their best either but at least executed on some plays. Both teams were playing as if the game meant nothing which it actually did. Giessen built a nice 6-1 lead as Frankfurt had been blanked on five possessions except for one Tyler Larson free throw. Giessen received points from their two Germans Alen Pjanic and Mahir Agva and a pull up jumper from ex Marist(NCAA) standout Jared Jordan. Frankfurt finally got on the board at the 5,51 minute mark as Larson connected on a floater cutting the Giessen lead to 6-3. However Giessen kept their healthy offensive rhythm and cruised out on a 7-0 run to extend their lead to 13-3. Agva continued to be a wrecking crew as he delivered his fine inside out game with a fast break lay in and dropped a trey as one could sense that he was extra motivated for proving his ex team wrong for not giving him the minutes he felt he deserved in Frankfurt in the 2016-2017 season. When Jason Clark came in, the Frankfurt offensive managed better ball movement which led to a Niklas Kiel hard two handed dunk as Jason Clark gave him the dime. Ex Phoenix Hagen guard David Bell added his bread and butter with a trey while Holder added a floater as the Fraport Skyliners trailed 16-10 after 10 minutes. “We couldn´t hit anything while they hit shots better. Maybe we were a bit tired after having played 48 hours earlier. Giessen did a good job getting what they wanted easily”, stressed Jason Clark. The Giessen 46ers shot 41% from the field and 25% from outside and had 9 rebounds and 2 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners shot 21% from the field and 0% from outside and had 10 rebounds and 3 turnovers.

                In the second quarter the Fraport Skyliners finally escaped out of their offensive funk and began to play their game and led at the break. The Fraport Skyliners stormed out of the second quarter gates on a 17-6 run to take the 27-22 lead. In the big run they got massive production from Tra Holder who contributed 8 points including two three´s. The ex Arizona State(NCAA) guard who has had problems with getting minutes this season pushed that all to side and had a huge game with 18 points. “Tra was big for us. We always had a lot of confidence in his offensive game. He has shown this season that he has the ability to score in many ways. He has had limited minutes this season, but today he was aggressive. He didn´t worry about making mistakes. When he is aggressive, he makes great plays”, stressed Jason Clark. Clark did hit a trey, but his shot wasn´t falling as well early, so he did a good job with the playmaking as the Frankfurt ball movement became a lot better. Giessen got some key baskets from Agva who continued to play as if he was on a mission and a runner from Jordan, but Frankfurt led 29-27. Frankfurt was able to drift a way a bit with a Quantez Robertson lay in and another Holder three for the 34-29 advantage, but Giessen was able to close out the second quarter in style. At this juncture Frankfurt continued to move the ball well and were defending more aggressively and more passionately as Giessen coughed up the ball more. Jordan made a tough off balance shot and ex Bremerhaven forward Larry Gordon made a brutal offensive rebound in traffic and made the tough put back as the Fraport Skyliners kept the slim 34-33 lead. “I have been coming off the bench for some time now, but I always told coach that I had no problems with that. I told him I will give the team the needed energy. I was more the playmaker and made plays for my teammates”, added Jason Clark. The Fraport Skyliners shot 38% from the field and 36% from the three point line and had 20 rebounds and 6 turnovers while the Giessen 46ers shot 44% from the field and 25% from the three point line and had 16 rebounds and 6 turnovers.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing BBL veteran Brandon Thomas who exploded for 23 points in the loss

                In the third quarter the Giessen 46ers would find back to their game and lead by as much as 8 points and have the 62-54 advantage after 30 minutes. The Giessen 46ers showed a flash of the Golden State Warriors three point expertise as they let the long ball fly and were successful. Giessen showed the Brandon Thomas show which Frankfurt couldn´t slow down. Ex Paderborn forward Niklas Kiel got Frankfurt on the board first with a trey, but Giessen then erupted on a lethal 14-2 run regaining the lead to 47-39. In the run, Brandon Thomas was a one man wrecking crew dropping 11 points including three three´s and a hard one hand dunk displaying still lively athleticism for a 34 year old who has two years left on his contract with Giessen. Clark demonstrated that he can match Thomas´s scoring in bunches contributing 8 points and two three´s to cut Giessen´s lead down to 50-46. Frankfurt couldn´t get over the hump as Thomas continued to be an offensive thorn in the side of Frankfurt as he scored from the wing getting a pass form David Baby Shaq Bell and connecting on a trey with the dime going to Jordan as Giessen led 55-48. The Fraport Skyliners continued to play at a high level of intensity and never lost focus and just chipped away. After a Larson runner, it was Garai Zeeb who made a big hustle play keeping a Frankfurt possession alive and finishing with a lay in to cut Giessen´s lead to 57-52. David Bell then used his keen sniper qualities sinking a trey while Robertson hit a wild step back jumper. Agva closed out the third quarter with free throws as Giessen led comfortably 62-54. “I missed some wide open shots in the first half, but coach continued to have confidence in me. I just kept shooting and made shots. But we all made shots and stuck with it”, stressed Brandon Thomas. “They hit shot after shot. Jordan did a good job on the screens and we overhelped which let him find the open shooters. Jordan is a real engine that ran the team”, stressed Jason Clark. The Giessen 46ers shot 50% from the field and 45% from the parking lot and had 22 rebounds and 7 turnovers while the Fraport Skyliners shot 42% from the field and 40% from the parking lot and had 28 rebounds and 8 turnovers.

Two new England natives Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and Jared Jordan after the 82-81 Frankfurt win

                In the fourth quarter the Fraport Skyliners made a comeback in crunch-time and held their nerves to get the win. In the first four minutes there were little whistles as both teams were practicing run and gun as both offensives were clicking, but  Frankfurt couldn´t get over the hump. The Fraport Skyliners got vital production from Jonas Wolfarth-Botterman who made a hook shot and lay in while Clark made a lay in and Zeeb a jumper. The Giessen 46ers got strong production from David Bell who stroked home five points on a trey and finger tip roll in while Thomas and Agva also scored, but Giessen still had the comfortable 71-62 advantage. But then as is so often the case in the age of basketball a hot run became the game changer as Frankfurt scored 9 unanswered points to suddenly deadlock the contest at 71-71. Frankfurt was fortified with three three´s from Larson, Zeeb and Holder. “We started to move the ball better and just stuck with it. We got on the fast break and did it against a team that likes to do it. They weren´t able to get back as well as we used it to our advantage”, stressed Jason Clark. Giessen quickly got the lead back with a Agva lay in and free throw, but Zeeb got Frankfurt the lead back with a three giving Frankfurt the 76-74 advantage. Agva continued to be a work horse and got to the free throw line sinking two shots to tie the game at 76-76.  Giessen continued to keep the lead as Thomas made a three point play and Agva made free throws for the 81-78 lead with 34 seconds to go. Robetrson then made two free throws with 28 seconds to go. Then came the big turning point of the game as Larry Gordon dribbled the ball off his foot and Zeeb made like Boris Becker diving for the loose ball and getting it to Robertson who found Tyler Larson for the winning bucket with 8 seconds to go. “I saw the ball rolling toward the sideline and just dove and tried to push the ball to Tez. He got the ball to Larson for the winning basket”, smiled Garai Zeeb. “That was a big play by Zeeb. He is such a smart player and he made a real winners play. Many guys wouldn´t have made that play in a meaningless game, but Garai is the kind of player that will always make that play. He shows that he is a winner. He has a huge heart”, stressed Jason Clark. Giessen had one last play, but Frankfurt knew where the ball was going as David Bell let a contested ball fly that had no chance of going in. “We knew that either Thomas or Bell would get it. We wanted to play solid, not foul and get the stop”, added Jason Clark. “They made tough shots and made a clutch steal and tough shot. We had our most athletic player Pjanic on Larson on that last play so we did the right thing on defense. He just made a tough shot”, stated Brandon Thomas. The Fraport Skyliners had 6 players in double figures as Tra Holder had 18 points. Tyler Larson and Jonas Wolfarth-Bottermann combined for 13 points a piece. Jason Clark added 12 points and Garai Zeeb 11 points. The Giessen 46ers were led by Brandon Thomas and Mahir Agva who had 23 points a piece. David Bell added 13 points and Alen Pjanic 12 points. The Fraport Skyliners shot 46% from the field and 45% from outside and had 38 rebounds and 10 turnovers while the Giessen 46ers shot 48% from the field and 39% from outside and had 28 rebounds and 10 turnovers.

Anell Alexis (wiha Panthers) Alen Velcic Was Willing To Be The Villian Which Took A Lot Of Pressure Off Us

Anell Alexis is a 29 year old 200cm forward that grew up in Germany and the states and completed his fourth professional season and first with the wiha Panthers Villingen-Schwenningen (Germany-ProB) averaging 6,2ppg and 3,2rpg. In the last years he has gained further experience playing in Panama and in Germany in Bremerhaven and Coburg. He played in the States at schools like Marist (NCAA) where he played 62 games and finished at Norfolk St. (NCAA) playing 34 games averaging 7.3ppg, 3.4rpg, FGP: 50.4%, 3PT: 35.1%, FT: 78.3%. He spoke to at the end of the 2018-2019 season.

Anell Alexis and head coach Alen Velcic

Anell thanks for talking to Congrats on an amazing season. How disappointed are you and the club about the season ending in Munster?

Hi Miles, it was a tough way to end the season but games like these are decided by little things, and weren’t able to execute those in game 3. 

The club has some nice road trips home after the game three wins in Wedel and Giessen. How hard was the bus ride home and what were the most active thoughts going through your mind on the trip home from Munster?

It was definitely more quiet than the other two road trips but that’s the way this game goes.

The wiha Panthers had to fight back the whole playoffs and had extreme problems winning on the road early. Why do you feel did the time always have to put themselves in a hole early in the series?

We had a bad tendency of getting off to slow starts. Obviously most of the time we were able to overcome those and win the game but we weren’t able to do that this time 

Let’s talk about game three. Munster led early and you always fought back. In the second half they were able to hold the big double digit lead and at the end you made a big comeback, but time ran out. What is your game three summary as to why you couldn’t win the game?

In my opinion, us missing sixteen free throws in a three point loss was the difference. I feel especially responsible as I missed two in the fourth quarter.

What really was annoying was the many rebounds given up, turnovers and always losing the 50/50 balls. How much of a factor was the mental side in the fourth quarter of game three in Munster?

The turnovers and rebounds were the thing that was the most annoying to me because it gave them multiple chances to score the basketball.

Munster didn’t shoot well from outside in game three going 3/24 and almost always had the same procedure hurting you with their mid distance game. Was this one of the deciding factors that cost you the game?

It was something that we game planned for and decided that we were okay with living with as opposed to them shooting and making threes and getting their crowd into it. Credit to them that they were able to win the game despite us taking away a huge key for them.

Munster have many talented German players, but also some that must have been off the radar of other Pro B teams in Germany. How vital was the overall play of the German players who really stepped up the whole season for a team that nobody would have expected to have reached the 2019 Pro B final?

They play very well as a unit, are well-disciplined, and do not stray away from their game plan or scouting report. Those were the qualities that I found most impressive about that team.

Despite bowing out in the semi-finals how important do you feel was it for German basketball having two Regionalliga teams in the semi-finals? What did you enjoy most about this out of the ordinary playoff series?

I feel that it was something important because it isn’t something that you see every day at this level. The thing I enjoyed the most from this series was the atmosphere that the crowd provided in all three games.

How do you see the Leverkusen-Munster series? Who do you feel will take the series and what will be the keys for both teams to win the title?

Having played both teams this year, I feel like Leverkusen will end up on top in the end. They have a good coach who has played at a high level and gives confidence and freedom to his players, and they are an extremely balanced team offensively.

Let’s talk about the Panthers season. It was a great season. If someone had told you in September that the wiha Panthers would be one game away from reaching the pro B final what would you have thought?

That anything is possible but let’s wait and see. 

The team had it’s ups and downs, but how would you classify it’s development this season and how would summarize how this season went best?

We were a very determined and persistent team, no matter who we played or the situation. We had two game 3’s on the road where we were down by double digits in the second half and were able to pull both those games out for a victory. That is not something that you see very often. 

A big key like for Munster was having that underdog mentality. How important was being able to keep that consistent identity and not letting teams figure you out and just continuing to play your style which often happens during the course of a season?

Like I stated earlier, we had more heart than almost all the teams we played against. That is something that cannot be game planned or accounted for, no matter what an opposing coach draws up.

There were obviously many team highlights during the regular season as well as well as the many exciting wins in the playoffs. If you had to pick one or two team moments that stand out what would you chose?

For me, it would have to be both of the game 3 wins on the road and the celebrations that followed after that.

What was the most satisfying thing for you this season of being able to strap on the wiha Panthers jersey. How was the whole Panthers experience different and unique compared to other clubs that you have balled for?

Professionally, this was different for me because we had a coach who simply refused to let us take our guard down or give anything less than 100% effort. In the end, I feel that was the most important thing at the end of the day.

In our last interview you stressed this about head coach Alen Velcic. ‘He’s a very hard-driving coach but I can appreciate playing for someone like that because there are days throughout the season were the team may not be giving it’s best effort, but he won’t allow us to give anything but that. He is a great motivator and helps everyone fight and give their best’. How do you feel did he develop further as a coach and how hungry will the game three loss make him for next season?

I don’t think he needs any extra motivation to be honest but he definitely became a lot better throughout the year with adjusting in the middle of the game and changing things on the fly.

Let’s talk about your teammates. In our last interview you said this about Rasheed Moore. ‘With the numbers he puts up on a consistent basis he has to be up for consideration. He’s fun to play with because he’s still young so you can see him growing and maturing as a player with every game that we play’. How did you see his development and is he the 2019 Pro B MVP?

He should be the MVP of the league in my opinion but that is not for me to decide. His ability to stay focused throughout the whole course of a game was something that I saw improve tremendously throughout the season.

In our last interview you stated this about Bill Borekambi. ‘The most amazing play would have to be that last layup against Giessen. His body was parallel to the floor and he was still able to make it. He makes really difficult shots on an everyday basis so I can’t even say I’m surprised anymore when I see him make them’. How do you feel did he make another step in his career and do you feel like it would be beneficial for him to remain in Schwenningen and play Pro A?

I don’t think he has anything left to prove to anyone to be quite honest. It’s really what he feels is most beneficial for him and his career. No matter were he goes, he’ll put the ball in the basket.

How much of a pleasure was it playing with captain Kostas Karamatskos? What do you feel was the most vital thing that you learned from him on and off the court that you will never forget?

Biggest thing I learned from Kosta was how to enjoy yourself and the moment while still being serious and getting the job done at a high level.

German Leon Friederici had his ups and downs, but also came up big in the playoffs. He is known as a shooter, but how do you feel did the whole Panthers experience help him with his overall game be able to develop further this season?

As hard as I’ve seen Leon work, I have no doubt he’ll develop superbly over time. As long as he continues that same work ethic as he had during the season, he will accomplish all that he sets his mind to.

Let’s talk about your game. Your job wasn’t to be a scorer, but how content were you with your 7/12 shooting in the Munster series where you did a great job picking your spots?

I was just being aggressive throughout the course of the series. Once I got a feel for how they were going to guard me after Game 1, I was able to take what they gave me going forward and make them pay as much as possible.

You averaged 6,2ppg and 3,2rpg in 21 minutes per game. How content were you with your personal game?

I feel that I could have done more but it was important to me to come into a team that was already successful before I had arrived and fill in any weak spots that they might have had.

You came late to the wiha Panthers and had some time getting integrated. What was the biggest challenge coming in late and how did your game grow in the last months while playing for Alen Velcic?

The biggest challenge was really finding a role in the team that was already in full swing and was successful before I had gotten there. It was also a challenge fitting into a role that was drastically different than the one I had had on my prior team. Without a doubt, my game grew tremendously on the defensive end, with just the amount of aggressiveness I play on that end now.

You didn’t always have to play defense until you came to Schwenningen. Alen Velcic helped you become more physical and aggressive on the defensive end. How will you continue to improve in this part of your game as you might join a team that has that defensive philosophy in their style?

It helped me a lot, mainly because the type of defensive style that I had played before was one of me using my length and quickness to bother people. With this different style, I was able to use both of those attributes while also using my strength while not fouling.

You stated this about head coach Alen Velcic. ‘He doesn’t let up. That’s what I appreciate the most. At the same time, you know he’s doing it with your best interests at heart. That always makes it easier to absorb the message he’s saying and not the way he’s delivering the message’. You have played for many coaches and seen a lot in the basketball world, but one one example will you never forget from Alen Velcic the coach/person that you never saw anywhere else?

He’s different than any other coach that I had ever played for in that he is willing to be the villian in a lot of instances so that it takes pressure off of us as players. People tend to dislke him, but those are all people who don’t know who he truly is as a person. 

What was your season highlight? I would imagine your 19 points in Giessen in game 3?

Yes, that would have to be it given the circumstances and the importance of the game.

What is the next step for you? It seems like the wiha Panthers will play Pro A next season. A logical step for me would be for you to stay. Is that step also logical to you?

Hopefully everything works out for that to happen and they want me back.

In our last interview you stated ‘. Your shot is what ages the best throughout the years so it will always be something that I work on consistently’. How will you seek to improve your shooting this summer besides the usual bla bla? Could you imagine using some different methods to attack this?

Consistent work and nonstop repetition. That is the key in my opinion. 

Who was the toughest player that you battled in the Pro B this season?

There were a lot of good players but no one stood out to me more than anyone else. Probably Bill Borekambi in practice.

Who won a one on one in practice this season you or Rasheed Moore?

We never got the chance to play.

German basketball legend Dirk Nowitzki recently retired. What is your personal favorite basketball moment with him?

I grew up watching Dirk play so I was very happy for him when he won the championship in 2011. For him to beat Kobe, Pau Gasol, Brandon Roy, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh in a single playoff run is incredible.

How do you see the NBA playoffs? What two teams do you see reaching the finals and who will take it all home?

I hope the Celtics end up winning the championship.

What was the last movie that you saw?

Creed II

Thanks Anell for the chat,

Omar Cook(Movistar Estudiantes Madrid) I Got A Raw Deal In The NBA And It Was Hard To Be Yourself When You Were Always Afraid To Mess Up

Omar Cook is a 37 year old 186cm guard that is playing his 18th professional season and third with Movistar Estudiantes Madrid (ACB). He has had a stellar professional career winning titles in Belgium and Montenegro. He played seven seasons in the Spanish ACB and also played in countries like Lithuania, Italy, Serbia and France for teams like KK Buducnost Voli Podgorica, Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius, EA7 Emporio Armani Milano, Caja Laboral Vitoria Valencia B.C, Unicaja Malaga, KK Crvena Zvezda Beograd, CSK VVS Samara, Strasbourg IG and Dexia Mons-Hainaut. He has played 90 Euroleague games and also played 22 NBA games between 2003-2005 with Portland and Toronto. He was drafted by the Denver Nuggets in 2001 in the second round at position 32. He began his basketball career at Christ the King HS and played a season at St.John’s (NCAA) playing 29 games averaging 15.3ppg, 3.0rpg, AssistsNCAA-2 (8.7apg), 2.3spg, FGP: 36.0%, 3PT: 30.9%, FT: 74.2%: His 252 assists set a freshman school record, previously held by Erick Barkley and ranks second on the all-time single-season chart. He spoke to recently about his basketball career.

Omar thanks for talking to I could only find your game stats dating back to the 2008-2009 season. You played some seasons of international team basketball. You have played so many games, but hardly against German teams. Last season you split with medi Bayreuth. Do you remember playing against German teams early in your career?

I think last season was the 1st time I played against a German team. 

You have spent many years in Europe and currently are in your 14th season in Europe. What has been your general impression of German basketball and how it has developed over the years?

Before I came to Europe one of my best friends growing up he played in Germany. His name is Brian Brown. So he would always talk about the German league. Also I played with sand against Julius Jenkins. So I know he played in Germany many years. I think the German league has grown a lot the past few years with the Addition of Munich becoming a power team. Your have Bamberg and Alba as well. And it’s other great German teams who play in the other European competitions. But I’m not sure how the German league is because I’ve never played in it.

You recently turned 37 years old and are still going strong. What still keeps you going at age 37? How long do you still want to play the game that you love?

First it’s pride. Last few seasons I keep hearing I’m to old. It’s annoying because it’s not about age. It’s about performance. I lead the ACB in minutes right now this season. Also I have a very healthy diet and life style that keeps me in shape and I train very hard. Always the 1st one in the gym and the last one to leave with extra shoots treatment etc. This is my 18th professional season. The goal is to play 20 professional seasons. But also to play until I’m 40. So 2-3 years left I believe.

You played together with Julius Jenkins in Montennegro and like you is still playing in Germany and is a year older than you. How much do you respect guys like that and is he like a role model for you in terms of keep grinding and playing as long as possible? 

Me and Julz talk from time to time. Always respected him playing against him. We had some great battles my 1st season in Europe in Belgium. But playing together he has that killer mentality. Small but so much heart. 

Your ex teammate Elmeden Kikanovic said this about you once. ‘Omar is a great professional. He takes care of his body. He is feeling ok and still playing good. I’m happy for him. He is one of the best passers who played in Europe. I was very young and it was very simple to play with him at that time for me. I improved a lot my pick and roll game playing with him. He had a great season with Red Star probably the best in his career’. What do you remember about his game? 

Kika was my young guy at Red Star. Very raw but worked so hard. He’s had a really nice career and has played on some really good teams and has played well everywhere he’s been. He’s actually passed my expectations of him. Really good guy and has had a great career so far. Wish him the best going forward. 

Your playing your third season with Movistar Estudiantes and seventh season in the Spanish ACB. What have you enjoyed most about having the opportunity to play in this league and is it the best league that you have played in? 

This is the longest I’ve been on 1 team 3 seasons. Spain is a very good league. Maybe the best yes. Overall top to bottom every team is good at home. And the talent level in ACB is very high. 

What are your biggest goals now as a player? Obviously winning a title is always the biggest, but that will be tough in the ACB. On what things are you focusing on most now and enjoying the most as you are in the twilight of your professional basketball career? 

I always want to win. My goals are to play on the highest level I possibly can play. Just trying to not put so much pressure on myself. I’m my biggest critic. So I’m hard on myself. Just trying to finish my career the right way. And on my terms. 

You have played together with Niklas Caner-Medley who has had a long career. He has been doing very good things off the court and has made a lot of extra money. What have you appreciated most about his game and has he given you tips about finances off the court? 

Nik seems to be on business calls 24/7. Great guy. Quiet but he’s a good person. I ask him questions when things happen around me that I see him doing. But I don’t get into his personal life so much. As you said for a guy who has so much going on off the court he brings it every day. And he’s motivated. He’s here putting in the extra work all the time. 

You played two seasons with KK Buducnost Voli Podgorica (Montenegro-Erste Liga) from 2014-2016 winning two league titles. Were these two seasons some your best years as a professional as you were winning and putting very high assists averages? 

Buducnost was great. I love Montenegro. My family loves Montenegro maybe even more than me. My 2nd home. Omar Kukic. But the local league there they always win. 1st year was very easy. But the 2nd season was very hard to win the Montenegro league. I always say the 1st one don’t really count. But that season does. Bar Monar made it very tough for us. I guess I underachieved there. Couldn’t help get my team to the Euroleague as they are now after winning Aba league last season.

You played a very strong season with Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius (Lithuania-LKL) as usual putting up very high assists averages and was teammates with Zabian Dowdell. He had reached the NBA a few years earlier. What was it like being teammates with him and could you refrain from making those judgements as to how he had been in the NBA and making comparisons to your game as you also had been in the NBA.

Z was my teammate in Malaga as well. He’s a very good player with a lot of talent. NBA is all about timing I think. I think I got a raw deal in the NBA. Never was on a team on opening not with a guaranteed contact to feel free and comfortable. Was always on a non guarantee contract or a 10 day. Very hard to be yourself when your always afraid to mess up. 

You played two season with EA7 Emporio Armani Milano (Italy-SerieA) from 2011-2013. You led the Euroleague in assists one season. What did it mean to you having this achievement?

I think assists is my strong point. Always in the top 3 in assists my whole career. Just a gift I have of finding people in the right positions. I always say assist can only come if your teammates score the ball. So it’s not about me.

There you were blessed playing with some amazing players like Keith Langford and Malik Hairston, but please explain how much fun it was playing with Greek legends Antonis Fotsis and Ioannis Bourousis? 

Fortsis and Ioannis both great guys. Fortsis was a very quiet guy. He loved cars. Loannis was always animated. Both are legends and had amazing careers. 

You had your first tour of duty in the ACB from 2008-2011 with Malaga and Valenica. When you look back at that time and compare it to how it is today how has the league changed?

I think when I first got to Spain besides Pau Gasol all the best players from Spain were in the ACB. They had that 1980s class which was amazing. To many guys to name. But they all were in the ACB. And spread out throughout the league. They were just on 3 or 4 teams. They was on say 10 teams. Think now the league is still great and the ACB is looking for the next generation of great starts. Trying to see who they will be now. A lot of the great young guys from Spain are in the NBA.

In 2010-2011 you played with Valencia B.C. (Spain-ACB) for head coach Svetislav Pesic and a young Nando De Colo. What memories do you have of both and do have any nice stories concerning them?

My best overall season in Europe. Pesic is a great coach who understand the game. You can never question what he asked from you on the court. Maybe practices were way to hard. But when he came we were 1-6 in ACB and 1-4 in Europeleague. We finished 3rd in ACB and made it to the top 8 in euroleague. Nando was another very quiet guy. Maybe the most quiet guy I’ve ever played with. But he did his job and worked hard. He’s 1 of the best if not the best player in Europe right now. 

You played for Unicaja Malaga (Spain-ACB) from 2008-2010 and led the Euroleague in assists again. What has been your biggest pride when you pass the ball? How special is it getting that assist? 

Just like to do whatever it takes for my team to win. If it’s assists, scoring or guarding the best player on the other team. I just try to do whatever I can to help my team win. I only care about winning. 

You played for head coach Aito who is still coaching now and has turned Alba Berlin around and made the youth development alive again. What words do you still have in your mind when he spoke to you concerning your incredible playmaking? 

Aito is a teacher. Great coach for young guys. And he’s been coaching since forever. Another great mind who understands the game. He’s was a PG and coached a lot of PGs. So he tried to put me in the best position to be successful on the court. 

You also were teammates for two seasons with Czech Republic legend Jiri Welsch who had just returned back to Europe after three seasons in the NBA? Was he one of those players that could amaze you each day in practice or in a game? 

Jiri is another good guy. He always worked hard and had an amazing understanding for the game. I think my 1st season and Malaga and my season in Valencia was thebest teams I’ve played on. On and off the court. We always organized things to bond as a team. Very great groups.

In the 2007-2008 season you played for KK Crvena Zvezda Beograd (Serbia-A League) having amazing stats Adriatic League: 29 games: Score-4 (16.5ppg), 2.3rpg, Assists-1 (6.5apg), Steals-1 (3.0spg), FGP: 45.4%, 3PT: 40.3%, FT: 75.8%; ULEB Cup: 14 games: 15.2ppg, 3.2rpg, Assists-2 (6.1apg), 2.4spg, FGP: 40.4%, 3PT: 33.6%, FT: 79.8%; Superleague: 14 games: 14.8ppg, 3.0rpg, 6.9apg, 3.0spg, FGP: 54%, 3PT: 41%, FT: 72%; Play-off: 2 games: 14.0ppg, 1.5rpg, 6.5apg, 3.5 spg, FGP: 30%, 3PT: 46%, FT:30%. Was this your best professional season?

Best season stats wise. This made the big clubs take notice of me. The summer before this season my wife was pregnant with our 1st child and it seemed like no teams wanted to sign me. I signed with Red Star in late August early September I believe. I remember sitting in my house almost in tears without being signed. So I came in very motivated. My best season was in Valencia I think. After having a great season in Malaga and them not picking up my 3rd year options, it was very confusing to me. So had a point to prove. Seems like the story of my Career. Always the forgotten one.

As a rookie you played for Dexia Mons-Hainaut (Belgium-D1) playing 7 FIBA Europe Cup games averaging 13.1ppg, 2.4rpg, 7.6apg, 2.3spg, 2FGP: 37.5%, 3FGP: 41.7%, FT: 53.8%; and played 31 Belgian League: 31 games: 14.0ppg, 2.4rpg, Assists-1 (7.2apg), 1.9spg, 2FGP: 49.0%, 3PT: 37.0%, FT: 49.0%. What was your wake up call to being a rookie in Europe where you knew that you very far away from home? 

Funny looking at these stats. For a guy they say couldn’t shoot I think my percentages says different. Haha. But living in another country for the 1st time was very hard. I was alone. My wife didn’t live with me. No kids yet. It was very hard for me. But when I was in that Arena. And the games was full gym made very exciting games. 

You began your professional career in 2001 and played your first four seasons mostly for the Fayetteville Patriots (NBDL) and averaged 8,8apg in your last two seasons. You got rewarded with two 10 day contracts with Portland and Toronto and played 22 NBA games. What memories do you have of your short NBA time? 

I just wish I had got the chance to be on an NBA team from the first day with a guaranteed contact where I could have been myself. But grateful for the chance to make it to the NBA and actually play in some games. I know my best game in the NBA was my last game. With the Raptors playing against Lebron James and the Cavs and if they beat us and someone else lost they go to the playoffs. I had 19pts and 9ast that game. I remember it perfect. I thought that was the start for something great for me, but it was my last game in the NBA. I went into summer league with the wrong attitude and it costed me a spot on the team for the next season. 

What was the best example then that the NBA was strictly a business before anything else?

Just seeing how teams handled players and how quickly you could disappear. I have a story about getting signed to The Boston Celtics on the last day of the NBA season. I had a two year deal. The second year would be guaranteed after August?? Don’t remember the day. And I rented me a apartment next to the practice facility. But I couldn’t practice with the team. I wasn’t allowed to sit on the bench during the playoff games. It was a very strange situation. I was seated in different seats throughout the Arena. Not even the same seat every game. I was 19 years old with a suit on sitting with the rest of the fans. And after my 1st summer league game after not being around the team the whole playoff run. They went to the Eastern conference finals that season. I was not in the plans after 1 summer league game. That was the biggest wake up call for me. 

Do ever wonder how your career might have gone had you come out of the NCAA now? Do you feel like your game might have been more suitable for the NBA or perhaps less? 

When I came out a lot of teams was looking for big guards. And now the NBA is a guards game. Best position in the NBA right now I think is the PG. Every night someone is coming at you. So I think my game is great for how the NBA is now. But I’m 37. Feel 27 but in Reality I’m 37. Maybe I will get a job with a NBA team after I retire and I can have a great career there as a coach scout etc. 

You played NBA Summer League in 2006 and then concentrated on a career in Europe. Did you get the kind of feedback then that the NBA would be a reach. What do you feel was missing from your game that could have kept you in the NBA?

I’m not a summer league player. I need structure. Summer league guys are going for theirs. It’s not good for how I play the game. I think I was and still am an NBA player. I can run a team. I play on both ends of the court. They say my shot but you just showed me my numbers. I didn’t even know I was shooting such a great percentage. It’s all about timing. I think if Denver who traded for me on draft night would of took the time to let me get comfortable that I could of had a great career in the NBA. But everything happens for a reason. And my game was to be seen all over the world. 

You played only one season at St Johns in 2000-2001 and broke Mark Jackson’s game assist record with 17 and Your 252 assists set a freshman school record, previously held by Erick Barkley and ranks second on the all-time single-season chart. What was your best moment that one season? 

Being in my city. Playing at MSG was amazing. I wish we could of won more games. But we were a young team. Great memories. 

Do you ever wonder how you may have developed differently had you stayed three or four years at ST Johns. When looking back did you ever wonder if leaving early had been a mistake?

Maybe one more season would of helped me far as my making the NBA. I felt with Jayson Williams staying in school I was one of the top PGs in the draft. 

How did head coach Mike Jarvis groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career at St John 

I will skip this question. Just heard things about things he did after I left that I didn’t know about at the time. So will skip this. I will say as a coach and my time with him at SJU was great. 

Who won a one on one in practice back in the day you or Sharif Fordham?

I didn’t lose 1 on 1 games in college. 

Who was the toughest player that you battled in the NCAA that is in the NBA now? 

The toughest player I played against growing up in HS and college was Jayson Williams. He was amazing. Fast strong could shoot. He was the truth. Another guy I didn’t play against in college but in HS was D.Wade. He wasn’t an all American in HS. But from my class he by far has had the best career. And I wish him the best in his last season. I respect that guy so much. 

If you had to pick your personal favorite starting five of teammates over the years which players would you chose? 

I did 1 for ACB. I picked Nado, Edwin Jackson, Sylven , Marcus Haslip/ Dusko Savanaic and Boni Ndong. For NBA career I played with Steve Nash and Dirk and Paul the Truth P. Zach Randolph. But I don’t count the NBA guys. 

If you had to construct your very own NBA mount Rushmore which 4 heads would you pick? 

Greatest ever? If so MJ LBJ Kobe and Magic. 

What is your personal opinion about the never ending debate of who is the greatest between Michael Jordan and Lebron James?

LBJ overall game and numbers are amazing. MJ is a killer. Greatest winner ever. 

You saw first hand how much talent Luka Doncic has last season. When all is said and done, could be on of the greatest European players that ever played in the NBA?

He can be one of the greatest ever if he stays the course. His basketball IQ is on another level for his age. He’s way ahead of his time. 

What was the last movie that you saw?

Some kids movie with the family if Netflix don’t count lol. Think it’s was the cartoon spider man movie.

Thanks Omar for the chat.

The Miles Where Are They Now Player Feature With Charles Lee(Milwaukee Bucks)

It was a rainy and unseasonably cool afternoon at the start of May as there was a horde of anxious autograph collectors milling around outside a luxury Boston hotel and a number of young kids hanging on to basketball balls while the older autograph hounds had countless pictures of a certain very athletic big man player. The Milwaukee Bucks were in town facing the Boston Celtics in the playoffs and the cute little 8 year old girl and her 10 year old brother were waiting for the Greek freak Giannis Antetokounmpo  while the older gents where some have been around since the 80´s  and still hanging around hotels all day long were there for Spanish legend Pau Gasol and also for Antetokounmpo while I was waiting for somebody totally different by the name of Charles Lee. I had only known a few weeks earlier that Lee was an assistant coach as I had checked the Bucks roster to see what ex NBA players were coaches as I was in town for a family visit  and wanted to relive my joys of autograph hunting as a kid and experience it now with a new generation of players. Covering basketball in Germany since 15 years has brought me in contact with many many players and I have had the pleasure of interviewing 1200 plus players in Germany, but for a strange reason never had had a chat with Charles Lee in the two years when he played in Germany from 2008-2010 with BG Goettingen and the Artland Dragons. Now I was in Boston and in town was Charles Lee. Now was my chance to be able to finally interview him. So there I was squashed among little kids and grey haired gents who had books filled with basketball cards and photos and I was anxiously waiting to see if I would recognize him. With some players Like Eric Bledsoe and Kris Middleton coming out of the lobby and ignoring the autograph collectors and getting on the bus, I saw a well built gentleman that looked like him and I yelled Charles, Charles. An experienced autograph collector next to me muttered  “That’s nobody but a coach or trainer”. I countered with “That´s Charles Lee”. The autograph collector ignored my comeback, but Lee didn´t. He stopped on the second step of the bus and looked back and gave me a signal that he would come back. Shortly later he came to me with the autograph collectors staring at me wondering what the hell was happening. I said hi Charles and his first response was. “Your face looks familiar”. I then introduced myself and gave him my business cards and then his whole Germany experience came back to him. The American smiled and seemed interested and an interview was scheduled for the next day at 3.00pm after their practice. As we sat in the hotel restaurant Pau Gasol stepped into the room bringing a special aura and was accompanied by two other Spanish men. Gasol said hello to Lee and then glanced at me probably wondering how an autograph collecter would be at the same table with an assistant coach. He looked at me and gave a friendly hello and was on his way to munch on some scrumptious food a few tables away. As we were chatting away, Lee reflected on this chance encounter and trying to place my face with the seemingly 1000 others he has seen in his basketball life. “Whenever I hear my name, I never think that they are really talking to me. I usually get mistaken for someone else. I have gotten George Hill, Kris Middleton and Sterling Brown. Your face looked familiar and when you said your name it came back to me. I remember seeing your face on the eurobasket website and at games when I was playing in Germany. Your face caught my eye. I don´t forget faces”, smiled Charles Lee. Charles Lee is only 34 years old age, but has already experienced so much in the NCAA and overseas as a player and in the NCAA and NBA as a coach that it was time for a Miles where are they now player feature.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing current Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach Charles Lee on an off day in Boston between game 3 and game 4 of the 2019 NBA playoffs


Current Basketball Affairs With Pete Strobl Episode 2

Pete Strobl has been around the European basketball scene for 20 years having had a stellar professional basketball career and now is an assistant coach for German easyCredit BBL team ratiopharm Ulm. He played at Niagara (NCAA) from 1997-2000 and then had a 9 year professional playing career that took him to countries like Germany, Austria, France, Ireland, Iceland and Switzerland. He founded The Scoring Factory in Pittsburgh and wrote a must read book called Backspin. He is a very interesting basketball mind that doesn´t shy away from speaking his mind especially on Twitter. German Hoops and Pete Strobl will team up every so often talking basketball with the title “Current basketball affairs with Pete Strobl. You can follow Pete Strobl on twitter @petestrobl

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and Pete Strobl in the Fraport arena in Franfurt in 2019

1. The playoffs are right around the corner and it seems like ratiopharm ulm has made a really strong push lately. What’s been the difference?

We’ve definitely done well the past few weeks in locking in and winning some very important games. I think it’s a combination of a lot of factors, but overall our guys have grown together and the team chemistry has helped us to finish off some very tight games. I’m not sure we were ready to do that yet in the beginning of the season. As a coach who cares deeply about player development and spends a lot of time analyzing ways to stimulate and implement growth, it’s rewarding to see a group of individuals come together when it matters most. Obviously we still have a few games left in the regular season, but it seems like we’re finally on track. My own personal goal is to finish the regular season strong, and then attack each round of the playoffs step by step until we lift the championship trophy. I know that might sound optimistic to some, but why else would you compete unless your goal is to win the championship? 

2. What are your plans for next season and beyond?

It’s too early to think that far ahead as we still have this season to finish before I can even start to think about that. As you know, my goal is to be a head coach and I would love to stay in Germany. It’s a beautiful country and I can’t say enough nice things about how great it’s been for our family as a whole. I’m also open to going to a new country if the opportunity presents itself. I’ve had the good fortune of seeing some amazing parts of the world through basketball and I’m open to new challenges and adventures. If there’s a team out there looking for somebody like me to lead their program, I’m willing to listen. I think people that know me understand how I’m wired and the manner in which I operate. I pride myself on leadership, communication, discipline, knowledge and the ability to build. So, that’s my future plan, but first my entire focus is on doing everything in my power to help us finish this season with a championship parade. 

3. You tweeted recently about the concept of developing local players to build enough talent for a Bundesliga team. Do you think this is feasible?

I love discussing things like this. I think there are a lot of challenges and hurdles to this sort of proposition, but it’s definitely possible. Imagine the positive impact that could have on a city, their fan base and sponsors to see a team comprised of their own locally developed players. That’s the type of continuity that builds longevity as opposed to the yearly changing of foreigners as if they were mercenaries. It’s not very often that a club is able to keep a player long enough to develop him into a local legend like Per Günther or Rickey Paulding. 

That tweet kind of developed into a thread with a wide range of ideas and sub topics and it was really interesting to see it take on a life of its own. I enjoy healthy debate and it’s interesting to hear and read the viewpoints of other basketball minds. The variables that developed basically discussed the viability of taking 1,000 U12 players from a 100km radius and working with them over a period of 10 years to produce a team of 10 top level players. This requires a high level of planning, vision and above all patience. The risk is being able to keep the core group together once they start to attract the attention from bigger clubs who are able to offer larger contracts. 

I think this theoretical problem is enjoyable to dissect and hopefully challenges clubs to spend more time, effort and energy diving into developing their own long-term prospects. Just developing them in the youth levels isn’t enough however as they need minutes at the higher levels to gain experience while learning from their mistakes. Germany has more players than ever before playing in the NBA and many players with meaningful roles on BBL teams. It’s a great start, but the potential for me is there. Whoever invests in the youth now, will reap huge rewards down the road. 

Colton Ray´s Game In Germany Grew With The Managing Of Personalities Knowing How To Bring The Most Out Of His Teammates

Colton Ray is a 196cm guard from Williamsburg, Virginia played his second professional season and first in Germany with Pro B team ScanPlus Baskets and averaged 8,8ppg, 3,5rpg and 2,8apg. He began the season with KK Ulcinjska Rivijera Ulcinj (Montenegro-Erste Liga). Last season as a rookie he played with St. John’s Edge (Canada-NBL Canada) playing 13 games averaging 3.6ppg, 1.7rpg. He began his basketball career with Lafayette HS and also played with Saint Ignatios Prep (S.C.). He played at Coastal Carolina (NCAA) from 2013-2017 playing a total of 119 NCAA games and as a senior played 37 games averaging 9.4ppg, 6.4rpg, 2.4apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 47.3%, 3PT: 35.4%, FT: 73.0%. He spoke to eurobasket at the end of the 2018-2019 season.

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and Colton Ray in Frankfurt

Colton thanks for talking to Where are you at the moment and what thoughts have been on your mind the most at the moment?

Just reflecting on a long season and just trying to relax now for a few weeks.

Your season in Germany is over now. The ScanPlus Baskets lost the playoff series to Oldenburg 2-1. How tough was it losing this series?

It was very tough because we felt like we were the better team and proved it for a majority of the series. Ultimately we gave up both games on the road in the last 5 minutes so that’s always frustrating 

The games were all pretty much close as there were no blow outs. In the deciding game the stats were very close. What was key in game three that the ScanPlus baskets were unable to move on in the playoffs?

I think it was execution at the end and just not having the right guys in at the end. We gave up some easy buckets on the defensive end at the game and we didn’t handle their run at the end well at all.

Oldenburg had many talented players, but how much of a factor was American Nigel Pruitt. You couldn’t control him better as a team. Do you feel like the series would have been different had he been slowed down better?

Pruitt was a tough player. He can really shoot the rock and can guard well too. Honestly his points really came off of passes from others getting into the lane and kicking it out to him . He got all his points in the flow which was the most impressive to me. But like I said they don’t really run sets for him so it wasn’t a slow down situation because it never felt like he was doing as well as he was until you read the box score at the end. But of course take some of his points away especially in game 1 we win the series.

What kind of experience was it this season playing against a handful of farm teams? You battled teams like Frankfurt, Giessen and Oldenburg just to name a few. What was your impression of the German players that you saw not only with these teams but in general?

I think it’s a cool system Germany has set up to really develop younger players. I was pretty impressed with two to three players on each farm team for sure.

For many the ScanPlus season was disappointing. Ok you reached the playoffs, but the team was Pro B defending champions. Do you feel like the team underachieved?

I feel like we underachieved greatly. We had the talent to win again but the puzzle pieces just didn’t fit together along with some other distractions we went through as well. But Leverkusen has 1 loss on the year and it was to us by about 30 points. So that tells you the potential we had we just couldn’t figure it out.

What was the most positive thing you got out of having the opportunity of having so many different nationalities around you. What did you appreciate most about the experience with your teammates?

I appreciated sharing the court with so many guys from different places. We all speak different languages but the language of Basketball was universal and it was cool just to be able to take part in that.

Let’s talk about your teammates. What kind of experience was it playing with mega veteran Marin Petric? Was he like a role model for you and an inspiration how long he has played?

Awesome guy. First of all if I can be his age and still playing ball I will be beyond blessed. But he was somewhat of a role model to me just trying to pick his brain about different things on the court and trying to add some things he does into my game. Definitely learned some stuff from him.

How valuable was it being teammates with Stefan Fekete. He is a pass first guard that knows how to lead a team. Did his playmaking skills rub off on you a bit?

I always had the play making ability so I wouldn’t say that. However his understanding of the game as far as drawing up a quick set off the top of his head and going and executing it was the most impressive thing to me about Stefan.

You stated this about teammate Brian Butler in our first interview. ‘He has a lot more in his dunking bag than I do. I’ll try to do something a little crazy in the warm up line and then he’ll do the same thing and make mine look awful so I really leave the dunking up to him’. What were you able to pick up from his dunking and overall game?

I think what people fail to realize is that Brian can actually play. Yeah the dunks provide some thrill but he actually has game. He has a post game and a mid range jumper and he can guard the 1-5 (except me haha) which makes him so versatile. Not to mention he plays so hard on both ends too. I haven’t learned anything new from his dunking however because I can’t do half the things he can do.

What kind of experience was it being teammates with CJ Oldham? He is a guy that can fill up the stat sheet at ease and can do many things well. Did any of his versatility rub off on you and did he tell any stories about his famous dad?

That’s my guy! CJ is one of those glue guys that every team needs and he proved his worth over the season on numerous occasions. Didn’t go into much detail about his dad other than he’s famous in Germany obviously. He really didn’t have to because a lot of times people were coming up asking him so I take it the guy was a big big deal. 

Let’s talk about your game. You came in November to the ScanPlus Baskets and averaged 8,8ppg, 3,4rpg and 2,7apg. What was your overall summary of your play in Germany?

I honestly wasn’t happy at all with my play. I started off pretty well here and then a coaching change threw everything in a loop for me and I really didn’t see much action once that happened. I’m not sure why but the coach at the time thought it was what was best for the team so I can only control what I can control. I had some pretty good moments that really showcased what I brought to the table and I can leave here happy about that.

Your minutes were up and down this season. How tough was this fluctuation and did becoming efficient in the minutes you get become a big factor for you?

It was a tough adjustment like I said previously. Once I figured out that the new coach had different plans for me all I could do was go in every game and do everything I could while I could and that’s all I was focused on. I just wanted to win.

You obviously couldn’t put up consistent stats when your minutes were up and down. What did you learn about your season in Germany that will help you in the future with your next team?

I didn’t really learn that much but there were some lessons that needed to be reinforced. Just no matter what stay in the gym and don’t stop working. 

How do you feel did your game grow with all the different nationalities on the team? Was there a part of your game that you feel profited most just from having these daily experiences?

I think it grew in the aspect of managing personalities. Dealing with 13 different guys you have to know how you can communicate with someone to bring the most of out of them and I think I expanded my knowledge in that area.

You had some memorable games. Was your 20 point game, 10 rebound, six assists and two block and two steal game against Orange Academy your most memorable moment?

I mean definitely a high point as well as my game at Leverkusen. But my best highlight to me would be my first game against Giessen just because I had a double double with 10 assists. I say that because it kind of cemented the kind of player I wanted to be on this team. Get everyone else involved and also get some buckets myself.

What is the next step for Colton Ray? If you got the right offers would you like to remain in Germany and get further experience?

I would definitely come back to Germany if given the right offer. Hopefully it happens so we can talk again in person. But right now I’m fielding offers from everywhere trying to figure out the next best location for me and my family.

What are your summer plans? Will you travel and on what things will you be working on most in the lab?

Travel a little bit but mostly in the lab getting ready for next season.

Who was the toughest player that you battled in the Pro B this season?

There’s was a few tough guys. Nigel Pruitt, Dennis Mavin, and Moore from Schwenningen

What has been your opinion as to why the Los Angeles Lakers are where they are now with Lebron James. Did the Lakers not have the right mix of players that Lebron could work with?

I actually think they got what they need I think it was just LeBron’s injury that set them back from missing the playoffs this year.

What was your reaction when you heard that Lebron James named himself the greatest of all-time? 

Don’t necessarily agree but he’s definitely number two and has a legitimate argument for #1. I’m just a Jordan guy.

Charles Barkley recently proclaimed that Tom Brady Is more of a GOAT than Michael Jordan. Do you share his opinion?

I do not. Michael Jordan takes more part in his teams success than Tom Brady ever has.

What was the last movie that you saw?