From November 2014 until October 2016, the Fraport Skyliners were able to have a very stable time in that there was little roster movement as head coach Gordon Herbert had brought in the right mix of players which translated into a Eurochallenge Final 4 appearance, Fiba Europe Cup title and two BBL playoff appearances in a row. In this time, the club had grown massively with their team chemistry as the two point guards Justin Cobbs and Jordan Theodore as well as the big German 3 of Johannes Voigtmann, Danilo Barthel and Konstantin Klein were the main components that held the team together and in a way guaranteed success. However this season was another story as suddenly head coach Gordon Herbert who has been known for reeling in the right point guards in the last years with guys like Dashaun Wood, Justin Cobbs and Jordan Theodore was dealt the wrong card in Markel Starks who had to depart early as another American Kwame Vaughn was brought in. Overall players coming and goings continued to be as prevalent the way new American President Trump has fired cabinet employees in his first two weeks of office as ex Maryland(NCAA) forward Ekene Ibekwe and buzzer beater champion Antonio Graves had to pack their bags. On December 11th, the Fraport Skyliners were sinking quickly in the standings after a brutal 77-57 loss against FC Bayern Munich at home and head coach Gordon Herbert had 10 long days to figure something out until the next game in the Champions League against Slovenian team Helios. Herbert had some candidates to choose from and also heard the same normal bla bla from agents telling how great their clients were and in the end chose AJ English who like Justin Cobbs two years ago was also a rookie and known to having shot out the lights at Iona(NCAA).Ex Skyliner Sean Armand surely didn´t play a role in helping make Herbert´s appetite grow for his ex teammate and the 2004 BBL champion decided to haul in English and one could carefully say the rest is history for the time being. English very much like Cobbs two years ago has been Veni, Vidi Vici as he has come seen and conquered. Since the arrival of English, he has been nothing short of spectacular helping the team to an 8-0 record and helped move to the Champions League playoffs and has scored in double figures in each game, made a buzzer beater and in the lone game Frankfurt lost in Oldenburg, he was unable to play. During the Pro B game of Fraport Skyliners farm team Juniors against the Dragons Rhondorf where the BBL players often watch and support when they have time, English was able to deny in his soft voice that he is the savior for the team. “I don´t believe that I am the savior, but just another piece to the puzzle. You need to have the right pieces for success. The team just has been meshing together in the time that I have been here”, warned AJ English.
English is a 24 year old 192cm combo guard from Middletown, Delaware who is the son of ex NBA player AJ English who played for the Washington Bullets from 1990-1992 and is playing his rookie season and started his professional career in Italy with Enel Basket Brindisi (Italy-Serie A) playing 8 games averaging 7.9ppg, 2.0rpg, 2.6apg, 1.1spg, 2FGP: 38.7%, 3FGP: 25.0%, FT: 75.0%. In his time there, the team went 4-4 and decided to make changes. The club had talented rookie Nicolas Moore who had a stellar career at SMU(NCAA) and was also on the radar of some NBA teams and also experienced 33 year old guard Phil Goss who has made a name for himself in Italy having played in Rome and Venice and English seemed to have gotten lost a bit in the mix and found himself unemployed in mid December. In his eight games with Enel Basket Brindisi, he was able to score in double figures in three games including 15 point games against Brescia and VF Pescaro. He started his professional career against Dolomiti with a 0/6 performance from the Parking lot, and was never able to fully gain a rhythm with his bread and butter as he shot only 32% from outside. Despite only being with Enei Basket Brindisi for a short time, the American didn´t see his departure as one that was due to poor play. “I didn´t necessarily have to go, but I had just come out of school and they wanted me to play a certain role. I can play the positions 1-3. They wanted me to play one position like you see in the NBA where guys are signed for one particular strength. I guess I wasn´t ready for that role, but I am happy that Frankfurt took me and saw me as a point guard, but also a guy that can also play the two position”, commented ex Iona(NCAA) guard AJ English.
Playing against the big 3 B´s of Bamberg, Berlin and Bayern Munich are the season highlights not only for the Fraport Skyliners, but for every other club in the easyCredit BBL, but battling the Giessen 46ers in the Hessen Derby each season would easily come in as a close fourth as the most anticipated games each season. The two cities Frankfurt and Giessen are only 65 kilometers apart and both clubs possess special fans that get extra motivated for the two season duels each season. Giessen fans won´t forget the last game in Giessen as almost two months ago, the Giessen 46ers finally won in their living room against the Fraport Skyliners again something they hadn´t done since 14 years dating back to 2002. The last time Giessen was able to depart the court in Giessen with a win, current Giessen Americans Dwayne Evans and Justin Sears weren´t even in high school yet. In the memorable victory on November 19th, the Giessen 46ers gave their best defensive performance of the season as they held the Fraport Skyliners too only 52 points while they were led by Canadian national player Thomas Scrubb who steered home 21 points, five rebounds, four assists and five steals to the historic win. This coming summer his brother Philip might carefully kid him that that loss might not have happened had he not been injured, but then again the Scrubb brother mentality never centers about them, but moreover what the team can do or not. The Fraport Skyliners entered the contest with a two game winning streak having celebrated big wins on the road in Jena and Tuebingen including an amazing buzzer beater by ex Iona(NCAA) guard AJ English while the Giessen 46ers came into the game having last suffered a tough 87-83 road loss in Vechta. Once again fans had to wait again for the professional head to head battle debut of the Scrubb brothers, but that didn´t damper the breathtaking Hessen derby atmosphere as 5,002 fans were in the loud Fraport arena witnessing a classic game that the Fraport Skyliners were able to grind out in Crunch time 65-61 getting their third win in a row in the BBL.
After the victory, the Fraport Skyliners practiced their first Humba ceremony which is to get on the floor and get up and dance around something hat the team practices on occasion after a home win. American Kwame Vaughn who has gained professional experience in countries like Italy, France, Belgium and Israel and learned the basketball game at Cal State Fullerton the same school that produced explosive ex BBL player Bobby Brown looked a bit confused and perturbed after the Humba victory dance had been completed. “The Humba was new for me. I had never seen something like that before. I think having a dance like that is engaging for the fans. You can see something like that in the NCAA, but it depends on the school. We did a good job in this game staying the course, fighting hard, executing which allowed us to come out with a win”, stressed Fraport Skyliner guard Kwame Vaughn. Giessen 46er Thomas Scrubb couldn´t repeat his strong effort from the first game against Frankfurt and scored only 9 points this time around and was disappointed by the team effort, but enchanted by the breathtaking atmosphere in the Fraport arena. “Our offense wasn´t great. We didn´t get in a flow on offense and our shots weren´t falling and we didn´t get out on transition. Our defense was ok, but we made a few mistakes and they capitalized on them which cost us the game. The atmosphere was great and one could feel the passion of the fans. I really felt the intensity in the arena and it felt good coming down at the end”, added Canadian national player Thomas Scrubb. “The atmosphere was great. I wish it could be like that in every game. I am thankful that I could be a part of it, but most important was that we got the win”, explained ex Iona(NCAA) guard AJ English.
It was once again time for a new basketball Champions League encounter between the Fraport Skyliners and Slovenian club Helios Domzale as in the first game the German squad escaped a tough Slovenian side sneaking back to Germany with a 61-56 grind out victory as American point guard Kwame Vaughn led the charge with 27 points and came up big in crunch-time. In the return game, it pitted a Frankfurt team that has been more than disappointing in the BBL and clinging for their lives in the international competition while Helios Domzale need a miracle to advance in this competition and need to go on a big winning streak now. The game was the tale of two guards as it had two guys coming into the contest with something prove with two Americans AJ English and Brandyn Curry. English is a 24 year old 192 cm shooting guard that is a rookie and started the season with Enel Basket Brindisi (Italy-Serie A) playing 8 games and averaging 7.9ppg, 2.0rpg, 2.6apg, 1.1spg, 2FGP: 38.7%, 3FGP: 25.0%, FT: 75.0%. His first station in Europe didn´t work out the way he planned and he hopes to bring his killer scoring instinct and scoring in bunches ways to his new home with Frankfurt which he displayed in college at Iona in New York and played two seasons with ex Skyliner Sean Armand. Armand had the better three point accuracy than English, but the new Skyliner scored more than Armand did. If one once called Sean “you want buckets here you go Armand then you could name English AJ “you want more buckets here you go” English. The other guard that wanted to finally get that annoying Skyliner monkey off his back was Brandyn Curry who had an 0-5 record against the Fraport Skyliners with two loses with Dutch club Den Bosch, two loses with German club Eisbaeren Bremerhaven and one with Helios Domzale. He was 0-2 in the Fraport arena and still has uneasy memories of the loss in Frankfurt nearly two years ago in an Eurochallenge game where he stroked home 27 points on seven three´s, but had a long bus ride home to Den Bosch chewing on a loss. Both guys entered the game with chips on their shoulders and after 40 minutes, ex Iona standout AJ English came out as the winner as he helped the Fraport Skyliners to a 72-62 victory producing 12 points while Brandyn Curry hit some big shots in the fourth, but once again left the building as the loser for the third time and is 0-6 in his career against the Fraport Skyliners.
“This arena isn´t a good place for me. I still haven´t figured out how to win here. However It is always great to play here and I hope that I can get a dub the next time. We lost the game in the third quarter. Frankfurt got going and we didn´t. Usually it´s the fourth quarter that does us in, but tonight it was the third quarter. We need to learn to play a complete game”, warned ex Harvard(NCAA) guard Brandyn Curry. After the game, AJ English had a hard task of reaching out to every journalist, but he took it in stride and is excited about playing in Frankfurt. “I didn´t feel pressure tonight. Italy was a good opportunity, but Frankfurt is a better one. I just try to play good defense and knock down shots and be ready every night. Sean Armand told me to be myself and let the game come to me. It is a long season and there are always ups and downs. That´s the beauty of basketball”, warned Fraport Skyliner guard AJ English. With the win, the Fraport Skyliners climbed into fifth place and have a playoff place for now, but with 4 games remaining, nothing is secure yet. “This was a much needed win. We controlled our own destiny. We missed easy shots in the first half. We came out strong in the third, but lost a little intensity in the fourth quarter, but our defense kept us in the game and gained intensity and got us the win”, added Fraport Skyliner point guard Kwame Vaughn.