It seems like it was yesterday, but the last time that MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg head coach John Patrick departed the Fraport arena with a victory was almost three years ago as the last two times, he had to witness a 13 point creaming and last season a tough four point loss. But going back to that 90-78 win almost three years ago, it seemed like that game was going to be one that would forever be remembered as a new star being born on to the BBL stage with Kevin Bright. Despite the Frankfurt loss, he dropped 23 points netting six three pointers which in a way was overshadowed by the Keaton Grant and CJ Harris sniper attack combining for 48 points. Despite having a brilliant game, the German who had just returned back to Germany after having completed only his freshman year at Vanderbilt(NCAA) where he still led the team in rebounding, the Bright Ludwigsburg masterpiece would remain one of two as the other occurred at the end of the season as he dropped 23 points and seven trey´s in a road win at Vechta where he won the game with a buzzer beater as Kevin the light is Bright. Bright would play for Frankfurt for two seasons before moving on to Nurnberg where he played in the Pro A last season. Three years later only two players remained on the Frankfurt roster from that game with Quantez Robertson and Max Merz. Merz is one of the rare Frankfurt German role players that has carved his special own kind of niche with the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup winner as he currently has the greatest longevity on the team as he has been with the team since 2011 and has outlived many of the other German players who have come and gone. After the game, both Max Merz and John Patrick were asked about that Kevin Bright performance almost three years ago. Patrick made it more than clear after the Antonio Graves 65-63 buzzer beating win, that since Gordon Herbert has been on board as coach, he has always had very tight affairs against the Fraport Skyliners. “There was a buzzer beater in Wurzburg by Frankfurt and three years ago the buzzer beater by CJ Harris to send the game here into OT. I have had most games in Frankfurt that have been decided in the last 30 seconds”, stated John Patrick. After the victory, Max Merz was stretching and was between captain Quantez Robertson and game top scorer Shavon Shields and was just thankful for getting another opportunity to start, but also reflected on some old time history against Ludwigsburg. “I don´t remember that game against Ludwigsburg that much from three years ago, but remember more that Kevin Bright was shooting out the lights. I remember more the game four years ago when we were battling Ludwigsburg on the last game day to remain in the league. I had the advantage today that we had some injuries, but I always try to give the team energy every minute I play”, stressed Max Merz. After the big win, game hero Antonio Graves was surrounded by the Frankfurt press and was just thankful that the team was able to rebound after their lousy first quarter. “I have to give the team credit that we stuck together. We should have been down 30 at halftime, but we had this confidence to come back. Shavon Shields carried us in many moments and I am grateful that it came down to that last shot where it meant either the win or OT”, warned ex Artland Dragon Antonio Graves. After the heartbreaking loss Ludwigsburg head coach John Patrick stayed diplomatic as best he could. “You can look at this loss in two ways. We could of done things differently after the big lead running or plays differently and playing team basketball or you can say that Frankfurt deserved to win. Frankfurt played very well scratching and clawing their way back and never giving up”, stated John Patrick.
Having big upsets during college basketball´s March Madness is no surprise as they are present each year like in 2012 when Norfolk State sent Missouri home, George Mason letting UCONN pack their bags in 2006, Virginia Commonwealth kicking out Kansas in 2011 or recently North Carolina State rudely dismissing top ranked team Villanova, but one thing that isn´t a surprise is seeing great point guard battles each weekend in the German Beko BBL. For Fraport Skyliner American Justin Cobbs being tested each game is a normal occurrence as he faced off against great point guards in the Eurochallenge like Brandyn Curry, Courtney Forston and DJ Cooper, but also in the BBL he faces off against the best. Everybody was looking forward to Los Angeles facing off against Detroit like Magic vs Thomas back in the day with Cobbs vs the pride of the Artland Dragons playmaking core with David Holston. Holston has been among the top point guards in Germany and is playing his third season in Germany. The great thing about the Cobbs vs Holston battle is that it would have pitted two spectacular point guards with a veteran facing a rookie and fans seeing a 23cm difference with Cobbs taking his 191cm to the court against the diminutive 168cm Holston who is like an adorable teddy bear in a toy store that is waiting to be bought as his smile gets everybody happy. Holston battled in the first meeting against Frankfurt in a big 83-74 victory against Richard Williams who stroked home 20 points while the Artland point guard contributed 12 points and five assists. With Williams having moved back to Vechta, Holston would have made his debut against Cobbs who has big aspirations of moving to the NBA, but this duel had to wait. This duel might not have been equal to Magic vs Thomas back in the day, but both guys have had their own special intensity that bring much flair to the court whenever they are present. Sometimes one can also dream about a great match up like this and it is so much sadder when a guy like Holston can´t play due to injury, but then it gives the chance to other guys like young German Bastian Doreth or veteran Terrell Everett who has played with more than one team in one season in six of nine seasons to showcase their game and battle a future NBA player like Justin Cobbs. Fans didn´t get disappointed in the point guard duels as Cobbs, Doreth and Everett had their moments and after 50 minutes and two overtimes, the only thing that divided both teams was an Antonio Graves buzzer beater that sent the Artland Dragons home with a big 90-87 victory and their playoff hopes remained alive. Fraport Skyliner forward Quantez Robertson who sometimes moonlights as a point guard observed how well Doreth controlled the first half over Frankfurt. “The German point guard did a good job controlling the tempo, making good passes and playing the pick and roll. He executed the offense well and also made his own shots. He was definitely a good replacement for David Holston”, added Cincinnati native Quantez Robertson. “Doreth can be a starter for many teams in the BBL. He always plays well in practice and took advantage of the situation with Holston being out. I like his confidence and how he controls the tempo. This type of play is normal for him, because he does it every day”, stressed Artland Dragon guard Antonio Graves. Fraport Skyliner center Mike Morrison came out of the locker room disappointed and one could feel it with his soft words. “We dug a hole throughout the game and didn´t have the energy at the end. OT is usually our time, but with a few mistakes made, good teams will make you pay. Both teams made plays so fans had to have loved this game”, commented Florida native Mike Morrison. “The game was fun. Both teams were competitive and executed well. The game was neck to neck with both teams fighting for the playoffs. It was a big road win for us, but I give a lot of credit to Frankfurt as they fought hard”, added ex Pittsburgh(NCAA) guard Antonio Graves.
Some Beko BBL teams have nice rosters, but usually you can pinpoint exactly who will be top season scorer simply because of a few top players have those extra scoring qualities like a Justin Cobbs in Frankfurt, a DJ Kennedy in Ludwigsburg or a David Bell in Hagen where seeing them a top of the teams scoring list is as probable as seeing Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul leading the NBA in assists. However when you look at the roster of the Artland Dragons, one has a team that for years has belonged to the deepest teams in the league after the big three of Alba Berlin, Bamberg and Munich were you could flip a coin between guys like Brandon Thomas, Anthony King, David Holston, Lawrence Hill or Antonio Graves. Even guys like Kenny Frease, Dennis Horner or Chad Toppert could be a teams top scorer if they were to get consistent minutes on a regular basis. If you had been stuck in a closet for a few months and been denied any basketball stats one may have the best odds of having chosen a Holston or Thomas who can shot out the lights on a consistent rate, but currently Antonio Graves is the teams top scorer, but he does so much more as he also is able to find his teammates as the 29 year old 191cm shooting guard form Ohio is second in team assists behind Holston. Graves is playing his eighth professional season as has been a basketball nomad usually moving from team to team the way Paris Hilton does from sunglasses to sunglasses as he has played in countries like Turkey, Croatia, Israel and Italy. The American has improved his stats this season from last as experience has helped him grow in his role. “I think that my role is the same. I understand our offense more and what my coaches expect from me. I also am doing a better job of picking my spots and finding my teammates. I think the improvement has come because of another year of experience. I know my situation now and coming to a team is always an adjustment”, stressed Antonio Graves. He also has made strides under young head coach Tyron Mccoy where both have seen eye to eye since the start. “I have learned a lot from him. He has a high basketball IQ. He played at a high level and wants us to play at that level as well. I have learned to be a better player on offense and defense and not just to go out on the court and use my athletic ability, but to be able to take the game two steps ahead and also know when too slow it down”, added Antonio Graves. The Artland Dragons have been very up and down in the last two months, but still very much in the playoff hunt and with such a deep roster Graves is content that the 2008 cup winner won´t miss the playoffs. “We still have many games left to make a turn around. I think that the league is stronger this season, but that isn´t an excuse that we should have. We have underachieved, but we are confident that we can turn it around. We had a nice playoff run last year, but want to do better than last year. Anything is possible. We know that we have the potential and we hope that we can find it in the stretch run. I am confident that we will make a run. Nobody wants to match up against us in the playoffs. We are a scary team and we know it and so do our opponents”, warned Antonio Graves.