At this time last season the Dragons Rhondorf were hovering on cloud 9 and seemed invincible as they were led by future Pro B MVP Kameron Taylor who had an answer for almost everything on the court as was leading the team to brutal success and was time in and time out the savior. This season it has been like night and day for the former Pro A team as they are sitting in the Pro B cellar with an 0-3 record with the only good news that there are three other teams suffering the same fate as the Dragons with identical records. Nothing has gone right for the ambitious farm team of easyCredit BBL team Telekom Baskets Bonn as they are averaging a dismal 63 points and giving up a mediocre 83 points where any novice mathematician would come to the conclusion that you can´t win games like that. The Dragons Rhondorf have a talented roster, but still have to find themselves on the court as Lithuanian big man Zygimantas Riauka has been the only real bright spot averaging 15 and 13 through the first three games and is keeping the paint area clean. The Bayer Giants Leverkusen are making amends for their lax start last season where they lost three of their first five games by racing out of the gate this season with a perfect 3-0 record. They haven´t faced the most stifest competition yet beating FC Bayern Munich that breeds young German talent and two 0-3 teams Erfurt and Coburg. So far 1993 European champion Hansi Gnad has done a fine job in his first season as head coach taking over the reigns from Leverkusen Achim Kuczmann and formed a good early season chemistry that will continue to build. With top player Ron Mvouika and a class of solid Germans, Leverkusen has been a pleasant surprise in the Pro B considering other top import Nick Hornsby doesn´t have to bring that big production he had to last season with Giessen. The Bayer Giants Leverkusen returned back to Rhondorf and wanted to get revenge for last season´s 90-72 spanking and did winning 84-68 despite getting a small scare at the start of the fourth by the Dragons Rhondorf, but buckled down and in the end won with ease. Leverkusen head coach Hansi Gnad had a long post game talk with his team, but when American Nick Hornsby returned back on the court to face the press, he didn´t try to avoid the difficulty of the game, but agreed that it was a hard fought win for his team. “It was a tough game . Rhondorf played a lot more physical. The bigs were stocky and the guards very fast and they played very physical. But we settled down in the second half and played diverse, taking care of the ball well and getting less turnovers while slowing down the game and playing inside out ball. Our guards Celebic and Blessig were a big help today”, stressed ex Sacramento State forward Nick Hornsby. After the game a pooped Zgyimantas Riauka who looked like he had just completed a marathon as he was still sweating like crazy minutes after the loss reflected on the game. “The difference was that they hit more shots than we did. They shot the three very well. We played tough, but they went on more runs. Our defense was great and we brought a lot of energy”, stressed Rhondorf center Zygimantas Riauka.
Raekwon Miller is a 22 year old 191cm guard from Marion, North Carolina embarking on his professional career in Germany with the Dragons Rhondorf. He played his NCAA career at NC-Asheville from 2014-2018 playing a total of 91 NCAA games. In his senior year he played 33 games averaging 11.2ppg, 4.6rpg, 3.3apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 48.9%, 3PT: 47.9%, FT: 76.2%. He spoke to Germanhoops.com earlier in the summer about basketball.
Raekwon thanks for talking to Germanhoops.com Where are you at the moment and how has your summer been coming along fresh out of school?
Right now I am currently back home enjoying my summer but also staying in the gym and working on my craft as I know its more important now than ever.
Before we get into the meat of the interview, I have to ask you about your unusual name. Does it have a special meaning and how did your parents come up with it?
My name was actually given to me by my brother, he listened to Raekwon the Chef apart of Wu tang Clan back in their day when it was really popular. My parents liked the name so they went with it.
Congrats on signing with German Pro B team Dragons Rhondorf. This was your first summer experiencing the professional transfer market. How was it for you and did you have a fair amount of offers or was it a tough go around?
The experience had me very anxious I mean I was basically putting all trust into my agent who is wonderful enough to get me the opportunity to play at the professional league. The waiting around for offers to come in got to me a little bit but it was all worth it in the end.
It had been a very long off season for Dragons Rhondorf fans coupled with an extremely shaky pre-season that left some uneasy question marks as big as an overgrown pumpkin in the minds of many, but as the season opener against the Fraport Skyliners Juniors was finally here, some of that tension building up was simply relieved by the fact that the team was 0-0 and it was a home clash in a place where in the last season often good things had happened. The opponent Fraport Skyliners Juniors also rang a sweet bell in that last season the Dragons Rhondorf had supplied the home court fans with one of the most exciting games of the season with the unforgettable and magical Kameron Taylor buzzer beater where he sank a beautiful step back jumper over the out stretched hand of Jules Akodo and this master piece of a shot and ending couldn´t have been produced any better if the hero then would have been a Jordan, Lebron or Durant. It was one of those incredible endings that at that time really sparked the club and gave them the needed self confidence that they could win really nail bitters at any time. This season there was no Kameron Taylor who had fled to Hungary to continue his career, but still a lot of hope that something magical could happen this season simply because that is how most feel at the start of a season where the cards are newly stacked and extra confidence brewing in that opening game. As always the Fraport Skyliners Juniors arrived in Rhondorf with their young German bucks as their youth program continues to build and develop guys further and this season seem like a real dangerous squad on paper. Many of the usual suspects were on board like Garai Zeeb, Konstantin Schubert and Armin Trotovac who combined boast more than 40 BBL games, but also had three new exciting faces on board from three different countries. The most interesting Swede Elijah Clarance who was top scorer at the 2018 European U-20 championships, young German big man Aaron Kayser who could be the next Johannes Voigtmann or Danilo Barthel and American JT Roach who is a rookie from Concordia-Irvine(NCAA2) and as usual one of those guys that Frankfurt reels in every season that has a lethal shot and will help the young kids. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors came into the game as huge favorites on paper, but after 40 minutes there wasn´t such a big difference between the two teams as Frankfurt squeezed out a hard fought 75-68 victory as the Clarance and Roach show combined for 41 points. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors showed inconsistency which isn´t surprising in the first game of the season while the Dragons Rhondorf were also rusty, but showed superb fighting qualities and had the heart of a lion. After the win Fraport Skyliners Juniors Swedish sensation Elijah Clarance was happy the club could escape wit a win. “I thought it was ok since it was the first time we played together as a team. We were shaky on offense, but great on defense. We played hard, stuck together and had good chemistry”, stated 2018 U-20 European champions top scorer Elijah Clarance. The Dragons Rhondorf played a spirited game, but there were two area´s where the club had huge deficits. “We had problems on the pick and roll defense and ball screens. We also had too many turnovers and I take blame. I had too many for a point guard”, stressed ex North Carolina Ashville guard Raekwon Miller.
The first quarter was an ugly affair as one could see the opening day jitters that were rampant with both teams. Many misses on offense and turnovers were more prevalent in the first minutes than the beautiful sound of swishes. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors raced out to a quick 6-2 lead as Armin Trtovac gave his presence in the zone and Clarance dropped a trey. However the Dragons Rhondorf didn´t put their heads in the sand, but fought back and took the 7-6 lead getting a Julian Jasinski lay in who has played 21 BBL games with Hagen and Bonn and a trey by Miller who shot 47% in his senior year in the NCAA. The game was very even then as there were seven lead changes with ex St Johns forward Richard Freudenberg scored a runner, Lithuanian Zygimantas Riauka scored in the paint, Freudenberg made a two handed stuff, Miller made a finger tip roll in like Tiny Archibald back in the day, Brit Jules Akodo sunk free throws, 17 year old German Marc Klepser snuck inside back door as Riauka served up the sweet dime and ex Hanau center Tobias Jahn made a lay in as fans were offered some minor mouth dropping plays in the first few minutes.
A few weeks ago, Dragons Rhondorf fans had the first opportunity to witness Pro B basketball again during the Gezeiten Cup where they battled against easyCredit BBL teams and one could sense with many of the excited faces that the six month basketball vacation had been like a nasty eternity and thye were just happy to have the usual basketball experience again even if the lopsided scorers didn´t bother anyone because they weren´t supposed to annoy any of the first division teams. One saw many of the known faces off the court and even some shy new ones who were trying to get a feel for the atmosphere and the game. However there was very much different and one could sense on many of the hardcore Dragons fans that they were already playing mind games with themselves and playing out how the new season will run it´s course on September first. Off the court much was the same, but on the court the change of Dragon faces was as noticeable as it is for everyone that Jogi Low has his hands full with developing a new German national team. Obviously the two main scoring threats from last season Kameron Taylor and Viktor Frankl-Maus who almost combined for half of the team scoring had fled to greener pastures. Taylor went to Hungary where he should be a top player and team identity figure Frankl-Maus who wore the Dragons jersey for six seasons escaped to FC Bayern Munich 2, but who can blame him from going from the Rhein and beautiful family Dragons atmosphere to the Isar and high society of FC Bayern Munich where he can bump into a Uli Honess or Thomas Mueller as easily as he would in Rhondorf into a Dragons fan in their very small downtown area. Even if these two losses are serious blows, the club couldn´t even hold their role players as guys like Thomas Michel, Valentin Blass and Anton Geretzky also left leaving head coach Thomas Adelt with a totally new challenge of withstanding a massive team face lift and building a new team that will be competitive in the Pro B. Can the Dragons Rhondorf master a rebuilding season? One thing is for sure, many of the hardcore fans will have two dates crossed off in their home schedule with FC Bayern Munich and the RheinStars where they will be reunited with Frankl-Maus, Michel and Blass again.
The one thing that every basketball team dreads is playing the first game on the final day during a tournament because that means they are playing for nothing, but pride as the two final teams can relax a bit more and rest their muscles while the two losing semi-finalists have to forgo a hearty lunch and play in the early afternoon. The Fraport Skyliners had a short recovery period after their disappointing 85-79 loss to s.Oliver Wurzburg as they had less than 24 hours to return to the court with a clash with Pro B team Dragons Rhondorf. It was obvious that Frankfurt was still very early in the pre season as they had some fine moments against Wurzburg, but that that feared defensive ensemble that head coach Gordon Herbert builds each season was still far away, but that is expected at this point of the pre season as the one on one defense and communication was a major work in progress. Their offense showed massive potential and Erik Murphy was a major bright spot that showed right away that he could do a lot more than shoot the ball and that his rebounding was efficient. So for the Fraport Skyliners meeting the weaker Dragons Rhondorf came just right for their team to continue to work on their offense, get some new added self confidence and also to work further on their shaky defense. For the Dragons Rhondorf meeting another easyCredit BBL team was another huge test that they most likely wouldn´t win, but just getting the experience to match against an ex NBA player, battle BBL legend Quantez Robertson and all the other talented players was like a gift where the young Germans and talented imports Raekwon Miller and Joe Mvoezolo could work on their game and match up against the best. Even if the Dragons Rhondorf made it a game for a quarter, they were unable to keep that consistent level as a nasty 24-0 run in the second quarter erupted the Fraport Skyliners in winning an immense lopsided game 99-36. After the big win head coach Gordon Herbert didn´t look happy or content, but the way he does after every game in that he knows that there is always room for improvement even after a 63 point drubbing of a Pro A team. “Our intensity was better on the defensive end and our team play was a lot better. It is hard for guys to find a rhythm when you play 12 guys so today we first played 10 guys and put in Vargas and Freudenberg in the second half. They gave us a lot of energy in the third quarter”, stated head coach Gordon Herbert. For the Dragons Rhondorf it was a worse performance than against Bonn where they lost by 42 points, but the club sees it as a learning experience and nothing else. “I thought we did many of the small things well, but we still have a lot of work to do. Important now is that we stay positive”, stressed Dragons Rhondorf head coach Thomas Adelt.
The Dragons Rhondorf came out focused while the Fraport Skyliners may still have had their pre game video session in their minds which Gordon Herbert had implied after the loss to Wurzburg and weren´t as focused on the court while the Pro B team rushed out to a 7-4 lead surprising the guests. Rhondorf spread the ball around getting baskets from Joe Mvuezolo, Alex Moeller and a trey from husky forward Yannick Kneesch, but the Frankfurt side didn´t let this minor shock effect their game as they got calm and started to move their offense which led to sound execution with a 20 footer from ex Chicago Bull Erik Murphy, a trey by ex Baylor(NCAA) sniper Brady Heslip and a lay in by Canadian rookie Trae Bell-Haynes as Frankfurt led 12-7 as their 8-0 run was only a preview of what would later happen.
That first weekend in early September typically is a horror for American school kids as it is that last weekend of freedom, that last time on the beach, that last moment to sleep until noon or to be able to catch your favorite TV show as after that the new school year starts and that whole cycle and lifestyle gets back to normal. However in the German basketball community that first September weekend isn´t a horror for kids or adults, but the signal that the new basketball season is not far away. In the month of September there are countless basketball tournaments across Europe where teams prepare their new plays while new players get integrated. One of the first well known basketball tournaments that commence each pre-season in Germany is the Gezeiten Cup in Bad Honnef in the Dragon Dome where Pro B team and farm team of the Telekom Baskets Bonn Rhondorf play their home games. This year the other three teams that were invited were of course the Telekom Baskets Bonn, Fraport Skyliners and s.Oliver Wurzburg. Of all the four teams, Rhondorf had had the longest idle phase as their inspiring season had ended way too early in mid march in the playoffs against Wolfenbuettel. The s.Oliver Wurzburg team played six weeks more as the Americans booked their flights home at the begin of May as they missed the playoffs. For the Telekom Baskets Bonn and Fraport Skyliners, they reached the playoffs, but both bowed out in the quarterfinals. The Telekom Baskets Bonn gave a good fight, but were swept by Bamberg while the Fraport Skyliners gave the mighty FC Bayern Munich a nasty scare taking a 2-1 games lead, but then were rudely squashed by the 2018 cup winner losing by 35 points in game four and by 20 points in game five. All four teams had busily shopped over the summer and fans were greeted by the arrival of some very well known and exciting players as Bonn had reeled in ex NBA player James Webb, the Fraport Skyliners had hauled in Canadian sniper Brady Heslip and ex NBA player Erik Murphy and Wurzburg ex Kansas(NCAA) standout Perry Ellis. The first game on the schedule was a clash between head coach Gordon Herbert and the Fraport Skyliners against his ex team and first team he ever coached in Germany Wurzburg which was in the 2000-2001 season. S.Oliver Wurzburg met the Fraport Skyliners in the first semi-Final and squeezed out a nail bitter 85-79 while in the second semi-final the Telekom Baskets Bonn demolished their farm team Dragons Rhondorf 105-63, but that was expected as their was a huge class difference between the BBL and Pro B team.
The script couldn´t have been more perfect for Kameron Taylor taking a step back to the Pro B from the Pro A in hopes to take two steps forward with the Pro B title and a future EasyCredit gig, but instead the usual so charming and warm smile of the American from Maryland was absent after his and the Dragons Rhondorf season ended abruptly in Wolfenbuettel 103-91 as they were swept by the farm team of the Basketball Lowen Braunschweig. Instead of enjoying the beautiful spring weather and chilling with a Paulaner beer and Pretzel at the Rhein Café and Biergarden Grafenwerth on Germany´s most famous river Rhein at the end of April and dreaming about a Pro B title, Kameron Taylor who has produced triple doubles at the college and professional level came back to Rhondorf in the wee hours of the morning of March 19 with minus Celsius temperatures with spring in mid march as far away as the German soccer team HSV is from staying in the Bundesliga. Taylor´s season had non-characteristically ended as those visits to the café´s along the Rhein river in Rhondorf or Bonn in the next weeks when it gets warmer will be without him seeing any more action with the Dragons Rhondorf. The Dragons Rhondorf faced a tough opponent with MTV Herzoege Wolfenbuettel and one where they didn´t match up well on paper so for some the series loss might not come to unexpected, but there was simply so much hope by the fans, Dragons Rhondorf club and especially Kameron Taylor that this wouldn´t only be a long season in the post season, but be ultimately be crowned with the Pro B title. The basketball God had other ideas, but all in all it was a great season for the Dragon Rhondorf witnessing a turnaround from last season, but there would be no happy end.
The Dragons Rhondorf didn´t necessarily go into the Wolfenbuettel series as the favorite, but they had high hopes that they could get to the next round.
Key in this series was losing game one at home in their comfortable living room. Had they won game one, then the momentum would have been with the Dragons Rhondorf and MTV Wolfenbuettel would have had their backs to the wall and the series may have gone totally different and Kameron Taylor may still have been smiling now. In game one the keys to the loss were MTV Herzoege Wolfenbuettel doing a fine job taking Kameron Taylor out of his comfort zone and not letting him play his usual scoring game as he was limited to only 17 points and they made everything very difficult for him.