The NBBL season keeps moving along and while Alba Berlin is making their presence known in the north, it is Eintracht Frankfurt-Fraport Skyliners that are dominating in the south just blowing everything away that dares to get in the way like a snow blower does earasing unwanted snow on a frozen football field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Eintracht Frankfurt-Fraport Skyliners have simply been incredible bringing a lethal 6-0 record into the game averaging a potent 88 points on offense and standing like a non-destructable wall on defense allowing only 51 points per game. The club has been led by top NBBL player Len Schoorman who continues to impress everyone and plays like a man among boys. Eintracht Frankfurt-Fraport Skyliners met the RheinStars Cologne who had only a 3-3 record, but seemed to have found themselves in the previous weeks having won three of their last four contests and as of late had played their best basketball of the season as they took apart BG Goettingen 85-53 and wiped away the Baskets Juniors 67-36. The team from the Dome city came to Frankfurt with a lot of self confidence from their last wins, but had to contend with one of the top teams in the NBBL with Eintracht Frankfurt-Fraport Skyliners and played their hearts out, but had a extremely bad shooting day and couldn´t find a consistent rhythm against Frankfurt´s nasty press defense. Eintracht Frankfurt-Fraport Skyliners played an all-around solid game at both ends of the court powered by the athletic game of Len Schoormann who hit for 26 points. “We played well against their three two zone, drew fouls and got out on transition a lot. We played very good defense in the first half giving up only 25 points, but weren´t as good in the second half. We weren´t as good on the pick and roll and left their shooters open”, stressed German Len Schoormann. It wasn´t a great start for the RheinStars and the day didn´t get any better when half way through the first quarter, they lost their top scorer Thomas Fankhauser who was hit in the face and broke his nose and had to go to the hospital. The club never recovered from that blow despite Germans Joshua Burgunder and Christ Theodor stepping up as best as they could. “We didn´t come to terms with their press. We practiced it all week, but we couldn´t do anything against it in the game. Losing Fankhauser might have affected us also, but I liked how we stayed aggressive until the end”, added Joshua Burgunder.
It was the weekend of the unbeaten teams playing in the BCM as on Saturday night the Bayer Giants Leverkusen left the practice facility of easyCredit BBL team Fraport Skyliners with a commendable 8-0 record one that most experts most likely wouldn´t have predicted at the start of the season. And on Sunday the roles were reversed as the Bayer Giants Leverkusen was in da house again, but this time with their youth squad and they brought a solid 3-1 record from home and met the unbeaten team of Eintracht Frankfurt-Fraport Skyliners as they came into the contest with a perfect 4-0 record and have just been mowing away their opponents as if there is absolutely no mercy. They had found together quickly on both ends of the court as on offense had an arsenal that reminded one of an NBA team as they averaged 95 points per game and on defense reminded one of a powerful Euroleague like team that played hard nosed defense giving up only 49 points per contest. They took apart the Baskets Juniors and BG Goettingen allowing only 44 points apiece. Last weekend they destroyed Phoenix Hagen 111-32 as at halftime the score was 61-24. Eintracht Frankfurt-Fraport Skyliners have demonstrated an early bonding where everyone understands their roles and have been fortified by many as the two stars 2017 JBBL top 4 players Len Schoormann and Calvin Schaum have been solid, but not explosive yet. On a mild Sunday afternoon, Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners didn´t have a cakewalk with the Bayer Giants Leverkusen, but were never really in danger of losing the game as They erased a 11 point lead and won easily at the end 82-61 going to 5-0 while Leverkusen moved to 3-2. Frankfurt´s three stars of Len Schorrmann, Maxi Begue and Calvin Schaum combined for 55 points and the club played an overall consistent defensive game. “We played a good first half and played very good defense giving up only 18 points. In the second half we didn´t have a good answer against their zone press. The third quarter wasn´t so good, but we became stable in the fourth quarter. They scouted us well and played good zone. We did a good job all day long getting on transition and helping on defense. We gave up too many offensive rebounds”, stressed Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners 16 year old Calvin Schaum. The Bayer Giants Leverkusen played a strong first quarter, but after that couldn´t contain Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners the way they wanted to on defense. “We didn´t defend well in the second quarter giving up too many turnovers leading to easy points for them. We won the third quarter with less turnovers. Overall we didn´t have the right attitude for the whole game. That has to get better”, warned Bayer Giants Leverkusen guard Lennart Winter.
Basketball competition can´t always be fair and often you do have those examples where one would love to see that Davey and Goliath situation prevail where the small clobbers the big, but more often than not that is only a dream and occurs in fairytales or if the opponent suddenly had some Lebron James´s cloned for their upset attempt. NBBL team Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners had the unwanted and not desired task of meeting the super mighty and powerful club of Alba Berlin as the German capital team were the overwhelming favorites. They came into the series with a 15-1 record against the 10-4 Frankfurt record and an arsenal of offense talent that had scored 90 points or more nine times and 100 points or more five times and had that NBA type scoring atmosphere working. On top of that Alba Berlin had a roster where eight players averaged 10 points or more compared to Frankfurt having three youngsters attaining that feat and had the overwhelming size advantage with 9 guys listed at 2,00 meters or taller. Alba Berlin also brought two of Germany´s biggest talents with Jonas Mattisseck and Henrik Drescher that get minutes in the EasyCredit BBL and also two notable names with Franz Josef-Wagner who is the kid brother of 2018 NCAA finalist with Michigan Moritz Wagner and Elias Rodl who is the son of 1993 NCAA champion with North Carolina Henrik Rodl. Of course Alba Berlin didn´t bring all players like Rodl, but sure had a great variety of players to chose from. One could quote one of the bank robbers from the classic Boston made film The Town as the thugs are about to rob another bank with “Say your prayers”, because no team has had an easy time with the powerful Alba Berlin team. Eintracht Frankfurt-Fraport Skyliners was in their own smug living room staring at a do or die game as they had been destroyed in game one 91-61 as Alba Berlin controlled the boards and forced the Frankfurt club to a pathetic 35 turnovers.
Could Davey and Goliath make a statement or was Alba Berlin destined to make another trip to the NBBL Final 4? There would be no Skyliner miracle as game 2 took a very similar pattern to game one as Alba Berlin dominated at both ends of the court easily disposing of Eintracht Frankfurt-Alba Berlin 95-62. After the game, the Alba Berlin players were all huddled in the corner of the gym as they had just taken care of business again chilling and wondering when the pizza would arrive to help tame their stomachs during the long 8 hours bus drive home and top German guard Jonas Mattisscek reflected on the win as if it was the most normal result ever. “We didn´t get rattled by their physicality and were able to play better than them. We did a good job pressuring them for the whole game and just were allowed to play our game and put constant pressure on the ball”, stressed Alba Berlin guard Jonas Mattisseck. Eintracht Frankfurt-Fraport Skyliners had a solid season, but were totally outmatched in every area of the game, but gave their best and had their moments like 15 year old Len Schoorman who led all scorers with 25 points who was a bit in awe of the incredible talent of Alba Berlin. “I have never played against such a great team. One can really learn a lot from them. I felt we played better in game 2 than game 1. We did a better job against their press this time. There were very big and played well so together, but we gave it our best”, stressed Eintracht Frankfurt-Fraport Skyliners guard Len Schoorman.
Four and a half months ago, the 2017-2018 NBBL season commenced with the best young German players and also from other countries going head to head to capture the best record possible, and now on the last game day of the regular season some teams are smiling and getting excited for the playoffs while other teams are looking to have successful playdown games. For Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners they have had a good push to the playoffs having won four of their last five games while Team Bonn/Rhondorf after a terrible begin to the season where they lost their first four games have played a lot better basketball in the last weeks having won five of their last seven games. In the first meeting of the season, Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners won on the road against team Bonn/Rhondorf 76-65. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners did have their difficulty keeping the Team Bonn/Rhondorf away from the glass losing the rebound battle 41-28, but it was their aggressive defense that carried them for 40 minutes to the win. They forced Team Bonn/Rhondorf to an outrageous 30 turnovers and had 16 extra possessions which was instrumental in helping Frankfurt get the victory. Both teams met on Sunday afternoon in Frankfurt at Basketball City Mainhaiten and fans saw a tight first quarter, but Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners broke away in the second quarter and never looked back riding into the playoffs with an easy 82-54 win against Team Bonn/Rhondorf. After the game a content 15 year old German Len Schoormann who was top scorer in the game with 17 points and once again displayed his versatility with scoring, passing, rebounding, making steals and sheer athleticism was beaming with joy and was thrilled with the performance of the team. All 11 players of Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners scored and left the floor as happy winners. “That was our best game of the season. Our defense was really good. Our strong defense got our offense rolling. Coach really had us motivated and played good team offense and defense. When we are all communicating is when we play as a team. When we aren´t communicating is when we play more 1-1. Our ball movement was very good and everybody felt comfortable having the ball in their hands”, stressed Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners guard Len Schoormann. Team Bonn/Rhondorf played a solid first quarter, but then couldn´t get adjusted to the pesky Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners press defense and couldn´t stop their penetration. After the game a pooped Jona Thiel was disappointed with the effort of his club. “We lost our consistency from the first quarter. We just weren´t mentally there from the second quarter until the end. We had a game plan for their press defense, but mentally couldn´t cope with it. We usually play man, but played zone against their athleticism, but we didn´t defend well and they shot well against our zone. Their athleticism and deny defense was too much for us”, added Team Bonn/Rhondorf center Jona Thiel.
The NBBL regular season is slowly winding down as Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners with a record of 8-4 are going down a straight path to the playoffs while the RheinStars Cologne were caught in quick sand early on losing three of their first four games and couldn´t react properly and are going down a different path without the playoffs. In their first meeting in Cologne in November, Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners gave a solid performance over 40 minutes winning 84-65 despite coughing up the ball an unacceptable 22 times. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners relied on their consistent defense, depth as German Denis Machlab who isn´t known as a scorer contributed 16 points and six boards in 24 minutes and on their rebounding as they outrebounded the RheinStars 42-30. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners was unable to keep Colognes top prospect Tillmann Woerner who showed his versatile and unselfish play netting 20 points and dishing out seven assists. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners relied on their deep roster in the first win in Cologne as they had four guys scoring in double figures with Machlab, Maxi Begue, Niklas Pons and Leon Puellen. Both teams met in Frankfurt in the pretty BCM gym in the return game which has welcomed NBA players like Dirk Nowitzki, Carlos Arroyo and Alan Anderson over the years for an early 1.00pm Sunday matinee. Fans witnessed an exciting ending as Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners squeaked out a nail bitter 68-64 as they cruise into the playoffs. Even if the game seemed decided at half time, the RheinStars never gave up and stepped up their game in the second half and could even have won the game on their last possession, but in the end Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners had the better nerves. The Fraport Skyliners have been known for years to not only developing young talent, but also finding those young 13-14 year old kids and reeling them in. The next big talent Len Schoormann has been tearing up the JBBL(U-16 league) where he once scored 42 points in a game, but he also has adjusted to the NBBL(U-19 league) and had his real breakout game netting the RheinStars for 26 points showing everyone his world on the court and doing absolute everything on the court and filling the stat sheet like a Russell Westbrook. After the win, the 15 year German reflected on the win and his break out game and was very eloquent and seemed very at ease talking basketball. “We lost our rhythm a bit in the third quarter. We had the needed energy and we knew we had to win to get the home court advantage in the playoffs. Overall we moved the ball well and our good offense gave us more energy to play good defense. I have gotten better into the team the last weeks. There is a difference to the JBBL as here the guys are bigger, understand the game better, have more experience and the skill level is higher. It was important for me that I started off well hitting my first shots which brought me self confidence”, stressed Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners guard Len Schoormann. The RheinStars Cologne played their hearts out and gave everything despite not having their two top scorers on board. After the loss, one could see the disappointment on the faces of the young players and 16 year old 200cm German Thomas Fankhauser was sad, but also proud of his teammates who never gave up. “We slept at the start, but heightened our game in the second half. We gave a great team effort. We fought hard and it was too bad we couldn´t pull it out at the end. We did a good job compensating the loses of two top players. I felt we moved the ball well and did what the game gave us well”, added RheinStars forward Thomas Fankhauser.
Even if Philip Scrubb has been the big story with the Fraport Skyliners as his magical scoring has produced one or more fans for the quiet Canadian, but also the steady emergence of Isaac Bonga at the guard positions as well as Jules Akodo and Garai AZeeb who have been carrying the Pro B team Fraport Skyliners Juniors with their important leadership as well as their hot and timely shooting this season. However there is another highly talented player in the Fraport Skyliners organization that is looking to follow in the footsteps of these German guards with Maxi Begue. The 16 year old 192cm point guard that started his career with BC Darmstadt and could get mixed up with Tai Webster just from their hair style has been on fire the last weeks. In two of three games, he was the key figure in crunch-time propelling Eintracht Frankfurt-Fraport Skyliners past Leverkusen and the Metropol Baskets Ruhr with his good decision making and precision shooting. He exploded for 30 points in Hagen, but the club lost a nail bitter, but other than that the German U-16 national player has been moving along steadily with his development. He hit the floor in his living room against Roth Energie BBA Giessen 46ers looking to help his team get revenge for the loss in their first meeting where he didn´t play, but had to content with talented young German point guard Bjarne Kraushaar who like Isaac Bonga belongs to their EasyCredit BBL team and had to watch how Kraushaar took apart his team in the fourth quarter as he exploded for 17 of his 29 points leading Roth Energie BBA Giessen 46ers past Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners 68-54. After the contest, Kraushaar was pouring with sweat, but still had enough energy to sport a smile after playing 38 minutes only 16 hours after helping the BBL team win in Braunschweig where he steered 8 points. “We didn´t defend well in the first half not playing team basketball, but in the second half we hustled better, played team basketball and hit shots”, added 2013 JBBL rookie of the year Bjarne Kraushaar. After the game Maxi Begue exited the locker room after his seven point game and reading disappoint on his face was an understatement. “We didn´t come out the way we wanted to from the start. We weren´t aggressive on defense or moving the ball the way we wanted to. We made bad decisions and when only two guys do the bulk of the scoring, you have to find a way to stop it”, stressed Maxi Begue.
Last season Maxi Begue already had his chance to breathe some NBBL air as he was placed into nine games, but saw the brunt of the action in the JBBL(U-19 league) where he led the team into the JBBL final 4 in Frankfurt. The NBBL last season was filled with many guards so he could learn from many including the highly talented Isaac Bonga, but with the 18 focused on his career and making the next step in the BBL, the 16 year old who will be turning 17 next year has been shoved into a big role, one he probably wouldn´t have had had Bonga not developed so nicely and was still playing in the NBBL this season. In the last two weeks, Begue has progressed immensely accepting that role of having to take much more responsibility and also coming through with success on the court. Three weeks ago, he had his big breakthrough scoring 30 points in Hagen, but wasn´t rewarded with a win as Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners lost 75-72, but two weeks ago had a big success moment after he showed what he was made of not having a good first half as the club was struggling, but breaking through in the second half and leading his team to a massive comeback and getting the 64-58 win against TSV Bayer o3 Leverkusen as he found his scoring stroke especially at the end as he nailed a big shot from the baseline helping secure the win. It will be interesting and exciting to see where his journey will go this season as his development process continues with every new game. Begue took his 4-2 team and met another 4-2 team with the Metropol Baskets Ruhr on a typical early Sunday afternoon game and did it again being masterful in crunch-time like against Leverkusen two weeks ago helping power his team to the 78-70 victory as he took in the last minutes supplying seven points as he finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds and four assists. After the contest he seemed a little bashful in having to talk about his game once again. “My first six points today came quickly, but then for along time I didn´t score. In crunch-time I just did my thing which is to score. I did a good job hitting my mid distance shot out of the pick and roll while it was harder during the zone”, stressed Maxi Begue. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners remained unbeaten at home and continued to develop as a team for 40 minutes as well as keeping their nerves intact in crunch-time. “Our strengths today was our defense, team basketball and ball movement. WE rebounded well, but also gave up a lot if offensive rebounds”, reflected Maxi Begue. After the loss a disappointed Till Hornscheidt who was the Metropol Baskets Ruhr top scorer on the loss, but was still content with how his team played. “I think that this was one of our best games this season. Frankfurt was the clear favorite, but we were at eye level with them. It hurt us that Fin Fleute was missing especially under the basket and I feel that he would of given us another option on offense”, stressed 16 year old Metropol Baskets Ruhr point guard.
A little more than a week ago German wonder boy Isaac Bonga saw the sides of two worlds once again as the sky is the limit for the 17 year special talent was able to broaden his horizons again something he has been able to experience time in and time out if it was playing in the basketball without boarders tournament in Lithuania or shooting the breeze with New York Knick Justin Holiday at the 2017 NBA allstar weekend in New Orleans. Bonga skipped off the sold out court in Ulm of 6,000 plus people having played the most BBL minutes this season with 26 contributing six points, four rebounds and three assists in a narrow 90-84 defeat to ratiopharm Ulm and 20 hours later, he was brought back down to reality that his basketball life isn´t only a bed of roses as he departed the floor in Munich a defeated young man as he had to accept the bitter 75-44 NBBL loss against the International basketball academy Munich with only 200 people in attendance and had ran around like a mad man leaving his heart on the floor having played 38 minutes filling up the stat sheet like a mini Lebron posting seven points, six rebounds, seven assists, four steals and one block. With his BBL season over, Bonga wanted to make his last season goal of reaching the NBBL top 4 in Frankfurt reality, but he as well as his teammates had to really show what they were made of, dig deep down within themselves and play with heart. Bonga wanted to avenge his unsatisfactory 3/18 shooting in Munich and at the same time force another do or die meeting with Munich and other German super talent Oscar Da Silva who dropped 59 points and 35 rebounds in the two game playoff series against Urspring and can continue to tell his friends that he will be attending Stanford next fall and play at the alma mater of ex Bamberg legend Casey Jacobsen. It was no secret that this special do or die game would bring out the best in Bonga and Da Silva as they combined for 40 points and 24 rebounds, but the International basketball academy Munich also known as IBAM came out on top escaping Frankfurt with a hard fought 61-60 victory. As the buzzer sounded, the few Munich fans that had made the trip jumped up in excitement as if lightening had struck them and star player and young phenom Oscar da Silva was calm, but one could see in his eyes that he was not only relieved, but also very proud for reaching the NBBL Top 4 tournament. “I am very happy about getting this win in Frankfurt. We never stopped fighting and played with high intensity. We came back through our good defense which helped us get transition baskets and that was key for the win”, stressed future Stanford Cardinal Oscar Da Silva. For Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners, it was a very successful season, but their goal of reaching the NBBL Final 4 in Frankfurt was not met and one could easily read the frustration of the players on their faces. Especially for team second top scorer Konstantin Schubert it was a disappointing way to end his NBBL career. “We knew that we could of won this game. Game one was depressing, but we had a different face today and defended very well against very good individual players. But when you only score 60 points, it will be difficult to win. We didn´t do much wrong on defense, but didn´t rebound well in the first half and when they couldn´t hit from outside, we were unable to stop their penetration”, stressed Fraport Skyliner Konstantin Schubert. “They switched to zone in the second half which gave us problems and took us out of rhythm”, added Fraport Skyliner Isaac Bonga.
In the last weeks do or die games as well as fascinating and breathtaking finishes like the unbelievable 75-73 win by North Carolina over Kentucky where Malik Monk´s last second shot was overturned by Luke Maye´s last triple with 0,3 seconds remaining to propel the Tar Heels into the 2017 NCAA Final 4 were as usual as it has been for ratiopharm Ulm winning and winning in the BBL this season, but also in the NBBL playoffs do or die games have been growing as last weekend the Igeko Falcons BC Nurnberg had to win at home against Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners to keep their season alive and did with a super performance as they won 63-51 stepping up their defense allowing 29 less points than in game one and carved the total points by German wonder boy Isaac Bonga and Cosmo Gruehn in half from 57 points to only 29 points and forced them to coughing up the ball 20 times with their aggressive defense. It hadn´t helped the cause of Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners that they were without their other strong performer Konstantin Schubert as he had been nursing an ankle injury. Both teams arrived into the game with their two star players Isaac Bonga who registered his first triple double in the Pro B a few weeks ago and is a projected 2018 NBA Draft Pick and Moritz Sanders who currently is averaging 7,2ppg in the Pro A and quietly developing further as a basketball player and were hoping to move on and face the International Basketball Academy Munich with their star player Oscar De La Silva. Despite being without second top scorer German Konstantin Schubert again for the third time in the series, Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners had enough other weapons and depth and took advantage of their home court despite some loud Nurnberg fans who had made the trip to cheer on the kids and escaped a last furious comeback by their opponent to slip into the quarterfinals with a satisfying 70-60 victory.
It was a game that Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners led from early on, but allowed Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC very close in crunch time, but it was the overall sound team play and superb leadership by 17 year old Isaac Bonga that allowed the home team to preserve the win. After the quick win, Bonga had exactly one hour and five minutes before his next game in the BBL against the Telekom Baskets Bonn and was dripping with sweat outside the locker room and showed absolutely no panic about having to get to the Fraport arena in time and reflected about the victory and keeping a cool head at the end. “I knew from the start that I had to take responsibility today. That is my job as point guard. We were always awake in the game and stayed calm even in tough times”, stressed Isaac Bonga.
When Bonga was long gone and on his way to the Fraport arena for the 10 minute drive from the BCM gym, Cosmo Gruehn was still on the court stretching and found the right words for the win. “Rebounds was key today as we were the better rebounding team in the first half and also defense as we held them to 60 points. We also did a good job keeping Sanders and Hassfuerter in check. We didn´t have to rely as much on our outside shooting like in game two, but were able to penetrate more with success”, added ex USC Freiburg big man Cosmo Gruehn.
Now is a very special month in the States concerning college basketball as it is the time of the year where March Madness takes over and fans are transformed into a special world where players are made into hero´s, some unknown teams create their own special Cinderella stories and upsets are always present as Duke recently was kicked out with the winner being crowned at the start of April in Phoenix. But also in Germany is March a very special time for youth basketball as the NBBL playoffs begin and teams battle for the ticket to the Final 4 at the end of May in Frankfurt and where upsets are also not uncommon as defending champion Breitengussbach lost their first game getting hammered by ratiopharm Ulm 82-58. In Frankfurt Eintracht Frankfurrt/Fraport Skyliners started their mission to reach the NBBL top 4 on their home base in the 5,004 seat Fraport arena as they came into the playoffs with a 11-3 record in third place while the Igeko Nurnberg Falcons finished with a record of 12-4. There are no real easy opponents in the NBBL playoffs and Eintracht Frankfurt knew that they would be facing a sound defensive team with Nurnberg as they had relinquished 70 points or less in 10 games while Frankfurt did 9 times. After an offensive first quarter, both teams settled down on the defensive end and the game was even for three quarters, but in the fourth quarter the Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC ran out of gas as the depth and fire power of Comso Gruehn and Isaac Bonga was too much for the Bavarian team as Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners won 80-70.
“We knew that it wouldn´t be an easy task. We played very well and got the needed support from the bench. We know that whenever the clock is down and we need a basket, we can rely on Isaac Bonga to making the shot. He has improved his three pointer the last weeks. He has been practicing his shot extra hard the last weeks and is a motivation for all of us to want to get our chances and produce like he does”, stressed ex USC Freiburg forward Cosmo Gruehn.