It was only a few minutes afterthe Fraport Skyliners had lost a bitter contest to medi Bayreuth and most of the players in uniform were already on their way back to the locker room hanging their heads wondering why the word consistency remains a foreign word in their vocabulary. Some of the Skyliner farm team players who play in the ProB and didn´t dress for the game were still at the bench hanging out while their teammates like Quantez Robertson, Brady Heslip and Shawn Huff were gettingchewed out by head coach Gordon Herbert behind closed doors. One of thoseplayers is a well built young man named Elijah Clarance who was in deep thoughtas he often is if one observes him on and off the court wondering when will itbe my time to shine on the floor, but he also had something else on his mind.The Swedish shooting star who had an incredible 2018 U-20 European championships tournament where he was top scorer with 22 points per game didn´t land somewhere in a high division and not even in a first division team, but rather in the German Pro B which is the third division. Ok so his deal has its advantages, but in a way he took a step back in hopes of making two steps a headin the next few years. He has the opportunity to get BBL minutes, but like any other talent that has come to Frankfurt, getting to the BBL happens via goodplay in the Pro B. The 20 year old Swede has some obvious reasons why he is so often in deep thought and just in another place. The young man is a huge talent that feels like he still has a lot to prove, but what probably is most on his mind is if he can conquer the basketball world having that Nydala toughness and giving back to his mom and dad. He lived four years in the states, but the reality is that Nydala is something that will never totally leave his mind. Nydala is a neighborhood of Malmo and not one of the safest places to live in Sweden. When one thinks of Sweden one thinks of a very safe place to live in and it generally is a safe place to live in, but when one hears about gang violence then one can only be shocked that something like that is around in Malmo. In 2017 Swedish police placed the Nydala neighborhood in the most severe categories of urban areas with high crime rates. Elijah Clarance becomes very reflective when talking about his home in Sweden and when you look into his eyes, you realize that he experienced things in his young life that he’d rather not see again. And that is why being a successful basketball player is so important to him, because he wants to be able give back to his parents for doing such a good job raising him in a tough area. “Nydala isn´t one of the best neighborhoods around. There is a lot of violence and drugs from where I came from. I went to the worst ranked school in Sweden. Growing up there, I had to be tough otherwise I would have been picked on. One of my main motivations for playing basketball now is to help get my mother get out of there”, stressed Elijah Clarance. His aggressiveness and self confidence that he shows for a 20 year old definitely has been noticed by his teammates. “You notice that kids who come from a tough area growing up tend to have a lot more toughness than others. You have to have a lot in your self to survive and he shows that on the court. If you don´t show confidence than that is a sign of weakness. You have to always keep that confidence with you and he has it”, warned Fraport Skyliner Jason Clark.
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.