If some wise man had predicted at the beginning of the Pro B South season that after seven games you would have the Bayer Giants Leverkusen and Fraport Skyliners Juniors at one and two, people would have not called you a genius, but a fool while fans in Elchlingen would have flipped you the bird as how could the multi talented and 2018 Pro B champion not be anywhere but at the top. Ok so the ScanPlus Baskets are near the top in third place with a record of 6-2, but are at the moment breathing up the backs of Leverkusen and Frankfurt waiting to prance on them like a famished cat waiting for their mistakes. It has been a very refreshing season for the German BBL title record holder Bayer Giants Leverkusen as they have built up an offense led by German Tim Schonb born and Frenchman Ron Mvouika and American Nick Hornsby that average 87 points per game and also have found chemistry on the defensive end allowing only 70 points per game. They also have gotten good support from their German role players and are also the best rebounding team in the league. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors were born in 2009 and have put together their best start in their history going 6-1. They have continued to uphold the Frankfurt basketball tradition of having a strong defense and have sparked their offense along the way as they average 77 points per game. The young German´s know each other since years and have added the needed athleticism with Swedish shooting star Elijah Clarance, sniper power from American JT Roach and German young big men Aaron Kayser to make a deep squad that is hungry for success. The two top teams met in Frankfurt on a mild autumn Saturday night and the Bayer Giants Leverkusen demonstrated why they went into the game undefeated and why they returned home unbeaten. They simply did everything a tad better than the Fraport Skyliners Juniors like shooting and rebounding, moved the ball better, made the smarter plays, took Elijah Clarance out of the game and got the big shots from Tim Schonborn and Nino Celebic who also controlled the game for the guests. “We struggled at the start of the game on defense, but knew that they were a good scoring team and picked up our intensity. We did a good job on Clarance and also on Zeeb, but he still played a great job. Dennis Heinzman did a great job getting the rebounds”, added ex Giessen Rackelos forward Nick Hornsby. After the 17 point loss the players escaped to the dressing room, but returned and were horrified by their poor defense. “We weren´t happy with our defense. We gave up way too many easy baskets. They did a good job taking Clarance out of the game and hit many tough shots”, stressed Fraport Skyliner Junior forward Konstantin Schubert.
EasyCredit BBL team Fraport Skyliners are in their 20th anniversary season while their farm team Fraport Skyliners Juniors that have stood for top youth development since years bringing up top players like Johannes Voigtmann, Danilo Barthel and Isaac Bonga and making them to Euroleague and NBA players. The farm club was started in 2009 and they are also celebrating an anniversary with their 10th season in the German Pro B league. Over the years besides helping young and dedicated German talents develop, they also have had success as they reached the Pro B final in 2016. A big problem with the success rate of this club is simply that they don´t always have all their players to choose from in any given game simply because there are a handful of double license players on board that often are with the easyCredit BBL team. So far their anniversary 10th season has began quite well as in the first time in their history the club has started perfect and have a 2-0 record. They began the season with a hard fought victory in Rhondorf 75-68 where their three point precision stood out with 11 three´s and a week later they returned home for a duel against TG s.Oliver Wurzburg and ex Frankfurt Pro B head coach Erik Detlev that also was a difficult win to achieve as they pulled out a 74-68 victory against their ex coach. They didn´t shoot as well as in Rhondorf, bit rebounded better and especially picked up their defense forcing Wurzburg to 25 turnovers, but in a way were also lucky despite 13 turnovers less and over 20 more shots eked out the win. Also a new shooting star from Sweden was born with Elijah Clarance who is averaging 19,0ppg and now they were up for the next battle against neighbor Giessen Rackelos that is the farm team of easyCredit BBL team Giessen 46ers. The Hessen neighbor started came into the contest with a 1-1 record with a tough 87-71 loss on the road against very ambitious new team Schwenningen and then returned home last weekend and let out all their frustration crushing the Dragons Rhondorf 102-56 nailing 12 three´s, controlling the boards and forcing the opponent to 21 turnovers. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors wanted to keep the 0 in the loss column and did getting by Giessen Rackelos 80-72 and moving their record to 3-0. It wasn´t a perfect game from Frankfurt, but as usual they had the right answers from their deep roster and certain moments in the game. “We didn´t start well giving up easy baskets. We got a good lead in the second quarter with good ball movement and fast break points. In the second half we did a good job with defensive rebounds and keeping up defensive pressure not letting them get into their sets”, stressed Fraport Skyliner Junior Konstantin Schubert. Giessen was undermanned and played a good game, but just couldn´t get the big stops in big situations. “We started well, but then let them push us around which we couldn´t recover from. We weren´t as aggressive or as confident as we needed to be to be able to win. When things got rough, we tried to do too much and didn´t stay within our system. We were too disorganized and didn´t have the juice to beat a deep team on the road”, stressed ex Cal-San Diego (NCAA2) guard Adam Klie.
Last Weekend a new star was born in the Pro B with Swedish shooting star Elijah Clarance who hit the Dragons Rhondorf on the road for 21 points and really demonstrated his wide array of offensive skills, but what really stood out was his amazing and unending athleticism that the opponent was unable to come to terms to. His shooting which tends to be off the radar functioned well as did his rebounding and passing game, but his dunking most likely remained in the minds of many. At the start of the third quarter, he scored back to back buckets in a span of 30 seconds. His second basket was a lay up, but the first one was a hard left handed dunk with authority that captured the attention of his teammates on the bench as they jumped off their seats so quickly after the jam as if someone had secretly filled their seats with hot coals. His quick first step and getting around his man paved the way for the “good night” feeling right before he flew to the basket with the dunk. He didn´t score 40 points, but just the way he played and handled himself displaying a type of special self confidence and finishing so strong at the rim made his performance really stand out. Even though he is mainly seen as playing for the farm team, one has to honestly ask how long it will still be before he makes his BBL debut for Gordon Herbert. He has had some very good test games for the BBL game and sky is the limit for the 20 year old. After he helped lead the Fraport Skyliners Juniors to their first win of the season on the road, he returned home to the BCM to show the home town fans some more added stellar play. Not only was Clarance a theme to the game, but also Wurzburg head coach Eric Detlef who was returning to an old stomping ground as he had coached the Fraport Skyliners Juniors from 2012-2017. After 40 minutes the Fraport Skyliners Juniors had squeezed out a hard fought 74-68 win against TG s.Oliver Wurzburg. After the match Swedish shooting star Elijah Clarance was happy the team got the win, but one could sense in his tone and body language that he wasn´t pleased with the play of the team. “They came out with a lot of energy and played well. We matched their energy well in the first quarter, but not so well in the second and third quarters. We picked it up at the end of the third again and kept it a bit in the fourth. We took care of the ball well and executed at times, but made mistakes”, warned Fraport Skyliner Junior Elijah Clarance. Wurzburg head coach Eric Detlev was smiles after the loss, but was also content how well his team kept up with the much stronger Frankfurt team on paper. “I was happy to be back. I had good times here. I told the guys if Frankfurt plays well together then nobody can beat them, but if they don´t play well together than there is a chance. They had 22 more shots. Usually you would lose by 20 points when that happens. Guys like Clarance and Freudenberg are too good for the Pro B. This loss was a good lesson for us. Our mentality is very good. One could see that we were frustrated. With a little luck we could of won, but we couldn´t handle the pressure”, stressed head coach Eric Detlev.
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.
When you observe Jordan Burris for the first time, he looks like any other American player in the Pro B standing out a bit from the rest of the majority of German kids with his 201cm athletic build and dark features, but unlike many of his American peers in the league who played at smaller and lesser known NCAA schools or NCAA 2 schools, the California native actually has seen the biggest arena´s in the United States playing against top programs like Washington, Oregon, Arizona State or BYU to just name a few and played his home games in the beautiful state of the art arena Lawlor Events Center that has a capacity of 11,200. So when the American who finished his college career at CS San Bernardino(NCAA2) entered the tiny, but very enticing and pretty BCM gym where the Fraport Skyliners Juniors play their home games, he mostly likely had no idea he was bringing some NBA atmosphere to a place that also had it. Even if it took Burris a few years to reach Europe and still has a chip on his shoulder wanting to continue to climb the basketball ladder, he played against future NBA players in the NCAA and even was part of a commercial with NBA legend Kobe Bryant. He easily could have lured some more fans into the BCM with his Kobe Bryant story had they known about it. “ He’s been my favorite player since I can remember. So to meet him and be able to pick his brain was the experience of a lifetime. At one point he stopped the production of the commercial and gave me a personal lesson on his fade away. That’s a memory I will cherish forever. He’s also a big trash talker man. But I guess in 20 years of NBA basketball he’s heard it all. Yea so when he got there I told him “I’m Jordan I’m the guy that’s going to lock you down.” To that he said “that’s not what my 30,000+ points say.” After that I had nothing to say. But just being a huge fan of his, I admire his work ethic and tried to incorporate that into my game. Be the first one in and last one out as much as possible. A line that sticks with me from Kobe is “rest in the end; not in the middle”, stressed Jordan Burris. But Burris also could of heard some stories from Skyliner employees who can boast about their own NBA atmosphere in the BCM gym as over the years guys like Dirk Nowitzki, Carlos Arroyo, Jon Leuer and Alan Anderson have played there. Burris put his NBA stories and memories of Kobe on hold for 40 minutes as he and BBC Coburg came to battle the Fraport Skyliners Juniors and departed with a disappointing 76-73 loss which had head coach Derrick Taylor shaking his head after the buzzer sounded. The head coach wasn´t happy with the outcome as neither was Jordan Burris who reflected on the BCM gym and the loss. “I was in good company being in the same gym where Dirk Nowitzki had played in before. I have played in even smaller gyms than this in Germany. When I walked in here I noticed it was nice, but as soon as the game starts, I´m totally focused on the game. We fought hard tonight, but I have to give a lot of credit to Frankfurt. They are a great team for their age. They made a lot of tough three pointers. We played good defense in the first half, but weren´t finishing our possessions with rebounds. We rebounded better in the second half, but they also hit more shots which left fewer rebounds. They hit too many open three´s in the second half”, stressed ex Nevada(NCAA) forward Jordan Burris. The Fraport Skyliners Juniors controlled the game and as always were saved by their timely shooting in crunch time. After the big win which set a date with Bochum in the playoffs, German forward Konstantin Schubert reflected on the win. “We got many baskets inside at the start from Trtovac and in the second quarter Gruehn helped us with his good three point shooting, but we were never really able to get away from Coburg. We had some bad phases when they went to zone and we also gave up some easy baskets as well”, added Konstantin Schubert.
With the Pro B regular season winding down, one can pretty much predict well where the post season journeys of the Fraport Skyliners Juniors and TG s.Oliver Wurzburg teams will take them. Frankfurt has booked a ticket for the playoffs while TG s.Oliver Wurzburg most likely will play in the playdowns to be able to book their ticket for the upcoming Pro B season. One thing that is never as predictable is what lineup the Fraport Skyliners Juniors will go with on account of their BBL license players and injuries having been a huge factor in the success they have had this season. With Isaac Bonga, one never knows will he suit up or not as he has been concentrating more on the easyCredit BBL this season and only played sporadically in the Pro B. Especially on weekends when the BBL team Fraport Skyliners are in action, his chances of playing become less, but this weekend the team was off as they had back to back games within the week. Bonga had played in the last home game victory against the Bayer Giants Leverkusen and had been a vital factor for the success as he took over the game in many phases and finished with a career high 30 points. Fans weren´t disappointed when Bonga arrived in the BCM gym for warm ups and then was present on the court ready for battle again. He didn´t score 30 again like two weeks ago, but this time it was Garai Zeeb again who was the fourth quarter savior as like some weeks ago against KIT Karlsruhe, he had a horrible first half and stepped it up in the second half sparking Frankfurt with 13 points and this time powered home 8 points down the stretch against TG s.Oliver Wurzburg pacing the Fraport Skyliners Juniors to the 75-69 victory.
A little more than two months ago, the Fraport Skyliners Juniors showed another great performance on the road taking apart the Bayer Giants Leverkusen for the second straight year as German wunder kid Isaac Bonga led the charge with 26 points last season and 19 points this season. Like so often this season, the Bayer Giants Leverkusen were unable to give a very good performance for 40 minutes as they have proven this season to have been underachieving despite having a very solid guard rotation of Alexander Blessig and Marvin Heckel and two potent import inside players with Bruce Beckford and Donovan Jack and all rounder CJ Oldham. The biggest problem has been their inability to defend at a high rate on a consistent level as they allow 80 points per game while scoring 78 per game. The club reacted at the start of 2018 bringing in talented 26 year old 196cm small forward Ron Mvouika from France who after a roller coaster ride from Sheridan JC (JUCO) and Missouri St. (NCAA), he finally landed with St Johns in his senior season 2015-2016 where he captained the team for legendary 1992 Dream team player and now coach Chris Mullin who treated him like a pro from day one. Leverkusen landed a coup with Mvouika as he prompt led the team on a two game winning streak. They did lose last weekend to Iserlohn as their lackluster defense reared it´s ugly head again on the court losing 95-84. However Mvouika who compares his game to Paul George has been more than just a fresh breath of air, but been a lot more as he has taken the Pro B by storm and proven to be a very versatile player that can do it all on the court as through three games he was averaging 19,0ppg, 5,0rpg, 4,0apg, 1,3 and is shooting 47,1% from outside. He has never had it easy in his career, but he has always believed in his abilities and his road up the basketball ladder continues now with Leverkusen. “I am a very confident person because I know the work I put in every day. Basketball is not a sport to me, it’s my life so me not finding stability since coming out of college never really made me doubt myself or anything else. I was just working very hard every day, waiting on the right opportunity to present itself, an opportunity where I could express myself and show the world what I can do and Bayer was the perfect marriage. I don’t feel or add any pressure, if anything, I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time so now its time to show all the work that I was putting behind close doors”, warned Ron Mvoiuka.
The French man came with the Bayer Giants Leverkusen to Frankfurt and was looking to start a new winning streak while the Fraport Skyliners Juniors were looking for their second victory in a row in 2018 and they overcome a quick start by the Bayer Giants Leverkusen and controlled the game from the second quarter until the 40 minutes had eclipsed playing consistent offense and playing with passion on the defensive end winning 81-65.