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.
Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and ex NBA player Erik Murphy at the 2018 Gezeiten Cup
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.
It seems like it was yesterday when fans were saying farewell to the 2017-2018 season to the players in the Fraport arena in late May as posing with Isaac Bonga and Mike Morrison would prove to be the last time for the time being and there was already speculation then that it would be the last time to observe certain players. Almost three months later, the Fraport Skyliners have a changed face as certain players have departed. As expected Isaac Bonga surprisingly didn´t hold back his name from the 2018 NBA draft and stayed in mainly because he was promised from the Los Angeles Lakers that his name would be called, Philip Scrubb took his sniper qualities to Russia to St Petersburg, Tai Webster went for the dough signing in money heaven in Turkey with Galatasaray and Mike Morrison to the disappointment of fans took his dunking madness to Lithuania after four very fruitful seasons in Frankfurt that brought him the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup. The club held on to the identity figure and Fraport Skyliner lifer Quantez Robertson, held on to talented shooter and defender Shawn Huff who is still at the top of his game at 34 as well as big men Jonas Wolfarth-Bottermann and Marco Voeller and the kids like Niklas Kiel, Garai Zeeb and others.
02.04.2018 / Basketball BBL / -17- Isaac Bonga / FRAPORT SKYLINERS /
Recently Isaac Bonga was horsing around with his teammates Quantez Robertson, Mike Morrison and Niklas Kiel during fan photo sessions at the Fraport Skyliners farewell party only a few days after losing a tough 5 game series against FC Bayern Munich. A month later the 2018 NBA Draft was held in the 19,000 arena Barclays center in Brooklyn, New York only a 5 minute drive away from New York city and he would have had a few more camera´s to deal with than what he had experienced in the Fraport arena as some fans were possibly getting their last photos with the future NBA player. Not only were there many more fans in the huge state of the art arena than Bonga would have had ever seen before in his life, but also guys like 2018 Euroleague champion Luka Doncic or future NBA stars like Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley or Trae Young that were strutting around and getting a feel for their own NBA swagger. These are all things that he will have to deal with down the road. In the last two seasons, Isaac Bonga who´s biggest role model is Greek phenom Giannis Antetokounmpo had been present in the various NBA Mock drafts, but fallen in the last season, but his presence was still there even if it wasn´t as great as the season before. Some had speculated that he might drop out and wait another year to polish his skills a bit more in Germany with the Fraport Skyliners in the competitive easyCredit BBL, but instead he stayed in with the likely guarantee from a team that they would select him. Perhaps he also kept his coach Gordon Herbert´s wise words of “teams look at a player´s potential before his stats” in the back of his mind after contemplating if his world championships performance last summer of 6.6ppg, 3.4rpg, 3.3apg, 1.6spg, FGP: 41.5%, 3PT: 8.3%, FT: 69.2% might scare off NBA teams, but really he was never off team´s radars. At the end of his second season there were at times as many as 8 officials from different NBA teams watching him live in Germany. The gamble to forgo another season in Europe and enter now instead of 2019 paid off as the huge German talent was the youngest player in the 2018 NBA draft and wasdrafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round at #39 and then handed to the Los Angeles Lakers joining fellow German Moritz Wagner who was drafted also by the Lakers in the first round at #25. A few months ago Los Angeles Lakers GM Rob Pelinka was in Frankfurt observing Bonga and must have been convinced of his abilities, but still needed that second opinion and I was glad to give my two cents of praise about the German. All of basketball Germany is thrilled about Bonga being drafted. ““I am delighted to see Isaac drafted. He is an excellent competitor and has worked diligently to achieve this latest success. This is also a huge credit to Frankfurt Basketball and the German National teams. Isaac is a versatile player two-way player with great size and length for his position. The most impressive aspect for me when it comes to Isaac is that he has added to his game every year and continues to do so”, stressed ex Nordlingen head coach Danny Nelson.
Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing Isaac Bonga after the NBBL playoff lost against IBAM in 2017
The night of June 21 will be a big night for Isaac Bonga as well as for Fraport Skyliner fans who might take a holiday day, sick day or go to work with only a few hours of sleep not wanting to miss exactly where the German basketball talent will be drafted. He could be the third player drafted in the Skyliners club history after Croatian Mario Kasun in 2002 and Senegal center Malick Badiane was in 2003. The 18 year old Bonga who is a 205cm guard could be the youngest player drafted this season and belongs to the top German talents at the moment and has decided to stay in the draft. He had declared for the 2018 NBA Draft recently, but had the option to withdraw his name until June 11th in order to wait another year, but instead he will try his luck this season. Bonga recently completed his second professional season with the Fraport Skyliners playing 34 BBL games averaging 6,0ppg, 3,1rpg,2,2apg and 1,0spg while shooting 33% from outside. There was speculation that the German would withdraw as his name had disappeared from many of the early mock drafts and return to the Fraport Skyliners for another season of grooming to improve his chances of becoming a first round pick in 2019. It looks like Bonga will go in the second round this year and that is something he can live with if that guaranteed contract is in the package. Keeping his name on the NBA draft ballot only becomes risky if he isn´t sure that he will be drafted. Chances are that he has received a promise from an NBA team.
The German who started his career with the Post SV Luetzel Baskets Koblenz junior team was already in Frankfurt in the 2016-2017 season playing for the Fraport Skyliners youth team while also getting experience with the Koblenz Regionalliga team. He made his BBL debut as a 16 year old and was the fifth youngest player to ever play a BBL game against Brose Bamberg. In the 2016-2017 season he was already high on many of the NBA mock drafts behind the Real Madrid wonder boy Luka Doncic and was seen as a top 10 first round pick. After a solid, but not explosive 2017 World Cup U19 in Cairo (Egypt) where he averaged 6.6ppg, 3.4rpg, 3.3apg, 1.6spg, his stock started to fall a bit in the mock drafts in the 2017-2018 season.
Basketball will most likely never match the interest level of football in Germany as old footage of the 2018 Eintracht Frankfurt cup win will show as the entire Romer place in downtown Frankfurt was covered in a sea of Eintracht Frankfurt colors and estimated 25,000 fans with about as much room left for an undernourished fly while in 2016 as the Fraport Skyliners celebrated their third club title Fiba Europe Cup, only 400 fans showed up while innocent bystanders were wondering who the tall dudes up on the balcony who were celebrating as hard like little kids who had been told school had been cancelled for a whole year. Who cares how many people show up, because a title is a title and for both clubs to come together one season and win a title together is dream material. When you have a club like FC Bayern Munich dominating football, then dreaming is always the norm for any other club. It might not have occurred to each Fraport Skyliner fan on the day of the do or die game against the big mighty FC Bayern Munich that there could have been the possibility that within 48 hours the cosmopolitan city Frankfurt could have two historic wins against Germany´s most famous sports team from Bavaria in basketball and football as on Saturday was the German cup final where Eintracht Frankfurt had surprisingly reached the final for the second consecutive year. But dreaming in this sense is a better choice than actual reality occurring because the odds of something like that happening was more likely than pigs flying over the Fraport arena and Lebron James joining them. Ok Lebron is the best player on the planet and can do the most amazing things, but in all respect to the king, let´s keep Michael Jordan doing the flying to the rim, because he was the first one to really make flying basketball acceptable. Granted it would not have been a title for the Fraport Skyliners had they been victorious in Munich in game five and been only the ticket to the BBL semi-final and a clash with the next annoying opponent Brose Bamberg, but anytime you beat FC Bayern Munich, it has to always feel like something extremely special almost like celebrating a holiday. All the Fraport Skyliners had to have done was win game five, because Eintracht Frankfurt did the seemingly impossible in Berlin beating FC Bayern Munich 3-1, so at least Frankfurt will be celebrating for weeks after that. The Fraport Skyliners came a lot farther than most expected forcing FC Bayern Munich to five games and pulling off two wins in a row something they had never done before against them. It was another interesting season for the Fraport Skyliners with many highs and lows, but in the end their instant high against FC Bayern Munich was brutally brushed off by the Bavarian squad as they ended Frankfurt´s season with two swift blows in game four and game five. The fantastic and magical Fraport Skyliners fairytale playoff run was fun, but unrewarded.
Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and Reggie Redding after the big 85-50 FC Bayern Munich win in game 4 in Frankfurt
Many people that don´t know Fraport Skyliners head coach Gordon Herbert will call it a miracle while people that know him better in terms of basketball mastery won´t be at all surprised what he has been able to get out of his team in the last week. 11 days ago after the disappointing 85-72 loss which for many wasn´t untypical, the Fraport Skyliners and Philipp Scrubb had a long bus ride home and had a lot of soul searching to do already noticing in that game that they had the game to compete with Germany´s most famous team. A week later the ever so reserved Mr Canada Philip Scrubb had another long bus ride home, but this time he could probably sneak in the one or other smile after hearing a Robertson and Morrison joke, because the Fraport Skyliners were up in the best of five series 2-1. Who would have thought that at the start of the series? Many thought after the game two win in Frankfurt that they would see one last home game at home and then summer vacation would begin. Instead with the help of a furious 29 point third quarter that rescued the 2004 BBL champion from 18 down, they showed extended heart and won in Munich 86-83 with the help of a gigantic Scrubb trey with 18 seconds to go and overall 13 three´s that the club dropped as a shocked FC Bayern Munch were wondering when this nightmare would end? FC Bayern Munich CEO Marko Pesic had another annoying reminder just how dangerous a Philip Scrubb is in crunch-time moments. The Fraport Skyliners returned home with an ace up their sleeve having the momentum and ready for the knock out as FC Bayern Munich now had their backs to the wall and suddenly had to play their best basketball to survive and did crushing the Fraport Skyliners 85-50 forcing a game 5 on Thursday night in Munich.