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.
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.
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.
The last weeks before the FC Bayern Munich playoff series have been at times a disgusting roller coaster ride for the Fraport Skyliners and for a Philip Scrubb he might already have completed a short season ending vacation to Paris or secretly been in Munich for a meal with Marko Pesic concerning lucrative bucks for next season and been back in Ottawa where he is in the offseason and already getting up extra shots in preparation for next season had the club lost their last regular season home to Science City Jena which they were very close to doing after a seemingly curse was erased by the basketball God as three mishaps were rewarded by defensive stops and a Shawn Huff shot saved their season. Two weeks later the Fraport Skyliners aren´t at home digesting a second non playoff season and wondering where they would be with a Jordan Theodore, but are back at their basketball home Fraport arena with seemingly help from the basketball God again as they sit in the driver´s seat having an amazing and really unbelievable 2-1 game lead against Germany´s most famous sports club FC Bayern Munich and can end their season that had very high expectations on Tuesday with a victory. But then again is this really a miracle, because over the years Gordon Herbert has time in and time out shown what he can master even when the odds look bleaker than a tornado filled Oklahoma sky and produce success. He has showed again how he can get the best out of each player at the right moments and how his pinpoint scouting can bring an experienced and so talented team like FC Bayern Munich to unending riddles to how they can counter react when Frankfurt makes a successful adjustment. No matter how this series ends, the Fraport Skyliners should follow Science City Jena and do what they did for Bjoern Harmsen and give him a indefinite contract. He deserves it because he lives for the Fraport Skyliners even if his back would rather decline comment on the matter. Maybe Gordon Herbert is a basketball God in disguise. The last week, he surely has driven his team to go above and beyond, but can they make that last step and slam the door on this season best and most successful team FC Bayern Munich?
If there is anyone in Frankfurt basketball country that had the audacity to say now that they had predicted a Fraport Skyliners series win, they are most likely lying. I have been a staunch believer in the masterful work of head coach Gordon Herbert over the years, but as this series with FC Bayern Munich approached, I saw no hope in this team surviving against Jared Cunningham, Devin Booker, Danilo Barthel and co. I predicted an easy sweep by FC Bayern Munich and then corrected myself giving them possibly one win already remembering that the Fraport Skyliners had won games against FC Bayern Munich in the past and had won game 2 in their living room in the 2015 series. I just wanted to be on the safe side, but my inner thoughts were flooded with sweep, sweep, sweep for the Bavarian side. It was a normal basketball reaction from me as basketball reality was staring in my face. How could I predict a Fraport Skyliners series win after seeing Frankfurt stink up the house against Science City Jena and being crushed in Berlin as the team suffered one of it´s worst defeats in franchise history.
16 hours after the Fraport Skyliners had lost game one in Munich, the team had already had their post game cool down in their training facility BCM in Frankfurt and some guys exited the gym with Quantez Robertson, Tai Webster, Jordan Sibert and Mike Morrison who were in a good mood especially the latter with the Florida native who when he saw my Boston Red Sox shirt started to marvel about the amazing game three finish by the Boston Celtics. They had won on the expertise of possible NBA coach of the year Brad Stevens as the 17 time NBA champion last second inbounds play as ex NCAA champion with Florida Al Horford created a mismatch hauled down the lob and made the difficult basket for the win. That game three started at the time where the Fraport Skyliners were journeying back to Frankfurt on the bus trying to digest the tough 85-72 loss so it was more than likely that many of the players tuned into the NBA thriller to help pass the time and help forget the 21 point effort by Vladimir Lucic. The Fraport Skyliners came out to a quick 12-3 lead and played a solid first half, but overtime couldn´t handle the overpowering Munich team as they produced less points each quarter as they watched the favorite be able to play their game and dominate the boards and ease by them with their pinpoint shooting accuracy when they needed it most. The Fraport Skyliners needed a win desperately at home to salvage some kind of leverage going back to Munich and not having their backs to the wall down 0-2. In a way the Fraport Skyliner´s situation was a bit like the Celtics, who also were the underdog against the Philadelphia 76ers. Possibly the Fraport Skyliners could remember some of that energy and excitement the Boston Club presented on that bitter Saturday night as they were coming home from the bitter loss and they could possibly take some of their spirit and create extra toughness to give the Bavarian side a game that they would never forget. The Fraport Skyliners came to play and controlled the game for 40 minutes even if FC Bayern Munich was always on their doorstep, the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup teams slammed the door on the faces of the Bavarian team countless times with big shots that denied the opponent to get over the hump winning 75-69. After the win, Mr Canada Philipp Scrubb who´s beard had gotten a bit bushier since game one reflected on the big win. “Key today wasn´t only that we had many guys hit key shots at the right time, but also got rebounds and stops at the right time. When they went on a run and we lost energy, it was our bench that really stepped up. Bonga, Sibert and Huff were huge”, stressed Fraport Skyliner guard Philipp Scrubb. FC Bayern Munich snuck out of the locker room one by one, but ex Giessen 46er and Mr game changer Braydon Hobbs gave his reflection why his team was unable to go home with a 2-0 series advantage. “We have to give Frankfurt credit. They played good defense and we lacked the needed energy. When you score only 69 points, it won´t be easy to win games”, stressed FC Bayern Munich guard Braydon Hobbs. Fraport Skyliner head coach Gordon Herbert didn´t leave the Boston Celtics subject totally untouched and gave his two cents to how a NBA coaching poll of coaches didn´t give one single vote to Brad Stevens for coach of the year. “I don´t know how that can be, but I like to take things from his coaching style”, smiled Gordon Herbert.
March 23 2018 might not be a date that FC Bayern Munich basketball fans will remember in 10 years, but the name Scottie Wilbekin will forever be linked in their basketball history as the guy who presented a lethal shooting clinic at the most inappropriate time blocking the team´s Eurocup run to the final. If you had just arrived in the Audi Dome on that fateful night of March 23rd and had the worst seat in the house and had forgotten your glasses, the 188cm guard who was rifling home jumpers left and right while then head coach Sasa Dordevic was scrambling to find the right defender to stop this annoying shooting rage, one may have thought that the Turkish team Darussafaka had given NBA superstar Steph Curry a one game contract. Not only does Wilbekin look a little like the Golden State NBA champion, but is also close to his size at 188cm and has a nasty habit of dropping trey´s as easily as it is for an American tourist to be holed up all evening at a typical Brauhaus Beer hall in downtown Munich. Wilbekin didn´t get the all-time Eurocup scoring record as that is held by Randy Duck of the Brighton Bears in 2003 with 49 points, but Wilbekin´s 41 points was 5th best in it´s history and in good company with guys like American Mire Chatman and NBA player Bobby Brown with 43 and 44 points. One could say Wilbekin shot Darussafaka to the Eurocup final as he scored 24 points in the first game and in all hit FC Bayern Munich for 65 points in the two game series. Wilbekin will try to win a second title in Turkey to add to his Eurocup chip, but with the Fraport Skyliners facing FC Bayern Munich in the playoffs, FC Bayern Munich Marko Pesic max be feeling some déjà vu again and wondering if his stomach will be ready to take on a possible new shooting clinic from Mr Canada Philip Scrubb. Scrubb has been a shooter his whole career and shoots the ball with authority the way Shaq dunked back in the day. He comes into the playoffs shooting 47% from outside and even when his shot doesn´t fall, it is hardly ever a bad shot, but so close that one has to wonder when the day will come when he will have a 10/10 or better performance from outside. Recently Scrubb had 25 points at the break against Bamberg and was so hot everyone was expecting 40 plus points, but the defense closed him down better in the second half and finished with 33 points. In two loses to FC Bayern Munich this season Scrubb finished with 16 and 23 points. Scrubb has the ability to match a Wilbekin 41 points game and as he has shown so often this season might have to take things into his own hands in this series when the team needs instant scoring over a long stretch. If Scrubb can have a Wilbekin like shooting clinic in this series isn´t known yet, but if he does start with a 18-20 first half scoring onslaught in game one, it could be bombs away and then it will be interesting to see if Marko Pesic starts a nonstop finger nail chewing contest. If anything the 2018 easyCredit leading scorer Philip Scrubb will be on Pesic´s mind during and after the series win or lose as this Canadian national player will most likely be on his summer shopping list for next season.
Even FC Bayern Munich had some typical FC Hollywood moments this season with the peak of head coach Sasa Dordevic being dismissed after the Eurocup semi-final loss, they have been able to keep it together on the court this season as they didn´t encounter another Scottie Wilbekin type player this season as they finished in first place with a record of 31-3. They started off well with winning their first three games, but then surprisingly lost at home to Wurzburg and ex coach Dirk Bauermann. However that didn´t faze Germany´s most famous sports team as they then steam rolled the competition in the BBL and Eurocup. In the BBL, they won 20 games in a row and found a clear identity on offense just totally overpowering opponents with their scoring machine scoring 80 points or more 16 times. It also helped that they had a certain established team chemistry as they had held on to 7 players. They also did a good job bringing in the missing pieces that were able to strengthen the already very strong roster. Their powerful offense has led to nine players averaging more than 7,0ppg and their second five are often stronger than other teams´s starting five. They are very well fortified at every position and have that added athletic presence that team´s can´t match up to.