In the last years a meeting between Frankfurt and Ludwigsburg in the latter half of the regular season could have had top game billing in the easyCredit BBL, but now nearing mid February the two teams came together for a showdown and when looking at all the games this weekend, this particular battle was just be a normal game. There is always great interest in the two men in black coaches Gordon Herbert and John Patrick who like to done black suits. So much can happen in a season when two teams personal changes and suddenly the usual wins that both clubs have been used to suddenly change as loses rain down like afternoon showers in the dog days of summer in Waco, Texas. Both clubs have been playing under expectations as the Fraport Skyliner head coach Gordon Herbert didn´t have his magic wan like in recent seasons as new players didn´t mesh while with the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg, John Patrick once again produced a very deep roster, but the club hasn´t been consistent and was still looking for a very sound team chemistry. That led to a nine and six game losing streaks and an early departure form the Basketball Champions League where they reached the playoffs the last two seasons and even got to the Final 4 last year. The Fraport Skyliners haven´t meshed together either, but the massive injury bug has plagued them as they still haven´t found that team chemistry that can lead a team to success. They did play well in the Eurocup reaching the next round, but then bowed out in ugly fashion with a 0-6 record. The duel on Sunday in Frankfurt was a season changer for both teams as a victory could be that needed push to get both teams going again. Both teams gave a fierce battle as runs were on the menu all day long and at the end it came down to one last possession that the guests made winning 96-94. After the big win, game top scorer Marcos Knight was calm and not overly excited, but when your coming off a big losing streak, one has to take everything slowly including taming one´s own emotions. “We played as a team and fought hard for 40 minutes. We managed to play good defense when times got tough. We did a good job exploiting the mis matches. We have to build off this win as we go into the next games”, stressed forward Marcos Knight. For the Fraport Skyliners it was another game of many this season that they could have won, but in the end just couldn´t make that one vital stop to get into good position to win the game. “We fought hard and matched their intensity in the first quarter. It worked well until the second quarter where it got to us. They took us out of our offense and forced us to take tough shots. I felt we were able to handle their intensity and pressure well as we had many guys taking the ball up. Coach Herbert told us before the game that this game wouldn´t be about x´s and o´s, but more about playing against their 1-1 play. They really got to us when we switched and they were able to attack our big guys. We didn´t do a good job helping each other”, warned ex Georgetown(NCAA) guard Jason Clark. Not to forget the combined 51 points of Crawford and Knight earning them their own show name was key for the win as well as their individual abilities of scoring the ball one on one is something seldom seen as dominantly in the BBL as they displayed yesterday.
Ok so legendary German coach Dirk Bauermann was already sporting the man in black suits in the 90´s with the Bayer Giants Leverkusen and kept the trend in Bamberg more than 10 years ago. Bauermann was briefly back in the easyCredit BBL with Wurzburg, but vanished again, but one guy who has kept the Bauermann look alive and kept in trendy over the last 10 years has been MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg head coach John Patrick. The only difference is that there is no black and grey hair matching the suit as was the case with Bauermann, but light hair that match his yellow Riesen tie nicely. Patrick without a doubt belongs to the most consistent and best coaches the BBL has seen in the last 10 years even if he won only one title while other guys like Chris Fleming and Andrea Trinchieri could fill their living room shelf with hardware. The reason he belongs to the best is because he has been so consistent everywhere he has coached from Goettingen to Ludwigsburg via Wurzburg having a limited budget in Goettingen and bringing along unknown players that would reach the next levels as professionals. He totally turned around a weak franchise in Goettingen bringing them to the BBL and topping off his run with the 2010 Eurochallenge title. In Wurzburg he was only active one season, but there reached the playoffs kicking out Alba Berlin and having a John Little who stole the limelight from the 2010 BBL MVP Dashaun Wood who couldn´t lead his team past Wurzburg. In Goettingen and Wurzburg, he was able to achieve success despite having a limited budget and really one of his secrets to success was simply having that killer instinct for reeling in the right type of player for each position with playing skills and character being at one level. His coaching consistency and brilliance continued now in Ludwigsburg where he came to in January 2013 and was a fireman saving their season and keeping the club in the league and the rest is history. The MHP Riesen have without a doubt belonged to the best teams in the BBL in the last five years after the big three of Bamberg, Berlin and Munich. His track record in the last five has been excellent as he had three eighth finishes, finished fifth once and last season had their best regular season finishing in third. The club also reached the semi-finals of the playoffs for only the third time in their history. Another huge accomplishment last season was reaching the Basketball Champions League final 4 where they simply had a rough weekend finishing in fourth place. Granted with the MHP Riesen, the American who played at Stanford(NCAA) has had a lot better budgets given to him in Ludwigsburg and had many top players like DJ Kennedy, Jack Cooley or Coby Karl over the years, but that last step and winning a title has eluded the coaching mastermind. When will the Man in black suit finally be rewarded with a title? As is the case for so many other BBL teams, the best bet will be in the cup. Patrick and Co will travel back to his old stomping ground Goettingen. If he can escape with a victory, he will only need three more wins for the title. He surely will have his team ready again for the Basketball Champions League and should get far and in the BBL, he has delivered on a consistent basis. His style of playing aggressive full court terror agitates most teams and it works for him. The only road block could be that he lost many key players from last seasons success and will have to begin from scratch. He guarantees success each season and just following the club this season will be worth the while, because he will be successful again and for that title to happen only the basketball God will know if it will finally become reality.
Never count out a John Patrick no matter what the circumstances are. The American experienced coach who has no difficulty having a sound conversation in German at anytime has shown it over and over in his career no matter where he has coached that he is capable of not only building a talented team, but also be able to mesh each player´s qualities together so they function properly on the court at a consistent rate. Not too mention not always having a sufficient budget to operate from, he consistently gets the most out of what he has to work with. The ex Stanford(NCAA) player displayed his coaching expertise bringing BG Goettingen to the BBL and reaching the playoffs at a consistent rate while topping his run off with the Eurochallnege title in 2010 and also discovering guys like John Little, Chris Oliver, Kyle Bailey and Taylor Rochestie and putting them on the basketball map. With s.Oliver Wurzburg he led the team into the playoffs and upset Alba Berlin in the 2012 playoffs. He came and saved the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in 2013 being a fireman and since then has led the organization into the playoffs five consecutive times. So when the 2018 Basketball Champions League Final 4 were completed and nobody witnessed the big smile of Thomas Walkup on the winner´s podium, but instead a dejected team escaping Athens with a disappointing fourth place finish, many might of thought that the club would return home and have difficulty erasing the weekend blues from Greece. Ok so my 3-0 FC Bayern Munich prediction over the Fraport Skyliners made me eat my words and now I´m officially going to eat my words again after my medi Bayreuth-MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg prediction of 3-2. I have to be honest, I always believed that John Patrick and co would beat the Bavarian squad 3-0, because I have always believed and respected Patrick´s work but wanted to be right had a medi Bayreuth upset occurred. Shame on me! How could that ever have happened. John Patrick is a coaching master and once again showed how quickly he could transform a dejected squad to a focused team. With the amazing 3-0 sweep of medi Bayreuth, Patrick was able to reach the semi-finals for only the second time in his career. The question now is can he keep the team momentum going and upset the mighty Alba Berlin that has a core of snipers that could possibly outgun the Golden State Warriors with them having a semi cold night. Never count out a John Patrick no matter what the circumstances are, because if you do then you will get bit in the butt quicker than a David Mccray reflex can lead to a steal and transition bucket.
The road to the easyCredit BBL semi-finals wasn´t as easy for Alba Berlin and in no means a cake walk as they had to tough out an exciting 5 game series against the Ewe Baskets Oldenburg where each team won their home games. Alba Berlin went into the series with the EWE Baskets as the heavy favorite not only with their incredible regular season, but also because how the underdog had presented itself in the last weeks. But as one had seen last season, when you have a Rickey Paulding you always have a chance a she showed last season against Bayreuth and Ulm. The 2009 BBL champion didn´t hide their faces in the sand, but really came to play. In the first two games, Alba Berlin were far away from being a fourth best defensive team in the league as the EWE Baskets Oldenburg averaged 96 points per game 20 more than what Alba Berlin allowed all season. It was no secret that both teams can put up points quickly and both did. However Alba Berlin was able to make good adjustments after every loss and let up less points each home game while never really losing consistency on offense as they averaged 92 points in the high scoring series.
It was supposed to be the big weekend for the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in Athens with the perfect story book ending with the club returning home with the 2018 Basketball Champions League title bringing some added special prestige to the 87,000 populated city of Ludwigsburg, giving the club only the 5th international German club title, bringing the versatile Thomas Walkup some added elevation in his stock as he is on the verge of the NBA and Euroleague and bringing head coach John Patrick another step up into the elite coaching corner in Germany as his development of the club in the last years has not only deserved unending praise, but the utmost respect as his work is exemplary, but instead the team returned home without a title and only a disappointing fourth place finish as they lost both games. The most satisfying aspect the club most likely could bring back to German soil was having had a free 48 hour vacation in the breathtaking city of Athens as a visit off the court to the famous Akropolis which is as much of a must see as it is visiting the Residenzschloss in Ludwigsburg and on the court having the pleasure and opportunity of witnessing the amazing Oaka Olympic Indoor Hall that seats 18,989 crazy and loud fans that make an arena visit so unforgettable that just being there for a game can supply exciting stories for a lifetime that could easily overshadow any incredible play, amazing shot, no look pass or crushing dunk seem like an absolute side note. Perhaps the unbelievable energy level and noise level of the OAKA arena could of doused the intense thoughts of head coach John Patrick at times after the loss in the arena, but then again his competitive nature most likely didn´t let him. The MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg lost their semi-final game to the French squad Monaco on Friday night 87-65 that boasted ex Alba Berlin center Elmedin Kikanovic and played a solid first half, but lost their rhythm in the second half getting outscored 51-27 and had problems taking care of the ball. One of the worst things about a final 4 tournament is losing in the semi-final and having to play that unwanted game for third place. Instead of hiding your head in the sand and then flying home quickly, one has to remain and battle the unending thoughts about what went wrong in the semi-final and what could have been done better to win as well as try to focus on winning the game for third place. The German club were unable to salvage at least one positive thing on the court and went home 0-2 losing to Spanish side Murcia 85-74 as they got killed on the boards as the injured Justin Sears really was missed. Instead of leaving Athens on a massive high, the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg have to shift gears now and get ready fast for the easyCredit BBL playoffs as they meet tough opponent medi Bayreuth. Can the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg forget their disappointing Athens weekend on the court and be ready for medi Bayreuth, or will they suffer a second heartbreak in a row? Anyone that knows John Patrick, knows that he is a fighter and will have his torn and battered club ready for medi Bayreuth and not fall over and wilt like a flower.
It was an incredible season for the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in the easyCredit BBl as they finished in third place with a record of 26-8 which was their best record dating back to the surprise second place finish in the 2006-2007 season. It was also the most successful season for John Patrick with the MHP Riesen as coach as he had two eighth place finishes and one fifth place in 2015-2016. They started well winning 8 of their first 9 games, but then had a little drought losing 2 of three games getting beat by Munich and Wurzburg. Then they were back to their old consistent ways winning 11 of 13 games, but did get swept by FC Bayern Munich. They finished the season with a 5-3 record losing to teams like Bamberg and Alba Berlin. John Patrick did a great job being able to build a strong team that quickly found their chemistry and their roles as he almost completely added new players as the only guy from last season was veteran David Mccray.
It was an extremely fierce back and forth battle between the Fraport Skyliners and the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg this season in Frankfurt up to halftime, but in the third quarter, Frankfurt started to pull away leading 72-63 and it looked like the game flow and result would go as usual at home for the 2004 BBL champion with a win, but there was a reddish/blond player who had other ideas on the court. He had a trim and in control beard that wasn´t as out of control as at SF Austin two years ago and unruly like a Sergio Rodriguez. The player that did the damage and heroics for the MHP Riesen was American Thomas Walkup who had grown an outrageous big beard in his senior season at SF Austin during the NCAA run and still smiles today when he is reminded about it. “I don´t miss anything about it, but it was awesome while I had it. It was my trademark then even it was more of a joke. It was fun while it lasted, but that had it´s time in college”, added Thomas Walkup. The American had had some huge games in the BBL this season against Alba Berlin and Science City Jena with 22 points apiece, but what he performed in Frankfurt was his best game as a professional in Germany. He led his team on a 15-1 run to get back into the game and closed out the game in Jordan like or Curry like fashion putting seemingly his own special like patent on the word scoring in bunches and scoring his team´s last five baskets in a row and making his name not so quickly forgotten in the Fraport arena. He finished with an amazing 27 points on the night the most he has had as a player in Europe, but also displayed his usual versatile game and filled up the stat sheet with eight rebounds, three assists and three steals. He probably served up Fraport Skyliners head coach Gordon Herbert added mind games that evening wondering why he may not have had him on the radar like a John Patrick may have last summer. The amazing thing with Walkup´s points at the end, was that they weren´t mostly open shots, but difficult shots and plays where he had to show his wonderful one on one and scoring in traffic abilities. His scoring was top, he helped out where it hurts most on the boards, made big defensive plays and yes put a little breath of Larry Bird into the arena with his precise and beautiful passing. On one play he had the ball on the sideline and without flinching quickly gunned the ball inside to an open David Mccray for the easy lay up before the Frankfurt defense could even react. “That was a good pass. We had a mix up on defense. He had the sense to figure out before he got the ball to make the pass when he got it”, stressed Philip Scrubb who is a fine passer himself. That pass also proved that he has a very good basketball IQ and sense where his teammates are. The 88-80 win against Frankfurt was just one of so many games this season where the American has shown his brilliant basketball abilities and the guy is on a mission. Even if he was careful in his choice of words, Walkup is a major competitor and knows exactly where his basketball future is going. ““The basketball world is so connected that you can play anywhere in Europe and still be on a NBA team´s radar. I am playing good ball now after not playing as well last season. I will just continue to keep working and see where it takes me”, warned Thomas Walkup. “We have played a lot of games this season and Tom has been a scoring machine in a lot of them. Against Frankfurt he carried the team through the fourth quarter on offense. He showed how big of an impact he can make on a game”, stressed teammate and roommate at road games Adam Waleskowski. Walkup pretty much knows where he wants to go, but first he has to take care of business with the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg before the NBA comes calling.
Thomas Walkup is a 25 year old 193cm shooting guard/small forward that was born in Pasadena, Texas. He played his high school ball at Deer Park and already at a young age had to battle injuries as he suffered two ACL injuries, but he got past these hardships with his dedication and hard work. In his senior year, he averaged 25,9ppg and 8,9rpg. Despite these stellar stats, it seemed like there wasn´t so much interest from division one schools, but he always wanted to play in the NCAA tournament so going to the division 2 was never an option for him. He also didn´t seem to be as confident in his game coming out of high school, but his experience at SF Austin would not only change his mentality, but his game. As a freshman he was still learning the ropes at the NCAA level and wasn´t much of a factor averaging only 4.4ppg, 3.6rpg, 1.3apg. However from his sophomore season until the end, he would make big strides in his game being able to improve his scoring, rebounding, assists and steal percentages each season. One could also see his development and consistency in his last three seasons as he not only scored in double figures 80 times in 131 games, but he won the Southland conference title from 2014-2016 and also garnered the MVP award three times.
It is always a special basketball treat when one sees two basketball minds and two top coaches in the easyCredit BBL with Gordon Herbert and John Patrick go head to head on the sidelines and since the 2010-2011 season where Herbert was coach with Alba Berlin and the Fraport Skyliners while Patrick was head coach with BG Goettingen, Wurzburg and now Ludwigsburg, the two have had some intense battles as the current record stands at 10-10. Herbert won the first five duels, but Patrick is 10-5 since that first season where Frankfurt had BG Goettingen´s number. But not only watching the best two coaches bark the commands and witness how the players execute is a delight, but also seeing each team´s best player go head to head. That unfortunately didn´t happen in the return game in Frankfurt as Thomas Walkup was on the court, but Frankfurt´s best player Philip Scrubb was not. One can argue all day long as to who are each team´s best players, but these two surely would get a good share of the votes. Scrubb showed as a rookie two seasons ago why many in Canada called him the best Canadian college player ever as his high IQ, scoring and passing game made many Skyliner fans´s two hour basketball experience a very enjoyable time. This season Scrubb heightened his game as Frankfurt was hit with the injury bug and he had to really show his scoring gene and did being the leagues top scorer, but a knee injury put him out of action again. The MHP Riesen have many talented players, but of all Thomas Walkup may go the farthest. He came from a lesser known school SF Austin, but made a name of himself scoring 33 points against West Virginia and 22 points in his last NCAA game against Notre Dame. Many basketball experts saw him as a guy that could fit the mold of the New look NBA as a versatile player that can do a bit of everything which isn´t always appreciated from clubs at that level, but the American impressed. “The basketball world is so connected that you can play anywhere in Europe and still be on a NBA team´s radar. I am playing good ball now after not playing as well last season. I will just continue to keep working and see where it takes me”, warned Thomas Walkup. But instead of landing in the NBA, he played a season with the Windy City Bulls (D-League) playing 40 games averaging 7.6ppg, 3.9rpg, 3.4apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 53.4%, 3PT: 28.2%, FT: 84.5%.. He put the NBA on the back burner and is concentrating on his game and help Ludwigsburg get a title. He has put up impressive stats as he understands how to fill the stat sheet and really has improved his shooting from downtown averaging 42% in the BBL and BCL competitions. Not only his stellar all-around play has rubbed off on his teammates, but also his winning mentality that has allowed them to be an early BCL title candidate and his hidden strength of having that important winning mentality also has been key. In the first meeting with the Fraport Skyliners, the MHP Riesen toppled Frankfurt 79-62 as he led all scorers with 19 points and while they keyed in on Scrubb limiting him to six points on 1/7 shooting. The Fraport Skyliners had a lot of revenge on their minds as they welcomed the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg into their living room and for three quarters looked like they might win, but couldn´t handle Thomas Walkup as he stole the show from Tai Webster pouring in 27 points and scored 12 of the last 14 Ludwigsburg points propelling them to the come from behind 88-81 win.
Sometimes the basketball world can be so small as the day after the horrible loss to Alba Berlin a week into the new year 2018, I was flying over to the States for my annual visit with my family over the all star break and I remember getting ready to say farewell to my son at the area where one disappears and is on it´s way to the departure gate at Frankfurt airport. I remember having to look twice as I didn´t see an Eintracht Frankfurt jersey or FC Barcelona of a fan, but one of a German easyCredit BBL club. I remember wondering wow nice to see a MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg fan roaming Frankfurt airport. I quickly realized that was no fan wearing the club´s attire, but top American player Thomas Walkup who walked by me not knowing I had interviewed him once on the phone. A little less than a week earlier I had interviewed him before a game in Oldenburg. I had never met him in person, so when finding out who he was came another “wow what a small world” moment. He didn´t hesitate to mention that his parents had adored the question answer session with him. Quickly I saw more players turn up with the likes of Kerron Johnson, Adam Waleskowski, Dwayne Evans and all the rest. Soon I found out, I would be on the same flight to Copenhagen, Denmark before our ways would separate as I would be heading over the big pond to Boston and Walkup and co would be heading to Lithuania for a Basketball Champions League game the next night. With all the players slowly appearing, head coach John Patrick couldn´t be far away I thought. After a short, but as always interesting and entertaining chit chat with Adam Waleskowski on our way to the boarding gate, I soon recognized John Patrick who was relaxing in a corner. As I approached him, I remembered many encounters I had over the years with him the first being in the 2007-2008 season either in the Fraport arena or Lok Halle. He looked more tired than his players as his eyes looked bigger than usual. I had learned the club had traveled to Frankfurt during the last night following the home loss to Alba Berlin so they would have less of a hike in the morning to catch their flight to Lithuania from Frankfurt. I didn´t ask about where the tiredness came from, but a logical explanation surely could have been that he had been up the last hours trying to digest the loss to Alba Berlin via video. After a short talk we flew to Copenhagen. Then when we were in Denmark, our ways crossed again as this time I had some further chit chat with the 2010 Eurochallenge winning coach and as always our topic was basketball and the big German talents Isaac Bonga of Frankfurt and Ariel Hukporti of the MHP Riesen. His eyes had become more normal as the morning was winding down and his body was getting used to the regular day routine that he has had as a coach since entering the BBL in 2007. 48 hours later he was already on his way back to Germany having experienced a solid 87-71 win over Neptunas. This was just another short chapter in the successful basketball coaching career of John Patrick who is a perfectionist that has that first title for the MHP Riesen lurking in his rear view mirror.