15 minutes after the massive Eurocup win against big favorite Fiat Torino Fraport Skyliner Jason Clark most likely didn´t have any real specific play of the 45 minute battle in his head anymore, but moreover was still in awe after waiting in line for the traditional handshake. He congratulated big time players like two time NBA champion James Michael Mcadoo or ex NBA players Jamil Wilson and Tyshawn Taylor and probably didn´t even notice that another ex NBA player and Olympic Gold medalist Carlos Delfino of Argentina didn´t even make the trip because of an injury, but it was only normal that the American was only focused on one person, the legend Larry Brown. When he finally reached the ex NBA and NCAA champion Brown with Detroit and Kansas which must have felt like an eternity waiting in line that one could have wished to just bowl down the line of players with a huge bowling ball to finally get to the basketball legend. Clark wasn´t disappointed as the head coach uttered the flattering words which Clark will never forget with “That was a great game and you’re a hell of a player”. After a big win like that and getting possibly the most amazing compliment in his life, how does one return 72 hours later and react in the next huge game against ratiopharm Ulm in a do or die cup game where there is no return game, but that win or go home result. After the disappointing opening season loss in Ludwigsburg, the Fraport Skyliners returned and gave an impressive showing against highly favorite Fiat Torino winning 88-85. Frankfurt head coach Gordon Herbert didn´t have much time to let his players come down from that huge high over Brown and now they had to follow that up with a cup duel. The good news was that the Fraport Skyliners entered the game with a lot of momentum after the victory against Larry Brown while ratiopharm Ulm had lost their first Eurocup game against Crvena Zvezda 88-73. It is always a big battle when these two teams face off as who could forget the Frankfurt three OT win in 2012 in Ulm or the Ulm playoff series win in 2016. This cup dance was once again a vicious battle as it went to the wire and the Fraport Skyliners had numerous key figures executing like the duo of Heslip and Murphy who combined for 39 points and a rejuvenated Quantez Robertson who had been cold for three quarters and came alive down the stretch, but it was rookie Trae Bell-Haynes who gave the club incredible support in the last minute playing like a veteran and making key baskets to help Frankfurt reach the cup quarterfinals. After the big win a very content Jason Clark reflected on the 40 minute battle. “Both teams went at each other and it was a game of runs. We did a good job staying composed and staying solid on offense and defense. We had our ups and downs, but stuck together. Tez struggled, but came alive and Heslip and Bell-Haynes were huge. We did what we had to do as a team to get the win”, stressed Fraport Skyliner guard Jason Clark. Ratiopharm Ulm fled slowly out of the locker room to the bus and ex Radford(NCAA) standout Javonte Green was upbeat despite the loss and saw positives. “I thought we played well despite this being our third loss in a row. We played more together as a team tonight. We just didn´t put it together at the end. We had mental lapses on defense that cost us the game”, said Javonte Green.
If one were to put Fraport Skyliner identity figure Quantez Robertson and ex NBA player Toure Murray face to face at a table, it would be interesting to see how long it would take for the conversation to mention the word NBA. The NBA was never a reality for freak athlete Robertson who would have made it had offense been omitted from the game and defense been the only option while Murray made it to the big show playing parts of four seasons in the G-League and 53 games for the New York Knicks and Washington Bullets. There could be other topics like where the United States will go with Donald Trump, if the Houston Astros can repeat as World Series Champions as Murray hails from that city or if the Cincinnati Bengals where Robertson is from will ever win a Superbowl. But would the conversation ever get to the topic of which team´s start into the current EasyCredit BBL season was more surprising? It probably wouldn´t as American players are always joking and talking about home and other comical things, but in basketball Germany, this is a topic that has left many bewildered. No disrespect to Alba Berlin who have made a great comeback and start to this season after underachieving last season, but what ratiopharm Ulm and the Fraport Skyliners have produced in the early going have been the biggest surprises in the league so far. In a way the Fraport Skyliners and ratiopharm have traded roles if one remembered how they started last year. Fraport Skyliner Mike Morrison if confronted with this reference would just smile gently and with his pleasant Floridian tone reply with a funny and witty gesture concerning the undeniable strong team basketball that his club is displaying.
If you had been in a closet or taken a month vacation to the outback and been offline and returned back to Germany and checked the BBL standings and seen the 0-5 Ulm record most wouldn´t have believed it. How can such a deep and talented roster with so many scoring options not be 5-0 or at least 4-1? There are some reasons why the club has played under expectations.
Witnessing those special basketball playoff head to head battles is something that is always appetizing for any fanatic watching the intense focus of both guys giving 180% on both ends of the court until full exhaustion. The NBA has had these amazing and unique duels seemingly forever as it is always a pleasure to look back on these NBA legends making history. In the 60´s, you had the fierce battles between the two best centers of all-time with Boston Celtic Bill Russell and Mr 100 points Wilt Chamberlain with the Celtic winning in 1964 and 1969 in seven games amassing 11 titles in his career while Chamberlain only could boast having two NBA rings. In the 70´s a fondly remembered duel was Chamberlain against New York Knick Willis Reed who had 37 and 38 points in the first games, but only four points in game seven, but it was enough to win the 1970 final despite Chamberlain averaging 23 points and hauling down 24 rebounds in the series. The 80s had two unforgettable duels with the most famous possibly the 1984 classic Bird vs Magic encounter where both owned the court where their teammates could have easily taken the bench and watched the two legends fight it out to the finish which Bird won in seven and the 1988 match up between Isaiah Thomas and the bad boys of Detroit against Magic and the Lakers and despite 43 points by Thomas in game 6, the Lakers won the title. In the 90´s few will forget the 1992 battle between Michael Jordan and Clyde Drexler and the Trailblazers pitting the leagues best two shooting guards, but Drexler´s supporting cast couldn´t match Jordan´s as the Bulls won. In this decade the 2012 duel between Lebron James and Kevin Durant is a classic as the best player on the planet finally won his first NBA title with the Miami Heat while Durant might get his first in a few weeks. Even if the easyCredit BBL is far from the NBA, even here there have been incredible head to head battle over the years and last season in the quarterfinals, the EWE Baskets Oldenburg faced off against up and coming team ratiopharm Ulm as the last three games were decided by a combined total of only 9 points. Two BBL identity figure players Ricky Paulding and Per Guenther had the games of their lives where Per Guenther dropped 35 points and dished out nine assists in game two while Paulding had 26 points in the loss. In game three, Paulding dropped 30 points in the win while Guenther had 16 points and eight assists. In game 4, Paulding had 16 points in the 80-79 loss while Guenther was held in check with six points, but his front court of Raymar Morgan and Augustine Rubit combined for 45 points to send Oldenburg into summer vacation. Now a year later and with Paulding at age 34 and Guenther at age 29 and not getting any younger, both are back again facing off against each other on a big stage for the ticket to the final, but despite Pauldings loss last season to Guenther, he still leads their head to head title chase at 2-0 while the German has the Buffalo Bill phobia with 4 final appearances and still yearning for that first title.
The EWE Baskets Oldenburg marched into the quarterfinal playoffs not getting buried in the mega hoopla of the surprising successful medi Bayreuth season and jumped on them taking a 2-0 series lead seemingly quicker than Oldenburg legend Ricky Paulding could ever utter the phrase “Ich Bin Ein Oldenburger” in Japanese.
It must have been Déjà vu for Chris Babb last Sunday when he possibly caught the first quarter of his ex team Boston Celtics with whom he played 14 NBA games for in the 2013-2014 season as they somehow allowed the Washington Wizards to lead 16-0 in the first quarter in game one. It has been almost been four months since the bitter Ratiopharm Ulm cup loss to current playoff opponent the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg that dashed their hopes of the Cup Top 4 final and technically was their first loss of the season, but didn´t interfere with their 25 game BBL regular season winning streak that ended against FC Bayern Munich on April 8. Just like in Boston, ratiopharm Ulm had a horrible first quarter in the cup affair against Ludwigsburg being scoreless for seven minutes and mustering only 7 points and allowing 21 points. In Boston the mighty Isaiah Thomas who has had his real break out season this year and easily belongs to the top 5 point guards in the NBA had a painful experience losing his tooth, but that was exactly what he needed as well as his team to get out of this woeful period and he sucked up the strain with adrenaline and dropped 33 points to help his team to the victory. In game two, he didn´t need another lost tooth as he exploded for 53 points the most points in a playoff game since Allen Iverson´s 55 in 2003. Babb who learned his basketball trade at iowa(NCAA) never played a NBA minute with Isaiah Thomas, but joined the Boston Celtics on April 12 2015 again after spending the season in the D-league with Maine and witnessed the last 6 Celtic games of the season from the bench including five against the Cleveland Cavaliars which included the 4 game sweep against Boston. Thomas was a known player in the NBA and already showed signs of becoming a superstar dropping 34 points against the Detroit Pistons. Babb probably already knew in his mind two years ago that Thomas had the potential to get to where he is now. If ratiopharm Ulm ever have a slow start in a playoff game or are suffering a very down period, Chris Babb will surely remember the Isaiah Thomas tooth caper in Boston. He also will recall how Thomas rebounded from a 3-26 shooting span against Chicago in the last three games and rebound against Washington to shoot almost 50% from outside and with or without a painful experience use that as fuel to his advantage when he is on the court to get his team out of a jam especially with his three pointer as he is shooting 42,9% from the parking lot.
The season of ratiopharm Ulm so far has been like a Cinderella story even if the club has belonged to the top 5 teams in the BBL for years, but the fewest people would have ever believed that they could flirt with an undefeated season except for maybe head coach Thorsten Leibenath and manager Thomas Stoll.
Braydon Hobbs is a 27 year old 196cm point guard playing his third season in Germany and first with ratiopharm Ulm. Last season he played for the Giessen 46ers playing 33 games averaging 10.5ppg, 5.2rpg, 4.8apg, Steals-3(1.7spg), FGP: 49.1%, 3PT: 42.2%, FT: 86.8%. Two seasons ago he played for rent4office Nuernberg (Germany-ProA) where he averaged 11,9ppg, 4.1rpg, Assists-4(5.9apg), Steals-2(1.9spg), FGP: 55.8%, 3PT: 40.8%, FT: 82.4% . He started his basketball career in 2008 with Bellarmine (NCAA2) playing a total of 133 games. He turned professional in 2012 and played for Caceres Basket (Spain-LEB Gold, starting five): 35 games: 7.1ppg, 2.8rpg, 1.9apg, 1.6spg, FGP: 41.9%, 3PT: 34.7%, FT: 87.9%. In 2013-2014 he played for Alba Fehervar (Hungary-A Division, starting five): Eurocup: 10 games: 11.9ppg, 3.1rpg, 3.6apg, 1.7spg, FGP: 40.4%, 3PT: 52.3%; Hungarian League: 32 games: 9.1ppg, 4.2rpg, 3.4apg, Steals-2(2.3spg), FGP: 52.8%, 3PT: 32.7%, FT: 72.7%. He also played three summers professionally in Australia. He spoke to German Hoops before the game against the Fraport Skyliners.
Braydon thanks for talking to German HoopsYou have spent your third Easter in a row in Germany. What have you learned to appreciate most about Easter in Germany that you haven´t had in the States?
Easter is always a good time of year, whether I’m in the US or in Germany. I appreciate the time I get with my family here in Germany though. A lot of the stores are closed on Friday and then again on Monday so it gives me a lot of time to spend with the family at home.
After winning 26 games in a row, you lost to FC Bayern Munich recently, but since beat Wurzburg and Giessen. Is basketball life back to normal in Ulm?
Basketball life is definitely back to normal after the loss. It was a tough loss, but I think we have responded in the right way.
Braydon Hobbs is a 27 year old 196cm point guard playing his third season in Germany and first with ratiopharm Ulm. Last season he played for the Giessen 46ers playing 33 games averaging 10.5ppg, 5.2rpg, 4.8apg, Steals-3(1.7spg), FGP: 49.1%, 3PT: 42.2%, FT: 86.8%. Two seasons ago he played for rent4office Nuernberg (Germany-ProA) where he averaged 11,9ppg, 4.1rpg, Assists-4(5.9apg), Steals-2(1.9spg), FGP: 55.8%, 3PT: 40.8%, FT: 82.4% . He started his basketball career in 2008 with Bellarmine (NCAA2) playing a total of 133 games. He turned professional in 2012 and played for Caceres Basket (Spain-LEB Gold, starting five): 35 games: 7.1ppg, 2.8rpg, 1.9apg, 1.6spg, FGP: 41.9%, 3PT: 34.7%, FT: 87.9%. In 2013-2014 he played for Alba Fehervar (Hungary-A Division, starting five): Eurocup: 10 games: 11.9ppg, 3.1rpg, 3.6apg, 1.7spg, FGP: 40.4%, 3PT: 52.3%; Hungarian League: 32 games: 9.1ppg, 4.2rpg, 3.4apg, Steals-2(2.3spg), FGP: 52.8%, 3PT: 32.7%, FT: 72.7%. He also played three summers professionally in Australia. He spoke to German Hoops after the 84-74 win against Science City Jena last week.
Congrats Braydon on the 84-74 win Jena. Another BBL game and another win putting the team at 9-0. Would this undefeated season feel any better if the Brose Baskets Bamberg weren´t present?
The start to the season has been great for us. I don’t think it would be any different if Bamberg wasn’t in the competition.
With a long summer with no BBL basketball upon us where some days seemed longer and duller than a half hour doctor´s appointment, the last meeting between ratiopharm ulm and the Fraport Skyliners seemingly is like an eternity for some. However the game four loss in Ulm was only a little more than four months ago while the last win for Frankfurt against ratiopharm Ulm in game one at home was almost five months ago. For some peculiar reasons, the Fraport Skyliners enter their first meeting in the Fraport arena in the 2016-2017 season with a unique parallel with their game one meeting with ratiopharm Ulm in last seasons playoffs. In the 2015-2016 playoffs, the Fraport Skyliners entered the semi-finals of the playoffs against ratiopharm Ulm with unending confidence as they rudely kicked out 8 time BBL champion Alba Berlin with the good old broom sweeping them leaving Serbian basketball legend and three time European champion Sasa Obradovic with a sour taste and paving the way for the end of his coaching reign in Berlin. However against ratiopharm Ulm, the Fraport Skyliners were also rudely awaited by their opponent as they didn´t expect the hard edge competition that German national player Per Guenther and co gave them. Many say that had Frankfurt won game one, they might have reached the final, but instead they were outplayed in overtime and Per Guenther scorched them with two three pointers paving the road to the final. Today the Fraport Skyliners welcomed ratiopharm Ulm on a high with immense self-confidence as after a lack luster 0-2 start finally found a bit too their game building a three game winning streak disposing of Bremerhaven, Alba Berlin again and the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg 48 hours ago. Ratiopharm Ulm also arrived in the living room of the Fraport Skyliners with a 4-0 season start, but remembered a disappointing 95-58 loss in Valencia in their first Eurocup game this week, but then again had a Per Guenther who also remembered the damage he did in the playoffs last season. The Fraport Skyliners didn´t celebrate a happy end in their own living room this time as they lost for the fourth time in the last five games against ratiophram Ulm and had their chances, but overall were unable to execute properly down the stretch and had their problems on the boards. After the loss a dejected Quantez Robertson had little revenge thoughts on his mind and couldn´t even sneak a smile about the possibility of visiting the famous Monte Carlo Casino in the next days before their Champions League game against Monaco. “I had last seasons playoff loss to Ulm pretty much out of my mind. It´s a new season with a new group of guys. I may have had more thoughts about that playoff loss had we had the same guys from last season back again this season. I know the outcome would definitely been different. I won´t see a casino. I will get rest so we will be ready to execute our game plan against Monaco”, stressed Fraport Skyliner guard Quantez Robertson. It wasn´t the best offensive game of ratiopharm Ulm as Frankfurt kept them to 19 points under their season average, but defensively they made steps as they kept Frankfurt well under their season average of 89 points. “This was a grind out game. We didn´t really execute the way we wanted to on offense and defense and how we did in the first four games. I feel we rebounded well, but had too many turnovers. I felt that we did a good job fighting and sticking together through tough phases”, stressed ratiopharm Ulm guard Braydon Hobbs. “We didn´t communicate well on defense and didn´t rebound the ball well either. I thought that Mahir Agva was a big spark off the bench. He played an all around good game”, added ex Auburn(NCAA) guard Quantez Robertson.
In his first two professional season´s Chris Babb could pf probably mapped out the best fast food stops on the two hour drive from Portland to Boston via Waltham, the training facility of the Boston Celtics as he was a consistent member of D-league team the Maine Red Claws, but also had his stints with the NBA club as he played a total of 14 games for the Boston Celtics and 80 games for Maine. Despite getting his experience in the big show, learning as a rookie from ex ratiopharm Ulm coach Mike Taylor as well as getting important pointers last season from Brad Stevens about always being ready and being that perfect practice player as well as getting those insightful pieces of information from Jeff Green and Rajon Rondo, his NBA dream was put on hold as he came to Europe to demonstrate his game in Germany for ratiopharm Ulm. He did remember how vital these two NBA players were for his early development phase as a player. “I had a great experience with both guys. In my first NBA minutes, Rondo made sure to run the first plays for me so I could get up some shots and get confidence. Green took me under his wing from the start. We played the same position and I could always go to him for advice. It was important for me to be able to watch him play and pick up the little things. It was just a huge experience for me to be able to watch him play”, stressed Chris Babb. Sometimes guys that come from the NBA to Europe stay forever here and never return or there are those like a PJ Tucker in the past that return. If one would have to give a prediction about the future of Chris Babb, one could just say somewhere in between. Babb came over in November 2014 and since then has showed why he played in the NBA and why there is no reason why he can´t return. Last season ratiopharm Ulm was stinking up BBL arena´s in the first weeks as they were giving underachieving a totally new name, but then came the arrival of Chris Babb who turned that whole season around as the team reacted and won 13 of the next 14 games and continued to impress all season rolling into the playoffs and upsetting Oldenburg and Frankfurt to reaching the final where they were swept by the Brose Baskets Bamberg. Even having played in the NBA, there were no signs of ego form his side, but moreover respect and manners how to handle himself concerning the success of Ulm. “I think that after we won our first few games, it was an overall confidence thing that helped the team in the winning streak. Guys started to fall into their roles and we learned what it took to win games”, warned Chris Babb. Last season he played 32 games averaging 10.3ppg, 4.0rpg, 3.2apg, FGP: 41.1%, 3PT: 36.9%, FT: 82.7%,Babb didn´t get cocky and fall in to that mindscape that I was the reason why we won, and resigned with the team to take his game and ratiopharm Ulm to possibly the next step this season. Even if ratiopharm Ulm haven´t found their defensive principles yet as they have allowed an average of 89 points in the first three games, they are still 4-0 and have given Phoenix Hagen some competition in regards to being able to win shoot outs on a regular basis as their 99 points per game has proven that. Babb has been superb, up to now as he is averaging 19,8ppg, 5,3rpg, 2,5apg and 1,0spg while shooting a spectacular 56,0% from outside. Babb seems to be on a mission this season and will try to go a step further from last season and help bring a title to Ulm. At the moment his mind is in Ulm, but there is most likely something else in his heart. “I think that there is a possibility to go back and try the NBA route. My goal is obviously always to try to get back to the NBA, but I won´t force it. If the opportunity presents itself, I will definitely consider it. I could see myself making a career in Europe, but I am not counting out the NBA yet”, warned Chris Babb. Even if he remains cool about the NBA, one is sure that he has the NBA letters somewhere next to BBL and ratiopharm Ulm in his mind vault.
Usually the last game on a tournament weekend means final time baby where the big time players write history and tragic hero´s can be born as well. However at the Gezeiten Haus Cup in Rhondorf that had seen Northeastern(NCAA) and the Iranian national team and Dirk Bauermann withdraw, the 2016 Basketball Aid international tour had to scramble and find replacements and did with Pro B team Bochum that played on Saturday while the Hebeisen White Wings Hanau fought against top BBL team ratiopharm Ulm in the second game on Sunday that may have been meaningless in the final title game atmosphere and was just another routine test game, but for some players, this game had other meanings when bringing teammates rookie Brian Sullivan and Till Joscha Joenke into the picture. For both players this was another game, but deep down it was another test that had different meanings for both. For Sullivan, he isn´t only another one of thousands that hail from the basketball talented state of Ohio, but it was a game where he could really measure himself against top rate guards and ratiopharm Ulm boasted a handful of them. Sullivan had faced top guards game in and game out in the tough Atlantic 10 conference at Davidson and now he had the chance to battle top German point guard Per Guenther, ex Boston Celtic Chris Babb and Braydon Hobbs who like Sullivan had to prove himself in the Pro A two seasons ago with Nurnberg. Sullivan as always was in attack mode on every possession and nailed home two three pointers early finishing with eight points, but overall had his difficulty with the swarm of annoying ratiopharm Ulm guards as the Hebeisen White Wings were destroyed by ratiopharm Ulm 82-46. “It was a good challenge and a good experience going against their guards. I could see how a Chris Babb reads ball screens and how he defended me. I also learned that their guards don´t tend to force anything and let the game come to them. The guards in Germany have a good feel for the game while in the States the guards tend to focus on getting buckets”, stressed ex Davidson(NCAA) guard Brian Sullivan. Joenke on the other hand wanted to show his ex team ratiopharm Ulm where he played from 2012-2014 playing 38 BBL games and 10 Eurocup games that he had developed further in the last two years with the Walter Tigers Tuebingen and last season with the Hebeisen White Wings. After the rout, Joenke was slithering his way back to the bus and had Ulm and his past less on his mind, but rather was content about playing against top competition. “It is always good to see people from the past. I was roommates with Per Guenther for two years and still have a good relationship with Thorsten Leibenath. This was a difficult game, because we had played three games in four days. My role is to play the one and when you lose by 36 points, it doesn´t show that we did a good job. For us it was important to play against top level competition, because we can see where we made mistakes and how we should correct our mistakes”, warned ex Bayer Giants Leverkusen guard Till Joscha Joenke. Both Sullivan and Joenke want to play a successful season with Hanau and help lead the club to the playoffs while one could see himself playing in the BBL for the first time in the future while the other has claimed that he wants to return back one day as well.
It may only be pre-season, but unforgettable and sour playoff memories can linger on for any player even if it is almost three months ago when the Fraport Skyliners were rudely booted out of the semi-finals by ratiopharm Ulm like a hurricane does any small Florida town that had the misfortune of being hit. ratiopharm Ulm identity figure and national player per Guenther and Konstantin Klein might separate only one cm and three kilo´s to the advantage of the Berlin native Klein, but can that one Fiba Europe Cup title erase some of the uncomfortable memories of the 3-1 playoff series loss for the Telekom Baskets Bonn guard? Guenther let his quickness and sharp shooting speak for him when it counted most in game one and game four. In game one Guenther hit two back breaking trey´s in OT and shooting 6/7 from the parking lot ending with 19 points while in game four he had the hot hand again leading the team to the final with 18 points and four three´s. For Klein, the series was one to forget as he played only 48 minutes in the four game series while contributing a bit with 8 points in 23 minutes in the game three 85-54 win in Frankfurt. After a four year stay with the Fraport Skyliners where he developed nicely, but had injury problems and consistency issues was in the shadow of the twin towers Johannes Voigtmann and Danilo Barthel now has moved on to the Telekom Baskets Bonn to start a new chapter in his basketball career. Klein is looking to play a significant role in the guard rotation of head coach Silvano Poropat and had the chance to get some pre-season revenge on Guenther again as both battled in a highly anticipated game during the Basketball Aid International tour that had set up shop at the 2016 Gezeiten haus cup in Rhondorf. Klein got revenge on Guenther for the playoff loss helping the Telekom Baskets Bonn escape a late comeback attempt by ratiopharm Ulm to win 77-74. The German isn´t only aggressive on the floor, but also when it comes to answering questions about his ex club Frankfurt or new horizons with Bonn, he is very edgy and one notices that he has a gigantic chip on his shoulder and wants to prove something this season with Bonn. “It was nice to win against Ulm. I still think about the series loss to Ulm with Frankfurt and probably will still remember it when I am 80, but it is a new season and life goes on. I am as motivated as I was the last seasons with Frankfurt and feel I always have to prove something. I am happy to be in Bonn. It is a good situation and I am looking forward to having a good season”, warned Konstantin Klein.