There were times for the s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg where one could proudly walz through the streets of the Bavarian city over the Alte Mainbrucke bridge over the main river and just sit and skip some pebbles over the calm water and be proud of the Beko BBL team that had just reached the playoffs for the first time under the new name. It got even better for the team of 2010 Eurochallenge winner John Patrick when they upset 8 time Beko BBL champion Alba Berlin in the playoffs. One had rarely seen a pile of superstars like Beko BBL MVP Dashaun Wood, ex NBA player Kyle Weaver, German national player Heiko Schaffartzik, Mr ballerina Derrick Allen with such hanging heads that even the bear of Berlin who greets visitors as they drive into the city would have hurled his ample dinner of fish on to the street. Times were good, but then came the shock as John Patrick had to go and from then on there was a roller coaster ride for the organization as it went from the top and just kept sliding down and down to reaching rock bottom this season. One of the biggest mistakes that the club did was letting guru master mind of their success John Patrick go. Under the guidance of young head coach Marcel Schoeder, the team last season never fully reached their potential despite having a solid roster and with some misfortune missed the playoffs on the last game day. There were games where the team played excellent, but then again games where one was thinking what the hell is going on the court with this talented team that they can´t play together. This season, Marcel Schroeder went into his second campaign as head coach and was greeted with a big plump losing streak and was only able to win one game in nine tries before he got the ax. Their only win was against Bremerhaven and it seemed like the inability to win close games at the start altered their self confidence in a way that wasn´t fixable. Wurzburg lost to Phoenix Hagen, MBC and ratiopharm Ulm by only a combined score of 12 points. With massive pressure by the fans, management had to make a decision and let go Marcel Schroeder and exchanged him for well known German head coach Stefan Koch. Koch comes to Wurzburg in a less known role as fireman needing to save the team and season. Koch last coach the Artland Dragons for three seasons always reaching the playoffs, but had fans muttering at the end, “playoffs, but no cigar” to their misery. Since the arrival of Koch, it has gotten better especially the way they started as the team won three of their first four under the guidance of the Giessen native beating Bonn, Ludwigsburg and Tuebingen. All in all, Koch has done a solid job leading the team to a 7-9 record. They aren´t out of the mess yet, but Wurzburg keeps battling each weekend and will need to continue so if they want to be breathing Beko BBL air next season. The team chemistry seemed to have had a rift and Koch needed to make changes as Americans Tweety Carter, Lamont Mack and Jamal Boykins had to depart. Koch found very solid substitutes with point guard Dominic Waters who has shown his playmaking ability while having a knack to score when he has to and forward Marcellus Somerville that gives the team stability in the zone. “I would have a tough time listing things Stefan Koch brings to us that has caused our improvement. In all honesty, we couldn’t get much worse than the start we had to this season. But we have proven winners on this team and it was bound to get better. I don’t think we had the right combination of players on the team at the start of the season for the way our former coach wanted to play. And once the management got their situation all figured out we were able to bring in a coach and some new players that bought into what we wanted to do. Marcellus Sommerville has been a great improvement. John Little and Ben Jacobson, who played against him in college, were instrumental in getting him here because they knew what a warrior he was. Guys with mentalities like that will always help a team. It’s a matter of pride. And that’s been the biggest improvement with Maxi Kleber. He takes pride in proving that he’s one of the best players in this league. As of late he’s really made it his mission to do all of the intangibles that will result in team success. And that’s what we need to stay in this league. The individual commitment to a group effort. That’s what makes a team work. It’s amazing how much can be accomplished when it doesn’t matter who gets the credit”, warned s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg center Jason Boone.
With the competition getting tougher and tougher each season and top teams like FC Bayern Munich, Brose Baskets Bamberg, Alba Berlin and the EWE Baskets Oldenburg seemingly playing in their own league, one might have predicted and stated the usual blab about the Artland Dragons that they surely will make the playoffs, but exited very early as has mostly been the case in the last years. The Artland Dragons have always had strong rosters, but in the playoffs always lacked suitable mental toughness and that playoff chemistry that the top teams had developed. Ever since 8 champion head coach Chris Fleming brought the only win in 2008 with the cup in Hamburg, the village town of Quackenbrück have concentrated themselves more on planning those weekend excursions to beautiful places and grasping nature instead of the loud basketball arenas deep into May. What Thorsten Leibenath and Stefan Koch couldn´t do in bringing that second title now lies on the shoulders of Tyrone Mccoy. Mccoy had a long basketball career where he was best known for being a scorer and becoming that first superstar to wear an Oldenburg jersey and that last missed layup in Leverkusen in 2008 that gave the Deutsche Bank Skyliners the ticket to the semifinals in the playoffs. Mccoy who will be coaching his second game against his ex team Frankfurt didn´t just become a head coach by flashing his big smile, but had to move up through the coaching ranks as he was two years assistant in Ludwigsburg and the last three years in Artland under Stefan Koch. There can´t really be a better way than to learn the ropes than under experienced Koch. The Artland Dragons started off hot winning seven of their first eight games, but have struggled a bit as of late having a 4-4 record, but they did win two nail bitters with a 83-82 win against medi bayreuth and a 74-72 victory against the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven. The job hasn´t been totally easy for the ex Gmunden player since he did have some players to work with who had been on the team the last years, but also got new players like Lawrence Hill, Antonio Graves, Chad Toppert, Kenny Frease and Bastian Doreth. However he has found a way to mesh those new characters with the new ones that have blended together rather sooner than later. A big plus was bringing back Americans David Holston and Brandon Thomas who know the club and coach. These two players will be the key, if the Artland Dragons want to make some playoff damage this May. Mccoy also has been beneficial to his players for example an Anthony King that made a step in Cyprus and now also in Artland and hopes to make the next step with Mccoy to another basketball dimension. “There were many doubters who didn´t think that coach Mccoy could do job as a rookie coach and playing in Eurocup, but coach and we have done a great job at being successful. A big strength is that we are mentally tough. We won almost every close game in the first half. I am more of a leader now. Coach Mccoy taught me to be more of a leader last year and I have carried it into this season. I am not very vocal, but lead by example. I think my consistency also has helped in my development. He has really believed in my three ball. I feel more confident shooting the three and I don´t hesitate taking that shot. It all has to do with repetition and taking the time to shoot extra. I want to take the next step and I want to be a five man on an Euroleague team and I need the three to earn the respect”, warned North Carolina native Anthony King. The Artland Dragons can make the next step in the Beko BBL playoffs and might want to take a page out of the book of Bamberg and Chris Fleming in that they need to develop further as the season progresses. That has been one of the pluses that Bamberg continue to do each season and this is something that Artland could do if the players continue to take in what McCoy has been giving them.
Sometimes returning back to an ex team can be the simplest of things like it is spreading butter and jam on toast for breakfast or a hardcore soccer fan refusing to wear a FC Bayern Munich jersey. Players returning back to teams isn´t so usual, but it does happen and especially going back to the Artland Dragons isn´t strange as players like Adam Hess and Brandon Thomas have done it. When it was clear that tyrese Rice wasn´t going to return, how nice was it as the club announced that David Holston would be returning. Holston may only be 167cm and look like a cute teddy bear, but his game is anything but cute, but all basketball business. In his season with the Dragons, he was the best point guard in the Beko BBL being fourth in scoring, second in assists and second best pass giver in Eurochallenge play. With Artland in the Beko BBL he averaged 15.3ppg), 3.0rpg, Assists-2(5.6apg), 1.3spg, FGP: 49.7%, 3PT: 36.3%, FT: 88.2%; EuroCup Qualifications: 2 games: 6.5ppg, 2.0rpg, 4.5apg; EuroChallenge: 13 games: 12.2ppg, 3.3rpg, Assists-2(6.3apg), Steals-2(1.8spg), FGP: 39.1%, 3PT: 35.2%, FT: 73.9% Who could forget his amazing one on one duel against Je kel Foster where both players kept trading buckets while their teammates were out on a stroll to count if there are more white or black cows. Last season he returned back to Turkey where he had played before his first stay with Artland from 2009-2011. Last season he played for Mersin Buyuksehir Belediyesi (Turkey-TBL) playing 29 games: 14.8ppg, 2.8rpg, 4.2apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 49.1%, 3PT: 37.4%, FT: 79.1%. However it isn´t always that an ex player returns back to his former stomping ground, but Holston seems very comfortable in Quackebruck has another solid supporting cast and it will be interesting to see if he can have similar team success as the first time? “David Holston will be a big factor again with the success of the Artland Dragons with his strong one on one qualities and the ability to take control of the game in deciding moments”, stressed basketball agent and ex Artland Dragon Jan Rhodewald. Bonn guard Andrej Mangold remembers Holston from two years ago and agrees that the journey of Artland starts and ends with a strong Holston. “David Holston is surely one of the best point guards in the league and can decide a tight game in important situations which he did against FC Bayern Munich. He is hard to defend, because he is small and quick, but can also nail the three pointer. Holston has gained more experience and the Dragons started very well and are a playoff team. Where Artland ends their seasons will depend on the play of Holston”, warned Andrej Mangold.