Putting a smile on little children´s faces is something anybody should have joy doing as a gift in a toy store is always a common jaw breaker or wide smile bringer to the ruddy face of any little child. The abundance of toys that one could seek at FAO Schwarz in New York on fifth avenue is mindboggling, but especially that life size teddy bear could always be that first best friend for a diminutive tyke. You won´t find a FAO Schwarz store on main street in Quackenbrück in the Artland, but one doesn´t even have to travel to Osnabruck or Bremen to find that adorable teddy bear in a toy store, but can witness the most loveable teddy bear with the slickest moves, crispist playmaking skills and unending scoring ability on the basketball court in the Artland arena. I am referring to pint-sized 168cm Pontiac, Michigan native David Holston. He would never be astray on the basketball floor, but can get lost in the shuffle in the Telekom Dome in Bonn last season during the 2014 Beko BBL allstar game where he was sitting in the stands and could easily have been mistaken for the son of an older player like a Darius Hall or Wendell Alexis simply because he looks like a kid. He may look like that cute teddy bear, but Holston belongs to the top point guards in the league and is all business on the court the way Yogi bear would hounding anybody for some honey. The American has spent his professional basketball career in Europe in only two places in Turkey and in Germany. He spent his first two seasons with Pinar Karsiyaka SK Izmir (Turkey-TBL) and in 2011-2012 came to Germany to the Artland Dragons and had a super season playing German League: 40 games: Score-4(15.3ppg), 3.0rpg, Assists-2(5.6apg), 1.3spg, FGP: 49.7%, 3PT: 36.3%, FT: 88.2%; and EuroChallenge: 13 games: 12.2ppg, 3.3rpg, Assists-2(6.3apg), Steals-2(1.8spg), FGP: 39.1%, 3PT: 35.2%, FT: 73.9%. IN 2012-2013 he returned back to Turkey to play for Mersin Buyuksehir Belediyesi. Last season he came back to Germany to Artland playing Eurocup 9 games: 8.8ppg, 2.1rpg, 4.0apg, FGP: 45.5%, 3PT: 44.4%; German League: 41 games: 11.5ppg, 2.8rpg, 4.3apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 47.8%, 3PT: 36.1%, FT: 83.9%. Instead of fleeing back to Turkey, he decided to remain with the Dragons for a second consecutive season. It seems that after too much spicy Adana Kebab, he has chosen the rich cuisine of the Artland speciality Spargel and the continuing development of the Beko BBL. After having a huge first campaign with Artland, his stats slipped a bit last season, but he is ready to conquer the Beko BBL again this season. As usual the Artland Dragons are packed with unending talent and Holston is chef on the court. Holston is still seeking his first professional title and it doesn´t get any easier with the growing dominance of FC Bayern Munich. Holston is a competitor that plays to win and won´t experience any opponents swooning over his teddy bear image, but moreover getting annoyed time in and time out about the next cross over, steal, tip toeing to the bucket and just having to search for their jock strap over and over. Holston has a great supporting cast and doesn´t need to score 25 points a night, but his leadership and playmaking will be key to how well the Artland Dragons fare this season. “I love David’s fighting spirit and he is a good teammate. David makes big shots in the fourth quarter all the time. It always surprises me how he gets shots off when we need him to”, stressed Artland Dragon forward Lawrence Hill.
The Artland Dragons continue to be a club that is stocked tight with great players each season and belong to the top five teams in terms of depth, but in the end in the playoffs when everything is on the line, they are unable to get over the hump and get past the top teams like a FC Bayern Munich, Bamberg or Alba Berlin. It has been like this for years and with each passing season, the 2008 cup win in Hamburg against Ludwigsburg and only hardware in the history of the organization, the wait seems as endless as anyone being tortured in a monkey ditch at a zoo after falling in by mistake. In the last four seasons the club have finished in 4th place twice and in sixth and seventh place. Last season the team was on the right way as rookie head coach Tyron Mccoy more than earned his pay check for halting the Bamberg dynasty from winning a fifth consecutive title kicking them out 3-1 and then taking Alba Berlin to four tough games. Had they won game one which they lost 81-79 in OT, then they would have had a 2-0 game lead and then they may have skipped to the finals to meet FC Bayern Munich. During the regular season they beat Munich, Berlin and Bamberg so they definitely had some practice, but now the team needs to learn how to beat these top clubs in a five game series which is never simple since the playoffs are a completely new season. Head coach Tyron Mccoy as always had an offensive arsenal to work with, but also carved out a well-oiled defensive structure as the team played defense well for most of the season keeping teams to under 70 points nine times.
Tyron Mccoy did a splendid job not messing with last seasons chemistry and trying to keep as many players intact as possible and did just that keeping nine players and with 29 year old Anthony King and Guido Grunheid going into their fourth season with the team. Just when one thinks that the off season can be a time to catch a small breather, Miami native King really had the club work hard to keep him for a fourth season as for months there was unending speculation where he could end up. King has improved his scoring each season with Artland and really was a guy that they couldn´t or wanted to lose no matter what the price was. Last season King played Eurocup 8 games: 10.4ppg, 5.1rpg, 2.1apg, FGP: 50.7%, 3PT: 50.0%, FT: 57.1%; German League: 40 games: 11.9ppg, 6.4rpg, 1.6apg, FGP: 48.2%, 3PT: 36.4%, FT: 80.8%. Grunheid is a veteran that is the reliable bench player that has won six titles with Alba Berlin and one with Cologne. Last season the the 32 year old 208cm German played Eurocup: 9 games: 5.4ppg, 3.0rpg, FGP: 60.0%, 3PT: 30.0%, FT: 50.0%; German League: 32 games: 2.9ppg, 3.0rpg. The club also held guys like Lawrence Hill who was able to make the transition from Israel to Germany and was so valuable as an inside out player and was third best three point shooter last season in the league. The 27 year old 203cm forward from Arizona who played at Stanford with NBA player Landry Fields and the Lopez twins has much experience having also played in Mexico and the D-league. Last season Hill played Eurocup: 9 games: 9.2ppg, 5.4rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 38.5%, FT: 72.2%; German League: 41 games: 11.9ppg, 6.3rpg, 1.4apg, FGP: 53.0%, 3PT-3(48.7%), FT: 69.9%
The club also held on to American Antonio Graves who had a solid season, but Mccoy surely is awaiting a bigger jump this season from him who has had experience in Turkey, France and Italy. Last season the 29 year old 191cm guard played Eurocup: 9 games: 6.6ppg, 2.9apg, FGP: 41.7%, 3PT: 31.8%, FT: 80.0%; German League: 42 games: 9.7ppg, 1.8rpg, 3.1apg, FGP: 42.0%, 3PT: 35.8%, FT: 81.4%. Brandon Thomas may be 30 and may be in his prime now and is playing his third season for the team. His all around play, scoring(3rd best FG% last season in BBL) and leadership are his biggest attributes. After a rookie season in Denmark where he led the league in scoring and averaging 20ppg in Austria in his second season, he has been a consistent and strong Beko BBL player since 2009 where he led Braunschweig into the playoffs twice. Last season he played Eurocup: 10 games: 11.1ppg, 3.6rpg, 1.9apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 64.3%, 3PT: 28.9%, FT: 85.7%; German League: 38 games: 12.1ppg, 3.9rpg, 2.3apg, FGP-3(64.1%), 3PT: 31.9%, FT: 65.3%. The team also held on to sharp shooter Chad Toppert who when he is hot can cool down the dungeon of Toby the dragon. The club is hoping for more consistency from the New Mexico native this season. After playing three seasons for CAI Zaragoza (Spain-ACB) where he played 106 games, he came to Artland last season and played Eurocup: 9 games: 6.7ppg, 2.8rpg, FGP: 31.3%, 3PT: 42.1%, FT: 50.0%; German League: 42 games: 6.2ppg, 2.1rpg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 43.8%, FT: 90.0%.
The club also held on to German national player Bastian Doreth where one always knows what you get with his controlled point guard play and never ending fierce defense. Shave off the beard and dye his hair black and you have a second Konstantin Klein. After playing with Bamberg, Trier and FC Bayern Munich, the 25 year old 182cm guard will be playing his second season under Mccoy and last season played Eurocup 10 games: 3.7ppg, 1.4rpg, 3.3apg; German League: 37 games: 4.1ppg, 1.4rpg, 1.9apg. The team added four new players including David Holston as well as Andreas SEiferth who was the clubs biggest and most interesting pick up. Seiferth is a 25 year old 209cm center that is a German national player. He learned the basketball trade in with Alba Berlin and then played three season for TBB Trier where 1993 NCAA champion Henrik Rodl gave him time to develop. He improved his stats each season and last season played 31 games: 11.8ppg, 4.9rpg, FGP: 58.2%, FT: 65.1%. Ex NBA player Dennis Horner. This is the second tour of duty for the 26 year old 206cm from New Jersey in Quackenbruck after playing three games in 2012. His NBA train after 8 games with the New Jersey Nets may have been derailed and now he is focusing on Europe. Last season he had strong stats in the D-league with the Springfield Armor (D-League) playing 29 games: 15.0ppg, 6.1rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 51.6%, 3PT: 31.0%, FT: 80.8%, in Feb.’14 traded to Bakersfield Jam (D-League) playing 18 games: 12.6ppg, 8.0rpg, 1.6apg, FGP: 50.4%, 3PT: 39.0%, FT: 70.9%. Mccoy adds another dimension to the defense with David Mccray. After playing in Ludwigsburg and Bonn, he is looking to make the next step in Artland. You match up Mccray and Doreth against Richie Williams and Konstantin Klein in a defensive battle, you probably won´t find a winner as one will have to let the mascots Tobi the dragon and Dunking Kong battle it out or just toss a coin. Last season with Bonn Mccray played Eurocup: 10 games: 4.9ppg, 1.5rpg, 1.5apg; German League: 39 games: 4.7ppg, 1.2rpg, 1.0apg. The club also added German journey man Tim Schwarz who played 22 Beko BBL games in 2010-2011 with Giessen, but mostly has German pro A experience.Last season the German played for BG Karlsruhe (ProA) playing 28 games: 8.8ppg, 4.1rpg, FGP: 49.5%, 3PT: 35.3%, FT: 87.5%. It is never easy to compare rosters from other seasons, but this should be stronger than last season´s simply because of the personal kept and growing chemistry. The club won´t change much from last season as the club will score many points as usual and the focus will be to defend consistently and have team work functioning. One knows what one will get form a Holston, Thomas and Hill, but it will be time for other players to step up even more than last season. Toppert and Graves are formidable candidates for the teams x-factor. Lawrence Hill talks about the teams strength, playing time and x factor-“We’re versatile inside and out and we all know each other very well.Our job is to be ready to do what we can when we have the chance. It’s not our place to worry about playing time. We all can help the team. Our team has a different x factor for every game. It depends on our scouting and how we plan to attack”, warned Lawrence Hill.
The Frankfurt Skyliners have a 9-9 record since 2005 playing against the Artland Dragons and during 2005-2007 Frankfurt losing all four games including being outscored in the Artland arena 172-129. However, the tide turned for the better from 2007-2009 as The Deutsche Bank Skyliners had a 3-1 record. Four years ago, they celebrated a very big emotional win 87-75 winning in overtime as captain Pascal Roller sparked Frankfurt to the win with 26 points. two seasons ago on the last day, Frankfurt lacked spirit and were beaten in every phase of the game losing 90-69. In 2009-2010, the team lost a thriller 77-76 in Artland as Frankfurt staged one of their famous comebacks despite a late Pascal Roller three pointer, it wasn´t enough as they lost. Frankfurt was able to win at home 77-65 as Pascal Roller scored 20 points. Frankfurt won their first show down in 2010-2011 on the road winning 82-56 coming out of half time with a 24-8 run to easily win. Frankfurt was led by AJ Moye with 18 points and six rebounds and fans will remember a crashing dunk by ex NBA player Roger Powell. Frankfurt also won their home encounter 83-72 as Dashaun Wood had a Derrick Rose type of game making 29 points, 9 assists, five rebounds and four steals. The team lost a meaningless cup game in Bamberg against Artland where both teams played for third place and Frankfurt was without Dashaun Wood. Last season, both teams played a defensive classic in Frankfurt as Artland won 49-44. Frankfurt returned to Artland winning 66-60 as Jimmy Mckinney led the scoring with 15 points and ex NBA player Jermario Davidson had 13 points, six rebounds and six blocks. Two seasons ago, the Artland Dragons won their first meeting with the Artland Dragons 89-80 as American Larry Wright who had scored 27 points in the pre season against Wurzburg showed again his shooting touch scoring 21 points. Dion Dowell and Quantez Robertson added 16 points a piece in the offense surge and Bryce Taylor led Quackenbruck with 21 points. In the return game, the Artland Dragons got revenge putting up the defensive blocade winning 62-58 as ex Skyliner Anthony King showed his baby Shaq mood scoring 16 points and grabbing 11 boards. Ex Skyliner Brad Buckmann contributed 14 points and 13 rebounds. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Quantez Robertson with 23 points and 14 rebounds while Zach Peacock chipped in with 19 points. Last season the teams split the season series. The Fraport Skyliners won their home game 89-74 as Andrew Rautins had a hot night connecting for 24 points and six three pointers. Danilo Barthel added 18 points. The Artland Dragons were led by Lawrence Hill with 20 points. In the return game, Artland won 83-77 as the Fraport Skyliners lost one of their many games in crunch time and also had no idea how to run Chad Toppert cold as he had 21 points hitting 7/8 three pointers. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Johannes Voigtmann with 18 points and Jarred Dubois contributed 17 points. Not only is it 10 to midnight in Cuxhaven, but also in Frankfurt for the Skyliners. They are sitting in 18th place and the last time the team was in the cellar so deep was back in 2005. The club just needs to win and have to go game by game. The club has been defending well the last 2 times on the road in Bremerhaven and Bayreuth and will need to do that again in Artland. All they need is to get some fire power going on offense. Perhaps Sean Armand can be their Cody Toppert on Saturday?