The NCAA life can be very exciting, hectic and experience nourishing where at times a player can feel like a traveling salesman as you are in different cities each weekend playing the game you love while juggling classes somewhere in between. Since finishing his three year college career at California(NCAA) last spring, the last six months have been a real basketball adventure for Los Angeles native Justin Cobbs as traveling continued for him. He is a 23 year old 191cm guard that is a professional rookie as he has bounced around the States at NBA workouts over the summer, played NBA Summer League in Orlando with the Memphis Grizzlie, practiced with Laboral Kutxa Vitoria (Spain-Liga Endesa, was on the training camp roster of the Charlotte Hornets and already got a taste of early winter in Latvia getting experience with VEF Riga (Latvia-LBL) as having snow on Christmas day in Los Angeles is rare as you can go surfing on off Venice beach. His journey continued to Germany where he is currently playing with the Fraport Skyliners helping out their injury plague that has hit their point guard rotation of Richard Williams, Konstantin Klein and Max Merz.
Cobbs has been in Germany nearly a week and has helped in their current winning streak and has a perfect 2-0 record in Germany. After having only one practice under his belt, he stepped on the floor in Leipzig last weekend and steered 8 points in a huge 73-62 win. 11 hours after the win in Leipzig, Fraport Skyliner head coach Gordon Herbert had his team back on the court at their practice facility in Frankfurt for some light stretching. After being asked what his nickname is, the soft spoken American took a while to get his brain going, but after a slight pause answered, “you can call me the general”. Less than 48 hours later, Cobbs was all smiles after the massive 80-58 victory against Okapi Aalst of Belgium in Eurochallenge and you couldn’t call him a liar concerning his nickname as he poured in 20 points showing what he can do when he knows the plays and took over in the third quarter scoring 14 points and for the first time in 3 years was the first Skyliner that had that scoring explosiveness that Dashaun Wood had when he was the 2011 Beko BBL MVP for Frankfurt.
The Fraport Skyliners entered the Eurochallenge game with a 1-2 record and were facing a must win against Okapi Aalst that had a 3-0 record in international competition and it was Cobbs that stepped up and really played as if he had been with the team since the start of the season. He had only scored six points up to halftime as Frankfurt was trailing 38-34. In the third quarter, Cobbs took over and gave the pure general display going on a scoring outburst that would even had gotten the thumbs up from a Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors a team where the new Skyliner had worked out for last summer and current teammate Sean Armand who with the arrival of Cobbs has some of that scoring burden taken off his shoulder. “He fits in well and was under control and that is when good things happen. He is a very confident player, sees the flow and has a very high IQ. It all looks so easy because he makes the right plays”, stressed Sean Armand. After the game Skyliner Pro B player Marius Nolte was able to compare Cobbs to two Skyliners in look and play. “Cobbs helped us a lot tonight bringing us forward. He reminded me a lot in appearance to Michael Thompson and with his play on the court to Dashaun Wood the way he was able to take command when he wanted to”, added Paderborn native Marius Nolte. Cobbs made the whole basketball atmosphere on the court look so easy and at times it really seemed like he was at 70-80% and that he could shift his level of play up a few more gears. “A reason why it looks so easy is because Cobbs is great at changing the pace. At times he can rock you to sleep and then he can explode. He controlled the whole game with his play”, added Fraport Skyliner Mike Morrison. Being the type of general on the floor and showing how comfortable he was with his new team was also seen by his opponent. “Cobbs was the general for Frankfurt. He is a good player that knows when to find his teammates and when its his turn to score. It looked like he had been there for a while”, added ex Georgetown(NCAA) guard Justin Clark.
Cobbs started his basketball career at Bishop Montgomery High School in California averaging 20.4 points, 4.5 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game as a senior. There he played with Richard Soloman who also would play with him at Calfornia and now is in the Oklahoma Thunders organization. He led Bishop Montgomery High School to a second-place finish in the California Division IV Tournament and was named Most Valuable Player for CIF Division IV. After such an illustrious high school career he received the John R. Wooden High School Player of the Year Award for CIF Division IV. He went on to start his college career for Minnesota(NCAA) in 2009. He played 34 games averaging 2,1ppg and 1,3rpg. He scored a season-high seven points in a season-high 18 minutes in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals against Purdue. He played for well known head coach Tubby Smith who had coached nine years at Kentucky(NCAA), but Cobbs didn´t see eye to eye with the slow down system of his coach. Smith taught Cobbs what it took to compete at that level and getting important defensive principles. However Cobbs decided to move on and went to California where he finished his college career playing there from 2011-2014. At California he was able to get his offensive skills more into focus. He finished each season scoring in double figures and also displayed his ability of being a set up man never averaging less than 4,8apg there. As a senior he played 35 games: 15.6ppg, 2.9rpg, 5.8apg, FGP: 46.6%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 81.7%. Even though one could classify him as being a scoring point guard he actually is a pass first guard. His ex high school coach Doug Mitchell once said “If you tell Justin not to shoot because it is the best way for you to win, he won’t shoot,” and “If you tell him to take 30 shots, he’d do it. But his first instinct is always to set someone else up.” At California he built a vicious back court with current Port Trailblazer Allen Crabbe where many said that they were the best in the Pac 10. He helped lead California to the Elite 8 in the NIT tournament. He also played together with current Brooklyn Net Jorge Guiterrez who is the pride of Mexico and credited him to gaining the necessary leadership skills something that would explain why Cobbs has that general aura already as a rookie in Europe. Probably his two biggest moments was making a game winner at Oregon and hitting a sweet buzzer beater against then current NCAA number one team Arizona with a difficult fade away jumper in the corner in front of the California bench with the only thing missing was having fallen into the lap of head coach Mike Montgomery.Cobbs left a lasting impression as ex California player Leon Powe who played several years in the NBA and was drafted by the Boston Celtics cites the American as his favorite player at the university in the last years.
During the summer Cobbs worked out with various clubs like the Golden State Warriors and Washington Wizzards. It was a great time to get exposure and get that possible invitation to an NBA team training camp. After a short stint with Laboral Kutxa Vitoria (Spain-Liga Endesa) where current German national player and FC Barcelona player Tibor Pleiss played for two seasons, he finially got that desired call from the Charlotte Hornets (NBA) to come to training camp. He knew it wasn’t going to be easy there as he had extremely stiff competition from Kemba Walker and veteran Brian Roberts who made the NBA after many years in Germany with Bamberg back in 2012. “It was a tough situation. The club decided to keep the 35 year old veteran Jannero Pargo. I was the last cut”, stressed Justin Cobbs. Cobbs played a total of 9 minutes in pre season in losses against the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons never really being able to demonstrate his abilities. After his short breath of air in the NBA, he came back to Europe signing with VEF Riga (Latvia-LBL). However there he was unable to find his rhythm as coming over during the season is never easy having to get used to a new culture, system and language. His highlight was playing against top European club CSKA Moscow where he played 28 minutes scoring nine points in a 87-72 loss. He played against top European players like Sonny Weems, Aaron Jackson, Nando De Colo, Kyle Weems and got a taste of perhaps the best point guard in Europe with Milos Teodosic who scored 14 points. With VEF Riga he played VTB United League: 3 games: 3.0ppg, 2.3rpg, 1.7apg, 1.0spg; Eurocup: 4 games: 1.3ppg. It was a good first learning experience and now he is in Germany in the Beko BBL with the Fraport Skyliners. The arrival of Cobbs has come at a perfect time when the team is desperately seeking for a guy to be that general. With the club being so young and with a walking wounded list as long as the cue at the Viper room back in the day, Cobbs has brought a breath of young rookie fresh air and that first impression has been outstanding. The question is will Cobbs be able to bring that stellar play at a consistent rate. Fraport Skyliner Pro B player Marius Nolte warns not to get too hung up after one game. Cobbs now will have three more days to learn the plays, get better acquainted with his teammates on and off the court and just get that feeling of what Gordon Herbert wants on the court for him before the game against Braunschweig on Saturday. His buddy Richard Solomon remembers Cobbs as being a clumsy guy that would even knock over the simplist things like a glass water, but one thing is for sure, Cobbs isn’t clumsy on the court, but is a poised point guard that has everything under control like a general on the battlefield. Fans in the NCAA called Justin Cobbs at times A poor mans Derrick Rose when he decided to go on a shooting binge, but one thing is for sure the Fraport Skyliners are more than happy to have this poor mans Derrick Rose on the team and wont trade this pure basketball gem for anything at the moment.