Even if the normal basketball fan still watches in amusement during games about what exactly Alba Berlin head coach Sasa Obradovic means with his bizarre hand gestures on the sidelines where one could at times think he has invented a new art of sign language, CEO Marco Baldi as well as the players know exactly what he is trying to communicate. Ever since the three time Euro winner as a player arrived in Berlin in 2012, the play and success of Alba Berlin has been consistent resulting in back to back cup wins and a final visit in 2014, but that ever so cherished Meisterschaft(playoff title) next one after their last in 2008 is still being chased. In a day and age where the Beko BBL is rapidly progressing in skill with the top teams FC Bayern Munich and Brose Baskets Bamberg, it gets harder and harder to win in a 5 game series as one needs more than just skill. 10 years ago, Alba Berlin probably would have won a few more titles with their talent and play the last few years. Just how good they are this season was displayed recently as they sent Germany´s most famous sports team FC Bayern Munich home feeling very embarrassed as they were man handled 90-74 as they dominated in every statistical category as revenge from their final loss two seasons ago is still very much on the minds of the organization. However a week later Alba Berlin was upset by the EWE Baskets Oldenburg 79-76 who are another team looking to add on to their 2015 cup win showing that in the Beko BBL, you always have to be focused each game. In that upset, Oldenburg guard Vaughn Duggins was the hero coming from the bench netting 17 points and four three pointers. It wouldn´t be surprising if Obradovic made notes about Duggins for a potential signing for next season or if he got a personal opinion form his ex-assistant coach Mauricio Parra who is in Oldenburg now. Despite many new players and a delayed pre-season, the team has come out of the starting gate very focused and been one of the best team in the Beko BBL. A big reason for the success of the team so early this season in that consistency was more prevalent is the unending hard work of head coach Sasa Obradovic. He has continued to develop further as a teacher and his great ability to build team chemistry and together has become an art. Just like Gordon Herbert he makes basketball fun for his players even if he can get a little louder than other coaches, his players understand his philosophy which is play physical and fast and ask questions after business has been taken care of after 40 minutes. His good mix of nationalities and as always not having an excess of Americans, but also getting the basketball IQ of the Balkan states as well as having the German chemistry of Alex King, Akeem Vargas and Niels Giffey will make this team a title contender again. Sometimes one can also wonder and dream a little about what if this happened. It will have been 5 years next summer when the Frankfurt Skyliners and Alba Berlin last met in a playoff series as Berlin took it in an exciting 5 game series. There were also very intriguing series in 2005 with Chris Williams, Tyrone Ellis and co against a Michael Wright and Jovo Stanojevic or in 2010 with a Pascal Roller, Derrick Allen or Jimmy Mckinney battling against the likes of Julius Jenkins, Immanuel Mcelroy or Derrick Byars. The way the Fraport Skyliners are playing some are asking will they ever lose again and a hot Alba Berlin team that has temporarily cooled down, wouldn´t be fitting for these two teams to duel again in the playoffs perhaps in the finals that has never happened before.
After winning the Beko BBL cup back to back in 2013 and 2014, Alba Berlin went without a title last season and their biggest success was reaching the top 16 of the Euroleague. They lost in the cup semi-finals and tough five game semi-final series to FC Bayern Munich despite being up 2-1 in games, they lost game four 89-83 and game five in OT 101-96. For most other clubs this would have been a great season, but Alba Berlin stand for winning titles and are still looking for their next league title since last win in 2008. Last season they had a top notch roster to title damage, but couldn´t come up big in the playoffs losing the tight games as the little things cost them against FC Bayern Munich. This season the club lost many key figures from last season like Reggie Redding, Jamel Mclean, Cliff Hammonds and Leon Radosevic, but this season they haven´t got big name players like in Bamberg or Munich, but they have kept a core of Germans with captain Alex King, Niels Giffey and Akeem Vargas to keep their development and chemistry alive and the team has more athleticism and strong new American guard duo with Will Cherry and Jordan Taylor than last season and continue to have size under the hoop bring in a trio of different nationalities with Mitchell Watt, Elmeden Kikanovic and Kresimir Loncar. Alba Berlin like to play fast and use their physicality and attack on both ends of the court. Alba Berlin started off the season hot despite not having all players on board during training camp because of the Euro 2015 winning their first 8 Beko BBL games and having a 4-1 record in Eurocup play. They blew away most of their opponents including their first three teams by a combined score of 65 points as Ulm, Bayreuth and Goettingen lost Oldenburg and at home against the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven as they looked totally helpless on their home court. In Eurocup they lost to BBL team Ludwigsburg 90-79. Despite averaging scoring 83 points per game and giving up 70 points per game in the Beko BBL, in the last two games are giving up 80 points. With their less than satisfactory play of late, coming into the Fraport arena against the red hot Fraport Skyliners surely isn´t what the team needs now, but will have to show what they are really made of against the current hottest team in the league.
Alba Berlin kept five Germans and hauled in seven new players this season. The team kept Alex King who is a 30 year old 200cm forward from Munich, Germany that is the captain of the team and is playing his third season for them. King started his basketball career in Frankfurt playing for The Deutsche Bank Skyliners from 2002-2008. In that span he won the German league title in 2004 and was a finalist in 2005 and played a total of 129 BBL games for Frankfurt. He played for the Telekom Baskets Bonn from 2008-20011 playing a total of 101 Beko BBL games. In 2010-2011 for Bonn he played EuroChallenge: 6 games: 2.5ppg, 4.0rpg; German League: 31 games: 4.9ppg, 2.3rpg. He played two seasons for Wurzburg and last season for Alba Berlin played 41 games averaging 6.4ppg, 2.5rpg, 1.2apg, FGP: 62.5%, 3PT: 36.4%, FT: 65.9%; Euroleague: 24 games: 4.0ppg, 2.3rpg His rebounding and first step are his best attributes in his game. The team also kept Niels Giffey who is a 24 year old swing man that can play the position 2-4. He started his basketball career in 2005 for Marzahn Basket Baeren (2.Regionalliga). He then played for Alba Berlin2 where his coach Henrik Roedl gave him the tip to go to the States and play college basketball. He played at Connecticut (NCAA) from 2010-2014 winning two NCAA titles and improving his scoring and rebounding each season there and as a senior played 40 games averaging 8.4ppg, 3.8rpg, FGP: 54.0%, 3PT: 48.3%, FT: 72.7%. Last season as a rookie he played 41 games: 6.9ppg, 2.7rpg, FGP: 49.5%, 3PT: 44.9%, FT: 70.0%; Euroleague: 24 games: 4.9ppg, 2.3rpgHis shooting ability and drive from the wing stand out as well as his defense that shouldn’t be underestimated ever. They also kept Akeem Vargas who is a 25 year old 192cm guard that is playing his third season for Alba Berlin. There isn’t a more physical player than him at 192cm in the Beko BBL. He started his basketball career at the SG Urspringschule junior team. He played a season for Iowa Lakes CC (JUCO). He played for the Walter Tigers Tuebingen from 2010-2012, but never got a real chance to prove himself there playing a total of 22 Beko BBL games. Three seasons ago he took a step back and played for BG Goettingen (Germany-ProA) playing 33 games: 13.8ppg, 4.7rpg, 2.2apg, FGP: 48.8%, 3PT: 38.9%, FT: 81.1%. His biggest strength is his defense and can penetrate well to the basket. Last season for Alba Berlin he played 41 games: 5.4ppg, 2.3rpg, FGP: 47.2%, 3PT: 38.5%, FT: 88.0%; Euroleague: 24 games: 1.8ppg, 1.3rpg. The teal also held on to Jonas Wohlfarth-Bottermann who is a 25 year old 208cm center that is playing his third season for Alba Berlin. He started his career in the Bonn organization. He already played for Bonn as an 18 year old and is a player that gives much effort on each play and moves very well for his size and is a good rebounder and shot blocker. Last season for Alba Berlin he played 30 games: 2.5ppg, 1.9rpg; Euroleague: 15 games: 3.1ppg, 1.9rpg. The team also kept Ismet Akpinar who is a 20 year old 192cm point guard that is playing his third season for Alba Berlin and has all attributes of becoming a good point guard in the future and has Turkish roots. The U-20 German national team player started his basketball career for the BC Hamburg Tigers junior team. He played two seasons for SC Rist Wedel and three seasons ago for SC Rist Wedel (ProB) played 22 games: 6.1ppg, 2.0rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 37.8%, 3PT: 27.0%, FT: 87.5. Last season he played 22 games: 3.0ppg; Euroleague: 3 games: 2.7ppg, 1.0apg, also played at ALBA Berlin 2nd team (Regionalliga): 7 games: 18.7ppg, 3.6rpg, 2.9apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 42.2%, 3PT: 43.2%, FT: 69.0%.
The team brought in Will Cherry who is a 24 year old 185cm point guard from West Oakland and is playing his third professional season. He played at Montana(NCAA) and turned professional in 2012 playing for the Canton Charge8D-League). Last season he had NBA experience for the Toronto Raptors (NBA), released in Oct.’14, in Nov.’14 signed at Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA): 8 games: 1.9ppg, 1.0apg, released later that month, in Dec.’14 moved to B.C. Zalgiris Kaunas (Lithuania-LKL, starting five): 36 games: 6.1ppg, 2.6rpg, 2.5apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 45.3%, 3PT: 30.5%, FT: 71.1%; Euroleague: 15 games: 7.1ppg, 2.4rpg, 1.7apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 41.4%, 3PT: 36.8%, FT: 70.8%. He has the complete guard play and can create his own shot. He won two titles in Lithuania last season with Fraport Skyliner Tomas Dimsa. Jordan Taylor is a 26 year old 187cm guard from Bloomington, Minnesota playing his fourth professional season. He played at Wisconsin from 2008-2012 reaching two NCAA Sweet 16 runs and was teammates with ex Fraport Skyliner Jon Leuer. As a rookie he played for Acea Virtus Roma (Italy-SerieA) reaching the Italian final in 2013 and played a second season there also. Last season he played for Hapoel Holon (Israel-Winner League, starting five): 37 games: 14.4ppg, 2.9rpg, 4.8apg, Steals-4(1.9spg), FGP: 42.6%, 3PT: 37.0%, FT: 73.9%. Like Cherry a combo guard that is physical, has good playmaking skills, can score and create his own shot. Kresimir Loncar is a 32 year old 210 cm forward from Croatia playing his 17th professional season and has played in countries like Croatia, Italy, Ukraine, Russia and Spain. He has unending experience and had his first time playing in Germany in 2000-2002 with DJK S.Oliver Wurzburg (Germany). He has won 6 titles including the VTB and Eurocup with BC Khimky Moscow Region (Russia-PBL) and played at the 2008 Olympics, 2009 Euro and 2010 world championships with Croatia. He has played 153 international club games including 52 Euroleague games. Elmedin Kikanovic is a 27 year old 211cm center from Bosnia playing his first season in Germany. He played three seasons with KK Crvena Zvezda Beograd (Serbia-A League) and four years with Enisey Krasnoyarsk (Russia-VTB). He also brings much experience having played 63 international club games. Last season he played VTB United League: 29 games: 16.2ppg, 4.6rpg, 1.1apg, 2FGP: 59.2%, 3FGP: 42.9%, FT: 68.6%: EuroChallenge: 15 games: 15.7ppg, 3.9rpg, FGP: 60.1%, FT: 63.0%, then signed at Sluc Nancy Basket Pro (France-ProA) playing 9 games: 17.9ppg, 6.3rpg, 2.1apg, FGP: 54.6%, FT: 59.4%. He played at the 2011,2013 and 2015 Europeanchampionships. He has the complete package and can duel with Johannes Voigtmann to see who has the more deadly 20 footer
The club also added 25 year old 208cm center Mitchell Watt who comes from Goodyear, Arizona and is playing his fourth professional season. He played at Buffalo(NCAA) from 2008-2012 playing a total of 125 NCAA games and as a senior played 28 games: 16.4ppg, 7.5rpg, 2.4apg, 2.4bpg, FGP: 58.5%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 74.1%. As a rookie he played for Altshuler Saham Galil Gilboa (Israel-Premier League): 27 games: 9.7ppg, 5.0rpg, 1.5apg, 1.1bpg, FGP: 56.4%, FT: 55.0%; Balkan League: 12 games: 11.3ppg, 6.6rpg, 1.3apg, 1.5spg, Blocks-2(1.4bpg), FGP: 58.8%, FT: 71.4%. In the 2013-2014 season he played for Ironi Nes-Ziona (Israel-Winner League): 34 games: 13.4ppg, 6.6rpg, 1.4apg, Blocks-5(1.4bpg), FGP: 57.6%, 3PT-3(50.0%), FT: 64.5%. Last season he played for the Santa Cruz Warriors (D-League): 9 games: 4.7ppg, 4.2rpg, 1.2bpg, in Dec.’14 signed at Ironi Nes-Ziona (Israel-Winner League, starting five): 23 games: 15.3ppg, 7.4rpg, 1.3apg, Blocks-1(2.1bpg), FGP: 56.2%, 3PT: 16.7%, FT: 63.4%. He is a excellent shot blocker and brings elegance to the center position and has moves and a mid distance shot. Dragan Milosavlijevic is a 26 year old 198cm guard from Serbia playing his first season in Germany. He played the last 5 seasons with BC Partizan NiS Beograd playing 50 Euroleague games and last season played 14 games: 10.9ppg, 2.7rpg, 2.8apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 49.4%, 3PT: 30.3%, FT: 63.0%; Eurocup: 3 games: 8.3ppg, 2.7rpg, 4.3apg; Adriatic League: 20 games: 11.0ppg, 3.7rpg, 1.7apg, FGP: 46.4%, 3PT: 28.6%, FT: 86.4%. He is a good defender and as always from the Balkan states has a high basketball IQ. The etal also added 25 year old 198cm Marc Liyanage who started his basketball career in 2007 with Bramfelder SV Hamburg (2.Regionalliga). He played a season with Delta State(NCAA2) and with teams like Nordlingen, Duesseldorf, BG Goettingen and last season for the Mitteldeutscher BC Weissenfels (BBL) playing 25 games: 3.1ppg, 1.7rpg
Since the climatic semi final win over Alba Berlin in 2005, where guys like Chris Williams and Tyrone Ellis led the then Opel Skyliners into the BBL final, Frankfurt has only a 11-20 record against the Albatros, but have built installed a special albatross cage in the Ballsporthalle which has rewarded them with a 5-3 record. One of the biggest and most emotional wins in the last years was the 81-67 trouncing in January 2006 as it was the debut of ex Skyliner coach Charles Barton. It was only a shame that the team was unable to take this big win and grow off it as they won little more that season and had to win on the last day at home against The EWE Baskets Oldenburg to stay in the BBL. Some nice wins in the last years was the 74-58 win in 2008 as American Derrick Allen added 19 points and six rebounds and in 2009, they won 73-66 as ex Skyliner Lorenzo Gordon chipped in with 15 points and six rebounds. In the 2009-2010 season, the two teams split the season series 1-1 as Alba Berlin held Frankfurt to 53 points in the Ballsporthalle and winning. Frankfurt returned to Berlin to win 76-70 as Derrick Allen led the team with 18 points. Frankfurt then surprisingly kicked out Alba Berlin in the playoffs 3-1 winning game four at home 69-58 as Derrick Allen had 26 points. In the first meeting in 2010-2011, Alba Berlin escaped the O-2 World arena with a 81-77 win. Frankfurt led for 36 minutes before Alba Berlin put on the turbo and went on a 8-2 run which sparked the win. Dashaun Wood led all players with 32 points and Derrick Allen chipped in with 17 points for Alba Berlin. Alba Berlin shot 57% from the field and 44% from the parking lot, but Frankfurt had control of the boards 31-21. In the second meeting in 2010-2011, Alba Berlin prevailed 79-70 as Dashaun Wood led Frankfurt with 18 points, seven rebounds and seven assists and ex Skyliner Derrick Allen had 18 points. Frankfurt lost in the 2011 Beko BBL semi-finals 3-2 . In 2011-2012 the Fraport Skyliners stunk out their Fraport arena with a 83-57 loss where Dashaun Wood led all scorers with 21 points and also lost a close game 70-66 in Berlin. In the 2012-2013 season, The Fraport Skyliners were walloped in Berlin losing 91-65 as they had little chance. Frankfurt didn´t shoot so bad hitting over 40% from the field and outside, but were clobbered under the boards 36-22 and relinquished 19 turnovers. In the return meeting in Frankfurt, the Fraport Skyliners won an exciting 65-62 nail bitter as Quantez Robertson had 16 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, Ryan Brooks had 15 points and Zach Peacock had 14 points. Alba Berlin was led by Dashaun Wood with 24 points. In the first meeting two seasons ago, Alba Berlin prevailed 68-54. Alba Berlin was led by Leon Radosevic with 19 points and David Logan added 10 points. The Fraport Sklyiners were led by Danilo Barthel with 17 points and Konstantn Klein contributed 11 points. In their second meeting of last season, Alba Berlin was able to sweep the season series winning 67-59 as Alba Berlin was led by Levon Kendall and David Logan with 12 points a piece while the Fraport Skyliners were led by Konstantin Klein with 16 points. Alba Berlin hosts the Fraport Skyliners December 21st as Alba Berlin looks to remain unbeaten in the Beko BBL and Frankfurt looks for their eighth win in a row. Last season the Fraport Skyliners split the seasons series losing in Berlin 85-79 as Cliff Hammonds led his team to the win with 18 points and Mario Banic had 16 points while the Fraport Skyliners were led by Justin Cobbs with 19 points and Sean Armand had 18 points. In the return game in Frankfurt, the Fraport Skyliners won in spectacular fashion 87-80 in OT as they were led by Justin Cobbs with 20 points and Sean Armand had 18 points while Alba Berlin was led by Jamel Mcclean with 24 points. This Sunday the current hottest team in the Beko BBL the Fraport Skyliners with 13 wins in a row meet the once hottest team Alba Berlin who are looking to get back on the winning streak as they currently have an unwanted five game losing streak. This will be a battle of the perfect Gordon Herbert scouting report against the scheming and hand and arm movements of Sasa Obradovic and of course there also will be the players playing the game. Alba Berlin will be throwing in their long bench all game long, but the Fraport Skyliners have one lucky card in their hand, their nasty fourth quarter energy capability that has been their strongest point the last 13 games and it will be interesting to see if they have enough energy to pull out a 14th win in a row?