Four years ago, the Beko BBL had two basketball legends in the making seemingly sprouting the fountain of youth with American Chris Ensminger and Bernd Kruel (210-C-76) as they were going towards their late 30’s and still going very strong in the best German basketball class and kidding them about their age wasn’t hidden, but not neccessarily bringing the non original fake denture’s to their attention, but moreover predicting that they would ball until they were at least 50. In 2013, Ensminger finally said farewell to professional basketball at the age of 39 even though he was still in great shape and could of played many more years and today the other basketball dinosaur Bernd Kruel (210-C-76) has decided to hang up his sneakers at also age 39. Kruel who will turn 40 on June however won the duel against Ensminger as he did play longer than the American who was born in December. Kruel played a total of 23 seasons and that is something that deserves the highest repect. “There is hardly a player that deserved to wear the RheinStars jersey more than him. He was a fan favorite, father figure for the young players and a link between the fans and team. We can thank him very much for the last two seasons. He helped us a lot with the development of the team with his experience, charachter and positive energy”, stressed RheinStars CEO Stephan Baeck.
Kruel can look back at a marvelous career as longevity was like his middle name as he started his professional basketball career in 1993. In the year 1993, Michael Jordan had just finished his first three peat with the Chicago Bulls and hadn’t even put on a Chicago White Sox jersey yet, Henrik Rodl had just won the NCAA title with North Carolina and like Kruel was embarking on a professional basketball career and teammates from last season Germans Lennart Steffen and Tim Van Der Velde hadn’t even been born yet. He started his basketball career with Brandt Hagen in 1993 and played there until January 2004 and left because the club withdrew from the league. Even if Brandt Hagen will always stay in his heart since it was his first club, leaving and joining the Opel Skyliners was the right choice as he joined a very special team that would win the Beko BBL title 6 months later. Kruel would stay in Frankfurt two more seasons. In 2006, his basketball journey continued with the Telekom Baskets Bonn where he played two more seasons. At the age of 32, he joined Phoenix Hagen and helped them move up to the Beko BBL in 2009. He would play with Phoenix Hagen for six more seasosn before joining the RheinStars in 2014 where he helped the club move from the Regionalliga to the Pro A playing 25 games averaging 12.2ppg, 5.2rpg, 1.7apg, 1.2spg. This season Kruel played 15 games averaging 4,1ppg and 2,1rpg in 10 minutes per game. At the same time, he also was a coach for the club’s NBBL youth team. It will be interesting to see where the future of Kruel will go as the Rhein Stars were unable to give him a position in their organization. “I had a lot of fun with the RheinStars organization. One sees the potential in this city. I had to listen to my body. I will have to see whet I will do. I am open for everything”, warned Bernd Kruel.
Kruel will always be remembered as a guy that knew how to play the game. He had the perfect mix between leaving it all on the floor, but also knowing how to ham it up in the locker room and just enjoy the game, but having that seriousness on the court that made him a real competitor. At 210cm he was a player that could do so much more than most people might have expected when they saw him for the first time. He had a great low post game, had quick hands and had a basketball IQ beyond his years. He was also a great passer that had that touch of unselfishness on the court. The German was just a guy that you had to like, because his personality was one that one doesn’t typically see in the basketball world. Making the trek from the Fraport Skyliners dressing room to the dinning room can be a long road trip for the famished player that just did battle in the trenches like a Kruel, so food was always on his mind after his shower. For two seasons in Frankfurt and everytime after that where I saw him, our standard greeting was always Mahlzeit. In a bad english and only translation, it means enjoy your meal. I don’t remember how this saying came about, but it was started by Kruel. Kruel leaves the game after 23 years and will always be remembered in the German basketball community. Mahlzeit Bernd!