Sometimes there are certain factors that could come into play why a player wasn´t able to stay in a situation, but for Middletown, Delaware native AJ English, living in paradise in Brindisi, Italy on the beautiful Adriatic sea which was a far cry from the long grey winter nights in New Rochelle, New York where he worked on his basketball trade for 4 years at Iona(NCAA) didn´t seem to help his play that much there the last few months. So for his rookie season with Enel Basket Brindisi (Italy-Serie A):where he played 8 games averaging 7.9ppg, 2.0rpg, 2.6apg, 1.1spg, 2FGP: 38.7%, 3FGP: 25.0%, FT: 75.0% to turn out so unspectacular most likely had nothing to do with his surroundings as he could of spent all his free time on the beach in early autumn and annoyed his friends back home with the exotic scenery via a Skype conversation. Since leaving the kodak picture scenery of Brindisi, Italy where he had an unspectacular 4-4 record with the club, he has been nothing short of spectacular with his new home in Germany and the Fraport Skyliners as he came and conquered as he has helped the team to a 7-0 record and aided the team to the Champions League playoffs while scoring in double figures in each game. The grey winter´s of Frankfurt would remind him more of New York city with the skyscrapers than anything else, but moreover there must be a reason for his stellar play and being able to feel so comfortable in his new location. English came into his eighth game with the Fraport Skyliners looking to remain perfect and had very fond memories of the Walter TIgers Tuebingen as shortly before the new year, he made all Tiger fans hearts sink as he dropped a spectacular off balance buzzer beater in traffic that would even have had NBA legend Larry Bird smiling from his French Lick living room sofa as the American finished with 21 points and six threes. English has been a type of spark plug for the team as head coach Gordon Herbert made the right choice in hauling in English who could be that missing piece for that playoff hope. English didn’t have any last second buzzer beater heroics this time, but still played an instruemental part in the game as he was a major force coming into the game in the first quarter with Frankfurt down 11-2 and stinking up the Fraport arena with their play worse than a dead skunk could on the side of the road. English didn´t play as many minutes as teammates Kwame Vaughn or Shawn Huff or have their stats, but the American made key plays, shots, passes and got the team ball movement rolling in the last 5.08 of the first quarter which helped turn around the game and lead the team on the right path to victory where they would never look back. At the end of the day, The American finished with 12 points, three rebounds and five assists and everyone noticed. “English hit a big shot in Tuebingen and did again today. He attacks well and is like a snake that slithers around the court. I saw him play at Iona(NCAA) and he put up good numbers there. He can definitely play”, stressed ex Telekom Baskets Bonn point guard Jared Jordan.
The Fraport Skyliners arrived into the game in 12th place with a record of 7-11 and came into the game having won three of their last games and had lost their last BBL game in Oldenburg 71-64. Like in Oldenburg, they had problems against the Walter Tigers Tuebingen in the first quarter, but rebounded from their funk and then played a complete game for 35 minutes. “We played good defense for long phases of the game and did a good job not allowing them any open shots. We had good ball movement and when we can do that in the game, we usually have a good chance to win”, warned Fraport Skyliner point guard Max Merz. The Walter Tigers Tuebingen were clinging to their basketball lives at 16th place having a 4-15 record. They had lost their last eight games and last weekend to Science City Jena and in the first five minutes of the first quarter, one carefully could have thought that this may be the turning point of their long losing streak, but a basketball game has 40 minutes and Tuebingen was unable to offer any resistance against the Frankfurt offense for the last three quarters and couldn´t come to terms with the always aggressive and consistent defense. “We wanted to have a good start in Frankfurt something we hadn´t had in the last three games and did. But Frankfurt came back and did a good job making shots and getting to the free throw line. Shawn Huff gave them a huge boost with his shooting and they played good defense. You have to give Frankfurt a lot of credit with their defense. They play very good one on one defense, switch well and have good help. Coach Herbert always has good defensive teams”, added ex Marist(NCAA) point guard Jared Jordan. “We didn´t have a good start, but came back with our energy and defense. We did a good job staying calm and got back into the game”, added Fraport Skyliner forward Niklas Kiel.
In the last years, the Walter Tigers Tuebingen weren´t necessarily the best draw in Frankfurt, but minutes before tip-off every entrance to the Fraport arena was packed with a line until almost the street as the interest by the spectators must have been a delight for the Fraport Skyliners as 5000 patrons caught the game. Ex Medi Bayreuth head coach Michael Koch and his son Kevin were also at the game watching Jared Jordan who played three seasons in Bonn when he was coaching and some may have been wondering when he would set foot in the coaching world again as there still isn´t a coaching vacancy in Vechta yet. The Walter Tigers Tuebingen did everything right in the first five minutes earning the 9-0 lead as they halted the Fraport Skyliners first six possessions while on offense they were able to get buckets as 24 year old 202 cm forward Baltimore native and ex Colorado St. (NCAA) player Stanton Kidd got aggressive on the offensive glass getting his own miss and making the put back, ex TBB Trier guard Barry Stewart hit a catch and pop trey and Jared Jordan also connected from downtown. Frankfurt had problems on offense as they held onto the ball too long as the shot clock continued to have little time to complete a play while Shavon Shields, Kwame Vaughn and AJ English all sat on the bench wondering when Herbert would give them the nod. Frankfurt rookie Shavon Shields had also mysteriously disappeared shortly after the game started as he had been in the lineup, but then left as there was suspicion of the American having a concussion. Ex Ludwigsburg guard Shawn Huff finally got Frankfurt on the board at the 5.47 minute mark, but the club continued to have difficulty containing ex Medi Bayreuth center Gary Mcghee who snatched his own rebound and made the put back while Stewart made a difficult runner look easy like a stroll in the park on a Sunday as Tuebingen led 14-2. The Fraport Skyliners then inserted Americans Kwame Vaughn and AJ English and things finally began to change. It was like night and day as Frankfurt escaped out on a 13-0 run to get their first lead of the game at 15-14. In the run, Frankfurt got valuable support from Vaughn and English who nailed shots and also got points from Huff and Quantez Robertson who delivered a no look pass to Huff and then made a fancy spin move and lay up once again showing why he is a top one on one player in the BBL even at age 32. Jared Jordan then made a quick pass inside to Mcghee who made the hard dunk, but Huff had the last laugh sinking a trey as Frankfurt led 18-16 after one quarter. “Frankfurt started off very bad as they had no intensity. English came in and the game changed and the team got better. Tuebingen disappeared and never returned. It was the same story like against Jena last weekend. Tuebingen had no fire or emotion”, stressed S.Oliver Wurzburg assistant coach Stephan Voelkl. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 50% from the field and 29% from outside while the Walter Tigers Tuebingen were shooting 38% from the field and 29% from outside. Frankfurt had the 9-8 rebound edge and four turnovers while Tuebingen had five turnovers.
In the second quarter, the Fraport Skyliners were able to completely break away and would never look back keeping the lead until the final buzzer. Mike Morrison and Jordan traded buckets in the teams first possessions, but Frankfurt then delved out on a 6-0 run as English let his three point presence be felt knocking one down while Robertson scored in the paint and made a free throw. However the Walter Tigers Tuebingen didn´t allow Frankfurt to get their first double digit lead just yet as ex UTEP (NCAA) forward Julian Washburn made a hook shot and Jordan surprised the defense with a lay in from the wing cutting the Frankfurt lead to 28-23. However just as it seemed like Tuebingen was threatening, Frankfurt always had an answer on offense as English nailed another trey from the parking lot and Morrison made free throws for the 32-23 lead. Frankfurt was versatile playing good inside out basketball while Tuebingen was missing that go to guy as they were being stifled by the Frankfurt defense over and over. Frankfurt continued to execute as their 5-0 run grew into a 9-0 run as Vaughn and Morrison got to the free throw line and scored upping the Frankfurt lead to 37-23. In the last few minutes, Tuebingen head coach Tyron Mccoy switched to zone which gave Frankfurt difficulty and let the guests coast into the break with a 7-2 run and trail only 39-30. In the run, Tuebingen was fortified by buckets from Kidd, Jordan and Mcghee. “Frankfurt got easy baskets while Tuebingen had no real rhythm which was the same as against Jena. Tuebingen played zone in the last few minutes giving Frankfurt problems. Frankfurt had very good spacing which allowed them to get many good open shots”, stressed Stephan Voelkl. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 43% from the field and 29% from the three point line while the Walter Tigers Tuebingen were shooting 33% from the field and 18% from the three point line. Both teams aha 20 rebounds and nine turnovers apiece.
In the third quarter, the Walter Tigers Tuebingen made a run, but it was the Frankfurt bench and German duo of Niklas Kiel and Stefan Ilzhoefer that gave the home team a spark and back to the double digit lead. The Walter Tigers Tuebingen had a super start in the third quarter going on a 9-4 run to cut the Frankfurt lead to 43-39. In the run, the visiting team owned the paint area as they hauled down some offensive rebounds and got easy buckets from Mcghee who scored on a tip in and dunk getting the perfect shovel pass from Stewart and Stewart made a tip in off his own miss and then caught the Frankfurt defense napping as he reeled in the touchdown pass from Jordan for the hard throw down. One may have thought that the Fraport Skyliners were getting tired with their short rotation, but head coach Gordon Herbert had to play the young Germans and they came through producing very well. Frankfurt shocked Tuebingen going on a back breaking 10-1 run to extend their lead to 53-40 as Kiel and Ilzhoefer combined for 8 points. It was Ilzhoefer´s first three pointer this season in his 19th game something that Jared Jordan knew after the game and wasn´t all too happy that his team had allowed this run. Tuebingen got some buckets from ex ratiopharm ulm forward Isaiah Philmore and Barry Stewart while Frankfurt continued to get to the free throw line as English and Vaughn connected giving Frankfurt the 57-46 advantage after 30 minutes. “It was super from our Germans how they contributed. I was very happy for them and it was nice that they could show it after working so hard in practice”, added Max Merz. “The Germans really helped them. I felt that Kiel had a very good game. Frankfurt have always shown that they have Germans that can step up and they took advantage of it and you need to respect that”, warned Jared Jordan. The Fraport Skyliners were shooting 36% from the field and 27% from the parking lot while the Walter Tigers Tuebingen were shooting 34% from the field and 12% from the parking lot. Tuebingen had the 35-27 rebound edge, but 16 turnovers while Frankfurt had 11 turnovers.
In the fourth quarter, the Fraport Skyliners continued to play their game and seemed to get stronger while the Walter Tigers Tuebingen seemed to get weaker missing shot after shot and slowly wondering what they have to do to finally stop their long losing streak. Tuebingen still had some energy at the begin of the fourth quarter as Barry Stewart was a one man wrecking crew scoring five unanswered points as he made two pretty and difficult shots with a finger tip roll in in traffic and a beautiful off balance fade away from the wing that garnered him a and one free throw as Tuebingen trailed 59-51. However Frankfurt had too much fire power on this day to allow another Tuebingen run as Huff and Robertson connected on back to back trey´s and Vaughn made free throws extending the Frankfurt lead to 67-53. Tuebingen had one last gasp going on a mini 4-0 run as Stewart hit a turn around shot and Kidd made free throws to cut the Frankfurt lead to 67-57. That was as close as Tuebingen would get on this afternoon as the Fraport Skyliners then sealed the win with a 10-2 run to extend their lead to 77-59. In the run, Frankfurt did a great job continuing to get to the free throw line as English,Kiel and Vaughn connected. Morrison made a pretty alley-oop dunk as English fed him the perfect pass and then made a tough bullet pass to Kiel who was all alone in the paint for the easy basket and Vaughn scored inside. Huff made a three to give Frankfurt the 20 point lead. Tuebingen made a few more free throws and got a tap in from ex Weber St. (NCAA) guard Davion Berry. English put a final exclamation mark on the victory with a lay in in traffic ending the game with a well deserved win for the Fraport Skyliners. “Tuebingen is a dangerous team and we never felt safe in this game. We closed out the game well”, added Max Merz. “Frankfurt closed out the game well. This has been the story of our season in that we are missing the needed luck. We tried different things like zone, but they were able to figure everything out and hit shots”, stressed Jared Jordan. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Shawn Huff with 21 points. Kwame Vaughn had 17 points, five rebounds, nine assists and four steals. AJ English added 12 points and Quantez Robertson and Niklas Kiel contributed 10 points apiece. The Walter Tigers Tuebingen were led by Barry Stewart with 18 points. Gary Mcghee and Jared Jordan added 12 points apiece. The Fraport Skyliners shot 42% from the field and 32% from outside whole the Walter Tigers Tuebingen shot 34% from the field and 8% from outside. Tuebingen won the rebound battle 4-37 and had 19 turnovers while Frankfurt coughed up the ball 15 times.