The highlight for Easter for any child is too be able to go into the yard and explore and hunt for those chocolate easter eggs that are already melting in their mouth, but if you are an old school BBL basketball fan in Frankfurt the gigantic highlight on Easter Monday is entering the Fraport arena and seeing two real professional basketball dinosaurs playing together and still playing the game they love with Julius Jenkins and Immanuel Mcelroy. Which one of these BBL legends would come away with the most chocolate eggs if they would have a contest is difficult to determine, but it would definitely be a very competitive match. You obviously cant compare these two BBL veterans to future NBA legends, but their longevity, importance and play in the German BBL can be compared to the likes of the Lebron´s and Melo´s of the league. These two BBL players just keep coming back and don´t want to retire. Jenkins is 36 and Mcelroy is 37 and still going strong. Their longevity speaks for itself as combined they have played up to this season a total of 630 BBL games and 201 international club games and share 10 titles between them. The massive experience doesn´t end there as there is also Wayne Bernard who rounds out the trio as he is 35 and is only playing his 5th BBL season but 9th straight season in Germany and can boast 136 BBL games going into this season. Jenkins and Mcelroy have been BBL identity figures for over 10 years and it will be a sad day in German basketball when these two retire, so there were probably quite a few Skyliner fans that were hoping that this wasn´t their last appearance in Frankfurt. However the Frankfurt fans only had Immanuel Mcelroy to observe as Julius Jenkins was out with an injury and saw how Science City Jena dominated in the first half, but fell apart in the second half as a hot shooting Jenkins was dearly missed as they lost 69-61. After the defeat, Mcelroy was stretching his sore muscles and if his words of retirement were really genuine after the loss was hard to tell, but if he keeps battling guys like Quantez Robertson on a regular basis who make him go to his limit then this might have been his last game in Frankfurt. “It is always fun to play against a competitor like Robertson who does everything on the court. I respect him a lot and how he competes at both ends of the court”, stressed ex Alba Berlin guard Immanuel Mcelroy. For Quantez Robertson, it is no different in that he is only 4 years younger than Mcelroy, but has had numerous battles with the ex Braunschweig player over the years. “It is always fun to play against him, because he competes at both ends of the court. We both know each others moves well and try to trick the other one”, stressed ex Auburn star Quantez Robertson.
A little side note to the game was that big German18 year old talent Richard Freudenberg attended the game with his new agent Ademola Okulaja who also represents NBA player Dennis Schroeder, Bamberg forward Daniel Theis and Fraport Skyliner Niklas Kiel and was taking in the game getting an impression of the team on the court. It has been rumored recently that the ex St Johns forward who played 26 NCAA games last season averaging 1,3ppg and 1,3rpg might sign with the Fraport Skyliners. Nothing official has come from the club about the future of Freudenberg who played for NBA legend Chris Mullin last season at St Johns, but with everyone smiling and seeming happy, it must only be a matter of time before a positive decision will be made. The German already made an impression with young fans in the Fraport arena as with 33 seconds to play two very young kids no older than 12 journeyed over to the big 206cm German and requested a foto opportunity and the blond haired German seemed embarrassed and shocked that someone even recognized him. Young Fraport Skyliner Isaac Bonga knew who Freudenberg is and already gave his stamp of approval for the young kid. “Freudenberg is a good kid. I would be happy to be able to play with him if he came here”, smiled Isaac Bonga. Both teams came into the game having recently lost their top scorers as Frankfurt´s Shavon Shields left to finish the season with playoff team Dolomiti Energia Trento (Italy-Serie A) while Science City Jena´s guard Marcos Knight fled for the dough in Spain for Tecnyconta Zaragoza (Spain-Liga Endesa). It was a tale of two halves as Science City Jena were fabulous in the first half, but stunk up the arena in the second half caving in in crunch time allowing a Frankfurt three point fest. “We didn´t play well in the first half and came out more focused in the second half. Coach was angry at us at the break. He tore a new butt hole in us. We started to rebound and shoot better and just found the open man better”, stressed Quantez Robertson. “Frankfurt got back in the game in the third quarter as they took advantage of our turnovers and got easy buckets. They were more aggressive in the second half and came back from 14. At the end, we missed some easy lay ups and free throws and they made three´s”, added ex Erdgas Ehingen/Urspringschule forward Julius Wolf.
The Fraport Skyliners found their rhythm quickly in the first quarter jumping out to a 9-4 lead where they were sharing the ball and with the playoffs out of reach head coach Gordon Herbert was able to focus more on giving the young Germans playing time and they scored the first nine points. Niklas Kiel set the tone early displaying his trusty inside out game nailing a trey and battling to the hoop in the paint for an easy lay up.17 year old German wunderkind Isaac Bonga was inserted early and made a difficult long rebound and used his unending wing span of 2.19 making the put back. However Science City Jena never gave up and began to claw their way back slowly and got command of the game closing out the first quarter with an annoying 15-4 run to lead 19-13. In the run, Science City Jena got very stable production from 5 players as they also were able to spread the ball around and get sufficient production from many different faces. Mcelroy nailed a three pointer as did California native Wayne Bernard and 27 year old Ermen Reyes-Naploes who had to toil 8 years in the Pro A with Science City Jena before returning back to the BBL where he got his first experience as a 16 year old in the 2007-2008 season. The club also did damage inside as ex Trier forward Oliver Clay scored as did 206cm ex Memphis (NCAA) forward Shaquille Goodman. “We were the more aggressive team, moved the ball well and hit our shots”, stressed Immanueel Mcelroy. Science City Jena shot 44% from the field and 33% from outside while the Fraport Skyliners shot 29% from the field and 14% from outside. Both teams had nine rebounds a piece and Frankfurt had five turnovers and Science City Jena had four turnovers.
In the second quarter, Science City had their strongest 10 minutes of basketball as they outscored the Fraport Skyliners 20-12 and led by as much as 17 points. Science City Jena stopped Frankfurt´s first five possessions and were only able to get 5 points out of it. It was ex Nurnberg Pro A player Stephan Haukohl who delivered all the points being very active inside. Science City Jena continued to be lethal on offense going on a destructive 8-2 run to extend their lead to 32-17. The Germans continued to be unstoppable as they continued to score and had scored the teams first 13 points of the second quarter as Reyes Naploes and Wolf supplied trey´s and Haukohl hit over Agva. The only place where Frankfurt could score from was the free throw line as Max Merz connected twice, but from everywhere else Frankfurt couldn´t hit the ocean. Despite another Bernard three pointer, Frankfurt wasn´t totally washed away as they got some much needed clutch back to back three´s from Finish national player Shawn Huff. However Frankfurt couldn´t prevent a mini 4-0 Science City Jena run in the last minute as Wolf and Haukohl secured free throws leading 39-25 at half-time. “We moved the ball better on offense and continued to hit shots and on defense mixing it up between zone and man to man”, added ex Cologne guard Immanuel Mcelroy. Science City Jena shot 52% from the field and 46% from the three point line while the Fraport Skyliners shot 26% from the field and 25% from the three point line. Science City Jena had the 18-16 rebound edge, but 10 turnovers while Frankfurt had nine turnovers.
In the third quarter, the Fraport Skyliners finally started to play Skyliner basketball letting their defense dictate the game which carried their offense. It did take a few minutes before they displayed their good basketball as Science City Jena stopped Frankfurt´s first four possessions, but were already getting hit by the more aggressive and structured Frankfurt defense getting only two points on free throws by Mcelroy and Clay to extend their lead to 41-25. The Fraport Skyliners then slowly made their comeback run going on a 18-5 run to cut the Science City Jena lead to 46-43. In the run, Frankfurt got a lot of support from Huff who brought it at both ends of the floor getting a steal and lay in and hitting a three. Frankfurt also got big minutes from the bench from Bonga who continued to get more minutes and a feel for the BBL as he made a steal and went coast to coast for the lay in and also hit a 15 footer. At the end of the afternoon, Bonga brought 17 minutes to his stat sheet scoring eight points and grabbing four rebounds. It was without a doubt his breakout game in the BBL. “I have an advantage against the smaller guards and can match up better against the bigger guys. I think I did a good job using my strengths and giving the team what it needed at that time”, stressed Isaac Bonga.
Frankfurt also got two buckets inside from Robertson as it seems like whenever they need production inside just give the ball to Tez and he will do the rest. Frankfurt also got a trey from AJ English who had put up the big goose egg in the first half. After a pretty Clay fade away over Robertson using the mismatching perfectly of 20 centimeters, Bonga made another bucket using his speed inside and Huff made free throws, but still trailed 49-47. “We became more aggressive on defense and got deflections and in the passing lanes and used the open court to get baskets. Bonga was also a spark off the bench attacking the rim nicely”, added Quantez Robertson. “Frankfurt was more aggressive and our turnovers grew and we couldn´t hit free throws”, stressed Immanuel Mcelroy. Science City Jena shot 42% from the field and 38% from the parking lot as the Fraport Skyliners shot 35% from the field and 25% from the parking lot. Frankfurt had the slight 27-26 rebound edge and 12 turnovers while the guests had 15 turnovers.
The Fraport Skyliners continued to bang at Science City Jena´s back door letting them know that they were there and threatening them in the fourth quarter. English got Frankfurt it´s first lead since the first quarter with a floater, but that was quickly erased as Mcelroy dropped a trey to give Science City Jena the lead back at 52-50. Florida native Mike Morrison who had been quiet on the afternoon made a pretty left handed shot to tie the score at 52-52. Then it seemed like the momentum was shifting back in favor of Science City Jena as they made three stops, but could only get four point out of three trips to the free throw line leading 56-52. Then with 3,43 minutes to play came the turning point of the game as the Fraport Skyliners suddenly went on a furious shooting rant shocking Science City Jena with a back breaking 14-1 run to gain the lead back at 66-57 and deciding the game.
Frankfurt got four clutch three´s as English nailed two making nine points in the destruction and Robertson and Huff also connected. “English was key making two three´s and also did a good job giving other guys open looks”, added Quantez Robertson. “Turnovers and missed fre throws cost us the game at the end and they made their shots”, added Immanuel Mcelroy. Bernard did connect on a trey at the end, but it was too late English and Robertson closed out the win with free throws. The Fraport Skyliners were led by Shawn Huff with 16 points. AJ English added 15 points and Quantez Robertson was his usual self filling up the stat sheet with 14 points, nine boards, four assists and two steals. Science City Jena was led by Immanuel Mcelroy with 10 points, five rebounds and six assists. The Fraport Skyliners shot 36% from the field and 33% from outside while Science City Jena shot 38% from the field and 35% from outside. Frankfurt won the rebound duel 38-35 and had 16 turnovers while Science City Jena coughed up the ball 20 times.