Will The NBA Be Calling Johannes Voigtmann This Summer Or Does He Only Possess Euroleague Format?

 

Even if an exciting basketball game can be interrupted and made less nice by the constant blowing of whistles slowing down the game, so can a timeout where some patrons will scoot to the food stand to buy a Coke and nacho´s while other´s may even delay a bathroom run just to watch the entertaining sideline show of ex Alba Berlin head coach Sasa Obradovic who has his own Serbian theatre like skits with his hand and body gestures trying to motivate his squad back into the game, but the 2 time European basketball champion with the then Yugoslavia also has a knack of saying bold things. In the 2015-2016 season Obradovic who won the Korac Cup in 1995 with Alba Berlin as a player and has basketball legendary status from the Spree river to Potsdam is a guy who can talk and fill a press conference room and where journalists for once won´t interrupt, but just shut up and listen stated that ex Brose Bamberg guard Brad Wanamaker belongs to the top three best players to ever have played in the BBL. It would be interesting to how quickly he could come to a conclusion to which center is better the more experienced Elmeden Kikanovic or constantly developing and rising star Johannes Voigtmann of the then Fraport Skyliners. It would also be interesting to see how Obradovic would react to the question “Was Johannes Voigtmann the best player in the BBL in 2015-2016? In terms of play, the way Johannes Voigtmann was playing that season, he was becoming more and more of a showcase player in the BBL and a player that fans came specifically to see play. You may have seen Jason Boone as an extra in a Lebron James movie as he could easily moonlight as an actor or go into the field once his playing days are over and could even make a mean Jason or funny Jason on screen. However where he doesn´t joke is when it comes to basketball as he is all business on and off the court and on December 15th, 2015, he had the audacity to tell me at half time of a Fiba Europe Cup game in Frankfurt against Sodertalje that Johannes Voigtmann was the best player in the German BBL. Even the ex floor general of the Fraport Skyliners Jordan Theodore was very impressed about his ex teammate: “To me Jo has been playing at a high level all season. Definitely the best center in the league. Big Jo is definitely one of the best players in this league. He does it all”, warned Jordan Theodore. In 2015-2016, it is so much fun watching the blue eyed basketball monster as at times it seemed like he was a younger version of Larry Bird wooing fans with his special knack of passing the ball, but in reality it is just Johannes Voigtmann being the most complete center in the BBL. “Joe is very skilled. He has a high IQ and can do things with the basketball that I haven’t seen from guys his size. He can put the ball on the floor and create for others. He can shoot the long ball and his mid range game is unstoppable”, stressed ex Seton Hall guard Jordan Theodore. But before we talk about the current play of the German national player, let´s look back to 2012 when he first arrived in Frankfurt.

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Miles Schmidt-Scheuber doing play by play with Johannes Voigtmann during a Pro B playoff game between TV Langen and Basket Akademy Weser-Ems in Langen in 2014

Voigtmann is a 24 year old 211cm center born on September 20th and hails from Eisenach, Germany and played four seasons with the Fraport Skyliners. Before coming to Frankfurt, the German big man started his basketball trade in the former East Germany and didn´t start until he was 15 years old.

The German started to play handball as a kid since his dad played, but has to thank his grandmother for getting him into basketball. She received an invitation to a basketball camp in Jena since she headed a school in Eisenach and Voigtmann and his brother Georg went and were asked if they would like to play basketball. After that everything went very quick as both brothers headed to Jena to a basketball boarding school. The German national player who is a Michael Schumacher fan started his basketball career in 2009 for TuS Jena II (2.Regionalliga) where he played 17 games averaging 4,5ppg. At the same time he also played for their NBBL team playing 13 games and averaged 9,2ppg. The early basketball career of Voigtmann really went rapidly as he was developing and could hardly get a breath as a year later he was playing for Science City Jena in the German PRO A. He only played four games in his first season, but over the summer had valuable international experience playing at the European Championships U20 in Bilbao (Spain) playing nine games and averaging 1,9ppg and 1,9rpg. In his second season in Jena , he got more minutes in 2011-2012 as he played 28 games averaging 4,1ppg and 3,1rpg as a 19 year old with only four years of basketball experience. A big reason why the German was able to develop his game so quick in Jena was head coach Georg Eichler who already had a hunch that the BBL would be in  the future for the youngster. “Coach Eichler did very much individual training with me and was interested in leading me to reaching the BBL. He gave me a lot of confidence and gave me minutes that really helped me”, stressed Johannes Voigtmann. A few basketball birds in the scene started chirping away and Frankfurt management got an ear full of what Voigtmann was capable of doing on the court and soon he was on his way to Frankfurt. Before he came  to Frankfurt he gained  more important experience playing at the European Championships U20 in Slovenia  where he played  6 games averaging 10.3ppg, 5.8rpg, FGP: 64.1%, FT: 63.2%

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Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing Johannes Voigtmann after a 83-77 loss against the Artland Dragons on the road after displaying an almost flawless shooting performance scoring 18 points on 9/10 shooting from the field as well as grabbing five rebounds and dishing out 5 assists in 2014

In the summer of 2012, the Fraport Skyliners signed Johannes Voigtmann to a long term contract as the club made clear that the German youth was a big part of the future as they were going to base their nucleus around Danilo Barthel, Johannes Voigtmann and Konstantin Klein. Voigtmann was handed a double license so he could craft his game in the BBL as well as in the Pro B. With Muli Katzurin, the German had a very tough head coach, but was still able to work himself into the rotation as he played 26 games averaging 3,0ppg and 2,1rpg in nine minutes per game. Sometimes having a tough coach helps a young player to know how hard one must work to get better. You can´t sit around the zone picking daisies, but always have to be thinking and showing your opponent that you are two steps ahead of him and that is something that Voigtmann learned from Katzurin. “Katzurin always taught me to be aggressive. We played a very aggressive defense something I wasn´t used to before, but I got used to it”, added Johannes Voigtmann. In the first half of that season there weren´t many highlights for the big man as he had limited minutes except for an eight point five rebound game against ratiopharm Ulm where he played 19 minutes and a six point and six rebound game against Wurzburg where he played 25 minutes. Playing back to back times against two time BBL MVP John Bryant and 2010 Eurochallenge winner with BG Goettingen Jason Boone was a thrill and he had his notepad with him to take notes on their games. “I would like to be able to have everything in control like Byrant. He always knows exactly what he has to do. I think that is one of the reasons why he was MVP. Boone lives from his athletic play and strength. I would like to be able and move as well as him”, warned Johannes Voigtmann.  Ex Fraport Skyliner Johnathon Jones who once played for HKK Siroki Primorka (Bosnia-Division I) also remembers the Ulm win in Frankfurt as his fondest memory with Voigtmann on the court. “I remember how Joe did a great job against John Bryant in the win at home against #1 Ulm“, stressed Johnathon Jones. His rookie season in the BBL wasn´t easy as he never knew exactly how many minutes he would get. In the stretch run for example he played seven minutes against Bamberg or two minutes against Oldenburg. Then again there were other games near the end where he played more minutes and could fill up the stat sheet better like his 12 points and four rebounds in 22 minutes against Braunschweig or his 16 points and six rebounds against Bonn in 26 minutes or his 12 points in 18 minutes against Giessen. At times it is never easy for a German player to gain the respect of an American teammate, but despite only being in Frankfurt four months before moving to Bosnia, Michigan native Johnathon Jones really saw the whole package of Voigtmann and left the team with a big impression of the German. “His game reminded me a lot of Spencer Hawes. He has a good touch and can shoot the three and his foot work was excellent. I think he is a great role model, he plays the game the right way. I’ve seen him in practice and he works hard. The young Germans can really look up to him. I think his time will come and we will see him in the national team, he has a high skill set for his size”, warned Jonathon Jones in 2012. Voigtmann finished the Pro B season playing 16 game averaging 12.3ppg, 8.8rpg, 3.0apg, FGP: 58.6%, 3PT: 18.2%, FT: 65.6%. He was able to further work on his game while learning from Marius Nolte and Zack Peacock. All in all it was a solid rookie season and the German was satisfied with his season. “There are always highs and lows. I was very happy to be able to get the confidence of the coach and be able to play so many minutes. I just tried to give my best and use my chance. There was a lot of physical stress, but I knew what to expect coming in. I also had this in Jena so I kind of got used to it. I did feel the stress at night when I went to bed”, added Johannes Voigtmann.

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Miles Schmidt-Scheuber with German national players Danilo Barthel and Johannes Voigtmann at the 2015 Allstar day in Bonn

At times in his Frankfurt rookie season, Voigtmann looked and moved heavy on the court, but he worked hard over the summer to get his fitness level better losing 14 kilos and brought 104 kilo´s to the scale and also got added valuable experience playing at the 2013 University games and was able to match himself each day against three time BBL champion Philipp Neumann of ratiopharm Ulm. Voigtmann already showed at a young age that he had respect for guys who were further then him in their development. “He is already very far with his game for his age. He found a role quick in Bamberg and has played Euroleague. He is always aggressive and it is a challenge to play against him. I would like to become more agile like him”, commented Johannes Voigtmann about Neumann. Playing one on one against Neumann hasn´t happened, but with time and experience in the BBL, the self confidence of Voigtmann will surely grow against Neumann. “We haven´t played so much one on one, but I think he would beat me 6-4 or 7-3 if we played 10 times”, added Johannes Voigtmann a few years back. The fortunes of Voigtmann grew that season as the club continued to justify their desire to keep developing Germans as the playing time increased for Voigtmann, as he became a starter together with Barthel and Klein. Frankfurt continues to be a figurehead for German playing time and development something that Henrik Rodl had preached in Trier for years. Gordon Herbert has been vital for the big jump of Voigtmann in his development in that Herbert has given trust in him and the other starters and just let them play their game and thus their self confidence had risen. When looking at his game in the 2013-2014 season, he really improved in many areas of the game like his post play where he was scoring on a more consistent level, his footwork improved in the paint and he didn´t shy away from helping a Quantez Robertson on the fast break and his understanding of the game continued to improve with experience. The opportunity to play for a Katzurin and then get to learn from Herbert has been a huge reason for the huge development of the German as he has been moved gradually step by step not being forced into having to do too much quickly, but being able to work at a comfortable rate. “Joe has made a big step this season. His development is very impressive. I didn´t expect his mid range jumper to be so good and he brings the needed physicality. I think it will only be a matter of time before he gets an invitation to the German national team”, stressed ex Skyliner Max Weber in 2014. His passing together with Danilo Barthel continued to be a massive delight to watch as they were possibly the best passing four-five man duo in the league in 2013-2014. But its not only the passing that makes one want to come to the arena, but they complimented each other so well on the court and that led them to becoming German national players and teammates on multiple German Allstar teams. “Joe and Danilo understand each other very well on and off the court. You notice that they are important for each other and that they profit from each other”, expressed ex Fraport Skyliner guard Stefan Ilzhoefer. Centers usually never have to really focus on passing, but if a big man can pass the ball with authority than why not? “He is a player with the basketball understanding of a point guard. I see a mix of Steve Nash and Tim Duncan in Joe”, stressed ex teammate Stefan Ilzhoefer. In the 2013-2014 season, the German had scored in double figures 13 times including a 10 point, 11 rebound performance in the famous three OT win in Ulm and a 18 point, five rebound and five assist game against the Artland Dragons. “Joe has grown with the team, is fitter, has improved his individual game and most important is that he functions with the team. He is a big role model for me. His professionalism and calmness that he brings on the court is impressive. You notice with his game that it keeps improving and going up and I see no end in sight. Frankfurt offers him the opportunity and perfect conditions to become a big player. If he keeps working hard than I am certain he will become a big player, because he brings the requirements with him”, warned ex Fraport Skyliner guard Stefan Ilzhoefer in 2014. He finished the 2013-2014 season playing 34 games averaging 8.1ppg, 4.9rpg, 1.5apg, FGP: 55.2%, 3PT: 46.2%, FT: 76.8%, played also for Fraport Skyliners Frankfurt II (ProB) playing 9 games averaging 15.1ppg, 10.2rpg, 3.0apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 62.5%, FT: 76.2%.

 

(The Fraport Skyliners down 44-25 at the break, make one of the greatest comebacks in club history in the second half to win 85-80 against Russian team Enisey to reach the 2015 Eurochallenge Final 4 sparked by Johannes Voigtmann´s 26 points(9/10 shooting from field), 7 rebounds and 3 dimes)

 

In the 2014-2015 season, the German made another jump as he once again was able to improve his scoring, rebounding and assists from the season before that as he played 35 games averaging 12.2ppg, 5.9rpg, 2.4apg, FGP: 61.2%, 3PT: 36.1%, FT: 79.3%. He made the ultimate break-through in international play in the Eurochallenge playing 17 games averaging 16.0ppg, 7.2rpg, 1.6apg, FGP: 64.8%, 3PT: 28.6%, FT: 79.4%. In 2014-2015, he was a main scoring option, but also had scoring American rookies Justin Cobbs and Sean Armand and profited in that Danilo Barthel was injured for some part of the season and an up and down Aaron Doornekamp. Voigtmann had to step up and did. He was recognized for his stellar play by the BBL by winning the most improved award as well as best young German player under 23 and racked up eurobasket awards like Michael Jordan did awards back in the day during the season with Eurobasket.com All-EuroChallenge Center of the Year -15, Eurobasket.com All-EuroChallenge European Player of the Year -15, Eurobasket.com All-EuroChallenge 1st Team -15, Eurobasket.com EuroChallenge All-Europeans Team -15, Eurobasket.com All-German Bundesliga Most Improved Player -15, and Eurobasket.com German Bundesliga All-Domestic Players Team -15. As if all the individual awards weren´t enough to take a break from, he got his last big achievement for the 2014-2015 season by being named to the 12 man roster of the German national team at the 2015 Euro championships. He benefited a bit by the injury of Maik Zirbes and probably wouldn´t have been invited had he not been injured, but sometimes the most complete players might not be called for duty, but that player that fits that specific role best as back up and it seemed like Zirbes would have been the choice as back up behind ex Utah Jazz center Tibor PLeiss. Voigtmann got great experience playing against big time countries like Serbia, Turkey and Spain playing 4 games averaging 4.8ppg, 2.5rpg. His biggest kick though was being able to play games and practice together with German legend Dirk Nowitzki and one day being able to tell his grandchildren  that they were teammates.

 

(Johannes Voigtmann´s first season with the Fraport Skyliners in 2012-2013 where he contributed 16 points, 12 boards, 8 assists and 3 steals in a crushing 107-67 win against the Bayer Giants Leverkusen in Pro B action)

 

 

With the Euro 2015 experience in his baggage, Voigtmann came back for season four in Frankfurt and had some misfortune suffering a set back in preseason getting injured and missing the first month, but he returned with a bang and was very impressive as in the BBL he scored in double figures 24 times with three double doubles and in the Fiba Europe Cup he scored in double figures 13 times. Right away in his first game in Hagen, he didn´t show any signs of having been injured as he steered 14 points and six rebounds in 19 minutes in a 71-68 victory. He scored 22 points in Bayreuth and 20 points in a win in Bonn.. He was able to focus on his whole complete game as he does so much on the court and just isn´t that bruiser inside, because he doesn´t need to be as Danilo Barthel was more the dirty work man as his scared opponents with his stare and tough play and then there was a Doornekamp also supplying support as well as the slick rebounding guards. He finished his last season with Frankfurt playing 35 BBL games games averaging 11.0ppg, 5.3rpg, 2.1apg, FGP: 62.4%, 3PT: 38.2%, FT: 75.0%; and in the FIBA Europe Cup played 17 games averaging 11.7ppg, 5.8rpg, 2.2apg, FGP: 58.3%, 3PT: 27.3%, FT: 73.3%If one wants to marvel about a part of Voigtman´s game then it is his passing. It is something he has always done very well, but it seems like in his last season in Frankfurt,  it really blossomed like a beautiful lily flower standing tall on an apartment balcony on fifth avenue overlooking central park in New York. He produced amazing pass after amazing pass where one could almost have very carefully thought did he get some extra instruction from Mr pass Jared Jordan of the Walter Tigers Tuebingen during an off day. It really doesn´t matter where he is on the court, if it´s in the post, double teamed, on the fast break or making an extra pass out of the screen and roll, he seems to not only always make the right pass, but it is often so spectacular that one just savors the moment. He is a combination of Larry Bird and Jared Jordan with his passing cuisine and especially he has mastered the touch pass out of many different angles on the court just the way Bird did back in the day often looking so spectacular that at times showcasing the athleticism that he does have. He also has unveiled his behind the back pass on many occasions. There are numerous adequate passing big men in the BBL out of the post on man to man, but Voigtmann does it to perfection not only from there, but also when he has to contend with the help. He is like an extra point guard on the squad. “I can’t tell you what has been his most amazing pass because he makes so many but what he brings to this team can’t be duplicated. He’s an inside force on the offensive end. He creates scoring opportunities for the whole squad”, warned Jordan Theodore. He had a career high 7 assists against MBC and having nights like that could become regularity with the confidence he shows passing the ball. His field goal percentage was very steady the last years with Frankfurt and it continues to be so in Spain this season. He changed his mechanics a bit and had more rainbow in it and it hung up there so long that it seemed like he was a younger version of  Larry Bird playing with a kite in the basketball atmosphere waiting for the ball to come back to earth from heaven. His last season with Frankfurt ended with a bang as Voigtmann and co won the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup in Chalon, France and he had very important games against Enisey and Varese netting 16 and 12 points and held the ship a float as Jordan Theodore didn´t come out of his shell until crunch time in the final.

Before the big German moved to Spain to Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz (Spain-Liga Endesa), there was talk about what the next step would be Euroleague or possibly the NBA? In 2015-2016  there were NBA scouts following his development. He may only be a radio broadcaster for the Phoenix Suns, but ex NBA player 53 year old 208cm big man Tim Kempten who learned his trade at Notre Dame(NCAA), played for 5 NBA teams in the 90´s and won the France Pro A title in 1995 with Limoges, might have a name fly in one ear and out the next as quickly as Eric Bledsoe gets to the rim so what does one do for a name to stick? Well one plays a game where you bombard him with the name until he starts repeating the name. I had a short walk with Kempten down a Boston street in January 2016 stating “Tim big NBA prospect with Johannes Voigtmann, remember the name Johannes Voigtmann” and just kept saying Johannes Voigtmann while Kempten repeated after me like a well mannered dog does retrieving a stick for his master. Two days later, I gave Phoenix Suns assistant coach Nate Bjorkgren who coached 4 D-league teams and the Bakersfield Jam two seasons ago the full Voigtmann scouting report before he boarded the team bus and with the team needing an hour to reach the arena because of typical congested 5 PM Boston traffic which was only 2,0 kilometers from the hotel, it could have given him ample time to watch some film on the German. If the name Voigtmann stuck with Kempten or Bjorkgren there after is unknown, but if the German big man ever does land in the NBA with the Phoenix Suns then one knows the name wasn´t forgotten. Even if it may take the NBA some time to react to the potential and talent of Voigtmann, ex teammate Jordan Theodore already knows what the big man can do. “The sky is the limit for Big Jo. He will continue to get better and stronger. All he has to do is keep working hard and it will pay off”, added Jordan Theodore.

This season the German big man moved to Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz (Spain-Liga Endesa) where all of the sudden the quality of his teammates rose from good with Frankfurt to exceptional as he had guys like ex NBA players Shane Larkin, Chase Budinger, Andrea Bargnani, Tornike Shengelia, Rodrigue Beaubois and Nicolas Laprovittola running the floor with him as well as top European players like Jaka Blazic, Adam Hanga, and Kim Tille sharing the ball with him. The German held his own leading the team in rebounding in both the Endesa and Euroleague and averaging 7,4ppg, 5,5rpg and 1,7apg in the Endesa league and in the Euroleague 10,1ppg, 7,0rpg and 1,7apg. He was the team´s most efficient player in the Euroleague and fourth most efficient in the Endesa league. He scored in double figures in 11 games in the Endesa league, but clearly his best competition was the Euroleague where he has scored in double figures in 20 games including four double doubles and had three in a row. His best games were in wins against Maccabi Tel Aviv where he had 23/9 stats and 20/9 stats against Bamberg. He helped Baskona reach the Euroleague quarterfinals getting ousted by CSKA Moscow and the semi´s of the Endesa league getting beat by Valencia 3-1. One guy who took note of the German big man was 3 time Euroleague champion Kyle Hines. “Yes he does have NBA talent from what I have seen on film and in person. He is very skillful and you don´t see many big men step out and shoot the way he does. He has that perimeter style, but also can play with the back to the basket. He plays the modern game of basketball”, warned Kyle Hines. After his first season in the Endesa and Euroleague where he not only exceeded expectations, but turned a lot more heads, the question remains, will the NBA be calling him this summer or does he only possess  Euroleague format? Who knows maybe the Brooklyn Nets with assistant coach and German national coach Chris Fleming will be calling this summer. “I coached Jo for three years and saw his rapid transformation. He was a good teammates in Frankfurt like Aaron Doornekamp who showed him how to become even more professional. I have watched some of his games with Baskoina this season and he has had an outstanding season. He may have the best IQ of any player that I have ever coached. Does he have the game to play in the NBA? I think he has. He made another step this season and is ready for the next one. He has that potential. He just needs to find the right opportunity and that team that fits his playing style. Many NBA teams have phoned me asking about Jo. Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson was my assistant in Paris. Most important though is that Jo is a better person than player. He is a tremendous young man”, stressed Fraport Skyliners head coach Gordon Herbert. Only time will tell, if he gets an opportunity overseas or if he will continue to grow a relationship with the Euroleague? One thing is for sure, if the German ever does want to try something new or moonlight from the Euroleague or NBA and his passing continues to get fancier and fancier with time, then he could easily try out for the Harlem Globetrotters and get the players to howl a chant of Dammmmmm when they see how a 211cm center can dish out dimes at ease.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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