Last season Maxi Begue already had his chance to breathe some NBBL air as he was placed into nine games, but saw the brunt of the action in the JBBL(U-19 league) where he led the team into the JBBL final 4 in Frankfurt. The NBBL last season was filled with many guards so he could learn from many including the highly talented Isaac Bonga, but with the 18 focused on his career and making the next step in the BBL, the 16 year old who will be turning 17 next year has been shoved into a big role, one he probably wouldn´t have had had Bonga not developed so nicely and was still playing in the NBBL this season. In the last two weeks, Begue has progressed immensely accepting that role of having to take much more responsibility and also coming through with success on the court. Three weeks ago, he had his big breakthrough scoring 30 points in Hagen, but wasn´t rewarded with a win as Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners lost 75-72, but two weeks ago had a big success moment after he showed what he was made of not having a good first half as the club was struggling, but breaking through in the second half and leading his team to a massive comeback and getting the 64-58 win against TSV Bayer o3 Leverkusen as he found his scoring stroke especially at the end as he nailed a big shot from the baseline helping secure the win. It will be interesting and exciting to see where his journey will go this season as his development process continues with every new game. Begue took his 4-2 team and met another 4-2 team with the Metropol Baskets Ruhr on a typical early Sunday afternoon game and did it again being masterful in crunch-time like against Leverkusen two weeks ago helping power his team to the 78-70 victory as he took in the last minutes supplying seven points as he finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds and four assists. After the contest he seemed a little bashful in having to talk about his game once again. “My first six points today came quickly, but then for along time I didn´t score. In crunch-time I just did my thing which is to score. I did a good job hitting my mid distance shot out of the pick and roll while it was harder during the zone”, stressed Maxi Begue. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners remained unbeaten at home and continued to develop as a team for 40 minutes as well as keeping their nerves intact in crunch-time. “Our strengths today was our defense, team basketball and ball movement. WE rebounded well, but also gave up a lot if offensive rebounds”, reflected Maxi Begue. After the loss a disappointed Till Hornscheidt who was the Metropol Baskets Ruhr top scorer on the loss, but was still content with how his team played. “I think that this was one of our best games this season. Frankfurt was the clear favorite, but we were at eye level with them. It hurt us that Fin Fleute was missing especially under the basket and I feel that he would of given us another option on offense”, stressed 16 year old Metropol Baskets Ruhr point guard.
It is that time of the year again where the biggest basketball talents meet and show their abilities on the court in Trevisio, Italy at the 2017 Adidas Eurocamp. Germany is in good company as it will be represented by guys like Karim Jallow of FC Bayern Munich, Louis Olinde of the Brose Baskets Bamberg and Kosja Mushidi of Mega Leks, but also from two other huge talents with Isaac Bonga and Richard Freudenberg from the Fraport Skyliners will also be present. At the 3 day camp from June 9-11, the young hopeful talents will play in front of current and former coaches and players like Thon Maker of the Milwaukee Bucks) and Russian legend Andrei Kirilenko. The players will be able to showcase their skills in drills as well as compete against each other in games. Well known players that played at the Adidas Eurocamp in the past have been 93 first and second round draft picks, including NBA standouts Serge Ibaka (208-C/F-89) (Toronto Raptors), Danilo Gallinari (208-SF-88) (Denver Nuggets), Goran Dragic (190-PG-86) (Miami HEAT), Brandon Ingram (206-SF-97, college: Duke) (Los Angeles Lakers), Jaylen Brown (201-F-96, college: California) (Boston Celtics), Dragan Bender (213-PF-97) (Phoenix Suns) and Thon Maker (216-C/F-97, college: High School) (Milwaukee Bucks). Forty-three former EUROCAMP participants currently hold NBA contracts and 64 currently play in EuroLeague Basketball.
Isaac Bonga comes into the camp as one of the biggest talents in Europe at the moment from the year 1999 and at only 17 years of age and 205cm still has a huge upside in his development and could use this camp as another opportunity to raise his NBA draft stock for 2018 as he is already for many experts seen as a top 10 draft pick.
The 2017 NBBL final was not even 30 minutes old and if one was roaming the catacombs in the Fraport arena, one would have observed intense sadness as IBAM players had their heads sunk low and others were feeling the sorrow even more like Johannes Klughardt as it was sinking in slowly. 19 year old Klughardt who started his career with TUS Uhrspringschule was in tears and was hugging his teammates like a 8 year old would their parents with that first overnight summer camp departure. He had made a clutch jumper and steal in the last minute to secure the IBAM win against Alba Berlin in the semi-final and the final was the last game for the German in the NBBL with this special group of guys as many will be too old to compete in the NBBL next season. Not only was Klughardt unhappy with the 94-71 NBBL final defeat at the hands of FC Bayern Munich as he also let some frustration out on an empty plastic bottle lying on the floor, but also his teammate 16 year old 186cm shooting guard and game changer Joshua Obiese who had a great semi-final game from the bench against Alba Berlin was feeling the grief of playing a last time with a very unusual group of guys and was near tears as he described playing that last game with Stanford bound Oscar Da Silva. “This last game was very emotional for me. I had a very special relationship with Oscar. We spent a lot of time together training together a lot during the afternoons. It is really hard to let go”, stressed Joshua Obiese. However for some fellows the frustration and down period after a tough loss escapes a mind quicker as others like Oscar Da Silva was already in future mode as he had an intense talk with German U-18 head coach Alan Ibrhimagic for about 10 minutes listening about how he should prepare for the summer national team time and one could of orchestrated a wet tee shirt contest next to him or had Lebron James walk by him and the 18 year old would not have flinched or lost concentration with his matter at hand. The young German is all business and already has the type of strong mentality that will carry him far at the professional level. For Da Silva, it was just another big game with many more too follow as he produced 19 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and two steals and filled up the stat sheet like a Russell Westbrook. On the other side of the coin, the winners FC Bayern Munich were celebrating like no tomorrow, but one player won´t only remember the win, but also playing that last youth game against Da Silva. “It is always entertaining to play against Oscar. I never had as much fun as today as this was my first final. A guy like Oscar makes me so much better as you always have to play at a high level against him or you get eaten up”, warned FC Bayern Munich guard Nelson Weidemann.
The 2017 NBBL final was a tale of two halves as the fans saw a very balanced and even game in the first 20 minutes, but in the last half witnessed a fatigued IBAM team fall apart and be unable to withstand the constant FC Bayern Munich pressure on both ends of the floor. IBAM was fatigued and FC Bayern Munich knew that and used it to their full advantage.
A little more than a week ago German wonder boy Isaac Bonga saw the sides of two worlds once again as the sky is the limit for the 17 year special talent was able to broaden his horizons again something he has been able to experience time in and time out if it was playing in the basketball without boarders tournament in Lithuania or shooting the breeze with New York Knick Justin Holiday at the 2017 NBA allstar weekend in New Orleans. Bonga skipped off the sold out court in Ulm of 6,000 plus people having played the most BBL minutes this season with 26 contributing six points, four rebounds and three assists in a narrow 90-84 defeat to ratiopharm Ulm and 20 hours later, he was brought back down to reality that his basketball life isn´t only a bed of roses as he departed the floor in Munich a defeated young man as he had to accept the bitter 75-44 NBBL loss against the International basketball academy Munich with only 200 people in attendance and had ran around like a mad man leaving his heart on the floor having played 38 minutes filling up the stat sheet like a mini Lebron posting seven points, six rebounds, seven assists, four steals and one block. With his BBL season over, Bonga wanted to make his last season goal of reaching the NBBL top 4 in Frankfurt reality, but he as well as his teammates had to really show what they were made of, dig deep down within themselves and play with heart. Bonga wanted to avenge his unsatisfactory 3/18 shooting in Munich and at the same time force another do or die meeting with Munich and other German super talent Oscar Da Silva who dropped 59 points and 35 rebounds in the two game playoff series against Urspring and can continue to tell his friends that he will be attending Stanford next fall and play at the alma mater of ex Bamberg legend Casey Jacobsen. It was no secret that this special do or die game would bring out the best in Bonga and Da Silva as they combined for 40 points and 24 rebounds, but the International basketball academy Munich also known as IBAM came out on top escaping Frankfurt with a hard fought 61-60 victory. As the buzzer sounded, the few Munich fans that had made the trip jumped up in excitement as if lightening had struck them and star player and young phenom Oscar da Silva was calm, but one could see in his eyes that he was not only relieved, but also very proud for reaching the NBBL Top 4 tournament. “I am very happy about getting this win in Frankfurt. We never stopped fighting and played with high intensity. We came back through our good defense which helped us get transition baskets and that was key for the win”, stressed future Stanford Cardinal Oscar Da Silva. For Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners, it was a very successful season, but their goal of reaching the NBBL Final 4 in Frankfurt was not met and one could easily read the frustration of the players on their faces. Especially for team second top scorer Konstantin Schubert it was a disappointing way to end his NBBL career. “We knew that we could of won this game. Game one was depressing, but we had a different face today and defended very well against very good individual players. But when you only score 60 points, it will be difficult to win. We didn´t do much wrong on defense, but didn´t rebound well in the first half and when they couldn´t hit from outside, we were unable to stop their penetration”, stressed Fraport Skyliner Konstantin Schubert. “They switched to zone in the second half which gave us problems and took us out of rhythm”, added Fraport Skyliner Isaac Bonga.
In the last weeks do or die games as well as fascinating and breathtaking finishes like the unbelievable 75-73 win by North Carolina over Kentucky where Malik Monk´s last second shot was overturned by Luke Maye´s last triple with 0,3 seconds remaining to propel the Tar Heels into the 2017 NCAA Final 4 were as usual as it has been for ratiopharm Ulm winning and winning in the BBL this season, but also in the NBBL playoffs do or die games have been growing as last weekend the Igeko Falcons BC Nurnberg had to win at home against Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners to keep their season alive and did with a super performance as they won 63-51 stepping up their defense allowing 29 less points than in game one and carved the total points by German wonder boy Isaac Bonga and Cosmo Gruehn in half from 57 points to only 29 points and forced them to coughing up the ball 20 times with their aggressive defense. It hadn´t helped the cause of Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners that they were without their other strong performer Konstantin Schubert as he had been nursing an ankle injury. Both teams arrived into the game with their two star players Isaac Bonga who registered his first triple double in the Pro B a few weeks ago and is a projected 2018 NBA Draft Pick and Moritz Sanders who currently is averaging 7,2ppg in the Pro A and quietly developing further as a basketball player and were hoping to move on and face the International Basketball Academy Munich with their star player Oscar De La Silva. Despite being without second top scorer German Konstantin Schubert again for the third time in the series, Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners had enough other weapons and depth and took advantage of their home court despite some loud Nurnberg fans who had made the trip to cheer on the kids and escaped a last furious comeback by their opponent to slip into the quarterfinals with a satisfying 70-60 victory.
It was a game that Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners led from early on, but allowed Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC very close in crunch time, but it was the overall sound team play and superb leadership by 17 year old Isaac Bonga that allowed the home team to preserve the win. After the quick win, Bonga had exactly one hour and five minutes before his next game in the BBL against the Telekom Baskets Bonn and was dripping with sweat outside the locker room and showed absolutely no panic about having to get to the Fraport arena in time and reflected about the victory and keeping a cool head at the end. “I knew from the start that I had to take responsibility today. That is my job as point guard. We were always awake in the game and stayed calm even in tough times”, stressed Isaac Bonga.
When Bonga was long gone and on his way to the Fraport arena for the 10 minute drive from the BCM gym, Cosmo Gruehn was still on the court stretching and found the right words for the win. “Rebounds was key today as we were the better rebounding team in the first half and also defense as we held them to 60 points. We also did a good job keeping Sanders and Hassfuerter in check. We didn´t have to rely as much on our outside shooting like in game two, but were able to penetrate more with success”, added ex USC Freiburg big man Cosmo Gruehn.
Now is a very special month in the States concerning college basketball as it is the time of the year where March Madness takes over and fans are transformed into a special world where players are made into hero´s, some unknown teams create their own special Cinderella stories and upsets are always present as Duke recently was kicked out with the winner being crowned at the start of April in Phoenix. But also in Germany is March a very special time for youth basketball as the NBBL playoffs begin and teams battle for the ticket to the Final 4 at the end of May in Frankfurt and where upsets are also not uncommon as defending champion Breitengussbach lost their first game getting hammered by ratiopharm Ulm 82-58. In Frankfurt Eintracht Frankfurrt/Fraport Skyliners started their mission to reach the NBBL top 4 on their home base in the 5,004 seat Fraport arena as they came into the playoffs with a 11-3 record in third place while the Igeko Nurnberg Falcons finished with a record of 12-4. There are no real easy opponents in the NBBL playoffs and Eintracht Frankfurt knew that they would be facing a sound defensive team with Nurnberg as they had relinquished 70 points or less in 10 games while Frankfurt did 9 times. After an offensive first quarter, both teams settled down on the defensive end and the game was even for three quarters, but in the fourth quarter the Igeko Nurnberg Falcons BC ran out of gas as the depth and fire power of Comso Gruehn and Isaac Bonga was too much for the Bavarian team as Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners won 80-70.
“We knew that it wouldn´t be an easy task. We played very well and got the needed support from the bench. We know that whenever the clock is down and we need a basket, we can rely on Isaac Bonga to making the shot. He has improved his three pointer the last weeks. He has been practicing his shot extra hard the last weeks and is a motivation for all of us to want to get our chances and produce like he does”, stressed ex USC Freiburg forward Cosmo Gruehn.
It seems like it was only yesterday when Donald Trump was putting on the last final touches of his 2016 Presidential campaign and the NBBL season was just getting into swing, but after a few months the regular season is winding down and the playoffs are looming quickly. For one team, the playoffs were already booked while the other team was fighting for that last spot. Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners had a 10-3 record and sitting in position two despite having lost two of the last three games, but won their last game in Langen 92-68 where Cosmo Gruehn poured in 28 points. In their two previous games, they had lost to ratiopharm Ulm and Urspirng where they were missing their four top players and were led by players like Leon Pullen and Oliver Babitsch who usually get lesser minutes. On the other side of the court the Young Tigers Tuebingne arrived into the game with a 6-7 record and in fifth place battling Urspring for that last playoff spot who also had a record of 6-7, the Young Tigers Tuebingen had to win their last game in Frankfurt to reach the playoffs since they had won both regular season games against Urspring. However Eintracht Frankfurt had their allstar ensemble on board and wanted to cruise into the NBBL playoffs with full force and easily took apart the Young Tigers Tuebingen 75-52 on a wet Sunday afternoon. Only 16 hours earlier 17 year old German wunderkind Isaac Bonga had experienced his first big milestone as a professional registering his first triple double of the season with 10 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 assists in a win against Nordlingen propelling the Pro B team Fraport Skyliners Juniors into the playoffs. Bonga wasn´t as good against Tuebingen as he only had six points and six turnovers, but was solid on the boards with seven rebounds and had seven assists, but it didn´t really matter since his team had strong support from their three starters Konstantin Schubert, Cosmo Gruehn and Niklas Pons who combined for 44 points and young 16 year old German Alvin Onyia gave good energy from the bench netting 13 points. After the game Konstantin Schubert who is the clean cut guy who never looks like he broke a sweat, but looks more like a young banker in training understood that the club wasn´t totally consistent, but important that everyone was on board. “We had our ups and downs, but was a good preparation for the playoffs. We wanted to go into the playoffs with force and it was important that everyone could play together. We did a good job rebounding and had the height advantage and really took advantage of it”, stressed Konstantin Schubert.
The Young Tigers Tuebingen big highlight of the season was sweeping top German youth team Urspring, but lost both games to TV Langen probably costing them the playoffs, but head coach Manuel Pasios was still content with the performance of his team against a very strong Frankfurt squad. “It was a very scrappy game. Our three point shooting kept us in the game. We were at a big disadvantage under the boards as we couldn´t compensate their height. Frankfurt gave their all and wanted to go into the playoffs strong. We were able to annoy them only a little with our press, but that was it”, stressed Young Tigers head coach Manuel Pasios.