Minus the injuries to guys like Mike Morrison and Philip Scrubb and seemingly countless sicknesses in the last weeks, the Fraport Skyliners would be in a lot better position in the EasyCredit standings now and would have a lot more leverage over other potential playoff teams. But the reality of the matter was that there were 10 games left for the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup winner and the season is far from over. The Fraport Skyliners still have a lot of tough games remaining including two difficult home games against Munich and Bamberg and hard road games against Alba Berlin, Bayreuth, Bonn and Oldenburg. It was no secret that the 2004 BBL champion would get active again on the transfer market and did hauling in guard Jordan Sibert who reached the NCAA Final 4 with Ohio State and NCAA Elite 8 with Dayton and is a huge steal for Gordon Herbert as he was somewhat underappreciated by ex team Mitteldeutscher BC where he was consistent and put up solid stats averaging 12,2ppg, 2,5rpg and 1,0apg and was let go when ex hero Andrew Warren was picked up again after being a main force in the 2004 Fiba Europe Cup moving back to the BBL this season. With Sibert, the Fraport Skyliners got a scorer who will add more scoring consistency to the wing position and give the team a new dimension something they had in abundance last season, but have been lacking this season. The Cincinnati, Ohio native who gained professional experience with the Erie Bay Hawks (D-League) and last season with PAOK Thessaloniki (Greece-A1) who lists Austin Rivers as his most difficult cover in the NCAA and his rebounding as a hidden strength could be the x-factor and the guy that is key for the Fraport Skyliners making the playoffs as the team adds some depth again in the playoff run. It was the Skyliner debut of Jordan Sibert who had only had two practices with the team, but the American had a fine debut with Frankfurt contributing 13 points, three boards, one assist and shot 63% from the field in the 90-82 victory against Gotha. After the win, he had to make the rounds with the local press and was happy with the win and new team. “My goal was to come out and make it simple and knock down some shots. I only knew a few plays so I didn´t have to think so much. I want to make as many shots as possible to help this team win. I felt great on the court hitting some shots and winning. It was good to be back on the court. I did miss some defensive assignments, but I need to be more aggressive in the future”, stressed Fraport Skyliner Jordan Sibert. Hi teammate Philip Scrubb led the team in scoring again, but was content that he had some added firepower on the floor. “He fits our system well. He handles the ball well on ball screen and can shoot the ball. I am surprised that we were able to get him, but we were very lucky”, stressed Philip Scrubb.
Even if the Fraport Skyliner players forgot the 83-59 massacre in Giessen a little more than two months ago, head coach Gordon Herbert probably thought of that loss daily wondering what it was that negatively turned their season around? The Fraport Skyliners had had a 9-4 record going into that Giessen game on the road and anything but a win seemed realistic, but the surprising loss had turned into a negative trend in that Frankfurt had had a 3-6 record since then and suddenly the playoffs seemed to be a question mark. However their last win in Ulm 18 days ago had lifted the team´s spirits and one can´t forget that they had had suffered many unwanted injuries in that 9 game span and players had been slowly been coming back. The Fraport Skyliners had had a long break of 18 days as they had to wait out the World Cup qualifying games schedule and had a lot of time to work on their weaknesses as well as producing a potent game plan against the s.Oliver Wurzburg squad who had creamed them in their own living 81-64 shortly before the new year. On that night the Bavarian squad came alive in the second half and in total dropped 15 three´s which put out the lights for the Fraport Skyliners. Both teams were fighting for a playoff spot and the perfect playoff atmosphere was set in the Fraport arena as 5000 fans came out for a mild Sunday afternoon matinee and saw a hard fought game that wasn´t pretty and despite Frankfurt having control of the game, they never could totally shake Wurzburg from their backs as they grinded out a brutal 78-72 victory which held them on playoff course.
Philip Scrubb led Frankfurt in scoring (31) and rebounding (9)
After the game Frankfurt top scorer Philip Scrubb reflected on the big win and the battle to close down a Robin Benzing. “It was a hard fought game and Wurzburg came at us in the second quarter. But we played them tough and rebounded well. We also hit some shots when it counted most. I missed some games this season while Benzing stayed very consistent. He is really difficult to stop. I felt we did a good job making it hard for him to score in the fourth. That was one of the keys to getting the win”, warned Canadian national player Philip Scrubb. For s.Oliver Wurzburg, it was a bitter loss as they need every win they can get for reaching the playoffs. They did a good job fighting until the end, but had problems getting stops and getting Benzing involved in crunch-time. “We didn´t rebound well and let Scrubb loose. We need to tune up our defense more in the next games to be successful”, stressed s.Oliver Wurzburg guard Abdul Gaddy.
It is always a special basketball treat when one sees two basketball minds and two top coaches in the easyCredit BBL with Gordon Herbert and John Patrick go head to head on the sidelines and since the 2010-2011 season where Herbert was coach with Alba Berlin and the Fraport Skyliners while Patrick was head coach with BG Goettingen, Wurzburg and now Ludwigsburg, the two have had some intense battles as the current record stands at 10-10. Herbert won the first five duels, but Patrick is 10-5 since that first season where Frankfurt had BG Goettingen´s number. But not only watching the best two coaches bark the commands and witness how the players execute is a delight, but also seeing each team´s best player go head to head. That unfortunately didn´t happen in the return game in Frankfurt as Thomas Walkup was on the court, but Frankfurt´s best player Philip Scrubb was not. One can argue all day long as to who are each team´s best players, but these two surely would get a good share of the votes. Scrubb showed as a rookie two seasons ago why many in Canada called him the best Canadian college player ever as his high IQ, scoring and passing game made many Skyliner fans´s two hour basketball experience a very enjoyable time. This season Scrubb heightened his game as Frankfurt was hit with the injury bug and he had to really show his scoring gene and did being the leagues top scorer, but a knee injury put him out of action again. The MHP Riesen have many talented players, but of all Thomas Walkup may go the farthest. He came from a lesser known school SF Austin, but made a name of himself scoring 33 points against West Virginia and 22 points in his last NCAA game against Notre Dame. Many basketball experts saw him as a guy that could fit the mold of the New look NBA as a versatile player that can do a bit of everything which isn´t always appreciated from clubs at that level, but the American impressed. “The basketball world is so connected that you can play anywhere in Europe and still be on a NBA team´s radar. I am playing good ball now after not playing as well last season. I will just continue to keep working and see where it takes me”, warned Thomas Walkup. But instead of landing in the NBA, he played a season with the Windy City Bulls (D-League) playing 40 games averaging 7.6ppg, 3.9rpg, 3.4apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 53.4%, 3PT: 28.2%, FT: 84.5%.. He put the NBA on the back burner and is concentrating on his game and help Ludwigsburg get a title. He has put up impressive stats as he understands how to fill the stat sheet and really has improved his shooting from downtown averaging 42% in the BBL and BCL competitions. Not only his stellar all-around play has rubbed off on his teammates, but also his winning mentality that has allowed them to be an early BCL title candidate and his hidden strength of having that important winning mentality also has been key. In the first meeting with the Fraport Skyliners, the MHP Riesen toppled Frankfurt 79-62 as he led all scorers with 19 points and while they keyed in on Scrubb limiting him to six points on 1/7 shooting. The Fraport Skyliners had a lot of revenge on their minds as they welcomed the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg into their living room and for three quarters looked like they might win, but couldn´t handle Thomas Walkup as he stole the show from Tai Webster pouring in 27 points and scored 12 of the last 14 Ludwigsburg points propelling them to the come from behind 88-81 win.
It was a packed arena on enemy ground and throughout the game it almost seemed like a boxing match as punches were being traded back and forth in forms of buckets, but it really heated up in the fourth quarter as both guys stepped it up playing for their teams and fans like no other and random Jordan chants being blurted out from the supporters. There wasn´t one Jordan, but two Jordan´s setting the loud arena on fire and it wasn´t Michael Jordan and the United Center that was involved, but Jordan Theodore of the Fraport Skyliners and Jordan Taylor of the Alba Berlin while the Audi Dome was the show place in Munich. It wasn´t the NBA, but the German BBL as both Jordan´s were putting on a show as the arena was electrifying as the German fans were witnessing a real battle that had the perfect cup atmosphere as it couldn´t have been more exciting in crunch-time. Even if Fraport Skyliner guard Jordan Theodore won the point duel of the Jordan´s with 22 points, it wasn´t enough as his opponent Jordan Taylor who dropped only 12 points saved his best for last making the big shot that counted most sealing the 79-76 win as he nailed a tough pull up jumper from the top of the key with 1,1 seconds to play. Theodore would have one more chance, but fell short. The current Euroleague player with Milan rememberd the final seconds. “ “All I needed was one more second on the clock and I believe I would have made it”, stressed Jordan Theodore.
Alba Berlin would capture their eighth title in their storied history and third under legendary coach Sasa Obradovic beating home team FC Bayern Munich the next day while the Fraport Skyliners had a long bus ride home thinking about the loss as they had had extra time to vent with no game for third place. After the Berlin loss a disappointed Philip Scrubb remembered how vital that last shot can be. ““We trusted our defense to get stops. We wanted to buckle down at the end and not foul. They hit the big shot that counted”, said Philip Scrubb. It has almost been two years since that mid February day in Munich and the Fraport Skyliners are back and have a chance to get back to the cup top 4, only one road block stands in their way with shooting star medi Bayreuth. Two years later Scrubb is excited about getting back to the Cup Top 4. “The last cup semi final I played in was a great game, obviously we came up short but it was a good atmosphere so we’re excited at the opportunity to get back there”, added Philip Scrubb.
Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing TJ Dileo of the Telekom Baskets Bonn after the hard fough 81-76 win in Frankfurt
The holiday season wasn´t one of the greatest for the Fraport Skyliners in terms of their basketball success. Off the court a Mike Morrison could of played the perfect Santa Claus for the kids with teammate Quantez Robertson as his handy Elf, but on the court the club was unable to get some much needed wins that could of secured a visit to the 2018 EasyCRedit BBL cup top 4 qualifying game. Overall the Fraport Skyliners have been their own plague on the road having lost four of their last five games. A day before Christmas eve, they played one of their worst halves of basketball in the last 10 years as they totally collapsed against their worst enemy Giessen. Eight days later, they must not of had digested their Christmas goose well as they couldn´t escape Wurzburg with a win as their usual trusty defense couldn´t get stops on a regular basis in the second half. The good news for the 2000 BBL cup winner Fraport Skyliners is that whenever they lost on the road, they were able to bounce back and win at home in their living room where they are 7-1 this season and are always very very difficult to beat. The Fraport Skyliners had a do or die game with the Telekom Baskets Bonn for a ticket and chance to reach the EasyCredit BBL top 4 qualifying game. The Telekom Baskets Bonn came into the first game of 2018 with a lot of self confidence having won three of their last four games and had beaten the potent Giessen 46ers at home. The stakes were high for both teams wanting to get into 2018 on a winning note and get closer to that cup qualifying game and fans saw a very exciting game that was played at a high intensity for 40 minutes, but the Fraport Skyliners were unable to close out the game as they controlled the game for 35 minutes, but allowed ex player Konstantin Klein find a quick rhythm which shifted the game in the direction of Bonn who nipped Frankfurt 81-76.
After the disgusting 83-59 loss to the Giessen 46ers in the always annoying Osthalle where the home fans tend to be rather aggressive with their choice of words at times, the Fraport Skyliners crawled off the court with the only thing missing was bags to cover their faces as not only had Frankfurt been the clear favorite which no one expected to lose, but to be splattered with an embarrassing 23 point loss was about as untypical with the current stellar play of the team as it would be for the New England Patriots to lose their last two home games against Buffalo and Miami. After the loss Quantez Robertson escaped off the court after stretching with that bewildered look as if he had found out that Mcdonalds was closing in the Nordwest center mall where the club trains and lives, but in reality he was still trying to fathom what the club had produced in the second half. The Fraport Skyliners scored a measly unacceptable 22 points and gave up 43 points as their defense their usual staple had totally betrayed them. Usually it is their stellar defense that fuels their offense, but on this unforgettable 22nd of December in Giessen, the defense actually influenced their offense in a negative way. A week earlier Gordon Herbert had boasted that the incredible win against Alba Berlin had been one of the best wins he had ever been a part of and a week later the loss in Giessen has to go down as one of the worst loses in the club history in the last 10 years. The uninspired and haphazardly play of the Fraport Skyliners scared a lot of people and the only positive thing after a miserable loss like that was that it could only get better. The horrible loss gave a bad taste for their Christmas and the team didn´t have much time to prepare for their next opponent or digest their Christmas dinner either as Herbert had his team practice every day over the holidays. The Walter Tigers Tuebingen were fighting for their lives, had a new head coach with Mathias Fischer and desperately needed wins. The Fraport Skyliners came into their own living room having done a lot of soul searching over the holiday weekend and came back rejuvenated, focused and very aggressive retaliating from the Giessen embarrassment and whipping the Walter Tigers Tuebingen 90-63.
Tai Webster shot 3/3 from the three point line and finished the game with 20 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds.
After the big win, one could see a more content look on the sweaty face of Fraport Skyliner center Mike Morrison who was a big factor in the good start of the team. “One we made shots, two we played defense and three we played with a lot more energy than in Giessen. When you play good defense, you get more transition opportunities and we made it tough for our opponent from the start”, stressed Florida native Mike Morrison.
A little less than three months ago, the Fraport Skyliners were playing a meaningless pre season game in Giessen and the big men were missing in action as Mike Morrison was out but watching his team play and for Giessen they were still testing their roster as big country John Bryant was still not in the mix, but would soon be signed. On the Giessen side there was also a big man who couldn´t display his game as he was only able to watch his team and parade around the Osthalle sporting his big smile and one could only wonder if he will grey one day as quickly as his legendary father Rudi did. That 28 year old power forward was none other than Marco Voeller who had to sit out three months due to a doping ban. However in the last few months a lot has happened in his basketball career as he went to hardly playing in Giessen to catching on with the Fraport Skyliners and playing a very vital role in their game as the club had been seemingly hit harder by the injury plague than The Dallas Mavericks loss plague this season. In Giessen Voeller had been a steady role player last season for head coach Denis Wucherer averaging 3,1ppg and 1,7rpg in 14 minutes of duty, but this season never found his way into the Ingo Freyer rotation as he had played only eight games averaging 1,0ppg and 2,3rpg in 7,5 minutes of action. The rapid move to the Fraport Skyliners was a beautiful Christmas present for the ex Gotha player as he has shone in his first two games against Bremerhaven and Alba Berlin where he came off the bench getting big minutes. Especially in the win against Bremerhaven he had a fairytale like Frankfurt debut scoring eight points, hauling down five rebounds and dishing out three assists in 14 minutes of action. Voeller made his return back to Giessen and into a very noisy and energetic gym, but was also prepared to battle his ex teammates and also seek to show his old coach that it had been a mistake for not giving him a real chance. Voeller produced four points and three rebounds, but that was a mere side note as the main story was the horrible display of basketball that the Fraport Skyliners displayed in the second half scoring a measly 22 points and being whipped out of the Osthalle arena 83-59. Despite having left Giessen, Voeller still had many youth fans there as 15 minutes after the end of the game, he stood patiently for 10-15 kids for a selfie and then explained his sad return back to Giessen. “The return wasn´t as nice because of the loss. I came in with a neutral mind and gave my best, but this loss really hurts. We didn´t have the correct energy and intensity and Giessen hit everything”, expressed ex Gotha forward Marco Voeller. One guy who had the last laugh was German Mahir Agva who has finally found a BBL home in Giessen with head coach Ingo Freyer. He didn´t get a real chance with Frankfurt and plastered his ex team with 8 points, 10 rebounds and three assists. “I didn´t have an extra special focus going in because it was my ex team. I go into every game with the same focus. I still have many friends in Frankfurt and keep contact. Klaus Perwas congratulated me after the game telling me I played well. I just went in bringing energy, getting offensive rebounds and trying to hit my shots. When you have a guy like John Bryant on the court, it really opens a lot up and makes it easier”, smiled Giessen center Mahir Agva.