From the shooting stats last weekend in Gotha that Philip Scrubb produced one could have thought on paper that it could have been a Steph Curry or Klay Thompson or even Larry Bird transported back to the court that had somehow been secretly been flown to the former Eastern Germany city and had worn a special Scrubb mask, but in reality it was really Scrubb. For many in North America he has been classified as the best Canadian college player of all-time and is on the verge of becoming the best Canadian to ever play in the EasyCredit BBL. Ok it was only one game, but the Canadian has been a sniper/scorer his whole life and making points on an regular basis and making it look easy like those superstars from the NBA has been a regular occurrence this season as he is flirting with winning the scoring title in Germany´s highest league.
Philip Scrubb carries Frankfurt’s offense this season and currently averages 18,7 points per game.
Not only is this season fun again for players like Quantez Robertson, Mike Morrison and Scrubb who won a Fiba Europe Cup title in 2016 and reached the BBL semi-finals two seasons ago as last season was one to forget as the club missed the playoffs and all in all it was a very boring season except for seeing some AJ English shooting clinics and getting jealous whenever ex players like Jordan Theodore or Aaron Doornekamp were celebrating new titles. Not only is winning enjoyable, but since the 34 point Scrubb onslaught something else is exciting to watch each day with the Fraport Skyliners. Over the years, it was always fun to witness for how many points and assists a Dashaun Wood would go for the Fraport Skyliners in the 2010-2011 season as he won the MVP and also to see how many assists Jared “Mr pass” Jordan would hit you with with teams the Telekom Baskets Bonn and the Walter Tigers Tuebingen. Now in Frankfurt, there is the Philip Scrubb watch and just how many points he will score on the next night as he is on course to possibly follow Dashaun Wood as the next league MVP. After the Gotha romp, the Fraport Skyliners and Scrubb returned home and had to face the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven who haven´t invented defense this season as they have given up 82 points on average which is 12th in the league, but they had brought some momentum after a much needed win against Tuebingen, but they had no chance against the Fraport Skyliner´s offensive versatility getting destroyed 95-69. For most scoring 19 points would mean having a good night at the office, but for Philip Scrubb who was scoreless in the third quarter, it was a solid, but not spectacular night. After the win the Canadian had to escape a horde of photo hungry girls and one could see he would rather have been attacked by a shooting machine, but as always he shrugged off his success and was modest even if the Scrubb watch produced a smile. “We didn´t need my points, because other guys were playing well and hitting shots. For me it´s not a big deal how much I score. After that Gotha game people may expect me to do that every game and have a Scrubb watch, but that won´t always happen. I will take shots if I get them”, stressed Phiip Scrubb.
If one were to put Fraport Skyliner identity figure Quantez Robertson and ex NBA player Toure Murray face to face at a table, it would be interesting to see how long it would take for the conversation to mention the word NBA. The NBA was never a reality for freak athlete Robertson who would have made it had offense been omitted from the game and defense been the only option while Murray made it to the big show playing parts of four seasons in the G-League and 53 games for the New York Knicks and Washington Bullets. There could be other topics like where the United States will go with Donald Trump, if the Houston Astros can repeat as World Series Champions as Murray hails from that city or if the Cincinnati Bengals where Robertson is from will ever win a Superbowl. But would the conversation ever get to the topic of which team´s start into the current EasyCredit BBL season was more surprising? It probably wouldn´t as American players are always joking and talking about home and other comical things, but in basketball Germany, this is a topic that has left many bewildered. No disrespect to Alba Berlin who have made a great comeback and start to this season after underachieving last season, but what ratiopharm Ulm and the Fraport Skyliners have produced in the early going have been the biggest surprises in the league so far. In a way the Fraport Skyliners and ratiopharm have traded roles if one remembered how they started last year. Fraport Skyliner Mike Morrison if confronted with this reference would just smile gently and with his pleasant Floridian tone reply with a funny and witty gesture concerning the undeniable strong team basketball that his club is displaying.
If you had been in a closet or taken a month vacation to the outback and been offline and returned back to Germany and checked the BBL standings and seen the 0-5 Ulm record most wouldn´t have believed it. How can such a deep and talented roster with so many scoring options not be 5-0 or at least 4-1? There are some reasons why the club has played under expectations.
The first TV game show might have originated in the UK in 1936, but over the years the most memorable shows have come from the United States like Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune or the Hollywood Squares just to name a few, but another well known show was Name That Tune. This show that ran over a time span of three decades and most successful time was between 1974-1981 had a very straight forward format of putting two contestants against each other to test their knowledge of songs. It would be interesting to see how well an Isaac Bonga or Richard Freudenberg would fair against each other if head coach Gordon Herbert took a break from the pick and role defense and running their newest offensive plays to get Mr Canada Philip Scrubb that open trey every time by picking their brains with memorable 2017 songs like Shape of You from Ed Sheeran, Despacito from Luis Fonsi or Passionfruit from Nelly. When everything works perfectly, the Fraport Skyliners could make the playoffs again after taking a leave of absence last season, but moreover this season will be a time where the Fraport Skyliners won´t be playing name that tune, but playing name that next Voigtman or Barthel. For years the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup winner have been the poster child of grooming and developing young German players as the past has shown as they made the twin towers Johannes Voigtman a Euroleague player, Danilo Barthel a German national player as well as Konstantin Klein. In the last few years they have continued to develop the next wave of young German bucks like Niklas Kiel and Isaac Bonga and with Richard Freudenberg on board this season all are looking to make another jump again this season up the basketball ladder. Just being able to watch this maturation will be a huge treat for fans as seeing just how far a player can go makes that possible non-playoff appearance a little easier to digest. Gordon Herbert could put a starting five of Isaac Bonga, Garai Zeeb, Konstantin Schubert, Richard Freudenberg and Niklas Kiel on the floor having an average of 19 years and might get destroyed by the Bayern Munich starting five, but then again could hold their own against a Giessen, Tuebingen or Gotha starting five. It wasn´t any different for guys like Voigtmann and Barthel in 2014 the way it is for a Bonga and Kiel in 2017, but in 2016 they had both won an international title and move on to Euroleague land and FC Bayern Munich. Just how well this seasons young Germans continue to develop depends on their work ethic, minutes, staying clear of injuries and what is on the menu of the basketball God. One thing is for sure, it will be another exciting season with the Fraport Skyliners as playoffs or not as the current wave of talent will go their way with Niklas Kiel scheduled next in line to make the next pivotal step while many are predicting and hoping that an Isaac Bonga will despite turning 18 in November make another huge step. The next wave of Voigtmann´s and Barthel´s are already waiting in the wings with the likes of Maximilan Begue, Len Schoormann and Calvin Schaum, so with so much talent being bred in Frankfurt the way a Real Madrid has been practicing for years, losing massive talent Jim Gietz in 2016 who belonged to the Jermario Davidson posse in 2011 disappeared to Arizona last year and now secretly has surfaced with FC Bayern Munich hasn´t even been a side note yet, but become totally obsolete in Frankfurt basketball minds with so much talent always coming up.
After reaching the EasyCredit BBL playoffs two straight seasons, the Fraport Skyliners missed them last season finishing in 10th place despite having had the opportunity to have made the promised land for a third time.
That basketball is first and foremost a business is something that repeatedly proved season in and season out in Europe when one observes the fluctuations of players coming and going just like what we have been seeing with the presidential cabinet of Donald Trump in his first year of office. With teams shaping up in the German leagues for the beginning of the regular season, one is able to see how much teams have changed in only a matter of a few seasons. The Fraport Skyliners met Belgium team Antwerpen in an exhibition game in Frankfurt and two players form the visiting squad had had ties to the Frankfurt club in that one player Jason Clark battled against them in the 2014-015 season in the Eurochallenge while American Tyler Kalinoski has never played against them, but witnessed the Skyliners accomplish something that the club has only done three times in club history Clark who learned his basketball trade at the renowned Georgetown University where he never had a shortage of flinging the ball to big men like Greg Monroe, Henry Sims or Hollis Thompson who would later go on to the NBA has played in Turkey since facing Frankfurt, but at least hasn´t bounced around form team to team like many do in the last two seasons as he is going into his second season with the Belgium side. In the 2014-2015 season Clark played for Belgium side Aalstar and faced Frankfurt twice helping crush Frankfurt at home 94-59 where he steered 20 points in 21 minutes for the win, but in the return game was annihilated 80-58 as he managed only 7 points. When looking at the Fraport Skyliners roster now only Quantez Robertson is still there as every other player since the 2014-2015 season has departed. Tyler Kalinoski played his first time against Frankfurt as he was a spectator in 2016 at the Fiba Europe Cup final 4 in Chalon as his team fell in the semi-finals thus not being able to meet Frankfurt who disposed of Italian squad Varese winning their third club title. With many new Skyliners on the floor, Clark surely still remembered Quantez Robertson who has been a menace on both ends of the court since he entered the BBL in 2009 as he filled up the stat sheet with 12 points, seven boards and five assists. After the contest, Clark was stretching and after a short chat with Skyliner Mike Morrison who he knew from battles in Belgium years ago, he reflected how valuable a guy like Robertson is in this day and age where playing for the same organization for many years isn´t typical. “It´s crazy how much basketball is a business. It just shows how much the club and city loves Tez for him to be playing here since 2009. A club doesn´t always keep a player that long like with him, but it shows that Frankfurt is like home for him and the club value him as a good person”, warned Antwerpen Giants guard Jason Clark.
Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing ex Georgetown Hoya Jason Clark after leading Atwerpen to 86-85 pre season win against the Fraport Skyliners
Fraport Skyliner fans saw their team for the first time on their home court at the training facility and got their money´s worth as they saw a hard fought contest that had a certain pattern until crunch-time where they just couldn´t get over the hump as Antwerpen controlled the game.
It may only be preseason, but the majority of the EasyCredit BBL teams not only have the core of their roster battling in preseason games in order to get tuned up for the upcoming season, but also five to seven import players on the stat sheet to help get their chemistry rolling except for the Fraport Skyliners who like every August/September in the last years have had to scramble through the preseason with their few import players that had stayed on board and the rest of their young kids rounded out by some of their farm team players from the Pro B. It wouldn´t have been half as bad had their three veterans Quantez Robertson, Mike Morrison and Jonas Botterman-Wolfarth been present, but they were missing in action and one suddenly had to rely on the future with kids Isaac Bonga and Richard Freudenberg. The good news was that Mr Canada Philip Scrubb was back after missing last season on account of injury and had personal expectations as high as Mount Logan and was as hungry as a famished tourist in Ottawa getting ready to chow down at the trendy eatery Fauna and his stellar play showed. The trio of Scrubb, Bonga and Freudenberg may not have the experience of a Mayo, Gamble or Klein of the Telekom Baskets Bonn, but they are like a fountain of youth as the other three teams at the Giessen weekend tournament of Bonn, BG Goettingen and the 46ers could only dream of having young talent like that on their roster. The Fraport Skyliners weren´t rewarded for their furious comeback against the Telekom Baskets Bonn losing 82-76 a day earlier as 17year old German wunderkind Isaac Bonga made his first real serious breakthrough in a BBL setting as he filled up the stat sheet like a Lebron scoring 16 points, hauling down 10 boards and dishing out five assists. On Sunday the Fraport Skyliners were playing for pride in the game for third place facing home team Giessen 46ers who stunk up the building a day earlier losing by almost 40 points to BG Goettingen, but on this day the troops of head coach Ingo Fryer not only came to play, but played a well rounded consistent game that Frankfurt couldn´t combat despite their second half comeback losing 102-90. After the game ex NC-Greensboro (NCAA) forward Kayel Locke was relaxed doing his postgame stretching and even though he didn´t lead his team in scoring, his overall energy level at both ends of the court infected his team to totally rebound form their embarrassing performance the day before. “We were too sluggish against BG Goettingen and against Frankfurt we came out with more energy especially on the defensive end where one could see each man was trusting each other to help each other. We didn´t get good shots against BG Goettingen, but better one´s against Frankfurt and made them”, stressed KB Bashkimi Prizren (Kosovo-SuperLeague) forward Kayel Locke. The Fraport Skyliners lost their second game in a row of the Preseason and at times there wasn´t a player over 20 years of age on the court and second year man Canadian national player Philip Scrubb transformed into the leader with so many veterans absent and played his heart out especially in the second half leading his team back into the game, but the club just was unable to step up together as a team when it needed it most in crucial moments of the game. “This was our second game in a row where we didn´t start out well and weren´t focused on defense with no communication. In the second half, we communicated better on defense, got defensive stops which led to easy buckets on transition. We showed a good sign in the second half, but we need to bring it for 40 minutes”, warned Philip Scrubb.
The Giessen 46ers jumped all over the Fraport Skyliners right off the bat gaining the 7-2 lead as their two main offensive threats Kayel Locke and Austin Hollins scored and new American and ex E.Carolina (NCAA) forward Jamar Abrams showed his shooting expertise nailing a pull up jumper.
Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing Tim Oldenburg after he produced 18 points and 15 rebounds in a 79-66 victory against Leipzig in 2015
It really didn´t matter if the Fraport Skyliners Juniors won or lost, Tim Oldenburg was always prepared to give his five cents after a game about what happened on the floor no matter if he had just survived a double OT loss, hit the floor 25 times all battered and still gotten up or been a spectator at the end of the bench trying to get through an injury. Oldenburg is a 25 year old 202cm forward/center that has decided to hang up his jersey and concentrate on his 9-5 job at the police force. The German came to the club in 2009 and first played with Eintracht Frankfurt (Regionalliga), but witnessed his first Pro B minutes in the 2010-2011 where he played 12 games. In total he would play 7 Pro B seasons, but also a BBL game, one Eurochallenge game and two Fiba Europe Cup games. Oldenburg was so much more than just a good basketball player, but a guy that had a great charachter and was a role model for everyone.
Mario Kasun is a 34 year old 213cm Croatian that is a retired ex NBA player. He started his career in Croatia with Gorica (D2) and was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers (NBA,2rd(41) in 2002. He then played for the Frankfurt Opel Skyliners from 2002-2004 winning the BBL title in2004. He played in the NBA from 2004-2006 playing for the Orlando Magic playing a total of 72 games. He then played two seasons for FC Barcelona and two years for Efes Pilsen before going home to Croatia to play for KK Zagreb where he played 9 games averaging 8.4ppg, 2.9rpg, FGP: 64.4%, FT: 78.3%; Croatian League: EuroChallenge: 2 games: 17.5ppg, 6.0rpg, 1.0bpg; injured in Nov.’10 and was off for 1 month: EuroCup Qualifying Round: 2 games: 11.5ppg, 5.5rpg; Adriatic League: 21 games: 13.3ppg, Reb-5(6.4rpg), FGP: 63.3%, FT: 67.5%. He has played for the Croatian national team playing at the 2005, 2007 and 2009 European championships. He also has won the Spanish and Turkish cups. He played for Montepaschi Siena (Italy-SerieA) in the 2012-2013 season playing 9 games averaging 6.2ppg, 3.4rpg, FGP: 58.1%, FT: 50.0%; Euroleague: 8 games: 5.0ppg, 4.0rpg, He then played for Al Wasl Dubai (United Arab Emirates-D1) and briefly for BC Levski Sofia (Bulgaria-NBL) in 2014 before retiring. He spoke to German Hoops concerning his career and death of former teammate Chris Williams.
Mario thanks for talking to German Hoops. Where are you at the moment and how is retired basketball life treating you these days?
My life after basketball is pretty interesting and I am doing things I enjoy. I am working with motor cyles and doing Real Estate. I am really enjoying my life after basketball.
Before we talk about your long professional career, I have to ask you about your ex teammate Chris Williams who recently passed away. When did you exactly hear about his passing and what were your first thoughts about it?
Regarding Christopher, it was a huge shock. We lost a great friend. He was an amazing basketball player, but even more an amazing friend. It is pretty sad that he left so early, but I am convinced that he went to a better place.