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.
If iconic Boston sportscaster legend Bob Lobel was describing the Boston Celtic highlights today for channel WBZ where he was strapped in the 11pm news slot for almost 30 years from 1981-2008, he would most definitely have unwrapped one of his most famous catch phrases again concerning the 2017 Boston Celtics-Chicago Bull series. Back in the day Lobel would spice up his Celtics game reports in the highlights with the words “Why can’t we get players like that?” These magical words would surface in his report when any former player for a Boston team was shown making a big play for his new team. It was born after the Boston Red Sox traded unknown prospect Jeff Bagwell to the Houston Astros in return for journeyman pitcher Larry Anderson in 1990. Anderson didn´t pan out for Boston, while Bagwell became a star with the Houston Astros and was one of the best sluggers in the second half of the 90´s hitting 449 home runs in his career. Lobel´s catch phrase “Why can’t we get players like that” was widely emphasized in plays when the former a Boston player burned a Boston team. In his tenure as WBZ sports chef in the 80´s and 90´s he had countless examples where he could of used that phrase with ex Boston players like Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs or Nomar Garciaparra as these stood out with their new teams especially with the dreaded New York Yankees or ex New England Patriot Curtin Martin who fled to the New York Jets or ex Boston Celtic Bob Mcadoo who was injury plagued in 1979, but would move on to the glitz of the Los Angeles Lakers and win 2 NBA titles in 1982 and 1985 against Boston. In 2017 Lobel would have had a field day with 2008 Boston Celtic NBA champion Rajon Rondo who haunted his ex team in game one and two in Boston with Chicago. Not only in American sports could Bon Lobel have given his catch phrase life, but also in European basketball. Recently ex Fraport Skyliner Jordan Theodore who led Frankfurt to only their third club title last season with the Fiba Europe cup fled for the big bucks to Banvit Basketbol Kulubu (Turkey-BSL) this season and won another title with the Turkish Cup collecting MVP honors. Recently Jordan Theodore kept up his special tradition from last season where on countless occasions, he needed the ball in his hands and delivered in key situations. With time running out in the Champions League quarterfinal return game in Ludwigsburg and Banvit down by four and needing to win by five to reach the Final 4 went coast to coast and scored on an off balance shot propelling his team to Tenerife to go for their second title of the season in the Champions League Final 4. This would have been the perfect time for Lobel to share his legendary phrase “Why can’t we get players like that?. Lobel would of gone bananas in the Champions League semi-final where Theodore once again showed why he belongs to the top point guards in Europe where he scorched Monaco with a 21 point and 11 in the Champions League Final 4. This season Fraport Skyliner head coach Gordon Herbert could have sung this song with “Why can’t we get players like that” as as Theodore burned the Fraport Skyliners twice in the Champions league leading Banvit to victory over Frankfurt with 12 and 8 and 25 and 6 performances. Herbert would surely have doneabout anything for reaching the playoffs except giving away Isaac Bonga for free to have obtained Jordan Theodore this season as his misfortune of the point guard selection put the Fraport Skyliners off playoff course.
Around this time of year the last two seasons, the Fraport Skyliners were feeling that special rush of taking part in the playoffs again after having been idle for three seasons, but this time around the club was already looking forward to next season and off season dealings while the American players were already thinking about the first eatery that they will seek out at home when they land, but before that could happen there was still one last regular season game to play against Alba Berlin. It has been a season to forget for the Fraport Skyliners who were dearly missing Jordan Theodore from last season´s success and just didn´t have that consistent point guard with the killer instinct and after a better second half, were unable to compensate the poor first half of the season and the 3 last minute loses to Ludwigsburg, Bonn and Bayreuth denied them to slip into the playoffs. With one last regular season game before the long summer break, fans wanted to see their favorite players one last time, witness a few more crushing Mike Morrison dunks, a coast to coast sprint and dunk from Quantez Robertson and a lot of playing time for German wonder boy Isaac Bonga who seems to be slated for the back up point guard position next season, but after 40 minutes, it was Max Merz that fans cherished most in the game. Only 29 hours earlier, the German Merz had surprisingly announced his retirement, because of wanting to enter the business world and was playing his last professional game and helped the Fraport Skyliners dispose of 8 time BBL champion Alba Berlin 83-71. The 23 year old Merz played five seasons with the Fraport Skyliners and was one of those players that developed, but at a slow rate. He finished his last game steering 10 points, four rebounds and four steals in 30 minutes and was near tears at the conclusion. After he said his farewell to the fans, he was comforted by teammate Quantez Robertson for 20 seconds as he had to let it all out. After all was said and done, the German was content for his decision. “I thank all the fans and it was an honor to play for them. I don´t want to talk too much, because I will start to cry again. I have a lot of passion for what I studied and I feel that I can be successful there also. My heart will always be with basketball, but I know that I will have fun with my new job and be able to do things there that I wouldn´t have been able to do as a player. I know that I will keep coming into the arena to watch the Skyliners play”, smiled Max Merz. “I didn´t think so much about it being Max Merz´s last game during the game, but in the last seconds, it became more emotional since I did spend 4 years with him”, added Stefan Ilzhoefer.
Miles Schmidt-Scheuber´s first encounter with Immanuel Mcelroy in the locker room after he won the 2005 BBL cup with Rhein Energie Köln in Frankfurt
Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing BBL identity figure Immanuel Mcelroy of Science City Jena after 69-61 loss in Frankfurt
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.
One of the two hardest things for any ex Fraport Skyliner to do when he returns back to his old stomping ground is to not enter the first door on the right after coming through the glass door of the catacombs of the Fraport arena, but actually taking the third door and when entering the arena not taking that first left but actually taking the longer stroll to the bench on the right. Ex Fraport Skyliner Johannes Richer may have started his career with the Franken Hexer 2nd team (2.Regionalliga) in 2009 and played two seasons with the Brose Baskets Bamberg where he never made his break through, but it is fair to acknowledge that his most prosperous time as a professional came with the Fraport Skyliners from 2013-2016 where he played a total of 57 BBL games and 20 international club games and crowned his three seasons last spring winning the Fiba Europe Cup in Chalon, France. He also made his break through with Frankfurt in the 2014-2015 season where he helped clobber the Bakken Bears twice including his 15 point six rebound game in Frankfurt where he came off the bench for the injured Johannes Voigtmann and denied the Danish Bears honey on that night. The 205cm power forward/center was able to improve his minutes each season, but wasn´t able to make his full break through with Frankfurt and fled for the Telekom Baskets Bonn. However in Bonn, the big man continues to wait to get more trust from head coach Predrag Krunic as he is averaging only 2,5ppg and 1,3rpg. The only consolation prize that Richter is fighting for is a third consecutive trip to the playoffs something that the his ex team Skyliners are in jeopardy of reaching this season. Frankfurt entered the game having won two of their last three games, but digesting a tough OT loss in Bremerhaven while the Telekom Baskets Bonn had lost two of their last three games, but had beaten playoff candidate Ludwigsburg 90-86 last weekend. The Fraport Skyliners controlled the game, but an unfortunate turn of events at the start of the fourth quarter where Quantez Robertson was hit harder with fouls three,four and five then it is when Tom Brady gets sacked in the red zone which propelled Bonn to come back and squeeze out an exciting 74-73 win. After the win ex Skyliner Johannes Richter was beaming about returning back to Frankfurt and reflected on his lightening 4-0 run that he hit Frankfurt with. “I felt comfortable playing here today. It has been an up and down year for me. I always try to give as much energy as possible and help my team. I have to take the positives with my season. I think I have developed my game as with Bonn they focus more on defending the shot from the four whereas in Frankfurt it was more of defending the inside”, stressed Johannes Richter. Telekom Baskets Bonn head coach Predrag Krunic was thrilled after the victory and after hearing a positive homage to the great play of Johannes Richter and that he should get more minutes, the Serb coach was only able to blurt out “I am lucky that he is with us”, smiled Predrag Krunic.
-5- A. J. English / FRAPORT SKYLINERS / -13- Yorman Polas Bartolo / TELEKOM BASKETS BONN
The story of the game wasn´t only the early fourth quarter exit of Fraport Skyliner captain Quantez Robertson, but the hot scoring of Bonn point guard Josh Mayo who may be in his seventh season, but continues to play as if he has a gigantic chip on his shoulder and still needs to prove his worth despite having been a ruthless scorer wherever he has played if it was Latvia, France, Italy or Turkey.
Tyrone Ellis is a former professional player from Dallas, Texas that currently is head coach of D-League team Northern Arizona Suns. As a player he had a stellar career in Europe showing that a player can make a career coming from a NAIA school from Southern Nazarene playing in countries like Germany, Italy, Turkey and Spain. In 2004 he helped the Opel Skyliners win the BBL league title. He played for three Spanish teams Girona, Cajasol Sevilla and Asefa Estudiantes Madrid playing six seasons in the best league in Europe. He also played for teams like Eldo Basket Napoli and Besiktas ColaTurka Istanbul . He retired in 2012 and went into coaching being an assistant for D-League teams Tulsa, Reno, Grand Rapids and Bakersfield. He spoke to German Hoops about the death of former teammate Chris Williams and coaching the Northern Arizona Suns.
Ty thanks for talking to German Hoops! Where are you at the moment and how is your basketball life treating you at the moment?
No problem Miles, my pleasure. I’m currently on the road trying to finish up the season strong.
Before we talk about your coaching career, we have to talk about your ex teammate and friend Chris Williams who passed away recently. How did you hear about it and what was your first thought?
Our friend, Marlon Garnett, sent me a text after my game around midnight. Marlon played with Chris in Iran. I was confused, hurt, and in disbelief. I am still mourning my friend’s death. I don’t want to believe he is gone.
Postgame interview back in 2005: TYRONE ELLIS and MILES SCHMIDT-SCHEUBER after the Opel Skyliners eliminated Alba Berlin from the 2005 BBL Play-Offs
Chris Williams was 36 years old and just suddenly past away due to blood clotting. Did you have any more contact to him the last years? When you remember having your last conversation with him?
Yes, Chris and I kept in touch. He was the best man in my wedding. The last conversation I had with Chris was when I got this job. He called to congratulate me and tell me how proud of me he is.
If one would have spontaneously asked Fraport Skyliner Quantez Robertson if the numbers 34 and 35 had any special mathematical meaning, the ex Auburn star would probably have given his typical Tez smirk and replied, “were those some of the most points that NCAA teams won by in the first round of March Madness”? Actually Robertson was involved with one of these numbers last weekend. Last weekend it was a story of two tales concerning the basketball fate of the Fraport Skyliners and BG Goettingen as one team destroyed their opponent while the other team stunk up the building. 2010 Eurochallenge winner BG Goettingen got severely rattled at home 101-66 to this season´s big surprise team medi Bayreuth as the Bavarian team had five players scoring in double figures and Americans Demon Brooks and Joseph Lewis combined for 43 points as the club won the rebound duel and dominated in the paint shooting at a high percentage. The Fraport Skyliners on the other hand rebounded from a bitter loss in Ludwigsburg manhandling the Basket Lowen Braunschweig 92-56 as they led from the get go never looked back as the club was led by Shawn Huff with 17 points and Quantez Robertson and Shavon Shields added 16 points apiece. Frankfurt dominated the rebounds and spread the ball around the way a team led by Gordon Herbert should. One hot team Frankfurt was meeting cold team BG Goettingen, and the Fraport Skyliners were able to get revenge from their loss in Goettingen earlier in the season as they had a strong fourth quarter disposing of BG Goettingen 81-67. After any game in Frankfurt it is customary for the players of Frankfurt to sign autographes for the fans and after 15 minutes the last two Americans left were Quantez Robertson and Mike Morrison who were joking around and were in such good spirits that they could easily moonlight with their own sitcom once their playing days are over. “Having a sitcom would be fun. I would be beating up Mike all the time. All Mike is doing on road trips is eating and drinking juice. Sometimes I just need to get away from him”, joked Quantez Robertson. However when talk came about the two numbers 35 and 34, the Ohio native joked that math wasn´t his strong suit in school. “I wasn´t good at math. From those two numbers you mentioned, I remember 34 being my old baseball jersey in school and 35 was just out there”, smiled Quantez Robertson.
19.03.2017 / Basketball BBL / -4- Kwame Vaughn / FRAPORT SKYLINERS / -11- Darius Carter / BG GÖTTINGEN
Even if there was a game to be played, Skyliner fans of old had one thing on their mind and that was Skyliner legend Chris Williams who had surprisingly passed away four days ago at only the age of 36 due to blood clotting to the heart. Williams played only two years with the Skyliners, but in those two years was instrumental in the team winning a their only league title to date in 2004 and reaching a league final in 2005. He belonged to the top power forwards in the BBL and was named league MVP. He also will be remembered as possibly being the best player in the history of the organization. The club organized a minute of silence before the tip off and there was one person who was extremely sad and probably had millions of thoughts flowing through his mind in that minute which probably felt like 10 minutes. That person was Skyliners head coach Gordon Herbert who had coached Williams for one season and remembered the Alabama native very well despite having coached him 13 years ago. “I was thinking about the kind of person he was. He was a great teammate and was very sociable. His death really shocked me. His death made me realize just how short life can be. I still remember exactly where he was on the floor when he made that amazing cross over dribble and dunked the ball in the final. Tyrone Ellis helped him become a better professional and taught him how to build his career better”, stressed head coach Gordon Herbert. Fraport Skyliner guard AJ English was pleased about the win knowing that coach Herbert wanted a better performance in the second half, but at the same time shocked how quickly a life can end when confronted with the Chris Williams death. “Alex Ruoff kept them in the game. He hit some difficult shots. I remember watching him as a kid when he was at West Virginia. We stepped it up in the fourth quarter, got defensive stops and kept moving the ball and made shots. We started slow, but picked it up in the fourth quarter. I saw Williams face the last days as there was a lot of talk, but didn´t know who he was. It is very sad how he died. I know the feeling as I have lost guys like that. For BG Goettingen it has been a tough season and after being destroyed at home by medi Bayreuth last weekend, they stayed with Frankfurt for 30 minutes, but lost control of their energy in the fourth quarter. “We ran out of gas in the fourth quarter. Frankfurt made a big run and on defense they pressured us much and we turned the ball over too much and made everything uncomfortable for us. That was a very sad story with Chris Williams. His sudden death puts life and basketball in perspective. It´s not always about winning and losing”, stressed BG Goettingen forward Adam Waleskowski.