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.
Sometimes the basketball world can be so small as the day after the horrible loss to Alba Berlin a week into the new year 2018, I was flying over to the States for my annual visit with my family over the all star break and I remember getting ready to say farewell to my son at the area where one disappears and is on it´s way to the departure gate at Frankfurt airport. I remember having to look twice as I didn´t see an Eintracht Frankfurt jersey or FC Barcelona of a fan, but one of a German easyCredit BBL club. I remember wondering wow nice to see a MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg fan roaming Frankfurt airport. I quickly realized that was no fan wearing the club´s attire, but top American player Thomas Walkup who walked by me not knowing I had interviewed him once on the phone. A little less than a week earlier I had interviewed him before a game in Oldenburg. I had never met him in person, so when finding out who he was came another “wow what a small world” moment. He didn´t hesitate to mention that his parents had adored the question answer session with him. Quickly I saw more players turn up with the likes of Kerron Johnson, Adam Waleskowski, Dwayne Evans and all the rest. Soon I found out, I would be on the same flight to Copenhagen, Denmark before our ways would separate as I would be heading over the big pond to Boston and Walkup and co would be heading to Lithuania for a Basketball Champions League game the next night. With all the players slowly appearing, head coach John Patrick couldn´t be far away I thought. After a short, but as always interesting and entertaining chit chat with Adam Waleskowski on our way to the boarding gate, I soon recognized John Patrick who was relaxing in a corner. As I approached him, I remembered many encounters I had over the years with him the first being in the 2007-2008 season either in the Fraport arena or Lok Halle. He looked more tired than his players as his eyes looked bigger than usual. I had learned the club had traveled to Frankfurt during the last night following the home loss to Alba Berlin so they would have less of a hike in the morning to catch their flight to Lithuania from Frankfurt. I didn´t ask about where the tiredness came from, but a logical explanation surely could have been that he had been up the last hours trying to digest the loss to Alba Berlin via video. After a short talk we flew to Copenhagen. Then when we were in Denmark, our ways crossed again as this time I had some further chit chat with the 2010 Eurochallenge winning coach and as always our topic was basketball and the big German talents Isaac Bonga of Frankfurt and Ariel Hukporti of the MHP Riesen. His eyes had become more normal as the morning was winding down and his body was getting used to the regular day routine that he has had as a coach since entering the BBL in 2007. 48 hours later he was already on his way back to Germany having experienced a solid 87-71 win over Neptunas. This was just another short chapter in the successful basketball coaching career of John Patrick who is a perfectionist that has that first title for the MHP Riesen lurking in his rear view mirror.
Thomas Walkup is a 25 year old 193cm guard from Pasadena, Texas playing his first season with the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg. He played his rookie 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 played at SF Austin (NCAA) from 2012-2016 playing a total of 133 NCAA games. In his senior season he played 34 games averaging 18.1ppg, 6.9rpg, 4.5apg, 2.1spg, FGP: 62.7%, 3PT: 25.6%, FT: 81.7%. He spoke to German Hoops before the game against the EWE Baskets Oldenburg in Oldenburg.
Thomas, thanks for talking to German Hoops. Last season you were in the States for Christmas and New year playing in the D-League, but this season playing in Germany a day before Christmas and playing after New Years. Are you a fan of this type of schedule or would you rather have that special time with family and friends?
Spending time with the family is always very special. I was lucky to have my family visit me on December 26th. But at the same time this is my job and you have to make sacrifices and you have to be ready to play.
The NBA is the goal of every player, but after a season in the G-League, you decided to put it on hold and come to Europe. How vital has the signing with the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg been considering how well the season is going for the team and your play?
It has been very important. As a player I am reaching my potential here and doing all I can to fit the system. It has been a great fit for me. I really like to play for coach Patrick. The team and coach also fit well and is one of the reasons why we have been successful.
It must have been Déjà vu for Chris Babb last Sunday when he possibly caught the first quarter of his ex team Boston Celtics with whom he played 14 NBA games for in the 2013-2014 season as they somehow allowed the Washington Wizards to lead 16-0 in the first quarter in game one. It has been almost been four months since the bitter Ratiopharm Ulm cup loss to current playoff opponent the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg that dashed their hopes of the Cup Top 4 final and technically was their first loss of the season, but didn´t interfere with their 25 game BBL regular season winning streak that ended against FC Bayern Munich on April 8. Just like in Boston, ratiopharm Ulm had a horrible first quarter in the cup affair against Ludwigsburg being scoreless for seven minutes and mustering only 7 points and allowing 21 points. In Boston the mighty Isaiah Thomas who has had his real break out season this year and easily belongs to the top 5 point guards in the NBA had a painful experience losing his tooth, but that was exactly what he needed as well as his team to get out of this woeful period and he sucked up the strain with adrenaline and dropped 33 points to help his team to the victory. In game two, he didn´t need another lost tooth as he exploded for 53 points the most points in a playoff game since Allen Iverson´s 55 in 2003. Babb who learned his basketball trade at iowa(NCAA) never played a NBA minute with Isaiah Thomas, but joined the Boston Celtics on April 12 2015 again after spending the season in the D-league with Maine and witnessed the last 6 Celtic games of the season from the bench including five against the Cleveland Cavaliars which included the 4 game sweep against Boston. Thomas was a known player in the NBA and already showed signs of becoming a superstar dropping 34 points against the Detroit Pistons. Babb probably already knew in his mind two years ago that Thomas had the potential to get to where he is now. If ratiopharm Ulm ever have a slow start in a playoff game or are suffering a very down period, Chris Babb will surely remember the Isaiah Thomas tooth caper in Boston. He also will recall how Thomas rebounded from a 3-26 shooting span against Chicago in the last three games and rebound against Washington to shoot almost 50% from outside and with or without a painful experience use that as fuel to his advantage when he is on the court to get his team out of a jam especially with his three pointer as he is shooting 42,9% from the parking lot.
The season of ratiopharm Ulm so far has been like a Cinderella story even if the club has belonged to the top 5 teams in the BBL for years, but the fewest people would have ever believed that they could flirt with an undefeated season except for maybe head coach Thorsten Leibenath and manager Thomas Stoll.
Jason Boone is a 31 year old 198cm power forward/center from Sugar Loaf, New York that is playing his tenth professional season and first with TBV Start Lublin (Poland-PLK). He started the season with the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg where he had been with since 2015 and this season averaged 1,3ppg and 1,0rpg in the EasyCredit BBL and 2,0ppg and 2,0rpg in the Champions League. He played three seasons with the s. Oliver Baskets Wurzburg and three seasons for BG Goettingen. He played at New York University(NCAA 3) from 2003-2007. In his senior year, he played 28 games averaging 14.1ppg, 9.6rpg, 2.4bpg, 2.9apg, FG: 63.0%, FT: 64.3%. In 2007-2008, he turned professional and played played at Bernau(Regionalliga) before making the jump up three leagues to MEG Goettingen. In 2008-2009, he averaged 4.4ppg, 4.0rpg, FG: 53.7. In 2009-2010, he won the Eurochallenge for BG Goettingen playing EuroChallenge: 16 games: 10.7ppg, 6.8rpg, 1.0apg, FGP: 59.6%, FT: 53.8%; German League: 35 games: 9.1ppg, 6.1rpg, FGP: 60.3%, FT: 55.9%. He also played a season with Torku Konyaspor (Turkey-TBL): 14 games: 6.1ppg, 4.2rpg, 2FGP: 60.7%, FT: 46.2%, in Mar.’15 moved to SO Maritime Boulogne (France-ProA) playing 12 games: 9.7ppg, 6.1rpg, 1.0apg, FGP: 63.6%, FT: 51.4%. He spoke to German Hoops for the 75th time this time talking about his departure from the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg leaving head coach John Patrick with whom he played for in Goettingen, Wurzburg and Ludwigsburg and the future.
Jason thanks for talking to German Hoops. Did you make any new years resolutions coming into 2017 or are you not the type of guy that does that?
I’m a big believer that if you want to make a change you shouldn’t wait until January 1st to make it. I spend a lot of my free time in the fitness center and it was full the first two weeks of January, but around the middle of the month it was back down to the regulars. That sums up my relationship to the New Years Resolution.
I just finished reading your blog entry “My real life can wait” and realized that you went through a lot in only half a season. Were the last 6-7 months the most difficult in your basketball career?
Everything seems difficult as you go through it but in hindsight is never as bad as it seems in the moment. This season definitely wasn’t the easiest but at the end of the day I was able to be a part of a successful team and a great group of guys.
Your basketball life in Ludwigsburg came to an end recently. Was this a good example that like in so many other facets of life, business is always king while everything else is far behind?
Didn’t you watch the BBL Dunk Contest this year? Kelvin Martin is King. Point Blank. Period.
Rocky Trice Is a 32 year old 185cm shooting guard playing his 10th professional season and his seventh in Germany. He played as a rookie with the Cuxhaven BasCats (Germany-ProA) in 2007 an dthen made the jump to the BBL playing a season for BG Goettingen and then played three seasons for ratiopharm Ulm. He then played two seasons for Energa Czarni Slupsk (Poland-TBL) and a season with WKS Slask Wroclaw (Poland-TBL). Last season he played for MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg (Germany-BBL) playing 29 games averaging 11.9ppg, 4.3rpg, 3.6apg, Steals-5(1.6spg), FGP: 56.0%, 3PT: 32.6%, FT: 79.3%; Eurocup: 15 games: 8.7ppg, 4.7rpg, 2.7apg, Steals-2(2.2spg), FGP: 47.4%, 3PT: 20.0%, FT: 84.0%. This season he started with MKS Dabrowa Gornicza (Poland-TBL) playing 3 games averaging 7.7ppg, 1.0rpg, 2.7apg, 2.3spg, 1.0bpg. He spoke to German Hoops before the EasyCredit BBL cup weekend in Berlin.
Rocky thanks for talking to German Hoops You started the season with MKS Dabrowa Gornicza (Poland-TBL) playing only 3 games averaging 7.7ppg, 1.0rpg, 2.7apg, 2.3spg, 1.0bpg. The team is playing a solid season and fighting for the playoffs. Why was your stay so short in Poland this time around?
I had to deal with some health issues. I wanted to go back home and get a second opinion from a doctor back home. we cancelled the contract from here.
Was the short stay at least a bit worthwhile since you were teammates once again with Kerron Johnson who had been in Ludwigsburg the last two seasons. He had two very solid statistical seasons in Germany and now is doing the same in Poland. Do you see him being able to make that next step again and move to an even higher level in the future?
Yes, it was good seeing KJ and playing with him again even though it was short lived. and yes if he keeps putting in work, like I know he will he will make it to an even higher level.
How thankful are you that you are back in a known environment like Ludwigsburg? I guess you didn´t need much time to say yes to the offer from head coach John Patrick?
It’s always good to go back to an environment where you are comfortable and know the system already.
Kelvin Martin is a 27 year old 195cm swing man from Adel, Georgia playing his fifth professional season and second in Germany and first with the MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg (Germany-BBL). Last season he gained further experience with Moncada Solar Agrigento (Italy-Serie A2) playing 37 games averaging 16.9ppg, 6.3rpg, 1.3apg, Steals-1(2.2spg), FGP: 55.4%, 3PT: 39.6%, FT: 61.7%. He played his first two professional seasons with Matrixx Magixx Wijchen (Holland-Eredivisie) and two seasons ago played with the : MLP Academics Heidelberg (Germany-ProA, starting five): 33 games: 15.1ppg, 6.4rpg, 1.8apg, Steals-1(2.1spg), FGP: 48.6%, 3PT: 32.8%, FT: 70.2%. He started his basketball career at Charleston So. (NCAA) in 2008 and played 115 NCAA games over 4 seasons and as a senior played 31 games averaging 15.4ppg, 9.1rpg, 1.7apg, 2.1spg, 1.6bpg, FGP: 59.7%, 3PT: 25.0%, FT: 60.2%. He spoke to German Hoops about the EasyCredit BBL cup weekend in Berlin and his professional basketball career.
Kelvin thanks for talking to German Hoops.2017 has come and we are well into the new year. Did you set any new year´s resolutions or are you more the kind of guy that doesn´t bother with that?
Thanks for the opportunity. Yeah, I don’t really bother with that.
You have come a long way from playing first division in Holland, second and third divisions in Italy and Pro A in Germany and now you have reached the EasyCredit BBL. How good is basketball life for you at the moment?
Basketball is good for me. I’m very thankful and blessed to be in the position I am in now.
You were part of the slam dunk contest and now your at the easyCredit BBL top 4 weekend in Berlin. When you look back at your professional career are you surprised it took you 5 seasosn to get here?
I wouldn’t say surprised because when I became a professional I had to prove to teams I could play the 3/2. But after having back to back meniscus tear surgeries my first year professional I knew I was going to be held back. I’m sure if I didn’t have that surgery my career would of went different but everything happens for a reason. God has always had a plan.