German Basketball is expecting a lot from two of its most talented generations: the players born in 1989 (Elias Harris, Tibor Pleiss, Robin Benzing) and in 1992 (Philipp Neumann, Patrick Heckmann). But in between these two generations, there is a group of players born in 1990 that is ready for the next step. Playing either small roles on Bundesliga or major roles on ProA level, I wanted to make an update on 3 players that will probably become major Beko-BBL contributors in the next years.
Maik Zirbes – 2m08 – C – 1990 – TBB Trier
The season 2010/2011 has definitely marked the beginning of the professional career of Maik Zirbes. After he only saw limited minutes last season, the German big guy gets a lot of confidence from his head coach Henrik Rödl and he is the starting Center of the Bundesliga Play-off contender from Trier. The main asset of Zirbes is his huge body; he has no problems to play his opponents physical, even if he can become tougher in the paint in terms of finishing. The main improvement in his game is his reduced foul-trouble and defensive awareness. After looking lost on the court last season, Zirbes has a lot of confidence this year and shows that he is already a good contributor for his team.
Zirbes mainly scores in the paint. Out of the back-to-the-basket situations, he can come up with the driving hook or pushing his defender backwards and finish with the jump hook. He has correct athletic abilities but the 2m08 tall Zirbes does not use them at its best for the moment. In my opinion, he should try harder to finish his attempts also with the dunk. He can finish it on a spectacular way, and he likes to do it as a trailer on the fast break. Zirbes has also a very good shooting touch. He can make the mid-range jump shot, also out of the post in turn-around jump shot fashion and he is doing a great job from the free-throw line where is close to 80% this season.
Defensively, he does not get put out of balance if he defends in the low post. The former NBBL-MVP has learned how to stay out of foul problems and does not go anymore for the cheap touches that can put him into trouble. He is not an amazing shot blocker but he can reject a shot here and there. In general, he is doing a good job boxing out and grabs the rebounds with two hands above the rim. I expected a lot from him this season and put him into my 5 players to follow for the 2010/2011 competition of the Bundesliga. For the moment, I must admit that he even exceeded my thoughts and is becoming really regular on this level already. With another season under his belt, where he should be able to get more offensive touches as well, Zirbes could be ready to become a rotation player on a team that plays internationally. The physical presence, athletic abilities and basketball skills are there.
Stats: 6.8ppg (59,5% 2FGs – 77.8% FTs), 4.4rpg, 0.7bpg 17mins
Jonas Wohlfarth-Bottermann – 2m07 – PF/C – 1990 – Dragons Rhöndorf
The total opposite to Zirbes in terms of physical body structure is Jonas Wohlfarth-Bottermann. The 2m07 tall player signed recently a long-term deal with Telekom Baskets Bonn and enjoys lots of playing time in the 2nd German division for Dragons Rhöndorf as cooperation partner for the Beko-BBL team. Wohlfarth-Bottermann, or WoBo as he is called, made his first steps on the international scene during the 2008 edition of the Albert-Schweitzer Tournament after which German legend Detlef Schrempf said that he has NBA potential. Being still pretty raw at that time, it was interesting to see into which kind of player WoBo has developed since.
The first impression that you get when seeing him on the court is that he is very long, a bit like a white and less muscular version of Kevin Garnett in terms of body structure. WoBo plays mainly as Center for his team, but he is a big guy who likes to go out to the three-point line in order to create spaces for his team mates. He likes to put the ball on the floor in order to set up some hand-off situations but he can also attack the basket on the drive. The former German Youth National team player is getting a lot of touches in the low-post where he tries to create out of the dribbling as well. He has no specific low-post moves that you would consider as his trademark-move but he can finish on the jump hook with his very long arms. He tries to score as well on his left hand but he is not as secure in these moves than when going over his stronger right hand. WoBo has range out to the three-point line and scores also on the jump shot from around the key despite perfectible shooting mechanics. He struggles to become regular from the free-throw line as his shooting touch is going up and down through the season so far.
In addition to his offensive skills and potential, Wohlfarth-Bottermann is already a terrific presence on the defensive end. With his long body and great wingspan, he is a tremendous shot blocker and goes up high on nearly every shot attempt. He had a season-high 7 rejections a few weeks ago and with him going up straight, he does not risk to get called for the foul that often. He has a very quick jump of two feet which makes him a serious threat on the man but also coming from the weak side. His lateral speed is improving and he is able to stay in front of shorter wing players when they try to pass him on the drive. With an improving footwork and a more regular jump shot, Wohlfarth-Bottermann should be a serious candidate for getting minutes on Beko-BBL level next season. He showed that he can dominate in the 2nd league and a loan to a smaller Bundesliga team next season might be a good option for him, if Telekom Baskets Bonn does not want to use the services of the 2m07 tall youngster for themselves.
Stats: 11.4ppg (51.8% 2FGs – 53.6% FTs), 7.6rpg, 2.1bpg 24mins
Femi Oladipo – 1m99 – SF – 1990 – Crailsheim Merlins
The third member of the German AST team from 2008 in our analysis today is Femi Oladipo. The Small Forward plays currently for the Crailsheim Merlins where he has made a constant way upwards over the last two seasons. After a first season on this level, he has nearly doubled his stats this season and has become a major part for his team right from the start. Oladipo is some kind of multi-use forward who is displaying a surprising court-vision and excellent defensive abilities. Being too undersized to play in the paint, he is mainly used on the Small Forward position this season where he can use his above average athletic abilities and speed to attack the basket. He likes to put the ball on the floor with his left hand from outside and despite being let open to take the long-distance shot, he manages to beat his defenders at multiple occasions with a good first step.
When coming close to the hoop, Oladipo is able to finish or score on the put back. However, the main question mark is his jump shot. Shooting with a very high curve, his shots always look like a prayer with the hope of going through the net. Here is a major point to work on for Oladipo as well as his terrible percentage from the free-throw line in order to become a more versatile player. As for the moment, he mainly relies on his driving skills out of which he shows good passing abilities to the cutters (he had a season-high 7 assists two weeks ago). It is interesting to see that he is often showing his team mates where to run on the court and helping the other guys in the set plays. He makes some good passes from the top of the key to swing the ball and he is rarely forcing the decisions on the offensive end.
Oladipo is able to defend multiple positions. If he might be not strong enough physically to stop big guys in the low post, Crailsheim uses Oladipo during stretches to play on the opposing guards. He has good lateral speed and his athletic abilities help him to put pressure on the smaller players. He has very quick hands to play the steal in traffic and immediately launch the fast-break where he is doing a good spacing job as well. When playing defense on the man, he stays in front of the offensive player but could be more active with his hands to make the passes more difficult. Oladipo should be an option for several Bundesliga teams next seasons in order to have an athletic defender and fighter for the rebound. If he can develop his shot and become more secure from the free-throw line, Oladipo should be able to become a highly interesting player in the next years.
Stats: 8.4ppg (61.5% 2FGs – 46.9% FTs), 4.8rpg 22mins