Next weekend will start the Playoffs of the German U19 League NBBL. So it is about time to check who are the favorites in the bracket to reach the Top4 event on the 14th and 15th May in Ludwigsburg.
Science City Jena – Team Bonn/Rhöndorf
The #1 seed from the North-East division Science City Funkwerk Jena will face the Team Bonn/Rhöndorf in one of the match-ups where we see a potential upset. Jena features an amazingly long Starting Five with four players taller than 2m03 but also have a pretty short rotation and no experienced PG as it is the scoring SG Jakob Krumbeck who has to take care of these duties mostly. Their frontcourt though is highly impressive with the two U18 NT players Tim Unterluggauer and Paul Albrecht and the improving U20 NT nominee Johannes Voigtmann. On the other side, Team Bonn/Rhöndorf comes with their aggressive 2-men punch Florian Koch and Tim Kasper. Both combine for more than half of the points and rebounds of the team. Kasper played an excellent regular season and is currently being recruited by some NCAA teams as he wants to play College Basketball next season. The left handed PF averaged 20.1ppg and 9.4rpg while Koch came up with 22.9ppg and 8.7rpg. The team is driven by the Latvian PG Kristaps Reksna who joined the team last season coming Jurmala Sports.
Baskets Akademie Weser/Ems – Junior Phantoms Braunschweig/Wolfenbüttel
The match-up of the longest team names features as well some interesting tall and good players. The team from Oldenburg finished the North-West division in the 2nd place behind the presence of the 2m15 tall Frederik Jörg in the middle (14.7ppg, 10.8rpg, 2.5bpg) and the scoring of Jan König (18.9ppg 8.5rpg) and Tim Stahn (16.2ppg). The whole group is driven by the U18 NT PG Anselm Hartmann who does a good job. For Braunschweig, the athletic potential is great with the super quick PG Dennis Schröder (20.6ppg, 4.0rpg, 5.7apg, 3.5spg) and the double-double machine Daniel Theis (19.7ppg, 11.4rpg, 2.9bpg). The match-up between Theis and Jörg will be highly interesting as the Braunschweig C is a lot more mobile and athletic than the physical and strong Jörg (130kg) while the PG duel between Hartmann and Schröder is a similar story with two very different types of players. These games seem to be totally open and it is not impossible that Dennis Nawrocki who is the third string for Braunschweig and his squad will reach the Quarter-Finals this year and face the winner of the Jena-Bonn series.
ALBA Berlin – Eisbären Bremerhaven
The Finalist from last year ALBA Berlin will have some problems to do the same thing this year as the overall talent level of the team is not as good as least season. However, the team of coach Marius Huth features some players that can decide this match-up in their favor. With a good team effort and the experience of playing heavy minutes on the ProB level, Sebastian Fülle and Joey Ney should be able to control the game speed and have on the right level for ALBA. The 2m04 tall Can-Jonathan Kleiner will most likely play in the Play-off games (he only played 5 regular season games) and give them another option in the paint. For the Eisbären, the roster looks pretty athletic with Maurice Pluskota in the middle but also un-experienced with several 93 and 94 borns. Normally, ALBA Berlin should be able to go to the next round without too many problems and play there the Paderborn Baskets.
Paderborn Baskets – IBBA Berlin
The double Top4 participants of Paderborn managed once again to play a great regular season and only lost their first game on the last day. The team is driven by the twins Ole and Lars Wendt who both play major minutes on the professional level already but sees also the emergence of the very regular inside force Till Gloger (20.1ppg, 10.9rpg) and the hard workers Eike Sünkeler and Thomas Stukenberg. But if Paderborn wants to win the trophy this year, it is up to the Wendt brothers to elevate their level to their ProA games where both of them do an excellent job. If that works out, they should be the major favorites on the North side of the bracket to reach the Finals this year again after 2009. IBBA is one of the younger teams and the Play-offs are already a great result for them. They showed their potential this season already and and they are certainly a team for the future as the core of the JBBL U16 championship team from 2010 is there and learning to play on the higher level.
ALBA Urspring – LTi Giessen 46ers Juniors
The defending champions from Urspring should be able to defend their title this season again as the roster features a high number of quality players. Julius Wolf is a double-double guarantee on this level, Kevin Bright an excellent defender and game-decider, Kenneth Ogbe runs the point together with Mario Blessing and Malik Müller together with Sid-Marlon Theis are highly talented individuals as well. Still, the team showed that it is not invulnerable and Giessen is certainly keen to go for the surprise. After starting the regular season with 7 wins, the team lost 5 games in a row and showed that they are able to go for the best and the worst anytime. There are mainly two players to follow with the massive inside player Javon Baumann and the 1994 born guard Dominic Lockhart (14.6ppg, 7.8rpg, 3.7apg, 2.0spg). However, Urspring should manage to win this series without too many problems and go to the next round where they face the winner of the games between Trier and Ulm.
TBB Junior Team – Basketballakademie Ulm
Bill Borekambi and his team from Trier try to reach the next round in a match-up that totally seems possible to win. The athletic forward came up with impressive numbers this season in the NBBL (28.2ppg, 9.9rpg, 2.8spg) and gets support from Maxim Schneider on the PG position. Unfortunately, the 1994 born Nicolas Burgardt seems to be out for the season as he was an important factor in the paint in the beginning of the season and gave them some additional length. On the Ulm side, the return of the quick Deon McDuffie after an injury is an important factor and should give them the possibility to qualify for the next round. Together with the All-Star Andreas Wenzl and the Serbian import Nikola Stevanovic (17.2ppg), they feature more alternatives on the offensive end and may go for an upset victory in this series. The winner will face Urspring in the next round and a quarter-final match-up between the “enemies” from Ulm and Schelklingen will certainly be highly entertaining.
BBA Ludwigsburg – Eintracht Frankfurt
We expected a lot more before the season from the Eintracht Frankfurt team as they seemed highly talented and acquired the German National Team PG Falko Theilig last summer. However, in the highly disputed Mitte Division, they could only finish at the third spot and will now face the team of Ludwigsburg who is the organizer of the Top4 and therefore is overly motivated to win this one. Besnik Bekteshi and Jonathan Maier are the main names for Ludwigsburg. The first one already played some minutes on Bundesliga level this season while the 2m09 tall lefty Maier has made some great progress (16.1ppg, 9.2rpg, 1.5bpg) this season and is on the edge of becoming a member of the professional roster as well. For Frankfurt, the whole thing looks like there is enough individual talent to reach the Top4 around Theilig, Jan Novak, Jan Dolejsi, Roland Nyama or Nikolaj Vukovic and after a poor start into the season (3-4), the team is unbeaten in 2011 and comes red-hot to the Play-offs like the main outsider for the Championship. However, the bracket does not look very comfortable on this side as the Quarter-Finals feature the winner of the games between Breitengüssbach and Speyer.
TSV Tröster Breitengüssbach – BIS Baskets Speyer
The farm team of the Brose Baskets is a great talent developing structure for the professionals but they prefer to have their kids play on the professional level over winning the games in the NBBL. So far, Philipp Neumann who is their main guy has only played 3 games this season in the U19 League. However, for the Play-offs, they should reunite all their talent and have no major problems to advance at least to the quarter finals. Because next to Neumann, you have some good talent like Johannes Richter (16.8ppg, 11.0rpg) or the scorer Jörg Dippold while some of the younger 1994 born players are stepping up to get some minutes. For Speyer, the play-off berth was all what they were looking for as they avoid the Relegation round. The team is driven by the US High-School player Stirling Thomas and Philip Pujan Jalalpoor but this should not be enough to win a game in the Play-offs this season.
The biggest disappointment is certainly the non-qualification of SG Rheinhessen with one of the top German prospects Patrick Heckmann for the Play-offs. After the guard led his team to the play-offs last season but had to sit out because of an injury, it is the second and last time that Heckmann will not play in the most important games of the season. Even with the last-minute recruitment of Nico Barth before the season, it was not enough for Rheinhessen in the tough Mitte Division. Heckmann can now fully concentrate on his ProB season where he plays in the Round of Last 16 with his team TV Langen and decide on his future after this season.
Another team that we expected to qualify for the Play-offs was Phoenix Hagen. However, a mononucleosis of their top player Thomas Reuter and only a late season addition with Mamadou Kouyate were not enough to win the necessary games knowing that had one game where they could not compete because of the difficult road conditions in the winter and that was therefore recorded as a loss.
The Top4 team from last season NBC, formerly known as Franken Hexer, finished the season with 0 wins and will most likely not qualify to stay in the League. They lost nearly all of their players this summer (Ogbe plays for Tennessee Tech now, Novas Mateo went to Austria, Richer and Engel now play in Bamberg,…) and there was not much coming out from the younger players.