Anton Gavel now has a German passport - which will be a big help for Brose Baskets Bamberg in the German Beko BBL: photo by Imago

Anton Gavel now has a German passport – which will be a big help for Brose Baskets Bamberg in the German Beko BBL: photo by Imago

Brose Baskets Bamberg guard Anton Gavel extended his contract with the three-time reigning Beko BBL champions already in the off-season, but the reigning BBL Defensive Player of the Year signed another document on Monday and turned Bamberg from an already big favorite to the prohibitive top dog to become the third team in German history to win four straight titles.

The 28-year-old native of Kosice, Slovakia put his signature on documents to give him a German passport.

The news will likely cause a wave of profanities among Bamberg’s top challengers in the Beko BBL. But why? What does Gavel’s passport mean to Bamberg?

First off, hats off to Bamberg management to recognize the fact that Gavel would be eligible for a German passport after playing in Deutschland since 2001 save for a three-year stint in Spain (2006-08), Greece (2008-09) and Slovakia (briefly 2009). The perspective of new papers added a major bonus to Gavel’s attractiveness.

Gavel’s new passport automatically turns Bamberg into a much better rebounding team in the BBL and gives his coach Chris Fleming much more freedom.

“I think it will help stabilize our front court. We’ve been really up and down in our front court play. I think being able to play an extra guy and have a little bit of rhythm will help us a lot in both competitions,” said Fleming.

“It’s consistency in general. We’re not consistent rebounding the ball, that’s clear. But in general we’re not consistent enough. We’ve played very good basketball in the Euroleague only to give games up through inconsistency. We’ve had really big ups and downs and I hope we can even that out a little bit. It’s not just rebounding, though that’s a big part of it. It’s generally having the consistency in the frontcourt.”

The reason the news is so big is because of the 6+6 foreigner regulation that took effect this season in the league, requiring 12-man game rosters to have six Germans – or five Germans on an 11-man game roster. As of Monday morning, Bamberg’s roster had included eight non-Germans (Gavel, Slovenian Bostjan Nachbar, Australian AJ Ogilvy and Americans Casey Jacobsen, John Goldsberry, Teddy Gipson, Sharrod Ford and recent acquisition Jeremiah Massey) and six Germans (Karsten Tadda, Daniel Schmidt, Maik Zirbes, Philipp Neumann, Manuel Rockman and Johannes Richter).

With Gavel, Nachbar, Jacobsen, Goldsberry and Gipson all staples in the game squad, that left Fleming trying to find playing time for just one of Ogilvy, Ford and Massey. Massey wasn’t added until December 28 so it was usually a choice between center Ogilvy and power forward Ford once the Australian returned from his groin surgery. And with two centers already on the team – Zirbes and Neumann – the odd man was Ogilvy, especially with Bamberg’s lack of power forwards.

Gavel slotting into one of the German sports gives the team a bit more flexibility, especially with the low post players.

Fleming and his staff have worked hard to school Neumann – a 20-year-old talent on a solid upwards learning curve – as a power forward and started him at that position against Bayreuth in January. The coach left Ford and Gipson off the squad so he could see what he had in Ogilvy and Massey – the former who had already played four games in the Euroleague before making his BBL debut against Bayreuth.

Ford and Gipson – both off-season acquisitions – have both struggled to live up to the high expectations of Bamberg and some are wondering if they could be heading out of the Franconian team. It would seem that Massey could serve as Ford’s replacement – Massey a better rebounder than Ford as rebounding has been a huge problem for Fleming’s team all season. It seems unlikely that Bamberg would be willing to keep both. Ford started slowly before picking up his game.

The champs also are said to be looking for a guard but it’s unclear if they will actually go through with the move and replace Gipson with another addition – especially since large sums of money are not just lying around Bamberg available to GM Wolfgang Heyder.

Gavel missed a couple of games which gave Gipson a chance to showcase himself – scoring 12 points against CSKA Moscow and 16 against Efes Istanbul in the Euroleague.

“For sure Teddy benefitted from that. He needed a little bit of confidence, which he had lost. He’s a wonderful offensive player and I think he showed that in those games. What has been really positive is that he’s been a lot better defensively since the CSKA game. And I hope that trend continues because also there we need a stable presence,” said Fleming.

While the Gavel signing definitely eases the entire situation considerably, things are not all ironed out yet. Either Fleming and Heyder must convince the trio of Ford, Massey and Gipson to be happy being part of a rotation or they will have to clear room on the roster.

When asked if the team is done making moves, Fleming said: “Probably, but not definitely. We’d be open to strengthening our backcourt if we found the right piece. But if not, we’re good how we are.”

One possible reason Bamberg doesn’t make a move at all is that they do not have any pressure to do so in the Euroleague, which has no such rules regarding number of domestic or foreign players.

With an expanded 14-game Top 16 schedule only beginning to pick up and a hectic schedule facing Bamberg – Brose recently played Thursday at home in the Euroleague against Real Madrid, then Saturday at home against Bayreuth, on Monday at home against Würzburg and then on Thursday at CSKA Moscow – Fleming and co. may feel it’s better to have the extra bodies to rotate and give players a rest.

But domestically, the Gavel move is a huge one – and one that could in end effect decide the Beko BBL championship.

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