Brose Baskets Bamberg begin their quest to three-peat as German BBL league and Cup champions with plenty of challenges in what many Bundesliga officials and club leaders are coining as the “best BBL season ever”.
Bamberg coach Chris Fleming and general manager Wolfgang Heyder have reloaded a team that dominated the league last season and are one of a trio of top contenders to take home the 46th BBL crown along with 2011 finalists Alba Berlin and emerging powerhouse Bayern Munich, who return to the league for the first time since 1989.
“We want to be German champions. We know that we have top competition. But that is our goal,” said Heyder, who kept his 2011 double-title winning team together save for Kyle Hines and Reyshawn Terry while adding Julius Jenkins, Marcus Slaughter and PJ Tucker.
“We were able to keep the team together and added some really good guys. And now we can’t wait for the season and the Euroleague.”
Bamberg feel the additions make them more athletic and a better rebounding team with the big ambition of advancing to the Top 16 of the Euroleague, where they were so close last season.
While much of the talk is focused on the Euroleague, Bamberg know they have a big fight awaiting them in the BBL, where they are hoping the first team to collect a third straight title since Alba Berlin finished their seven-year title run in 2003. Alba coincidentally in 1997 ended Bayer Leverkusen’s seven-year run of championships, which began in 1990.
The head coach for those dominating Leverkusen years was current Bayern Munich coach Dirk Bauermann, who has put together a strong – if not somewhat unbalanced – team that has set the goal of reaching the semi-finals of the playoffs in their return to the top flight.
The name and brand Bayern Munich is known throughout the world and will undoubtedly help the league in various ways.
“(Having Bayern in the league) will without a doubt improve the level of the league. It will help with the television negotiations because our product is just that much more attractive,” BBL CEO Jan Pommer told heinnews.
“It will help us with our negotiations with sponsors because people realize that the value of the league has increased. And the opposing teams will fill their gyms for the games against Bayern Munich. So this will really give a big push.”
But it’s not like Bayern are without questions. First off, two weeks before the season started center Sharrod Ford left the team for personal reasons, leaving Bauermann with a lack of quality big men as Darius Hall is 38-years-old and late signee Ruben Boumtje Boumtje is 33 while promising talent Bogdan Radosavljevic lacks the experience as an 18-year-old.
The other major issue – which may cause Bauermann just as many headaches – is his plethora of backcourt players. Bayern have no less than eight players for the three positions point guard, shooting guard and small forward.
Steffen Hamann is the captain and used to having the ball in his hands late in the game, but rookie Ben Hansbrough has the making of a superstar – after surprisingly not being drafted at least in the second round by an NBA team. But Bauermann also has past BBL champion Je’Kel Foster, 2010-11 Bayern stars Jonathan Wallace and Bastian Doreth as well as veteran Demond Greene while Robin Benzing and Philipp Schwethelm are the main small forwards.
Another of the main goals for the club leaders is to continue the development of the game in Munich, where they move into their new home, the Audi Dome – the former site of the basketball games at the 1972 Olympics.
The third leading contenders for the title are the runners-up from last season – Alba Berlin. The side from Germany’s capital is desperate to return to the top after last winning the BBL title in 2008 – their only crown since the end of their long run in 2003.
“We have the same goal as every year – to win the championship and the cup and play well internationally,” said Alba vice president Henning Harnisch.
Berlin made a couple of substantial changes personnel wise in the off-season, bringing in hugely successful coach Gordon Herbert and 2011 BBL MVP DaShaun Wood from Skyliners Frankfurt while also added talented center Torin Francis and former NBA guard Kyle Weaver.
“Gordy is a coach who stands for getting the maximum out of his teams and players. And he has proved that in past years,” added Harnisch.
The other team mentioned as a possible title contender is 2009 champions Oldenburg. Head coach Predrag Krunic has a big task of building team chemistry as Oldenburg bring in nine new players – though many of them have past experience in the BBL.
Last season’s other two semi-finalists Skyliners and Artland Dragons both would like to return to at least that stage of the playoffs this season.
Skyliners saw Herbert and Wood leave among other departures and new coach will be former Alba boss Muli Katzurin, who will depend heavily on Justin Gray, Jimmy McKinney, Dermarco Davidson, Jon Leuer as well as the German trio of Joe Herbert, Tim Ohlbrecht and Marius Nolte.
Artland meanwhile saw floor general Tyrese Rice head to Lithuania and head coach Stefan Koch will rely on David Holston – the shortest player in the league at 5-foot-8. Other leaders will be Darren Fenn, Adam Hess and Bryan Bailey.
Eisbaren Bremerhaven have reached the playoffs in five of the last six seasons – twice reaching the semi-final. Head coach Doug Spradley has six new acquisitions – five of whom already have BBL experience – and should be a strong team though they realize that the fight for and in the playoffs will be tougher than ever this season.
Telekom Baskets Bonn failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2005 and disappointed club officials revamped the team though they did bring back head coach Mike Koch. Bonn will be relying less on Americans as their foreign players, going with two Lithuanians and a Croatian as well not to mention two of Germany’s top young talents in Jonas Wohlfarth-Bottermann and Fabian Thulig.
Braunschweig were in the playoffs each of the past two seasons but head coach Sebastian Machowski will have a challenge this season as he tries to form a team with many new faces.
There is a new face at the helm of ratiopharm Ulm as Thorsten Leibenath takes over as head coach and his leaders will be Per Gunther and John Bryant and the club moves into their new arena.
Another team switching head coaches is promoted side Wurzburg as John Patrick arrives from Gottingen, who he guided to the playoffs for the past three seasons. Patrick brings with him from Gottingen John Little and Jason Boone to a club which has been promoted the past three seasons from the Regionalliga.
Gottingen replace Patrick with his assistant Stefan Mienack. The leader of the team will be rookie Damian Saunders – one of many first-time professionals from colleges in the U.S.
Trier is another team relying on young talent – albeit young talented German players in Maik Zirbes, Andreas Seiferth and Oskar Fassler (all of who 23 or younger) with former German great Henrik Rodl as coach.
Ludwigsburg finished just outside of the playoffs last season and retained much of the team, including four of the five starters, and have five German youth internationals.
Giessen are the only team in the league to play all of the past 45 years – five league crowns – and the club has decided to change their focus from athletic recent college graduates to players with more experience.
Tubingen lost their top seven players and will now be one of the youngest teams in the league
Phoenix Hagen will struggle after losing their top two players and be among the top contenders for relegation along with Bayreuth.