Tibor Pleiß felt he made some major strides. But the Brose Baskets Bamberg center was diminished to a cheerleading role at EuroBasket 2011. Now it’s time for the 21-year-old to get back to business – and forget the summer.
“After I didn’t get to play very much I had to initially get back my feeling for the game and find my role again,” Pleiß told the Fränkischer Tag daily.
It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Pleiß lost most of his rhythm. After playing a major role in Bamberg defending their German league and cup double, he went to the national team looking to build on the last two summers in which he gained more and more confidence.
After the training camp on Gran Canaria in July, Pleiß showed his promise at the EuroBasket preparation tournament in Turkey where he averaged 15 points and seven rebounds including games of 20 points against Turkey and 16 against Ukraine. And Pleiß was named the MVP of the tournament.
Then came the arrivals of Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman in Bamberg – in all places his home arena with his club.
And Pleiß was clearly pushed to a reserve role, averaging 3.83 points in Germany’s final six warm-up games – with a top showing of six points in the final friendly, a blowout against FYR Macedonia.
After the three-game warm-up tournament in Bamberg, German national team coach Dirk Bauermann talked to heinnews and praised Pleiß and his efforts to improve.
“Physically he’s gotten a lot stronger. But he’s a tough kid. He doesn’t back down against anybody. He didn’t back down against (Serbia’s Nenad) Krstic two years ago. Mentally he’s gotten much stronger. I still have to stay on him. He gets down too quickly. He is too hard on himself still. So I have to stay on him about that. But mentally he has gotten stronger. He’s become a real pro, a dedicated worker. He’s a great kid. We are just really proud of him,” said Bauermann.
But obviously Pleiß just wasn’t considered good enough to fit into Germany’s plans in Lithuania, where Bauermann had to juggle a big man rotation of Kaman, Nowitzki, Pleiß, Tim Ohlbrecht, Sven Schultze and Jan Jagla for the power forward and center positions.
Pleiß never got his chance to prove himself at EuroBasket. He played a combined eight minutes in the first three games, scoring scoreless with four rebounds. Against Serbia he played 11 minutes and had three rebounds and two steals without a point.
Pleiß’s only game where he had a chance to prove himself was the final meaningless game of the first group stage against Latvia, in which he played 16 minutes and collected 11 points and four rebounds.
In Germany’s three second round contests, Pleiß totaled four minutes with one assist and one personal four. He did not even play against Lithuania.
“I was hoping for about 10 minutes per game. But my only role was to support the others from the bench,” Pleiß said back in Bamberg.
“Therefore I really didn’t take too much from the European Championship as if I had played. But I didn’t just lay around and be lazy. After the games, I went to the treadmill and continued to work.”
Back in Bamberg, Pleiß isn’t worried that the signing of Marcus Slaughter will mean a similar destiny as with the national team.
And his coach gives him reason to believe.
“Tibor can play well facing the basketball, has a good outside shot and therefore will even get some minutes as power forward,” said Bamberg coach Chris Fleming.
Pleiß is just waiting for the season to finally start and finally put the waste of a EuroBasket behind him.