– David Hein
We made it through the 2019-20 season and the 2020-21 campaign is about to tip off. This time, a MagentaSport BBL Cup champion will be crowned before the easyCredit BBL even tips off. There were plenty of moves this off-season - of star German players, youngsters and coaches - and the league also returned to 18 teams. And the league promises to be as thrilling as ever. All-in-all though, fans in Germany should be fully ready to expect the unexpected in these times of a pandemic. Let’s start the 2020-21 season.
In this section, we break out our English language skills and inform you about the latest news from the German easyCredit Basketball Bundesliga. If you’re short on time but still want your fill of Germany’s top basketball league then you are in the right place. Every week David Hein (www.heinnews.com) brings you up-to-date in German basketball – the easyCredit BBL short and sweet:
Be ready for anything - Covid-19 is still here
Basketball is about to return to Germany - and it will not be organized in a safe bubble like the 2020 season-ending tournament in Munich. One thing that all fans in the country must realize is that we are still in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. That means: expect the unexpected and be ready for anything. Will games be cancelled or postponed because one team or the other has a number of Covid-19 cases? It wouldn’t be a surprise. Will fans be allowed into arenas? That depends on where the team is playing and how the pandemic is currently being handled in that German state. So, be patient and know every-thing is being done to keep everyone involved as safe as possible and make the action as thrilling as ever.
2020-21 season tips off with MagentaSport BBL Cup
As opposed to previous seasons, the 2020-21 campaign will crown a Magen-taSport BBL Cup champion before the first easyCredit BBL game even takes place. The 16-team German Cup competition starts on Saturday, October 17 and will be played out in four venues over October 18, 24, 25 and 26 as the four teams in each of the four groups will play the other clubs in their group. The winners of the four groups will play at the TOP FOUR at Munich’s Audi Dome on November 1-2. The winners of Groups A and B will play in one semi-final and the Groups C and D winners will play in the other semi. The defend-ing champions are ALBA BERLIN and three different teams have won the cup the last three seasons - FC Bayern Munich in 2018 and Brose Bamberg in 2019.
Berlin look to repeat with calmed nerves after double, return of Aito
ALBA BERLIN went into the 2019-20 season longing to end their league title drought which dated back to 2008. Aito Garcia Reneses ended up guiding Berlin to the double - winning the MagentaSport BBL Cup in a final win over EWE Baskets Oldenburg and then rolling past MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg in the season-ending tournament for the league crown. With hardware finally in their trophycase again, Berlin can go into the 2020-21 season with a calmer attitude - especially after Aito decided to stay on in the German capital for another sea-son. Now the question is if Berlin can become the third straight club to repeat after Brose Bamberg won three titles in a row from 2015 to 2017 and FC Bay-ern Munich went back-to-back in 2018 and 2019.
New-look Bayern out to return to old dominance
A familiar face will be called upon as FC Bayern Munich hope to return to the top of the easyCredit BBL. After Bayern were bounced in the quarter-finals of the season-ending tournament by MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg, the club brought in Andrea Trinchieri as their new head coach. Bayern also added a number of players who will be playing in Germany for the first time - such as Wade Baldwin, JaJuan Johnson, Jalen Reynolds and Malcolm Thomas. Bayern will definitely play a different style of basketball - also because the new players in Munich provide more athleticism and versatility than last season’s team. And Bayern will also definitely among the top favorites for the league crown.
German stars on move within Germany
Every off-season sees important players move from one club to another within the German league - and the break ahead of the 2020-21 season was no dif-ferent with a number of key Germans taking up shop in new places. The big-gest name was Maodo Lo, who returns home to play for ALBA BERLIN for the first time after the past two years with FC Bayern Munich. Berlin did lose a player they had for two seasons out of college in the United States with Kenneth Ogbe going to Brose Bamberg. Ogbe will be joined in Bamberg by Bennet Hundt, who was one of the breakout players from the season-ending tournament for BG Göttingen. Bamberg have seen the stalwart of the past seven years depart as the former captain Elias Harris will play for MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg next season. EWE Baskets Oldenburg added two high level German players with big man Martin Breunig from Telekom Baskets Bonn and Sebastian Herrera, the Chilean-German who helped turn HAKRO Merlins Crailsheim into one of the biggest surprises last season. One other German big man on the move was Leon Kratzer, who will help fill the shoes of Breunig’s departure at Bonn after playing with FRAPORT SKYLINERS last season
Youngsters get change of scenery for next step
Sometimes a change of scenery is exactly what a player needs in their career. That is also the case for youngsters as they look to take the next step - and a number of talented Germans were on the move this off-season. Nelson Weidemann, who will play most of the season as a 20-year-old, will follow head coach Roel Moors from Brose Bamberg to BG Göttingen - once again on loan from FC Bayern Munich. The 2001-born Radii Caisin has moved from MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg to HAKRO Merlins Crailsheim. Kay Bruhnke, who is also from Germany’s talented class of 2001, didn’t have to move far, going from Brose Bamberg’s farm team Baunach to medi bayreuth on a three-year deal. The gem of the 2002 class, Luc van Slooten, also found a new home as he left RASTA Vechta and will look for more playing time with Basketball Löwen Braunschweig. Another prospect switching teams is 2000-born big man Hendrik Drescher, going from EWE Baskets Oldenburg to Hamburg Towers after coming up in the ALBA BERLIN system but suffering a torn ACL in 2018.
Coaching carousel shakes up league
The off-season saw a real shake-up among the coaches in the league with one domino falling after the next. Hamburg Towers said goodbye to Mike Taylor to hire one of the hottest young coaches in Europe in Pedro Calles, who turned RASTA Vechta into one of the surprise teams in the league over the past two seasons. With the Spaniard moving north, Vechta replaced him with another promising young coach in Thomas Päch, who learned under Aito Garcia Reneses at ALBA BERLIN before taking over at Telekom Baskets Bonn. Päch was fired after Bonn slumped in the league last season though it performed well in the Basketball Champions League. Bonn’s head coaching spot eventu-ally ended up going to Igor Jovovic, who will be returning to Germany after serving as head coach of Mitteldeutscher BC from 2016-18. FC Bayern Munich will have a returnee in charge as they hired former Brose Bamberg champion-ship-winning gamecaller Andrea Trinchieri. Speaking of Bamberg, the nine-time champs let go of Roel Moors after just one season and hired Johannes Roijakkers from BG Göttingen. Roijakkers’ replacement would end up being his predecessor as Göttingen jumped at the chance to bring in the promising Moors, who is just two seasons removed from guiding Belgian club Telenet Giants Antwerp to the Basketball Champions League Final Four. Were you able to follow all that? Go ahead and read through it again if you need to - we can wait.
Another team ready to make debut - here comes NINERS Chemnitz
One season after Hamburg Towers made their debut in the easyCredit BBL, it’s NINERS Chemnitz turn to make their maiden journey in Germany’s top flight. The addition of Chemnitz combined with no club being relegated from last sea-son means the league is back to 18 teams after having only 17 clubs in 2019-20. The Chemnitz club was founded 21 years ago and finished the 2018-19 ProA regular season in first place but lost in five games in the semi-finals to Hamburg Towers to miss out on promotion. Last season, Chemnitz won their first 22 games in the ProA and were atop the standings when Covid-19 caused the cancellation of the remainder of the season - giving Chemnitz the chance to debut in the easyCredit BBL.
League of brotherly love
The two matchups between FC Bayern Munich and Telekom Baskets Bonn this season will have a special meaning for a certain family as they will feature a set of brothers who have already left their mark on the easyCredit BBL. Chris Babb returns to Germany to play for Bonn after making it to the All-First Team in 2017 with ratiopharm ulm. Nick Weiler-Babb, Chris’ five-year younger brother, starred for MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg last season, especially in the season-ending tournament, earning him a deal with Bayern for his second sea-son as a professional.
“The way it is” for Oldenburg addition Hornsby
Basketball fans who remember the 1980s might look at EWE Baskets Olden-burg addition Keith Hornsby and wonder if he’s related to the Grammy award-winning singer Bruce Hornsby. Well, Oldenburg’s new outside shooting threat is the son of the basketball-loving piano maestro. Check out Hornsby talking about his relationship with his father on the Basketball Champions League podcast.
Four German teams playing in Europe
Four German clubs will be playing European competitions this season with ALBA BERLIN and FC Bayern Munich in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague as well as Brose Bamberg in the Basketball Champions League and ratiopharm ulm in the 7DAYS EuroCup. This comes after eight teams played pan-European tournaments last season, Berlin, Bayern, Ulm and Bamberg in the same competitions as well as RASTA Vechta and Telekom Baskets Bonn in the Basketball Champions League, EWE Baskets Oldenburg in the EuroCup and medi bayreuth in the FIBA Europe Cup.