By Felix Hilgart
Once again, the German basketball federation chose Frankfurt as the host city for the 2023 version of the NBBL & JBBL Final Four and invited the country’s fast-growing basketball community to come and watch the nation’s best U19 and U16 teams competing for the title at the ‘Süwag Energie Arena’ on May 27th and 28th.
While ALBA Berlin managed to repeat their great success from last season, winning not only the U14 championship (84:76 against Bayern Munich on May 14th) but also the U16 and U19 championships, they had to fight hard all weekend to defend their titles.
Their NBBL squad had to battle until the last second of regulation, when Nils Machowski (17 points, 5/14 FGs) saved the day with a sensational game winning buzzer-beater 3-pointer to bury Young Rasta Dragons hopes of delivering an upset against the defending champs. Regular season MVP Rikus Schulte (20 points on 8/18 FGs) had a solid all-around game, while Noah Jänen (25 points, 8/13 FGs) and Kilian Brockhoff (19 points, 7/15 FGs) kept Young Rasta Dragons in reach, until the very end.
Here are the final results:
FC Bayern München Basketball 66 – ALBA Berlin 83
Young Rasta Dragons 78 – TEAM URSPRING 61
Young Rasta Dragons 75 – ALBA Berlin 78
TOP4 MVP (U19):
Our new Scout Felix Hilgart made his way down to Frankfurt and gives a short overview of the most intriguing prospects of the tournament following:
Rikus Schulte (’04, ALBA Berlin)- 6‘10, PF, Germany
Excellent size for his position, just a below-average athlete, though. Not explosive or fast but plays the game at his own speed. High IQ all-around forward/big that constantly tries to make the right play. Offensively he can post-up with an excellent touch around the rim and recently also showed increasing potential as a floor-spacer (27% on 2.1 3PA total across multiple competitions) but is also a very timely cutter around the basket. Went for a quiet, yet effective 40 points on 17/33 FG (4/8 3FG, 2/6 FTs), 23 REB, 4 AS, 3 STL, 3 TO in two games, earning himself the TOP4 MVP trophy in addition to the regular season MVP.
Jack Kayil (’06, ALBA Berlin)- 6’3, PG, Germany
The NBBL Rookie of the year brings great size and athleticism for the PG position. Still needs to keep building out his frame. Very shifty guard, that plays with great intensity and commitment on both ends of the floor. Kayil, that definitely turned some heads with his performance at the ANGT in Munich in January, had a quiet game offensively in the semifinal, missing all of his 5 shots from the field, his only 3 points came from the FT-line. He still found a way to contribute for his team, being a pest on the defensive end of the floor and setting up his teammates with 5 assists in 18 minutes of action. In the final game he made some nice plays, finishing with 9 PTS, 5 REB, 1 AS, 3 STL but was also too careless, turning the ball over 6 times.
While his defensive abilities and his playmaking are probably his greatest strength right now, his shot will need more work for him to become a bigger threat at the offensive end – even though he shot the 3 at a respectable clip (35% on 3.3 3PA) this season. His guiding hand still releases the ball too early and the follow-through looks a bit stiff at times.
Ivan Kharchenkov (’06, Bayern Munich)- 6‘5, SG, Germany
Good size and strength for a guard, but only an average athlete and not quick on his feet. Kharchenkov has incredible potential as a scorer. He became the youngest scorer in German BBL history this season and scored an impressive total of 21 points in 25 minutes over three contests for Munich’s men’s squad playing alongside Euroleague players. Yet, he had a tough outing in the semifinal against ALBA Berlin, converting only 5 of his 15 shots, finishing with 12 points, 4 REB, 4 AS and 6 TO in 30 minutes of action. His mid-range game is his biggest strength right now, but he needs to find other qualities to impact the game when shots are not falling. Seemed a little too one-dimensional in a game that did not favor his playing style due to the missing ball- and player-movement of Bayern Munich. Can be an above-average defender when engaged.
Alec & Lenny Anigbata (’04, Bayern Munich)- 6’7, SF, Germany
The Anigbata Twins are the prototypes of modern basketball wings. Excellent size, length and for European standards above-average athleticism. Both can defend at least positions 1-4 and even smaller/lighter 5s on a very high level for their age. Even though their roles on offense were limited with Ivan Karchenkov, Luis Wulff, Amar Licina and Christian Skladanowski shooting a combined 11/51 from the field, they showed some nice flashes of driving the ball aggressively to the rim while also making shots from the outside – some of them also off the dribble. Two intriguing prospects to keep an eye on as long and versatile 2-way wings.
Killian Brockhoff (’04, Young Rasta Dragons)- 6’9, PF, Germany
Good size but only average length and athleticism for his position. Good ability to stretch the floor and finish at the rim. Not a good creator out of post-up situations, he plays mainly for his own shots. Average defender. Struggled a little in the semifinal against TEAM URSPRING with limited playing time due to early foul trouble but came back in a big way and played an important role in pushing ALBA Berlin to the edge in the final, making plays on offense and creating stops on the defensive end. Finished the weekend with 25 points on 10/21 FGs (3/11 3FG, 2/3 FTs), 13 REB, 2 AS, 3 STL, 4 TO, 2 BLK over two games.
Johann Grünloh (’05, Young Rasta Dragons)- 6’11, C, Germany
Great size and length for his position, needs to build out his frame still, but looks very lean with a high muscle tone – should be able to put on some weight once his body is fully grown. Already a good inside presence on the defensive end. A little slow footed but uses his length well to challenge shots at the rim when he gets beaten. Very interesting skillset as a rim-protecting lob threat, that can also be a decent shooter from the 3-point-line (33% on 1.3 3PA over 56 games this season). His shot will still need some work – motion looks ok, but very stiff and not super fluid yet – as well as his finishing ability around the rim and when rolling short.
Grünloh, who had a slow start to the semifinal game offensively, played a great second half, finishing the game with 14 PTS (6/14 FGs), 16 REB (7 offensive), 1 AS, 1 STL, 1 TO and 1 BLK. In the final he had a quiet offensive outing, yet still showed some nice flashes of being a playmaker off short-roll situations, finding cutters and open shooters, while being the defensive anker on his team.
Over the course of the two games, he amassed a total of 21 points on 9/23 FGs (1/5 3FG, 2/5 FTs), 25 REB, 4 AS, 3 STL, 1 TO, and 5 BLK. After being named ‘Rookie of the year’ in NBBL last season, he now also added the title as “DPOY” to his resume.