Yes, they are young. Yes, they are very young! But are they too young? I won´t say Yes again, because there is loads of talent and potential in the German squad playing at the World Championship in Turkey. Preparation is finished for the team of head coach Dirk Bauermann who collected six wins and five losses in eleven test matches. „Three in a row“ – vs. Turkey and twice vs. Puerto Rico – was the end result of the final three matches. „This is not so important“, coach Bauermann says, „even more important is our development to a team which really earns this term. A lot of good things can be seen during this summer, we made some very important steps. I´m very interested to see how we can compete on the top level at the WC.“
The nomination of the final roster was a very hard job to do for the head coach who on one hand had to decide whether to go with two or three point guards. The decision was differently to the year before when Germany only played with two point guards at the European Championship in Poland. This year Per Günther – who suffered a foot injury last year in the final preparation match vs. Slovenia – took his last chance with an outstanding performance vs. Puerto Rico and … is on the team! Veteran Konrad Wysocki had to leave the roster for him. On the other hand there was a very close decision beetween 28 years old „rookie“ Christopher McNaughton and Yassin Idbihi who was the last player cutted last year. McNaughton made the race with extremly narrow lead. So only Demond Greene (31), Steffen Hamann (29) and Jan-Hendrik Jagla (29) will bring experience to Turkey while Tibor Pleiß (20), Robin Benzing (21), Elias Harris (21), Tim Ohlbrecht (21), Philipp Schwethelm (21), Per Günther (22), Lucca Staiger (22) and even last year´s „discovery“ Heiko Schaffartzik (26) are not very experienced on the international level.
Let´s go through the different positions:
Steffen Hamann is still the starting point guard of the German national team and it´s captain. The 1,94 m guard is what you call „solid“. He was playing in a lot of international championships with the national team and in a lot of international games with his clubs. Having a bad European Championship last year in Poland he now wants to show that he is still number one in Germany on the 1. Shooting 62 percent and handing out 3,8 assists during preparation he seems to be in good shape for Turkey. Being not a born shooter he can defend even the strong and tall point guards for example from Greece. His congenial partner is Heiko Schaffartzik who was Germany´s top scorer last year in Poland. Coming from nowhere he took the German national team by storm and showed some really outstanding performances. He is not coming over passing, he is a true scorer with great shooting touch. This year he is struggling a little bit so far not finding his shots and playing too hecticly sometimes. Not an unknown player anymore he will have to give Germany energy and points from the bench. Per Günther proved during preparation that he is able to give some productive minutes to the team. Extremely quick he can defend the smaller point guards like JJ Barea very well.
Demond Greene will start on the 2 even if he could not find an offensive rhythm so far. Known as a very good defender he has to give Germany more in offense. In the preparation matches he just shot 34 percent (21 percent from behind the 3-point-line). He is expecting a lot from himself and he wants to be a leader for the younger players. Lucca Staiger is what you call a „streaky shooter“. He can hit many trees in only some minutes. So far he is 45 percent from behind the 3-point-line where he is able to kill an opponent. He is getting better to create his own shot but still has to find a good position. He is also getting better and better in defense and has a lot of fighting spirit. A back-up on the 2 and 3 is Philipp Schwethelm who was injured last summer. Another member of the strong 89´age group is going to play on world level. His advantage is that he is able to play on at least two positions. Usually a good shooter with some lack of quickness in defense.
Robin Benzing is expected to start on the 3 after playing an „up and down“ preparation. He showed his outstanding talent in offense for example vs. Russia (20 points) and Puerto Rico (16) but had to fight with his physical weakness. With 2,08 m he can shoot over anybody from behind the 3-point-line but is not a very good rebounder. If he will be able to get some pounds on the right parts of his body he probably has the brightest future of all German players. His teammate in all German youth national team and now in the A team is Elias Harris who imporved a lot during last season at Gonzaga University. Unbelievable athletic abilities make him a very attractive player to watch. He is in the middle of the process making him a 3 or 2 out of a 4 which he played the last years. He can have a good shooting touch on a good day but has to improve this continuously.
Jan-Hendrik Jagla is developing to the best German player this summer. He understands his new role as a leader of the team and is playing with a lot more patience than in the past years. He improved his passing enormously and is a very good defensive rebounder. Jagla can decide games on both ends of the court with his trees as well as with his defending. If he can control his temper he will be one of the better players of the WC. Tim Ohlbrecht probably made the biggest step forward this year. Playing also on the 5 he is dangerous for the opponents from a lot of spots on the court. Shooting 65 percent from the 3-point-line (17/26) and 78 percent in the paint (14/18) so far he is a real offensive weapon. The biggest problem is his fouling which takes him out of the games to often.
Only 20 years old Tibor Pleiß will be the starter for Germany on the 5. Seeing very few minutes at last year´s European Championship at Poland the 2,15 m guy played an awesome season with German champion Bamberg taking the starter position there from veteran US center Elton Brown and filling the Bamberg spectators with enthusiasm because of his carefree playing. Pleiß is still a very raw talent with loads of perspective. It will be intersting to see how he can compete with the big guys on world level. He has quick legs and hands and a soft shooting touch but of course his body has to become more stable the upcoming years. Back up center Christopher McNaughton played a solid season with Göttingen in the Beko BBL and on international level where he won the FIBA EuroChallenge with his club. He earned his spot by working really hard and giving the team some good minutes each game. He has a good instinct for rebounding and some good post moves.
The main goal of the German national team is to gather as much international experience as possible. The team believes that it can make the eight finals because they wins vs. Angola and Jordan are a duty. „But we want to steal one of the first three games vs. Argentina, Serbia or Australia. This would mean that we most likely not have to play the USA in the last 16. It´s not impossible“, coach Bauermann confirms.
Christoph Büker is the Head of Communication for the Deutscher Basketball Bund e.V. (www.basketball-bund.de)
Link to the roster