Catching Up With The German BBL, Alba Berlin's Surge
In just two weeks, Alba Berlin has gone from championship contender to outright favorite in the German Basketball Bundesliga. Three important victories have resulted in Germany’s most storied basketball club to solidifying their position in their domestic BBL league, as well as in Eurocup play.
A special fourth quarter effort against Bamberg on November 20th allowed Berlin to take down last season’s champions in front of a very loud, sold out home crowd. Bamberg, the competition’s best team up until that point, led for most of the way until DaShaun Wood led a thrilling comeback, finishing with 17 points, five rebounds and eight assists in another outstanding performance from one of the league’s leading MVP candidates.
Two days later Alba found themselves yet again defending their home court from a tough opponent when the faced KK Budcnost Voli in a regular season Eurocup game. Wood would again star, scoring a game-high 23 points to go along with four assists in just 31 minutes of play.
As if those two wins weren’t impressive enough, I still needed convincing considering how dominant Bamberg had been through the first two months of the regular season. Questions regarding the team’s age and lack of experience lingered. But when Alba walked into the Audi Dome and stole a road win against star studded Bayern Munich (previously undefeated at home) on November 27th, I’d seen enough to believe that this was now the team to beat. Wood was unstoppable, going for 27 points, six rebounds and five assists while Alba also received some nice contributions from their solid crop of role players.
Winners of eight Bundesliga championships, but with only one coming since 2003, the last few years haven’t been as kind to Berlin fans. BBL runners-up last season, and Eurocup runners-up in 2009-10, 2012 is shaping up to be another big year for the club. The team’s extremely passionate fan base has had a lot to cheer about this season with the previously mentioned DaShaun Wood being accompanied by a trio of German national team players and one former NBA player.
Wood, last season’s MVP, has been phenomenal again in 2011, averaging 17 points and five assists per outing. After leading the Wright State Raiders to only their second NCAA tournament appearance in 2007, Wood went undrafted and elected to sign in Italy where he enjoyed quick success before injuries ended his tenure there. He has since found a home in Germany, dominating the opposition with his quickness and long distance shooting ability. His averages are distorted due the levels of depth Berlin features in the back court; however one would be hard pressed to find a bigger star in a league filled with them.
Alba also features Kyler Weaver, the 38th overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, who spent the previous two seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder where he played well in limited minutes. The shooting guard out of Washington State University is averaging 11 points, nearly four rebounds and three assists for Alba this season in only 25 minutes per game. He’s also shooting 50% from three and 55% overall from the floor. Though Weaver has been somewhat inconsistent he has his moments and has showed some elite level scoring ability, including an early season game where he dropped 21 points in only 20 minutes of action.
Splitting time with Weaver at the two guard position is Bryce Taylor out of the University of Oregon. The super athletic wing has been good for a shade under ten points per outing, along with a flashy dunk or two, and is one of the many options Alba possesses in their balanced offensive attack.
Heiko Schaffartzik is the most notable of Alba’s three German national players and is a tiny, but quick, point guard capable of big scoring outputs. Most effective off the bench, Schaffartzik is able to accumulate points quickly due to his speed and shooting ability, but is also capable of efficiently running an offence. Think Earl Boykins.
Flushing out the rotation are some quality role players, two of whom include American bigs Derrick Allen and Torin Francis. Averaging 12.2 and 9.2 points per game respectively, both fill needs and play off the pace of Alba’s electrifying guard rotation. Allen, a veteran on the international circuit at 31 years of age, is a crowd favorite and with the old man, bump and hustle game, provides Alba with a nice option down low.
Alba Berlin’s balanced offensive attack, with four guys averaging double figures and two just under, has turned the side into a legitimate title threat in not only the BBL but also the Eurocup. Some tough wins at home and on the road have hushed the questions surrounding their age and lack of experience and have instead made them one of the teams to beat.