Bouncing in the right direction
FC Bayern Basketball strengthen team for European campaign
After only two years in the top flight of the German professional basketball league, FC Bayern Basketball prepare for the next step in their meteoric rise.
Their third top-flight season will start in October and Bayern Basketball will play in the prestigious Euroleague competition, pitting them against the crème de la crème of European clubs.
The wildcard invitation from the top club competition (similar to football’s Champions League) comes after Bayern reached the “Top Four” of the domestic cup competition and fell short in the league playoffs, losing to eventual champions the Brose Baskets in the semi-finals.
Success on the court, the development of the program and the attraction of the Bayern Munich trademark, were factors the Euroleague could not ignore when extending the invitation to a team that did not even make either of their domestic finals.
“I am looking forward to the opportunity to play in the Euroleague (sic),“ said general manager Marko Pešić. “We are expecting a tough challenge, but we’ll give it our all to make the last 16. I am excited.”
Pešić’s player moves suggest the team is taking the challenge seriously, re-signing national team players Steffen Hamann and Robin Benzing. Hamann is the team’s captain and has played in the Euroleague before while at Bamberg and Berlin. He has played 444 games in 13 years and joined Bayern to aid in the promotion campaign in 2010-2011. He is the all-time league leader in the BEKO Basketball Bundesliga (BBL) with 1,182 assists.
“We have achieved a lot in the last years, and of course I want to take the next step with the club. I will work very hard as always and give my best so that we have something to celebrate at the end of next season,“ said the 32-year-old point guard after signing a new contract for the year ahead.
Pešić will rely on Hamann’s leadership and experience heading into the most demanding season in the club’s short history. “Steffen signaled to me clearly, he is going into this next season with special motivation and he is aware of the special responsibility as captain of this team.”
Benzing is another player who grew in stature this year, becoming the team’s third-leading scorer. During a seven-game win streak that lifted the club from a slow start, Benzing scored double figures in all but one of those games and finished the season scoring 10.3 points per game (ppg).
“We have big goals and I am sure we can achieve them this season,” stated Benzing after signing on for the next two years. “I’m looking forward to the challenges. My goal is to continue to take some of the responsibility within the team and help us as much as possible.”
On the transfer market, Pešić also added outside shooter Lucca Staiger, who was the second leading German scorer this past season with 12.2ppg (38% from three-point range).
But the biggest offseason coup was signing two-time reigning MVP John Bryant. The last two seasons at ratiopharm ulm, the Californian was part of a core that led the Swabian club to the finals of the league cup and the playoffs in 2012. They also represented themselves well in the Eurocup competition this season, the second-tier behind the Euroleague. Bryant was named to the All-Eurocup first team. Ulm finished the season in third place like Bayern, losing in the semifinals to EWE Oldenburg.
“I have followed the development of FC Bayern for a long time and I am really looking forward to be a part of this team (sic),” stated “Big Country” Bryant.
Bryant’s stats are as imposing as his presence in the paint. Aside from being the reigning two-time MVP of the BEKO BBL, he also won his first MVP award in 2011-12, scoring 14.1ppg and grabbing 9.4 rebounds per game (rpg). He followed it up last season with 15.6ppg and 10.1rpg. After 11 double-doubles (double figures in points and rebounds in one game) two years ago, he tallied 17 this year.
Bryant has added a long-range weapon to his arsenal. After attempting only 27 shots from three-point range two years ago, he shot a respectable 49-of-132 (37,1%) from beyond the arc last season, boosting his point return in the process.
“John has dominated the BBL the last two years,” commented Pešić. “His performance in the Eurocup was impressive as well. Despite his success so far, he has much more potential to improve his game. I’m looking forward to seeing him play in the Audi Dome.”
Bryant will add to the imposing home court advantage that Bayern enjoy at the Dome. Since remodeling the historic Rudy Sedlmayr Arena that was built for the 1972 Olympics, Munich are 30-4 as hosts since 2011. They’ve also enjoyed Eurocup action in the Dome. After earning promotion for the 2011-12 season, Bayern won two games at home, but dropped out after a winless series on the road.
Like in the Champions League, making it further in the Euroleague competition, the last 16 and the “Final Four”, will provide both a financial and prestigious boost to Bayern. Unlike previous years, Bayern will still have the chance at some European glory as the sides that do not progress in the Euroleague will drop down into the next stage of the Eurocup battles.
Expect a winter full of top European basketball action in Munich.
Bayern will begin their home league season on October 6th against the four-time defending champions Brose.
Euroleague 2013-2014 Group C
Olympiakos Piräus, Greece
Montepaschi Siena, Italy
Unicaja Malaga, Spain
Galatasaray Liv Hospital Istanbul, Turkey
Stelmet Zielona Góra, Poland
FC Bayern München, Germany
Bayern Euroleague Home Games at the Audi Dome, Munich
October 24th/25th vs. Montepaschi Siena
November 7th/8th vs. Unicaja Malaga
November 21th/22th vs. Stelmet Zielona Góra
December 5th/6th vs. Olympiakos Piräus
December 19th/20th vs. Galatasaray Liv Hospital Istanbul