|Jared Jordan is leading the Telekom Baskets in assists, both in their domestic league and the EuroChallenge |
While the bulk of EuroChallenge Last 16 Day 4 fixtures will be played next week, Telekom Baskets Bonn play host to Okapi Aalstar on Wednesday night, in a crucial clash for both teams.
Both the German and the Belgian side, currently tied at 1-2 in Group L, are well aware that the one who ends up losing this encounter will face an uphill struggle to qualify to the quarter-final play-offs.
Bonn will most likely see center Jonas Wohlfarth-Bottermann return in the line-up and his 2.08m frame could go a long way towards providing them with an edge over Aalst, one of the smallest sides in the EuroChallenge.
The 23-year-old German sat out, with a minor injury, last Saturday's 74-58 win at s.Oliver Baskets in the BEKO Bundesliga, in which point guard Jared Jordan led the team in scoring with 20 points on 9-for-15 shooting from the field.
It was Bonn's fifth win in the last six games in their domestic league and it enabled them to climb back in the play-off spots on the table, for the first time in almost two months.
Head coach Michael Koch was a very happy man on Monday.
"Perhaps we have reacted a little late, but parting ways with (Patrick) Ewing and contracting (Jamel) McLean has been very good for us," he said.
McLean was the player who eventually replaced Ewing Jr. on the Bonn roster, after their first choice, Marqus Blakely, failed a medical test in early January.
The forward has featured in two EuroChallenge Last 16 games, averaging seven points and eight rebounds.
Koch has made clear on two separate occasions this last week that his focus right now is on defence, and he is satisfied with the progress he is seeing from his players in this aspect.
"We are now more consistent in the league and have especially strengthened on defence a lot," he said.
Bonn will need to get all the stops they can against Aalst, who shoot the ball much better than their hosts from two-point and three-point range as well as from the free-throw line.
That was the key to Bonn's 65-60 win in the reverse fixture on 15 January in Belgium, as they forced their opponents to go 1-for-14 from beyond the three-point arc, their worst shooting night in the EuroChallenge this season.
Okapi from their part will be hoping they can field more than eight senior players on Wednesday.
The club parted ways with Bradley Tinsley following last week's loss to EWE Baskets Oldenburg and on Tuesday morning they announced they had reached an agreement with 28-year-old Lee Cummard to replace him.
The 2.01m tall swingman however is yet to arrive in Aalst to undergo a medical and sign his contract, so it is highly improbable he will travel with the team to Bonn.
|Okapi Aalstar hope to welcome their top scorer Derek Raivio back on court |
There is a small chance though that Okapi could welcome back their star point guard Derek Raivio, and this would probably be music to the ears of head coach Brad Dean at the moment, as two miracles in a row, however minor, is too much to ask of any team.
Okapi performed the first one on Saturday in the Ethias League, when they outscored Belgacom Spirou Basket 100-97 against all odds.
The hosts were playing without Raivio, Noah Hartsock, Larry Anderson and Tinsley, who had just departed, and yet showed they have enormous moral reserves and clinched a victory that shocked even themselves.
"If you had bet on this win prior to the game, everyone would call you a mad man, but if you have done so regardless, you are probably a rich man right now," the game report on the club's official website started.
Raivio is leading Okapi in scoring in the EuroChallenge, with 16.1 points per game, while Robert Vaden is Bonn's top scorer with 13.1 per contest.
The Belgians' average output on offence is 83.8 points, while Bonn's defensive orientation shows in that they score only 76.8 points per night, but on the other hand only give 74.6 points on average.
As expected, the Germans are better on the glass and average 36 boards to Okapi's 33.8 per game in the EuroChallenge.