MigrationBoys basketball preview
Defending champs will face tests
December 1, 2016
Deep and improving sets of divisional contenders will launch their attacks on reigning champions Ramstein, Rota and Brussels when the 2016-17 DODEA-Europe boys basketball season opens this weekend.
Teams will play just two weeks of games before adjourning for the holidays. The season restarts Jan. 6, setting up a stretch run to the European championship tournament set for Feb. 22-25 at Wiesbaden, Germany.
Division IThe defending champion Ramstein Royals have lost most of last year’s title-winning roster. But their big-school rivals have learned not to be too encouraged by such circumstances.
The 2016-17 Royals welcome back just four returning varsity players, including one starter. That sounds promising for the Division I field. But it’s also eerily similar to the start of last season, when the Royals returned just three players to defend their championship and managed to do just that successfully. For all the recent rumors of rebuilding in Ramstein, the upshot is consecutive title-game triumphs for the Royals over the archrival Kaiserslautern Raiders.
This year’s Ramstein squad could perpetuate that trend, led by a pair of talented senior guards in Kendall Allen and Nicholas Bautista. Or it could finally succumb to the ravages of attrition, particularly the departures of its All-Europe frontcourt and 2015-16 Stars and Stripes boys basketball Athlete of the Year D’Angelo Griggs, and create an opportunity for a new team to seize the throne.
The Raiders are the most obvious candidate to take advantage of such an opportunity, but they too are assembling a new rotation and have no starters back to ease that process.
Instead, the role of ascendant power could go to a contender that is at once fresh and familiar. The Naples Wildcats have hovered around the title scene every year since realignment landed them in the big leagues, but they’ve hit their ceiling in the semifinals in each of the past two seasons. This year’s group seems capable of a breakthrough behind high-scoring guard Terrell Staten and powerful post KC Evans, arguably the most dynamic duo in DODEA-Europe.
The Wildcats aren’t the only team that will throw senior talent at the Ramstein problem this winter. SHAPE, the other 2016 semifinalist, will look to guards Matt Hoover and Cameron Little and a solid set of new additions to further its momentum. Wiesbaden has skilled senior trio in guard Isaah Negron, wing John Mckoy and forward David Williams.
While those teams are pursuing new heights, the Stuttgart Panthers hope to stop their recent skid down the standings and return to the heights of the two-year Division I championship run that preceded Ramstein’s current reign.
Division IIThough the final score wasn’t close, last year’s Division II European title game seemed like a beta version of an interesting new rivalry between the Rota Admirals and the Black Forest Academy Falcons. That rivalry appears ready for a full-fledged launch this winter.
Rota returns five players, including three starters, from last year’s runaway championship squad. That group includes sharpshooting wing Jashaun Garrison and imposing post presence Andy Drake, giving the Admirals a proven duo few teams can rival.
But if any team can, it would be BFA. The Falcons return star brothers Noah Greathouse and Jonah Greathouse for their senior seasons. That pair alone places BFA on the short list of championship contenders, but the Falcons will also welcome back standout big man Kaden Proctor to hold down the paint.
It’s unclear if the rest of the divisional field can produce a foil capable of disrupting a Rota-BFA rematch.
One 2015 semifinalist, Hohenfels, has dropped to the Division III level; the other, Bahrain, doesn’t play any regular-season DODEA-Europe games and will arrive in Wiesbaden in February an unknown quantity.
Among other entries, Bitburg has an unproven but promising roster, AFNORTH boasts juniors and seniors at key spots on the floor and Aviano, Marymount, Florence and American Overseas School of Rome represent Italy’s hopes for a title.
Division IIIIt will be a crowded race for small-school superiority as champion Brussels, runner-up Ansbach and semifinalist Baumholder and Sigonella welcome 2015-16 Division II semifinalist Hohenfels to the division.
The Brigands will soldier on without the DeFazio brothers, who led the way to last year’s title. Championship game hero Michael DeFazio has graduated, while leading scorer Dominick DeFazio will miss the season after sustaining a football injury. That leaves returning starters Paul Hubbard and Callum Proulx to spearhead the squad’s title defense.
Ansbach hopes to mount another deep playoff run despite its dwindling numbers and a football injury to star guard Yadiel Rodriguez. The Cougars will lean on developing forward Ogden Andrew, the breakout star of last year’s tournament.