DODDS-Europe boys' basketball championships truly up for grabs this year
November 30, 2006
When the DODDS-Europe boys basketball season opens Friday night, “open” will say it all.
All four European titles are vacant because each champ has switched divisions since last February’s championship games:
Division I champ Würzburg is now in Division II.Three-time Division II champ Hanau is in Division III.D-III champ Bamberg has moved to D-IV.D-IV champ Giessen, which closes after this school year, is playing in D-III.Regardless of division, defending champs are marked, Giessen coach Ron Merriwether said. “We have a target on our backs.”
“We still have to play like we’re Division I champions,” Würzburg coach Juanita Johnson-Archie said last week. “We’ve got to do a lot of stepping up.”
In addition to new champs, there will be new stars on the floor — none of last season’s first-team all-Europe players return. Six of last season’s second team — all now seniors — are vying to move up to the first squad.
Those players are: C.J. Battle of Giessen (18 points, 7 rebounds per game), Donald Bryant of Würzburg (10.6 points, 5 rebounds), Sonny Clark of Baumholder (16.5 points, 4.9 assists, 4 rebounds), Bryce Lee of Wiesbaden (9.6 points), and two-time second-teamers Dee Marbury of London Central and Jeremy Marshall of Kaiserslautern (11 points, 7 assists per game).
Here’s a look at the leagues:
Division IAs runner-up to Würzburg last season, Wiesbaden, the regular-season D-I champion, is expected to excel behind Lee’s guard play, and solid coaching.
“Carl Johnson is an incredible motivator,” Kaiserslautern coach Brant Tryon said of the Warriors’ head man in an e-mail.
Heidelberg, which won five straight titles from 2000-2004, inherited Keith Dupont (15 points, four assists, two steals per game) from Giessen and should contend, Tryon said. He saw the Lions briefly during a summer camp and said they’re “loaded.”
Also in the mix are Ramstein, which welcomes back guard A.J. Hawkins, and Kaiserslautern, led by Marshall and returning starters Mike Morger and Nate Wright.
“We’re still figuring out how to play together,” Ramstein coach Len Tarnowski said Sunday.
Lakenheath, D-I newcomer Patch and International School of Brussels will try to rebound from losing campaigns.
Division IIOf the top seeds in last season’s D-II tournament, No. 1 Aviano is rebuilding completely, according to coach Ken McNeely, and No. 2 Hanau has departed. However, No. 3 Naples and No. 4 SHAPE, the eventual runner-up, endured minimal losses.
And there’s a new kid on the block.
“Having Würzburg move in will be interesting,” Mannheim coach John Crockett said Sunday of the D-II race. “SHAPE only lost two players, and Vilseck has all those new kids … moving in.”
Naples, which joins Aviano in the D-III/IV-laden Italy conference, is primed for bigger foes, with six returnees and four newcomers, including All-Europe running back B.J. Taylor, who considers himself a basketball player first.
The newcomers “…played a huge part in a successful football team,” Naples coach Richard Elliott wrote in an e-mail, “and I expect them to make a significant contribution to basketball.”
Bitburg (12-2 last season) welcomes new coach Terrence Hoffman; while Mannheim will try to improve on last year’s 9-5 mark behind returnees Anthony Cook and Evan Crockett and newcomers Courtney Wieks and Ron Daniel.
Baumholder, up from Division III with Spencer Bean running the show, won’t be fazed by its new status. Bean has All-Europe guard Clark back, along with the rest of the eight-man rotation he used last year.
“I would feel comfortable with my top 11 or 12 boys playing varsity minutes,” he said.
AFNORTH and Black Forest Academy, are trying to rebound from losing seasons.
Division IIITalk about a champions’ league. Of the five teams in Division III-South, three — Hanau, Bamberg and Giessen — are current European champions.
The other two are Ansbach, European D-III runner-up, and Hohenfels, called the “team to beat” this season by Bamberg coach Chuck Jordan.
Jordan’s Barons (141-37 since 1993) welcome back all-conference forwards Marvin Gholston and Dillon Baker to pit against the inside presence Hohenfels derives from Brandon Merriweather, B.J. Denson, Sung Byon and Anthony Marshall.
Hanau is also tough inside, thanks to 6-foot-7 T.J. Shulson.
“We have to go inside this season,” Hanau coach Tim Smith emphasized last week.
Xavier Sheppard, John Willis-Morris and Baraka Waweru will anchor Ansbach, while Giessen returns All-European Battle and Gary Williams (11 points, 5 rebounds and 4 steals per game).
London Central, behind Marbury and four transfers, is expected to battle Brussels, led by Ryan Proietto and Matt Oppenheim, in III-North. Menwith Hill and Alconbury, each with a losing record last year, have improved, according London Central coach Alan Campbell.
Sigonella, at 12-2 the D-III power in Italy last season, has Adam Presnell and Mark Lagrisola back; Xavier Taylor leads Vicenza. Livorno, a respectable 5-8 last season, again will dress nearly every boy in the high school. Italy’s private schools — American Overseas School of Rome, Marymount International of Rome and Milan — won a total of four regular-season games last season.
D-III becomes a continent-wide donnybrook at tourney time when ever-tough Rota, featuring guard Jessie Luvert and forward Tyrell Boddie, along with Ankara, Lajes and Incirlik join the fray, scheduled for Feb. 21-24 in Mannheim, Germany.