REGENSBURG (David Hein's Eye on the Future) - It wasn't the biggest move as far as basketball signings go. But Johannes Richter going from Brose Baskets Bamberg to Fraport Skyliners Frankfurt signifies two continuing shifts in German basketball.
First off, the four-time reigning champs Bamberg lost a talented German power forward who turns 20 in December. That is a tough loss in the German Beko BBL as Germans in general are extremely valuable with the existing 6+6 foreigners rule requiring six Germans on the 12-man game roster.
It's also tough for Bamberg to see Richter leave as the club has failed to produce a lot of young German talent. Looking back at Germany's U16 and U18 national teams since 2009, Bamberg hasn't been really well represented. At the U16 level, names like Tobias Schönhammer (2009), Dino Dizdarevic (2011), Terry Thomas (2011) and Andreas Obst (2012) don't exactly jump off the screen though some consider this summer's U16 talent Leon Kratzer someone to watch.
At the U18 level, Bamberg's current 21-year-old back-up center Philipp Neumann was on the 2009 and 2010 teams. But Daniel Leithner was on the 2009 team while David Taylor and the currently-rostered Johannes Thiemann were on the 2012 German U18 squad, which had the talent to contend for a medal but crashed out of the first round and ended up being relegated to Division B. Taylor left the Bamberg system after just one season to attend college in the United States. This past summer, Robert Zinn played a decent role for the U18 team but is not considered a great talent.
Richter played at the 2010 FIBA U17 World Championship as well as the 2011 U18 Euros before moving to the U20s the past two summers. He also helped Bamberg farm team TSV Troster Breitengusbach to the 2012 U19 NBBL league title with 21 points, seven rebounds and two assists in the final.
In addition, Bamberg's professional development team Breitengusbach was relegated last season from the third division ProB to the amateur Regionalliga. Luckily for the club, Bamberg's affiliated Regionalliga team Body Street Baunach earned promotion to the ProB and Bamberg were able to more or less just switch personnel.
Bamberg also lost out late last season on bringing in young German talent Paul Zipser, who instead decided to sign a four-year deal with Bayern Munich.
Fittingly enough, it was a four-year deal that Richter signed with the Skyliners. The Neustadt native is now in Frankfurt, where he secured a university spot to study medicine. In theory, Richter could also have stayed in Bamberg and studied medicine in nearby Erlangen.
So, what does this move mean for the Skyliners?
It's another step in Frankfurt's clear movement to become more German and build a strong base on young German players. With respected coach Gordie Herbert back at the helm in Frankfurt - he helped the Skyliners to the 2004 league title and reached the finals in 2010 - the club has a great teacher to guide the talented kids.
Danilo Barthel, who just turned 22 last week, took a big step last season and is continuing that already this season, just like 22-year-old Konstantin Klein. The 1992-born Johannes Voigtmann is already drawing attention from NBA scouts and fellow 21-year-old Kevin Bright has put his name on the radar as well with an impressive six three-pointer showing against Ludwigsburg as just the latest fine showing this season.
The 19-year-old Max Merz has already earned minutes in BBL games this season as have the pair of 21-year-olds Tim Oldenburg and Jan Novak as well as 18-year-old Stefan Ilzhofer, the latter another talent who arrived at Frankfurt this off-season from Ludwigsburg.
With the success that the Skyliners are having with young German players, more and more young Germans will likely be heading to Frankfurt knowing they have a clearer path to playing time.
In the meantime, Bamberg will continue to challenge for BBL titles but may have to fight harder in the future for talented young German players.
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