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Panthers in the Pros Spotlight: Germany

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Our Pitt Basketball alumni world tour continues in Deutschland, lacking a compass.

Pittsburgh Panthers v Xavier Musketeers Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Okay so part two in this series took so long that I had to remove 2016-2017 from the title. The bright side is that it offers an opportunity to talk about this past season. Pitt has had a lot of success in Germany. They have a statue in Bamberg of Brad Wanamaker, but that’s a story for another day [citation needed].

James Robinson

After leaving Pitt, Robinson spent a year with BC Igokea in Bosnia and Herzegovina before signing with Medi Bayreuth of Basketball Bundesliga (Germany’s top division). He became the second Pitt alum to play for Bayreuth (more on that later). He had a decent Robinson-type season with 9.72 points and 3.40 assists per game. As the starting point guard, he led the team to a 21-13 record and 6th place finish. Medi Bayreuth was ousted in the first round three games to none by MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg and their star and mountaineer-killer Thomas Walkup. They qualified for the Basketball Champions League, which unfortunately is not the premiere event its soccer equivalent is. The top two club competitions in Europe are run by Euroleague Basketball (EuroLeague and EuroCup) while FIBA operates the third tier Champions League. That is a bit of a point of contention. There they advanced to the quarterfinals before falling to Riesen Ludwigsburg again, this time by aggregate 170-163 (they won the first leg 86-81). Robinson led Bayreuth with 33 points on 14-21 shooting over the two games.

Robinson still plays a consistent mistake-free game. He can get hot (see above Champions League), but a line of say 8 or 9 points on 3-7 shooting with a handful of assists and zero turnovers is still the most common game you see from him. As Bayreuth isn’t one of the top German clubs, highlights are difficult to find. Here’s Robinson finishing off-balance in the lane.

Chase Adams

There’s a name we haven’t heard in a while. Adams has put together a nice career in Pro A (Germany’s second tier league). After playing the 2015 and 2016 seasons for Uni Baskets, Adams played for White Wings Hanau last season. As Hanau’s starting point guard, Adams averaged 11.6 points (third on the team) and 3.9 assists per game. The 2008-2009 Summit League Defensive Player of the Year still has quick hands, picking up a team-leading 2.0 steals a game as well. Adams is a frequent interviewee of the German Basketball blog German Hoops. You can find his interviews here, here, and here. (Don’t worry, the interviews and the site are in English). Adams’ success highlights just how deep some old Pitt teams were. Even the guys who didn’t play as much can still have a ton of success overseas.

Let’s reach down into the depths of the Internet and see what else we can find.

Jonathan Milligan

Wait...huh? Yep it’s a thing. Milligan participated in the Eurobasket Summer League in Dallas last weekend. The events are two or three days long. The first day is a combine, and then games take place after that. Milligan’s Frankfurt team won both of its games thanks in part to a game-high 21 from him in the second. Oh yes, there is a highlight video. Let’s critique some of Milligan’s performance and the “defense” that was played on him.

The good: Milligan goes left and pulls up as a right-handed shooter. His defender manages to stay with him through a screen.

The bad: The defender’s effort is rendered useless when his teammate #89 steps in front of him as soon as Milligan elevates. Making matters worse, he doesn’t even contest the shot despite looking like he has at least six inches on Milligan.

Eh, I was going to do more of these, but they’re all the same. Milligan hitting open jumpers and layups with no defense. Let’s move on. There are more of these Summer Leagues taking place the next two months, the largest being two in Las Vegas. Former Pitt players expected to attend include James Robinson, Michael Young, Milligan, and even Monty Boykins.

Wait, didn’t you say earlier there was a second Pitt player who played on Bayreuth?

BAH GAWD! IT’S GARY MCGHEE’S MUSIC!

Gary McGhee

Soon the hunt will begin

Gary didn’t even play in Germany last season, but I made a blood pact in a bar in South Oakland somewhere around December 2010 to include him in some way in any article I could. Also he played for Tigers Tübingen of Basketball Bundesliga in 2017 so it was relevant when I started writing this. Gary has played all over the globe since leaving Pitt with stops in Spain, France, Greece, Turkey, as well as a few times in Germany (he played for Medi Bayreuth in 2012-2013 by the way). His 2017-2018 season with Kymis B.C. of Greece’s top league might have been his best as a professional. He was named to Eurobasket.com’s All Greek A1 2nd Team and was the league’s second leading rebounder at 7.7 per game. Gary was the only member on the first two all league teams to play for someone other than the two powerhouses Panathinaikos and Olympiacos. Kymis made the playoffs as the seventh seed, but was swept by Olympiacos in the first round. A monstrous effort from McGhee in the first game (11 points 14 rebounds, 8 offensive) nearly led to an upset, but the talent disparity was too much to overcome. Olympiacos took the first leg 78-75 and cruised in the second. Like most European leagues, there are a few clubs at the top who are much, much better (and richer) than the rest of the league. Panathinaikos didn’t lose a game all season until the best of five final against Olympiacos (which they won 3-2). The two teams had a point differential of +627 and +464 in only 26 regular season games. For comparison the third place team was +68. Kymis could have very easily won the first game if not for a phantom foul call on McGhee in the final minute.

Gary gets a hand up to contest and then sidesteps him perfectly. He could not have played it any better. Unfortunately the shooter crumples to the floor anyway and buys a call. He made the free throw. Kymis scored on the next possession, but it only cut the deficit to one instead of tying it. Olympiacos made a few free throws and that was that. What a joke.

Alright, that’s it. Stay tuned for the next part of this series, sometime in... I don’t know 2020 maybe?

Fight me, Rothstein.

Hail to Pitt.