Five Berlin natives finished up ALBA's biggest EuroLeague win ever!

Dec 15, 2020 by Print
Five Berlin natives finished up ALBA's biggest EuroLeague win ever!

Jonas Mattisseck substituting Jayson Granger with 3:17 minutes left in ALBA Berlin's Round 13 win against Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul last Thursday may not have seemed like a big deal.

But it was if you're from the German capital.

Mattisseck was joining Maodo Lo, Malte Delow, Niels Giffey and Tim Schneider on the court. All five are natives of Berlin, and to see them fill the court together was a watershed moment.

In this day and age of global basketball, the final 197 seconds of Thursday's victory showed that home-grown talent has a strong place in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague.

"It's very unusual and special in these times because everything is global, which also has its advantages, but it also reflects our program," ALBA's general manager Marco Baldi said of the moment.

The ALBA boss said it's a testament to the club's initiatives many years in the making to reach out to as many youngsters in the German capital as possible. He said the club has 10,000 children who receive training in some form or another at least once a week from ALBA coaches.

"It was part of the plan and our hopes that as part of this broadness, some players would get to the highest level," he said.

The moment was made possible, at least partially, because ALBA was finishing up its biggest EuroLeague win ever, beating Fenerbahce by 26 points, 89-63. That surpassed by 2 points its previous best winning margin, 24 points against Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz last season.

The all-Berlin native five on the court is extremely uncommon in European basketball - especially at such a high level. One of the most memorable instances of numerous players coming from the home city of the club was Jugoplastika Split, which won three straight European titles with the likes of Toni Kukoc, Dino Radja, Velimir Perasovic, Teo Cizmic, Zan Tabak and Ivica Buric all hailing from the city on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea.

In ALBA's case, only Lo among the five on court last Thursday did not come up in the ALBA youth ranks. He played first with Central Hops Berlin before heading to the United States for high school and college and then playing for Brose Bamberg and FC Bayern Munich upon his return to Germany in 2016 after four seasons at Columbia University. But Lo still has strong ties to the German capital and that closeness to his family and friends was a big reason for his signing this off-season with Berlin.

The other four players on the court at the end of the game did come up through the ALBA system, which included experience in the Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament.

Giffey played in the ANGT Finals in Berlin in 2009 before also leaving Germany for college in the United States, where he won two NCAA college crowns with the University of Connecticut. He signed with Berlin directly when he turned professional in 2014.

The 1997-born Schneider has been with the club since his junior years and even took advantage of the ALBA Berlin College program to get a higher education in his home city instead of leaving for the United States. He also played in the ANGT in 2014-15.

A big moment for ALBA's youth development came in 2017 when Aito Garcia Reneses was hired as head coach. The Spanish dean of the coaching ranks has never shied away from giving young players a chance to play and make their mistakes on the court, with Ricky Rubio being one of the biggest beneficiaries of that commitment while they were both at Joventut Badalona.

Among those who have benefitted at ALBA is the 2000-born Mattisseck, who has already played 38 EuroLeague and eight 7DAYS EuroCup games despite not turning 21 until mid-January. Mattisseck also played in the ANGT in 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18.

Delow, meanwhile, won't turn 20 years old until late April and has already appeared in six EuroLeague games this season after playing six times in the EuroLeague last season. He also played two seasons in the ANGT.

There actually could be point later this season when a quintet of players who played in the ALBA youth ranks play at the same time in the EuroLeague, as 2000-born big man Lorenz Brenneke also grew up in the club. He is currently out injured but has already played once this season in the EuroLeague after two appearances last season, in addition to two ANGT campaigns.

"Those who grow up here also have a strong connection to the area and the club and identify with it. You could see that against Fenerbahce. It was certainly a nice moment, and we will keep going with the program," Baldi concluded.