Danilo Barthel is in a good place. The German power forward has made a successful jump to the 7DAYS EuroCup with FC Bayern Munich and wants to accomplish big things with his new club. Barthel joined the 2014 German champs less than a week before the start of the season because he was on duty with the Germany national team, but the 2.08-meter big man has already found a major role in Coach Aleksandar Djordjevic’s team. Barthel averaged 10.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.5 steals through two EuroCup games while collecting 9.5 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists in the German League.
“So far everything is great. They made it really easy for me to get to know everybody. It’s a great organization. I wanted to come here because I think Bayern Munich will be a top club in Europe over the next years,” said Barthel, who turned 25 this week. “Bayern has only been in the BBL for a few years and they already have a championship and they are developing year by year. So it will be a big, big club in Europe.”
After five years with Fraport Skyliners, the move to Bayern Munich means his first taste of the EuroCup. “The EuroCup was really important for me in my decision. It was the next step for me to show myself on a bigger European stage. It was an obvious move for me,” Barthel said.
The Heidelberg native gradually worked his way up through the ranks in Germany, both at the club and international level. He picked up the game for the first time when he was about 10 or 11 years old, playing with his older brother and other older guys. “Step by step, I started taking it more seriously and became more a professional with daily basketball practice,” Barthel said.
Barthel’s previous sport of choice was not a common one for guys who go onto have a professional basketball career. “I did artistic gymnastics until I was about 12 or 13, and then I decided I was too big. I really couldn’t keep up with the other guys,” said Barthel, who was a true all-rounder on the mat; his best discipline was the floor exercise. “I wasn’t too bad. But it was more fun playing basketball and being with a team and everything. So I stopped being a gymnast and started concentrating on basketball.”
Hoops in Heidelberg actually has a strong history. The university club USC Heidelberg dominated German basketball in the 1950s and 1960s with seven league crowns between 1957 and 1966. Heidelberg also won the league in 1973 and 1977 and won back-to-back with German Cup titles in 1977 and 1978.
Barthel grew up with USC and since the club did not have a youth program, he was often facing older players. Aside from Barthel, USC also developed fellow Heidelberg natives Paul Zipser, who spent the previous three season with Bayern Munich, and long-time German international point guard Pascal Roller. Barthel started playing in Germany’s second division ProA with USC in 2008-09 at 17 years of age and played there three seasons before making the move to Fraport Skyliners in 2011.
“I decided to go to Frankfurt because they had a second team in the [third division] ProB and I was sure I would get a lot of minutes at a professional level - even if it wasn’t the BBL,” Barthel recalled. “I was lucky that I got minutes in the Bundesliga already in my first year as the club lost a sponsor and had to let the young Germans play, and that was really good for me.”
That started a new culture in Frankfurt where the club started giving their young Germans minutes in the Bundesliga besides the ProB. Barthel played on both teams his first few seasons in Frankfurt, though by 2013-14 he took home the award for the BBL’s Most Improved Player after posting 11.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.
One of Barthel’s defining moments came before his move to Frankfurt at the 2011 U20 European Championship in Bilbao, Spain, where Germany finished fifth. Germany faced Spain in the second group stage and Barthel had the unfortunate task of guarding two-time EuroLeague Rising Star award winner Nikola Mirotic. Spain’s star, who went on to win the tournament MVP, had his way against Barthel with 22 points and 12 rebounds.
“I remember playing against Nikola Mirotic. He killed us and I was defending him. So I was like, I need to get better to be on that level and to stop these excellent guys,” recalled Barthel.
The Bayern power forward has put in the work since and really taken his game to a higher level. He was Germany’s second-best rebounder in the preseason qualifying games for EuroBasket 2017, which included a 26-point, 10-rebound showing in a triple-overtime loss to Denmark. But for now his focus is on winning and developing further with his club.
“I just want to help Bayern. It’s a big club in Germany, but also getting there in Europe. The club wants to win titles and I want to win titles. Every competition I play in I want to win. First I want to help the team, but I also want to develop my game.”
And it certainly appears that his new home in southern Germany with FC Bayern Munich is the perfect place for Barthel to do just that.