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The Club Scene: Telekom Baskets Bonn
Oct 09, 2008
by Javier Gancedo, Eurocupbasketball.com
A classic European team with a trademark outfit is trying to return to the Eurocup after a long absence. Telekom Baskets Bonn is set to battle Panellinios BC in the Eurocup first qualifying round starting next week with a chance to get back to the competition for the first time since 2005. Bonn, however, took part in each of the first three seasons of the then-called ULEB Cup. Of course, Telekom Baskets Bonn is more than just the team that wears the funky pink uniforms. Even though many thought the club was created outside the former West Germany Republic capital, that is far from the reality. Bonn has a rich basketball tradition that goes back in 1970, when Grundung des Basketballkreises - basketball district was founded. By 1973, two teams became rivals in the city, Godesberger TV (GTV) and SC Fortuna Bonn. GTV managed to make it to the German second division in 1987 while Fortuna battled its way in regional leagues. Both teams failed to be competitive at the top level and merged to try to give Bonn what it deserved: a top team able to fight for the German League title.
The brand-new BG Bonn 92 started its road to the first German division in the 1992-93 season. Deutsche Telekom AG stepped up as its main sponsor soon after that. Telekom would become a world-class communication giant and in late 1994 it moved its headquarters to Bonn as part of an agreement with Berlin regarding the unified Germany. The company decided to back the basketball team it sponsored and the club became Telekom Baskets Bonn in 1995. The team settled down in the German second division, but everything changed in the 1995-96 season. Telekom Baskets won the German second division, losing just one game in the entire season, and earned promoted to the Bundesliga. A dream had come true for thousands of basketball fans in Bonn. Telekom had finance a two-year plan in which getting to the German basketball elite was a must. Few people, however, expected Telekom to shine the way it did in its Bundesliga debut. Not only did Telekom Baskets make it to the German League playoffs, ranking seventh at the end of the regular season, but it managed to knock off Rhondorf in the quarterfinals and Bamberg in the semifinals to reach the title series against Alba Berlin. Basketball fever was all over the federal city and despite losing the finals against Alba, Bonn earned a spot in the 1998 Korac Cup in what would be its debut in European club competitions.
With players like Sinisa Kelecevic, Drazan Tomic, Steven Hutchinson and giant center Gunther Behnke, Bonn picked up a prestigious win against Unicaja, though ultimately that was not enough to survive the 1998 Korac Cup group stage. Bonn registered a sensational 19-5 record in the German League to rank second overall, but ratiopharm Ulm upset Telekom Baskets in the quarterfinals. Far from being disappointed, Bonn kept its main players and added Hurl Beechum and Derrick Phelps to grow even more competitive. Bonn reached the 1999 Korac Cup elimination rounds, losing against Polish side Pogon Ruda Slaska, and returned to the German League finals. Bonn forced a do-or-die Game 5, but Alba registered a convincing 91-68 win to lift the title in front of its fans. The club went one step higher to play in the 2000 Saporta Cup for the first time. With Beechum and Phelps as its superstars, Bonn knocked off Partizan in the regular season, but lost against Italian superpower Kinder Bologna in the sixteenth-finals. Once again Alba stood in the way to the German League title, downing Bonn in the semifinals. With Kelecevic back in the team and power forward MC Mazique, Bonn reached its third German League finals, losing once again against Alba. Telekom also went reached higher in the Saporta Cup, losing in the quarterfinals against eventual champion Maroussi.
Telekom Baskets returned to the German League semifinals in the following three seasons, but lost the series against RheinEnergie Cologne, Bamberg and the Skyliners, respectively. By then Bonn was already a must-have team in European club competitions. With new team leaders such as Terrence Rencher and Aleksandar Nadjfeji to complement three-point threat Beechum, Bonn returned to the Saporta Cup quarterfinals in 2002, losing this time against Pamesa. When the ULEB Cup was founded for the 2002-03 season, Bonn was one of the original teams in the competition. Telekom lost all of its regular season road games, while an extra home loss against Snaidero Udine left the team out of the elimination rounds. Bonn returned to the ULEB Cup the following season, but a strong group featuring FMP, DKV Joventut and eventual champion Hapoel Migdal was too tough for Telekom Baskets. Its last ULEB Cup appearance came in the 2004-05 season, but a 59-57 road loss against Slask Wroclaw on a buzzer-beating fast break layup by Radoslaw Hyzy prevented Bonn from reaching the elimination rounds. Bonn also reached its first German Cup final that season, but missed the playoffs for the first time since 1997.
Nevertheless, Bonn competed in the 2006 FIBA Europe League, but did not survive the regular season against Barons/LMT, BC Kyiv and Lokomotiv Rostov, despite boasting players like Andrew Wisniewski, Michael Meeks and Jason Conley. Back home, Bonn returned to the German League playoffs, but was quickly knocked off by Bamberg. The team has not taken part in European club competitions since then, focusing on its German League duties. In 2007, Telekom Bonn managed to force a deciding game in its best-of-five quarterfinal series against eventual champion Brose Baskets with players like Tyray Pearson, Jason Gardner and Bernd Kruel. Last season, Bonn had an up-and-down regular season, but bounced back in the playoffs, upsetting the Artland Dragons in the quarterfinals, 1-3, behind Eddie Basden and Winsome Frazier. Not yet satisfied, Telekom Baskets also stole the semifinal series against the Deutsche Bank Skyliners with a thrilling 74-75 win in Game 5 in Frankfurt. Bonn had reached its fourth German League finals, but once again Alba cruised to the title. Now Telekom Bonn is back in European club competitions as it tries to get to the Eurocup this season. Bonn is now ready to stick around as a title contender in Germany while showing the world that its fan base is one of the best around.