Tibor Pleiss, Brose Baskets

Jan 12, 2010 by Javier Gancedo, Eurocupbasketball.com Print
Tibor Pleiss, Brose Baskets
Tibor Pleiss - Brose Baskets (Photo: Brose Baskets, Daniel Lob)Brose Baskets is one of the most pleasant surprises so far in this 2009-10 season. The German powerhouse survived the Eurocup Qualifying Round and now leads regular season Group H with a 4-1 record. One of the main reasons for its solid Eurocup performance is young center Tibor Pleiss, who arrived to Bamberg just before that qualifying round and has since done nothing but prove his defensive skills and outstanding upside. Pleiss was still a teenager when he landed in Bamberg at the end of a busy summer in which he played for both the German senior and under-20 national teams. An outstanding rebounder and shot blocker, Pleiss has an incredible combination of size, mobility and timing, to which he adds the right attitude to get better every day. As Bamberg heads into the final week of the regular season needing still to clinch a Last 16 spot, Pleiss has turned out to be the third-ranked player overall in the Eurocup on a per-minute basis. Many eyes around Europe are fixed on this rising-star talent who plays efficient yet dynamic basketball at both ends of the floor. "I can say that it has been a good opportunity for me to play in Eurocup," Pleiss told Eurocupbasketball.com. "Last year, I only played in the German League, so this is my first time at this level, and it's a great chance to learn more."

Born in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany, Pleiss was hardly ticketed for a basketball career despite his height, which has topped out at 2.13 meters. In fact, he did not know anything about basketball when he discovered the sport at an age when many other kids have already had several years of team play. "I started basketball at 11 years old," Pleiss said. "My mother introduced me to basketball. I had played soccer before that, but I didn't like soccer at the time. She came and asked me if I'd like to try a new sport, basketball. I didn't know it, but I went to the next practice and I began there. I am still playing since then."

Despite being just 20 years old now, Pleiss is already a well-known big man all around the continent, a regular member of the German national team and has been playing professional basketball for more than three years. Pleiss earned a reputation as one of the top prospects in European basketball back in the 2006-07 season, at age 17. His outstanding performance with RheinEnergie Koln's junior team in the third German division did not go unnoticed, as Pleiss averaged 9.8 points and 9.3 rebounds in 13 games. He had as many as 4 double-doubles, including a 17-point, 18-rebound performance. His size, mobility, defensive skills and timing allowed him to be chosen to the German under-18 national team that took part in the 2007 European Championships in Madrid, Spain. By then, Pleiss had already made his German League debut with RheinEnergie.

Tibor Pleiss - Brose Baskets (Photo: Brose Baskets, Daniel Lob)Pleiss had the chance to showcase his talent in the Spanish capital and he did not disappoint, averaging 10.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. Despite being a developing player, Pleiss proved to be an excellent rebounder and shot-blocker ready to do well in the German League. He had 14 points and 16 rebounds against Croatia and registered two more double-doubles against Russia to help Germany to finish ninth in Madrid. Pleiss became a member of RheinEnergie's first team in the 2007-08 season, making his ULEB Cup debut by taking part in a couple of games but also taking part in the German under-19 club competition, the NBBL. Pleiss simply dominated the NBBL, averaging 23.3 points and 13.3 rebounds.

"My favorite thing is defense," Pleiss said. "I just like to play defense: I don't know why. I am big and tall, but I am not slow as some other tall guys are. Maybe I am quicker, with my footwork, and that makes it easier to play tall guys who are slower. I also like to play against smaller guys, though."

The time had come for Pleiss to become a fulltime member of RheinEnergie's first team. The club, however, underwent a bad financial situation, which allowed him to see more playing time than expected. Pleiss took advantage of that fact to have a very successful season in the German League, averaging 5 points and 2.9 rebounds in 27 games. Pleiss extended his shooting range to the three-point line, improved his athleticism but kept his outstanding combination of size and mobility. Pleiss was at to the 2009 European Under-20 Championships in Rhodes, Greece along with teammate Philipp Schwethelm when they got the bad news that RheinEnergie Koln filed for insolvency. All of a sudden, Pleiss was a free agent.

Pleiss did well in the under-20 championship, averaging 7.7 points and 6.0 rebounds. Germany, however, finished 14th overall. Nonetheless, right after the tournament, Pleiss was invited by German coach Dirk Bauermann to the senior national team training camp. Then he made the final cut for the senior team that went to play EuroBasket 2009 in Poland. Against all odds and despite many missing stars, Germany survived the first round and was a victory away from making it to the quarterfinals. Pleiss enjoyed the experience and is ready to repeat it.

Tibor Pleiss - Brose Baskets (Photo: Brose Baskets, Daniel Lob)"I learned a lot, from my team and from watching other teams," Pleiss says of EuroBasket 2009. "I didn't play so much because it was my first time with the national team, but in the friendlies I had a good game against Croatia. Anyway, to play against and watch all those great players helped me a lot."

Having decided midway through EuroBasket in Poland to sign for Brose Baskets. Almost as soon as he joined his new team, Bamberg was immersed in the Eurocup qualifying round. By the second and last game of that tight series with Buducnost of Montenegro, Pleiss was showing his ability to contribute, by putting up 8 points and 4 rebounds with perfect shooting in 22 minutes. "It was my first time playing for our team, and it was not so easy coming later than the others," Pleiss said. "I was not ready to help right away, but soon enough I could."

At the end of the regular season, Pleiss is nothing less than a Eurocup rising star after helping lead Brose Baskets to a 4-1 record in Group H by averaging 11.4 points on 61.8% two-point shooting, leading his team in rebounds (6 rpg.) and blocks (1.4 bpg.) despite playing just 19 minutes on average. If Brose Baskets can clinch a place in the Last 16, his incredible growth will continue with even more intensity for Pleiss, whose future could not be brighter.