“We played very badly twice recently. But that was more a matter of the head. We talked about how important this game is for us now and this last month. The team understood,” believes head coach Steven Esterkamp. “Because the ball movement that was then shown in training was the best I’ve seen this season.”
The third-to-last home game has even more delicacies in store. Finally, the thinned-out BBL relegated team, who was defeated 102:99 away in the first leg, has three ex-Paderborn players in Luca Kahl, Luis Figge and point guard Jordan Barnes. Buzz Anthony had won the direct duel against his predecessor a week before Christmas. Said Barnes, the best scorer in the league, was the most effective player from Gießen with 30 points in a playing time of 40 minutes, i.e. without a breather – but he couldn’t handle the sensitive 74:82 home defeat against the Nuremberg Falcons, who had previously lost eight times in a row turn away. Gießen’s Serbian coach “Frenki” Ignjatovic, who may only have eight players in Paderborn, saw no unity for long stretches. For him, too, the appearance in the Maspernhalle is “one of the most important games of the current season.”
With 285 picked balls (152 offensive, 133 defensive), the Serbian two-meter giant Stefan Fundic, also the player with the most fouls (91) in ProA, is clearly at the top of the best league rebounders. In the first leg, Fundic and Barnes (five fouls each) were two of Gießen’s cornerstones.
Gießen has won 4:6 from the past ten games (Paderborn 5:5), the worst value of the first eleven ProA teams. The 46ers are particularly vulnerable away from home: only six wins in 14 attempts. And when it comes to defence, the guest who is keen on promotion lags behind their own claims: 2387 counterpoints (average of 85.3) are the fifth-worst value in the league. What connects both teams is a poor free throw rate. 69.5 percent of all Giessen free throws fall into the net – only the Uni Baskets (69.4) are slightly worse.
Advance ticket sales have been sluggish so far. “It’s the start of the Easter holidays, and Bayern are also playing Borussia Dortmund at 6:30 p.m.,” says managing director Dominik Meyer.
The Uni Baskets Paderborn have made head coach Steven Esterkamp a concrete offer for another season as ProA coach (until the end of 2023/24) – but without the often usual exit clause. “We want to avoid that at some point in July, August or during the season someone offers a transfer fee and says: Here Steven, this is your chance. And then there we are,” says Dominik Meyer. The managing director once again emphasizes the open, honest exchange between both parties. “That’s one reason why nothing is clear now in crunch time. Steven demanded this time to really think about everything and think it through.” The latest status is still “Fifty-Fifty. His agent confirmed that to me,” says Meyer. “If Steven extends with us, then he is 100 percent convinced of it. This is exactly the basic requirement for this contract extension. We hope that we can keep him in Paderborn for another year. I would be happy. We don’t know what happens after that.”