Although Oldenburg now has a chance to win and advance, there are few who would have thought going into the season that this team could (eventually) be described as a matchup you want to avoid. Head coach John Patrick’s team has played an unbelievable season, losing only seven games in the German BBL and the Basketball Champions League. They cruised through their BCL-group with 12 wins in 14 games and finished second behind last year’s champions, Iberostar Tenerife. There are no doubts that Ludwigsburg has a good organization and coach, but that they are this good is still a surprise.
To explain the success this season you have to go back to last summer. Coach John Patrick is known for his very unique playing style on offense and defense, which requires a specific type of player. Over the last years, Patrick found some players that really fit this style, and they had some success. The problem was that there were only a few guys on the team that really internalized it, and played the way Patrick likes to play. This led to Patrick signing the same players again and again like he did with Kerron Johnson or Rocky Trice.
They are both on the roster again, but this year is different. Patrick really found a group of guys that fits his idea incredibly well, and also translates that onto the court. Ludwigsburg is super-fast, they know how to move the ball on offense, and can stop nearly anyone with their pesky defense. Especially the big men play an important role, because they have to have these characteristics as well — this is not that easy to find. However, Patrick only had to look 200 kilometers to the north, to Giessen. There, he found Justin Sears and Dwayne Evans, who have been nothing short of awesome for the team this season.
Particularly Dwayne Evans is worth another look. He came from the 2nd division in Germany to Giessen last season, and convinced everyone with his presence on both ends on the floor. With Patrick, he kept on improving and especially shines as an incredible offensive rebounder. During the group stage, he grabbed 2.3 boards on the offensive end. In addition to that, Evans is efficient. He doesn’t need a lot of shots, because he knows how to find his spots to score. If he can now add a three-point shot, he will be very tough to guard for any big man in the Champions League.
On the defensive end, he can switch without problems and use his quick feet to stay in front of smaller players. This makes him a perfect player for Patrick’s beloved full-court press where Evans can be a vital part with his length and mobility. So, it’s no surprise that Evans is one of the plus-minus-monsters in the German BBL. Although he only plays 23 minutes for Ludwigsburg in league-action, he has a plus-minus of +11.3, which ranks third in the entire BBL.
Still, if you were to pick an MVP-contender from the team, it would be someone else: Thomas Walkup. He should be known as the steal of the summer, as he has been the leader of this team in his first season in Europe. Walkup is a point guard in the body of a forward, with a great feel for the game, who can handle the ball and score whenever he wants to. He plays the most minutes on this balanced team and sets the tone on offense, as he is extremely good at controlling the pace of the game.
This leads to a lot of good decisions, and also high percentage looks for him — he’s shooting 50% from two-point range and more than 40% from three-point range in the Champions League and in the German league. Walkup adds 4.1 assists and 3.9 rebounds to that, which are great numbers for a player like him. He helps Ludwigsburg in any aspect of the game, which makes him so important. However, you have to keep in mind that he is a European rookie, only 25-years-old, and still has lots of potential. For the upcoming BCL playoffs, he is definitely a player to watch.
All in all, it has to be said that Ludwigsburg is going into the matchup against Oldenburg as a slight favourite. You should never overlook a team with Rickey Paulding and the offensive power this squad has, but Ludwigsburg has been on a roll this season and can decide games with their defense. That’s something Oldenburg can’t do. With the athletic Jacob Wiley, Ludwigsburg added another presence inside, which should help against a tough guy like Rasid Mahalbasic.
Still, for Ludwigsburg it would be clever to use their advantages at the guard positions. Thomas Walkup and Kerron Johnon can cause a lot of damage with their drives and force Oldenburg’s defense into tough decisions. For that it is also a key for Riesen to hit some threes. They don’t need a lot of three-pointers, as they are just not a shooting team, but some long-range shots from Adika Peter-McNeilly, Elgin Cook, or Walkup will be needed. In their BBL game against Oldenburg .they hit 10 of 20 from deep, which helped them secure the victory.
It lays in the nature of both teams that Oldenburg will attempt, and normally make more, threes than Ludwigsburg in this matchup — but this is nothing Ludwigsburg should worry about. The team knows its strengths, the players know about Oldenburg’s weaknesses on defense, and they know they should have the best players in this series: Thomas Walkup. With this in mind, Ludwigsburg should be confident going into this All-German-matchup in the Basketball Champions League Round of 16.
Text edited by: Nick Flynt