Monninghoff Helps Carry Germany In U20 European Championship

By Yarone Arbel

  1.             BILBAO, Spain - Eight squads made it to the quarterfinals of the U20 European Championship, but probably the one that deserves the title "team" more than all is Germany.

            The assemble of coach Frank Menz exhibited an impressive team play and spirit here throughout the first six days of the competition.

            It stood out the most in the 22-point loss to Turkey on the closing day of the Qualifying Round.

            Most teams would fall apart in a day like that - when all goes great for the opponent while you have just one-of-those-days - but the German team showed great mentality, kept fighting and when the game was over, instead of having their heads down, gathered in mid-court for a longer than expected talk and then went to thank their fans.

            Being a team is part of the big success Germany had h

            Making the quarterfinals isn't a yearly thing in the U20 category.

            Actually the last time it happened was in 1998 when the tournament was held for U22 teams and if you were lucky to be present you saw on Germany's team a young guy called Dirk Nowitzki.

            Since then, Germany never made it even to the 9-12 Classification Round and even spent two years in Division B until appearing back in the top competition in 2009.

            Now they closed the circle.

            Germany defeated Montenegro 80-61 in a Classification Game for 5th to 8th place, then capped its finest showing ever with a 60-49 win over Turkey to claim the fifth spot.

            Certainly there's no new Dirk on this team, but what makes this even more impressive is the fact the German team arrived here without big guy Philipp Neumann, certainly one of the biggest prospects in this age group in all of Europe.

            One of the integral pieces of this U20 German puzzle is Gonzaga University sophomore-to-be Mathis Mönninghoff.

            Keeping in mind that Patrick Heckmann, another leading player in the team, has a roller coaster performance so far, it makes the German's performance far more impressive.

            "It's just that we're a bunch of guys that go back together a long way and know each other very good," says sharpshooter Mathis Mönninghoff.

            "Most of the guys on the team play together in the national teams for some years now. We've been together for a while and it all connects."

            Mönninghoff averaged 10.4 ppg, 2.1 rpg and 0.9 assists/game as Germany finished 2-1 in Group D to tie Italy for first in the Preliminary Round, the Italians getting the tiebreaker by virtue of their win over Germany. He scored a tournament-high 17 points in the win over Montenegro, had 15 against both Ukraine and Lithuania, 11 against Italy and 10 against Spain. Germany finished 5-4 overall.

            On the way here Germany eliminated no other than Lithuania in the Preliminary Round. Not an everyday result for both sides.

            "We were relaxed and tried to take it game by game and not to think too much of what will happen.

            "Beating Lithuania and making the next round gave us a lot of confidence," he assures.

            Yet on the last day of the Qualifying Round everything almost collapsed when Turkey had already a 30-point lead that would have sent Germany to the 9-12 Classification Round.

            "It's kinda funny to say, but at some point in the game when we saw how bad our situation was we made a new target to ourselves - not to lose by more than 22 points and fought for that.

            "Our spirit wasn't broken because it's not easy to break us after all these years together," Mönninghoff said.

            "We hang out together also after games and always make jokes and try to have good times," he says as a teammate passes by and in perfect timing to example what Mönninghoff just said makes a joke to take him off balance during the interview.

            Germany arrived to this competition with half of the team are 1992-born, most of them are the core of the team on the floor as Mönninghoff, which means next year they'll be back for more.



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