Waiting for the big goal (neue-deutschland.de)

Basketball coach Henrik Rödl (r) during training

Photo: Swen Pförtner / dpa

The corona crisis has put national coach Henrik Rödl a thick line through the bill. The big goal Olympic qualification? Failed. The trip to the NBA pros? Aborted prematurely. International matches? Nothing. The 51-year-old had to wait a long time before he could bring his basketball players back together. And because opportunities are rare, the negligible European Championship qualification in Pau, France, will also become an early Olympic casting.

“We have a lot of young people with us,” says Rödl. “It’s always a good measure to see who will follow and who might have a chance on the final squad in the summer.” Of course, the stars from overseas around playmaker Dennis Schröder did not come due to scheduling reasons, as did the professionals from Alba Berlin and Bayern Munich, who play in the Euroleague. Above all, Rödl wants to see the talents. They have a chance to prove themselves on Friday against Montenegro and on Sunday against hosts France. The question is which of them could really be considered for the squad places at the Olympic qualifying tournament in Split in June, which is postponed to 2021.

Many young players are dying for it. Kenneth Ogbe from Bamberg, Len Schoormann from Frankfurt and Lukas Meisner from Braunschweig are about to make their debut. The youngsters’ hunger impressed Rödl when they arrived on Sunday and Monday. But the team doesn’t really have any pressure because, as one of the organizers of the EM 2022, they automatically have the ticket in their pocket. The last games for which Germany has applied with the venue Hamburg will take place next February.

In Pau these days the virus remains the most stubborn opponent, forcing the national team into a bubble. “We’re in the hotel, then training, the game and back to the hotel – done,” reports Rödl. Tests were carried out twice before arrival, followed by further test rounds before the games and the return journey. Concerns about the international match window in times of the second wave had been raised by clubs, but they were allayed. “The DBB, the world association and the BBL communicated a lot to make it possible at all,” said the coach.

Rödl had planned the year very differently. Before Germany went into lockdown a month later, he called the team together for the start of the European Championship qualification in February. There they surprisingly lost to Underdog Great Britain, but before that they defeated the French. In March Rödl had to return prematurely from America, where he actually wanted to sound out the readiness of the NBA professionals to participate in the Olympic qualification. And then at some point Olympia itself fell victim to Corona. The national coach continued to work. “During the time when the corona cases were very low, we trained with the U-teams in Germany,” said Rödl: “And before the lockdown, when it was still possible, I did some tours to meet players.” The days in Pau will feel a bit like normal again for Rödl. SID/nd