Widely known for their defensive abilities throughout this current season, 2. Bundesliga Pro B team SC Rist Wedel put on a shooting clinic on Saturday, roaring to a 128-115 home win over Citybasket Recklinghausen. And Augie Johnston (185-G-86, college: CS Monterey) was the man who put it all in action. The 26-year-old guard from Atascadero, California, lit it up from deep, hitting 8-of-11 from the three-point land and tallied a new Pro B career high 40 points, which resulted not only in the 14th win of the season but also in Pro B Player of the Week honors. "It was a big win for us since we are fighting hard for second place. It was a fun game to be a part of. I don't think I've ever played in such a high scoring game before. As a team we had no plans to play that way before the game and we usually are a good half court team and focus on that, but it was just one of those nights where we were making everything, so we just ran with it and it worked out nice for us", Johnston told Eurobasket.com.
He had nailed five triples in a game on three occasions earlier this season. By sinking eight he tied the 2012-13 Pro B record of Dorsten's John Cadmus: "In the first half I was able to run off some screens and knock down some threes and get to the free throw line. In the second half they started pressing and my teammates found me open and I continued to make my shots." No other player in the league is as consistent when it comes to scoring from beyond the arc. Last season Johnston shot a solid 40.1% - which secured him a spot amongst the top shooters in the league. In his second year with SC Rist there is no way to deny it: Augie is above all other. He took a total of 134 shots from long range (6th most in the Pro B) so far and buried 69 of them, ergo 51.5%. "I think the fact that I am playing the 2 is why my shooting percentage has gone up. I am good at using screens and this season I run off a lot more of them than I did last season." Converting half of his attempts from outside isn't a first by the way. In his senior-season at Cal State Monterey Bay (NCAA Division 2) Johnston, who is regularly being praised for his hard work and leadership skills by current and former coaches, hit 67-of-134 for the Otters.
Looking back at Rist's record breaking win over Recklinghausen, Johnston doubts that a lack of defensive pressure caused the total of 243 scored in a 40 minute game: "I don't know if that was the main reason for such a high scoring game in this case. Recklinghausen has pretty much all shooters expect for their 4 man Franklin. He would get the ball at the beginning of the possession and play 1 on 1 75% of the time which resulted in a quick shot. We just stayed home with the shooters and decided to limit them and make Franklin work for his points. It turns out he's a good 1 on 1 player and was able to score in these situations which ran the score up. Also, the first half was pretty fast paced and in the second half they pressed us the whole time which turned the tempo of the game up even higher."
By sinking the Recklinghausen team, SC Rist reeled in their second straight win, holding on to their second place in the Pro B North standings. While a three game losing streak in late January and early February seemed to have derailed them somehow, the Risters went back to winning ways leaving no margin of doubt: Last week they would knock off league leader Schwelm in a resounding overtime road win and continued to hit the headlines by putting in 128 points versus Citybasket. Reflecting on the losing streak Johnston said that no stone was left unturned to end the drought: "It created some stress on the team of course, but after every loss we would just look at the next game. We spent those few weeks trying to figure out what was wrong with us and to be honest we talked about so many things, but we realized that so many of those things are not easy to control. We looked at what we could control and instantly change and once we did that we beat Schwelm and I think we are on the right path now."
A path that hardly anyone had foreseen only some months ago, when Rist went through a shaky pre-season which forced the team to adapt to a new coach and which included late player movement and a series of injuries: "I think we have done a good job this season taking it one game at a time", Johnston, the Rist team captain, said and added: "Our coach [Sebastian Gleim ] does a great job preparing us every single week for our opponents and we always enter each game with a clear plan. Also, we have a complete team that plays team basketball. We have scoring point guards, passing point guards, shooters, athletic posts, shooting posts, defensive players, etc. Everyone plays together and there is no selfish players on this team at all."
Ismet Akpinar (190-PG-95, agency: Beo Basket) is one of those players. The 17-year-old guard is considered one of the finest hopefuls in German basketball and recently agreed on a four year deal with ALBA Berlin, starting in the summer. Johnston who has played alongside Akpinar since 2011 says: "It was a great decision that he made. ALBA will work hard to develop Ismet's game into a first league player and I already know that Ismet will work hard there and improve every year."
But prior to moving to Berlin, Akpinar and Johnston will have some more mutual minutes in the yellow jersey. The Rist team clinched a playoff berth already some weeks ago and has two games left to play in the regular season, taking on Herten and Hannover. "My main focus is winning the game [against Herten]", Johnston stresses. And though taking it one game at a time, he permits himself to take just a little glimpse on what might be crucial in the playoffs: "I think that defense is going to be very important. If we can play team defense and limit our opponents to one shot per possession then we have a good chance to go deep in the playoffs. When we play with passion and emotion I feel like we are the best team in the Pro B."
Last year SC Rist dropped out of the playoffs in the first round following a hard fought series against the Giants Noerdlingen. "I have some unfinished business in the Pro B", Johnston, who is averaging 20.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steal this season, stated in an interview with Eurobasket.com back then. Mission accomplished? "No way, not yet. But I do think about that quote often and I hope I can say that I accomplished my mission with a championship", he said. Looking at potential future missions he added: "Right now I'm just focusing on winning the next two games but I definitely am interested in moving up to the Pro A."
Julian Scott (203-F/C-90, college: Adams St.) is a 25 year old 203cm forward from Sacramento, California that recently completed his second professional season and first with the Uni Riesen Leipzig playing 23 games: Score-5 (20.4ppg), Reb-2 (10.5rpg), 1.7apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 50.3%, 3PT: 17.9%, FT: 66.7%. He picked up Eurobasket.com All-German 2.Bundesliga Pro B Forward of the Year -16, Eurobasket.com All-German 2.Bundesliga Pro B 1st Team -16, and Eurobasket.com German 2.Bundesliga Pro B All...