At first, there nothing special about driving down to Langen (A rather small town near to Frankfurt, which is geographically in the middle of Germany) to attend a game between TV Langen and USC Freiburg in the second professional basketball league called “Pro A”.
After getting one of those delicious sausages, we sat down behind Langen’s bench to watch the game, which started some minutes ago.
The hometown-team is pretty much in the bottom section of the standings and when their reserve-guard went out with an injury in a previous game, they decided to hire a replacement, which happened to be Achmadschah Zazai.
Zazai is a lightning-quick point guard who started the season in the BBL (Germany’s top league) with the Artland Dragons, where he signed a temporary contract to replace also an injured player and moved now to Langen to do the same over here.
This time though, he is getting way more minutes and much more responsibility on the court compared to his few minutes he got while being with the “Dragons”.
When he entered the game, Zazai showed successfully what he learned during his previous stint and drove smoothly to the basket; showing no fear to bang with the big fellows from Freiburg to score a couple of spectacular baskets or to dish the ball to an open player for the finish.
I realized after a couple of minutes, that he was guarding regionally-known guard Anish Sharda, who I remember from his time in Mainz where he was the most outstanding player during their time in the Regionalliga and later in the Pro B, here in Germany.
Sharda happens to be of Indian decent while Zazai is of Afghani decent, but both players were born and raised abroad (Sharda near L.A. in the U.S. and Zazai in Berlin, Germany).
It does not happen often in Germany, to see players on the court that could be meeting again in a regional qualifier of FIBA Asia, I guess.
Of course, there are a few Asians in the leagues here like Juefan Geiger (Taiwan), Mac Dotzauer (Thailand) and Chris Viardo (Philippines), and I can’t forget about Arash Javadi (Iran), but it does not happen often that these guys are actually meeting each other on the court and play directly against each other.
It was pretty interesting to follow both players’ actions as both players knew how to run their team and did in most parts of the game with authority.
“Zazai is a very quick point guard, he can break you down off the dribble and get into the lane really well and finish as well as making plays for others”, analyzed Anish Sharda when asked about his opponent after the game.
It became more then apparent, that Zazai fitted well into the team, as he made the team better when he was running the point.
Sharda on the other hand is a player that developed over the past years from a quick and deadly scorer to a complete player who is now more of a floor general than your stereotype shoot-first U.S. point guard. “He has an eye for the open teammate but knows also to score”, tells me Zazai about Sharda.
When it seemed that Langen had the win locked down, Sharda started to take the faith in his own hands and scored a couple of threes to give Freiburg another run. It came probably a bit late and Langen eventually won this one, but I was able to see the immense potential that the future-Indian national-team player possesses.
After not managing to get his Indian passport in time for the Asian Championships this past summer, Sharda hopes to be part of India’s national-team program in the near future.
Zazai, who represented already Germany internationally, has no plans to suit up for Afghanistan and is still focused on his imminent goal to be back in the BBL to get another chance in Germany’s national-team.
” I would love to play in a higher league than the Pro-A”, mentions Sharda to me, after climbing up the ranks from the Regionalliga to the Pro B and now to the Pro A within the Germany’s league-system.
He further notices: “I’m not saying this is not a good league. It is, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to play in it, but I love challenges and competition so hopefully this season can lead to something bigger.”
To me, both players have the necessary skills and brain to play on a higher level, it depends more of landing on the right spot at the right time and within the right system where they can get a fair chance to display their arsenal of tools to a bigger audience.
They are already frontrunners for other young Asian ballers from Afghanistan and India who are growing up, as both players are probably the most successful ones in today’s professional basketball circuit with this rather unique heritage and should be seen as role models for the ones who are following their path.
I wish both, Achmadschah and Anish good luck for their careers, and I’m pretty sure, to hear more of their respective success stories in the near future.
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