17 October, 2023
05 May, 2024
21 Dominykas Pleta (LUD), 8 Jaren Lewis (LUD), 0 Deion Hammond (LUD), 6 Johannes Patrick (LUD), 3 Jayvon Graves (LUD), Joshua King (LUD)
Diccon Lloyd-Smeath's Champions League Insider
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Identity: A closer look at MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg


LUDWIGSBURG (Germany) - MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg head coach Josh King clearly understood the brief when he took the reigns from his mentor, John Patrick.

"I think we have an identity here in Ludwigsburg,"  the 38-year-old American coach told championsleague.basketball.

King is not wrong. The brand of basketball that Ludwigsburg play is known across the continent as one of the most unique and challenging to play against.

Every opponent understands they will be tested physically and forced to exert a maximum level of effort to keep up with the pace.

This reputational legacy was earned through years of John Patrick's teams changing personnel but never changing the hallmarks that made them successful.

"There's always pressure to win the next game, it's European basketball." - Josh King

"I don't think it was a mandate to have to do it exactly how 'JP' did it because I'm different but, I think there was kind of an understanding that we were going to do a lot of the same things," King clarified his role as a custodian of the club. 

"I didn't look at it so much as, 'Oh, I'm replacing John', It was just 'I am taking a big-time job in Europe, and we gotta win'. There's always pressure to win the next game, it's European basketball."

After coming through three intense Play-In games against Darussafaka Lassa and picking up huge wins on the road at JDA Bourgogne Dijon and at home over giants Galatasaray EKMAS in the Round of 16, it's clear that King and this Ludwigsburg team can sustain the pressure.

What is also clear is that this iteration of Ludwigsburg basketball is just as difficult to play against as any of its predecessors. 


As with every system and culture - in any sport - everything starts with the people you bring in to build it. For Ludwigsburg and King, the profile they are looking for is crystal clear and unashamed. 

"My first philosophy is you better do a really good job in the summer recruiting. One of the first things we look for when we're looking for players to come here is guys that wanna get to the next level, they wanna use this as a stepping stone," King explained.

"I need hungry guys. I don't want guys that need me necessarily to motivate them." - Josh King

It may sound counter-intuitive for a coach to say they actively look for characters with an individual drive to use the club to quickly advance to better things.

But, once the player buys in the notion that the collective system will help them advance their own goals, the coach can spend more of his time focusing on teaching the game itself, instead of cajoling effort.

"I need hungry guys. I don't want guys that need me necessarily to motivate them," King offered.

When you watch this Ludwigsburg team play, it's not hard to see the hunger in action. Jayvon Graves averaging 17 points in his second season in Europe, a 6-point bump from last year - that's hunger driving that development. 

Desure Buie
making the jump from the Slovakian league to the BCL and running the show with an average of 11 points and 4 assists, that's hunger.

Silas Melson and Jaren Lewis sacrificing more shots than their previous season to be part of a collective and prove that they can play winning basketball at a higher level, again that's hunger-driven.

As you go through this Ludwigsburg roster, the list of examples goes on. 

Eddy Edigin is scoring at a career-high rate in Europe, as is Jonathan Baehre. The latter is a mainstay and culture piece at the club, who is also averaging a career-high in minutes played, blocks and assists. 

The freedom to express that hunger on the floor is also something we see evident in this next clip involving Bahre.

Watch how the big German is given the license to bring the ball up the floor and initiate the offense.

What you also see is a common feature for Ludwigsburg under King:  they don't call a set but instead flow straight into early offense before creating a shot from a pick-and-pop between Graves and Lewis.

The outcome of that offense is a three-point shot and should come as a surprise to no one.

Ludwigsburg take 31.5 of triples per game - the most in the BCL this season - which represents 44.5 percent of their total shots taken .

The other metric born out in that clip, where Ludwigsburg take their first open shot, is that they take more shots than any other team this season, 850 in total, a whole 63 more than Cholet Basket, in second place.

"People sometimes say we play streetball, but we always took that as a compliment." - Josh King

This is by design."We wanna lead the league in shots taken," King said.

"I believe you're not gonna find a better shot. If we push the ball up the floor and have a really good shooter open with 20 seconds on the clock, shoot it."

 When you do things differently you probably have to expect a mixed reaction, especially when you play in a way that forces other teams to be uncomfortable. For King, those reactions are a sign they are doing something right.

"People sometimes say we play streetball, but we always took that as a compliment, actually," he said.

As the next clip illustrates however, it may have the same design features of pushing the ball up the floor and taking the first open three, but it's anything but streetball.

Ludwigsburg probably use more drag screens than any team in Europe. Watch how it triggers their offense with #2 Jacob Patrick and then #11 Silas Melson running off down screens as the defense focused on the ball screen action.

As you would expect, the play ends with a wide open three, but this basketball is anything but unstructured. There is freedom there, but also ruthless efficiency.

In the final few seconds we can observe Darussafaka struggling to inbound the ball. This wasn't an accidental late edit, this is showing us perhaps the most important feature of the Ludwigsburg experience, the trademark full-court press. 

The Trademark

"We let them know that they have freedom on offense, but for them to have that much freedom on offense, they have to play their tail off on defense, King comments on Ludwigsburg's trademark trait.

This statement will resonate with anyone who has ever played or coached the game of basketball.

But it is a statement that Ludwigsburg really live up to. Year in, year out, you will never find a harder-working team on defense in Europe, possibly even the world. It's more than a statement of intent, it's a cultural trait. 

Ludwigsburg will press full court on 31.6 percent on their defensive possessions which, of course, leads the BCL this season.

The two clips above may not even be the two most intense examples you could find but they do show you exactly what this basketball club is all about and how they have managed to outperform their budget and gain such notoriety for so many years. 

From the moment the ball is inbounded, to the moment they get the ball back and relentlessly run it back down their opponent's throat, there will be yellow jerseys within touching distance of the ball-handler, harassing and pushing.

If they get knocked over, they get back up and make the steal. Europe is known for intricate and sophisticated offensive play design, Ludwigsburg don't care for any of that.

How are you meant to run clever masking actions or misdirection if your opponent is forcing you to use your whole possession just crossing half-court?

Up Next

March 6 sees Dijon come to Germany with revenge on their mind. Victory number three in the group for Ludwigsburg would be another huge step on the road to the Quarter-Finals.

But for King, it's only ever about getting the next possession right and never getting too carried away.

"I tell my players we can't look too far ahead, and I really don't look too far ahead in my own career either. Really, I just wanna do a good job," he says.

Diccon Lloyd-Smeath

Diccon Lloyd-Smeath

Diccon is a basketball coach and analyst living in Madrid. Constantly digging in the crates of box scores and clicking through hours of game footage. Diccon is on the hunt for the stories within the stories. If you like to get a closer look at what’s going in the Basketball Champions League, you have found it.