Never has a Dane suited up in the NBA. Not once. Ever. But a young beast of a player in Værløse could be about to change that.
Christian Drejer was close in 2004, and was even drafted by the New Jersey Nets. But inconsistent play and a foot injury derailed his NBA aspirations and he never played a game. After playing for various European teams, including mighty Barcelona, Drejer was forced to retire in 2008 due to injuries.
At a time when more Europeans than ever are thrilling the crowds in the world’s premier basketball league – ten of the top 60 draft picks in the 2011 NBA Draft were from Europe – it seems like it will only be a matter of time before Denmark gets their first player at the big show. That player may well be Rasmus Glarbjerg.
Even though Glarbjerg is still only 17, he already towers above the competition thanks to an immense 214cm frame. His young age, size and technical skills are already developed to a point where he stands out amongst his age group, Jørgen de Linde, his coach at Værløse BBK, told Jyllands-Posten newspaper.
“Rasmus’s physical dimensions are eye-catching, but there are other kids his age who are as big and can move like he can,” De Linde said. “But Rasmus stands out because he is so technically gifted and because his vision on the court is really special.”
De Linde has already been contacted by a host of European teams looking to sign him, and he has even received calls from across the Atlantic from the biggest stage basketball has to offer.
“There have been enquiries from the San Antonio Spurs and the Houston Rockets, and the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls have also called. I have spoken with Pat Riley [Miami’s president],” De Linde said. “The teams call because they want to get a feel for him. They are familiar with his game, but want to hear about his mental strength and get a sense of his personality.”
Glarbjerg isn’t too worried about being Denmark’s next great hope to make it to the NBA, saying that he’ll just keep focusing on his own thoughts and development. But clearly, he has ambition.
“I would like to make a living off basketball, and that is a realistic goal right now,” Glarbjerd told Jyllands-Posten. “But my dream is to play in the NBA. One shouldn’t have goals that are too lofty, because the NBA is tough, but it’s definitely something I am going for.”
A debut in the NBA may be a little down the road, but Glarbjerg already has a plan in mind. First he wants to play for a club in southern Europe after the summer holidays, either in Spain or in Italy.
Despite the emergence of talents such as Glarbjerg, Denmark is still considered amongst the minnows when it comes to developing talent in Europe. Traditionally, countries like Spain, Greece, Serbia, Italy and Lithuania have produced the most European talents who make the transition to the NBA.
But now, a budding youth team system with the backing of Team Denmark, which has begun to prioritise the development of the sport in the country, has led to several Danish talents beginning to make waves in the basketball community.
Rasmus will be among those representing Denmark in early August at the FIBA Europe 2012 Youth Championships. The under-18s play their first game on August 9 against Italy.
Factfile | Denmark’s hottest prospects
Rasmus Glarbjerg – Only 17 and standing 214cm, Glarbjerg is without a doubt the brightest Danish prospect for many years. Although he plays for Danish club Værløse BBK, it is only a question of time before he moves to either Europe or college basketball in the US to hone his skills further. Voted the second best player in Europe of his age group, Glarbjerg has technical gifts rarely seen in a centre.
20-year-old Gilling could be poised to make a big splash on the US college scene over the next few years. He just finished his freshman season playing for Arizona State University and put up some strong numbers, even cracking the starting five at times. It will be exciting following the 204cm-tall forward and seeing whether he continues to develop into a player of the future.
At 19 and 210cm tall, Larsen has also made the transition to the US market and he has just finished his senior season at the prestigious Montrose Christian high school in Maryland. The bulky power forward is being chased by some big basketball universities, including Virginia Tech, Mississippi, George Washington, and Richmond.
Just 189cm, Møller is the best point guard talent in his age-group. It will only be a matter of time before the 18-year-old takes his talents abroad. Møller is multi-faceted as he can score, rebound, dish out assists, and is explosive off the dribble. He was Denmark’s top scorer at the recent Albert Schweitzer Tournament for youth teams in Germany.
At 214cm tall and 22, Larsen is another of the few Danish talents to make the transition to US college basketball. However, his numbers of late have not been impressive and only a monster season in his final year at Old Dominion University will propel him onto the elusive NBA radars. A more likely destination is one of the bigger leagues in Europe.
Esben Reinholt – Just 196cm tall, Reinholt has been playing in Croatia since he was only 16 for the KK Split junior team, and he has recently been promoted to the full squad. The 19-year-old will learn plenty playing in the demanding Croatian League as a guard. At the recent U18 European B Division Championship, Reinholt was one of the MVPs of the tournament.