heinnews’s David Hein met up with 17-year-old Denmark prospect Rasmus Larsen at the FIBA Europe U18 All-Star Game at the EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania. They talked about what it’s like to play in front of 10,000 Lithuanians; his helping Denmark to the silver medal at the U18 European Championship Division B; playing against Germany star Robin Benzing at the Adidas camp in Treviso; the level of play in Denmark; playing in front of NBA scouts; and what he needs to improve on in his game.
heinnews: What was it like for you to be here at the U18 FIBA Europe All-Star Game at the EuroBasket 2011 semi-finals?
Larsen: It was a great experience for me. I’ve never played in front of this crowd before – like 10,000 people, it was amazing. I enjoyed every minute playing on the court.
heinnews: What was the nicest part of it all?
Larsen: It’s great to make an individual highlight on the floor. It was really fun.
heinnews: What was it like playing against some of the other best players of your age group?
Larsen: It’s nice to compete against them. I’ve played against a lot of them in camps in different places, so every time we meet we all get a little bit better. It’s good to see each other’s level.
heinnews: You won the silver medal at the U18 European Championship Division B in Bulgaria and now this highlight, what was this summer like for you?
Larsen: With the national team of Denmark we didn’t have the best preparation. We lost a couple of games. But we really didn’t have any high expectations about the European Championship. Some of the guys were with the team two years ago when we got the silver medal in Portugal (in 2009). We tried it before and started winning. We won the group and then reached the final, and now we are going up. It was disappointing that we lost by two points (to Bulgaria)
heinnews: So now you will be playing next summer in the A Division at U18. That must mean something special to you?
Larsen: Yeah, I’ve tried before with the U16 (finished second behind Bulgaria in 2009 but then were last at U16 Division A in 2010). But this year we will have a better preparation. We want to stay in the A Division next year.
heinnews: Is that the number one goal for next summer at the U18 level? Stay and then whatever else happens is just that much better?
Larsen: It’s the starting goal, and we’ll take it from there.
heinnews: Do you think the basketball in Denmark is getting better with you helping get promotion at U16s and U18s?
Larsen: Basketball has never really been that popular a sport in Denmark, but it’s really growing and now we are getting some good results in Europe. So, it’s growing.
heinnews: What was it like for you to be here at the EuroBasket 2011 and watching the continent’s top players in the semi-finals?
Larsen: It’s amazing. It’s everybody’s dream to play in these games. So hopefully I will have the chance in the future to play here in these games as well.
heinnews: How close is Denmark to getting to a EuroBasket?
Larsen: Not really close. We have to win C Division and then B Division. Maybe that will happen when my generation or 1992, 1991, some of these guys when they make it to the senior national team.
heinnews: Do you think that you guys are getting there, that you can take the two jumps?
Larsen: We have really good chemistry in these ages so we’ll see what happens. But it is definitely our goal, yes.
heinnews: You were also at the Adidas camp in Treviso, how did that go?
Larsen: It was a very high level. I was five years younger than some of the oldest guys. I’m not sure how I got the invitation but I always like to compete and it was great to go there and compete. And I learned a lot of things.
heinnews: What was the biggest thing that you learned?
Larsen: Playing physical against the very physical guys. I had no chance at all. So I want to improve on that.
heinnews: Was there one or two guys against whom you realized, wow, I do need to work on this or this?
Larsen: I played against this guy Robin Benzing from Germany. It was hard playing defense on him because I have tried something like that. He was my height and he was quick on his feet. But I learned from that.
heinnews: You are playing at Vaerlose in the Danish league, what do you expect to do with them this year?
Larsen: It’s our second year in the Danish league. We have quite a new team. We won a couple of games in the pre-season. But my expectation is to go further in the playoffs. We want to win a couple of games in the playoffs.
heinnews: Being at Treviso and this All-Star Game, there is a lot of attention from the NBA and upper level Euroleague scouts. What’s it like for you to play in front of those people?
Larsen: I don’t really think about it that much when I’m on the court. I just focus on myself and my improvements. But it’s always nice to get good results and people saying good stuff about you.
heinnews: What do you think about your game and what may need improvements?
Larsen: I have a long way to go. I want to play the three – small forward – mostly. But I am not ready for that. I still have a lot of development for that.
heinnews: Main thing being quickness? Or what?
Larsen: Ball-handling, shooting, setting my feet the correct way, driving to the hoop. All of that.