|12 August 2012|
|Rasmus Larsen's specialty might be the midrange jumper but this does not mean he will not take advantage of his height near the rim if you give him the chance|
Rasmus Larsen, who starting Monday will try to help Denmark avoid relegation at the Samsung U18 European Championship, has been dubbed the "new Dirk Nowitzki" or the "Danish Dirk".
The parallelism is now so frequent that Larsen would not be aware of it only if he had spent the last year or so in complete isolation on the tiniest of Denmark's 406 islands.
"It makes me feel good," he told FIBAEurope.com.
"The kind of basketball he (Nowitzki) plays, I like it very much.
"Driving to the basket and shooting from outside, not only going inside always from the four position, but at the same time also show some inside skills."
The similarities are there for anyone to see. They both stand 2.12m tall; they play at the same position; they both possess a soft shooting touch and ball handling skills unusual for players their height.
But the Danish 18-year-old forward/center would still need to improve greatly in all aspects of his game to stand a comparison to the German legend.
Luckily for Larsen, he is a bright young man, as composed off the court as he is on it, to ever get drawn into the hype.
"[Nowitzki] is just a great athlete, he is my idol of course, but I like a lot of other players too. I watch clips on youtube sometimes to see how he moves on the court and how he does things," he puts it simply.
LIVING THE DREAM
Nowitzki left Germany for Dallas at the age of 20.
Larsen will be taking his talents to the toughest league in Europe from September, as he has signed with Spanish club Manresa.
Denmark coach Peter Hoffman, who spent a couple of seasons at Spanish LEB club Los Barrios during his playing career, is worried about the move at this young age, as protective as a father would be of his son.
But Larsen himself could not be more excited.
"My dream is to play basketball," he said.
"I thought about leaving last year but I decided to stay one more season in the Danish league and leave after this summer.
"I really think I am ready to leave and I am very happy with my decision.
"We have other guys playing abroad, in the USA, in Croatia and elsewhere, but it's a good story for Denmark, it's been on the news and other young athletes can see that basketball players can move abroad and live their dream."
A HOOP IN EVERY SCHOOL, BUT NOT ON TV
Larsen and other talented young Danish players cannot, in the foreseeable future, live this basketball dream in their own country.
But things are getting better all the time.
"We do a lot to promote the sport, it's got a lot bigger in the last few years and it continues to grow," Larsen says about his favourite sport in his native land.
"In every little school in Denmark anywhere there is a hoop and kids want to play with the basketball.
The missing ingredient to achieve the next step in development is exposure to a mass audience.
"The biggest sport in Denmark by far is football," Larsen explains.
"It's on TV all the time, basketball is never on TV, but it's getting bigger."
Before Danish basketball can get the airtime it deserves though, it has an equally important short-term goal in Vilnius.
The U18 Division A newcomers have to fight off Poland, France and Germany in the Classification Round for 13th to 16th place, to preserve their top-flight status.
"We also played in Division A at U16 level, it is a lot different to Division B, this is a very good competition and I am happy to compete with the best in Europe," Larsen said.
"Even though Denmark is not a basketball country, it's still nice to come here and play with the best."
So the big stage is definitely worth the effort. But is it a feasible goal?
"We are trying to get better from game to game," Larsen, who averaged 15.3 points and 6.0 rebounds in the First Round, affirmed.
"This year we didn't have as much preparation as we'd like, our coach was with the under-20s as well, we just try to go out in every game and do our best, to keep up."
Larsen has yet to finish high school but make no mistake, this is not child talk, it's a man in his own right speaking.
Expect then nothing less from Denmark than giving it their best shot in every game till the end.