|07 September 2013|
|Whilst Ludvig Hakanson remains unknown to most, he has caught the eyes of one of the most influential basketball clubs in Europe, Barcelona|
In a fibaeurope.com exclusive, David Hein caught up with the highly promising young talent from Sweden, Ludvig Hakanson, who has most likely slipped under the radar of the average basketball fan.
Croatian Dario Saric, Vasilje Micic of Serbia and Montenegro's Nikola Ivanovic are considered three of the top young talents in European basketball while Georgia's future hopes rely heavily on Beka Burjanadze.
That quartet of 19-year-olds have all taken huge steps over the past two years in their development to make their EuroBasket debuts in Slovenia.
Now, imagine that Hakanson is two years younger than all four of them and the 17-year-old is serving as Sweden's back-up point guard.
"It's really cool man. I don't really think about my age right now. It's really a great experience," said Hakanson with a smile.
"I just love playing against the best players in the world. We played against Greece and I was playing against [Vassilis] Spanoulis and defending him a lot. It's incredible."
The blonde-haired, baby-faced talent is not the youngest player in EuroBasket history. That distinction belongs to Romanian center Constantin Popa who, in 1987, was 16 years and 105 days old when he made his EuroBasket debut.
Hakanson was 17 years and 166 days old when EuroBasket 2013 tipped off on Wednesday.
Hakanson said he was startled when he received an invitation to the Swedish senior national team camp after having played at the U18 European Championship Division B earlier this summer.
"I thought they just wanted to see me, and see me practicing. Maybe it would be good for the future. I didn't have any thoughts of making the team," admitted the guard.
"[When I made the roster], I almost started to cry. An incredible and great feeling."
It was also truly a surprise to Swedish coach Brad Dean that the son of former two-time EuroBasket player Olle Hakanson was included on the 12-man roster for Group D in Koper.
|Earlier this summer Ludvig Hakanson was playing for Sweden at the U18 European Championship Men Division B and ncould have never imagined he would ever be in consideration for a EuroBasket spot|
"He's an amazing player. We didn't really think he would make the team when we invited him to camp. But he played with so much maturity, well beyond his years. He's a player with the maturity of someone who has played for many years," said Dean of Hakanson, who has averaged four points and one assist in a shade under 16 minutes-per-game.
Mature, smart, patient and high-upside were the most prevalent words from Hakanson's older high-level teammates in describing the Matteus native.
"He plays very mature for his age. He's not scared about playing the older guys out there," said NBA forward Jeffery Taylor about Hakanson.
"He's a smart player. It's rare that you get a player that young being that mature ... He's got patience. He reads things really well," said Sweden's top point guard Thomas Massamba.
And Sweden's other NBA player Jonas Jerebko offered the following: "Being only 17 and playing at this level is a great experience for him. He's gonna be a great asset for this team in the future too."
When asked where the maturity comes from, Hakanson looks away to think and says: "I don't know. I watch a lot of basketball every day. Like five hours. And Barca have helped me so much with practicing every day for five hours."
Barca refers to Barcelona - as in the Spanish basketball giants who snatched up Hakanson and brought him to Catalonia two years ago as a 15-year-old and worked on changing him from a shooting guard to a point guard.
"Right now, [my playmaking is] very good. Last year it was a bit difficult for me. I was used to shooting a lot and trying to make things for myself. But now I like it a lot. It's the best position," said Hakanson, who is sitting directly next to the Swedish coaching staff when he's on the bench.
"I try to be in the game when I'm on the bench to see what the coaches want so when I come in I can do what they want me to do."
When asked about his long-term goals, he said: "To keep developing in Barcelona and maybe be in EuroBasket 2015."
Come 2015 in Ukraine, Hakanson will very likely run into the likes of Saric, Micic, Ivanovic and Burjanadze again.