Denmark Is No Team For Old Men

08 August 2014

8. Thomas Laerke (Bakken Bears Aarhus)
Thomas Laerke is coming off a great season with the Bakken Bears and is expected to take over responsibility in Denmark's backcourt

Denmark are set to establish an impressive precedent in the history of EuroBasket qualifiers on Sunday, when they field a squad with an average age of 22 against Belarus.

Through a combination of design and coincidence, forward Mathias Seilund, who turned 24 in January, will be the oldest player on the Danish national team roster in the upcoming EuroBasket 2015 2nd Qualifying Round.

"In April, we had 15 players out of the 20-25 we had contacted initially to ask about their availability this summer," the Danish federation's (DBBF) sporting director, Hrannar Holm, explained on DBBF's official website.

"The rest replied no, either due to health reasons (Nicolai Iversen), personal reasons (Chris Christoffersen, Chris Nielsen) or college (Jonathan Gilling, Shavon Shields, Jakob Enevold and Sami Eleraki).

"Alan Voskuil never answered us and Chris Andersen was not interested while finally, there were some players who withdrew due to injuries in April, such as David Harder.

"Despite the absences, we were very pleased with the squad we had in April.

"But then, just before training camp started in July, we had five players dropping out, including some which we expected to be key players on this team.

"They were both frontcourt players, such as Rasmus Larsen and Kevin Larsen, and backcourt players, in Adama Darbo and Mikkel Plannthin.

"Most of these absences were very unfortunate but entirely understandable, at least with three of these players there was nothing that could be done, but on the other hand Kevin's cancellation was a disappointment because it came without warning at the last minute."

Denmark's youthful team played in five warm-up games prior to the start of the EuroBasket 2015 2nd Qualifying Round without picking up a victory, but in their last two games against Estonia and Bulgaria they managed to stay close in the score until late in the game and put up a fight.

"Our best bet is to attack from defence, get stops and find easy scores on the fast break," said Pieti Poikola, Denmark's head coach.

"Generally in these past weeks in training camp we wanted to teach the players how to play aggressive defence, something which they are not accustomed to at their clubs.

"Opponents [in international basketball] are so good that they score every time unless they are pushed to the maximum, and it requires a lot of mental toughness.

"When we look ahead, we note that we are smaller than and not as strong physically as our opponents.

"The only way to compensate for this is if everyone gives 100%, which can be mentally demanding for both the players and the coach.

"There is a lot to do and we cannot perform miracles in three weeks, but I think we have moved us much as we could."

14. Rasmus Larsen (Denmark)
Denmark will have to make do without one of their biggest talents, Rasmus Larsen

Denmark, with plenty of their veterans on the team, had competed last year in the 1st Qualifying Round and finished in third place in Group C, above Luxembourg and behind Austria and Switzerland.

This summer, they are pitted against Belarus, F.Y.R. of Macedonia and Belgium in Group D.

They know they are not among the favourites in this company to clinch a top-two finish and qualify for EuroBasket 2015, but they also know that time is on their side and their youthful team will only keep improving by the day.

"We keep believing that we can become good," Holm said.

"We believe that we can qualify for the EuroBasket final tournament and become one of Europe's top 20 teams.

"We know that the two most important things for a national team programme are quality and continuity.

"This means that we need to do things as best we can and we must go on and on, to quietly make players see that it makes no sense for them not to participate.

"They are the ones who are losing if they do not participate with the national team.

"But we are patient and know that good things take time.

"A very experienced and successful national team coach once told me that it takes a decade to build up a good team culture.

"We are in year two now, so we have eight years left."


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