Denmark is not really known for producing high quality basketball players on a regular stetch. Back in 2007, the nation was however close to qualify for the Eurobasket but since then, the National Team has gone downwards and was dropping into Division C last fall. FIBA Europe had a longer story on this case that you can find here. But to my big surprise, there was one young Danish player present in Paris for the Nike International Junior Tournament so that I thought about making a little piece on his story.
Esben Reinholt is a 1993 born Guard from Denmark that is currently playing for the Croatian team KK Split. Alone this fact was worth the story as in general, it are the teams from the Balkan that get picked their best players by Western European countries and it is generally not going the other way around. But Reinholt, who played before in Denmark for Horsens made this move last summer after the U16 European Championship of Division B in Portugal. In fact, his coach in Denmark, who is of Croatian descent, helped him to get some tryouts in his home country and it was KK Split who took him into their youth program.
After a slower start into the tournament against Unicaja where the 1m93 tall player came of the bench to have 10pts, 5rebs and 2blks, he got awarded with a spot in the Starting Five for the second game, especially for his defensive presence. In the opener, he shut down Unicaja’s Rafa Freire who has already seen minutes on the Euroleague and ACB level but Reinholt did an excellent job of guarding him. In the second game which became the already epic clash between KK Split and FMP, Reinholt had his best game from a scoring point of view with 19pts. In the last game of the tournament, he came again from the bench for 8pts, 6rebs, 2asts and 3blks. So in the end, the Danish kid averaged 12.3ppg (9/18 2FG, 4/14 3FG 7/12 FTs), 4.3rpg, 1.3apg, 3spg and 1.7bpg.
So what type of player do we have here? Reinholt, who is enjoying his time in Croatia as he told us and will certainly stay also next season in Split, is a tall guard who mainly played the SG position for Split during the tournament. The presence of a strong PG like Toni Katic put him on that spot while he helped a lot bringing the ball up the court against press defenses or when Katic was on the bench. He may have a future as full-time PG as he has the necessary tools to occupy that role. You nearly never see him taking a wrong decision and his ball handling and size allows him to be a perfect fit for this position while being a year younger than most of his team mates and opponents.
Against the aggressive defenses he faced during the NIJT, he barely never panicked and could free himself with a good pass or a dribble out of double team situations. His fundamentals that he has learned back in Denmark but certainly improved in Croatia help him in those situations as well. Offensively, he can both drive and shot. His three point shot is still in a way of stabilizing process as it does not look perfectly regular at the moment. However, he can hit those shots with good percentages and he has the necessary confidence to take and make them in important moments. He had for example one play where he was in a one-one situation with Unicaja’s 2m10 center Malick Fall and made a three-point shot over him out of the dribble after having had a miss on the previous offensive play.
He attacks the basket strongly and can change the directions nicely according to what the defense gives him. Out of these penetration plays, he mostly goes fully to the hole but he can play the occasional dish at moments but it does not look to be his main asset. Sometimes, he loses the control when attacking the basket but he is not that turnover-prone as you see lots of guards on youth category level. His jump shot out of penetration plays is however improvable at the moment, he prefers the catch and shoot situations both in long and mid-range jump shots.
Reinholt is on the other hand also an excellent defender. He does an great job with a physical style on PGs and SGs and can also help out once or twice on the SF position. He is a surprising shot blocker for a player of his size, mainly in direct defense situations where he shows good timing and jump speed to reject the jump shot of his opponent. After having had already two block shots against Unicaja, he also had two rejections in the last seconds of the game versus Benetton on Saturday that sealed the deal for the Croatians. He is present in the passing lanes as well as his good reaction time gave him several deflections or steals in these situations.
Unfortunately, Reinholt will not play with the Danish U18 National Team next week during the Nordic Championships that europeanprospects.com will attend as well but he confirmed us that he will be a part of the U18 National Team this summer during the European Championships of Division B that will be played in Tel Aviv. We are looking forward to see how he develops as Denmark has a few other interesting players developing at the moment so that a return to Division A for the Senior National may not be as utopian as it seems right now.