European Prospects

News about Young European Basketball Prospects

Scandinavian power in Manresa

November 1st, 2013 · No Comments

In 2010, I travelled to Solna in Sweden to cover the Nordic Championship, a tournament that regroups the Youth National Teams of the different Scandinavian countries. Back then, I saw for the first time Rasmus Larsen and Marcus Eriksson competing. Three and a half years later, both prospects have made the move to Spain and play now together for the same team in Manresa. It was time to make an update on the two very promising players.

After a year plagued by injuries, Rasmus Larsen started this season with a bang going for 21 points, 13 rebounds and a 37 ranking points in his first game in the ACB for Manresa. The Danish prospect showed his all around offensive skillset that can be summarized with a rare combination of shooting touch, size and ball handling skills. Larsen currently plays the PF position for Manresa which will also be his future spot. He has excellent shooting mechanics with very fluid stroke and can hit his shot from outside the three point line with ease. This makes him very dangerous as a stretch four as his ball handling allows him to attack defenders who are closing out on him with either hand. His fundamentals are nicely developed and it does not make much difference if he attacks on his left or right hand.

While his running up and down the floor looks a bit awkward, his overall movements are very fluid and coordinated for a nearly seven foot tall teenager. His body control is great and he can finish even when getting hit by more physical players. However, he shies a bit away from contact, especially when he is playing in the low post. He does not look to have a large amount of moves in the low post and is more of a face-up player. However, he is definitely a good passer out of these situations without being fancy or spectacular. He simply can make the right pass at the right moment when this is given in the set play.

Close to the rim, Larsen can finish as well with either hand on the jump hook. His quick second jump allows him to be quite effective on the offensive glass by scoring put backs. Despite not being that physical, Larsen can finish moves once he started them even when being fouled hard. His shooting touch helps him to find the basket even in difficult angles. His free-throw shooting is superb for a big guy so that fouling him is not really an option for the defenders. Larsen, who turns 19 only in a few weeks remains though a player who has still a lot of work to do, even if his current offensive skillset is already quite developed.

On the defensive end, his lateral speed has really improved over the last years and he can stay in front of his man or hedge out well on Pick and Rolls. However, he needs to contest the shots and drives harder and risk eventually to foul more (he made only 5 fouls in his first three games). The fact that he played in Denmark might be a reason for this as he rarely had to go very hard over there to be a factor on defense. In order to become more effective on defense on the professional level, he needs to increase his physical presence by also avoiding to stay away from the foul. With his physical tools, he should be able to develop into a very good defensive player but he needs to raise his effort level to do so.

Additionally, Larsen needs to become a more active rebounder. Despite good numbers over the first three games (8.3 boards in 26.7 minutes on the floor), the 1994 born player needs to go harder to the ball to grab the rebound and not wait for the ball to fall in his hands. This remains quite effective because of his size but he gets overpowered several times. He could develop into a 10+ rebounds per game player if he raises his effort level in this part of the game as well and goes harder for boxing out his opponents more physically. This is something that was already the case when we saw Larsen three years ago on the U16 level but it has not changed much since even if he can hold his man against professionals now.

With this professional debut in the ACB, Larsen draws of course immediately a lot of interest from NBA scouts. He was already one of the big prospects 2011 at the Adidas Eurocamp but he showed now that he is ready to play on the professional level at the tender age of 18. If he can stabilize his performance on a decent level, the interest of Euroleague teams might come sooner than expected. A move to the NBA does not look out of reach either but first of all, the Danish prospect has to grow a little stronger physically and go through his first professional season without any major injuries.

The second Scandinavian player who shines for La Bruixa d’Or Manresa in this debut of the ACB season is the long Swedish shooter Marcus Eriksson. After two seasons with the FC Barcelona second team, the 1993 born Eriksson has moved to Manresa to play his first minutes on the highest Spanish level. And what counted for Larsen is also true for the 2m00 tall Swede, he started the season really well. Still one of the fastest and purest shooters having grown up over the last years, Eriksson is nearly automatic from the three point line, especially in catch-and-shoot situations. His shooting form is also very stable even when he comes off screens and has to go for the pull-up jumper from behind the arc.

He is a lot more effective in these situations than when he has to create his shot out of the dribble. If he puts the ball on the floor, he has a preference for attacking the hoop and you do not see him that often for a step back 3 or a mid-range jumper out of the dribble. With his shooting touch, he is though a very good scorer on the floater, especially on the curl after a pick. With his thin frame, he is not that much attracted by the rim and prefers to finish from outside. His understanding of the game is very good and he reads quite well what the defense is giving him. In a specific play, you could see him attack his defender and realize that he is a lot taller than his opponent so that he turned around to play him with the back to the basket and get closer to finish on the “easy” turn around jump shot. He is also quite an interesting passer but his role at Manresa is clearly focused on his shooting skills.

On the defensive end, Eriksson needs to become physically stronger. He is often the target of post-ups despite having quite a good size. Despite trying to bump hard on screens, his lack of weight and physical presence is used by opponents to bring him to the low post. His lateral speed is only average and he has some problems if he has to chase an opposing shooter as he gets stuck in off the ball screens quite often. Eriksson’s offensive potential as a role player is superb, even for the highest level. He needs though to become physically stronger to not remain a liability on defense. He is still young and has the room to improve his body over the next years but he will most likely never develop into an athletic stopper down the road.

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