As the glow of the London Olympics and the U17 World Championship for Women starts to fade, some of us start to look ahead for the long-term opportunities that have emerged from The Games. On the team sports side, the surprising qualification run of the Netherlands womens basketball team raised many eyebrows and shows that there is growth in the game during the Year of Basketball. The womens team received a huge boost in the eyes of the international public with the great run during the Championship, upsetting Spain and Turkey.
Niels Meijer (204-F-80) is account manager at the Johan Cruyff Sports Institute Amsterdam and formerly played as a professional at BC Omniworld Almere, Amsterdam Astronauts and Donar Groningen. As a native Dutch, Niels played professional basketball for 17 years in Europe and now lives in Amsterdam. We caught up with Niels to ask him about global hoops and the growing interest in basketball in the Netherlands.
In a country where basketball is not a popular sport, how did you start playing basketball and where did you start? I come from a real basketball family. Both of my parents are passionate about the game, as well as my uncles. I started playing when I was 7 year old in my hometown Velsen. At the age of 16, I played my first game for a professional team in Almere. After that I transferred to Amsterdam. I have played there for 6 years, including winning 2 championships and 2 cupfinals. During that period I received my first invitation for the national team, which I have been representing since then for 4 years. Unfortunately I had end my career because of a major knee injury.
What was your experience as a professional basketball player in the Netherlands? Compared to other European countries, basketball in the Netherlands is not that popular. There are 3 or 4 top teams that rule the competition every year. Luckily for me I was on these teams, so every year I had the chance to play for the European Cup. I played against big teams like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Girona, Khimki Moscow, etc. I played against a lot of big names like Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio and Rudy Fernandez.
Amsterdam just hosted the U17 Women Basketball World Championship, with a great performance by the Dutch team. What do you expect in the next years for the Netherlands in basketball? Especially the level of womens basketball has grown during the last couple of years. This is because a few years ago the city of Amsterdam, the National Olympic Committee and the Dutch Basketball Federation started a project called the CTO (Centre for Topsport and Education). Their main focus is on the sports and they organize about 25 hours a week of basketball practice. In the past years they visibly increased the players strength, mental toughness and of course their technical and tactical game. At the same time, the U20 reached the semi-finals during the European Championship. A great proof that this program is working!
The NBB is also working to promote the year of Womens Basketball? Is it the reason for the Orange Success in the U17? The best reason is of course the performance of the girls themselves. I think that what might have helped a little is the success of U17. But again, all credit goes to the team and its staff. However, I personally still have the ambition to help the sports to a higher level in the Netherlands. Together with an ex-teammate I started a network group for Dutch former internationals. Our goal is to be an external consultancy group for our Federation and for other basketball organizations.
What do you think should be done to take basketball to the next level in the Netherlands? The CTO project should continue as it is. It should be noted that it only exist through the funding of the NOC (the Dutch Olympic Committee) and the government. So this should be regarded as its structure for the future. If they continue like they do, I have no doubt that we will see our womens national team at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The same goes for our wheelchair basketball teams. They also started a program for both women and men who are competing on a professional basis. The wheelchair women won the bronze medal at the Paralympics in Londen 2012.The mens national basketball team however is struggling. There is no plan or vision whatsoever. In my opinion they should use the blueprint of the CTO program for the women and focus on their youth (U14 and U16).
What can you tell us about the recruiting landscape from North America and the rest of Europe seeking Dutch players? Of course the experience you find in the competition of North America is really special. As a player you want to reach for the top and in North America you will find the best players, the best coaches and the best competition. So I understand the choice of most players who wish to make that step across the ocean. Another trend we see in the Netherlands is that a lot of talented players go to Spanish league at the age between 14-16. My hope for the future is that talented players will not have to travel that far to get the best accommodation, the best coaches or play against great players. I hope that soon those conditions are right here in the Netherlands. But for now, that is just a dream.
Francisco Elson and Dan Gadzuric are current players in the NBA. How do you see their experience there going thus far? I thinks for basketball in the Netherlands its great we have two players in the NBA. I think that the Dutch Federation should put them even more into the spotlight to promote the sports. To grow as a sports, you need heroes. So their experience is of great value for the next generation.
What has the Johan Cruyff Institute and its programs brought to you and the basketball world in the Netherlands? The Johan Cruyff Institute for Sport Studies educates sports people worldwide and generates projects and ideas for the sports industry. The Cruyff Institute was created by athletes, is fully sports-oriented, and aims at becoming a reference center in the sports world. The Cruyff Institute builds bridges between education and businesses through talent and knowledge development. We have had some well-known athletes in our programs, like for instance Edwin van der Sar (the famous goalkeeper). But our programs are also meant for people with a passion for sports. And this combination of athletes and people of the business world who have a passion for sports is very powerful. We aspire to help people, athletes and sport in general to a higher level. We educate, develop and connect! The Institutes offers two Master programs: The International Master of Sport Management and the Master of Coaching. I have studied the first, after which I started working for the Institute as a manager of the Master in Coaching and our online programs. In this way, I still feel very much connected to top sports in general. But who knows Someday I might return to my first love basketball.
Leiden - Leeuwarden 74-64 (3-0)
Leiden steps closer to the title after a 74:64 win in Game 3. 24 personal fouls committed by Leeuwarden helped opponents get some easy free throw opportunities. The best player for the winners was international guard Arvin Slagter (191-85, agency: Court Side) who scored 14 points and 5 assists. International Worthy de Jong (194-88, agency: R.H.Consultancy) chipped in 18 points and 4 steals [read more]
Leiden steps closer to the title after a 74:64 win in Game 3. 24 personal fouls committed by Leeuwarden helped opponents get some easy free throw opportunities. The best player for the winners was international guard Arvin Slagter (191-85, agency: Court Side) who scored 14 points and 5 assists. International Worthy de Jong (194-88, agency: R.H.Consultancy) chipped in 18 points and 4 steals. At the other side the best for losing team was American forward Samme Givens (195, college: Drexel) who recorded a double-double by scoring 14 points and 11 rebounds and the other American import guard Robert Holcomb Faye (185-84, college: Radford) added 8 points and 7 assists respectively. Leeuwarden's coach Erik Braal rotated ten players in this game, but that didn't help. Top scorers: Leiden: W.de Jong 18+3reb+1ast, M.Schachtner 16+5reb, A.Slagter 14+3reb+5ast, S.Cunningham 7+4reb+1ast, A.Young 6+5reb+2ast, R.Bekkering 6+7reb+2ast Leeuwarden: S.Givens 14+11reb+1ast, D.Hope 10+2reb, T.de Paula 10, S.Poels 9+5reb+1ast, R.Holcomb Faye 8+3reb+7ast, J.Williams 7+6reb+2ast
Brian van de WeijenbergBlack Eagles
Fener LangensBlack Eagles
Steve Bleeker192-SF-96Den Helder K.
Frerik AdriaansDen Bosch
Joey Liem175-SG-96Den Bosch
Tom AartsDen Bosch
Tom de Haas183-PG-96Den Bosch
Tyson KanseyoDen Bosch
Shaquille Frijde AustinHarlemlakers
Lennar [read more]
Leiden takes 2-0 lead in Eredivisie Finals - May 18, 2013
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Leeuwarden - Leiden 63-68 (0-2)
Leiden takes 2-0 lead in Eredivisie Finals. The guests took control from the first minutes by winning first half. But Leeuwarden won third quarter 13-11. However it was not enough to take a lead and get a victory that evening. They outrebounded Leeuwarden 42-30 including 35 on the defensive glass. The best player for the winners was Canadian forward Ross Bekkering (203-87) who had a double-double by scoring 12 points and 15 rebounds [read more]
Leiden takes 2-0 lead in Eredivisie Finals. The guests took control from the first minutes by winning first half. But Leeuwarden won third quarter 13-11. However it was not enough to take a lead and get a victory that evening. They outrebounded Leeuwarden 42-30 including 35 on the defensive glass. The best player for the winners was Canadian forward Ross Bekkering (203-87) who had a double-double by scoring 12 points and 15 rebounds. International guard Arvin Slagter (191-85, agency: Court Side) chipped in 12 points and 4 assists. Four Leiden players scored in double figures. American forward Samme Givens (195, college: Drexel) produced 16 points and 7 rebounds and his fellow American import guard Robert Holcomb Faye (185-84, college: Radford) added 20 points and 5 rebounds respectively for the hosts. Both coaches used bench players in such tough game. Top scorers: Leeuwarden: R.Holcomb Faye 20+5reb+1ast, S.Givens 16+7reb+3ast, S.Poels 8+5reb, D.Michaels 5+3reb+2ast, J.Williams 5+5reb, T.de Paula 4+2reb+1ast Leiden: A.Slagter 12+4reb+4ast, R.Bekkering 12+15reb+2ast, S.Cunningham 11+7reb, M.Schachtner 10+2reb, P.Hilliman 8+2reb, W.de Jong 7+5reb+4ast
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