Norway returns to international basketball

For the first time in four years, Norway has a national men’s basketball team and is competing in the 2017 Summer Universiade

Photo: Norges Basketballforbund / NRK
The team. Back row from left to right: Audun Eskeland (coach), Gunnar Voigt Nesbø (coach), Sjur Dyb Berg, Eivind Lamo, Johannes Dolven, Henrik Davidsen, Alex Dakin, and head coach Mathias Eckhoff. Front row from left to right: Marko Lepovic, Henrik Lange, Espen Fjærestad, Lars Espe, Anders Nymo, Mikkel Kolstad, and Chris-Ebou Ndow.

Molly Jones
The Norwegian American

Although the existence of the Norwegian men’s national basketball team dates back to the 1960s, Norway has been without a national team for the past four seasons.

Financial troubles led Norges Basketballforbund (Norway’s Basketball Association) to shut down the national teams in 2012. After an especially rough year with a loss of almost four million kroner, the association simply did not have the funds to keep either the men’s or women’s teams going.

Since then, however, the association has come to realize just how many people—from the athletes and teams to individuals and companies—care about the Norwegian basketball community and are willing to provide financial support. The association also worked to raise money through sponsorships and has now signed a major sponsorship agreement with Circle K in addition to a few smaller sponsors.

“This means that basketball can get a higher status and that people consider us to be a serious sport. It is good that Norway gets to be a part of something international,” said assistant coach Audun Eskeland to NRK. “It means a lot to many people.”

The new men’s team consists of captain Johannes Dolven, Espen Fjærestad, Anders Nymo, Chris-Ebou Ndow, Henrik Lange, Eivind Lamo, Sjur Dyb Berg, Lars Fredrik Espe, Henrik Davidsen, Mikkel Kolstad, Alex Dakin, and Marko Lepovic as well as reserve players Mats Selbo and Mathias Save.

The captain, a 21-year-old from Oslo who plays college basketball for Barry University in Miami, is thankful that he now has the opportunity to represent his country in the sport he loves.

“When I grew up, I had a national team to look up to. I played for Bygdøy Basket, and some of the team players were selected for the national team. The last few years we have not had that opportunity, and that is very strange,” he said to NRK.

“This is a big honor. It is very cool that they trust me and that I have responsibility for a completely new national team,” added Dolven about being selected as captain.

The new team was formed just in time to represent Norway in the 2017 Summer Universiade in Taipei, Taiwan, which is taking place August 19 to 30. This event is essentially the Olympics for college students. Teams compete from all over the world in a wide range of sports from basketball and baseball to fencing and billiards.

Unfortunately the women’s team was not able to participate at Universiade this year, but the Norway’s Basketball Association has stated that they are working on opportunities for the women to compete on the international stage as well.

Already on August 18 the new men’s team started with a training game against the U.S. team. While some might argue the match marked a brutal return to international competition, Eskeland was not concerned.

“It is a training game, and when we are thrown to the wolves first we get to taste it in a game that does not count. Then we get familiar with the level of play,” said Eskeland.

The official competition began on Aug. 20 as Norway competed in a group with Canada, Germany, Finland, Hong Kong, and Japan.

“We will show that we can win games. If we win a couple games, I will be satisfied,” said Dolven.

This article originally appeared in the Aug. 25, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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