Geert Hammink is happy his sons play basketball, for two reasons. The first is obvious. The former LSU star and NBA first-round draft pick likes that his children are following in the footsteps of their father.
"I love basketball," he said, during a recent telephone interview with TSD from his office in Almere, The Netherlands, a master-planned city 22 miles outside of Amsterdam. The second reason? "I hate soccer."
Depending on the method of research, basketball's popularity in The Netherlands (also called Holland) ranges from third to outside of the top 10. The one constant on any ranking list is soccer, which is far and away the most popular sport in the country.
"I enjoy the fact that they play basketball tremendously," he said. "I never pushed them that direction. They wanted to do it for themselves and I couldn't be more happy. If they do one, they can't do the other (soccer)."
The sons he is referring to are Shane, who is currently a freshman on the LSU basketball team, and twins Nick and Ryan, who are seniors in high school. They are both in their second year at the Canarias Basketball Academy (CBA) located on the Canary Islands in Spain. Shane also attended CBA as a senior, before signing with LSU.
Like most European countries, basketball in Holland is not played in schools, but rather at the club level, similar to AAU basketball in the United States. With its lack of popularity, and competitiveness, Hammink did not believe his sons would achieve their full potential at home.
"Holland is not a huge basketball country," he said. "There was an opportunity (at CBA) to combine a good basketball education, lots of practices with good coaching, and school. Good coaches in Holland -- you can count them on a boxing glove. I coached them myself for a while, but at some point they get a little too old for that and start talking back to their father a little bit. For them to realize their dreams, which is playing college basketball or even higher, they had to get out of Holland."
Including Shane Hammink, CBA sent 10 players to Division 1 universities in the United States in 2012.
"It's a basketball boot camp," Geert Hammink said. "Three days a week, they practice three times a day. The other two days, they practice twice. Then they have one or two games on the weekend, but if they don't, they practice on Sundays. Between all that, they go to school, so it's only school and basketball for about 9 to 10 months."
Shane Hammink's recruitment started when Geert attended the 100 Years of LSU Basketball celebration in 2009 in Baton Rouge. He rekindled an old friendship with former LSU assistant Brent Scott, who is a former teammate and opponent in the European leagues.
"After all the formalities, we loosened our ties and went back 10 years and did our thing," he said. "It was fun. Brent is a good guy and he's always been in touch. When Shane went to Spain, Brent went to go visit him in Spain. Trent (Johnson) later on did the same. As a matter of fact, about two or three weeks before he changed universities, Trent was here in Holland first and then in Spain. Then he left LSU."
That could have created an issue for LSU's recruitment of Shane Hammink, but ended up not being a factor.
"Johnny (Jones), I have known for 24 years," Hammink said. "Although we have been in little contact in between, that was picked up quickly. It really wasn't my decision. My relationship with Coach Jones is almost irrelevant. It was Shane's decision."
Hammink said his son had "25 or 30" schools recruiting him as his senior year was coming to a close. He had only a limited window to take visits, because of the distance, as well as school and summer tournaments. He had planned to use up to his maximum of five official visits.
"Shane called me about a month early, on a Saturday, and he said ‘I'm going crazy with all these college assistant coaches Facebook-ing me, calling me up. I'm tired of this. I want to go to LSU.'"
Geert Hammink was happy for his son, but didn't want him to rush his decision. He told Shane to think about it overnight. On Sunday, nothing had changed.
"We called Johnny to let him know," Geert said. "Shane signed on Monday."
Shane Hammink signed with LSU having never taken a visit to the school. Although he was born in Baton Rouge, as were his brothers, he had not been there since he was eight-years-old.
His arrival as a student at LSU was not without incident. After enrolling several days late due to his participation in the European Championships and then being further delayed by paperwork and immunization issues, Hurricane Isaac hit Louisiana. Because of the power outages and the fact that Shane had not yet acquired a phone or computer, his parents were not able to communicate with him for several days after his arrival.
"Finally, we talked to him and he was good. Finally, he gets into the regular grind of things, meaning practice with the guys. Obviously he finds the facilities unbelievable. That's a huge difference between the United States and Europe, the facilities are incredible. I stayed the entire time I was there in Broussard Hall. He said the dormitories are nice. The people are nice. He said his teammates are great. He said they are practicing very, very hard, especially on strength and conditioning in the mornings. But, he loves it. He said it's hot as hell. I said, I know, I was there five years."
Despite being out of communication with his son for a period, Hammink was not overly concerned about Hurricane Isaac.
"No, man, I lived in the United States for seven years and went through seven hurricanes, five at LSU and two in Orlando," he said. "I don't want to trivialize it, because a lot of people get hurt and it's a disaster, certainly. But I wasn't worried."
The elder Hammink was a first-team All-SEC center, but his sons are completely different players than him.
"I think he's tall for his position, which means I think he's a two or a two/one. People caste him, because he's 6-7, they caste him at the three/four, or the three/two. A three/four, he's definitely not, in my opinion. He's a tall guard, with a high basketball IQ and understanding of the game. Certainly, it's a little European-ized, but that has its advantages. He has adjusted very quickly at every level that he has moved up. He's pretty versatile, pretty well-rounded. I think he's pretty athletic, has a good understanding of the game and passes the ball well. He can get into traffic and plays above the rim when possible. He has good handles. Is a very good defender. Certainly, in all these aspects he can improve. He just turned 18."
His coach at CBA, Rob Orellana, gave TSD the following scouting report on Shane, via electronic communication:
"Shane is a multi-versatile perimeter player. He is a lefty player that can guard three positions defensively and has the ability offensively to pass, shoot and dribble. He is a young player, whos best days are way ahead of him with an extremely bright future. There is no question in my mind, that in the near future, Shane can be a highly effective player in the SEC. He has great size and skill set for a perimeter player."
With Shane already in college, Hammink does not yet know what level his twin sons will be able to achieve in basketball. Although they are seniors, he said he would consider having them attend an additional year of high school if their development is not advanced.
"They are twins, but they are fraternal," he said. "They are completely different. I would say Nick is a one/two and Ryan is a three/four, maybe a three/two. They were born in September, but they are twins and were born a month early. They have late birthdays for the year they were born in. They may stay another year after this (at CBA)."
LSU has not yet inquired about or scouted Nick and Ryan, despite their lineage.
"Brent Scott had seen them, because he was over there," Geert said. "Also, Trent has seen them. But that's irrelevant right now. Johnny Jones has not talked to me about them and he has not seen them. And neither have the coaches on his staff right now."
That could definitely change in the near future. With CBA having such a loaded team last season, Ryan and Nick had few opportunities to shine.
"This is a very important year for them," said their father. "They are very, very good players. They bring different things to the table. But we will have to see what interest they draw this year. Their roles at CBA will be completely different this year. It all depends on how this year goes. But they are good, man."
Second generation Tiger
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