Elev8 (Delray Beach, Fla.) class of 2017 power forward Kasper Christiansen has been in the United States for all of five weeks, but he’s already readily taken to the American lifestyle -- not to mention its style of basketball. The 6-foot-9, 195-pounder opted to leave Denmark for a chance to play against better high school competition and eventually earn an opportunity at a major Division I university.
“I just love it over here. It’s been great all around, and time’s really flying by,” said Christiansen, who is bilingual and speaks perfect English. “I mean, first of all I’m living in Florida, and you can’t ask for a better place to live. I hate being cold, and here it’s 90 degrees and sunny like every day. Plus the food is great and the people are really nice.
“And the basketball, it’s so much of an upgrade from Denmark. Everything is so much more structured and professional here. At my school, the coaches and teachers stay on top of you; they make sure you’re performing on and off the court. So it’s been a great experience so far.”
Christiansen boards at Elev8 and said his roommate is Ole Miss-bound guard Donte Fitzpatrick. He said the team in general, as well as head coach Chad Myers and his staff, have made his transition “seamless.”
“My mom and my sister came over with me from Denmark like the first week I was here, but I’m not even really homesick because I’ve had such a good time here,” Christiansen said. “Maybe I’ll go home for Christmas and New Years; I can’t stay away forever (laughs). But it’s great over here.”
It certainly helps that Christiansen has quickly adjusted to stateside hoops. He said he played for a men’s team in Denmark, Vaerlose, as well as the under-19 national team, but while he benefited from competing against guys like former Oakland and Rochester College standout Drew Maynard, it doesn’t compare to U.S. basketball.
“Playing on the men’s team helped prepare me for the physical style of play, but when I was with the U19 team I just dominated,” Christiansen said. “But in the U.S.
I’ve gotten in much better shape, and much calmer and confident on the court. The coaches here are on me and nothing comes easy, but they’re also encouraging me and great teachers too.
“Right now I’m working on my mental game and just seeing the floor better. And of course my jump shot has to be perfect. That’s what I want to make it to the NBA with -- my jump shot. It’s good right now, but I want to be 60 percent or higher.”
Evidently Christiansen has already left quite an impression on the numerous college coaches who have trekked through Elev8. The emerging forward said Louisville, Maryland, Baylor, Valparaiso and Marquette have shown early interest.
“I haven’t gotten any offers yet, because the coaches have to see me in actual games first, but I’m sure I’m going to get some high-major offers. I’m not worried about that,” said Christiansen, who noted there’s not one scholarship in particular he’d like to have. “I still have a year left after this one, and I’m trying to develop my game to be as successful as possible. After I do that, I know the offers will come raining in. So I’m not worried about those. They will come.”
Although Christiansen has resided in Denmark all his life and mainly watched NBA basketball, he has seen numerous college teams in action. He said he’s watched March Madness as long as he can remember, so teams like “Louisville, Kentucky, Florida, Duke, Maryland, Gonzaga, North Carolina – all the big programs, I know those.”
Some of those schools Christiansen listed have had consistent communication with him already. That includes UMD assistant Cliff Warren, who trekked through Elev8 numerous times.
“Coach Cliff is great. He told me a lot about Maryland, and just from hearing him I think I’d fit in perfectly there,” Christiansen said. “He told me I need to get bigger before I can play at that level, but I’m getting there. But once I do, I think Maryland would be a great, great fit. It looks great from the outside looking in, without having visited yet.”
Specifically, Christiansen mentioned UMD’s big-man development, the foreign players who have starred in College Park, Md., recently and the Terps’ string of success.
“They’re No. 1 in the preseason, so that’s obviously very attractive to me. It shows they can ball,” Christiansen said. “And they recruit a lot of foreign guys who have done great things there. I know they have Michal [Cekovsky] there now, and Alex Len is in the NBA. So I know they’d be able to develop me. If I got that offer, it would be huge.”
Two other schools have caught his eye early as well. Christiansen said Louisville head coach Rick Pitino personally came down to see him, while he recently took his first unofficial visit to Florida.
“Having Rick Pitino come through was huge. Louisville has an amazing history in basketball, and it would be amazing to play for a program like that,” said Christiansen, who mentioned he wants to see UMD, Louisville and Valpo when he has time for visits. “And when I visited Florida, that was really impressive. The athletes there live like superstars, just the way they’re treated and the facilities there. So obviously that was very attractive to me too.
“But right now I’m mainly just focused on getting better and establishing myself. I’ll have plenty of time to think about recruiting, schools and visits later. The first thing is to prove I can play at a high level.”