11 - 19
August 2017
7 Luc Van Slooten (GER)
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2016 game-winner helps Van Slooten turn into emerging German leader

PODGORICA (FIBA U16 European Championship 2017) - Luc Van Slooten should get used to hearing the phrase "and he's only …". The German small forward is already well-known in talent observers circles and he's emerged as the leader of the German team at FIBA U16 European Championship 2017. And he's only 15 years old.

Van Slooten took a big step forward in the later stages of this competition last summer as head coach Alan Ibrahimagic gave him more time once Germany were secured a spot in Division A. After playing a total of 16 minutes in the Group Phase and Round of 16, Van Slooten did not play in the crucial Classification 9-16 game. He finished with 14 and 15 minutes in the final two contests respectively.

Van Slooten gives a smile when the Classification 9-10 game from last summer's FIBA U16 European Championship comes up. With the game clock winding down and Germany trailing by one point, the Vechta native receives the ball and nails a three-pointer from the right wing for the win 65-63 against Serbia. And he was only 14 years old.

"It's a great feeling, two years younger and throwing in a game-winning shot. It’s an unbelievable feeling," Van Slooten said. "I think my coach also knew we were safe in Division A and he gave me some time to play and I was using the time. I was playing well, and to beat Serbia with that kind of shot and being two years younger, it's a crazy feeling."

That helped the transition of prospect Luc Van Slooten into leader Luc Van Slooten.

"After the summer I started working on everything and it paid off in the (U16 JBBL) league. I was the MVP, and I think that shows how much work and time I put in," said Van Slooten, who was actually a year younger in the JBBL league this past season as well. 

Fast forward to this summer and Radom 2016 and Van Slooten the role player are long gone. After averaging 5.8 points and 1.2 rebounds in 9 minutes in five games last summer, Van Slooten is leading Germany in scoring at 13.0 points to go with 3.3 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 1.0 assists and 1.0 steals. And he’s only 15 years old.

"It's different than last year. Last year, I didn’t expect to play much. This year to be one of the top guys and to lead this team is a completely different role. And it's harder, but I'm confident in this role and I think i am doing a good job," said Van Slooten, who is one of two Germans on the team who played last summer along with Kay Bruhnke - out the rest of the tournament with a left ankle injury.

"In my German (club) team Young Dragons I was a younger guy, but I was always leading the team and I think I have that kind of role inside of me. I'm good at talking and communication. It makes it easier for me to lead a team." 

Coach Ibrahimagic believes Van Slooten is still a work in progress in terms of becoming a leader.

"We are trying to get him there. (Against Slovenia) he struggled with Kay out. He tried to put too much pressure on himself. He wanted to do everything. But against Finland he was much better," Ibrahimagic said. "There is still a long way. He's still a young kid and basketball-wise he will be really good. But being a leader it will take him a long time."

He has time…he's only 15 years old.

Van Slooten will be playing next season with Rasta Vechta in Germany's second division Pro A and will also play for Young Rasta Dragons in the U19 NBBL league.

"With Rasta Vechta, I don't know about playing time. I'm the youngest guy on the roster and I have to earn every single minute of playing time in practice. Then I will also play NBBL with Young Rasta Dragons," he said. "I think I am in a good spot to grow."

The 6ft 7 in (2.01m) talent insists he needs to work on "everything, especially my shot" since it is not consistent. In Pogorica thus far, Van Slooten has been 4-of-6, 0-of-8 and 2-of-5 in the three games.

"That's a point where I have to improve," he said. "My defense got better since last year, but it’s still not that good. I need to work on that."

Before that, there is the task at hand - namely getting Germany back to the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup for the first time since hosting the inaugural global showcase in 2010.

"It's a big goal. We always said from the beginning of our preparations this summer it's a goal that we can achieve and that we want to achieve," Van Slooten said. "I saw the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup this year and it was a great atmosphere. Egypt had 10,000 people in that building. Just to play at a World Cup against other teams from other continents is crazy. We need to work hard to achieve that."

Luc Van Slooten definitely can play the game like a leader, and he certainly talks like a leader. The final four days of games in Podgorica will show just how much he can lead the team.

And remember…he's only 15 years old.