Hendrik Gruhn is the youth head coach of the NBBL (U-19) youth team of the Young Rasta Dragons. He found experience coaching the Young Rasta Dragons U-12 and U14 teams. This season he by chance became head coach of the Vechta Regionalliga team and helped them win the title and move to the Pro B. Last weekend he led the NBBL team Young Rasta Dragons to the final. He spoke to germanhoops.com about basketball.
Congrats Hendrik on a great season. Have you digested the tough final loss to Alba Berlin?
It wasn’t that bad. Everybody knew that Alba Berlin was the big favorite. We wanted to give our all. We are proud and happy of reaching the final.
How much of an impact did the rapid Alba Berlin start have for the rest of the game?
Alba Berlin came out and played their typical quick and aggressive style of play. If you aren’t awake at the start then it can go downhill quickly. They were obviously fresher than we were. When your shots aren’t falling well at the start then it’s hard to come back. They are such a deep team.
Just how tired was the team on Sunday? How was the body language in the locker room?
The team was physically tired but also mentally. The Munich game was really taxing. The team hadn’t even realized what they had done on Sunday morning. We were motivated, but to see how the Alba culture played was tough. The atmosphere was great before and after the game.
The game was decided at the break. What did you tell the guys in the locker room?
I told them just to enjoy the last 20 minutes. For guys like Tim Reumann and Mathis Elbers, it was their last games. They all accepted it and gave their best.
It wasn’t a great final, but do you think the boys had fun?
Yes I feel like they had fun. It wasn’t a great final and I’m sorry we couldn’t defend ourselves better. The atmosphere was great on the ride home. The three days were great a weekend that we won’t ever forget.
I know it is never easy for a coach to single out one player but which guy improved the most?
Johan Grunloh who was the leagues rookie of the year. The difference between him last September and now is like day and night. He is a totally different player. One saw that against Munich. He improved his skill set, got stronger and smarter on the court. He still has 2 years left in the NBBL. I’m still awaiting a lot from him in the next years.
Nobody expected you to reach the final. Where does the major upset over FC Bayern rank in the history of the organization?
This is one of the biggest wins in our history. I would rank it top 3. We were in the final 4 years ago in Quackenbruck. But then it was more expected. We had some incredible young players with Van Slooten and Herkenhoff. This year’s team went beyond expectations. We are very proud and this gives us added motivation for the next years. We want to take the next step and win it all next year.
Did you get any extra congratulatory remarks from the FC Bayern Munich coaches?
They all nicely congratulated us after the game. One has to understand how disappointed they were. We would have been the same. All the Munich players were very fair losers. That was good to see. It is important that young men can cope with losing.
How can one rate this incredible success of the Young Rasta Dragons? You had 4 16 year olds and 3 17 year olds. How do you explain the success?
We weren’t really able to understand what happened this season. The result was very hard work. You have to understand their lives are a lot different than average youths. I’m so proud of the guys. It is great to see that they had this euphoric attitude at the end of the season.
I was really impressed by Johann Gruenloh (204-PF-2005). What player is he today and what kind of player can he become next season?
He is a very good shot blocker now and his timing on the rebound is excellent. We want him to become a big weapon on offense in the next season. We will continue to help develop his tool box. I hope that he will make an even bigger impact next season.
Noah Janen also impressed me. He was very mature. What steps did he make on the weekend?
He wanted to make his best game against Munich. He was plagued with injuries this season but since January had been consistently on the court. His game continued to get better in the last months as he was healthy. He had to play point guard against Munich as small forward is his natural job. He did a great job against Munich and took control when he had to. I was very impressed by him. He proved that he belongs to the best players for his age. He was our MVP against Munich. Without him we wouldn’t have won.
I liked the game of Jeygor Cymbal on Sunday against Alba Berlin. What steps did he make on the weekend?
I felt sorry for him. He didn’t find to his game on Saturday. He had early foul problem and as a shooter never found his rhythm. He really wanted to prove he can play against Alba Berlin. He is a good shooter and in some phases carried us with his shooting. He developed well as a shooter and showed numerous times that he could help us in tough situations.
Killian Brockhoff also has a big future. What do you expect from him next season?
He had a solid weekend. He had to play against the defender of the year Maxwell Dongmo and held his own. He always gives his all and does so much that isn’t seen on the stat sheet. He impressed me with his passing game. He makes everyone better in a quiet way. I expect him to take a step forward and hope he finds more time with the Pro A team. He has to keep working and make his shot more stable.
You won the Regionalliga title and reached the NBBL final. How do you summarize your season?
We had a great season. If somebody had told me before the season we would win the Regionalliga and make the Top 4 final, I would of laughed. Our season was a big success. We had an unbelievable season with an almost perfect ending. I can’t wait for the next season. I’m really motivated to work with the guys.
What steps did you make as a coach this season? How did the Regionalliga experience help you?
Coaching in the Regionalliga against men and Americans helped me and the players. I was thrown into cold water after having coached the U-14 and U-16 teams. I was supported greatly by a great organization. Marius Graf was key in giving me his game philosophy and letting me use it. He also was always willing to give me advice.
Steven Clauss lauded you a lot. How instrumental was it working with him?
It was a cool experience working with him. I have known him some years now. We visited me in Vechta twice. Whenever I had a question or felt bad after a loss, he would always help me. He is a coaching legend and has seen so much. I’m very thankful for his advice.
What was your impression of the Top 4 weekend in Frankfurt? Did it pass the test?
It was a lot of fun. It was a great event with your Live Stream and the master of ceremony bringing atmosphere. Usually we play in small gyms and there are always problems involved. But the top 4 in Frankfurt was super organized and there were always people helping you. It is a nice place to play. It was a super weekend. I hope it will continue to be played there the next years.
Thanks Hendrik for the chat.