Hendrik Gruhn(Young Rasta Dragons) Knows That This Is The Year To Finally Win It All In The NBBL

Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and Hendrik Gruhn in Rhondorf in 2023

Hendrik Gruhn (188-SG-1994) is the youth head coach of the NBBL (U-19) youth team of the Young Rasta Dragons and Pro B head coach. He found experience coaching the Young Rasta Dragons U-12 and U14 teams. Last season by chance became head coach of the Vechta Regionalliga team and helped them win the title and move to the Pro B. This season he led Vechta to the Pro B final against the EPG Baskets Koblenz that will be played after the NBBL top 4 weekend. He led the Young Rasta Dragons to a second consecutive NBBL top 4 and spoke to germanhoops.com before the top 4.

Thanks Hendrik for talking to germanhoops.com. Your Young Rasta Dragons are back in the NBBL top 4. How excited are you to be back in Frankfurt to compete for a title?

I’m really excited to be back again. Our goal this season was to get back, but we really want to annoy Alba Berlin this time. We want to win one game more than last season. We need to win 2 games.

The Young Rasta Dragons still have some unfinished business left in Frankfurt. You have so many players back from last season. How big is the hunger and revenge to finally win it all now?

The hunger and revenge is big. I would be lying if I said the motivation wasn’t big. The birth years 2004 and 2005 guys want to beat them so bad. Some of the guys already beat some of the Alba players in the Pro B playoffs against Lok Bernau. We were close once before in 2018. We know that Alba Berlin won’t give us any presents. It will be a real fight.

How do you rate the current regular season? The team was 12-2. How do you rate the development of the team going into the Top 4?

We are a different team now. We began the season losing our first game against Paderborn. We let it slip away. I’m really proud how the team reacted after the loss to Paderborn. That loss was a real reality check. After that they always went into the games with a different mindset. The guys understood that they had to take the games serious. I’m happy with the development. We are close to playing our best basketball. We will give our all on that weekend.

When I look at this roster, I see it stronger than last season. You kept so many guys, got some new potential additions and guys from last season have more experience. Is this the season to win it all?

I think so. We don’t have a better chance to win it all than now. The guys are even more motivated. Our roster is really good enough to win it all this time.

How challenging is it as a head coach to come back after losing the final and trying to guide this team to the title?

I don’t really see it as so big of a challenge. We all knew in the bus last season after we lost to Alba Berlin that we would come back. We knew it would be a big challenge, but everyone have held together and the motivation is so big.

Does the club have a healthy mix of hunger and self confidence that you feel positive about?

Yes it does. There were some phases this season where the guys were cocky and arrogant. But we were able to get them to shift down some gears. But the guys are ready now. There is no arrogance now, but healthy self-confidence.

The club makes 90 points per game and gives up 67 points. What is the team’s biggest strength this season?

Our biggest strength is our tempo and athleticism. That is how we want to play and there is no change from last season. We play aggressive defense and want to try to score as much as possible on transition. We want to play less set play. We have many different ways to defend because we have so much versatility.

With the additions of Kaya Bayram and Sydnee Bijlisma, the team has received 2 talented guys. Could they be the difference between a title and not?

I think so. Last season we had no real point guard. That was missing and broke our neck against Alba Berlin. Kaya Bayram does a good job as point guard and Sydnee Bijlisma does a good job creating 1-1 and is a good defender. On a good day these 2 guys will help us beat any team.

You split with Alba Berlin winning 77-75 and losing 86-63. How do you rate this team? I don’t see them as strong as last season.

It is hard to compare. I think they are as strong as last season. The older guys made good steps. They have new players, a different dynamic. They are the best program in Germany and the team to beat.

How important is it having Urspring back in the final 4? They were one of Germany’s best addresses for youth development more than a decade ago.

It is cool that Urspring is back on the big stage. Last year they were in the B group and now in the top 4. They have done good work and make German basketball more attractive again. I’m happy for them. This is a big success for them. Let’s see what they can make of it.

Johann Gruenloh (210-C-2005) has made big strides from last season. How have you seen his development and how is he better than last season?

He has 1 year more experience. Last season he played in the Regionalliga and this season played 30 minutes pro game in the Pro B. That is a big difference. His body is stronger and he has made steps with his offensive skill set and has a better IQ. He made the right steps.

Guys like Jegor Cymbal and Darren Aidenojie made big strides, but how have you seen the development of Karl Buehner?

Karl has been great. He is at a totally different level from last season. He hardly played in the Regionalliga last year and this season started in the Pro B playing 20-30 minutes. He needs to develop further on offense, but overall we are happy with his development. He is our X factor and gives us a push from bench. He is a big weapon to have from the bench.

How have you grown as a coach being able to continue to work with these players as well as coaching the Pro B team?

I think I have gotten better. I think that I was able to improve my in game coaching and coaching against so many different coaches in different competitions. I’m not tired, but very motivated. I’m thankful for the trust and opportunity that the organization has given me in allowing me be an influence on the players.

How proud are you of your ex player Justin Onyejiaka? He had injury woes, but played well in the Pro B. How did you see his game this season?

I didn’t see too much of him because he played in the Pro B south. I’m proud that he averaged 25-30 minutes in the Pro B and saw BBL action. I hope he can stay injury free. If he can stay injury free, then he can go a far way.

How would this title seem to you in June? Vechta win the Pro A, Pro B NBBL and JBBL titles?

That would be a big success. I have been in Vechta since 2012. I know how much work is invested by everyone in the organization. If we win a title great. Our main goal is to try to move up to BBL and Pro A. Then we want to annoy Alba Berlin. We will invest as much as we can in the next weeks.

Thanks Hendrik for the chat.


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