Just six players from The Netherlands have played in the NBA, according to Realgm.com.
Five members of that group — Dan Gadzuric, Francisco Elson, Rik Smits, Geert Hammink and Swen Nader — measured 6-foot-11 or taller, the only perimeter player in the group being 6-6 Hank Beenders.
Kansas Jayhawks newcomer Tristan Enaruna, a 6-foot-9, 205-pound freshman small forward from Almere, Netherlands, wants to join that club.
“It’s kind of a motivational point for me. Just to do that for my country would mean a lot to me and my country. I’m excited about that,” he said of his professional basketball dreams.
Enaruna and KU junior Marcus Garrett worked as counselors during the Thursday morning session of Brett Ballard’s Washburn University youth camp at Lee Arena.
“It’s not that big,” Enaruna said of the popularity of basketball in his home country. “The basketball community in Netherlands, they are really into it, but there are not that many people actually in that community.”
Enaruna — he arrived in the United States midway through his junior year of high school and enrolled at Utah’s Wasatch Academy, where he developed into the No. 44-ranked player in the recruiting Class of 2019 by Rivals.com — also would like to represent his country in the Olympics. The Netherlands has never advanced to the Games.
“I think we had qualifying teams a couple times,” Enaruna said of Netherlands teams in Olympic qualifying tournaments. “Our generation of players … we have a good age group. Maybe in the future we’ll be able to put something together.”
He will leave KU in early July to play for the Netherlands in the FIBA Under 18 championships. That tournament will be contested July 27-Aug. 4 in Greece.
“There are a couple practices. We play a tournament in Italy. I think we also go to Belgium before we leave,” said Enaruna, looking forward to playing several international games this summer.
After that, he’s hoping to earn a spot in the rotation at KU. The versatile player, who chose KU over finalists Miami and Creighton in recruiting, said he “can stretch the floor, get the ball to teammates, make plays. I think it’s really important for me to get stronger with the ball, work on my shot, get my shot more consistent so I can be a bigger threat.”
Enaruna — he said his three-point shooting ability is “pretty good, nowhere as good as it can be” — had a memorable first college practice Wednesday in KU’s practice gym.
“The toughest player I’ve guarded? Yesterday in practice. It’s probably Udoka (Azubuike, 7-0, 270 senior),” Enaruna said in response to a Washburn camper’s inquiry of the toughest player he’s ever been matched against.
“Coming out of high school ... your first practice you’ve got to guard a guy like that, it’s tough,” Enaruna added. “It’s good, too. You pick up a lot of stuff from those kind of things. It’s good to be doing that. He was trying to back me down. I was trying to do whatever I could to give him some defense.”
Enaruna — he averaged 10.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals a game last season at Wasatch — has already impressed KU sophomore guard Ochai Agbaji, who worked Washburn’s camp Thursday afternoon with newcomer Issac “Mackey” McBride.
“Yesterday was his first day. He can shoot it. He’s quick. He can get past defenders,” Agbaji said of Enaruna. “He’s more a stretch-4. Silvio (De Sousa, 6-9, 235 junior) was guarding him. It was a mismatch a little bit. Still, he (Enaruna) could get around him and get to the basket.”
Enaruna, who will wear jersey No. 13 at KU, figures the key to becoming a rotation player his freshman season is “obviously defense. I have to play hard, play aggressive, play with a lot of intensity, go after loose balls, show I really want to play. I think that’s important.”
Garrett not 100 percent yet
KU junior guard Marcus Garrett said his left ankle, which he sprained at practice on Feb. 1, is not yet 100 percent healed.
“I took the whole month of April off, started working May 10 or May 11,” Garrett said. “I’m basically still trying to get back to 100 percent. It’ll be great though,” he added of the ankle by the time the 2019-20 season begins.
Garrett said the goal is “being able to do everything on the court without feeling anything. Usually when you jump, you don’t feel anything. When I jump, I feel something, even if it’s just a little. It’s not a lot, but I feel something.”