By Jon Cole
For the second time in as many summers, The Citadel’s Tom Koopman is getting the opportunity to refine his basketball skills. Koopman is one of 13 players remaining on the roster for the Netherland’s U20 national team.
“I’ve had lots of practices and games, which has given me a chance to prove my worth to the team,” said Koopman. “At the moment I’m certain of my spot in the final 12.”
The additional play overseas gives Koopman the opportunity to improve on his play around the rim and increase his freshman year numbers (2.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg) that he had under Bulldog head coach Chuck Driesell.
“The things I learned last year at The Citadel have definitely been helpful with earning my spot on the team,” said Koopman. “Although we did have a tough year, I’ve learned a lot, such as playing through adversity and playing more physical. That is also one of the major differences between European and American basketball.
“The European play is more technical while the American style is more explosive and physical. Playing last year in the United States has helped me combine these two playing styles, which will improve my game. Another helpful aspect is my verbal presence on the floor. It is mandatory to talk on defense, because it will improve your defense in many ways. This skill is definitely helping me solidify my spot with the Netherlands.”
Koopman is also enjoying team success as the Netherlands collected wins over Austria and Portugal last week. The next step is an exhibition tournament in Antwerp, Belgium, before the actual European Championships begin in Sarajevo, Bosnia.
“The team has lots of individual talent, but we have to work on our team play,” said Koopman. “For me it is a great honor to play for my own country. It is something you dream of as a little kid. My work ethic and numbers at the practices and games haven’t gone unnoticed. They’ve put me on the reserve list for the men’s national team. Unfortunately, I will not be able to practice or play with them because I have to return to The Citadel to start school and basketball.”
Koopman, who started in 17 games for The Citadel over the course of the 2013-14 season, has added both weight and confidence to his overall game during these summer games.
“I’ve already gained a good 10-15 pounds over this summer, and playing with my old friends on the national team is boosting my confidence,” said Koopman. “Both of these skills were aspects of my game that needed improvement and are the points that I’m focusing on this summer. Of course, when I return everybody at The Citadel can expect me to continue to work hard.”