Belgian basketball is doing well. Belgium supplies players to various European top teams, the national team has participated in the European Basketball Championship four times in a row and club teams are doing well in Europe.
Now, there is news again to be proud of. The 18-year-old talent Vrenz Blijenbergh has signed up for the NBA draft to be held on 20 June. His playing style is sometimes compared to that of Kevin Durant, but Vrenz still has a long way to go. Last season, he made his debut with Antwerp Giants in the highest division in Belgium, but he also played in the second team to gain experience. Several NBA teams have already traveled to Europe to watch him.Time for a conversation with Vrenz.
You’ve played a very good European Championship u18 for B-countries with Belgium. You’ve definitely made a good impression there, and that’s when the international basketball world started following you. How did that tournament go?
I could certainly show myself and my skills there! (We are Basket: 13.5 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists per game) And I also showed my style of play there. I was also lucky that the coach Steve Ibens gave me so much opportunities on my favorite position.
You’re 2.08 meters. You shoot easily and you’re a good ballhandler. What is the best position for you?
I feel very free on the point guard position and can certainly do my thing there! But most still say that I am a 2/3 player.
You are already being guided by Wasserman, the agency where Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis and Klay Thompson are also under contract. What exactly do they do for you?
Wasserman has already made many contacts in basketball for me, they know the basketball world well and will guide me further in the steps I take.
You have signed up for the draft. How did you come to that decision?
I participated in NBA BWB (Basketball Without Borders)2 years ago and I had already made some contacts there. After I signed with Wasserman, they also thought it was worth registering in the draft.
What do you want to achieve in basketball?
I want to get as far as possible. NBA, if that would work, if that doesn’t work then I will be aiming for the Euroleague.
You have already had contact with the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers. These clubs have sent scouts that have watched your games. You have also spoken with these scouts. What do you discuss?
That’s right … those scouts even came to Belgium to see me play (which they don’t normally do). I have spoken a few words with them, but I cannot say anything about it yet!
You were going to Monaco for the NBA Global Camp for European Draft Prospects, but the camp was cancelled. Teams such as Milwaukee and Miami were going to watch you work-out. How will that go now?
I will probably be invited for some work-out by teams sometime before the draft.
How do you stay calm under all this attention as an 18-year-old?
The most important thing is to keep both feet on the ground. And I think that’s the most important thing! I have a very good relationship with my family and they are always 100% behind me. My girlfriend is also someone I can always count on!
You play and practice at Antwerp Giants and you have two experienced Belgian teammates there: Hans van Wijn and Ismael Bako. Both have had tryouts with NBA teams. Did you talk to them about that? Can they advise you?
True, they both did it and indeed did provide some information.
Does everyone at Antwerp understand that you want to try this?
Yes, they certainly support me in it and it is certainly an opportunity that I must seize!
You still have a contract with Antwerp until 2023. Can you easily get out of your contract if your dream comes true?
I don’t want to give any further information about my contract.
You also had the option to play at an American university. Arizona, Texas Tech and UCLA were interested. Why didn’t you make that choice?
I indeed had the opportunity, I had very good universities that wanted me … and I made the decision not to go. It was a tough decision, but I thought about it for a long time.
Does it also play a role that many Belgian players who went to college have not really succeeded in getting better there?
I never compare myself with other players.
If you are not selected in the draft, will you still go to college?
No, I’m not going to college anymore. No, certainly not.
You’ve made a lot of progress during this season. You played for the first time in the first league, you practiced with the selection every day, you even played some games in the Champions League. How did you experience all of that?
I have made very big steps this season. I have also made a lot of progress with the Giants in almost all areas! Physically it was not so bad, I am also a big outside player so that was not too bad! It was not really the intention that I already was going to play with the 1st team this year.
Sometimes you didn’t play for an entire game?
Sitting on the bench is not fun, but it is a learning process and that will improve step by step.
Finally … Vrenz … where does that name come from?
My name comes from my great-grandfather who was called Fransiscus, Frans – Vrenz .. so it’s quite similar to it.