With the upcoming match against Croatia, we sat down with one of the most promising players from the Netherlands, Yannick Franke. Besides playing for the National Team, Franke is playing in Italia for Aquila Basket Trento, a team that is playing in the Lega Basket Seria A.
You are currently playing in Italy. Is there a clear difference between Italian and Dutch basketball regarding playing style and culture?
Yes, there is definitely a big difference between the two countries. In Italy, the sport is way more physical than in the Netherlands. There is also a lot more money and there are better players. The big difference is that the ambience and the experience for the people is a lot bigger, it’s often like that in Southern Europe. A lot more people are visiting the games. Our gym in Trento fits 4000 people and every game there are at least between 2500 to 3000 people watching the game. If it is an important game, there is an even bigger audience. At that moment, you can really feel the ambiance of the people attending the games.
What is the game with the best ambience that you have ever played in?
That is a difficult question, but I think I know the answer. It was actually in the Netherlands, last year in Leiden, against Denmark when we won in overtime. There were 2000 people, but it was really the best ambience that I have ever played in, also because it was a very exciting game. As a player, you do not really focus on the audience, but you do notice the ambience and the fact that they are present and are cheering you on.
You have played in five different countries. What country do you think has the best basketball culture and why?
I think basketball culture is the biggest in Eastern Europe, especially in Serbia and Croatia. If you are a basketball player there you have a pretty big status and I think the basketball culture is really big in this kind of countries. The difference is that here in the Netherlands we are a lot more down to earth, maybe even a little bit too much. That makes the culture different as well.
What does the competition look like in Italy? Should we know some well-known players from Italy?
There are a couple of big names there who have done something regarding European basketball. If we talk about players you should really know about if you’re not playing in the country yourself, then there aren’t many.
How do you like the club you are playing for?
It is super! I play in Trento, a beautiful city between the mountains. You always have a stunning view; you can already see the snow in the mountains now. The city is small, but not too small. Everything is really professional: the club, the players, the staff. I’m really enjoying it so far.
How did you end up playing in Trento?
Last summer we played in Trento with the Dutch National Team and that is how I ended up there. After we played the game, they were very interested in me as a player and we started talking. Correspondence went through my own agent. The club had made him aware of their interest and negotiations started soon after. And that is how I ended up playing in Trento.
What does a day in Trento look like for you? How many times do you train and what do you do the rest of the day?
We are currently very busy; we are playing two games per week. Most of the times we spend a week in Trento and then another week in another city or country. When we play home games, we usually have the day off after the game or we have a light training. The day after that we have two training sessions, most of the times involving weights. The rest of the week is planned out in a similar way, making every day a little more strenuous. When we play away games, we are already in the city or country the day before the game. We spend a lot of time traveling, so we do not see much from the place itself. Your life next to basketball is important too, of course. You need variety in your life as well.
In the past, you have changed teams multiple times. Is it hard to find the right club for you, and why?
I think it is. It is not easy to find a club abroad. It is even harder to find the right club that is professional, where they have faith in you as a player and where you hope it is going to work out. I have definitely made some mistakes in the past. It has been a combination of making mistakes and bad luck, like in Croatia. I could have look into things better beforehand. Unfortunately, you sometimes just do not have everything in hand. Now, I think I am at a point where I can be content.
What are your expectations for the Dutch National Team in the qualifications?
I have heard there will be a full house, so I think that is definitely a positive thing. I already mentioned that I do not really keep me busy with the audience, but so many people coming to watch the game surely is a good thing for Dutch basketball.
There has of course been a lot of fuss regarding the new FIBA standard. This is affecting countries like Croatia and Italy because they cannot select their best players. This is, of course, a disadvantage for these teams, but it is not like the other players are not capable of playing good basketball. On the other hand, it is an advantage for countries like the Netherlands, where there are no Euroleague or NBA players in the team. This does make the game a lot fairer, but it’s less attractive for the bigger countries because they are missing their best players.
For us, this is a big opportunity and considering our players I think we make a big chance to at least make it to the next round. It would be really nice if we do our best and make it, because I think we completely deserve it. The way we have been playing the last two or three years has been really good. Unfortunately, we did not make it to the European Championships last year, but I think we can keep up this upward trend.
What do you expect of the new players that have joined the Dutch National Team?
Shane has been with the team before, but that was before my time, and for Terrence Bieshaar, it is the first time he has joined the team. I think it is great that new players are joining the team, and that this is the way the team can continue to grow. In a few years, we, the younger players, Shane, Jito Kok and I have to be ready to take over. We definitely have to continue to develop, work hard and work on the future. It is certainly good that Terrence can gain experience with the team right now. Of course, I am not the coach, but if he gets on the court, he should grab any experience he can. And, that in a few years, Terrence can make his contribution to the team as well.
Are you satisfied about the way you play during the games?
As an athlete, I think you can always find points where you can improve yourself and your game. Nobody is perfect. At the moment, my role in the National Team is not that big, and I think that that is good for me. I am in my third year in the team and I play together with players that have been on the team longer and have the role that fits with that. I do not think all roles in the team are suitable for me. Right now, I am very satisfied with my role and with the way we play. But, what I said earlier, the fact that we did not reward ourselves last year is simple stupid.
The thing I can improve is the amount of energy I give in a game. I usually give a lot of energy in the game, but at Trento I have learned that I can give more than I actually thought I could give. Therefore, that is definitely a goal that I have. That way, I can let other people play better and also let them feel more comfortable in their game. If we start playing better, we will win more, and then it only will get more fun to play.
I think I could learn something from every player in the team, because everyone has their own unique skills. One player can teach you a bit more about leadership, the other about creativity and therefore you can learn something from every player. That is the great thing about a team sports. When it comes to giving more energy, that is something I have to do by myself. You can help each other in the right direction, but in the end, you will have to want and do it yourself.
What does it mean for you to play in the Dutch National team?
I think it is really great. It is something I really look forward to, also at this point. I can play together with guys that I have been playing together with for three years now. Every time I come here, it is still great and special to see them again. You do not see them a lot throughout the year, unless you play in the Netherlands. I only get to see everyone a couple of weeks per year. And then, it is always great to see everyone again.
What was your best international matchup?
That will have to be against Italy, in Italy for the Trentino Cup. That was not because I played well there myself, but because there was the best atmosphere in the gym of all the countries I have played against so far. Just for their sports team. The clapping during the Italian national anthem, that is really a great experience.
You come from a real basketball family. Do you think this was an advantage for you?
Of course that was an advantage. I am very proud that I can carry on our basketball pride. It has definitely helped me, but eventually you have to do it yourself.
I have seen videos of my father and grandfather, and there are definitely similarities between us. I got my shooting skills of my grandfather, my father’s looks and the way I walk, and my appearance from my mother. It is great if you can see the similarities. They often point out things to me, that I have not noticed before, and that is definitely a big advantage over people who do not have parents that played basketball. the best tip they have ever given me is ‘Always be yourself’. If you lose yourself, you have lost your own personality and that is definitely not a good thing.