KLASSEN BRINGS TOUGHNESS AND INTERNATIONAL EXPERIENCE TO SENIOR MEN'S NATIONAL TEAM
HALIFAX, N.S. (November 23, 2017) - It's been quite the adventure for Kingston, Ont., native Owen Klassen over the past few years.
From representing Canada on the international stage during both the Universiade and Pan American Games (2011, 2013), to signing his first-ever professional contract with MZT Skopje Aerodrom of the Adriatic League (Macedonia) just over three years ago, Klassen has forged quite the basketball career in short time.
Following an impressive five-year stint with the Acadia University Axemen and accruing multiple Defensive Player of the Year awards (2012, 2013, 2014) in the Atlantic University Sport conference, Klassen looked to Europe for an opportunity to develop his basketball career, an experience that will certainly help ease his transition to the Senior Men's National Team.
"Playing under a lot of different coaches and playing with different players, you learn something just from how different everyone is," said Klassen, who since leaving Acadia has played in Macedonia, Germany, Montenegro, and now in Greece with PAOK.
"A lot of different coaches have different philosophies; a lot of players have different skillsets that you kind of have to change your game to sort of fit," he said. "When you go over there you really are meeting the players and coaches for the first time."
The 26-year old has effectively carved out a career in Europe by flourishing in his role as a dynamic big man, using his athleticism as a way to create separation from other front-court players and discovering different ways he can help his team on both ends of the floor.
"Toughness is one thing that a lot of European teams love from the [North] American guys," he said. "[European players] kind of have that reputation that their big guys are, for the most part, a little more skilled and not so athletic.
"I think one thing that makes me stand out from the European bigs is that I'm a really strong guy, I'm pretty athletic for my size. I think that's something that helps me a lot over there."
Klassen's malleable style is an obvious fit with the SMNT, but he offers so much more than just being a glue guy. He's also a natural leader on the court who teammates can rely on to anchor the defence and be vocal, something he attributes to his time in university.
"I think I grew a lot as a leader at Acadia," said Klassen. "Going into my first year and being an impact player, I got kind of thrusted into a leadership role and I think that really helped me develop as a player by putting the pressure on me to be more vocal and to communicate," he said.
"I'm kind of an introverted person and for me to open up and have to talk with teammates and have to be sort of be a coach on the floor as well, I think that changed my mindset a lot going into games and practices."
With the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers fast approaching and Canada set to play Bahamas on Friday, November 24, Klassen is eager to don the red and white on home soil, but perhaps much of that excitement will be reserved for the familiar faces he will undoubtedly see in the crowd.
"Every year that I get the opportunity [to play] I'm more and more proud," he said. "We have such a high level of basketball in Canada these days that it is really special to be a part of this team. And playing in Canada, there's not many guys who have that opportunity."
"Being able to play in front of family and friends, especially in Halifax where I have a lot of relationships with people [who] I don't get to see very often, it's going to be a great experience playing in my home away from home."