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Jacob Larsen: He’s had the tragedy, can he return for the triumph?

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After suffering two years of athletic and personal tragedies, can the young Dane return to fulfill his immense potential?

In 2009, Gonzaga had its best recruiting class to date; Olynyk, Dower, Arop, Kong, Stockton (walk-on) and an unheralded kid who flew under the radar in Europe named Elias Harris. Like Harris, I thought this year’s lesser known European, Jacob Larsen, could become the sleeper of 2016’s recruits. He looks like an Asgardian extra from a Thor movie. He had interest from Duke and took recruiting visits to Maryland and Marquette. A sore knee had cost him his chance to play in Denmark’s premier league for SISU Copenhagen (a team with a rookie this year named Kyle Dranginis) so I thought he’d be hungry to demonstrate the skills causing him to garner so much high level interest. Then came the announcement last Friday of a season-ending knee injury. After missing two straight years of competition with bad knees, now I’m wondering if he’ll be able to continue playing basketball.

Already designated by fans as the player most likely to redshirt, the knock against Larsen is he’s never played against elite player’s above the junior level. We’ve all seen his incredible stats from the FIBA U-16 Tournament, where he was named tourney MVP. His performance caused Eurobasket.com, the definitive European Basketball website, to name him Division B Best Player and Best Center. Next year he played for Denmark’s 2nd tier Virum Vipers helping the team win their division. His potential got him invited to the February 2015, Basketball without Borders Global Scouting Camp held in New York City over the NBA All-Star weekend. Scouts were able to view and evaluate the best international talent and according to the Danish press they were impressed with Larsen’s skills and toughness. Hopes were high in Denmark that Jacob Larsen had the talent and the body to become the small country’s second NBA player. The first; many thought it would be his older brother Rasmus.

Tragically, Rasmus was found dead in his bed at the age of 20. He was playing for Spirou Charleroi in Belgium’s top basketball league at the time of his death. Rasmus missed a team meeting on the morning of 13 May, 2015 and team officials found him after going to his apartment to investigate. The 7-foot 245 lb. Ramsus had drawn the interest of NBA scouts and had considered making himself eligible for the NBA draft after finishing the season. The cause of death was not readily apparent and initial autopsy reports were inconclusive.

If strength is built through adversity, Jacob Larsen will become a star at Gonzaga. Before his injury, internet rumors not only had him playing the upcoming season but possibly passing Edwards on the depth chart to become Karnowski’s back-up. According to Jim Meehan at the Spokesman Review, this year’s knee injury is “apparently unrelated” to knee problems he’d suffered in the past. Let’s hope Jacob can come back stronger and better than ever next season, the young man certainly deserves a break.