Basketball is a sport considered to be dominated by the United States for decades but continued international growth and success has seen the game improve across the globe.
A recent example of this shift was the U.S. men’s basketball team being displaced from the top spot in the International Basketball Federation rankings on Nov. 18 by Spain.
The advancements made in Europe aren’t necessarily a secret. Players such as Luka Dončić from Slovenia and Giannis Antetokounmpo from Greece have become the most recent faces of the NBA.
Norway however is still not known for its basketball prowess, but is the home of Long Beach State sophomore forward Tobias Roteegard. The 6-foot-7-inch kinesiology major left his home at 18 to play his senior year of high school at the Oak Hill Academy in Virginia.
“I moved alone and stayed in dorms,” Rotegaard said.
Since coming to the U.S., Rotegaard spent time at four different programs, each in a new state, playing a different system than the last.
“It was four straight years of new coaches, so I got kind of used to it,” Rotegaard said. “But it’s nice to be able to come back this year and you know what you are coming to and how you are going to be coached.”
With the lack of solidity in coaching, Rotegaard was also adjusting to cultural differences in a country he wasn’t raised in. His mom is American and he spent summers growing up visiting relatives in Florida, Oregon and Texas.
The three states weren’t landing spots for Rotegaard when he came to the U.S., leaving him in an unfamiliar situation when he first moved to Virginia.
“Different ways to show respect here, it’s always like, ‘how are you doing, sir?’” Rotegaard said. “Where Norway’s trying to be respectful about distancing and stuff like that.”
At the international level, he represented Norway at multiple youth tournaments, with his most successful stints coming at the 2019 Nordic Championships, as well as the Under-19 Norwegian Championships where he was named MVP for both performances.
“Norway’s a small country, not really a big basketball country culture wise,” Rotegaard said. “So I always treasure those years where I get to play with them.”
This season, Rotegaard has seen his role increase at The Beach, a sign that he’s finally settling in at his new home.
Through 20 games this season, he has already played more minutes than he did in his 32 appearance last season, all while becoming a more reliable scorer and cutting his turnovers in half.
“Our seniors last year were great just taking me under their wing,” Rotegaard said. “Especially Colin Slater, he was always there for me, talking to me when I needed anything.”