This week Adam Moynihan sat down with Scotts Lakers star Toby Christensen. The 6’7″ Danish forward signed for the Lakers in August and has quickly endeared himself to the Killarney faithful, averaging 21 points in his first six games.
Hi Toby. You’ve been in Killarney a couple of months now. What do you think?
I’m surprised how busy it is for such a small town. That’s really nice because I was expecting to be out in the country with nothing to do!
I believe you’re living with Aaron Jackson and Victor Martínez. How is that working out?
It’s a good set-up. We all have our own rooms, our own personal space. We like each other so it’s all good.
What about the people of Killarney? Have they been welcoming?
Oh for sure. Everywhere I go, people are saying ‘hi’ to me and asking me how I’m doing. Everyone has just been super nice.
Tell me how you ended up in Ireland.
I had an agent who was focussing on really big-time teams, teams who are playing in European competitions, which might have been kind of a high level for my first year out of college. At the very last minute I had to sign a different agent and then after a day, this opportunity came up (to play for the Lakers). He told me that it was a good town, and it all just happened in a day or two. It was kind of last-minute but it turned out to be a good situation.
What are the main differences between playing college ball in the States and playing in the Irish league?
In college we had practice every single day, we had film sessions, we lifted together, we had study hall together… They basically controlled our whole lives. It’s a whole different thing over there. They take their sport so seriously. Going from that to practicing two times a week and kind of being on my own is kind of crazy.
What part of Denmark are you from?
I’m from a place that’s 10-15 minutes outside of Cophenhagen. I lived there with my parents until I was 16 and then I moved to the US to play high school basketball.
That’s quite young to move away from home. Was it a tough decision to make?
It was tough for my mom to let me go but for me, I was set on it. It was what I wanted to do. It was always a dream of mine to play college basketball so I thought that going out there for high school would make it easier for me to get to college level and to get a scholarship.
Where did you play in America?
I was in high school in Maryland for three years and I was lucky enough to get a scholarship to go to the University of Connecticut. Then I ended up transferring to another college in California (Fresno Pacific).
You must have seen some top talent over there. Who’s the best player you’ve ever played with?
That’s a good one. Probably Markelle Fultz (Orlando Magic). He went to high school in Maryland as well so I played against him a couple of times, but then I also got the chance to play with him at a high school camp for the top ranked players in DC, Maryland and Virginia.
He had some issues in his first couple of seasons in the NBA…
Yeah, his shooting. I think he’ll start being a good player this year because they say that they fixed his shot. When I was playing with him he was shooting the ball too but mostly he was just getting rebounds, going coast to coast and dunking on people. It was kind of crazy to see in person.
What’s your proudest sporting moment to date?
Probably the day I received my first scholarship offer, because it meant that going to America and leaving my family had paid off. And I knew that we wouldn’t have to pay any money to get my education over there. That was really a big moment for me. It relieved a lot of pressure.
Any embarrassing moments on the court?
Let me think… I’ve never been dunked on in a game…
That record should be safe enough over here.
That’s true! But I have been dunked on in practice once. In my very first practice with my first college team we were playing pick-up and one of the walk-ons – I didn’t expect much from him because he didn’t have a scholarship or anything – he came down on transition and I was thinking, okay I’m gonna go up and block his shot. The next thing I know I’m on the ground looking up at him. He got the dunk on me. That was pretty embarrassing because it was my first experience in college basketball.
At 6’7” you’re obviously very tall, certainly by Irish standards, but I wouldn’t really say that you play like a typical big man. How would you describe yourself as a player?
The perception with me over here is that I’m big so I’m an inside guy, but I’m used to playing on the perimeter, being able to shoot the ball and attack from the outside. I like to create a little bit for others too here and there.
You mentioned your parents earlier. I saw them at the Tolka Rovers game. Did they enjoy it?
Yeah, they liked it. They liked the whole atmosphere. They were surprised at how many people showed up and they liked the town too. They’re coming back again at Christmastime and we’re going to explore this part of Ireland a little more.
Are you into other sports besides basketball?
Since I’m from Denmark, I love to watch handball. I do like soccer as well but mostly when the national team plays.
Ireland are playing Denmark next month in a big Euro 2020 qualifier. Do you think Ireland have a chance?
That’s tough. I’m from Denmark so I have to say that we’re gonna win. But it’s a huge game. It will be interesting.
I wouldn’t be too worried if I were you. What’s the best sporting moment of all time?
I’d have to say when LeBron and the Cavs came back from 3-1 down against the Warriors. That’s got to be the best. That was the most hype moment I’ve ever seen. It was crazy.
I’m actually kind of a Warriors fan but I’ll let that slide. Is there an app on your phone that you couldn’t live without?
Yes. Instagram. I’m on that a lot, so… I need that. If I didn’t have it I don’t know what I’d do. I get everything from there: news, sports, and I use it to stay in touch with my friends. And then Messenger, because I’ve got to talk to my parents and that’s the main way we communicate. If I have those two, I’m good.
We’ll have to put your Instagram handle into the article so you can bump up your followers! (_eurohooper_) What’s the last show you binge-watched?
Gotham. I just got done watching that. It’s a great show. I also like Family Guy and those kind of cartoony shows.
What sort of music do you listen to?
Mostly rap. I love Drake. That’s my go-to, always. I like J Cole and Meek Mill too.
Can you sing? Or rap?
No. Not at all.
So if you went to karaoke, it would be a refusal?
Yes, I would refuse. And the rap is too fast for me. I mean, I’m good at English but it isn’t my main language, so if I start going really, really fast, I’ll mess it up.
Okay, back to basketball. The Lakers have their biggest game of the season on Saturday against Ballincollig. How are the preparations going?
Pretty good. We’ve had other teams to focus on but we’ve been preparing for this game for a couple of weeks. I think we’ll have a good chance. We still hadn’t had a full practice with all of our players when we played them a few weeks ago. We have a new point guard as well, Mick McGinn, and he looks good. He’ll be big for us. I feel like we should beat them if we put it together.
And naturally being at home should be an advantage. It must be great for the players when a big crowd turns out to see you.
Oh yeah. It’s great to have people there, compared to the away games we’ve played when there’s one-quarter of the people… So it’ll be awesome if the whole gym fills up on Saturday night.
Hopefully there’s a big evening in store. Best of luck and thanks for speaking to me.
Thank you for having me.
President’s National Cup: Round 1
Scotts Lakers v Ballincollig
Saturday at 7.30pm
Killarney Sports Centre