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La Gazzetta dello Sport Lauds Drejer, Suggests An Early Exit for the NBA

Translation from November 7 issue of La Gazzetta dello Sport..with thanks to the machine translation services of Google, Systran, Altavista and Bowne & Co.

Only 22 years old, the former Barcelona player is the protagonist of a promising Bologna team.

The Dane is born in one family of players: "Papà was my first coach"

"We hoped to start well. We can still improve very much." "Me a leader? Yes, but with Lang, Bluthenthal and Rodilla."

by Vincenzo Di Schiavi

BOLOGNA – “I have tried so many sports”, he says, but obviously he chose basketball. It was a family impulse, a matter of DNA. His father and mother were both members of the Danish National Team. Two older sisters played as well. It figures the only son would play.

Christian Drejer, from Hellerup, 5 miles outside Copenhagen, must have been born with a ball in his hands, the road already marked for him. This road has now taken him, 22 years later, to Virtus and its great coach Zare Markovski, ready to cross the sweet border that transforms an unknown quantity into a surprise.

This is now Christian’s Virtus, he of the angelic face and deadly hand…29 points against both Capo d’Orlando and Cantu.

“We hoped for the best possible start,” reflects Drejer. “We can always improve, we cannot complain”.

Endowed with elegant skills, the Danish guard is the focus of Virtus, a team pulls together to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts...inflaming fans who are encouraged by the road ahead. Against Cantu, there were 6,000 of them, watching the leader-child bloom, enthralled by what they were seeing from the team’s new leader. “Me a leader? Yes, but with Lang, Bluthenthal and Rodilla,” Drejer asserts. “A good team must have different points of reference. You cannot make it a solo act.”

Some history must be told about the young Dane. There is the history of precocious talent. However only now has it emitted the lightning that was promised by an adolescence full of expectations.

“"It was my father,” He tells us, “who pushed me towards basketball. He was my first coach."

At only 14 years old, he takes a turn with the National team. Two years later, he is averaging 16 points a game for SISU, the Danish League champions. Everyone wants him. The line forms outside his door: Pesaro, Virtus, Maccabi and Panathinaikos, the cream of the old Continent. Drejer instead decides to cross the ocean, destination: Florida, college and a 7.1 point per game average. Then, November 7, 2002, after a rebound he turns an ankle and that begins a nightmare: “I was operated on several times,” says Christian. “After losing almost 40 pounds, I returned after two months, but I was not 100%. Now, looking back, I can say that the experience of the college was still useful. It was the first true sample of basketball, very different from what it is played in Denmark.”

And what about the NBA? “Why not. It is the dream of everyone.” Even at the end of this season, exploiting the escape clause that was contemplated when he signed the three-year contract with Virtus.

All this arrives here after a year and a half with Barcelona. Svetislav Pesic [then the Barcelona coach] called him back in February 2003. “He had some plans for me,” Christian says. “and he said he intended to give me some time on court.” In reality, Drejer ended up in the shadow of [Dejan] Bodiroga [Barcelona’s best player and one of the two or three best players in Europe]. Too much for a 20-year-old: “It is hard to find court time,” he admits. “if ahead of you, there is [Juan Carlos] Navarro [one of Europe’s best point guards] and Bodiroga.” Better to leave.

So the choice fell to Virtus, who had pursued him in 2000. “I knew something of the environment, I had a memory of the team’s presentation, the fire of the fans, three days of training with [former Virtus coach Ettore] Messina.”

Drejer now looks ahead to the Italian tournament and games with Fortitudo [Virtus’ long time rival.] “I remember the challenges we faced with Real Madrid when I wore the uniform of Barcelona. These were special games, just like those against Fortitudo”.