Jan. 6, 1998
Rasmussen Makes Quick Adjustment to College
By Mike May
At this time last year Hans Rasmussen was struggling.
A high school honorable mention All-American by Street and Smith's, Rasmussen was suppose to be enjoying his senior campaign at Central Catholic in Portland, Ore. There were records to break and a state title to be won.
But a broken shinbone midway through his senior campaign ended his prep career.
"As soon as the ankle injury happened it my world blew apart," says Rasmussen. "I was shattered. I didn't know what to do. I talked with my coaches - both in high school and here - and they told me to keep working hard and lifting weights."
He did keep working. Now, one year later Rasmussen is making a name for himself with Irish fans. The 6-9 freshman is one of eight Notre Dame players to see action in all 11 games this season and is averaging 2.6 points, 3.0 rebounds and 12.0 minute per contest.
Not bad for a freshman who lost six months of competitive basketball rehabilitating an ankle injury.
Rasmussen, who played on two Oregon AAU state championship teams, was highly recruited coming out of a high school. In addition to his accolades on the court, Rasmussen earned a 3.9 grade-point average in the classroom. Rasmussen said the whole college recruiting process was overwhelming.
"The recruiting process was amazing," says Rasmussen. "I had phone calls and letters every day. It was overwhelming. It started off and I was in awe. This is what I had looked forward to my entire life and then it got to the point where I just wanted them to stay away so I could get some rest."
When Rasmussen visited Notre Dame, he met All-American Pat Garrity. Success in the classroom isn't the only thing that links the two forwards.
"When I first got here everyone said I looked like Pat," says Rasmussen. "In the preseason I did a little more outside shooting so everyone said I had a game a little bit like Pat. Even when it comes to academics, a lot of my advisors tell me to go ask Pat. I look to him for a lot of stuff. He was the type of leader I tried to be in high school - more action than words. He's a hard worker and he does everything 110 percent.
Once he visited the campus and met with the coaches, Rasmussen knew Notre Dame was the place for him.
"I definitely want to play professional basketball," says Rasmussen. "I know even if I do play pro basketball I know how important academics are. I was looking for a school that could offer both."
With his college decision out of the way, it was time for Rasmussen to return for his senior year of high school.
"It was very frustrating," Rasmussen says of the injury that cost him the second half of his senior season. "There really wasn't anything good I could take from it. The first half of the year I was adjusting to being the leader on the team. Going into the second half of the season I was really starting to play well.
"I had dreams of state championships and first-team all-state and first-team all-league and even though people told me that I was one of the best players in the state I never got any of the awards because I only played half of a season."
Although healed by the time he arrives at Notre Dame, the injury that kept Rasmussen sidelined the latter half of his senior campaign left him behind when practice started in October.
"When I got here it kind of hit me again," says Rasmussen. "I saw how the other freshmen had their entire senior season to keep working. I had been out six months and I had to work to get back to the level I was at physically and emotionally . It just pushed me that much harder."
In addition to sharpening his physical tools, Rasmussen also looked to rebuild his confidence.
"My confidence was not where it should have been," says Rasmussen. "I came in the preseason and I didn't feel very confident. I was missing shots and I thought to myself that if I would have been able to play my senior season I would have been farther along."
The transition from high school basketball to college is never easy. Especially not for a post player due to the physical differences between the players. Rasmussen, who has added 20 pounds since coming to Notre Dame, said adjusting to the physical play took time.
"It was a little shocking," says Rasmussen. "I had a vision of it being a lot quicker and a lot stronger. When I first got here I got thrown around a little bit and beat down the court and I thought I just had to pick up my pace. Once I did I realized what I had to do to get to where the upperclassmen were at."
Once he got his feel for the game back, Rasmussen was ready to make an immediate impact.
"I've always been very confident in my work ethic and ability," says Rasmussen. "Once you get here you realize that I can compete with these guys. My work ethic, my God given talent and all the help you receive from other players and coaches make it possible."
Along with Martin Ingelsby and Leviticus Williamson, Rasmussen is one of three freshman to play in all 11 games this season. And the Portland, Ore., native, has shown steady improvement as the season progressed. As a reserve post player, Rasmussen has played 10 or minutes in nine of 11 games this season.
Rasmussen didn't make a field goal in his first three games but has found scoring more natural of late. In his last four games, Rasmussen has tallied 20 points in 45 minutes of action.
"I'd tell myself to shoot, rebound and screen," says Rasmussen. "Those are the three things I need to do and the coaches want me to do. That's what I started to do and it's all just coming along. By setting good screens it gives me an opportunity to get open when I release. They all go together."
Rasmussen is coming off the best game of his brief collegiate career. Against 11th-ranked Connecticut on Saturday, the forward posted career highs in minutes (20) and rebounds (9) while tallying six points. He has now scored six or more points three times in the last four games.
"The game was obviously very disappointing," says Rasmussen. "But individually, even though there were a lot of things I could have done better, overall I felt like I played a pretty good game. I was just trying hard to help the team.
As Rasmussen gets more comfortable at the college level, his productivity continues to increase.
"I'm trying to work to improve my game everyday," says Rasmussen. "I want to get to the point where I can be an outside force and an inside force and be a little bit more of an all around player. Hopefully through that work I can get better and we can get to the level where we want to be."
With Rasmussen continuing to make a positive impact while adjusting to the college game, Notre Dame has a good chance.