Germany

Inside HBL: Erik Schmidt leading new German defense

Inside HBL: Erik Schmidt leading new German defense

Almost a year ago nobody knew about Erik Schmidt. But since then the young German pivot has used every chance he was given, especially the one national team coach Dagur Sigurdsson offered him. He saw a lot of potential in the tall line-player and called him for the first time, when he had played less than 20 games in his Bundesliga career.

Schmidt had just promoted to the first league with the TSG Friesenheim-Ludwigshafen, a team based on the other side of the Neckar river, where the Rhein-Neckar Löwen have become perennial contenders for the league title in Mannheim. But the 22-year old is used to see the spotlight shine on others, as he didn’t even make it to the various junior teams of Germany. It seemed like nobody had taken notice of a guy as tall as a tree.

Recently at the Supercup, won by Germany against Serbia, Slovenia and Brazil, Schmidt anchored the team’s defense in the absence of regular starters Patrick Wiencek and Hendrik Pekeler. He did a great job looking like a younger version of former defensive expert Oliver Roggisch and seems to have secured a roster spot for the EHF EURO 2016 in January.

Born in Mainz, Schmidt was raised a football fan, obviously supporting FSV Mainz 05 of the football Bundesliga. After his great performance in Qatar during the World Championship he was even invited as a half-time guest during a broadcast by German TV station Sky, where he looked like a true expert. Afterwards he was laughing about it. “I actually don’t follow football as much as I used to, but I guess I did quite well.”

When he was around 13, 14 years old, he realized that he was probably more connected to handball, rather than to football. He often had to invest a lot of time just to get to the trainings during his younger days, but it all paid off when he signed for 3rd league side TV Groß-Umstadt when he was just 18 years old.

After two solid seasons he moved on and joined Friesenheim. Under coach Thomas König he got the playing time he needed to develop into one of the hottest prospects in German handball. Schmidt then promoted to the first league in his second season with the owls, as the team is nicknamed.

But main sponsor Südzucker had to cut down the financial support and while the club was still fighting against relegation, most players signed elsewhere. Schmidt finished his rookie season averaging 3.1 goals while playing in all 36 games. With Friesenheim heading back to the second division he opted to sign for a “top side”, as one journalist called it.

As he ended up signing for mid-table Hannover, Schmidt was quite upset by the article, which suggested he might sign with a club like Kiel or Flensburg. He then decided to stop talking to the journalist, which pretty much sums up the character of Schmidt. He’s friendly, calm and smart, which helps him to stay focused on the court and taking the right decisions, especially on defense. On the offensive end of the game he still has to learn, but if he ends up as the second coming of Oliver Roggisch, he should have a heck of a career.

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