So far this Norwegian star has drawn a lot of comparisons to outgoing Yellow Jacket Quinton Stephens. In some way that’s very fair. Sjolund is 6’8” and only 180-190 pounds which is reminiscent of the tall and skinny Stephens. That could limit his ability to play down low and hurt his durability. He has a very high release point and is a decent shooter, but has a lot of potential to consistently hit from the perimeter. Sound like anybody we know? He can finish facing lower competition, but when it comes to facing top level competitors he struggles to create his shot...so far. Once again he is a dead-on Quinton impression.
But, there are certainly some differences. Sjolund certainly has the frame to fill out some once he hits a college weight training program. Kristian has spent much of youth traveling between Norway and the US, which probably hasn’t been ideal for his development (though analysts say he is better coached than most Euro prospects). He is spending his last year in Texas before heading to college so hopefully he gets one last year of strong development. This is huge to me. He is seen as such a raw player, but he has seen less high quality developmental coaching than a lot of the players he’s compared to though. Once he gets some stability, his skill could develop much quicker than people would expect.
The first paragraph may have made it sound as if I didn’t like Quinton Stephens that much, which isn’t true. Well not totally true. I was not at all a fan until the last 10 or so games of his junior season. Before that he was passive, both offensively and defensively. He spent his time on offense waiting around the perimeter and defensively he did not use his length to his advantage. Around the end of his junior season he made a big change. He started becoming a strong rebounder, he started using his length much better to contest shots and get blocks, he started using his long arms to get in passing lanes, he started slashing and attempting to drive. This turned him from a liability when he wasn’t hitting his shot to a true asset who spent nearly 40 minutes a game on the floor at the end of his senior year.
Sjolund already has that. That is the big difference between Sjolund and Stephens as recruits. Kristian gets steals, he gets blocks, he gets rebounds, he is aggressive with the ball. Honestly, he might be too aggressive with the ball for his skill level, but I’d rather have that than the other way around. The intriguing part about Sjolund is he already has the traits that made Stephens good, but he has had limited development so far. That lends itself to dreaming. What if his jump shot develops into a true 3-point threat? What if he becomes a solid ball-handler? What if his strong instincts turn him into a solid assist man? What if he bulks out without losing any speed and can guard up and down the lineup? What if his shot creation continues to develop I don’t think any of those are out of the question (or even that far-fetched) with Kristian. And that is why I am a big fan of this commitment.
One other thing to note is that I think a lot of recruiting services underplay him. He was injured for some of the early recruiting camps, but he dominated the U16 Euro Championships and came on strong at a camp for foreign basketball prospects. He received several on the spot offers from mid-majors and did receive interest from programs like Virginia, Baylor, and Michigan, even taking a visit to the first two. He had offers from Baylor, Ole Miss, Illinois, Colorado, and others. I think Sjolund will greatly outplay his rankings.
Here’s an AJC article that contains some junior highlights.