Title: Meet Tryggvi Hlinason, Iceland’s Sheep Farming NBA Prospect
Date: July 12, 2018
Original Source: Vice
Synopsis: In my latest for Vice, I wrote about Tryggvi Hlinason, the 7-foot-1 Icelandic sheep farmer at Summer League with the Toronto Raptors.
It is about 4,200 miles between Þingeyjarsveit, Iceland, and Las Vegas, Nevada. The gap between the cultures is even wider, spanning what feels like planets. In Vegas, a world away from a farming town that even others in Iceland consider to be an outpost, Tryggvi Hlinason is starting to feel at home in the basketball world.
How Hlinason got here is becoming a well-told story now, to the extent that he offers a short and a long version of it depending on how much time is available. Briefly: He didn’t find his way to the game of basketball—or even see it played 5-on-5—until the age of 16, but his immense size and natural feel quickly made him a prospect to watch back home in Iceland. Before he had much experience at all, he was playing in Under-18 Euro Championship action, and at age 19 he was playing in the Icelandic professional league. His play there and in international action with the senior men’s team, combined with a still-developing 7’1″ and 260-pound frame, earned him a promotion to Valencia of the highly competitive Spanish ACB league and EuroLeague.
That was the pre-draft hook, and it’s an endlessly endearing one. His story is also more than the late-bloomer path to prospect status. Hlinason’s story is intriguing because he’s quite literally an Icelandic sheep farmer turned NBA prospect, and he has a wry charm and a way of making his far-away story feel much less distant.