Having dual citizenship comes in handy every once in a while, especially during a global pandemic. Without it, Norway’s Christoffer Heggelund wouldn’t be with the University of Victoria Vikes men’s basketball program.
“I’m excited to be here, to experience a new city, new country and new style of basketball. I am very fortunate to be allowed to come play here during these times,” said Heggelund, 20.
Born in Olso, Norway, Heggelund was allowed to make his way to Victoria because his mother was born in Toronto. His parents, Susan (Canadian) and Stål (Norwegian), met in Toronto and moved back to Norway to start their life together.
The Heggelunds with their three kids (an older brother and younger sister sandwiched around Christoffer) moved to France when the current Vike was two. The family remained in France for five years before moving to Germany, where after another five years, they found their way back to Norway.
Even with Europe featuring several prominent professional basketball leagues, Heggelund didn’t discover the sport until his early teenage years.
“My brother found a local team once we moved back to Norway. I wasn’t too involved in many sports, so I decided to pick up the sport with him,” said Heggelund.
The latest recruit (who also doesn’t count as an international recruit because of his passport) for the Vikes admits that it took him two years to get the hang of the sport, but once he did, he quickly became one of the top players in his region.
At the age of 16 (2016-17), Heggelund joined the Baerum Basket, a professional men’s team playing in the Basketligaen Norge (BLNO), Norway’s premier professional men’s basketball league. After one more season with Baerum, Heggelund switched over to the Centrum Tigers (2018-19) before ending his time in Norway with the BK Kongsberg Miners.
With no age minimum or limit, Heggelund was often attacking and guarding players four to 12 years older than him.
“The first thing I noticed at the pro level was how much faster the game was. When I was in the junior level for a year, I wasn’t always going up against the best competition each night. But at the pro level, each practice and game, I was playing against men who were better than me. It really helped develop my game at a young age,” said Heggelund, who is fluent in Norwegian, French, English and German.
Over those years, he also racked up time with the national program, as he represented Norway at the Nordic and European Championships at the U16 and U18 level. Heggelund was called upon to play for Norway at the U20 level this year, but COVID had other plans.
Professionally or on the national stage, Heggelund often has the ball in his hands, working as either the point or shooting guard. He is at his best when he’s orchestrating the offence and trying to determine how to pick apart his opponent.
“I really had some great teammates over the past few years that taught me the details of the game. I know have a better understanding and a higher IQ of the game because of them,” said Heggelund, who will enter the faculty of humanities with an eye on exercise science in the future.
Growing from a teen into a young man, Heggelund went from 1.83 points and 0.33 assists per game as a rookie with Baerum to 5.32 points and 1.36 assists per game with the Miners. The BLNO plays under the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) umbrella – the same rules the Vikes operate with during their Canada West play.
“Having him familiar with the FIBA rules and style of game is a big plus for us,” said Vikes men’s basketball head coach Craig Beaucamp. “He’s also very skilled and can play either guard spot. From what I’ve watched and talked to others about is that Christoffer is fast, is someone that steps up in key situations and plays with a lot of energy. That’s exactly what we were looking for in a recruit.”
Beaucamp connected with Heggelund through Spencer McKay, a Vikes alum from 1986-91. Through a series of emails, Beaucamp got his hands on some game film and Heggelund’s contact information.
“I’ve been speaking with Christoffer for over a year now. He said that he wanted to stay there and play an extra year after graduating high school, but maintained that he wanted to come to North America for his post secondary education,” said Beaucamp.
The constant line of communication played a factor in landing the Norwegian.
“I had a lot of chats with Craig over the last year not just about basketball, but also about school. It showed me that they were really interested in bringing me to UVic,” said Heggelund. “I paid close attention to their season last year and thought they were pretty good. They are bringing a lot of their guys back this year and if we have a season, I think we could be one of the top teams in the Canada West.”
Heggelund arrived in Victoria on August 17, where he completed his mandatory 14-day quarantine.
“There were certainly some long days. Once I got used to the time change, I didn’t have as many phone calls with my friends and family back home, but I did have daily chats with my new teammates that helped,” said Heggelund.
“It had to be a weird experience for him, but I think being able to meet some of his teammates virtually eased the transition into our program once he was allowed to come train with us,” said guard Scott Kellum.
Following his two weeks isolation, Heggelund joined the team for their return to train protocols at the CARSA Performance Gym.
“It’s hard to tell right now, but he seems like he’s going to be a great player one day,” said Kellum, a guard entering his final year with the Vikes. “We’re doing a lot of skill drills right now, but he seems to have good footwork and be a pretty good shooter. He’s picking up what we’re doing pretty quickly, which is great to see.”
Official word about Heggelund’s freshman season will be announced later next month, but in the mean time, he is thrilled about having the opportunity to study and train with the Vikes.