Name: Philipp Herkenhoff
Date of Birth: 29th of June 1999
Weight: 104 kg
Pro since: 2017
Club: RASTA Vechta
Role: Versatile Big
Key Skills: Passing, Length + Mobility, Attacking closeouts
After countless appearances for the youth national team, Philipp Herkenhoff certainly made a name for himself with his debut for the German senior national team a couple of months ago. The 19-year-old youngster played three minutes in a win against Estonia and while he isn’t considered to be a frontrunner for one of the few places on the roster for the World Cup in China this summer, an appearance on the national team at this age is definitely remarkable.
Besides the debut for his home country, Herkenhoff and more so Rasta Vechta as a team are making a lasting impression in the BBL this year. Rasta is currently sitting at the fourth spot in the standings and with each week going by they look more and more dangerous. Herkenhoff appeared in 28 games so far and is getting his fair share of minutes. Playing around 15 minutes, he’s posting averages of 5.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.9 assists per game (49.1% 2FG, 35.7% 3FG, 73% FT). In contrast to former years Herkenhoff has bulked up quite a bit and is even playing at the center position for longer stretches this season.
Attacking closeouts. Herkenhoff’s main strength is his ability to attack closeouts with his drive. He can put the ball on the floor and even though he prefers to go right, he has shown that he’s able to go either way. His agility (paired with his solid screen setting and anticipation) makes him a nightmare to defend and if his three point shot is coming around, the damage he does in those sitautions is only gonna increase over time. Herkenhoff likes to play the drive and kick game after beating his man and while he’s not always the one who initiates things, he’s really good as the second creator who dissects a rotating defense to his advantage.
Passing. Hand in hand with his ability to attack closeouts goes his passing. The german youngster is not only able to go by his man, but also able to hit the open man after the initial action. He finds open teammates with bounce-passes in traffic or hits the weakside shooter with a well-timed dime. But his passing is not only vital in those situations. Herkenhoff is by no means a point forward at this point of his career and very well may never be, but he swings the ball, likes to get others involved and knows the difference between a a good shot for himself and a better one for a teammate. He may not destroy the opponents’ defense with passes out of the post, but he’s certainly a guy you can integrate in a free-flowing, ball moving environment with his unselfishness.
Length and agility. Although he has gained some weight, Herkenhoff still appears to be very agile for his size. He’s not a phenomenal leaper, but definitely a great ‘runner’. He can get buckets in transition, switch on some occasions on defense and rotate in time in Vechta’s defensive scheme. With some more time to get used to his ‘new’ body and maybe some added lower body strength he’ll be able to use those features even more in the future.
Shooting. Three point shooting is Herkenhoff’s swing skill. If he can constantly hit around 36-37% or even 40% from downtown, the sky is the limit for him. Then defenses have to close out harder than they’re doing now and Herkenhoff surely knows how to surprise opponents with a quick first step to the rim. The shooting results this season are mixed so far, after a slumpy start he’s shown some improvements but those have to continue if he likes to be a prototypical stretch four.
Toughness/mindset. While Herkenhoff is known as a high energy player, there are questions about his toughness and his mindset. He needs to be more aggressive on the boards, as a shot blocker (good with time and space, not good without it) and sometimes on offense too. His body may not be doing him a favor battling under the rim against way bigger dudes – especially playing at the 5- but some of it is just the mental makeup. Herkenhoff wants to win, but in order to win you have to get down and dirty and tough it out, especially in traffic.
Typically you don’t want to encourage players to take a contested or a „bad“ shot, but if you had to pick a player to take a bad shot, Herkenhoff definitely would be at the top of the list. In order to grow he has to be more aggressive, even if the results may not be great at first.
Rebounding. Herkenhoff has good size and a decent wing span, but isn’t a dominant force on the boards yet. The good thing is, he’s always doing a formidable job boxing his man out. He’s doing a great job recognizing where his man is and he’s making sure, that his guy is under control. But there are still some things, where he needs to improve. As mentioned, he’s more of a horizontal athlete than a true leaper and his toughness comes and goes. While there’s a steady learning curve and an improvement to be seen, the results are still varying from game to game and if his shot isn’t falling on offense he has to make his presence felt in other ares, even at that age.
Collecting 50/50 balls at the rim is not his strong suit right now and he has to rebound better outside of his own range. Herkenhoff likes to make sure his area is ‘clean’, but in order to reach a higher level he has to come out of his shell a little bit, especially when he’s the tallest dude on the court. Playing the 4 in the long run will cover up for a lot, but if he has to play the 5 that’s definitely a thing to consider.
Post-up. This part of his game is gonna get really important if he figures out his shooting. Defenses have to switch at some point and while his post arsenal doesn’t have to be deep, he should be at least able to get buckets against smaller guards. Due to his body, his high center of gravity and the fact that he’s not great at establishing a good post-position, post-ups aren’t a big part of his repertoire right now. But at some point in his career he has to be at least decent in that regard and translate some of his abilities there from the youth to the pro level. His right handed hook shot looks more than solid and if he’s getting that to fall, he’ll be dangerous on offense.
Most likely it will all come down to how his mindset is gonna develop over time and if he’ll be able to be more aggressive in almost every facette of the game. If so, the potential to have a really good career is definitely there. He’s already making strides and if he figures some things out, he’ll be a really valuable player for a team, that moves the ball, plays unselfish basketball and needs a guy, that does a little bit of everything. Herkenhoff has the tools to be a modern stretch four that hits threes, attacks closeouts, finds open teammates and defends multiple positions.