This summer, I had the opportunity to go for my first ever U16 European Championship and combine it with a first ever trip to the Basketball country of Lithuania. I decided to make just a short scouting report on the teams I have seen (Places 1-8) as these kids are all only 16, or even 15 and 14 for some. The player scoutings will be less detailed than for U18 or U20 events but they will however break up the main players of the tournament in my eyes.
SPAIN – Gold Medal
The Spanish U16 team took the Gold Medal at the end of a tournament where they stepped up big when it counted the most. After a disastrous loss against Latvia, it looked like they were done but three big games from the quarterfinals on secured the first spot. The player who made this all possible along the great team effort displayed by the squad was the 1m84 tall guard Jaime Fernandez. The current player of Estudiantes simply took over the team’s scoring and he especially excelled in the semis and the Final. Fernandez is tough scoring guard, undersized to play the SG spot, and not the occupying the PG role on his team right now. Fernandez showed great aggressiveness with the ball attacking the rim where he can score the layups with good protection or go for the floaters too. He uses quite a good first step to open the spaces and he can also stop to take the jump shot out of these drives. His three point shot is particularly good when he receives the ball to catch and shoot it immediately. He would have deserved the MVP trophy because of what he did during the two last games but a voting process which was closed during the game for the 7th place prevented this selection.
Jaime Fernandez attacking the basket
Fernandez got the scoring support by the two inside players Daniel Diez and Alejandro Suarez. Diez was more the hard worker on the offensive glass to get some nice put backs and he had also a major presence in defense through block shots and his lateral speed. His jump shot looks soft and can connect hit from around the key, even in old-school of the glass fashion from 45 degrees. Suarez looks to be more of the modern type of forward who can step out and hit the three point shot. Being 2m04 tall, he has a good size and with his good looking shooting mechanics, he should be able to occupy a PF spot in the next years. He understands the game pretty well and his decision making looks interesting right now.
LITHUANIA – Silver Medal
The player that attracted the most interest on the Lithuanian team was of course Tauras Jogela. The 1993 born forward displayed the best combination of skills, size and athletic abilities of the team and earned the MVP trophy of the tournament. However, his performances on the weekend where I was in Kaunas were not that really great so the scouting on him is not that big. Being 2m00 tall, Jogela has the tools to become a very SF in the future. He is present in every part of the game, scoring, rebounding but also shot blocking and defense. However, he did not really know how to use his tools at best and some coaching decisions prevented him to do so in the Final too. He can read the defense pretty well and understands the game, playing the pick and roll pretty well in the role of the ball handler. He likes to drive baseline with his right hand and his three point shot will become more regular in the future in order to be a great scoring forward prospect.
Tauras Jogela pumped up
The second scoring option for the Lithuanian team was the tough guard Mantas Mockevicius who excelled with his powerful drives on the baseline where he scored several time in a very tough way. He is however already ahead in terms of physical development which makes him probably less interesting on the long term. He was living probably a bit too much from his force alone as his game in general has still several points to develop. His shot looks a bit strange right now especially from long distance. A more interesting player in my eyes was the very versatile forward Tomas Lekunas. The forward showed some different possibilities in his game with good passing, big three point shooting and presence in the rebound. His shot selection was not great but his aggressiveness gave him a lot of foul calls in his favor. He needs to improves his ball handling though as he will probably play SG in the future because of his limited height. Paulius Semaska finished the tournament as best passer. The tiny guard run the Lithuanian offense pretty well but as there was no major backup to help him doing this job, his turnover ratio was quite high as the fatigue was a factor for him in the end.
SERBIA – Bronze Medal
The Serbian squad that turned up in Kaunas was more or less a two-men show without being a real team. Nenad Miljenovic and Aleksandar Cvetkovic took nearly 40% of all the team’s shots which did not give their team mates a lot of opportunities to show their skills, especially in the two games I saw. Miljenovic, who had a big showing during the Nike International Junior Tournament in Berlin this summer was of course the player that everybody was looking at. But without the presence of a massive Center like he has with Dejan Musli at FMP, Miljenovic lost a bit of his greatness that he displayed in Berlin. Still, you have an extraordinary talented guard who can both score and pass. His great ball handling offers him more than once great open looks from where he connects the jump shot with ease. But he had also some trouble in defense where he got overpowered several times in rebound situations for example.
Aleksandar Cvetkovic on the other hand showed more of a uni-dimensional scoring role next to the more organizing Miljenovic. Cvetkovic can hit the ball from everywhere and he is not afraid of taking a lot of difficult shots. Catch and shoot three, in-out step back three, corner shots, out of spin-moves, Cvetkovic hit some from everywhere. Additionally, Cvetkovic played the PG role during moments, where he look more regular and his turnover ratio underlines this too. While his shooting looks a bit crazy at times, his PG skills look very well thought of and organized. With his limited size, his future will of course be the point guard position where he may need to develop his court vision and focus a little less on his shot.
Two other players in the Serbian team that I want to mention though are the long forward Vukasin Vujovic who displayed some very interesting skills and a good shot. His shot selection though was not that good but he is certainly a played to look at in the future. Nemanja Bezbradica struggled from the presence of the two guards as the post player barely saw any possession in his hands during the final weekend. The inside player displays a huge body and good shot blocking timing and some powerful plays in the paint.
POLAND – 4th place
The nice surprise of the tournament was Poland who finished in the end at a great but somehow disappointing 4th place for them. A medal would have been deserved for what they did during the championship in my eyes but they could not bring up the final effort to beat Serbia in the Bronze Medal game after the tough loss in the semis on Saturday. Still you have a team that has a multitude of interesting players on its roster.
The first player you saw when seeing the team on the court was of course the massive 2m11 Center Przemyslaw Karnowski. And the big kid, that in the beginning looks more like “just a big huge guy”, is really an interesting potential. Right now, the left handed center has not a multitude of back to the basket moves except a powerful left handed drop step which he finishes of the glass and a turn around jump shot. However, Karnowski has an excellent feel for the game and is a great passer (he had at least two no-look behind his head passes out of the dribbling and several back-door dishes). He is not a big time athlete but despite his massive body, he can run the court at a correct speed. He needs to develop his right hand as he finishes everything of left even when attacking from the right hand. But the physical tools he brings with together with his understanding of the game, winning will and defensive presence make him already now an interesting target for the major European teams. The Polish press reports (via The Hoop) that a multitude of teams from Spain, Italy, Greece and France are trying to get Karnowski with among them Barcelona, Unicaja, Baskonia or Panathinaikos. Still, it is not sure what Karnowski will do as he is also eyeing the possibility of an NCAA career.
|Przemyslaw Karnowski got elected All-Tournament Team at Center|
Another very interesting prospect in the Polish team was the PF Piotr Niedzwiedzki. Being probably the exact opposite of Karnowski when it comes to body structure, the 2m06 tall wing showed excellent athletic abilities and a great physical frame. Niedzwiedzki had several ups and downs during the tournament which were caused by the foul trouble he was regularly in. Offensively, Niedzwiedzki showed a shot up to the three point line even if his mechanics are not perfectly stable right now. He was probably one of the most athletic players of the whole tournament and with a lot of additional work to understand the game better, he is one of the most interesting prospects of the whole tournament in my eyes. He needs to become stronger though as his finishes were often a bit soft which prevented him to go the line more often.
Michal Michalak was the top scorer of the Polish team through his shooting skills. The Guard has a very nice looking jump shot that is taken high in the air and with a very sweet and quick release. He recognizes the situations when to shoot and when to drive but he also struggled a bit when it came to passing the ball inside to the big post players.
RUSSIA – 5th place
The Russian team was built around a quartet of athletic wings that occupied the positions 2 to 5. Gleb Goldyrev got the All-Tournament spot but an injury in the Saturday game prevented him from finishing the championship in beauty. He is a pretty athletic wing who is very present in rebounding and scoring. His three point shot is currently a work in progress though. Sergey Karasev on the other hand is mainly living from his long distance stroke which is pretty streaky though. His shot is more of a set shot right now and his driving and passing needs some improvement over the next years. The player that I liked the most was Vladislav Trushkin as the 2m00 tall wing had probably the most complete game with a correct three point shot, strong offensive rebounding, good passes and great athletic abilities. Trushkin was also the player that made the game-deciding plays during the two games I attended. Andrey Loginov had to play the Center position but he will probably step up to the PF in the future. His positioning in the paint is good and he works very hard in the rebound situations, especially offensively.
CROATIA – 6th place
The main prospect of the Croatian team was of course the 1994 born Dario Saric. The Sibenik native is a 2m02 tall guard with terrific ball handling skills who clearly was among the most talented players of the whole tournament. Extremely versatile, Saric can shoot the ball, has a good court vision, great foot work and ball handling, can finish with both hands, the full package to be a great player. Right now, he is a bit soft in his finishes of course as he is rail thin and he is only a 15 year old kid. It will be highly interesting to see him next year, where he is still eligible to play for the U16 European Championship and where he will most likely be the full leader of the Croat team. He got support this year from the streaky shooter Matej Buovac who lead the tournament in three point attempts and made. His shooting stroke looks perfect and he has good balance in the air while taking his shot. Marko Ramljak was the never-tired fighter of the team, pushing them at all moments with his intensity. He is a very versatile forward who can run the break, is present in the rebound and has a nice shot.
FRANCE – 7th place
The French team has totally dominated the first six games but a loss in the quarter final destroyed all their hopes of winning a medal. Being lead by Hugo Invernizzi in the beginning of the tournament, the 1m94 tall shooter who had to play PF during some moments, he could not continue to excel when it counted the most. The biggest prospect of the team is probably Livio Jean-Charles. The 2m02 tall inside player displayed some great moves in the paint, but also a good court-vision, strong rebounding and an already present three point shot. Jean-Charles needs to use his forces even more as you could think that he is not playing at full and retain himself. William Howard had a good finish during the tournament with two strong games on the final weekend. The forward showed a nice three point shot and a quick first step which he used to drive strongly to the basket and finish on dunks or tough layups. He is also present in defense especially with his interesting wingspan to play the steal. Another interesting player on the French roster is the skinny inside player Yannis Morin who excelled in offensive rebounding and some left handed post moves despite being right handed.
TURKEY – 8th place
The Turkish team was lead by the strong PF Berkay Candan who displayed some nice lost post skills but he mainly lived from his physical force than from an above average skill level. With 1m99, he may also be limited to play this position in the future and as he does not have a good three point shot, it will be interesting to see how develops over the next years. 1994 born forward Burak Yildizli showed a more interesting skill set as he works a lot with his good footwork, fakes and has three point range despite not taking a lot of shots from behind the arc at the moment. His ball handling needs some improvement but he can score of both hands on his drives and a mid range jump shot is in the making. However, the most interesting player of the Turkish team is the only 14 year old Kenan Sipahi who is already right now a vocal leader on the floor. He showed great ball handling skills and defensive reading so that he emerged with some terrific plays during the minutes he was on the court. He has still two years to go in this age category and I really want to see what he is able to do over the next years. With his natural leadership and PG skills, Sipahi is already starting to gain experience on the highest level being that young.
All Pictures are courtesy of FIBA Europe.