(Luís Cristóvão) When you talk about Basketball, Portugal isn’t the place you go looking for young talent. Mostly, because the Portuguese don’t usually are in the big competitions. With almost no teams playing in European Cups (Benfica was the exception in the 2010/11 Eurochallenge) and a weak National Team (after making it to Eurobasket 2011, losing all the five matches, Portugal lost their eight games in the Eurobasket 2013 Qualifications). But, still, talent watchers should follow what’s going on the Portuguese League.
Miguel Maria Cardoso (’93) is the most recent exportation, making an excellent first impression in the LNB Espoirs League, with 22 points and 14 assists in his first two matches. Still in Portugal are some youngsters you should definitely know more about.
Carlos Ferreirinho – 200cm -SF – 1991 – Sampaense
Ferreirinho is an important part of the Portuguese Basketball future. After summing 15.2ppg and 5.2rpg in the U20 European Championship Division B 2011, when he was one of the best three point shooters, Ferreirinho was part of the Benfica team that won LPB 2012. Despite his 16 presences in the major team, Ferreirinho didn’t felt to have enough space to show all his potential, accepting a loan to Sampaense, where he’ll be one the major figures in the team. An excellent outside shooter, Ferreirinho has enough size to also help in the paint. In his thought might be the chance to return to Benfica, even if a great season with Sampaense shirt, where he’ll be fighting for a playoff presence, can booster a foreign interest and take Ferreirinho to play abroad.
League Stats 2011/12: 4.5ppg and 1.0 rpg with Benfica, National Champion.
Marko Loncovic – 200cm – F – 1991 – Barcelos
In his first games in Portugal, Loncovic showed how important he’ll be for Barcelos hopes in the LPB. Scoring 22 and 32 points in the Troféu António Pratas group phase, Loncovic positioned himself has the major scoring threat in a team that will fight to escape relegation. Marko Loncovic is a former U20, U18 and U16 Montenegrin international, having presented himself in the European Scene as a player of Crvena Zvedza NIJT team. He spent his last two seasons in Torredolones (Spanish EBA) averaging 13 ppg and 6.3 rpg. He has an impressive physique for an outside shooter, having also the capability to penetrate and finish in the paint. In Portugal, he would have more space to grow his numbers, expecting to find a place to play in a bigger league during next season.
League Stats 2011/12: 13 ppg, 6.3 rpg with Torredolones.
João Fernandes – 177cm – 1992 – PG – Galitos
A Barreirense Academy product, Fernandes beat all the odds being used in his team rotation with coach António Herrera, last season. Being a small point guard, Fernandes uses his aggressiveness and pace to assure his presence in the Portuguese big league. After Barreirense closed their pro team, Fernandes signed with Galitos, where he’ll continue to be the alternative to Pedro Pinto, who also made his way to Galitos. In a team that will try to secure their place in the LPB, Fernandes will have the opportunity to grow with minutes and new challenges, having in António Paulo Ferreira another coach who is always willing to support young players.
League Stats 2011/12: 3.1 ppg and 1.3 apg with Barreirense.
Emanuel Sá – 199cm – 1993 – SF – Ovarense
After being one of the leaders of U20 Ovarense team who made it to the Final Four, Sá will find minutes in the major league. A very young talent, Sá is used to be amongst older players, being present in the U20 National Team this summer. Emanuel Sá has a great work ethic that will give him space to grow his game. After playing mostly inside, he’s making an effort to shoot better. His main strengths include defensive skills and a strong ability to attack off the dribble and finish near the basket. This season he’ll feel the importance of being a first team player, in his way to be the team reference in the near future.
League Stats 2011/12: 1.0 ppg and 1.0 rpb with Ovarense.
Pedro Belo – 214cm – 1992 – C – Benfica
A big center is very good news to Portuguese basketball, even if the country has historic difficulties to integrate a big man in their game plan. Pedro Belo isn’t quick enough to play a high tempo game, but is being worked by Benfica Academy to be an important asset in the team. With many minutes in their B team, Belo is making is way in the major team this season. He made an important evolution like a three point shooter and is hard to defend inside the paint. He has size and a powerful presence, expecting to gain minutes and, probably, a chance to play his game abroad in the next seasons.
League Stats 2011/12: 0.7 ppg and 1.7 rpg with Benfica.
As a wildcard, I choose Diogo Ventura, another player who spent his last years in the Benfica Academy and with only 18 years old is looking for minutes in the LPB. Born in 1994, Ventura played the U18 and U20 European Championships Division B last summer and is a point guard with size (189cm) and passing ability. He has to solve his contract problems with Benfica, already practicing with Algés, an LPB newcomer, who will need Ventura to be a strong alternative coming from the bench.
If these players make their way to bigger leagues in the near future, as they must expect, Portugal will find a way to make profit of an economic crisis that is enabling teams to sign more foreign players: giving minutes in court for young talents to prosper.
Luís Cristóvão is a Portuguese Sports Writer. He has been working for PlanetaBasket.pt and WhoopsMagazine.com. Luís has also been published on Inside Women’s Magazine, Solobasket.com and BasketMe.com. In 2012, he was the FIBA Europe freelance writer at the U16 European Championship Women – Division A. Follow him on @luis_cristovao
Note: Special thanks to Amador Malpelo and Austen Powers for helping me with their insights.