After discussing the main guards of the Albert Schweitzer Tournament 2012, I will take a closer look at the forward from the best eight teams of this year’s edition of the main tournament of the U18 category.
Kevin Harley – 1m97 – SF – France – 1994
Kevin Harley is a nicely athletic and elegant wing player, active in the same team than NBA Draft candidate Evan Fournier. Harley can attack the basket and finish close to the rim, even if he prefers sometimes to go for the difficult lay back instead of the hard dunk from the front. His footwork allows him to go for the spin move on the drive and play the good kick-out pass when he sees the wing man open. But he can not only score from close, the Small Forward is also able to hit the three-point shot or create his own mid-range openings. But his overall shooting accuracy needs some work despite the fluid mechanics. He is not very regular from outside and sometime misses the short jumper inside the paint. But he has a good overall package to work with in the future and will certainly have an interesting impact on the French ProA level soon.
Stats: 9.0ppg (38.5% FGs – 20.0% 3FGs), 2.3rpg, 2.5apg
Louison Thomas – 2m04 – SF/PF – France – 1994
Not the most flashy player, Louison Thomas did an excellent job as a rotation and role player for the French team. Thomas was mainly used in a stretch four role to score from outside. In fact, he took nearly all of his shots from behind the arc from where he was particularly effective. His shot is very fluid and looks perfect from a technical point of view when used in catch and shoot situations. Thomas did not create many shots on his own but was the perfect target for kick outs as he moved very well without the ball. He can run the court nicely as well and is therefore an interesting option on the fast break as well. Overall, he does not do too many errors on the court. However, he lacks the international experience and has never played on a high level so far.
Stats: 5.3ppg (47.4% 3FGs), 2.5rpg
Mihajlo Andric – 2m00 – SF/PF – Serbia – 1994
The Serbian forward was more or less a surprise in the All-Tournament team as he was not really putting up big numbers in Mannheim. But he was a major factor of winning for his team as he was present doing the dirty job on both ends of the court. But not only that, he showed great talent as well but was not so much in the focus as some of his team mates. Andric can alternate between the two forward spots but will most likely have to play SF on the professional level. He has an excellent three-point shot which should help him to be a serious threat from behind the arc. Andric can also put the ball on the floor with either hand and has good handling. He underlined this when he used his left hand to beat his defender and avoided the help with putting the ball on the right side behind his back for the easy finish.
On the defensive end, Andric can play both wing positions as well and is doing an excellent job on the defensive rebound. He knows exactly what is going on and uses his great basketball understanding to draw charges but also to free up his team mates with intelligent sharing of the ball or passing the ball well in high-low situations. The Serbian forward is apparently being followed by several major European teams to our knowledge but it looks that he will stay with Partizan for the next years.
Stats: 9.0ppg (49.0% FGs – 47.8% 3FGs), 5.1rpg
Simone Fontecchio – 1m97 – SF/SG – Italy – 1995
The young Italian swingman showed excellent talent during the days in Mannheim as an impact player on the wing. Fontecchio is a good athlete and plays very vertical for his age and size. He is doing an excellent job putting the ball on the floor and running the fast break. The right-handed player can use also his weak hand for the drive where he likes to change speed in order to create the necessary space for the finish close to the basket. Out of his drives, he is also able to make a good pass and he can finish with either hand from within 2 meters. If he is guarded by a smaller defender, which is often the case when he plays the Shooting Guard spot, Fontecchio likes to post up and score from close. His three point shot is still in the making as the mechanics are quite slow and he does not know yet when to use it in which form. We saw him make a couple of shots in catch and shoot situations but also miss badly when he tried to create an option by himself. Still nearly two years younger (born in December 1995) than the competition, the Italian forward was one of the most promising long-term prospects of the tournament in our eyes.
Stats: 13.5ppg (41.9% FGs – 35.0% 3FGs), 4.0rpg
Paul Zipser – 2m01 – SF/SG/PG – Germany – 1994
The kid from Heidelberg was one of the most versatile players of the whole tournament. Long and being able to play multiple positions, Zipser was clearly the go-to-guy of the German team in this tournament. Gifted with excellent athletic abilities, Zipser was playing mostly as a Small Forward which will most likely be his future position on the professional level. However, he is able to play the Point Guard as well as he has good court-vision and nice ball handling skills for a player of his size. When he has the ball in his hands, Zipser can create his own shot with ease and because of his leaping abilities, he has a very high release point on his jump shot which makes him nearly un-blockable. He likes to get the ball on the three-point line to attack the basket and take the pull up jumper from four to five meters.
When Zipser attacks the basket, he can finish against the big guys as he can play above the rim without any problem. He is not afraid to dunk the ball in traffic or over the big guys either. He sometimes forced his drives a bit too much in the tournament as he wanted to impose himself as the scoring leader of his team. This lead to several unnecessary turnovers but also showed a sometimes questionable shot selection. His three-point shot was not falling on a regular basis which is not too much of a concern though right now. Out of Pick and Roll situations, he has all the possibilities to go either for the quick jumper, the three point shot or the pass. He has the feel for the game to play the perfect bounce pass to the big guy but it is a part of the game that he still has to learn on the highest level.
Defensively, Zipser can become an impressive player as well as he has fantastic shot blocking timing. Multiple times, he came out of nowhere to reject shots against the backboard and change the momentum of the game. His good wingspan helps him in these situations and should also be an asset when playing normal man-to-man. His lateral speed is good but not great which might be a problem if he wants to play guard positions on the next level.
The Heidelberg player is currently in a hard situation concerning his future career steps. Nearly all Bundesliga teams are trying to sign him for next season but he has also offers from the best Division 1 schools in the US. With the tournament, the European teams that did not know him are certainly also taking a closer look at him for their future. Zipser finished his high school now and has all options open for him; it will be up to him to make the right choices together with his family.
Stats: 14.6ppg (42.7% FGs – 22.2% 3FGs), 5.0rpg, 2.3apg, 2.0bpg, 3.4topg
Stefan Wess – 2m03 – SF/PF – Germany – 1994
The big surprise of the German team was Stefan Wess. Nearly unknown also by German followers before the tournament, the 2m03 tall forward played a similar role than Louison Thomas for France. Mainly used as a spot up shooter, Wess also put the ball on the floor several times with different kind of success. He knocked down occasionally the pull up jumper from 4-5 meters but was less successful when he tried to score against the big guys. The forward from Münster showed that he is not afraid to take responsibilities as he scored a very difficult step-back two pointer in the money time of the Bronze Medal game. Next to his offensive shooting arsenal, Wess showed nice defense positioning and lateral speed. Never giving up on the court, it will be interesting to see how far Wess can go as he was the only player of the German team that did not play NBBL so far.
Stats: 5.1ppg (48.4% FGs – 33.3% 3FGs), 3.1rpg, 0.7topg
James Metecan Birsen – 2m05 – SF – Turkey – 1995
Still considered as one of the most promising players in Europe, James Birsen had a so-so tournament in Mannheim and was clearly not the most prolific player of the Turkish team. He shows flashes of brilliance handling the ball, shooting or driving to the basket and looks very elegant playing with his long 2m05. His jump shot looks very fluid and he can take from nearly everywhere on the court in catch and shoot situations but also out of his own dribble. He even played PG during certain moments of the game. However, the negative impression prevailed a bit because Birsen looked extremely passive on the court compared to his team mates. He was more or less just running with them and taking the bites that they left him. This does not mean much in terms of his overall potential but it underlined the impressions that he is not a real leader yet.
Stats: 9.4ppg (39.4% FGs – 33.3% 3FGs), 6.3rpg, 1.7apg, 2.6topg