The first tournament of the 2009/2010 edition of the NIJT Qualification phase has been played once again in Rome. This year, Zalgiris Kaunas totally dominated this first stage of the competition as they won every game by at least 15 points. Here we go for the first part of the detailed analysis of the main players of the tournament.
Rolandas Jakstas (1m98 – Forward – 1992 – Zalgiris Kaunas)
The Lithuanian forward won the MVP trophy of the tournament as he was on the court the standout of a team that featured a whole bunch of talented players. The decision went to Jakstas as he produced not only interesting numbers but because he also had probably the largest impact on his teams’ great play. Playing most of the time at the PF position with being listed at only 1m98, the future of Jakstas in high-level basketball is one of the questions that can however be raised.
|Rolandas Jakstas earning the MVP trophy of the tournament|
First of all, Jakstas is very present in the paint through his excellent athletic abilities. He has the knack for grabbing rebounds, and next to the basics of a good boxing out, he does this with authority and high up in the air. His presence on defense is important as he is also an excellent shot blocker, especially when coming from the weak side. Physically, he still can develop but he has already an excellent frame, large shoulders and speed to build on. As mentioned above, being only 1m98 tall can be a handicap when he does not develop a more small forward oriented game as he barely plays out of the three-point line at the moment.
In the offense, Jakstas plays mainly in the post where he can use his speed and athletic abilities to dominate. He scores through jump hooks of his right hand which he can use either immediately on receiving the ball or after one to two dribbles. He can also face his opponent and beat him of the drive with both hands. However, he has a clear preference for his right hand and does not use his left hand to finish often. His jump shot is not very stable at the moment, he can hit it from around the key but he did not use it that much in Rome. A regular three-point shot was not present in his game, he occasionally takes one but it is not his major offensive weapon at this stage.
What made Jakstas the MVP of the tournament was his outstanding presence on defense for a team that mainly lived through its excellent defensive job twhich gave them a multitude of fast breaks that were perfectly executed by players running the correct lines and ways without any hesitation. Jakstas stood out through his excellent athletic presence and several big finishes on the break. The team has never been in real danger of losing a game, so it was impossible to see if he can improve his game in crucial situations.
Stats: 10.3ppg (68.4% 2FG), 8.5rpg, 1.0bpg
Dovydas Redikas (1m93 – Guard – 1992 – Akademija Vilnius)
Dovydas Redikas was the second member of the Zalgiris Kaunas team that got honored in Rome as the Akademija Vilnius player was elected in the All-Tournament team. Redikas is a player that excels in the open court, running the fast break. And with the system played by the Lithuanians, he had all possibilities to show his great all-around talent. Next to his scoring, Redikas provided some great defense, especially in the passing lanes where he averaged 2.3spg in just 20 minutes per game. Because of the major inside presence of the Lithuanians, Redikas did not need to go hard to the boards in the defensive positions.
Offensively, Redikas attacks fearlessly the basket, mainly over his right hand. He can finish it strong against the defense by going for power lay-ups but he has also an excellent touch when finishing on sweet finger rolls over the defense. Redikas is a very elegant player in all of his moves, his three-point shot looks also very fluid. What is interesting to see though is that Redikas barely went to the free-throw line in Rome. This was different last year in the NIJT Qualification tournaments where he turned at 3.3FT attempts per game while in Rome he only shot 6 FTs in 4 games.
Together with Tomas Lekunas who was also present in Rome for Zalgiris Kaunas, Redikas will play at the Hospitalet Tournament according to the official roster for Lietuvos Rytas.
UPDATE (3-1-2010) Zalgiris Kaunas informed us today that both players will not play for Lietuvos Rytas in Hospitalet.
Stats: 12.3ppg (58.6% 2FG), 2.5rpg, 3.3apg, 2.3spg, 1.3topg
Alessandro Gentile (1m97 – Guard – 1992 – Benetton Treviso)
Alessandro Gentile was probably the player that generated the most interest in Rome. The Italian guard, son of the former Lottomatica Roma Coach Nando Gentile, has already seen major minutes with the Benetton Treviso professional team so that he was easily considered as one of the top players for the Junior competition. And Gentile did not disappoint as he managed to go for an incredible 37.5ppg in the two games he played and helped his team to qualify for the final. An injury several seconds before the end of the 2nd game he played meant however the end of his tournament. This overtime victory over CSKA Moscow was so the only game where I could see him play.
|An injured Alessandro Gentile earned All-Tournament team selection|
So what to say about a player who scored nearly 45% of the points of his own team? What to say about a player who led his team to a victory over the multiple-NIJT-champion FMP Belgrade? What to say about a player who nearly finished top-scorer (of total scored points) in a 4-games tournament by playing only 2 of them? He is a outstanding offensive force on this level and has even at the professional level an important scoring impact at the age of 17 (he only turned 17 in November); mainly in a different role though but using the same qualities of shooter he displayed in Rome.
Gentile knows how to play basketball. He has an excellent shot, is physically strong for playing mainly the guard positions, knows how to post-up, can drive and stop for the jump shot, has good range and wants to win games. He recognizes game situations pretty well, seeing the help and doing the right choices on these plays by either stop his penetration or dishing the ball to the open man. Even if his decision making is not always perfect as he forces the game to come into his hands despite other players being hot, nobody could blame him afterwards for these situations as he scored all the important baskets to win the game against CSKA Moscow.
Gentile plays the game at his own rhythm. He slowed down the pace in the set plays and held the ball in his hands for long stretches. The team play of Benetton lacked of fluidity with him on the court as he monopolized the ball to set-up his one-on-one situations, especially in the crucial moments of the game. His body language has already improved to last year but he still looks frustrated after every turnover. Looking at the talent level alone, he was however probably the best player of the tournament and with him not being injured, Zalgiris Kaunas would have faced a tough task in the Final. For me, Benetton Treviso is a clear Wildcard candidate for the NIJT Finals in Paris, because of Alessandro Gentile.
Stats: 37.5ppg (55.1% 2FG 27.3% 3FG 16/24FTs), 4.5rpg, 2.0apg, 3.5spg, 4.5topg
Armin Mazic (1m98 – Guard – 1993 – Benetton Treviso)
Armin Mazic was more or less the number two of the Benetton Treviso team, but the Croatian native had a very important role in the team. It was him that brought Benetton back on track when Gentile was on the bench versus Moscow for example. However, he forces a lot and his decision making is improvable. Mazic is 1m98 tall and mainly played SG for Benetton but his natural position for the future will be PG in my opinion. He needs the ball in his hands and during the stretches where Gentile was monopolizing the ball for Benetton, Mazic was only waiting to get the pass. When he got it, he took a forced shot and made another difficult choice. But still, being born in 1993, his learning process of the highest level has only begun (he played no European Youth Championships so far) and with his skill set, he can develop into a very interesting player in the future.
In fact, Mazic excels in Pick-and-Roll play. With his ball handling skills and especially his excellent court-vision, he can create a lot out of these situations. His passes are lightning quick out of the dribble and very precise with both hands. Unfortunately, the inside players of Treviso could not use his nice dishes to finish in the paint which would have given him a much better average on assists. On his drives, he has no problem to go until the rim and finish close to the basket. His size is a major advantage in these situations. Close to the basket, he can finish with both hands which underlines the all-around good fundamentals.
His three point shot is not very stable at the moment. He can fire it up without any hesitation and is not afraid to do this also from long distances. However, his shot selection is far from being perfect and when he catches fire, he is forcing the decision with three point shots a bit too much instead of bringing his potential large variety in the game. But still being only 16, this is not the biggest issue at the moment. He has already a nice arsenal of back-to-basket moves too as he can post up smaller guards on offense. He lacks however the leader qualities at the moment to impose himself in his team but can be considered as one of the most talented guards of the 93 generation.
Stats: 11.8ppg (40.6% 2FG, 26.1% 3FG), 3.5rpg, 2.5apg, 1.8spg
Ojars Silins (1m98 – Forward – 1993 – BJSC DSN)
The Latvian forward, who played the tournament with the hosts of Stella Azzurra, won the top scorer award. The 1993 born wing displayed probably one of the quickest shot releases in the whole tournament despite having mechanics that do not really look perfect. However, his potential to shot from anywhere on the court with ease is probably his most obvious asset. Being used a lot as SF or even as PF during moments, Silins did a nice job on Pick-and-Pop situations where he could connect immediately the three point attempt when getting the ball at the top.
As soon as the defenses adjust to his outside shooting, he can use his drive to beat the defense on the dribble and either go until the basket or go for some running jump shots. He did not show often a clear straight jump shot out of the dribble from mid-range but some kind of fade-away runners that he nailed however with good precision. He likes to attack with his left hand to the middle and can score close to the basket where he uses his long arms to avoid the block shot. His still thin physical appearance did not help him in those situations though and he had some trouble when the opposing team present some physical inside presence.
Silins helped his team a lot in the defensive rebound where he was very present through both good positioning and boxing out and interesting explosiveness. His understanding of the game looks pretty interesting despite being a bit naive (normal for his age) on some situations, but he was an excellent transfer passer on side swings. Because of his excellent shooting from outside, he needs to be guarded hard which opens good spaces for his team mates to attack the basket for either a layup score or a drive and dish to the open outside shot. Right now, Silins is still a member of the Latvian team of Keizarmezs but we heard that some Italian teams have shown interest in him. We will keep you updated on his future.
Stats: 20.5ppg (50% 2FG 16/30 3FG), 5.3rpg
The second part of the Città di Roma tournament report will feature players from FMP Belgrade, Montepaschi Siena, CSKA Moscow and Benetton Fribourg.