Over the past few weeks, I checked out the performances of some of the Europeans currently playing NCAA College basketball. The selection I made is not putting them in any order and is far from being complete but it covers those guys that I had the opportunity to see. So any additional comments by readers that have seen these players more often than me are welcome.
Kristof Ongenaet (2m03 – PF – Syracuse – 1985 Senior – Belgium)
If your team needs a hustle guy, check out Kristof Ongenaet. The Belgian inside player has a very special background as he passed by the small Junior College of Cuesta JC and signed afterwards with the prestigious Syracuse. Ongenaet is currently being used as defensive power player in order to close the paint and dive for lose balls or offensive rebounds. Being too short to play at C, Ongenaet is however extremely present in the paint and is working extremely hard on every ball.
Dogus Balbay (1m83 – PG – Texas – 1989 Sophomore – Turkey)
The Turkish PG has made a different career development decision than most of his fellow players and moved to the United States for his HS Senior year. After having lost one season due to an injury and suspension, Balbay starts now to adapt to the level of the Big 12 and has taken over the starting PG job at Texas since mid-February. He has bulked up his upper body in order to play against the very athletic guards of the conference, having lost maybe a bit of his speed.
Offensively, his game is still based on drives, drives and drives. His long distance shot is still non-existing and he even struggles from the FT line being below 40% over the season so far. He is being let open above the FT by the defense which takes him away his good drive. But still, he manages to create of his penetration and he can go for some acrobatic lay-ups as we were used to see by from him with the different Turkish youth teams. He looks also more under control right now and does not go for every drive possibility being more relax and looking for the open team mates. The lost year seems now forgotten but Balbay absolutely needs to work his shot in order to become a serious player for the high level.
Rihards Kuksiks (1m98 – SF – Arizona State – 1988 Sophomore – Latvia)
A player who has developed very well over this season is the Latvian shooter Rihards Kuksiks. Showing an interesting size for playing the SG, Kuksiks is essentially used as SF or even PF by his Arizona State team. His progress in defense may be a reason for this but it can also create some offensive match-up situations. But the main reason to follow Kuksiks is his three point shooting ability.
So far, he is scoring more than 46% of his long distance attempts which shows his great progress in this area in terms of confidence. His shots come mostly in catch-and-shot situations as he is not the guy to create the space himself by penetrating. Excellent player to attack the zone, Kuksiks loves the receive the ball and fire it up immediately. He is definitely a player to follow for a future shooter role on the Euroleague level.
Nikola Dragovic (2m06 – PF – UCLA – 1987 Junior – Serbia)
The Serbian forward, who I last saw with the U20 NT in 2007 in Slovenia is doing a good job right now at UCLA and is getting more and more minutes as a wing scorer, especially from the three point line. Dragovic is not the guy that creates his own open three, but he is living more of the creation of his team mates. He excels in these catch and shoot or pick and pop situations when he gets the ball for the long shot.
With his good size, he works on the offensive glass too where he is quite explosive of two feet. It will be interesting to see how he develops over his last year at UCLA in 2009/10 and it would not be a surprise to find him afterwards in some EL team as rotation guy.
Daniel Hackett (1m96 – PG – USC – 1987 Junior – Italy)
Well, Daniel Hackett is not the player I personally like, but the Italian guard is going his way. Playing mostly as a PG, with great size and good athleticism, he can dominate his defender when posting him up down low. Hackett is a guy, that is always in the hot situations on the court and not afraid to talk to everybody and use his elbows. He needs the ball in his hands and wants to take the big shots.
On the offensive end, you can see him drive of his right hand a lot despite being left-handed. He can hit the jump shot out of those drives, even in the step back of fade away style. Not that much of a three point shooter, he can hit the open shots when getting a good pass. In his role as a PG, he is more like a scoring guard than a pass-first players. Having one year ahead of him, he may develop his playmaking skills a bit more in order to become a more complete player for his entrance to the professional level in 2010.
Nikola Vucevic (2m08 – PF/C – USC – 1990 Freshman – Montenegro)
A few words about this young man who joined USC this summer. Vucevic is the son of Borislav Vucevic who had an extensive career in Belgium. Nikola is playing essentially in a role as hustle guy in the paint to grab offensive boards and block shots. Being only a Freshman, his time on the court is of course limited so I can not tell a lot more about him than this.
Terrence Oglesby (1m88 – SG – Clemson – 1988 Sophomore – Norway)
Terrence Oglesby is Norwegian, at least he played for the Norwegian U20 NT this summer. So I followed him a bit throughout this season and the Sophomore guard from Clemson is an important factor for his team. His role is essentially the scoring one, where he excels in running through the screens to come up with long distance shots. Being only in his second year at Clemson, Oglesby will probably develop into one of the best shooters in all College basketball over the next two years. Unfortunately, his size limits him a bit for the next level to play on the SG position so he has to develop more of PG skills in order to play on the highest professional level.
Jeffery Taylor (2m01 – SF – Vanderbilt – 1989 Freshman – Sweden)
The Swedish Forward is showing a lot of promise for his Freshman year at Vanderbilt. His great athleticism , wingspan and defensive pressure makes him one of the players to follow closely over his four years. Additionally, he is scoring nicely in double figures which is already a terrific achievement for him being in his first year only. Not that much of a shooter, Taylor can handle the ball very well and likes to drive it on one-on-one situations and is not afraid to run the break.