With the NBA Draft in the books, the excitement will continue throughout the summer with the different European Youth Championships. Europeanprospects.com will be present in Metz for the U18 Division A tournament as well as in Kaunas for the U16 Division A competition. Here we go for a first preview on the U20 and the U18 European championships to be played in July.
U20 European Championships
The A Division Tournament will be played in Rhodos from 16th to 26th July. So it is just enough time to bring in the most talented players of the U19 World Championship that is played in New Zealand from 2nd to 12th of July. A team that is probably hurt by the absence of these players the most is Lithuania as major players of the U20 preliminary squad also compete in New Zealand: Donatas Motiejunas, Vytenis Cizauskas and Tautvydas Slezas. The main competition the Lithuanians will face in their qualification group will probably by Turkey. The Turkish team is led by the US bound Dogus Balbay (Texas) and Deniz Kiliçli (West Virginia) and will get the necessary scoring support of Melih Mahmutoglu.
Spain is as always considered as a medal contender because they can built strongly on the core of last year’s team, except top player Victor Claver of course. But the emergence of players like Pablo Aguilar or the newly added Spanish passport player Mamadou Samb give the team of coach Aranzana an interesting front court. The main opposition in their group comes probably from Russia that have won the prestigious Domegge tournament last week. PG Dimitry Khvostov and SF Semen Shashkov may the most prominent names but scoring guard Maxim Grigoryev had some interesting games in Italy and may be one of the surprises in Greece.
Group B will be very interesting with Greece, Italy and France in it. Greece will miss their most interesting players as they compete in NZ with the U19 team. Italy has a competitive team without an outstanding star in this generation while France is probably really competitive as they have a very interesting core of players in the 1989 generation around Thomas Heurtel, Antoine Diot or Kevin Seraphin. Another interesting player in their preliminary squad is Wyoming-bound Amath M’Baye who raised some eyebrows during the Douai tournament 2008 with the Adidas Nations Africa Team.
Probably one of the strongest groups is D with Serbia, Croatia, Ukraine and Germany. While Serbia will be built around Milan Macvan, Dusan Katnic and Stefan Stojacic and is probably a serious title contender, the surprise may come from Germany that will be in Rhodos with their highly talented 1989 generation around Tibor Pleiss, Elias Harris and Robin Benzing. For Croatia, it will depend which players from the 1990 generation will join the team after the WC in New Zealand.
In the B division, that will be played in Skopje, the most interesting teams will be most likely Georgia around Giorgi Shermadini and Nika Metreveli or the Czech Republic with Jan Vesely.
U18 European Championships
The Division A will be played in Metz/France from 23rd July to the 2nd August. The tournament looks really interesting with a high number of talented players. Group A immediately has some very talented squads like the Czech Republic around Tomas Satoransky, a Serbian team that will be led by Center Dejan Musli and France that will try to use the home advantage to win a medal. The French team just came of three wins against Germany in their preparation phase and will try to confirm their strong tournament in Vilagarcia in April. Finally Slovenia will feature their scoring guard Mirza Sarajlija but will probably lack the necessary inside guys to be competitive.
In the 2nd group, Spain looks like the strongest team displaying some promising players like Alberto Jodar or the 1992 born Joan Tomas or Miguel Servera. They can check their current playing level against Germany as both teams meet in Spain for a double test next weekend. Germany looks interesting in this group too despite the absence of Niels Giffey because of a Mononucleosis. The team will probably be very young with several 1992 born players around the massive Philipp Neumann. Croatia will also compete for the top position in this group with Toni Prostran or Ivan Batur being the leaders of the team. Ukraine will feature Andriy Lebedintsev as defensive and scoring leader.
Turkey will bring a real title contender to France this year with Enes Kanter, Maxim Can Mutaf or Furkan Aldemir to name just some of the players. They showed their playing level recently by winning the Baltic Cup in Latvia and beating the hosts, Estonia and Lithuania. They will play Latvia again in France but will also meet Greece and Bulgaria.While Bulgaria showed in the two recent defeats against Israel that they probably won’t be too big of a contender, Greece and Latvia will probably fight for the 2nd spot in the group.
The last group is composed of Israel, Italy, Lithuania and Russia. The Lithuanians will be built around their aggressive back court players Augustas Peciukevicius, Mantas Kadzevicius and wings Osvaldas Matulionis while the inside play will be done by Jonas Valanciunas. Despite their defeats in the Baltic Cup against Turkey and more badly Estonia, Lithuania should be able to reach the medal round this July. But they need first to overcome an Italian team featuring some interesting talent like Alessandro Gentile, Riccardo Moraschini or Simone Centanni. Italy will however miss two of their best players in Nicolo Melli and Tommaso Ingrosso due to injuries. Russia is more or less unknown to me.
The B Division tournament will be played in Sarajevo. Estonia made some statements in the preparation by beating Latvia and Lithuania with their very balance squad around Martin Dorbek and 1992 born Rannar Raap. Georgia is always interesting to see especially if they bring Toko Shengelia.Bosnia Herzegovina will be another team to follow because of Miralem Halilovic who showed his talent in Treviso one month ago. Switzerland may win some more games this year as their strongest players are from the talented 1992 born generation around Stefan Petkovic and Jonathan Kazadi while a nice surprise may come from Iceland that dominated the recent Nordic Championships behind Haukur Palsson performances.