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FIBA U19 World Championship 2011: the Bigs

July 26th, 2011 · No Comments

The tournament is over for quite some time but I managed to finish my report on the Big guys only today. So here we go for a review of the most interesting inside players including an updated on the Toronto Raptors drafted Lithuanian Center Jonas Valanciunas.

Przemyslaw Karnowski – 2m15 – Center – Poland – 1993

The tournament was a bit of so-so for the Polish Center who looked to have improved a lot his physical shape but he could not show a good shooting touch or his passing skills during the games we followed. As said, the most important part in his development though is his improving athleticism even if he has still a long way to go. You could see Karnowski going up several times for big two handed dunks, even without being in the run and he felt comfortable doing so as he tried even some tough jams over the defense. This is a good sign as we did not remember him being that aggressive attacking the basket.

The Polish Center had some problems during the tournament to find his shooting rhythm. His mid-range jump shot did not fall and he struggled at times to finish his moves in the low post. Even if he got a bit faster in the execution, he remains slow overall but with his newly gained vertical presence, he has developed into a serious shot blocker in the low post. His scoring comes mostly from the low post as well where he has a good arsenal of offensive moves to get open but he sometimes struggles to convert them. The left handed player is however on the right track in his overall development in our eyes and is one of the few real high-level back-to-the-basket players in the making right now.

Stats: 13.2ppg (45.1% 2FGs – 52.9% FTs), 6.2rpg, 0.9apg, 1.6bpg

Jonas Valanciunas – 2m10 – Center – Lithuania – 1992

Rarely, a player has dominated a Youth World Championship like Jonas Valanciunas did in Riga this summer. The Lithuanian Center was clearly the best player of the tournament and nobody was able to stop him in any situation. Everything has in fact already been said about the future Toronto Raptor but let’s do a quick round-up of his potential that he easily underlined during this U19 World Championship.

The first thing to start with is of course the athleticism and physical presence of Valanciunas. Unmatched on this level, the Lithuanian big guy has great athletical skills, running the court up and down and being a very quick jumper. This makes him terrifically effective in the offensive rebound where he can go for several quick tip-in attempts. After receiving the pass, he goes up easily for the dunk, even with defense on him but he is also able to finish on the difficult lay-in with the foul. Valanciunas is superbly effective when he can play with a great PG running the Pick-and-Roll situations as he knows where to run and is a great finisher when receiving the pass.

When receiving the ball in a set play in the low post, Valanciunas can either play it with the back to the basket or face the defender. Against this competition, he has not too many problems to bang down low to get closer to the rim and finish with the jump hook or the dunk. This does not work though against Senior competition as he misses some kilos to work against the bigger Center players. But as he can face the basket and attack it with putting the ball on the floor, he can vary his offensive play according to what the defense gives him. He likes to attack over the baseline to finish on the lay-back moves where he is particularly effective for example.

You can also see him often around the three-point line in order to open situations for his team mates through hand-off situations. He rarely uses those for the fake and attack of the basket which is something he might do on a more regular basis in the future. Overall, his offensive decision making is rather regular as you rarely see Valanciunas coming up with the crazy or un-thought-of move.

During the tournament in Riga, he sometimes took the mid-range jump shot but was not very successful with it. This should however become a regular offensive threat for him in the future in our opinion as he shows terrific efficiency from the free-throw line for a young big man. Shooting more than 80% from the charity stripe is simply amazing and makes the defensive work on him very tough as a foul is nearly always two points.

Next to his great accuracy from the free-throw line, it is on the defensive end where Valanciunas was the biggest factor in this tournament. Being a permanent shot blocking threat for anyone approaching the basket, the 2m10 tall right-hander does a great job going up straight to reject the ball in a way that even his team mates can run the fast break. Additionally, he has an interesting lateral quickness that makes him very effective on hedging the Pick-and-Roll situations or even after a switch with a guard. We remember several situations where he pressured guards so hard that they turned the ball over.

Overall, you can admit that Jonas Valanciunas was easily the best individual player of the tournament. During the days in Riga, there has always been the discussion if he should not have gone higher in the Draft, especially as the Cleveland Cavaliers selected an inside player just in front of him. We do not know what the level of Tristan Thompson is but we have rarely seen a young European inside player with this kind of skills and physical presence over the last years.

Stats: 23.0ppg (59.5% 2FGs – 81.1% FTs), 13.9rpg, 1.0apg, 3.2bpg

Rolandas Jakstas – 2m00 – PF – Lithuania – 1992

The Lithuanian big guy had an important role during the final phase of the tournament where he stepped up with great rebounding and aggressive play. With his quick jumps and fighting spirit, he created several second chances for his team. Jakstas also nailed some open three-point shots but you could clearly see that this was not his main option. He prefers to attack the basket hard and dunk on people. The forward has a good first step when using his right hand but he clearly needs to improve his shot when he wants to play on the next level.

Stats: 5.1ppg (45.7% 2FGs – 28.6% 3FGs – 37.5% FTs), 2.5rpg, 1.5apg

Marcos Delia – 2m06 – PF/C – Argentina – 1992

One of the players that impressed a lot of people during the final phase was the Argentinian big guy Marcos Delia. Incredibly fluid and elegant in his offensive moves, Delia provided an excellent scoring potential for the South American team with a variety of moves and fakes. Out of the low post, he can finish with the jump hook using either hand but also face the defender and attack him on the drive. He reads very well what the defense gives him and acts according to that. Putting the ball on the floor to beat his defender was an option for him as well and he could finish these moves with tough lay-ups or lay-backs. However, his overall shooting touch looked only correct as it has also been underlined by his poor free-throw shooting percentages.

Another key characteristic of Delia’s game is his good court vision and excellent passing skills. Not only that he can find the open man on the cut or for the kick out, he knows where to pass the ball out of the low-post or the double team in order to create better offensive settings for his team. He is a good option as a high-post passer for high-low situations as well and knows how to play the weak side pass out of the low post. Next to his offensive potential, Delia is a terrific defender as well. He has good lateral speed and can hold a wing player in front of him. He does not really suffer against physical low post players even if he is not the largest player on the court. Being a great rebounder and shot blocker because of good athletic abilities, he should be able to develop as a real Power Forward in the future as he has the defensive possibility to do so. He just needs to improve his shooting in the next years and Delia can develop into a very interesting player down the road.

Stats: 10.8ppg (44.9% 2FGs – 45.0% FTs), 7.8rpg, 1.3apg, 1.4bpg

Boris Barac – 2m06 – PF – Croatia – 1992

The top scorer of the Croatian team was PF Boris Barac. Having grown a few centimeters since last year, the brother of Stanko has developed into a shooting specialist from outside without being really present in the paint for scoring. Barac likes to play from outside, for example after Pick and Pop situations where he either attacks the basket on the dribble or takes the three-point shot. Despite having a good first step, you have the feeling that his preference goes for the three-point shot even if only one third of his field goal attempts came from behind the arc. Barac currently sees already some serious minutes in Adriatic League competition for his Bosnian team of Siroki which gave him an experience boost and knowledge how to play against physically stronger players.

Stats: 18.7ppg (46.5% 2FGs – 37.5% 3FGs – 72.3% FTs), 6.9rpg, 1.6apg

Nemanja Besovic – 2m21 – C – Serbia – 1992

The tallest player of the tournament showed on the one hand some promise but also his well known deficits. Besovic has in fact a good touch but overall his moves are quite slow. This puts him often in trouble to finish his moves as smaller defenders can steal the ball from him as he is not able/used to finish his moves immediately after a high catch and often has to take the ball down before the score. The 2m21 tall inside player can finish with some hook shots from close but overall, his finishes look a bit too soft as he often goes to the layup instead of the dunk. On the defensive end, he has a certain presence in terms of shot blocking but he is a poor rebounder for a player of his size. Additionally, Besovic can not guard shorter inside players that beat him easily on the dribble. Besovic is still a young player and normally, players of his size mature very slowly. This has always be in mind when analyzing him for future potential.

Stats: 7.0ppg (47.8% 2FGs – 73.1% FTs), 3.6rpg, 0.7bpg

Marko Gujanicic – 2m02 – PF/SF – Serbia – 1992

Gujanicic is not the player that you can define through his statistics. The Serbian stretch-forward was mostly used as a rotation on the PF position but he showed that he can be used on different positions because of his defensive presence. He did an excellent job on the defensive end where he is quick enough to guard SF but has also the necessary physical power to stop players in the low post.

Offensively, Gujanicic did not force anything and had an overall polished game. He scored from outside but could also put the ball on the floor to attack the basket. Out of the low post, he scored on some jump hooks and was also a nice offensive rebound presence. Gujanicic showed as well some creative passing skills out of the spin move on the drive or on the fast break where he came up with the occasional touch pass to open up a team mate. The 2m02 tall player will be at Stoneridge Prep next season and he should get a lot of interest from mid-major schools as a valuable and immediately usable asset in the 2012 Class.

Stats: 8.8rpg (62.9% 2FGs – 29.2% 3FGs – 66.7% FTs), 5.6rpg

Luka Mitrovic – 2m04 – PF – Serbia – 1993

Another Serbian option in the paint was Luka Mitrovic. Not very lucky with his attempts during the semis and Final, Mitrovic had his best game of the tournament against Australia in the Last8 round. Pretty athletic for European standards, the player from Hemofarm has a quick second jump which helps him to be a major factor on the offensive glass out of which he created most of his scoring. Mitrovic has a good touch around the rim and knows how to use his length to get some scores in the paint. A year younger than the competition, we hope to get more on him during the current U18 European Championship that we will cover later this week.

Stats: 7.4ppg (61.9% 2FGs – 66.7% FTs), 4.3rpg

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