European Prospects

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Finland’s U18 team gets NBA reinforcement

March 29th, 2010 · 1 Comment

I spoke about it already a few days ago on my Twitter account, Gordon Herbert has been named as U18 National Team head coach. Our friend Hippo has sent us an interesting piece about the background of this surprising move and gives us also information on who are probably the main contributors for Herbert’s Finnish U18 selection.

Finnish Basketball Federation announced last Friday that Finnish League team Kouvot’s head coach Jukka Toijala will leave his position as Finland’s boys U18 national team head coach to join Henrik Dettmann and Pekka Salminen in the men’s national team coaching staff. While the move was an expected one for 37-year old Toijala, U18 team signed possibly an even more interesting head coach: Gordon Herbert.

The 51-year old Herbert left his homeland Canada to play in the Finnish League in the early 1980s and received his Finnish citizenship around ten years later. Herbert began his coaching career in Finland in 1995 and signed with Austrian Eurocup team Oberwart Gunners in 1999. Afterwards, Herbert has coached DJK Würzburg (Germany), Deutsche Bank Skyliners (Germany), Paris Basket Racing (France), Pau-Orthez (France), the Georgian National Team and Aris Thessaloniki (Greece) in Europe from 1999-2008 before joining Sam Mitchell in 2008/09 as the assistant coach of Toronto Raptors.

Herbert suffered a back injury right after the 2008/09 season and after spending the whole summer 2009 rehabbing himself, Herbert signed a one-year coaching contract with Finnish League team Honka Playboys. Herbert coached Honka to Finnish Cup championship in December but left the team in late January 2010 because of back pains.

While everyone knows that Finnish junior national teams haven’t exactly had too much success lately, Herbert just might be the most qualified junior national team coach in whole Europe in 2010. And the age group of 1992/1993 born Finns isn’t too bad, either. The fact that his son Mikael is one of the potential players of this generation may be one of the reasons why he took over this position.

Here’s some facts about some of the players Herbert gets to work with this upcoming summer:

Osku Heinonen – 1m94 – 1992 – SG/SF – Tamperen Pyrinto

Heinonen is a very fundamental player and a natural scorer with a picture perfect jump shot. He isn’t too athletic or quick but works very hard and is willing to improve.

Stats Finnish U19 League: 28.3mpg 19.9ppg (59.1% 2FG, 36.4% 3FG, 70,4% FT) 6.4ppg 2.1spg

Markus Molenius – 2m02 – 1992 – SF – Jarvenpaan Koripalloseura

He is the prototype of on/off-player and isn’t too good fundamentally, but brings a lot to the court with his hustle. Molenius can be rather invisible but he also possesses the ability to change the tune of the game with his steals, drives and dunks.

Stats: 28.0mpg 14.1ppg (56.3% 2FG 25.4% 3FG 72.5% FT) 7.2rpg 1.5spg  0.5apg

Villematti Kopio – 1m81 – 1992 – SG/PG – Honka Akatemia

Kopio is a cold-blooded scorer and a very reliable shooter. He was voted the MVP of Baltic Sea Cup tournament in Tallinn in January 2009 after three high-scoring games. Kopio lacks size and speed and his release is a bit slow, but he hits open shots effectively and can find the open man.

Stats: 25.0mpg 13.4ppg (42.9% 2FG 27.6% 3FG 71.0% FT) 3.9rpg 2.1apg  1.4spg

Joonas Caven – 2m07 – 1993 – PF/C/SF – Tamperen Pyrinto

In my books, Caven is Finland’s most interesting prospect right now. Caven’s low post moves are scarily effective and even though his lack of weight and muscle is right now an issue, he has impressed everyone with his fundamentals. This might be a risky thing to say, but he reminds me a lot of young Hanno Möttölä.

Stats: 21.1mpg 8.6ppg (58.1% 2FG 17.6% 3FG 69.0% FT) 5.9rpg 0.9bpg 0.8spg

Daniel Dolenc – 2m04 – 1993 – PF/C – Espoo Basket Team

Dolenc is physically very developed and in Finnish youth leagues, he pretty much throws people around with his strenght. In international games, Dolenc performs well against stronger guys and can score very well in the low post, thanks to his junior coach and former Finnish national team power forward Sakari Pehkonen.

Stats: 27.2mpg 15.9ppg (51.0% 2FG 70.5% FT) 10.8rpg, 1.2bpg 0.8spg 0.6apg 

Kalle Naapi – 1m87 – 1993 – SG – Honka Akatemia

Naapi is a quick slasher who is struggling in Finnish U19 league right now because of his lack of strenght in a league filled with mostly 1991 born players. Naapi sees the court very well and excels is both drives and drive-and-kick plays. Once he finds his way to weight room, he will be a very good scorer.

Stats: 23.1mpg 7.7ppg (20.0% 2FG 29.4% 3FG 60.0% FT) 3.0rpg 1.7spg 1.3apg

Mikael Herbert – 2m00 – 1993 – PF/SF – Korihait

Coach Gordon Herbert’s son Mikael only started taking basketball seriously a year or two ago. His hometown team doesn’t have a U18 league team, but Mikael has been practicing with Finnish League men’s team Korihait recently. Mikael is very raw and unpolished, but always seems to be in a right position at the right team and that’s something you can’t teach.

written by Hippo

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