Today, we are going through the most interesting players of the weekend in Bamberg where played 8 of the best German Youth teams in U19 and U16 category.
Kevin Bright – 1m98 – SG/SF – 1992 – ALBA Urspring
Despite finishing the two days without the biggest numbers around, Kevin Bright was the true MVP of the Top4 in my eyes. After a season plagued by a multitude of minor injuries, the forward from ALBA Urspring reached his full strength last weekend in Bamberg and did not want to use this event to showcase his offensive skill set but put all his effort into a tremendous defensive performance over the two days. He showed that he can both guard smaller and taller players than himself as he nearly shut down the shorter Lars Wendt in the second half of the semi-finals but did the same with the taller Niels Giffey in the Final. Both are very different type of players but Bright managed to defend them very well and was the main factor for the Urspring win.
On the offensive end, Bright did not show that much unless his help was really needed and this was mainly in the decisive moments of both games. In the semi-finals, it was him that knocked down the highly important three-point shots from the corner and from 45 degrees to bring Urspring back in the game. This ability to knock down important shots is a trademark of the 17 year old player as we remember him doing the same for Urspring back in 2008 already. So it was no surprise to see the team running a set play for him to take the shot on the buzzer in the semi-finals which he made from beyond the three point line with a hand in his face.
Offensively, as Bright managed voluntarily his forces for the defensive effort, there is not that much to talk about except that he showed that he can be a true team player and put his individual performance over 40 minutes in the background to serve the team. You could see him going for a lot of extra-passes, kick-outs on his drives or working on the offensive glass where he grabbed one highly important offensive rebound in the closing minutes of the Final to avoid any possible comeback of ALBA Berlin. The goal for Bright is now to go for a 2010/2011 season without any injuries in order to continue his progress before he becomes NCAA eligible in 2011; a way that he will most likely go in one year.
Justin Raffington – 2m06 – PF/C – 1991 – ALBA Urspring
The University of San Francisco recruit played a solid Top4 in Bamberg where he did his job which consisted mainly in rebounding and being an athletic presence in the paint, especially on defense. Raffington looked like he has progressed in his explosiveness and worked in the weighting room over the last moments. Even if he still gets easily out of balance once in the air when being pushed, this looked less important than it was the case for example during the U18 European Championship back in 2009. The absence of any physical specimen of his size in the Top4 was however not giving him a status of dominator in the paint.
Offensively, Raffington remains rather raw when it comes to low post moves. He tries to score by overpowering his opponent when posting them up or goes once or twice for some kind of running hook shot. He has however developed an interesting baseline jump shot out to approximately 3-4 meters which he knocks down regularly. He even took a three point shot at a crucial moment, which was a decision I did not really understand and he missed the shot too. It shows however that he is working on this part of his game to develop a different threat in his offensive arsenal.
Right now, the 2m06 tall scores mainly inside the paint though on offensive rebounds, dishes from his team mates or put backs. He had some quite impressive dunks which he finishes mostly with great power and two hands. He works hard for the good position on the offensive rebound and got a lot of foul calls in his favor against this type of competition that he dominates physically. He makes his free-throws with great accuracy for a big man which confirms his potential as a better jump shooter in the future.
Niels Giffey – 2m00 – SF – 1991 – ALBA Berlin
The Top4 ended with a tragedy in what was the last game for Niels Giffey in the NBBL. The forward of ALBA Berlin, who recovered from a months-long illness and only came back in November 2009, could not overcome the excellent defense of Kevin Bright to raise his playing level and lead ALBA Berlin to a second consecutive title after his MVP performance in 2009. This does not take away from Giffey that he is a rather intriguing prospect as he used his recovery time to improve his already very versatile offensive skill set. He improved his three-point shooting to turn now around 45% from behind the arc.
Combined with his good fundamentals and technique, Giffey shows a great understanding of the game in itself, being able to read what the defense gives him and seeing how to use defensive switches for example at his best. Mainly playing from outside, the 2m00 tall forward can put the ball on the floor with a preference for his right hand and go to finish strong around the basket with very long steps. He can also stop his drive to go to a triple-threat-position for the head fake or the extra pass for one of the cutters.
Defensively, Giffey showed also his versatility as he defended nearly every position. Being used at the top in a 3-2 zone or on the 1-2-2 zone press, he is quick enough laterally to chase the guards to the trap situations in the corners. Additionally, he did an excellent job in the Final in man-man situations against Justin Raffington who he could defend in the low post going for several steals on the entry passes. Giffey added a few highlight-reel type blocks in both games where he came out of nowhere to reject the layup attempts on the fast break. His situation for next season is not clear yet as he has a multitude of offers on the table coming both from NCAA Colleges and Beko Bundesliga teams.
Malte Ziegenhagen – 1m93 – SG – 1991 – ALBA Berlin
Malte Ziegenhagen was an interesting addition for ALBA Berlin this season as the 1m93 tall guard gave the team a perimeter threat that was missing before. Ziegenhagen is what you would call a real shooter, being able to take the shot nearly from everywhere on the court. He seems to have an excellent touch and can also create his own shot of the dribble when going for the mid-range pull-up. But he is also not afraid to go to the hoop strong and finish the drive close to rim, even with the foul and off both hands. Ziegenhagen had an excellent game in the semi-finals where he lead ALBA Berlin during the minutes where Giffey was on the bench because of foul trouble.
In the finals tough, Ziegenhagen was unable to hit his shots and had also some trouble to go for his drives against the more athletic players of Urspring. He remains however a very aggressive scorer on the SG position as he attacks the basket very well when the defense tries to take away his shot. He needs however to become a better passer to be more versatile on his drives as right now, he mainly goes for his own score when attacking the basket. But his main skill remains his outside shot which he can take very well when coming of the screen to go for a catch-and-shoot or when receiving the ball on kick-outs where he can transform the attempt even when getting bad passes.
A considerable advantage of Ziegenhagen is his presence on defense. He is not afraid to put a body in the lane to take the charge, something that he is doing extremely well. The guard also knows how to get the call by the typical European exaggeration on the push when defending laterally and can be an interesting possession changer with this asset. He gives a relentless effort on defense but despite being excellent on getting the offensive foul, he may not be a real defensive stopper because of his only average athletic abilities. Ziegenhagen is currently looking for a Division 1 scholarship in the United States. You can find a highlight video of his 2009/2010 season right here.
Lars Wendt – 1m90 – SG – 1992 – Paderborn Baskets
The guard from Paderborn had probably one of the most amazing shows of the weekend with a first half effort in the semi-finals where he nearly created a 14 point all by himself. Wendt mishandled the Urspring guards with his mix of long distance shots and drives where nobody could stop him without a foul. He drew 8 fouls in just 17 minutes on the court and made 10 out of his 14 free-throw attempts in the first half. In the second half though, he could not continue on this level once he got defended by the taller and more athletic Kevin Bright.
However, Lars Wendt showed in the first half that when he plays under control, he is one of the most interesting scorers of the NBBL and with one year left in the German youth league, it would not be a surprise to see him lead his team back together with his twin brother Ole to a third Top4 in a row. The SG features an excellent and quick three-point shot that he can take straight or out of balance. He did not force the shot in the first half and showed that he is doing a great job as well when driving to the basket for the mid-range play with the dish or the jump shot. He looks to be really clever in order to get the foul calls as he likes to go for the little head fake that puts the defender out of balance.
During the semi-final, Wendt did not go for a crazy shot until the last quarter as he gets criticized for often and did also quite a good job on the defensive glass like he did already in the Albert Schweitzer Tournament with the German U18 National Team. The guard from Paderborn needs to get more regular in his shooting accuracy in order to become a constant threat but with his excellent scoring feel, he should be able to get some minutes with the professional team of Paderborn next season in the German ProA League as he is doing his job on defense as well.
Dennis Ogbe – 1m99 – SF/PF – 1991 – Franken Hexer
The athletic forward from Franken Hexer finished a quite nice season with an excellent first half in the semi-finals on Saturday against ALBA Berlin. Ogbe showed his talent combined with a nice understanding of the game and excellent presence on the rebound. Currently, the forward is developing more of a SF game as he was mainly used as a PF so far in his career. He showed that he is ready to take the long distance shot but he could not connect them with high percentages on Saturday. At moments, it looked like he really wanted to hit a three-pointer instead of putting the ball on the floor and attack the basket.
Ogbe can play the drive and even showed a nice pass out of the baseline drive. He reads nicely what the defense gives him, especially when playing off the ball going for backdoor cuts for example. Out of the defensive rebound, he can also go for the coast-to-coast play that he finishes with nice and powerful dunks. But the main work for him remains in his jump shot where he needs to stretch out the arm completely when taking the shot in order to become more regular from outside. He has a nice touch as he showed when being close to the basket but with a better shooting mechanic, he can increase his potential as a future SF prospect.
Defensively, Ogbe is doing a good job in the rebound situations where he uses his above average athletic abilities and good timing to grab a large amount of defensive boards. Franken Hexer used him even also at the top when they played a 3-2 zone over a short stretch. The forward looks to be an interesting prospect down the road when he is able to develop his outside skill-set combined with his athletic abilities. Dennis Ogbe signed a Letter of Intent with Tennessee Tech this weekend and will play for the Golden Eagles in the Ohio Valley Conference next season.
Felix Engel had a great game in the Final where the PG/SG showed excellent shooting from both the mid-range and behind the arc. He had two three pointers in a row against the zone defense to increase the lead and made more shots later on. He likes to drive on his left hand to go for the mid-range jump shot as well despite being right handed. It comes that he ends up a bit out of balance in those situations when going up for the pull. Engel, who is 1m91 tall, is currently looking for a Division 1 scholarship in order to develop his skills. The 1991 born guard from the Urspring Academy is mainly used as a scoring PG with his team right now and can also be a factor on defense as he is rather physical.
Mario Blessing was the second guard from the Urspring academy that I wanted to mention as he did play an interesting final as well where he showed some good scoring talent. The 1992 born member of the U18 National Team can hit the three-pointer when being open or split the defense with his drives. However, the 1m84 tall guard is struggling on the defensive end where his lack of physical presence and rather slow lateral speed put him in some trouble as you could see in the semi-finals against Lars Wendt. However, Blessing is not afraid to go hard and make the big foul when needed and he should progress nicely next season when he is the main PG for the team.
Joey Ney is a player to watch on the ALBA Berlin team as the 1m97 tall guard is born only in December 1992. Ney showed a nice feel for the game and correct shooting from behind the arc. Despite not being the quickest person on earth, the guard manages to create a lot of the dribble where he uses his size and long steps to beat his opponent. He is not afraid to go for the perfect behind the back pass in traffic and it was him who tried to take the lead for ALBA in the Final when both Giffey and Ziegenhagen struggled. Ney can also use his size in the post to play in the low block when guarded by a smaller player and he will certainly be one of the main offensive threats of the ALBA Junior Team next season.
Dominik Malinowski was the glue-guy for a Paderborn Baskets team as the 1991 born guard did nearly everything on the court. Being 1m98 tall and able to play the PG position, Malinowski is very interesting player as he offers a good body and a nice basketball skill set. With a scorer like Lars Wendt next to him, Malinowski was not a major offensive threat but he was present in all the other categories but took his responsibilities when needed. He can hit the three pointer in catch-shoot fashion or play the drive to create for his team mates or go himself for the bank shot from 45 degrees. He is also present on both ends of the court for rebounding situations and is definitely a player to watch in the next years.
Daniel Stawowski was one of the few interesting big guys in the Top4 as the 2m05 tall PF showed a nice versatility in his game and being mainly a face-up player attacking the basket from the outside. Stawowski also showed an good shot from outside and the ability to put the ball on the floor. However, his ball handling is improvable as he dribbles the ball quite high and is therefore always at the risk of a turnover. The forward from Franken Hexer can play it also in the low post where he has some back to the basket moves and decent athletic abilities to score close to the basket. An interesting point in Stawowski’s game is his capacity to pass the ball and create opportunities for his team mates.
JBBL Top4 Tournament
The JBBL (under 16 category) Top4 tournament was dominated by IBBA Berlin and their four former “Talente mit Perspektive” players Oben Ebot-Etchi, Robin Jorch, Mauricio Marin and Lennard Boekstegers. We just go over some of these players briefly as they are mostly 15 or 16 years old only and therefore quite difficult to evaluate. However, there was one player that really stood out in my opinion.
Mauricio Marin was the best player of the tournament in my eyes as the smooth and elegant guard of IBBA showed in the two games of the weekend an excellent arsenal of offensive moves and a really interesting long term potential. Marin can score the ball from behind the arc with great shooting (even having an a bit strange release) percentages but as well attack the basket with excellent speed and still create of the dribble for his team mates. Being announced at 1m86, the SG looks even a bit taller right now as the height was probably taken at the beginning of the season. Marin recognizes the game situations very well and can adapt his offensive possessions to what the defense gives him. When his shot was not falling in the Final, he created good open opportunities for his team mates with his drives where he kicked out the ball nicely to the open shooters on the opposite side or had the dish for the open big on the help situations. Right now, Marin mainly goes for his right hand when attacking the basket but as it worked very well throughout the weekend, we could not see if he is able to do the same when going left. He is also a great presence in the defensive rebound on this level and he will be certainly among the leaders this summer for the German U16 National Team.
Robin Jorch was the big guy for IBBA as the 2m01 tall player who will turn 16 in July scored mostly close to the basket due to his positioning and footwork. He finishes very well when being close to the basket and showed also some interesting back to the basket moves when playing in the low post.
Lennard Boekstegers showed a good touch from outside and knocked down a couple of three point shots over the weekend. The forward from IBBA can put the ball on the floor as well and also goes to the low post when being defended by a smaller player.
Oben Ebot-Etchi was the vocal and mental leader of the IBBA team on the court as the 1m83 tall PG showed amazing leadership and decision making for such a young player. Additionally, he was highly present on the defensive end with great lateral speed and a good feeling for stealing the ball. Offensively, he really lead the team but showed also some limits on the jump shot. It will be interesting to see how he develops when he is facing players that match him physically in the NBBL next season.
Andrej Pavicevic played an excellent semi-final where the son of Luka Pavicevic showed great passing skills and excellent decision making in the money time. In the final however, Pavicevic was not really present taking a lot of difficult shots and unable to create good situations for his team mates. The 1m92 tall guard is however an interesting prospect for the next years.
Marley Jean-Louis took over the offensive lead in the Final for ALBA Berlin behind a nice three point shot and a good drive with his right hand. The 1m86 tall SF/SG helped also out on the PG position where he used his rather thick body built to take an advantage in certain situations. It will be interesting to see in which direction Jean-Louis will go in the next years and if he has a future on the PG position or remains a wing player.
Philipp Winter is an athletic wing player who showed excellent timing to steal the ball for TSV Tröster Breitengüssbach. The 1m93 tall player showed also a good versatility on the offensive end where he can hit the three pointer but also go to the low post to play with his back to the basket. His shooting mechanics look not really regular at the moment but he could knock down his attempts nicely. A large knee brace puts however some question marks about his physical abilities for the future.
Terry Thomas was the youngest player that saw some minutes on the tournament as the 1995 born wing was used in a backup role for Breitengüssbach. Thomas did not really show anything special but features a very interesting combination of length and fluidity and will certainly be a player to watch in the next years.
Malik Müller could not really step up for Urspring in the semi-final as the Jordan Brand Classic MVP was unable to score more than 1 point in the first half. He tried to go for more in the second twenty minutes but his shot did not fall and his drives were not strong enough to make the difference. Müller had some short minutes with the NBBL team on Sunday as well where he was used to play a defensive role which he executed very well. Being really strong physically, he had no problem to play against 3 year older players over two or three defensive possessions.