After discussing the guards of the tournament, here is my review on the forwards that stood out in my eyes during the Nike International Junior Tournament. Once again, this is not a ranking but just a selection of the players that I liked personally.
Niels Giffey (2m00 – 1991 – ALBA Berlin)
The German forward was un-doubtfully the most talented player of the wildcard ALBA Berlin team. Combining an interesting mixture of size, athleticism and skill set, Giffey had however to play a lot on the PF and even C position while his future should be SF. But the limited size of his team forced his coach, the former NC Tar Heel Henrik Rödl to use him against the bigs. While this did not put him that much in trouble defensively, where he used his quickness to steal a bunch of balls in the post, offensively, you could see that he prefers to play on the wing and attack the basket facing it.
The biggest progress in Giffey’s game is that he has now a pretty good three point shot, at least in the catch-and-shoot fashion when receiving the kick out passes. His mid-range game is normally one of his strengths but his shot from around the key was off during the days in Berlin. So he focused a bit more on his drive where he displays good speed and that he can conclude with powerful dunks. The problem comes however from his ball handling which can still be improved.
You can see him several times run into the defense and having to try difficult stuff because he struggled with his dribble. These drives came often from the high post where he excelled in a role as high-low passer with his cutting wings or posting up big man. What is the part that makes Giffey a interesting Euroleague prospect though is his presence on defense. He can steal the ball in the passing lanes, come for block shots and defend post players pretty well. Additionally, he can handle the pressure as he managed to play a close game with 4 fouls through out the full second half.
Stats: 14.3ppg (49% 2FG 46% 3FG) 5.6rpg 2.0apg 2.7spg 0.7bpg
Nemanja Knezevic (2m01 – 1992 – Hemofarm Vrsac)
A player that had some interesting moments during the NIJT 2009 was the 1992 born forward Nemanja Knezevic. Not particularly athletic, Knezevic displays a already well developed body and good understanding of his own skills and the basketball game in general. Because of the short size of his team, Knezevic got guarded mostly by taller players and he always recognized that situation to take them outside and beat them of the dribble.
He beat his opponents like this of his both hands with a preference for the left hand despite being right handed. His handles on these penetrations looked ok but not great. It was surprising to see his opponents always giving him the possibilities to beat him like that as Knezevic has not a particularly good outside shot. He takes the ball in front of his face to shoot which makes it barely impossible to shot over a defender.
|Nemanja Knezevic driving against Bakary Konate (Gran Canaria)|
He can work his opponent in the post too when he gets guarded by a physically weaker or smaller player. His big body helps him here even without having particularly developed post moves. Still being a year younger than the competition, Knezevic needs to improve his shot and can be one of the Serbian leaders of the 92 generation. On the other hand, he needs to put away some laziness he displayed on some passes during the fast break. But this did not look particularly happen that much.
Stats: 10.4ppg (54% 2FG) 4.1rpg
Osvaldas Matulionis (1m99 – 1991 – Lietuvos Rytas)
The strong Lithuanian forward displayed in Berlin once again the full arsenal of his talent. Doing going in nearly every domain of the game without being great, Matulionis is the perfect player you want to have on your team in order to win. Not only that he has a picture perfect shot, the small forward is also present in the rebound on both ends of the court.
Defensively, he plays a lot in the passing lanes which gives him a good amount of steals which he can use to run the break. His main offensive threat is of course his shot, especially in catch and shoot action where he is netting with high percentages. Additionally, he is very present on the offensive glass where he uses his correct athletic abilities and large body to grab a fair amount of offensive rebounds.
His size limits Matulionis probably in his development as a SF but he lacks the speed to become a high class SG prospect. However, his great shot may open him some doors on the highest level, even when being a bit undersized for the wing spot.
Stats: 12.5ppg (53% 2FG 85%FT) 6.1rpg 2.0spg
Tommaso Ingrosso (2m05 – 1992 – Montepaschi Siena)
Surprisingly selected to the All-Tournament team, Tommaso Ingrosso is definitely a very interesting player. He is present in every aspect of the basketball game and will develop into a future Senior NT forward for Italy probably. Displaying a great mixture of size, speed, athleticism and basketball IQ, he showed in Berlin that he is not afraid either to take the big shots for his team.
Ingrosso excelled when he got the ball outside the arc and could take his opposition of the dribble. He showed nice penetration skills when using his left hand and can also go for the dish out of these drives. He knows exactly what to do during the game, using a lot of fakes and angles in order to create for himself or his team. He also goes some times for what I call the rugby player drive, grabbing the ball strongly with his two hands and holding it close to his body in order to avoid the steal.
With his versatility and size, Ingrosso can play the two forward spots and creates matchup problems on both of them. He is working hard on the rebound and goes for a lot of hustle plays in the paint. Still being a year younger than the competition, he has the time to develop his skill set and become a better long distance shooter so that he has the full arsenal of a modern small forward.
Stats: 6.9ppg 7.4rpg 0.7bpg
Cesar Augusto Lima (2m05 – 1991 – Unicaja Malaga)
The Brazilian Pf of Unicaja Malaga formed an athletic inside duo together with Malick Fall, but being in a very different style than the African player. Lima runs the floor very well and he is a great presence in rebound, where he has lots of tips in or follow up baskets. His footwork helps him a lot in this area as he makes quite big steps and can in this way move himself around the defenders.
As a post moves, he relies a lot to his jump hooks which he scores quite well. He also creates some options for himself through different moves out of the star move in the paint. His range will probably develop a bit more over the next years and a three point shot is currently in the making. His athleticism helps him in defense where he rejects shots against his direct opposition. His good wingspan is a good additional asset for him too.
Lima probably needs to add some kilos of muscle to play a role in the future of Unicaja as a Euroleague player. We will see how he develops in the future and if he can add the necessary power for the Euroleague battles in the paint.
Stats: 11.0ppg (52% 2FG) 9.9rpg 1.6bpg