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NIJT Belgrade 2011: the Wings

February 28th, 2011 · No Comments

After having started the review with the highly talented Guard’s group of this NIJT in Belgrade, we will take a look at the Wing players. While there is probably not the same high-level talent level than among the guards, there are several forwards that are worth to take a look at.

Stefan Popovski-Turanjanin – 2m01 – SF/PF – 1993 – FMP Belgrade

The left handed forward from FMP Belgrade played a superbly regular and effective tournament this year. Being mostly used at the PF position in order to use his superior physical presence, Popovski-Turanjanin excelled by being always at the good spot in the paint, showing some back-to-the-basket moves and being a constant threat from behind the three-point line. His shot is looking very fluid despite being a bit flat but nothing really to care about. He is doing a good job playing the Pick and Pop situations on this level where he got several open looks for his team.

Popovski is not particularly active in attacking the basket and is more a passive player than a creator without this having a negative connotation. He waits for his occasions and uses them perfectly. 58.6% from 2 and 52.9% (9/17) from 3 underline this as well as his only 7 turnovers in 143 minutes on the court. If you add that he was doing a great job on the rebound (both defensive and offensive) because of his good physical presence, you have the perfect team player on this level. When being guarded by a smaller player, he can also post him up and finish against him with a nice jump hook. Out of rebounding situations, he puts the ball on the floor sometimes as well to go for the fast break that he can also finish after a coast-to-coast.

For the future, it will be a bit more difficult for Popovski as the strengths that he shows on the Junior level will be easily matched on the professional level. Playing nearly all his minutes on the PF position, he absolutely needs to translate his game to the SF in the future as his size and physical presence are not enough to compete on a higher level. However, he did not show anything of the typical SF player and he will most likely suffer especially on defense as he is not the fastest in lateral movements to avoid the drive. We will see what he is up to next season and if he can go for a successful move to the SF position.

Stats: 20.0ppg (58.6% 2FGs – 52.9% 3FGs – 73.0% FTs), 7.0rpg, 1.8apg, 24.8rkgpg

Vukasin Vujovic – 2m04 – PF – 1993 – Partizan Belgrade

There has been a lot of ups and downs for the Serbian PF during the tournament in Belgrade. In fact, Vujovic displays a very interesting combination of talent and athletic abilities but he could not really use them at his best in every game. He looks to be a player who has problems to concentrate over the periods he is on the court and absolutely needs to work to become more regular.

Vujovic can both play inside and outside and is mainly used as a scorer. He can put the ball on the floor and drive from outside and add some nice fakes to his penetration plays in order to get open. The Partizan player prefers to go over his right hand and is not afraid to dunk the ball when he has the occasion. He can come up with the occasional three-point shot but he is not very regular from behind the arc (nor from the FT line). Vujovic did an excellent job on the offensive rebound where he showed quick jumping abilities and a good fake arsenal as well to score with the foul.

Stats: 14.8ppg (58.6% 2FGs – 25.0% 3FGs – 58.3% FTs), 3.4rpg (2.4off), 13.4rkgpg

Martin Kriz – 2m00 – SF/PF – 1993 – USK Future Stars

The Czech forward has been on the radar for quite some time now and this was probably because of a nice physical built early on. After having done some damage in the Youth Categories, Kriz is now at the edge of moving to the Senior Level where his physical advantage does not work anymore. However, he remains an interesting player as he is a hard fighter and good athlete with interesting size for the SF position.

The left-handed Kriz likes to put the ball on the floor either on the drive or on the fast break. He can attack the basket with both hands but nearly only finishes with his left hand on either some kind of running hook shot when going left or with a left-handed finger roll when attacking right. He barely never stops in mid-range to take the jump shot. His three-point shot is there but he is not a major threat from behind the arc at the moment. With his aggressive play, Kriz can create opportunities for his team mates and he can find them at moments on his drives. He makes lots of small quick steps and can avoid some defenders but also is very offensive-foul prone because of some head-down drives.

Stats: 18.8ppg (54.9% 2FGs – 26.7% 3FGs – 70.2% FTs), 7.0rpg, 2.4apg, 3.4topg, 19.4rkgpg

Ivan Saicic – 1m95 – SF – 1993 – Crvena Zvezda

Ivan Saicic was the third string on the Crvena Zvezda team during the Nike International Junior Tournament Qualifier event 2011 in Belgrade. The left-handed forward showed nice scoring skills as he can put the ball through the net either from long-range or out of the dribble. His main plus was his excellent mid-range game as Saicic used his good first step in order to create the necessary space to score from 4-5 meters. He can use both hands to beat his defender and really likes to do this from the wing. Athletically, he is not too bad either and he is not afraid to go hard to the rim and finish against the taller players.

When his mid-range shot looks very effective, the three-point shot was more streaky during the days in Belgrade. He can hit the shot from behind the arc in kick-out catch and shoot situations but struggles to make it out of the dribble. He can play the Pick-and-Roll situations as a passer and he will most likely move to the SG position on the professional level in the future. With his correct ball handling skills, scoring touch close to the basket and jumping abilities, he might get minutes with the Senior team from next season and he should be able to become a good Adriatic League player down the road.

Stats: 15.4ppg (63.6% 2FGs – 28.6% 3FGs – 80.9% FTs), 5.4rpg, 1.8apg, 2.0topg, 17.0rkgpg

William Howard – 2m00 – SF/SG – 1993 – INSEP

William Howard has developed into the scoring leader for the INSEP team on the wing and played an overall good tournament in Belgrade. The long and athletic wing player showed great versatility on the court but remains not very regular in his productions. From a pure talent vision, he is certainly among the best players of the whole competition. There has not been much players that combined his size, fluidity on the court and basketball talent.

The first option in Howard’s offensive game is his three point shot. It is often executed a bit slowly but with great precision on the mechanics. He can hit the long distance attempt in kick-out situations but also when coming of the screen. However, he is not really somebody who can create his own shot from behind the arc out of the dribble or at least he does not do it that often. When he puts the ball on the floor, he attacks the basket and can finish the drive either close to the hoop or with the soft floater from the top. Howard has really improved his court-vision and sees his team mates when driving to the hoop in order to give them the good pass.

He sometimes needs a big play in order to be in the game and on the other hand, a miss on a particular situation can put him out of the game as well. We remember a situation from one game where he attacked the basket hard and tried a thunderous dunk which he missed and after that he was not really seen anymore doing something special. Because next to his scoring abilities, Howard is also very present in other sectors of the game as he is doing his job on the defensive rebound as well as on defense in general. He gives great help coming from the weak-side and is also present in the passing lanes for the interception. Out of the steal, he can immediately launch the fast break and he is able, with his ball handling skills, to eliminate guards in order to speed up the offense.

Howard is currently still not sure about his future. On the one hand, his American background pushes him to chose probably the NCAA as next career step. So far, several schools are targeting him for the 2011 Class but he will get most likely also some interest from the better French professional teams once he has finished his studies with INSEP this summer. What ever way he goes, he is certainly a player to follow on the long term as he has still a lot of upside in his development and when he can add a bit more weight on his body, he will be on the radar for the NBA in the next years.

Stats: 13.4ppg (60.0% 2FGs – 42.9% 3FGs – 100% FTs), 5.4rpg, 2.8apg, 1.4spg, 2.4topg, 16.8rkgpg

Livio Jean-Charles – 2m02 – PF – 1993 – INSEP

The French energizer earned another All-Tournament Team selection this year in Belgrade. Livio Jean-Charles is still a superbly athletic player for this level and he knows very well how to use his strengths in order to get a lot of easy baskets. On the other hand, we are still waiting for some development in his basketball skills to become a SF in the future but here in Belgrade he showed unfortunately not much that tends in this direction. Jean-Charles is mainly operating in the paint where he showed a superb feeling for the offensive rebound (4.2 per game) and he often immediately finished them with an above the rim or hustle play. He looks even more athletic than we remembered him as he scored everything possible with an explosive dunk when he had the necessary room.

But next to all this positive stuff, there is still a lot to do for Jean-Charles as he still features a non-existent shot (43.4% FTs) which hinders him from becoming a SF. He tried some mid-range jumpers but they could not find their target and were even far away sometimes. The 2m02 tall player puts the ball on the floor occasionally but he nearly only goes over the baseline for the up-and-under move instead of attacking the basket straight. Without the ball, he moves very well to find the open spots. His overall positioning is good and he is doing an excellent job to share and move the ball from one side to the other. Out of the low post, he features though not much of offensive moves and can score with the basic turnaround drop step finish but rarely with a complex move.

It looks like Jean-Charles will remain a PF for the future, at least that is what his current development suggests. In order to become a high-level player on this position, Jean-Charles might develop into a new Florent Pietrus for the French who showed that it is possible to survive with limited size on the PF on the highest professional level. To do so, Jean-Charles has the potential as he is an excellent defender and has a nearly unlimited motor to run the court up and down.

Stats: 18.4ppg (71.6% 2FGs – 43.4% FTs), 6.6rpg (4.2off), 1.4apg, 1.4spg, 22.4rkgpg

Djordje Micic – 2m02 – SF – 1993 – Olimpija Ljubljana (loaned to LTHCast Mercator)

Not a lot of new stuff to report about the Slovenian forward who played some good but also some very bad games during the tournament. Basketball wise, Micic has good fundamentals, he can shoot, can put the ball on the floor and understands the game. He can use his size to post up his defender in the low post as he is rather tall for the SF position in such a kind of event. That’s why he helped out on the PF position during stretches and he did some damage with his drives against slower defenders. But we expected more from him during the days in Belgrade, especially more regularity and presence in the major games.

Stats: 11.6ppg (42.8% 2FGs – 44.4% 3FGs – 84.6% FTs), 4.2rpg, 2.2apg, 12.4rkgpg

Marko Babic – 1m96 – SF – 1993 – Beovuk 72

On the short and limited Beovuk team that was doing an excellent job in terms of team spirit and defense though, Marko Babic was the player that stood out. The aggressive wing player mainly attacks the basket from outside where he has the choice to go for his good three-point shot that he can nail out of the dribble or to attack the basket. On his drives, he came up with some nice spin moves and cross-over dribbles to finish close to the basket. He has a nice first step, especially when using his right hand and his shooting mechanics look perfect. Babic currently plays with Beovuk in the third Serbian League and it would not be surprised if he gets picked after this season by some higher level team in his home country.

Stats: 18.4ppg (55.0% 2FGs – 50.0% 3FGs – 76.7% FTs), 5.2rpg, 20.2rkgpg

Sid-Marlon Theis – 2m05 – SF – 1993 – ALBA Berlin (loaned from Urspring)

The tall forward from Hamburg is a long-term project for the ALBA Berlin partner Urspring Academy. Displaying a great basketball body and potential all-around skills, Theis lacks at the moment the necessary physical presence and strength in order to be a factor in relation with his potential. He can put the ball on the floor with either hand, shoot the three-pointer and is a good defender. He probably needs one or two more years to fill out his body with the necessary muscles and bring all his talent to the floor. Theis is a player to watch and will most likely be a major contributor for Urspring next season in the German U19 League.

Stats: 8.3ppg (41.1% 2FGs – 44.4% 3FGs – 100% FTs), 2.0rpg, 1.5apg, 1.5spg, 7.8rkgpg

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