European Prospects

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NIJT Belgrade 2012: Day 1 Review

February 25th, 2012 · 3 Comments

After having arrived in the afternoon only, I had the possibility to follow one game from the Nike International Junior Tournament plus the Adriatic League game between Crvena Zvezda and KK Zagreb. So the report on the first day is quite short.

Especially because the only NIJT game I saw was the one between Crvena Zvezda and Union Olimpija where the hosts dominated easily. In the end, the difference was nearly 60 points between the two squads. Zvezda has an extremely balanced team which is the result of the merger of the Youth Sections of the former FMP Belgrade and Zvezda. This gives them a great talent pool to chose from which explains the large success as they had alternatives on every position.

The player I liked the most in that game was the left-handed and smooth big guy Marko Tejic who showed some interesting versatility and shooting skills. Nikola Jankovic looks like back to the level he was two years ago as he simply dominated the paint with his rebounding instincts and positioning. They had a great supporting cast around players like Nikola Cvororvic, Brano Djukanovic or Nikola Rebic who all showed their talent. But we have to wait for a stronger opposition to better judge what they are able to do.

On the Slovenian side, the eyes were of course on Jusuf Nurkic after his mammoth performance in the opener yesterday morning. He looks like an interesting big man with good hands but not really understanding the game so well. However, he looked like the most interesting prospect on the Slovenian roster next to the only 1996 born English PG Jules Akodo who struggled a lot against the Zvezda pressure but showed some glimpses of a potential future during moments. Erjon Kastrati was nowhere to be seen on the court and could not help his team to improve its situation.

In the evening game between the Seniors of Zvezda and KK Zagreb, the eyes of the multiple NBA Scouts were of course on players like Andrija Milutinovic, Dario Saric and Nemanja Nedovic. And it was the  last one who showed his talent the most, a little bit like last year in a similar situation. The physical and athletic guard, who only plays the 2 position under coach Svetislav Pesic attacked the basket hard to finish nearly all of his baskets close or above the rim. He had a particularly impressive hangtime layup where he scored it despite the big contact of the defensive player. In the fast break, he likes to push the ball hard and attack strong. He had a nice dunk in such a situation that definitely brought his team on the winning street at that moment. His three-point shot did not look really balanced as he was not really straight up in the air when jumping. He made one out of four attempts but which is about his average on the season. Nedovic is an automatically eligible player this June for the NBA Draft like his team mate Andreja Milutinovic.

Milutinovic played a nice season so far but could not show much yesterday evening. He was more a facilitator for his team, sharing the ball, spreading the court and going hard for the offensive glass. His three-point shot did not fall, even when he was open in the corner, and he struggled a bit from the free-throw line. Overall, there is not much to add about him that was not known yet. Dario Saric had a similar night than Milutinovic as he was not really a factor on the offense of Zagreb despite playing 21 minutes. He helped his team a lot in rebounding situations where he showed a really developed physical strength when going to the contact. His arms and upper body look more developed than the last time we saw him. For the rest, you can not add much as his leadership qualities are a non-factor on this level so far. But being born in only 1994, there is still a long way to go for him to take over this team. Finally, Aleksandar Cvetkovic made a short appearance in the first half where he got greeted by standing ovations of the 6000 fans. He immediately drew a foul and scored his two free-throws. He showed great effort on the defensive end and created a layup for Petar Popovic but missed one free-throw a little later in the game when he was on the line for two shots after a technical against Zagreb.

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Marc Row // Feb 29, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    Funny that you like an expert didn’t notice Vasilije Vucetic 96′ from Olimpija who showed great talent against older kids Ristic and Tejic, playing with his back to the basket, facing the basket and finishing with both hands… But I guess next year you’ll be talking about him, like everybody else…
    Talking about Nurkic, beside his understanding of the game he is not capable to finish with his left hand and seem that he is avoiding the contact.

  • 2 Christophe // Feb 29, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    @Marc Row
    No i did not notice anything special with him, in the moments he was on the court. Did not know though that he was only 96. Sorry for missing it…

  • 3 Marc Row // Mar 1, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    I know it’s hard to notice every player but two month a go I saw the kid playing for Serbia in Turkey – U16 Turk Telekom tournament and he was their best player… Physically still a kid and he will grow… Anyway, just remember his name 🙂

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