Here we go for the first part of our individual player analysis for the Nike International Junior Tournament in Belgrade. The guards feature among others the All-tournament team members Nikola Rebic and Nikola Radicevic along the three-point contest winner Brano Djukanovic or the very young Jules Akodo.
Nikola Rebic – 1m87 – PG – 1995 – Crvena Zvezda
The PG of the winning team has made a big step forward in the year 1 after Nenad Miljenovic. Looking incredibly young last year, Rebic has grown physically by adding not only 15 official centimeters since the NIJT 2011 but also looking a lot stronger on the court. Mentally, he seems to be extremely stable as you could barely see any emotions on his face when things were going wrong for his team but several big time plays in order to change the game.
Rebic likes to attack the basket without having a really explosive first step but a good reading of the gaps that the defense gives him. He needs to drive a lot as his three-point shot is not very stable for the moment, he had only one game of the four that he played where he was able to score with a good percentage from behind the arc. These three-pointers though were very tough ones like a step-back from the corner and one to answer a three-pointer by the opponents in the semi-final. He seems to like these situations as he made most of his shots in difficult moments of the games. Rebic scored also out of the dribble on a pull-up jump shot with pressure. With the necessary work, he should be able to become more stable in his shooting as he still has another year on the Junior level in front of him.
The best part of his game though are his playmaking skills. Rebic run the Zvezda offense very well without being the creative passer like Miljenovic for example. Rebic is more the basic PG that can control the game speed, makes good decisions and finds the right players in the right moment. Defensively, he has gained in importance as he is more experienced and more physical now. His lateral speed is normal which might put him in trouble on the professional level when he has to guard explosive guards. He has definitely deserved his spot in the All-Tournament team as the best point guard of the tournament, despite being a year younger than the competition.
Brano Djukanovic – 1m93 – SG/PG – 1995 – Crvena Zvezda
The second part of the Zvezda back-court was the combo-guard Brano Djukanovic. Mainly used as a SG, Djukanovic showed nice creativity during moments in order to create opportunities for his team mates. This was not used as much as it has been possible by Red Star as Djukanovic excelled in his role as scoring and shooting machine on the 2 spot. Being able to run very well through the screens and come up with a picture perfect pull-up jump shot with his feet perfectly set, Djukanovic was probably the most impressive shooter of the tournament. This was not only underlined by his excellent shooting percentage from behind the line (13/26 3FGs) but also by his victory in the three-point contest with a particularly impressive series to start the Final (11 made shots to start if I remember right).
Djukanovic’s shot has a very quick and high release. His is quite athletic but not very large as a player which does not hinder him from attacking the basket with force. He has a very nice wingspan which allows him play above the rim at moments or be capable of making the extra pass on offense. Despite being used mainly as a shooter, Djukanovic showed good qualities of ball handling and footwork on offense as he had no problem to change direction in full speed or start the dribble in the opposite direction when receiving the pass in the fast break without committing a travel violation.
Djukanovic is a player that I really like to watch on the court. He has a great talent level and is able to electrify an arena with his spectacular play that is not based on extreme athletic abilities but pure talent and knowledge of the basics of basketball. Defensively, he is quick enough in lateral movements to defend a PG and he has a great size in order to move to this position in the future. It was a bit sad to not see him more handle the ball as the team already has a quality PG in Nikola Rebic. But on the long term, Djukanovic could develop into an excellent PG as well or at least into a great scoring combo guard.
Nikola Radicevic – 1m96 – SG/PG – 1994 – Partizan Belgrade
After a so-so tournament last year, Nikola Radicevic was back and crowned his tournament with a brilliant first half in the Final. It was not enough to win the title in Belgrade but Radicevic put his name back on the map as one of the major guard talents of his generation in Europe. Highly creative on the drive with fantastic footwork and a good first step, Radicevic scored in a multitude of ways when putting the ball on the floor. Direction changes, up-and-under moves or cross-over dribbling in traffic; Radicevic showed everything in order to create the necessary space for himself and used what the defense gave him perfectly. He can finish his drives with the contact and the foul but shies sometimes away from using his weaker hand when close to the basket or under pressure.
Something that we have not seen in his game before is that Partizan tried to use him in post-up actions or as a high-low passing target to use his height advantage over smaller defenders. He could however not use these situations perfectly as he seems not to have the necessary experience yet to post up effectively in a Diamantidis style for example. Additionally, his shot remains rather streaky, he shot only 2 out of 9 from behind the arc throughout the tournament, but he has the feel to draw fouls and goes to the line with a nice regularity (nearly 5 attempts per game). He made though a super tough mid-range shot in the decisive seconds of the Final on Sunday but it did not look as a well-inspired decision by what he showed beforehand.
His advantage lies clearly in the drive to the basket and finishing qualities in the paint. Radicevic needs to work absolutely in order to become more regular in his shot as this weakness will be fully scouted and used on the professional level. His creativity to get other players open remains limited as well as he is playing mainly in a scorer than a PG role for Partizan as he was used only as a SG during the tournament. His future probably lies though on the PG position even if he has the right size to be a 2-spot as well. Being in his last season as a Junior, we are looking forward to see how he is used with the Serbian U18 National Team which we will see at the Albert-Schweitzer Tournament in April.
Luka Andjusic – 1m96 – SG – 1994 – Hemofarm Vrsac
The quickest but probably also the streakiest shooter of the tournament was for sure Luka Andjusic from Hemofarm Vrsac. The shooting guard has one of the quickest releases I have ever seen from behind the three-point line which he underlined also during the three-point contest where he finished already with several seconds before the end of the clock. Due to his streakiness, his shooting percentages were going up and down during the tournament but he was present in the game that mattered and qualified his team to the semi-finals. He made 5 out 7 shots from behind the arc with a quite impressive series in the second half against INSEP and won the game nearly by himself that day.
He first looks for his own shot, which is also his role as a shooting guard, but he showed some good passing skills when he played a pick and roll situation. This is a part of his game he should probably work on and especially also use more on offense than trying too much to create shots for himself. His overall decision making is therefore a bit questionable as he was trying to play some difficult passes or took some early shots which damaged his game and the results of his team. If he can canalize his choices in a positive way and eventually reduce the speed of his release a bit in exchange of more regularity, Andjusic can develop into a highly interesting shooter down the road.
Boris Dallo – 1m93 – PG/SG – 1994 – INSEP
The player with the worst (smallest) stats ever to be mentioned on this website last year during the NIJT in Belgrade proved me that it was not a bad idea to do so. For that, thank you Boris. Because this year, Dallo showed great skills to run the PG position throughout the tournament for INSEP. Mostly used as a SG last season, Dallo had to take over the role as playmaker because of the lack of quality on this position for the French team. But he did this quite well with his great driving skills and capacity to play as a “faux-lent” like the French say. This means that he looks in fact pretty slow but passes by you like you were not even there.
Another surprising fact about Dallo is that he showed a fantastic drive and finishing qualities with his left hand despite being right-handed. He scored a multitude of highly difficult drives with his left hand from either close or even 2-3 meters on floaters. His shooting looked improved and more regular as well this year and he was able to make a couple of jump shots either from mid-range or the three-point area. Still superbly elegant and athletic, Dallo showed also some presence on the court by directing his team mates to the right positions on offense and feeling really comfortable in his role as PG.
Defensively, Dallo needs to become a bigger factor as he has an immense wingspan but only average lateral speed. With his verticality, he can compensate some problems but he should be able to be a better factor here as well. As you might have noticed, Dallo is one of these players that is one my “most-likeable” list which does not mean anything. However he has a great potential and with more experience on the highest level, he might eventually develop into a top-class PG, which I really did not expect last year as he was mainly used as a SG, in the future.
Anthony Racine – 1m89 – SG – 1994 – INSEP
Racine showed some improvement in his overall shooting skills which made him the most regular scorer for the INSEP in the tournament. The combo-guard, who was however mainly used as SG, reads the gaps very well and finds the little space on defense to attack the basket. He can either drive fully to the hoop and finish with the contact or stop in the mid-range area for the polished jump shot. His three-point shot in catch-and-shoot situations also looks more regular in terms of mechanics but also in terms of results. In the four games he played, he made 8 out of 15 attempts from behind the arc but his shooting percentages during the season with INSEP in the French Nationale 1 remain streaky (36/128 3FGs).
Olivier Yao-Delon – 1m94 – SG – 1995 – INSEP
The athletic SG/SF of the 95 generation showed similar skills to what we have seen from him last summer during the U16 European Championship in the Czech Republic. This means extreme energy on both ends of the floor, diving and hustle plays and defense. On the offensive side, Yao-Delon has still a shot that looks a bit strange and that is not very regular from long distance. His shot selection remains hazardous at moments but his impressive motor keeps him in the game and makes his overall effort a positive thing for the team. He likes to attack the basket with very long steps which take away a bit of his explosiveness but when he can canalize his energy into the right direction, he might be an interesting player for the future as he has still another year to go on the junior level.
Rade Zagorac – 1m99 – SG – 1995 – Mega Vizura
Another long term prospect is the ultra-thin Serbian guard/forward Rade Zagorac. Only 16 at the moment, he might have some more centimeters in the tank when you see how fragile and underdeveloped his body is. Compared by some people to a young Emir Preldzic, Zagorac showed good basketball understanding and positioning in the only game that we followed him. With his long arms, he is doing a good job being in the passing lanes or at least changing passing angles when playing defense on guards. His shot looks good, also from behind the arc and he is able to put the ball on the floor with either hand to attack the basket. Not a major factor for the moment, Zagorac could be really interesting on the long term if he grows a bit more into his body and might end up as a very interesting Small Forward prospect in the future as his lateral speed on defense is not food enough to play the guard position on the professional level.
Jules Akodo – 1m87 – PG – 1996 – Olimpija Ljubljana
One of the youngest players in the tournament was the English PG Jules Akodo who was in the roster of Union Olimpija Ljubljana. The physically already pretty developed kid had a slow start into the tournament but earned a starting PG job throughout the games with his surprisingly under control play and excellent creativity. He looked always pass first and did not try to score that much. Akodo made some good kick out passes when driving to the basket as the defense needed to help a lot on his penetrations. His finishing qualities are not great so far and he missed a couple of layups when using his weaker left hand.
Akodo is still pretty inexperienced which showed especially against stronger opponents. His opening passes to the wing were often a bit too imprecise so that they ended up in several turnovers. He overdribbles during moments too but these are parts of the game that he is able to work on in the next years. His Pick and Roll and Pick and Pop understanding is not too bad already so that you can expect a lot more to come in the future. Being able to play with the U16 National Team this summer for England, he should be one of the leaders of a team that wants to stay in Division A on that level.
Ismet Akpinar – 1m95 – PG – 1995 – ALBA Berlin
The German Point Guard with Turkish origins played for ALBA Berlin in a loan agreement coming from Piraten Hamburg. He sees already regular minutes in the third German division and was the clear back-court leader for ALBA in this tournament. He had several clutch-plays in the only win that they had against Olimpija Ljubljana where he made decisive free-throws (even if it were only 4/6) and draw a charge in a typical Euroleague way. Generously listed at 1m95 at the NIJT (his club team has him at 1m90), Akpinar has a good size for playing PG on the professional level but needs to add some weight in the next years to become a bigger factor on defense.
Akpinar likes to attack the basket and is not afraid to go close to the hoop. He saw his shot rejected though several times by bigger players but could also score on several occasions in this kind of situation. He sees first of all his own scoring possibility when driving but this might also be a result of his addition to the squad for this tournament only. However, he has only 2.1 assists per game in approximately 18 minutes with the ProB team of Rist-Wedel. The 1995 born prospect has a very quick shot release and knows how to create a little space in Pick and Roll situations in order to take his shot. He wants to have the ball in his hands when the game is on the line and is not afraid to force the decision sometimes. He needs to become more regular from the free-throw line though in order to become a real clutch player on the senior level. 65% through this season is not enough for a PG who likes to be a decision maker on the court.
Mauricio Marin – 1m93 – SG/PG – 1994 – ALBA Berlin
Mauricio Marin could never really put his mark on the ALBA team during the days in Belgrade. After his great performances on the U16 level two years ago, Marin is currently still trying to find his position for the future. Used a lot as PG this summer with the German U18 National Team, he played only SG with ALBA in Belgrade. He still reads the gaps very well to see where he can attack on the drive and his shooting mechanics are fluid and quick. Defensively, he improved to become a good lateral defender on the PG position which is a huge plus. The release point of his shot is still a bit low as you have the impression that he shots from in front of his face instead of really putting the ball up high. It will be interesting to see in which direction Marin will develop and the next possibility is during the Albert-Schweitzer Tournament in Mannheim.
Dino Dizdarevic – 1m94 – SG – 1995 – Brose Baskets
The thick shooting guard was the main scoring option for the relatively poor German team of Brose Baskets. With Terry Thomas benched for a major part of the tournament due to a slight injury and big man Johannes Thiemann not even present because of an injury as well, Dizdarevic had to take a lot of the offensive responsibility for his team. Not really athletic or explosive, Dizdarevic is able to create some space for himself with good basics and fakes. He mainly drives with his right hand and can score also from close but has problems to pass by defenders on a regular basis. Dizdarevic has still another year left on the Junior level and it will be interesting to see how he develops physically even if it might not be enough to become a player for Brose on the professional level in a mid-term future as he is not really a factor on the defensive end.