The last qualification event of the Nike International Junior Tournament has been played in Belgrade in late February. We are taking a look at the most interesting prospects and as always, we start our reports with the guards.
Vojislav Stojanovic – 1m97 – PG – 1997 – Crvena Zvezda
Vojislav Stojanovic was one of the most impressive players of the tournament and he earned a deserved MVP trophy. The Serbian guard was the main ball handler for the winners of the tournament. Being 1m97 tall and really physical, Stojanovic could simply not be stopped by anyone when he was driving to the basket or in transition. Playing like a bull, often head down a bit but with great energy, the 1997 born pushed the ball hard all the time on offense with the goal to get quick and easy baskets. With his physical strength, he can post up any guard and is really effective when he gets the ball down low. He can either muscle his way to the basket or come up with the turn around jump shot.
In the setplay, Stojanovic can also create out of the Pick and Roll to go for his own shot or the drive and dish. He is going more often for his own attempt as his three-point shot out of the dribble looks really good with a nice elevation also from long distance. When attacking the basket out of a PnR, he is able to go for the normal pass to the roller but does not see the outside shooters that often. In general, he has a good arsenal of fakes before putting the ball on the floor and his passing technique is good. Athletically, Stojanovic is not a superb leaper but he can finish with the dunk also against the defense.
On the defensive end, it is once again his great physical presence that is key. The Crvena Zvezda player is really present as a shot blocker on drives of opposing guards. Additionally, he rebounds the ball really well and can then initiate the fast break immediately. He reads the passing lanes well too which makes him an overall interesting prospect on the defensive end too. Despite being a year younger than the competition, the question on Stojanovic is how much of his domination comes from his physical superiority and how this translates to the professional level. His energy and determination will still be there but he has to become a more reliable three-point shooter and better passer in order to be a factor as a PG on the highest level. It will be interesting to see how he develops in one year to see what kind of player he can be in the future.
Stats: 17.0ppg (51.5% FGs – 32.0% 3FGs), 6.0rpg, 2.4apg, 1.2bpg
Nikola Rakicevic – 1m95 – PG – 1997 – Crvena Zvezda
Mainly used as a back-up PG, Rakicevic showed that he could as well be the leader of this team. Similar in size to Stojanovic but a different physical profile, Rakicevic has nice court vision and great defensive instincts. He was the third best stealer of the tournament despite playing only 16 minutes per game. On offense, he displayed nice footwork that helped him to create scoring opportunities on the drive with the typical long eurostep moves to go around the defender. He is doing a good job as well on the drive and kick where he can also find his team mates with the opposite hand when going to the middle.
Stats: 6.0ppg (44.0% FGs), 2.2rpg, 2.4apg, 2.4spg
Slobodan Jovanovic – 1m93 – SG – Zemun – 1997
One of the more beautiful jump shooters in the event was Slobodan Jovanovic from Zemun. The 1997 born is another member of the Serbian National Team that won the Silver Medal at the U16 Euro in Ukraine last summer. Jovanovic is excellent when running off the ball around screens to get open for the pull up jumper. He reads the situations quite well and can also find the open man after catching the ball on the screener situation. Jovanovic lacks though a bit of explosiveness as he struggles in one-on-one situations against more athletic players.
Stats: 9.2ppg (38.2% FGs – 31.2% 3FGs), 1.5rpg, 2.5apg
Jovan Starincevic – 1m89 – PG – Zemun – 1996
One of the oldest players of the tournament was the 1m89 tall PG from Zemun Jovan Starincevic. Quite developed physically and pretty strong, Starincevic did a bit of everything for his team. He drives fearlessly to the basket but he was not that effective near the rim nor from behind the arc. The 1996 born player has good ball handling and beat his defender with technique more than with speed. He finds the open man on help situations and was one of the most experienced players of the event which helped him to keep the turnovers low. His shooting efficiency was not that great and this is the main point that he needs to work on in order to make the next step.
Stats: 13.0ppg (40.0% FGs – 18.8% 3FGs), 5.2rpg, 4.8apg
Luc Loubaki – 1m91 – SG/SF – 1997 – INSEP
Several years ago, we mentioned a player in a NIJT event as the prospect with lowest stats to ever get talked about; it was Boris Dallo. This time, Luc Loubaki might be a similar case even if both players are quite different prospects. Loubaki was one of the better defenders of the event using his great wingspan and passing lane instincts to intercept the ball and run the break. He was probably the best player in anticipating the moves of the attacker and he took a multitude of charges thanks to his good lateral speed. Offensively, Loubaki was not effective at all against set play defense as his jump shot was not falling and he struggled to beat his defenders in 1-1 situations despite his great speed and physique especially when he had to use his weaker right hand. He needs to improve his ball handling, finishing in the paint and of course his long distance accuracy and he can become a really interesting player in next years event.
Stats: 4.2ppg (28.6% FGs), 3.2rpg, 1.4apg, 1.8spg
Aleksandar Novosel – 1m90 – PG – 1996 – Buducnost
Aleksandar Novosel was for me the best point guard in the event next to Stojanovic. The Montenegrin player showed some promising things on both ends of the courts, had great shooting percentages and led his team to a good 5th place. Novosel was doing extremely well to attack the basket where he could finish against taller players with the floater or with good elevation and body protection. He was constantly trying to beat his defender in 1-1 situations with however a clear preference for his stronger right hand. The 1m90 tall guard tries though also to use his left hand in traffic for the finish or the passes. His first step and fakes were great and he could attack the basket nearly at will against any defender.
Out of the drives, he can also find his shooters through the kickout as well as the big guys on help rotations. With his drives, he generates a lot of those but he often went for his own scoring possibility first. However, he recognizes mismatch situations quite well and finds the big guy who is defended by a smaller player. From outside, the jump shot of Novosel looks really good especially in catch and shoot situations. He has good elevation on his jumper and the shooting technique is very fluid and quickly executed. Throughout the tournament, he was a constant threat from behind the arc even though he was less effective when he went for the pull-up jumper. Additionally, Novosel is not very mid-range attracted. He rarely comes up with the short jump shot out of the dribble in penetration plays but has a clear preference for brining the ball directly to the rim.
On the defensive end, Novosel is a good defensive player without being a stopper. It was him that was the man-to-man defender on a guard when his team decided to play a Box-and-one defense. When he had to defend against a taller guard though, he struggled to keep them out of the lowpost and is getting dominated physically down low. However, this was more a youth team specific problem as he often had to play defense against SGs or even SFs depending on the rotations in his team. Novosel will most likely sign his first pro contract when he turns 18 in September. From next season on, he should be able to get some first minutes as a back-up for Buducnost in the first team and from there on, it will be interesting to see where he can go.
Stats: 17.5ppg (57.1% FGs – 44.4% 3FGs), 1.8rpg, 3.0apg, 1.5spg
Vanja Marinkovic – 1m97 – SG – 1997 – Partizan
The quickest release of the tournament was part of the game of the Serbian shooter Vanja Marinkovic. The Partizan youngster lead his team in scoring but his overall shooting percentages were not really great. The 1997 born guard was doing well when he could run off the ball and use the screens to get open and fire the ball up immediately. His shooting form looked great even if he went often for out of balance shots because he still struggled to transform his speed into a strong foot position and go up straight. Next to his good potential as a shooter, Marinkovic also showed some interesting moves on the drive with either hand. He could finish with the finger roll when attacking through the middle but also finish on the left handed scoop shot in traffic. With his good size and athletic abilities, he was also an important factor for Partizan in rebounding. Marinkovic, who has still another year in the U18 category should be able to become a great scorer over the next years. When he can stabilize his pull-up jumper and find a better balance, he will be a tremendous shooting specialist.
Stats: 18.0ppg (32.5% FGs – 27.0% 3FGs), 5.3rpg, 1.0apg, 1.0spg
Chris Tang – 1m93 – SG – 1996 – Canarias Basketball Academy
Another great jump shooter was the Chinese member of the Canarias Basketball Academy, the 1m93 tall Chris Tang. A tough and energetic player, Tang, who was a member of Oak Hill Academy, was automatic from behind the arc when he was in open positions getting the ball on a kick out pass. However, he tried to create a lot of shots by himself too where he was less effective. His shooting feel is really good though which he also showed when attacking the basket and going for the floater for example. Tang goes hard all the time which might also be a problem as he could probably be more effective when he would be able to change speeds. Another good part of his game is the fact that he sets really hard screens in order to get his big men open. Considered as a high-major prospect in the Class of 2014, Tang should be able to secure a spot as pure shooter and zone breaker and make a nice career in College Basketball over the next 4 seasons.
Stats: 14.0ppg (34.9% FGs – 28.6% 3FGs), 2.8rpg, 3topg, 3.5apg, 1.3spg
Radovan Djokovic – 2m00 – PG/SG – 1996 – Mega Vizura
One of the most versatile players of the event was the 2m00 tall guard Radovan Djokovic. The 1996 born Serbian from Mega Vizura did a great job on both ends of the court for his team. On offense, Djokovic showed nice body control for a player of his size who handles the ball that much. His jump shot looks really interesting as he can create it nicely out of Pick and Roll situations but also being effective on kick out passes. He is doing really well in order to create it and with his size, he can take the jump shot against nearly any kind of defender. His size also gives him the possibility to post up his defender occasionally where he was though a preference for the turnaround jump shot, which he can make, instead of doing a real post move to get a layup.
Out of the Pick and Roll, he can not only create his own shot but he is doing really well to find his open team mates with precise and sharp passes. Djokovic does not attack the basket that much despite his size which is a part of the game that he can develop over the next years. He clearly looked like one of the most promising players in this event as he has a great combination of physical and basketball attributes for the next level.
Stats: 14.2ppg (41.8% FGs – 35.3% 3FGs), 5.2rpg, 5.2apg, 1.2spg
Stefan Simic – 1m97 – PG – 1996 – Mega Vizura
Another point guard with great size playing for Mega Vizura was Stefan Simic. Transferred from Crvena Zvezda, Simic had a so-so tournament because of injuries but he showed that he has some interesting potential. He mainly attacks the basket as his shot is not great and he can finish in the paint by using his body and the rim to protect himself really well. He has also the mid-range floater in his arsenal of offensive moves and is great in transition as he can grab the defensive rebound by himself and immediately push the ball up court and find the team mates who are spreading the floor.
Stats: 9.7ppg (36.7% FGs), 4.3rpg, 4.7apg, 2.3spg